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The value of Girlfriends (1978) comes from the fact that it’s a film about women’s friendships. This is rare in mainstream cinema, and for decades Girlfriends has existed only on the periphery. Luckily, a Criterion Collection release has brought Claudia Weill’s film some long awaited recognition. When a boutique home video label resurrects a film like Girlfriends film culture can continue to rewrite film history so that it is more inclusive and more representative of audiences as a whole.

Claudia Weill really stretched every dollar of her budget to make this film, and she hides it well on screen. Girlfriends is a great example of how to make a professional independent film. Of course working under such financial restrictions is very limiting, but Weill compensates for that with an excellent screenplay and a formidable cast. Every scene feels authentic and essential; Weill creates a rich tableaux of life in New York during the late seventies.

Critic Charlotte Brunsdon, in an introduction to the BFI Books collection titled Films For Women, has criticized Weill’s film as being part of Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on the “new demographic” of “the modern woman”. Brunsdon, writing in 1986, suggests that films like Girlfriends from the seventies “bear the traces of feminist struggles” but finds the fact that these films, in terms of technique, still conform to the classic Hollywood narrative models disappointing. Brunsdon goes on to explain that feminist filmmakers should adopt new forms of narrative structure and new approaches to montage technique; advocating Chantal Akerman and Ulrike Ottinger’s films as prime examples of this. I find Brunsdon’s impulse totally understandable, but it seems to operate under the assumption that there is no value to reappropriating form and/or content.

From a contemporary vantage point Girlfriends is a feminist gesture or statement being made in the same quirky sub-genre of comedies that Woody Allen’s works inhabit. Weill is essentially claiming a space in that comedic tradition for women. Intentionally or not, just by entering into such a discourse Weill has begun to conquer that space.