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Gold Diggers, The (1983)


Main image of Gold Diggers, The (1983)
35mm, black and white, 89 mins
DirectorSally Potter
Production CompanyBFI Production Board
 Channel Four
ScriptLindsay Cooper
 Rose English
 Sally Potter
PhotographyBabette Mangolte
MusicLindsay Cooper

Cast: Julie Christie (Ruby);Colette Laffont (Celeste); Hilary Westlake (Mother); David Gale (Expert); Tom Osborn (Expert's Assistant)

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Celeste works in a bank and is investigating the nature of money and gold and their circulation. Beautiful blonde Ruby, daughter of a gold rush entertainer, is chasing her own memories. Their quests gradually converge.

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The cult success of her short 16mm film, Thriller (1979) brought Sally Potter the opportunity to direct her first 35mm feature. An ambitious attempt to rewrite cinema history from a feminist perspective, The Gold Diggers was made by an all-female crew and cast, every member of which received the same pay. The script was jointly written by Sally Potter, Rose English and Lindsay Cooper; Cooper also composed the music, and the songs are performed by Potter herself. The Gold Diggers was funded by the BFI Production Board and Channel 4, with a total budget of around £250,000.

Aesthetically, the film occupies the territory between experimental cinema and, with its stunningly lit black-and-white cinematography redolent of Ingmar Bergman's films, European art cinema. Its loose plot is based around a quest: to understand both the nature of money - gold - and the nature of the female film star as an icon and object of exchange. The feminist twist is that the quest is conducted by two women, one of them (Julie Christie/Ruby) herself a beauty and a star, both in this film and in real life.

Its investigative narrative gives The Gold Diggers a cool, cerebral quality, a kind of Brechtian distanciation. At the same time, the music track ties all the elements of the film together and this, along with the beauty of its images and the wittiness and engaging quality of its dance numbers, brings to the fore cinema's particular pleasures. With its numerous references to the history of cinema, from D.W Griffith's Way Down East (US, 1920) through the Hollywood musical Gold Diggers of 1933 (US, d. Mervyn LeRoy, 1933) to David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Gold Diggers is both a love letter to, and a critique of, mainstream cinema.

Annette Kuhn

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Video Clips
1. Movement infused theatre (2:02)
2. Pleasure quest (2:26)
Complete film (1:25:38)
Production stills
Christie, Julie (1941-)
Potter, Sally (1949-)
Skinner-Carter, Corinne (1931-)
Channel 4 and Film
The BFI Production Board: The Features
They Started Here