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: 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

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 330 – Daguerréotypes

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

In 1975, caring for her infant son and unable to spend much time away from home, Agnès Varda turned her camera on her neighbours on her street, Rue Daguerre in Paris. In Daguerréotypes – the title a pun on the photographic process for whose inventor the road is named – she both observes them at work, running their shops and providing their services, and asks them questions about their lives, discovering where they’re originally from (most are not Paris natives) and how they met their husbands and wives. It’s a gentle, relaxed form of portraiture, one that combines imagery of the practicalities of daily work with the subjects’ descriptions of dreams and histories – although the use of a travelling magician’s show is arguably a little too precious. We discuss the different ways in which we respond to their stories, José commenting on Varda’s clear affection for the subjects, Mike arguing that there’s a tragic dimension that overhangs the film, with talk of dreams and escape.

Daguerréotypes is a sensitive portrait of a local community and a time capsule of an era that is now half a century old, and worth watching.

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

Eunsoo Lee on A. I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)

Eunsoo Lee and José Arroyo discussed Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Compared to other representative SF films before 2000, A.I.‘s David may exist as a character who desires to be a human being, but it also can be said he represents a new style of mecha narrative in which the human being is not the right aim. In addition, With the theory of SAVE THE CAT, Eunsoo discusses SF narratives as genre arts. As a film genre, they discuss to what extent the SF narrative is able to offer a variety of narrative styles.

The podcast may be listened to here:

A.I. Artificial Intelligence – Podcast

 

Théo Stöcklin on A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

I talk to Théo Stöcklin to discuss the violence depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). We debate the necessity and morality of such graphical violence which brought significant media attention at the time. We also discuss the other kinds of violence, including the systemic and psychological violence of the Ludovico experiment as well as the film’s misogynist gaze.

 

The podcast can be listened to here:

A Clockwork Orange – Podcast

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 329 – House of Gucci

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

A true story of love, ambition, passion, betrayal, and retribution, House of Gucci is entertaining, interesting, and beautifully played… so why isn’t it good enough? We discuss its lack of seriousness of purpose, its failure to express itself with visual flair and use the camera to show us things we really need to see, and how it would have benefitted from giving Lady Gaga’s Patrizia the unambiguous spotlight, rather than making her part of an ensemble. House of Gucci is a film that we have no problem recommending, but given everything it could have been, to come away feeling like it’s a trifle is disappointing.

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

The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir (translated by Lauren Elkin, Vintage 2021)

Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Inseparables in 1954, the same year as The Mandarins. Her friendship with Zaza (Elizabeth Lacoin) is something she’s already tried to write about in various unpublished short stories, as a section of The Mandarins deleted before publication, and which would become a cornerstone of the de Beauvoir legend when incorporated into her first autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958). De Beauvoir was not satisfied with The Inseparables and decided not to publish it; yet she thought it of enough value not to destroy it either. I’m glad it’s now seen the light publicly. It’s really a very queer story (one I wish someone like Céline Sciamma would film). This roman-à-clef is narrated in the first person by Sylvie (de Beauvoir) who falls in love with Andrée (Zaza), who values the friendship but is rather unaware of the intensity of Sylvie’s love much less reciprocates it. Andrée in turn falls in love with Pascal (the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty as a young man) whom she hope will save her but who is too scrupulous about being truthful to promise to marry her (and thus rescue her from her family). It’s a novel full of intensity of feeling and a complex delineation of social restrictions (Andrée’s family are Catholic activists), some due to class (even though they are best friends, they address each other through the formal vous) or family, which is the real villain of this story: once the older daughter turns twenty-six, the mother informs her –with love and under the guise of it being for the good of all – that she must marry the first suitable candidate or it’s off to the convent. The morays are those of another time; indeed of a hundred years ago. Who now would devote so much time to the significance of the loss of faith; the arguments well-brought up girls of a certain family needed to make in order to get a university education; the significance of being set to run errands in the big department stores or indeed how not wearing a hat might be excused only by the quality of clothes worn. Sylvie’s longing, her love, her adoration, her worship, her clear-headedness and analysis are clearly and complexly evoked. That Zaza died before turning 21 in the throes of a love which her family’s control and her boyfriend’s thought prevented her from living fully – whilst De Beauvoir looked on in the sidelines hoping but unable to hep, is clearly why de Beauvoir so often returned to the story, why it’s such a key narrative in her own telling of her life and of her thought. Why isn’t de Beauvoir more taken up by queer theorists/scholars?

José Arroyo

Peau d’Âne/Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy, 1970)

 

In this podcast Leann Rivera and I discussJacques Demy’s 1970 fairytale classic ‘Peau d’Âne’ / Donkey Skin by delving closely into the genre of the fairytale and its shift from its traditional and subjective roots due to the standardising of Walt Disney. We investigate how the French filmmaker illustrates (through style and narrative) an innovative approach which contemporary live-action fairytales should appreciate to observe. Furthermore highlighting how Demy, and his childhood reverence for these fantastical tales and keen eye to convey visual pleasure for all ages, sexualities and backgrounds, manages to encapsulate both the genre’s beauty and ugliness all in one to appreciate but to also analyse, uncovering its secrets and layers to be learnt from and understood.

The podcast may be listened to by clicking below:

 

Donkey Skin – Podcast

A quick note on the first video essay in David Fincher’s series, ‘Voir’

Voir, the series of video essays produced by David Fincher, is now on Netflix. The first one, on Jaws, directed by David Prior and written and narrated by Sasha Stone, looks big-budget and is unlike most video essays you might be familiar with: it has a lot of filmed fictionalised accounts of the writer’s childhood. It is also clichéd — ‘(Spielberg’s)whole creative team was firing on all cylinders’ — self-indulgently autobiographical — who aside from her family cares about Sasha’s coming of age at and out of the movies ?– and banal in the extreme. There are other video essays to follow by the likes of Tony Zhou, whom i admire, so I hope the series improves. It is not a good start.

José Arroyo

Thinking Aloud About Cinema: The Youssef Chahine Podcast:4 Shorts by Chahine

Forty-seven  years after he first went to Cannes expecting to win something, Chahine was finally awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. It was handed to him by a luminous Isabelle Adjani, who praised him for his humanity, tolerance, courage and clemency. That plus his intelligence, tact and his politics shine through in the shorts we discuss in this podcast:

Lumiére & Co (1995)

Lumiére sur le massacre (TV series, 1997)

Chacun son cinema/ ‘47 ans après’, 2007

September 11th/ ‘Egypt’, 2002)

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

 

 

Some of the films are easily available to see on youtube and/ or vimeo and we include the links below:

Chacun son cinéma:

Lumière and Company:

Lumiéres sur un massacre:

 

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Film Club No. 3: Mandabi (Ousmane Sembène, 1968)

A discussion of Ousmane Sembène’s Mandabi. José had never seen it before and found it a revelation. Richard’s now seen it twice, once at the cinema in a beautiful restoration that’s now been put out by Criterion. The film is currently screening on MUBI and we highly recommend it. We talk issues of representation, gender, colonialism, how structures seem designed to oppress a sector of the population which nonetheless constitutes ‘the people’. We also talk film aesthetics and what it was about the film that Youssef Chahine might have found so appealing.

 

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

As Rakesh Sengupta writes (on Twitter): ‘In March 1979, Ousmane Sembène (b. Jan 1, 1923) was the first non-Indian chairman of the jury at the 7th International Film Festival (IFFI). His interview in TOI from that visit is so insightful for thinking about cinema, literature and the ‘third world’.

José Arroyo

El hijo del Capitán Trueno by Miguel Bosé

I’ve relished reading Miguel Bosé’s El hijo del Capitán Trueno. Bosé has been a music superstar in the Spanish-speaking world for over four decades. Elsewhere, he’s probably best known for starring in Almodóvar’s High Heels. But he’s worth getting to know better. His father, the most famous and glamorous bullfighter of his day, left Ava Gardner to chase his mother, Lucia Bosé, whose extraordinary beauty brought luminosity to the cinema of Antonioni, Bardem, Fellini, and so many other greats. Picasso and Visconti were his godparents. His first sexual experience with a man was Helmut Berger. Dalí was handmaiden to his teenage affair with Amanda Lear. He has anecdotes about all the greats from all over Europe and elsewhere. He’s worth reading too. It’s perceptive book, well-evoking the smells, textures, structures and feels of different ways of life; rural Spain, a Madrid awakening from its 50s provincialism but still in the yoke of Fascism; the social-cultural see-saws of the Transition to Democracy; even early 70s London. It’s a well-written book, precise and poetic. He devotes four pages of description to the ‘matanza,’ that time of year – and accompanying processes – when the pig is slaughtered, chorizos are made, other parts of the pig are preserved etc; and his memories evoked and jived with mine, probably the only thing that jet-setting son of international stars and I have in common. I hope the book gets an English translation.

José Arroyo

Alex Santos-Edgar on La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1995)

In this podcast Alex Santos-Edgar and I discuss La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1995): it’s style, its influence, how Paris figures, where masculinity and race figure in it…and more:

La Haine – Podcast

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 328 – Spencer

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

As he did with 2016’s Jackie, director Pablo Larraín explores the life, image, and legacy of a woman publicly struck by tragedy in Spencer, a fabulistic biopic that imagines a Christmas holiday spent with the royal family at Sandringham, during which Princess Diana struggles with the knowledge of her husband’s affair and the watchful eyes of both the royals and the paparazzi.

We discuss our own relationships to both Larraín and Diana, and consider how the film draws on various aspects of the princess’s public image in painting a portrait of a woman losing her mind. The film is set squarely within that mind, and Mike argues that it uses several tropes and techniques common to horror in order to dramatise Diana’s fracturing mental state. José expresses his love for Kristen Stewart’s outstanding lead performance, one that doesn’t impersonate but evokes, and conveys differing stages of psychosis with subtlety.

We don’t agree on everything, and the film isn’t perfect, but Spencer is a really remarkable, expressive exploration of an iconic figure.

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