A delight to sit down and talk to Christopher Twig (aka Twiggy) on the occasion of the forthcoming retrospective of his work — Twiggy Birmingham: Slap in the Face — curated by Trevor Pitt as part of the forthcoming ‘Shout’ Festival from the 9th-19th of November. To the LGBT community, Twiggy is as much of an icon of Birmingham as Selfridges or the Library: everyone who’s been to an LGBT club or to a gay pride parade in the city will have at least walked past and usually had their photo taken with him. His evolution as an artist is also the city’s evolution in respect to LGBT cultures. A maker of ‘Happenings,’ a performance artist non-pareil, a constant designer of unique and iconic looks, he’s conjured up a space for himself and his art where one didn’t exist before. The ‘Twiggy Birmingham: Slap in the Face’ exhibit on his work, curated by Trevor Pitt, is long overdue recognition of his achievements as an artist. As Pitt describes it, ‘Twiggy Birmingham is an ongoing creative project spanning over three decades that takes the body, costume, adornment and performance to the level of an art form. From androgynous punky Goth, to energy fuelled Club Kid to flamboyant event host and walkabout artist, to outrageous stage performer, Twiggy Birmingham has documented their experiences through photographs, video, costume and memorabilia. An unmissable figure in pop, club and drag culture of Birmingham and beyond’. The experience will be open to the public from 10-18th November at Vivid Projects, 16 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street Birmingham.
Jigsaw’s back after a seven year absence, with new traps and twists and torture. One of us is very excited about this. The other has never seen a Saw film. Guess which one felt sadistically bludgeoned? What are the pleasures on offer? How do the films in the series connect? What is the basic structure. How good a Saw film is Jigsaw? A Trumpist film or merely Old Testament Religiosity?
Will Cineworld will ever get film screenings right? This time they started off showing Geostorm instead of Thor: SINeworld is what we should call, says Mike. I’m never seeing a film in 4X-3D again, says I. We discuss Marvel’s practice of cameos, the limits of what a director like Taika Waititi can bring to a Marvel film, whether action needs to be conceptualised differently in CGI films, the developments in 3-D, and the performances of Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum. We also linger on the very particular type of humour Waititi brings to this project.
Sally Potter’s all-too-brief comedy drama polarises us, which makes a nice change to the agreements we’ve been having recently. Is it smug or knowing? Is its range of incongruous acting styles engaging or distancing? Who knows. But Sally Potter is very very very important in British cinema and feminism and queer representation, says Jose, who then has the nerve to criticise The Party for having its right-on cake and eating it.
Includes a reminiscence of seeing a man stand up in a screening of I, Daniel Blake and a magic trick where Mike convinces Jose he has an extraordinary memory.
The one where Cineworld cares so little about the films it shows and for its customers that it doesn’t notice the film is out of focus, leaves it so for 15 minutes, and doesn’t bother to restart it. I was enraged. Even so this witty, daring political satire so relevant to our times and beautifully played by an ensemble of great comedy actors won me over. It’s brilliant.
Franklin Pangborn’s been called an aesthete, prissy, flighty, a nance, a pansy, an effeminate fussbudget. Along with Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and other beloved character actors of the classic era, he made queerness affectionately visible at a time when it couldn’t even be mentioned. This bit part in A Star is Born illustrates why: listen to the intonation on the first line ‘Flash!’, the stress he puts on the word ‘peak’, the phrasing – does he change divine to devone? — the way he holds his hands, the passion for the inconsequential, the evocation of a slight superiority to what he’s doing, the uppity accent and the careful phrasing; the kind of guy who’d visit your home only to offer proof that your antiques are really repros: watching him speak, a whole other way of being, one then unmentionable, materialises and edges its way into representation.
A rare moment of lesbian visibility in 1930s Hollywood cinema, perhaps made possible by director George Cukor’s own sexual orientation, nonetheless shrouded in homophobia and made the butt of a joke, but worth registering here for its rarity and for the potential it offers to think that it might nonetheless have brightened a lesbian viewer’s day when it first came out in 1932. We once thanked heaven for small and not always benevolent mercies.
Mike and I discuss scandinoir, why Tomas Alfredson — who is not Thomas Anderson — is such a great director, how some shots in this film made me swoon, why Chloë Sevigny’s performance is so great and Michael Fassbender’s, gloriously handsome as he is in this movie, is not. Was Val Kilmer dubbed? Why does a film that has so many extraordinary elements not quite add up to the sum of its parts? Is Snowman a Europudding? Spoilers abound
The first of a series of interviews of books on cinema. The intention is to expand and disseminate our understanding of cinema and its diverse histories and various cultures by bringing attention to recently published books in the field in order to enhance understanding of and access to the knowledge the books provide. This first one is an interview with Lawrence Napper — author of ‘British Cinema and Middlebrow Culture in the Interwar Years’ (2009) and ‘The Great War in British PopularCinema of the 1920s: Before Journey’s End’ (2015) — on his contribution to Wallflower Press’ Short Cut series, an excellent introduction to silent cinema, ‘Silent Cinema: Before The Pictures Got Small,’ (2017).
The latest instalment in one of my very favourite series of books. The title partly indicates what’s offered, the last formal interview granted by its subject. But the sub-heading indicates other conversations: the promise of more. The books are published posthumously about the recently deceased. And until now, they’ve all be writers: David Foster Wallace, Jacques Derrida, Kurt Vonnegut, Roberto Bolaño. As the series has expanded it has grown to include the not-so-recently deceased (Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin) and grown to be more inclusive in its definition of writing (not only novels and short stories but also philosophy and now music). I was as surprised to see Lour Reed in this series as I was to see Bob Dylan win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But both grew to make sense to me. And certainly here Lour Reed refers to what he does mainly as writing, the only exception being to when he’s performing. Also, his influences and his aspirations all reference writing, the novels of Dostoyevsky, the work of Hubert Selby, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Delmore Schwartz and other American post-war writers and poets of subcultural urban alienation.
I’ve loved all the books in the series because they seem to offer a distillation if not a summation of their subjects’ concerns at or near the end of their lives, like they’re passing on to us that little bit of knowledge they’ve acquired after a life-time of experience. ‘Learning to live should bean learning to die’ says Jacques Derrida in his last interview book, ‘learning to take into account, so as to accept, absolute morality (that is, without salvation, resurrection, or redemption — neither for oneself nor for the others)’. For Kurt Vonnegut life was about helping each other get through this thing, this life, whatever that is: ‘There are all kinds of ways we can help each other get through today. There are some things that help. Musicians Really do it for me.’
Lou Reed’s music has certainly been important to generations of people. But his last interview doesn’t offer the kind of neat summation that is found in other books in the series. Part of the pleasure of the book is in seeing celebrated writers trying to convey why he meant so much to them, whilst also trying to take some lesson in life or even merely an insight into the music that they can take away, and ending up leaving with nothing. Here’s the legendary Lester Bangs, florid and self-aggrandising, telling us much more about himself than about Reed. Here’s Neil Gaiman, fan-boy purity in adulthood, chasing Reed around to express appreciation and to gain insight and getting so little from Reed he’s reduced to conveying his own journey. Here’s Paul Auster much more interested in himself than in Reed. It’s amazing how Reed skirts, dodges, bypasses and then accuses and demands; all whilst giving his interviewers so little. ‘If you want to ask a question, you should know what you’re asking about, don’t you think?’ he challenges Farida Khelfa from Rolling Stone ,…’Someone will say, ‘Have you head that so-and-so sounds like you?’ Why? Because they sing out of key?’ For him it’s all in the music. For some of us, the music is why we especially love reading interviews like these. His ornery modes of evasion tell their own story.
We couldn’t stay away. And with a second viewing, time to percolate, and responses from friends informing us, Eavesdropping once again delves into Blade Runner 2049.
What to make of the film’s representation of women? How does the film use names? Why did Mike have a little weep at the end this time? Do gay women have cottages? Does the film function as a story about slavery? What about criticisms of its lack of diversity in casting?
Why do people think this film is dull? Is it the film’s fault? Television’s? Humanity’s? Why don’t we care to engage visually any more?
We discuss why Blade Runner 2049 is so moving and beautiful, how it develops and unfolds from the first one including relating gestures and costuming as well as characterisation and design. Lots of spoilers.
With a weary sigh, we get to Flatliners. Ellen Page, James Norton, Diego Luna and Kiersey Clemons expand their minds and run around shitting themselves in fear. Questions abound: Why did they call this Flatliners when the obviously correct title is Hot Doctors? Was Kiefer Sutherland wasted? Is it wise to be wasted while appearing in a film? In precisely how many millions of ways is the film inconsistent? Just how stupid and blind is its attitude towards the very real problems it presents? Does it make sense as a horror flick? Just how obsessed are Mike and Jose with the cast’s attractiveness? Who’s hotter, the ginger guy or the hot girl? All this and Catholic guilt too.
How bad is Home Again? Why did we not walk out? What kind of nepotism makes us angry? A woman’s film that is not quite a romantic comedy? We could have been funnier and meaner but it wouldn’t have been as honest.