All posts by NotesonFilm1

About NotesonFilm1

Spanish Canadian working in the UK. Former film journalist. Lecturer in Film Studies. Podcast with Michael Glass on cinema at https://eavesdroppingatthemovies.com/ and also a series of conversations with artists and intellectuals on their work at https://josearroyoinconversationwith.com/

Eavesdropping at the Movies:

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

We talk feminism, body horror, monsters, trans tropes, masculinity and more in our discussion of writer-director Julia Ducournau’s shocking, transgressive, and surprising Titane.

Polina Zelmanova’s video essay, “Horrible Bodies: The (New) Body Politics of Horror”, to which we refer in the podcast, is included below, and her accompanying essay can be read at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Thinking Aloud About Film: Taipei Suicide Story (Keff, Taiwan, 2020)

A medium length fiction film with a great central concept: A suicide hotel where people can only stay one night. They are permitted to leave in the morning if they change their mind but leave they must. What happens when a young woman chooses to stay and the desk clerk begins falling for her? We talk about the beauty of the compositions, the black humour of the film, the uses of colour, we praise the cinematography by Tzu-Hao Kao and the performances (especially Tender Huang’s). But is the film still a bit thin? Richard and I debate.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

Examples of reflections: Examples of colour:

Examples of Composition:

A point of discussion in the podcast:

José Arroyo

Thinking Aloud About Film: Nocturne 29 (Pere Portabella, Spain, 1968)

A fascinating film which should be of particular interest to those of you into ‘Art’ or ‘Experimental Cinema’. The podcast discusses the importance of Pere Portabella as a seminal figure in 20th Century Spanish Cinema: he produced Saura, Ferrari, Buñuel and many others; and he also directed a whole series of films, of which we plan to work our way through. Nocturne 29 was his first feature. I have written on Warsaw Bridge here. Richard and I have have also discussed Portabella’s  Cuadecuc Vampyr (1970) here.

The podcast touches on  Portabella’s bringing together some of the great artists of the 20th century to work on various levels of the film (music, script, art, cinema); whether it being the Marxist work of a bourgeois is inherently a problem,  the significance of particular scenes (the poker games, the ending with the flags), the casting of Lucía Bosé and Mario Cabré, its form and its possible meanings. It’s a fascinating film and an extraordinary first work by a key director more people should be familiar with. It is currently on MUBI.

The podcast can be listened to below:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 337 – Licorice Pizza

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

We’re remotely joined by filmmaker, previous guest, and, crucially, Mike’s brother, Stephen Glass, for a discussion of Paul Thomas Anderson’s period romance, Licorice Pizza. Stephen last helped us explore Anderson’s previous film, Phantom Thread, and again brings his knowledge of and passion for the director’s work to our discussion.

We consider the efficiency with which Anderson creates rich portraits of characters and their lives from few details; how the blossoming love between the protagonists, a boy of 15 and woman of 25, avoids feeling exploitative or uneasy as the age difference suggests it might; how the film is able to feel loose and free despite conforming to its genre; the likability, or otherwise, of the setting and era; Anderson’s focus on faces and use of reflective surfaces; and whether one particular running joke that begins as hilariously, stunningly outrageous, overplays its hand and ends up in the realm of the unacceptable.

Licorice Pizza is a sweet romance draped in a loving portrait of a particular place and time, and laced with good jokes. Still, your mileage may vary, as Mike’s devoted, grumpy intransigence in the face of José’s and Stephen’s enthusiasm demonstrates, but even he has to admit it’s a very good film.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 336 – The Lost Daughter

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s debut feature as a director, The Lost Daughter, paints a powerful portrait of Leda, a middle-aged woman for whom motherhood never came naturally, and whose exposure to a young family on holiday ferociously reminds her of her experience of raising two daughters. It’s a film that bravely and forcefully repudiates the notion that motherhood should be natural to women, the key expectation of them, and joyful.

We discuss Olivia Colman’s performance and the appealing ordinariness she’s conveyed on television and in film for two decades, and Gyllenhaal’s direction of a script she wrote, which arguably omits too much context for some of what we see, but which is at its core devoted to telling its story visually, taking opportunities to spend time exploring Leda’s state of mind – although it could work through some of Leda’s behaviour more convincingly. Nonetheless, The Lost Daughter is a striking, expressive film that tells a story we don’t often hear, about a kind of person we don’t often see.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 335 – The Power of the Dog

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

We talk subverted expectations, how an artificial performance makes sense on a character who’s pretending to be something he’s not, the way in which forty years of oppression eats into a person’s soul, rejection of familial expectations and the performance of unspoken fraternal duty, and more, in our discussion of Jane Campion’s fascinating, complex, and beautiful drama, The Power of the Dog.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 334 – Don’t Look Up

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

We’ve enjoyed Adam McKay’s previous couple of films, The Big Short and Vice, in which he dramatises real events in a pointed, opinionated, satirical manner. He now brings the same attitude to the apocalypse, painting a picture of a world in which an asteroid is headed on a collision course with Earth, poised to end the human race’s existence unless something is done… and nobody cares.

We debate its merits and failures, agreeing that it’s a comedy with few laughs, but José arguing for its place in the national theatre of ideas that cinema has always been in America, and as a response to that question we’ve been hearing asked for several years now – how can you satirise a reality that’s this absurd to begin with? Mike asks why McKay’s previous films worked where this fails, and suggests that it’s an inability to be indirect, to work in poetic ways – something that’s effective when being openly sarcastic, as in The Big Short and Vice, but that falls short in Don’t Look Up‘s appeal for earnestness and depth of character.

An ambitious film, then, attempting to holistically satirise the state of things as they currently stand – but at best, a mixed bag.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 333 – The Hand of God

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Paolo Sorrentino reaches into his childhood to tell a story that’s in equal parts comic and tragic, with access to the off-kilter and fabulistic, in The Hand of God – whose title references that infamous goal scored by Diego Maradona, who Sorrentino semi-seriously credits with saving his life – as he dramatises here. We discuss the imagery, the familial banter, the curious opening scene, choosing Naples over Rome, and an oddball friendship with a happy-go-lucky smuggler.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Ali In Wonderland/ Ali aux pays des merveilles (Djouhra Abouda, Alain Bonnamy, France/Algeria, 1975)

We talk Ali in Wonderland (1975), currently on MUBI. It’s an avant-garde political documentary directed by Djouhra Abouda, and Alain Bonnamy. Its  play with form is intended to punch the spectator into awareness, and thus very much part of the Deconstructionist zeitgeist of its time. We discuss the use of split screen, distortions, slow motion on beat, juxtapositions; its rendering of historical memory; the way the film connects colonialism with migration. It’s a work you’d perhaps now expect to find more readily in a gallery rather than in a cinema, like an installation, and worth seeing for many reasons, which we discuss in the podcast below.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Writing in Le Monde on the 3rd of January, Tahar Ben Jelloun described the film as:

‘Ali is a film on time and wear. The derision and melancholy of history. The directors well demonstrate the political link between colonialism and migration. It’s not a militant film. It’s something else: a look which derails the quotidian and returns to the misery and exploitation, of which migrant workers are the victims, an element of the fantastic. The real, edited and displayed, is more powerful and surprising than fiction; it is also more violent than political discourse (translation is my my own and possibly thus imperfect).

Ali au pays des merveilles est un film sur le temps et l’usure. La dérision et la mélancolie de l’histoire. Les auteurs montrent bien le lien politique entre la colonisation et l’émigration. Ce n’est pas un film militant. C’est autre chose : un regard qui détourne le quotidien et redonne à la misère et à l’exploitation dont sont victimes les travailleurs émigrés, les dimensions du fantastique. Le réel donné et découpé est encore plus fort, plus surprenant que la fiction : il est aussi plus violent que le discours politique”

Tahar Ben Jelloun , Djouhra et Ali au pays des merveilles, Le Monde, 3 janvier 1977

José Arroyo

A Note on Yaoi Manga

I’ve spent almost all the Christmas holidays so far obsessing over Yaoi Manga. They’re written by women, mainly for a female audience but are about gay relationships. There’s always an older guy who’s top; a younger more androgynous one (like Bowie, or Tadzio) who constantly gets raped. The external world is a yakuza one of crime, physical action, and sexual brutality. The leads, however, think only of their all-encompassing feeling. The only impediment to their love is what each feels for the other, homophobia only manifested as a prelude to a rape, which is endured but often results in sexual pleasure. There are usually no women at all in these S&M-y gay stories written by women for women, or at best a fleeting appearance (a prostitute; a kidnap victim). The external world is ruled by power relations, wealth and money; the internal world by power relations that are dissolved through mutuality of feeling that goes beyond passion. I thought these were all fascinating original observations based on a vast amount of current reading and was slightly deflated to find them all (with greater depth and range) in the genre’s wikipedia page.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 332 – The Matrix Resurrections

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Listen to our episode on 1999’s The Matrix here.

After eighteen years away and vast changes in the blockbuster landscape in which it once broke incredible new ground, the Matrix series is back with a fourth film, The Matrix Resurrections. Keanu Reeves’ Neo is once again plugged into the Matrix as Thomas Anderson, but having trouble separating reality from dreams of events that happened twenty years ago… if dreams are what they are.

We discuss Resurrections‘ endless self-reflexivity, how it uses motifs and themes of the previous films, updating them where necessary and bringing more out of them (Mike is glad of the much improved use of mirrors). We also consider the film’s inclusivity, which is key to the Wachowskis’ work, and an uncomplicated joy here – it’s not difficult for people from a range of ethnic backgrounds and situated in different places along sexual and gender spectra to coexist in a blockbuster with no particular importance placed upon their identities, as Resurrections proves. You just have to want to do it, and the world that results is beautiful. And, at heart, it’s a middle-aged romance – for which José swoons!

Resurrections isn’t without its issues, and we consider those too – Mike asks whether the sense of wonder associated with the special effects of the original films is simply gone forever in a world in which literally anything can be done, and is, with all-powerful CGI, and we agree that the action is a Bourne-inflected disappointment, especially so in a series that itself spawned so many imitators of its own action scenes two decades ago.

But seen in its entirety, The Matrix Resurrections is an imaginative and interesting continuation of the story begun twenty years ago, and a holistic triumph of well-intentioned, positive and effortless representation. Whoever thought we’d get a fourth Matrix? And that it would be this different, and this good?

The interview with Jean Baudrillard referenced by Mike can be found here.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

The Youssef Chahine Podcast No, 44: Le Chaos (2007)

We discuss Chahine’s last film, Le Chaos, and are delighted by what we see; a political melodrama that offers all the pleasures of the genre — one feels for these people who long for love and freedom but who aren’t allowed to achieve their wants through repressive social and state mechanisms. The villain is a torturer and rapist. Chahine’s achievement is that he makes him understandable, whilst offering a Marxist critique of a corrupt culture through a film that always sides with the powerless. The mise-en-scène is masterful; the film is brilliant. Thanks very much to the kind friend who made it possible for us to see it. We have 15 more Chahine films we have not been able to source; so if any of you know where we can buy/source/see them, we would appreciate it. In the podcast we also discuss how the film can be seen as an amalgamation of recurring Chahine thematics as well as recurring visual motifs and we try to connect this film to the rest of his oeuvre. It’s one to see.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Listeners might be interested in comparing the way the film was marketed in Egypt:

…an in France:

…also,

also, this is the Variety article where Richard picked up the information about Khaled Youssef’s involvement

 

José Arroyo

Max Bawtree on Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-Ho, South Korea, 2003)

I talk to Max Bawtree about Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-Ho, South Korea, 2003), focussing on  its use of violence, representation of gender, and the importance of cinematography and framing throughout. The podcast may be listened to here:

Memories of Murder – Podcast

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 331 – West Side Story (2021)

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story is here at last. The obvious question it raises is just why such a well-regarded film needs a remake – and the answer quickly becomes clear. Robert Wise’s 1961 adaptation of the 1957 stage musical is indeed a classic, but this new version comes from and enters a different America, one in which its message, José argues, is more urgently needed but faces a more difficult challenge to be heard. And on top of that, it’s just a really good film.

We discuss the film’s use of colour and lighting, the brutality of the violence and believability of the gang, the purpose and effects of having a lot of dialogue spoken in entirely unsubtitled Spanish, and much more. The songs are timeless, the romance heartfelt, the imagery beautiful. West Side Story is a great success.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Dominic Thornton on Resident Evil: Retribution (Paul W. S. Anderson, 2012)

I talk to Dominic Thornton about Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution, with Dom trying to persuade me of Anderson’s merits as a filmmaker, focusing on his stylistic approach to action, the star power of Milla Jovovich, and how Resident Evil can be read through the lens of Baudrillard’s ideas of the simulacra.

The podcast may be listened to here:

Resident Evil: Retribution – Podcast

 

Emily Jackman on Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

A discussion with Emily Jackman  on Blade Runner (Scott, 1982), its influences, its impacts and its cultural significance, across all areas of culture, including fashion:

Blade Runner – Podcast