Sex work is portrayed with radical nonjudgment in Lizzie Borden’s immersive, richly detailed look at the rhythms and rituals of society’s most stigmatized profession.
Inspired by the experiences of the sex workers Borden met while making her underground feminist landmark BORN IN FLAMES, WORKING GIRLS reveals the textures of a day in the life of Molly (Louise Smith), a photographer working part-time in a Manhattan brothel — as she juggles a steady stream of clients, balances nurturing relationships with her coworkers with the demands of an ambitious madam, and above all fights to maintain her sense of self in a business in which the line between the personal and the professional is all too easily blurred. In viewing prostitution through the lens of labor, Borden boldly desensationalizes the subject, offering an empathetic, humanizing, often humorous depiction of women for whom this work is just another day at the office. (Synopsis from Criterion)
New 4K restoration by the Criterion Collection and UCLA Film & Television Archive in conjunction with the Sundance Institute.
“It’s a funny bait-and-switch, a sexy peep into the underworld…. Borden asks her viewers to relate to them, an idea which unfortunately remains as transgressive in 2020 as it did when the film was first released.” —Annelise Ogaard, Screen Slate “It still stands today as one of the most non-sensational, realistic, filmed depictions of sex work…. Required viewing for activists, and feels as bold and visionary as the day they were released.” —Jordan Flaherty, CounterPunch “Borden’s feminist sensibility plays out in a restrained, slyly subversive study of a day in a middle-class New York brothel, turning clichéd notions about prostitution on their head…. Sex labour is treated as a valid, even positive option, crushed by the inequalities of the capitalist system.” —Christoph Huber, Cinema Scope