Blu-ray Review: Gina [CIP] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 21st, 2024  

Gina

Studio: Canadian International Pictures

Apr 24, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


A team of filmmakers descends upon a sleepy Quebecois factory town to shoot a documentary, purportedly about the local mill, but in secret a politically-driven expose of the textile industry’s exploitation of its laborers. At the same time, a stripper named Gina (Celine Lomez) is dispatched to a nearby hotel to provide entertainment for the locals. After her performance, she’s assaulted by members of the resident snowmobile gang. With the help of her pimp and several of his thugs, she embarks on a violent mission to see that her attackers get what’s coming to them.

From the outside, Gina (1975) sounds like just another one of the numerous rape and revenge exploitation films that proliferated throughout the Seventies and early Eighties. Although it’s certainly a member of that cycle, it might only be the third or fourth bullet point you’d use to describe the film after watching it. Its sex and violence will be what gets viewers’ attention, and its filmmaker knew that: Gina used its exploitation hook to explore broader ideas and themes.

For director and co-writer Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions, 2004), the story was inspired by experiences he had while making his own controversial documentary about textile labor, Cotton Mill, Treadmill, which was filmed before Gina but not released until 1976 as the result of pushback and heavy censorship. Gina came about as that documentary sat in limbo, and examines some of the same ideas through a fictionalized lens. Although she’s the title character, Gina’s story doesn’t come to dominate the film until its explosive final act. For the better part of its runtime, the movie focuses just as much on the documentary filmmakers who have to lie and fake their way into the local cotton mill, and who have to film their interview subjects in secret so that the industry’s businessmen and bureaucrats won’t shut their project down.

Throughout the movie, we see a lot of footage from their fictional film. A lot of it is stark, black-and-white footage of interview subject Dolores, a young woman who speaks like she’s much older than her years, with a weariness brought on by her having labored long, hard hours in the mill since she was a teenager. In one interview, she talks about being assigned to a machine that was difficult for her to use, and hoping that it would get easier as she grew accustomed to it; instead, years passed and she only became accustomed to her work being difficult.

This sort of resignation runs throughout Gina, which is full of characters who suffer through the hopelessness that things are just the way they are. The innkeeper doesn’t love her husband, but he’s who she’s married to; he doesn’t seem to love running their hotel, but what else is he supposed to do? When one millworker is asked about rumored layoffs, her main worry is having to do the same job at a different factory. When Gina rebuffs a businessman’s indecent proposal, he shrugs it off and makes a similar offer to the waitress. You get the sense that the locals only turn out for Gina’s performance mostly because it’s the only thing to do in town on a Saturday night—and it’s what they’ve done when every new stripper comes to town, week in and week out. Even Gina’s dance feels routine: something she’s rehearsed to machine-like consistency over years and years of practice on the stages of shitty, local bars. This is a place where all passion has been sucked away, and where seeking something better is an option that only few even consider.

The cathartic release comes when Gina—someone, finally!—says “enough is enough.” This is a response to her horrifying attack, and it seems evident that this awful act isn’t a new experience for her. But she’s not one to accept it, or chalk it off as part of the continued cost of her profession. She calls up her pimp, who sends muscle—they head to the snowmobile club’s hideout inside an ice-locked barge and lay waste to the gang. Gina doesn’t cash in its exploitation chips until the film’s nearly run its course, but those waiting for a violent payoff won’t be let down.

Canadian International Pictures have packaged Gina with some excellent complementary features, including a new interview with Denys Arcand which covers the film’s production and how his prior experience while making his cotton industry documentary shaped its story. (Various cast members share their memories of the movie via audio interviews.) Also included is an excellent video essay by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholar, the leading scholar on rape-revenge films. We also get trailers for other early Arcand films, and a booklet that contains writing by historian Jim Leach.

Gina is an absorbing thriller with a unique setting and immensely satisfying end; don’t let its grungy exploitation trappings steer you away.

(vinegarsyndrome.com/products/gina)




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