Girls Night Out by Joanna Quinn (Classic Animation Frames)

Girls Night Out by Joanna Quinn

The raucous feminist comedy of 'Girls Night Out' (1987, Beryl Productions International) almost catapulted UK animation filmmaker Joanna Quinn to the international animation scene -from her film debut.

Watching the film again, 36 years after it premiered at Annecy Festival (winning 3 festival prizes that year), you are still amazed at the freshness of both its conception (idea by Joanna Quinn and Les Mills) and its corresponding effervescent, almost feverish execution.

The well-placed character of Beryl (a character that follows Joanna Quinn up to her present effort, 'Affairs of the Art'), a UK factory worker whose aspirations match her exuberance -but not her humble married life- needs a way out. Having a husband whose TV show is more attractive than talking, she goes with her lady friends to 'The Bull' bar to meet her own idol, a mustached hunk, and stripper ready for everything.

The premise is simple, but the atmosphere is hot. Joanna Quinn utilizes every ambiance and corner of the strip club, each facial expression and reaction shot from Beryl and her friends among the audience -while colouring only the parts where you look is supposed to get directed to.

The simple household chores of the beginning become equally energetic, with Quinn's fluidity in movement showcasing everywhere. Quinn (and Mills) seem to want to compensate for a life of static boredom by giving their characters a scripted and animated push of their own.

Quinn uses the cartoony (and Tex Avery's Wolf gets his own female response here), but her film is never a-historical -even when she uses escapism. They are grounded in everyday reality; even the abundance of bodily parts taking their own space is another realist reply in the cinematic depiction of women as the blonde thin bimbos.

It is no secret that this was a statement of body positivity and female empowerment before the terms were invented. 'Girls Night Out', though, makes the whole affair a fun thing to do and be. Deeply supportive of its main character, it won't preach but simply shows fun ways of doing things -with men as objects for a change.

A special mention needs to be given to the overlapping sound (and the jazzy music) which makes the whole film a staple of a vibrant group ('girly') power, ready to explode at any time, and marvelously complementing the visual happenings.

Female sexuality in Thatcher's era might not have been the prominent trend of the period (and Sally Potter's 1992 gender-bending 'Orlando' was yet to come). But Joanna Quinn unashamedly and unapologetically bites the bullet and makes a film that is still able to undress you -and it's up to you not to lose your thong.

Vassilis Kroustallis

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