The Film Comment Podcast: Sex Work in Cinema
On this week’s podcast we’re talking about a long-running preoccupation of cinema: sex work. From Taxi Driver to Pretty Woman, sex workers have frequently appeared in the movies as both tragic and romantic figures, but rarely as, well, workers. Two recent releases offer a different, more complex perspective: Lizzie Borden’s 1986 cult classic Working Girls, which was restored and released in July, and Tsai Ming-liang’s latest feature, Days.
We sat down with critics So Mayer and Sarah Fonseca to talk about the ways in which these films reflect on questions of labor, representation, performance, and care. The conversation quickly branched out to many more films, including Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai, Antonio Pietrangeli’s Adua and Her Friends, Fassbinder’s Querelle, and others.
Links & Things:
“Working Girls: Have You Ever Heard of Surplus Value?” by So Mayer for The Criterion Collection
Tsai Ming-liang on Days in Film Comment
“Joy Girls” by Sarah Fonseca and Jillian McManemin in Field Notes
Lucid Noon Sunset Blush, a short film by Alli Logout
Shakedown (Leilah Weinraub, 2018)
Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1998)
Adua and Her Friends (Antonio Pietrangeli, 1960)
Querelle (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
Fox and His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)