Melanie Mayron as Susan in Girlfriends.

Find it at 5th Ave. Girlfriends

PSU’s on-campus theater brings back a ‘70s classic

Find it at 5th Ave. is a recurring column that reviews, previews and explores upcoming films at Portland State’s on-campus student theater, 5th Avenue Cinema. 


If you haven’t caught a film there already, 5th Avenue Cinema is Portland State University’s very own on-campus, student-run theater. The cozy, indie-focused venue has been run by the PSU Film Committee since 1989, dutifully presenting films for fellow PSU students to watch for free—each term and every weekend. The Cinema’s website describes its curation as “a mix of obscure, critically acclaimed, and modern independent and mainstream films on a variety of mediums such as 35mm, 16mm, and DCP [Digital Cinema Package].”


Starting on Friday, March 4, 5th Avenue Cinema will be showing a critically acclaimed film in glorious 35mm: Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends.


Girlfriends is a low-budget film from 1978—and while it’s one of Weill’s first films, it has stood the test of time, and earned its place in the famous Criterion Collection. With a budget of $500,000, Girlfriends’ production value was low, even for a ‘70s flick. 


The film was selected and programmed for screening by 5th Avenue’s very own projectionist, Cadie Godula, who is a film studies junior at PSU. Godula said she was drawn to Girlfriends for its reliability, which stood out to her even on her first watch-through. She compared the main character’s transition into loneliness to similar feelings she’d had at the time—a common experience among college students, albeit told in its own unique way. 


The film stars Melanie Mayron as a young photographer named Susan, who has lived with her best friend in their shared New York apartment for years. When Susan’s best friend gets engaged and decides to move out, Susan is left to deal with her sudden desolation. Her overwhelming loneliness and cheap photography gigs lead her down a path of despair, and the audience is left to watch as she tries to get her life together and figure out what she truly wants for herself.


“There’s something about watching a character try to get this thing, and then they get it and are like ‘actually, I didn’t want that,’” Godula said.


Godula said that the film, which is Weill’s second, “has an independent and lo-fi feeling to it,”  which aligns with many of the films that 5th Avenue Cinema frequently screens. Godula also noted her appreciation for the display and representation of female friendships—a topic that is not uncommon, but is refreshingly presented in a positive light.


Girlfriends will be shown on 35mm film—a beautiful, dying format.

“Some people would probably be like, ‘there’s the specks and dust, it’s very distracting,’” Godula said. “But sometimes, it’s much richer and more colorful and sharper, so—as a viewer—that’s fun.” 


She also called the process of projecting 35mm film a special one, noting how strange and awesome it is to put a long piece of celluloid, made up of tiny frames, into a machine and project it as one moving picture. Godula said that this upcoming spring term will be a pleasure for anyone who cares about the 35mm format, as the Cinema will have as many as five other movies on 35mm film—almost half of the term’s film lineup. 


These types of films are common for 5th Avenue Cinema, and old school formats are what sets it apart from big-screen multiplexes such as Regal and Cinemark. Showing movies that many audience members have previously never heard of, in a wide range of styles, languages and genres, the staff of 5th Avenue Cinema make it their mission to expand the cultural horizons of their audiences and the PSU community, one movie at a time.


Curious movie-lovers can see Girlfriends at 5th Avenue Cinema, March 4–6.