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/

Thinking Aloud About Film: The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young, South Korea, 1960)

We continue with our discussion of the MARTIN SCORSESE’S WORLD CINEMA strand on MUBI, this time focusing on Kim Ki-young’s THE HOUSEMAID (South Korea, 1960). MUBI’s take is that it influenced Bong Joon-ho’s PARASITE – clearly evident – and that it ‘changed the course of South Korean cinema forever. An immense success when released in 1960, this striking masterpiece is a blend of sexual obsession and class struggle, horror and social critique’. In the podcast, we agree with most of what MUBI says about it but question the claim that it’s a masterpiece,’ finding the film deeply misogynistic in ways that go even beyond the patriarchal norms of its time and culture. The very handsome version being screened by MUBI is the 2008 restoration by the Korean Film Archive and is a real pleasure to see, making visible the film’s very real inventiveness with light, composition and movement.

The podcast may 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 and Richard Layne

Bread & Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York By Samuel R. Delany and Mia Wolff (Fantagraphic Books, 2013)

Continuing reading of short works by Samuel R. Delany, last night an autobiographical graphic novel recounting/imaging/ evoking Delany’s coming together with his life partner of more than 40 years, Dennis. Samuel (nicknamed Chips here) meets Dennis when he buys a book off him but realises he’s forgotten his money. Dennis gives him the book and asks him to bring the money when he can, which Chips does. The drama and difficulty, both in the situation and in its recounting, is that Dennis has been homeless for six years. As Chips and Dennis continue to meet on the street and feelings develop, Chips begins to ask friends if it’s wise to pursue this. I would have said no, but I suppose his friends are more open than I, encourage the affair and everything turns out alright, in spite of economic, social, and racial inequalities here told in their fullness but with great delicacy. The novel is a testament to Delany’s openness to love where one finds it and his sensitivity to the mental and economic precarity of others – an underlining of dignity and humanity – an ability to hear and understand what others feel even as they only half express it themselves. Delany’s text is interspersed with quotes from Hölderin’s BREAD & WINE, that sometimes underline, sometimes counterpoint. A life lived with courage, a courage also necessary to recount it, particularly in this form. Mia Wolff’s illustrations are an integral part of this storytelling, not only in the drawings themselves but in how they are composed throughout the book.

Neil Gaiman says, ‘it’s filthy and earthy and beautiful, like an orchid in a gutter; it tells you more than you wanted to know and makes you glad it did’. Couldn’t say it better myself.

José Arroyo

Big Joe by Samuel R. Delaney

A handsomely produced book I bought at Offprint 2022 from Inpatient Press, lavishly illustrated by Drake Carr and Sabrina Bockler. I hope the ugliness of the cover was a deliberate choice, as it is not representative of the marvellous drawings inside. It’s a shaggy, good-natured, kind-hearted book which I don’t know whether to categorise as political porn or as explicit utopian function. It’s probably both. A young vagabond hooks up with two older guys in a movie theatre, has such great sex with them that he follows them to the trailer park in the outskirts of town where they live; and joins their extended multi-racial inter-generational tight-knit community where they all have mutually pleasurable sex — in many positions and with generous portions of a variety of personalised kinks — with each other, singly and in various groupings, non-stop and explicitly conveyed. My first book by Samuel R. Delany and it won’t be my last.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 355 – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

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

Marvel’s invasion of the multiverse is now well under way, and in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness this dense network of alternate realities sets the stage for a race to save – what else? – the world. Which world? Dunno. Our world, the most important one, at least, but maybe all the others too.

While director Sam Raimi has history with superhero movies, having helped to bring the genre to a new maturity with his Spider-Man trilogy, it’s his low-budget horror experience he brings to bear on the MCU – there’s more than a little Evil Dead in here. It’s surprising and invigorating, and the low-rent, rough and ready feel it conveys integrates well with the expensive computer-generated embellishments we’re used to from Marvel. Multiverse of Madness is visually dazzling.

Sadly, it’s not dazzling anywhere else, its plot overstuffed, its thematic through lines unsatisfying and problematic. It relies quite heavily on specific knowledge obtained from previous films and television programmes in the series; the less of that context you have, the less this story will mean to you. And magic and the multiverse are quickly becoming the cheap, mechanical get-out clauses they’ve always had the potential to be, rather than thought-through, coherently applied storytelling elements: write yourself into a corner? Make up anything you like! Magic and multiverse can paper over any cracks your plot might have. The result is a disappointingly joyless experience whose visual splendour can only fleetingly distract from some fundamental issues with the story and themes.

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

Tanaquil (Donald Windham, 1977)

 

In the first two chapters of TANAQUIL, the heroine, who has heretofore thought of herself as a tomboy uninterested in boys, falls in love with a young man whose only interest seems to be sex and motors. He’s quickly killed killed in car accident, a reason to leave town and move to New York, where she picks up handsome men and feels no guilt about it; on a double date, she gets treated like a prostitute by the man her friend had fixed her up with, moves away, takes acting classes, stars on Broadway and turns down a Hollywood contract because she’s fallen for a photographer’s assistant – Frankie Le Messina, nicknamed the Lemon Squeezer — who’s rescued her from a fire in a bar that is unconsciously but all too clearly coded as gay — the bar that is, not the boy, though he’s quite happy to move up and down the Kinsey scale as it suits. Phew!

Frankie’s gorgeous; his preference is for women but he’ll take pleasure when and as he can; lumberjacks, sailors… In Boston a friend tells him someone with his looks can make his fortune in New York and he decides to give it a try, though it doesn’t quite work out. He does luck in with a job as an assistant to Page, a famous photographer, and that is the point where he meets Tanaquil. He and Tanaquil fall madly in love, get married; they have two children; he gets drafted into WWII but the separation only strengthens their feelings for each other; he never achieves the critical recognition the book says he deserves. It’s probably symbolic that he specialises in tattoos, and he never gets a clear  picture of the anchor tattooed at the point of a penis that he first took in Boston until the end of the novel. The anchor in the penis, always in his mind; a barrier, a destination, never quite in focus. As a novel, it’s all a bit flat. But the reason I read it is because it’s meant to be a roman-à-clef on George Platt Lynes and his circle and there the book succeeds in offering a much better picture of Pre-Stonewall life than YOUNG MAN FROM THE PROVINCES.

Donald Windahm by Paul Cadmus

George Platt Lynes is pictured as Page: kind, generous, extremely social, assertive but not pushy, very elegant,  very bad with money,  and always out to have fun. It’s a fond portrait. We get to see many of the others in the Platt Lynes circle, Pavel Tchelitchew is figured as Stëpa, a once fashionable figurative painter, for example. The surprise is to see Joseph Cornell, here figured as William Dickinson, an artist who lives with his disabled brother and his controlling mother in the suburbs. He makes collage boxes he doesn’t really want to sell that go for so much money the sale of the one he gifted them dig Frankie and Tanaquil out of a financial hole and enable them to buy a building in Manhattan. Cornell is also fondly depicted though his romantic attachments to too-young girls are differently interpreted by Tanaquil and Frankie and creates friction between them.

A not very good novel that is nonetheless a fascinating document, not only of a particular way of life and fascinating people, but of a particular place constantly undergoing change. So, for example, I loved reading not only about the homosexual hookups but also, say, what the neighbourhood that made up the site currently occupied by Radio City Music Hall was like and what was lost by it being torn down.

José Arroyo

 

 

Thinking Aloud About Film: Pixote (Hector Babenco, Brazil, 1981)

We’re both glad to find that PIXOTE retains all of the power we remember it for from decades ago when we first saw it. A realist political film whose aim it is to reveal conditions of existence as a pre-condition for creating change. It’s a film highly judgmental of systemic corruption, particularly as it effects children, but very open and accepting about different ways of being, with one of the earliest, most rounded and complex characterisations of a teen trans character either of us remember seeing. In this podcast we discuss the achievements of the film; it’s realist ‘documentary’ style, the extraordinary performances from the children and from Marilia Pera as the ageing prostitute, the power of its imagery; how we suspect it would be even harder to make and show today then it was then; we discuss the context in which the film was shown on British Television, we compare it to Buñuel’s LOS OLVIDADOS/ THE YOUNG AND THE DAMNED, Fernano Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s CITY OF GOD, and Alan Clarke’s SCUM; and we discuss the racial mix of the group of children and its significance.

The podcast may be listened to here:

 

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

For those of you interested in following up on some aspects of the discussion. Here is a discussion of the death of Fernando Ramos da Silva, who plays Pixote:

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-09-04-vw-3968-story.html?fbclid=IwAR2wzAOGDxNBD2sGifNlO1KapBD7wjRv2-vWErOtNvnUQntoT03koSdlggU

 

Here’s the trailer for the Channel 4 “Red Triangle” season, which helped create a context in which the film was then seen in its first UK television showing:

When the film was first screened on British Television it carried a Special Discretion Required symbol, as you can see below. The TV Times Review and Listing is by David Quinlan. Many thanks to Sheldon Hall for providing it to us,

Richard informs me that the above is the roundup of the week’s films, the one below is from the day’s TV listings (and unlike the film it misgenders Lilica!).

José Arroyo

Oklahoma at the Young Vic, May 14

The production of OKLAHOMA currently at the Young Vic is getting rave reviews, but I didn’t much like it. Noel Coward said that what he learned from his first trip to Broadway was to speed everything up when he returned to the UK. Here everything seemed slowed down, the way the characters speak, move. The score is also slowed down by being interpreted with a country and western twang or a jazzy bending of notes that seemed to stretch it out and take forever, as if the most laid back country and western singer ever all of a sudden decided to mix in Mariah Carey. I missed the joy and energy so evident in the original soundtrack and which seems to me to evoke mid-century America better than almost anything else. This production wants to plumb depths as if they didn’t exist in the original and instead just makes things heavy with ‘meaning’. The exchanges between Judd and Curly take place first in darkness, then projected to life in b&w onto a screen in huge close-ups that lend all the threats, blackmail and lamentations a potent homoerotic charge. Of course the scores is so gorgeous, no production can quite kill it; and this one benefits from having truly great singers in most of the parts. The only ‘innovation’ that dazzled was Marisha Wallace as Ado Annie, who brough her rendition of ‘A Girl Who Can’t Say No’ to Church and stopped the show with it. The production underlines questions of class, race and the justice system in its making Judd so handsome and desirable his position is the only thing that can be held against him. The cast is mixed race, something that seems like blind casting through most of the show but becomes more significant at the ‘trial’ at the end, where the homey taking care of business becomes a pointed message of privilege. I found all of this interesting. What I minded was the slowing of everything down to underline how ‘important’, ‘significant’ ‘symbolic; and ‘meaningful’ it all was. I would have exchanged it all for one rousing rendition of ‘Oklahoma.’

José Arroyo

Dominic Thornton, ‘Through the (Digital) Looking Glass – Resident Evil: Retribution’

 

 

With a deep appreciation for the films and directorial style of Paul W.S. Anderson, this video essay aims to highlight his characteristics, and how such an approach informs his films as symbolic deconstructions of the action genre, with specific focus on Resident Evil: Retribution (2012).

The video essay begins with an exploration of Anderson’s directorial characteristics, primarily his use of maps, geometric compositions and tableaux action, which are emphasised by their repetition in the video essay, aiming to make a case for Anderson as a filmmaker. Following this, I explore how such stylistic traits inform his film’s “video game logic” as outlined by Chris DeFalco,[1] laying out a sequence of Resident Evil: Retribution to detail the use of space, puzzle solving and action. Just as the film does itself, I move on from video game logic to examine how Retribution’s plot and setting embody the idea of the simulacra as outlined by Jean Baudrillard in his essay, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. Particular focus is placed on how Retribution, and the Resident Evil film series as a whole, recreates events and repeats familiar camerawork and staging from previous films, demonstrating Baudrillard’s idea that, “the real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models – and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times”.[2] The introduction of Anderson’s directorial characteristics outlined earlier in the video essay, then, come to demonstrate that the repetition found in the Resident Evil series is also a trademark of Anderson’s films.

V.F. Perkins writes in Film as Film, “in part a recording mechanism, but also an optical illusion, an art based on reality but dependent also on magic, the film is inherently impure”.[3] Using Baudrillard’s ideas, and with an interest in how the impure nature of film can be depicted, this video essay aims to demonstrate how Resident Evil: Retribution acts as a simulation of the action genre, with the filmmaker in control of the protagonist, placing them in scenarios and gradually giving them the means to escape, over and over again.

 

 

[1] DeFalco, C. ‘Game Theory: Paul W.S. Anderson and the Filmic Board Game’. Mubi Notebook. https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/game-theory-paul-w-s-anderson-and-the-filmic-board-game

[2] Baudrillard, J. ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. in Poster, M (ed.). Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings. (Polity Press, 1988). p. 167

[3] Perkins, V.F. Film as Film. (New York: First Da Capo Press, 1993). p. 58

L. P. Hartley’s THE HARNESS ROOM (L.P. Hartley, 1971; 2022)

 

 

P. Hartley’s THE HARNESS ROOM

Thanks to Gregory Woods for his recommendation and for his introduction to the new edition, a model of clarity and concision: a lot’s packed into a few pages. It’s a very brief book, an easy read, and a potent evocation of a particular type of Englishness. Colonel Alex Macready, a widower with a 17 year old son fears his son Fergus lacks the aggressiveness necessary for the career in the forces he would like him to pursue. As the Colonel goes off on a honeymoon with Sonia, a much younger bride, he turns his son over to Fred, his chauffeur, a brawny, good looking, ex-Guardsman. They begin their exercises in what used to be the harness room in the stables, where Fred sleeps. The book is matter of fact about Fred’s bisexuality (and deploys marvellous expressionist imagery to convey his seduction of the maid in the stairwell, spied on by Fergus). Fred’s been showing off his body while polishing the car and Fergus has been looking. So when they begin their exercises….Well, you can imagine what happens. It’s a plot one sees often in porn. What you get here, however, is a very vivid considerations of class, power, position, and the consequences of actions that the main protagonists ponder but do not speak of, even as they pursue their desires, which none of them are ashamed of. What Fred and Fergus do in the harness room is illegal. The servants think Fergus might be disinherited if the father gets children from a second marriage. Fred wonders what will happen to him if Fergus says anything. Fergus thinks Sonia’s sweet on him and this will cause trouble unless he leaves. Sonia’s married the Colonel for many reasons, one of them material comfort for herself and her mother, a position whose security she overestimates once her marriage takes place. Fergus wants Fred; Fred has fallen for Fergus. There’s an exhibition bout between Fred and Fergus to show the Colonel how Fred has taught Fergus to be a man. Sonia doesn’t want to go. How will it all end? It was published in 1971, before E.M. Forster’s Maurice L.P Hartley’s last novel, and the only one to deal openly with homosexual content. It’s only 143 pages, I enjoyed it very much and am glad to have read it.

José Arroyo

Alexander Santo- Edgar, A Different Paris: La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1995)

A different Paris

Creators statement:

In this video essay I will explore the presentation of Paris, including the Banlieues (the suburbs on the outskirts of central Paris) in Michael Kassovitz’s La Haine in comparison to the American Hollywood, and French film presentation of the city to highlight the stark differences that come together to ultimately offer a rejection of the Parisian beauty and allure one would conventionally attribute to the city of lights.

 

I was particularly interested in coming to understand that Michael Kassovitz’s presentation of Parisian society was through the eyes and experiences of individuals that we can think of as not quite French, and certainly not Parisian. La Haine seems to clearly make the black-blanc-beur grouping, which at the time had been used as a racial slur towards these ethnic minorities through its three central characters, Hubert (Hubert Koundé) who is black, Vinz (Vincenet Cassel) who is white Jewish and Said (Saïd Taghmaoui) who is suggested to be of African or Arabian decent, kind of modelling those that are considered ‘other’ within French society at the time. This racial grouping is also representative of the people living in the Banlieue, and offers a stark contrast between the first half of the film that takes place in the Chanteloup les Vignes in Yvelines, France, and the second half of the film that takes place mostly in central Paris, filled with predominantly white, French people, before ending back in the same Banlieue.

What became clear through my research, was that La Haine was functioning within France’s 1990’s film ‘movement’[1], Jeune Cinéma Français. Joe Hardwick defines this ‘movement’ as ‘synonymous with relatively low-budget, director-driven and character- centred films which have been read as bringing to French cinema a new kind of realism in the very personal stories they recount, which are often set against the backdrop of the fracture sociale of late twentieth century French society.’[2] La Haine demonstrates this ‘fracture sociale’ (which is explained in the video essay) through the trio of boy’s clear alienation and disenfranchisement with Paris, particularly evident through this kind of refusal of Parisian allure, taking landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and presenting them in a way that rejects its previous construction as a place of light and beauty. La Haine seems to offer something distinctly ‘other’, and mundane within Paris’ city centre signified through how much of the second half of the film takes place inside, and even the use of tight framing making the scenes taking place outside seem claustrophobic and the streets maze-like. Even in the Banlieue Hubert, Vinz and Said compare themselves to animals being watched in a zoo. We can also see the strange and violent encounters that Hubert, Vinz and Said experience particularly in the city centre, I think, uncharacteristically present Paris as the kind of source of the issues raised throughout La Haine.

This idea is framed from the beginning of video essay through a clearly inspired Martin Scorsese lens, that can be seen ideologically to be quite similar to La Haine, even down to an imitation of Taxi Driver’s (1976) ‘You talking to me’ mirror scene through the character of Vinz seeming to align himself with a Travis Bickle character. This is not to be reductive to the overall anti establishment message of La Haine, which offers Paris as a city, much like Taxi Driver’s New York, that needs to be ‘flushed down the fucking toilet’.

 

Where this recognition of La Haine within the ‘movement’[3] of Jeune cinema Francais is most clear is when compared to the presentation of Paris in other films, namely those of Hollywood in the 1940’s and 50’s such as Casablanca (1942), An American in Paris (1952) and Funny Face (1957), and of French New Wave films such as The Red Balloon (1956), The 400 Blows (1959) and Breathless (1960). I will be using these well known French films, and American films set and shot in Paris, to clearly showcase this divide, both in colour and black and white, and will thus be exploring La Haine mostly aesthetically. It is worth noting that I will show the romanticised, almost magical realism of the Paris in these films mentioned above, but will also be using such as examples of a Paris thought to be a place of mystery and beauty, set against the dark reality experienced by the trio of boys in La Haine. This is even reflected by La Haines use of darker blacks and shadows in comparison to Breathless or Casablanca’s use of monochrome for example, which seem to offer lighter blacks and greys, creating a softer visual aesthetic style.

 

There are certain similarities which I draw from Sue Harris’ writing on ‘Renoir’s Paris’ to Kassovitz’s presentation of Paris in La Haine, such as, ‘the will to document the “real” Paris of which he (Renoir) is both a product and an unwitting cinematic ambassador’[4]. She also talks of this tension between authenticity and mythology in relation to Renoir’s work which I think can be applied to La Haine in the way that Kassovitz offers these moments of magical realism such as the encounter with the cow, and Vinz imagining shooting the two white policemen, whilst clearly attempting to showcase what he thinks of as an authentic depiction of Paris to Hubert, Vinz and Said, both within the Banlieue and once they are within the city centre. Whilst I recognise I am not covering Renoir’s work, Harris’ ideas offer an excellent framing that can be linked nicely to a romanticised presentation of Paris existing at the same time as a rejection of such. Harris’ writings on ‘Renoir’s Paris’ is helpful then, in drawing out Paris as this city of juxtaposition, as both a place of love, but also of hate.

 

Whilst the content, and the ending of La Haine has perhaps offered the most debate and consideration, I think Kassovitz’s presentation of Paris aesthetically provides an untapped and particularly interesting area to explore in a video essay. In further considering such a presentation of the ‘city of lights’, films after 2000 such as Before Sunset (2004), Paris Je’Taime (2006), and Ratatouille (2007) are also included amongst other action films to suggest that a kind of romanticised, magical offering of Paris has continued to be a focal point of films set in Paris since La Haine’s release. The structuring of the video essay will attempt to function most clearly by using constant juxtaposition, evident through the clips and themes present within those clips. La Haine seems, in this respect, to offer Hate both towards a city that is confusing and increasingly alien to the boys, and towards a governmental system that they view as corrupt on its decent and ultimate arrival at chaos and disorder, whilst the other films engaged with, seem in opposition to show Love, and present a city full of world renowned landmarks, beauty, and wonder.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

(Jeancolas 1999, p. 15) in Joe Hardwick, The vague nouvelle and the Nouvelle Vague: The Critical Construction of le jeune cinéma français, Modern & Contemporary France, DOI: 10.1080/09639480701802666 (2008)

 

Harris, Sue, and Queen Mary. “Renoir’s Paris: The City as Film Set.” South Central Review, vol. 28, no. 3, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, pp. 84–102, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41261503. p. 8

 

 

Filmography at end of video essay

 

 

[1] (Jeancolas 1999, p. 15) in Joe Hardwick, The vague nouvelle and the Nouvelle Vague: The Critical Construction of le jeune cinéma français, Modern & Contemporary France, DOI: 10.1080/09639480701802666 (2008)

[2] ibid p. 53

[3] Jeancolas in Hardwick’s The vague nouvelle and the Nouvelle Vague: The Critical Construction of le jeune cinéma français

[4] Harris, Sue, and Queen Mary. “Renoir’s Paris: The City as Film Set.” South Central Review, vol. 28, no. 3, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, pp. 84–102, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41261503. p. 8

Natasha Cope, The Time of Our Lives: Self-Discovery in the 1980s Dance Film.

 

CREATOR’S STATEMENT: 

 

This video essay explores how self-discovery is conveyed in the dance films of the 1980s, utilising the four most well-known examples: Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987), Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983), and Fame (Alan Parker, 1980). These films are notorious examples of the ways in which dance is used to reflect a transition from adolescence to adulthood, alongside predominant societal issues during this period in America that denote how the characters undergo a process of self-discovery. The essay uses montages, that are reminiscent of the montages seen in these films, combined with voice-over narration to illustrate how this is conveyed visually in the films. Susan A. Reed outlines key ideas in ‘The Politics and Poetics of Dance’ and I apply her work to these films in terms of how “dance may reflect and resist cultural values simultaneously”.

 

I explore the ways in which Dirty Dancing subverts the dominant male gaze and instead positions Patrick Swayze’s Johnny Castle as the object of desire as opposed to Jennifer Grey’s Baby Houseman becoming the object of male sexual fantasy and desire. Swayze is typically considered to be sexualised and an object of sexual desire to a higher extent than Grey, whose desiring gaze we see enacted through frequent point of view shots throughout the duration of the film as can be seen in the scenes I have chosen to include in this video essay. Visual and thematic connections are made between Dirty Dancing and Footloose here in terms of sexual freedom and self-discovery.

 

These joyful moments of expression found in the electric dance sequences represent shifting attitudes and a promise of social mobility that is reflected in the visuals of this video essay due to the use of montage. Characters that are otherwise marginalised are allowed momentarily to become rulers of their domain and split screen comparisons are used to illustrate this. My use of music is that of the soundtracks from the films in order to replicate and convey the energy seen within the narratives that the presence of dance sequences create.

 

 

 

 

Flânerie in PATERSON, a video essay by Oliver Hargreaves

CREATORS STATEMENT:-

First discussed by Charles Baudelaire in the 1860’s in Paris, and further elaborated on by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin in the 1920’s. A ‘flâneur’ (as written in Charles Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, 1863), is someone who finds ‘immense joy to set up house in the heart of multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement’[1]. In her work ‘Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson”’, with regards to Benjamin’s work on the term ‘flânerie’, Qingyang (Freya) Zhou says ‘Benjamin reconfigured the flâneur as a decipher of urban and visual texts’[2]. This addition to the term removed the geographical specificity applied by Baudelaire and allowed for more media to be viewed with the lens of ‘flânerie’.

 

With Flânerie first originating in Paris with Baudelaire, I note in the video essay that the modern flâneur can be ‘a native of any given city’. I do however highlight two films that contai elements of observational people within the city of Paris, Cleo from 5 to 7, and Frances Ha. These two clips are played with their own music to allow the separation tonally between these films to be fully recognised.

 

Paterson, released in 2016 and directed by Jim Jarmusch, follows a week in the life of a bus driver called Paterson. Paterson also lives in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson as a character, played by Adam Driver, is also a poet. Within the film we see him writing various poems as he is between driving the bus. Paterson has a girlfriend called Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani. Laura is a stay at home girlfriend, within the film we see her passion for baking, interior redecoration and country music. This constant outward display of various passions is a contrast to the character of Paterson.

 

The film Paterson shows the character of Paterson (Adam Driver) following his daily routine, waking up early to eat a small bowl of cereal, walking to work, driving the bus, walking home, taking his and Laura’s dog (Marvin) on a walk with him to a bar, where he has one drink before coming home and getting ready for work the next day. Throughout his day he writes poems. Paterson keeps his poems in a book that he doesn’t show to anyone. These poems are often written to reflect his thoughts on what he is observing within his day to day life as a bus driver, a boyfriend, and a part of a town. These observations being made, and turned into creative writing fits the definition of the term ‘flânerie’.

 

My video essay is split into three chapters, ‘seeing double’, ‘hidden from the world’ and ‘connoisseur of detail’. These three chapters allow the video essay to adequately explore the key elements of the film that best demonstrate Paterson as a character to be a flâneur. ‘Seeing double’ dissects how paterson is consistently observing, seeing twins specifically due to a dream he is told at the start of the film. These moments within the film present Paterson as someone who has been ‘gifted the capacity of seeing’[3].

 

The second chapter, ‘hidden from the world’ views Paterson through the lens of ‘incognito’[4], with this being a necessary element of flânerie, with the title itself coming from Zhou’s essay ‘Discovering the beauty of the quotidian’.

 

‘Connoisseur of detail’[5] refers to a key part of Paterson as a film, the poems. The transformation of Paterson’s observations into creative writing, he is shown to have the ‘power of expression’[6] that Baudelaire claims only few people possess. These poems are, as Richard Brody writes, ‘imbued with the modest substance of his life’[7].

 

My aim for the video essay tonally is to match that of the film, hence why I allow sequences such as the ‘love poem’ and the first clip from the ‘hidden from the world’ chapter to play out over a substabtual length of time. Paterson as a film takes its time, and whilst still maintaining the viewer’s attention and allowing for them to learn about this theory and how it relates to the film, I wanted to present my video essay at a calming pace, to create a ‘pensive mood’[8] similar to that of the film itself. This is also why thmusic from the film plays throughout almost all of the video essay.

[1] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863.

 

[2] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

 

[3] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863

[4] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

[5] Birkerts, Sven. “Walter Benjamin, Flâneur: A Flanerie.” The Iowa Review, vol. 13, no. 3/4, University of Iowa, 1982, pp. 164–79, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20155922

 

[6] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863

[7] Brody, Richard. ‘Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and the myth of the solitary artist’, New York Times, 2016-https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/jim-jarmuschs-paterson-and-the-myth-of-the-solitary-artist

 

[8] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

 

 

 

Emily Jackman, Blade Runner: Fashioning the Past, Present and Future.

The notion that Blade Runner is a culturally significant film, is not a new idea. Countless books, articles, documentaries etcetera have explained in painstaking detail the effects this film has had on the science fiction genre, depictions of the future and studies of postmodernism in film. “What remains striking about Blade Runner is that, despite the fact we are quickly approaching the year 2019, the year in which the film takes place, its depiction of the ‘future’ still resonates. The future of Blade Runner still looks like our potential future”[1] This statement still stands 3 years after the film’s setting in 2022, it is the reason that in 2017, a sequel to the original was released. Blade Runner is a film that exemplifies the past, present, and future, regardless of time.

To exemplify this a detailed analysis of the film’s themes, cinematography and plot are usually utilised. However, the element of costume design is often overlooked when evaluating the impact, even though it is one of the clearest markers of Blade Runner’s influence that has lasted even until today. Evoking the noir style of the 1940s and 1950s is noticeably clear in the costuming. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is dressed throughout the film in a large, popped collar trench coat, replicating the unmistakable image of Humphrey Bogart, noir’s primary hero, especially mimicking The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941) and Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942). Although, minus Bogart’s trademark fedora, at the refusal of Ford following the success of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981) and the hat that became Ford’s unmistakable symbol.

The most overt combination of noir and technology arguably comes from Deckard’s love interest. The classic femme-fatale but also replicant, Rachael (Sean Young) is often dressed in hugely shoulder padded ‘power suits’ and large fur coats. Not only a prominent icon of 1940s femme fatale style in general, but more specifically of one noir icon, Joan Crawford. Exemplified in Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1945) and Sudden Fear (1952). Emblematic of classic styles Crawford was known for after her prolific working relationship with Gilbert Adrian, one of Hollywood’s most prolific costume designers.

Blade Runner is often cited as one of the major inspirations behind the subgenre of Science- Fiction, Cyberpunk. As defined in The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, “a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on the effects on society and individuals of advanced computer technology, artificial intelligence, and bionic implants in an increasingly global culture, especially as seen in the struggles of streetwise, disaffected characters.”[2] This is demonstrated exceptionally throughout the film as a whole but more specifically by the character of Pris, the ‘basic pleasure model’ replicant, who brings these exact ‘streetwise’ and ‘disaffected’ characteristics to life. Her costume and makeup inspiration was taken directly from Breaking Glass, (Gibson, 1980) a gritty independent British music film starring Hazel O’Connor, depicting her rise and fall from fame. These clear comparisons to film costumes of the past are not only used as an indicator of genre and style but as a key visual indication of technophobia and reluctance to move forward with the times, especially if this is what it is going to look like.

More notably than the effects of the past on the film, is the effects of the film on the future, as shown by its influence on the fashion industry. From directly after the film’s release even until the present day, many fashion designers have been heavily inspired by the visual style of Blade Runner in their designs. As early as the spring-summer collections of 1983, Blade Runner was already beginning its long presence in the fashion industry and beginning with one of the biggest designers in the world, Vivienne Westwood. Her collection ‘Punkature’ (A contraction of the words ‘punk’ and ‘couture’) featured skirts bearing the print of Alexis Rhee, dressed as a geisha, featured on a billboard in the film and other bearing images of the ‘love scene’ between Deckard and Rachael.[3] Its resurgence in fashion came about in the mid-1990s, following the release of the director’s cut in 1992. Major fashion house Givenchy, headed by Alexander McQueen at the time, released a collection in 1998, undeniably influenced by not only Rachael’s costume but her hair and makeup, which was a key part of her look being as recognisable as it is. The final cut also being released in 2007, inspired a resurgence with Jean Paul Gaultier’s Autumn/Winter collection in 2009. Most recently the sequel released in 2017, Blade Runner 2049 (Villeneuve, 2017) brought the Blade Runner trend back, arguably stronger than ever before with collections from Bottega Veneta (AW 2017) Raf Simons (SS 2018), Marine Serre (SS 2019) and Oliver Theyskens (AW 2019). In one way or another, each of these collections have been explicitly confirmed to be inspired by the film. Those more overt, such as the Westwood collection featuring images from the film or Simons’ collection whose models walked down the runway, set up to look like the lower level of the Los Angeles of the film. Conversely, those more obscure, either with subtle references to which the designer had to explain was influenced by the film or in the case of the Theyskens collection, the models walked down the runway to the theme in reverse. In any sense, the collections depicted in the video essay is merely a sample of what is out there based on the film, both confirmed and unconfirmed. Despite being the first collection to feature inspiration from the film and the most overt, printing the scenes onto her skirts, due to inaccessibility of footage, the Westwood collection was unable to be featured.

It is clear to see that Blade Runner has had an immense impact on the fashion industry beginning with its initial release in 1982 and expanding with each subsequent version/sequel. It is a concise representation of the past and future that (without the intertitle identifying the year) appears timeless in both its themes and aesthetics, as a result succinctly representing the present, resonating with people across all decades. “We have seen that Blade Runner exemplifies postmodern pastiche in its combination of sci-fi and film noir […] despite this combination of past and future, Blade Runner, is undoubtedly a film about the postmodern present.”[4]

 

 

Bibliography

  • Bukatman, Scott. Blade Runner. London, BFI Publishing, 1997.
  • Flisfeder, Matthew. Postmodern Theory and “Blade Runner.” New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
  • Lack, Hannah. “Michael Kaplan on Blade Runner’s Iconic Costumes.” Another, Another Magazine, 22 Oct. 2012, anothermag.com/art-photography/2286/michael-kaplan-on-blade-runners-iconic-costumes. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
  • Page, Thomas. “‘Blade Runner’ Influenced 35 Years of Fashion. Can Its Sequel Do the Same?” CNN, CNN, 3 Oct. 2017, edition.cnn.com/style/article/blade-runner-2049-costume-design-fashion-renee-april/index.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
  • Prucher, Jeff. Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006, oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195305678.001.0001/acref-9780195305678-e-100?rskey=eTlVdX&result=1. Accessed 11 Mar. 2022.
  • Westwood, Ben. “Punkature Video – Vivienne Westwood.” Vivienne Westwood, Aug. 2014, blog.viviennewestwood.com/punkature-video/. Accessed 7 Nov. 2021.

 

 

Filmography

  • Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)
  • Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
  • The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)
  • Mildred Pierce (Curtiz, 1945)
  • Sudden Fear (Miller, 1952)
  • Breaking Glass (Gibson, 1980)
  • The Third Man (Reed, 1949)
  • Barbarella (Vadim, 1968)
  • Scarlet Street (Lang, 1945)

 

  • Vivienne Westwood & Malcom McClure (SS83)
  • Alexander Mcqueen for Givenchy (AW/98)
  • Alexander Mcqueen for Givenchy (AW/99)
  • John Galiano for Dior (AW/06)
  • Jean Paul Gaultier (AW/09)
  • Bottega Vanetta (AW/17)
  • Raf Simmonds (SS/18)
  • Marine Serre (SS/18)
  • Oliver Theyskens (AW/19)

 

[1] Flisfeder, Matthew. Postmodern Theory and “Blade Runner.” New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

[2] Prucher, Jeff. Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006, http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195305678.001.0001/acref-9780195305678-e-100?rskey=eTlVdX&result=1. Accessed 11 Mar. 2022.

[3] Westwood, Ben. “Punkature Video – Vivienne Westwood.” Vivienne Westwood, Aug. 2014, blog.viviennewestwood.com/punkature-video/. Accessed 7 Nov. 2021.

[4] Flisfeder, Matthew. Postmodern Theory and “Blade Runner.” New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

 

Think of how to rephrase this. Can one be ‘regardless of time’ in relation to past, present, and future when considerations of time are inherent to the very definition of each?

Harry Russell, Gremlins 2, The New Batch: The Anti-Sequel

Creators Statement:

When Joe Dante was convinced by Warner Bros. to make Gremlins 2, it was due to the fact he was promised he could do anything he wanted. Dante took this and ran with it, creating a sequel that challenged the very worth and necessity of sequels. This video essay seeks to explore some of the ways in which the film does this, through its relationship with the original Gremlins, as well as its relationship to sequels as they’re commonly understood. Utilising the writing of Stuart Henderson and Thomas Schatz it first explores the forms that sequels take, followed by the industry incentives behind them, then going on to approach how Gremlins 2 interacts with both these facets of the sequel. I implicitly engage with the fan culture around Gremlins 2 through the conscious choice to include modern day artefacts about it, both by fans in the case of the Chapo Trap House interview as well as wider cultural perception as seen in the Key & Peele sketch. Gremlins 2 is a sequel about the nature of sequels, how they are produced, how they can stifle creativity, and whether or not they are even necessary in the first place. Dante was fortunate to have complete control over his project, and he used that ability to the fullest to produce the opposite of what any studio executive wanted to see from a Gremlins sequel.

Harry Russell

 

Young Man From the Provinces, A Gay Life Before Stonewall, by Alan Helms, Faber & Faber, 1995

I read YOUNG MAN FROM THE PROVINCES: A GAY LIFE BEFORE STONEWALL mainly because Alan Helms is one of the people photographed in David Leddick’s NAKED MEN TOO, and I thought he might have something to say about the George Platt Lynes circle. I was wrong about this. He only arrived in New York after Platt Lynes died in 55, and ,as we’ll see, the circles Helms moved in were even more moneyed and famous, if also a bit sleazier. The other reason is because I am interested in the lives gays and lesbians made for themselves between World War II and Stonewall. This is a very particular account. As he writes, ‘It would be wrong to think of this book as a chapter of social and cultural history; it’s more like a memoir containing some of the social and cultural history others might have written if they hadn’t died of AIDS’.

Helms arrived in New York from Indianapolis to go study at Columbia, thinking he was the only one of his kind, still doing things others grew out of. This was confirmed by his first lover, a pre-med student he lived with for a couple of years who left him to get married. Bereft and suicidal, his sexuality already under investigation, monitored and recorded by the authorities in ways that would later deprive him of scholarships, dropped by his closest friend, the only person he dared come out to … an acquaintance invites him to a party…and the whole world of queer Camelot New York opens up to him.

Everything takes place behind closed doors, in secret, at private parties or downstairs clubs that nonetheless get regularly raided. He’s of Anglo- German descent, fits the ideal of male beauty of the period, and he’s been swimming and doing weights since high school. He’s told that with a tiny operation on his nose, he could model. Luckily, a plastic surgeon is mad about him and Helms lets him blow him in exchange for the operation, setting a pattern. Soon Helms is a leading male model of the day, photographed by Scavullo, on the cover of GQ, even on Broadway with Elaine Stritch in Noel Coward’s SAIL AWAY.

He describes himself as the golden boyman of the period, a star of the gay world, the one everyone wanted to be with. And many of the rich and famous lookers of the day were: Larry Kert, Stephen Sondheim, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Nureyev, Tab Hunter. For a while he lived in an apartment under that of Coward, who offered tea and sympathy at the various disasters that were his love life; he became close friends with Luchino Visconti, one of the people the book is dedicated to.

Even for an autobiography, I don’t think I’ve read a book that’s as self-involved as this one. Helms is resolved to be desired and popular, it’s his main goal in life, so he recounts his routine before going out, the gym, running, the hair, the dressing. Who he was with, how he was looked at, this was of main importance to him. His excuse is that his self-worth was based entirely on his looks. He treated people very badly, making various overlapping dates, going to the best one and standing up all the rest, including his mother at an opening night on Broadway: she wasn’t chic enough to take to the party. He’s entirely self-critical of it all, which somehow doesn’t compensate

Helms speak of his beauty and the social and financial passports it afforded him in a way that seems matter-of-fact rather than conceited: ‘A typical week of my life in New York had included a conversation with Katharine Hepburn at Scribner’s on Fifth Avenue (about Elizabethan biography; she knew lots), an evening at the Blue Angel to hear a new young singer named Barbra Streisand, and a small party for King Hussein of Jordan’. In the meantime, Henry Wilson, the notorious agent of Rock Hudson, Robert Wagner and other stars of the period, is eyeing him up for a ‘screen test’; and Leonard Bernstein is gagging to get into his pants.

Part of the problem with the book is that the level of self-involvement makes Katharine Hepburn’s ME seem modest. So it’s all about his place, his feeling, his doings. There’s little attempt to explore other people’s desires or motives, or even to describe them in that period. Thus, all the celebrities in his life come across as a sketch; even the main people in his life seem distanced and shadowy. There are areas that remain under-explored: why do so many of his friends in that period and in that milieu commit suicide before 30? And perhaps not unrelated, there are seedier aspects that are mentioned but not explored: is there no downside to being a kept boy for fifteen years, however jet-setty the style; what drove him to accept money to sleep with trade for a voyeur, was it only the 100 dollars?; what drove him to steal 300 dollars from Luchino Visconti?

That this remains under-explored becomes surprising as the first chapters of the book, dealing with what it’s like to grow up in small town Indianapolis with two alcoholic parents is excellent. And the last part of the book, dealing with coping with the real social, sexual and financial effects of the loss of his looks is self-lacerating, if very American: all the self-help books, the discussion groups, the therapy.

But it’s all about the self or rather himself. Thus Stonewall happens but his mind is on whether he can still get the top guys at a Pines party, top here basically referring to whomever is the current GQ coverboy. The social changes from Eisenhower to Vietnam are traced mostly through the places he goes to, chic secret parties, then the Everhard Baths and Bette Midler, then exiled to Boston and an academic career.

It’s a very well-written book. Helms went on to become a professor of Literature. And it covers many areas I’m interested in, not least what a beauty feels like upon the loss of his/her looks. But this is a me, me, me book about exploiting one’s looks for 15 years and then mourning their loss for another forty that feels narrow in outlook, over-invested in nostalgia for a particular world, and lacking even the personalised account of social and cultural history circumscribed in the beginning. Thus, a well-written book but one devoid of context, insight, motive; and a bit dull for that, despite all the glittery names that dot its pages.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 354 – CODA

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

If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is to be believed, CODA, a comedy-drama about the tension caused in a deaf family when the one child who can hear wishes to pursue a career in singing, is the best film of 2021. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not to be believed, and the fact that a straight-to-video Hallmark film can win the most prestigious award in cinema is a damning indictment of film culture today. Still, taken on its own merits, CODA is perfectly likeable and you’ll enjoy spending time in its company. But really. This isn’t good enough.

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

A note on The Young and Evil (Obelisk Press, 1933) by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler

In THE YOUNG AND EVIL, Julien (Charles Henri Ford and Karel (Parker Tyler) are fleeing a homophobic attack by a gang of sailors when they run into the police and get arrested. I start with that because the novel seems so modern. Neither has a problem with their sexuality; each is looking for love or at least a good time; they all too briefly think they may have found it in each other but remain friends. It’s set in Greenwich Village bohemia of the early Thirties, during Prohibition. Julien and Karel drink too much, have parties, take a lot of drugs, go up to Harlem for drag balls, get involved with married men, sometimes trade sex for rent money….or a fur coat, and sometimes even with a woman. Mostly, they fall in love with the wrong people. They don’t suffer psychologically because they’re different. They like being different: they want to be poets. But mamma mia! The world they live in! They’re constantly being robbed, thrown out, beaten up, arrested. Their sexuality is a problem for the world, and that is what creates problems for them, which they mainly shrug off because, l’important c’est d’aimer and to create art. It’s a very uneven book, with some chapters written in a surrealist, stream of consciousness style, others in a more linear narrative. Part of the pleasure of reading is that it is a roman-à-cléf and it’s fun to try and figure out who is who. The book was published in 1933 by the Obelisk Press in Paris and considered so scandalous it wasn’t allowed to become a scandal. 500 copies were seized and burnt at port in the UK; shipments to the US were intercepted and turned back. It’s not a great novel, but it’s a great document of a particular structure of feeling. It was compared to Fitzgerald’s THE FAR SIDE OF PARADISE; and I suspect young queers might recognise more aspects of their conditions and experience in this almost hundred-years-old book than they’d like to . I love the title of the Italian translation: POVERI PERVERSI.

PS

Tyler wrote Screening the Sexes, an early study of homosexuality onscreen. He is a key American film critic who should be studied alongside Manny Farber, Otis Ferguson, and Agee… he was their contemporary…Kael came a bit later… but isn’t, or at least until recently. Adrian Garvey reminds me that Gore Vidal named his film critic Parker Tyler in Myra Breckinridge — Vidal claimed to have resuscitated Tyler’s career as Albee had done for Virginia Woolf — and of this below:

In The Rhapsodes, David Bordwell ranks Tyler, alongside Ferguson, Agee and Farber as the most significant American film critics of the 1940s….’largely ignored  by official culture, they came to a wider recognition decades later, after film criticism emerged as a legitimate area of arts journalism’. (p.3, Kindle edition) but he acknowledges that ‘Tyler is still an obscure figure compared with his contemporaries. James Agee and Manny Farber are celebrated as great critics…and Otis Ferguson occasionally attracts some minor tributes. I’ve been surprised how many people have told me they were unaware of Tyler’s work. (p. 112).

…and Andrew Sarris wrote the foreword to Screening the Sexes, partly to make up for what was, in his own words, ‘a cruel review with more than a tinge of hip homophobia — of Tyler’s MAGIC AND MYTH OF THE MOVIES –to the introduction to the 93 Da Capo Press edition of Screening The Sexes, where he writes of Tyler’s film criticism, ‘He was neither a witty, warm humanist like James Agee nor a brilliantly iconoclastic pop maverick like Manny Farber. Whatever humour emerged in his writing was not derived from his florid, pedantic style, but from a genuinely subversive psychosexual penetration of even the most banal cinematic texts. Only Parker Tyler ever noticed that Red Skeleton was more gracefuland had better legs than the starlets among whom he cavorted in Bathing Beauty. Only Parker Tyler was discerning enough to figure out the homosexual subtext of the extraordinary verntriloquist sequence in Dead of Night with Michael Redgrave in one of the great performances of his career, pp. x-xi)

Ford was lover of Pavel Tchelitchew until his death in 58, the editor of the leading  Surrealist magazine of the day in America, View, and brother of Ruth Ford, part of Welles’ Mercury Theatre, who married Zachary Scott, the oily gigolo in Mildred Pierce.

José Arroyo

A note on A Farewell To Arms (Frank Borzage, 1932)

I had seen A FAREWELL TO ARMS ages ago on TV and didn’t think much of it in spite of being a great admirer of Borzage. Seeing it again at the BFI yesterday on a big screen in a restored print was a revelation. Charles Lang’s cinematography glistens, and every glistening is meaningful, the lights and shadows over the bombings, the sadness of the rain, the way the tear on Gary Cooper’s face shine at the end helping to evoke his love and hopelessness. It is absolutely gorgeous. There are so many elements that dazzle: the camera taking on Gary Cooper’s point of view on the stretcher, so we see those grand Italian ceilings as he is most in pain; the way the camera becomes Gary Cooper’s mouth as Helen Hayes goes to kiss him. It’s full of subtle imagery purposefully deployed, some of it religious (the crucifixes amongst the battlefield) some of it sexual (the satin shoe). There’s one shot where a man with a totally bandaged head, looking outside the window as the city is being bombed where his knees buckle that becomes a metaphor, one created using a series of elements from the avant-garde of many arts, including here dance, that I found extraordinary. And the last scene, Helen Hayes’ death played almost entirely on Gary Cooper’s face, and then when he swoops her in his arms and the bedsheets make a bridal train. There’s a combination of all powerful belief in love and in God, that makes for a romantically transcendent ending. There’s a million things more to say on this film of course; but I wouldn’t have been able to see or think about any of them without being able to see this screening. I’m only sorry the BFI was not able to get a greater audience. There were only a handful of people in the large NFT1. Mubi is showing the restored original alongside the remake with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones.

 

José Arroyo

The Young and the Evil: Queer Modernism in New York, 1930-1955, edited by Jarrett Earnest, David Zwirner Books, 2020

Aside from Allan Ellenzweig’s marvellous new biography of George Platt Lynes, my greatest find so far has been THE YOUNG AND THE EVIL, not the notorious novel by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, but the catalogue of an exhibition curated by Jarret Earnest that set out to map a milieu, to some extent covered in biography, but largely absent from standard accounts of American modernism and which the exhibition labelled as ‘Queer Modernism in New York 1930-1950’. The show illustrates the ‘gravitational forces of emotional, intellectual, artistic and sexual attraction formed by the group’. It was sparked by death.

George Platt Lynes and Monroe Wheeler, photo by George Platt Lynes

An archeology of how some of the materials landed in the exhibition itself speaks a queer history. When Joseph Scott and Vincent Cianni went through the contents of the estate of their deceased friend, Antole Pohorilenko, they discovered a series of boxes marked ‘MW/ GPL PRIVATE’ and ‘INTIMACIES’. Pohorilenko had been the last lover of Monroe Wheeler who had himself inherited from Glenway Westcott. This plus additions from the heirs of Platt Lynes and Lincoln Kirstein form the basis of the exhibition, and what a find it is: erotic reveries of practically every sex act a homosexual can think of, alone and in groups, rendered explicitly but aimed for private consumption, and in a few cases drawn specifically for Kinsey, presumably it took them a while to suss out that Kinsey already knew more than he let on, and from personal experience. The images are by some major twentieth century artists (Cadmus, Jared French, Pavel Tchelitchew) and includes also explicit photographs, famously an early selfie of Platt Lynes giving Monroe Wheeler a blow job). The drawings are characterised by a longing and desire but also a dreaminess, a personal and idealised fantasy of sexual want, direct and unashamed; some romantically rendered; some evoking a roughness, clearly desired; some longing for the particular other; some for the anonymous group. They simultaneously speak an individual, an era, and a personal instance of a structure of feeling: They are marvellous.

George Platt Lynes giving Monroe Wheelr a blow job

 

Apart from Jarret Earnest’s excellent introductory essay, the book also includes, and interview with Jason Yow, Leonard Kirstein’s long-time lover and heir, an explanatory linking of the novel of THE YOUNG AND EVIL to the exhibition, and a superb essay on the paintings Paul Cadmus and Jared French both did of the HERRIN MASSACRE OF 1922 where striking miners laid a siege to the mine, fired on strike-breakers and ended up brutally massacring some of the scabs, Kenneth E. Silver’s essay situating the paintings not only in the labour struggles of the early 20th century but also of the anti-gay ‘clean-ups’ of New York City in the lead-up to the 1939 World’s Fair, and how the paintings lend themselves easily to readings of murderous homophobia, and the significance of that possible anti-labour reading combined with that murderous homophobia.

A wonderful book that offers information, sparks thought, and stimulates the senses.

The Lion Boy by Pavel Tchetlichew. It was owned by Glenway Westcott for many years and hung over his bed.

Drawings by Cadmus, French, Tchelitchew

One of six gouaches Tchelitchew drew to illustrate the original novel

José Arroyo

Young Royals, Netlix.

 

Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg in Young Royals–

 

Following on the HEARTSTOPPER trail, I moved to YOUNG ROYALS, a Swedish teen series about the younger son of the royal family who’s such a party boy he gets sent to boarding school, where he promptly falls in love with the only mixed-race scholarship boy in the place, a situation made more difficult when the Prince’s older and much-loved brother gets killed in a car crash and he becomes heir to the throne, his love now denied him for reasons of state as well as everything else. How to overcome this? It’s all very teen: intense feeling, lots of attempts to hold hands, finding secret places to kiss, sneaking into bedrooms. The camera’s look on the boys is more eroticised than HEARSTOPPER – it’s aimed at a slightly older audience — though still relatively tame, the emphasis more on the heart than the groin — but drugs and alcohol now figure in a way they didn’t in HEARTSTOPPER. It’s a boarding school setting and fans of the genre will find all the familiar tropes here: the alliances, groupings, performances, initiations. It is also a fairy tale which follows the tropes closely; the prince is lonely and isolated and finds his other half amongst the people, though as is usual, this particular person, whilst he ends up not being royal himself, is marked as special because he looks divine and sings like an angel. Interestingly, the poor boy chosen by royalty here, and despite his rough background, is pictured as femmy, keeping with the trope that it’s always a girl who is raised up socially by the princely alliance (I can’t think of an instance in traditional fairy tales where it’s the other way around). The series has a great focus on the girls in the boarding school; dressing up, putting make-up on, their conflicts with their mothers, their mutual support. So a fairy tale about young gay boys aimed primarily at teenage girls. I enjoyed it but did giggle when I chanced upon a review praising it for its realism.

José Arroyo