Category Archives: podcast

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 256 – Playtime

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Jacques Tati’s masterpiece, 1967’s Playtime, is an extraordinarily ambitious work of visual comedy and social satire. Mike’s been keen to see this for fifteen years or more, knowing of its reputation for detailed visual design and the 70mm cinematography that shows it off, waiting for the right moment. José, when Mike suggests we watch it, thinks he’s seen it many years ago, but soon realises he was probably thinking of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Tati’s rather more charming comedy of fourteen years prior, so it takes him a while to get into Playtime‘s rather more offbeat gear.

And he is ultimately a little cold to the film, though not immune to its appeal and pleasures, while Mike loves it unconditionally. In a somewhat alternate, near-future Paris, the plot, such as it is, follows two characters: Monsieur Hulot, the character Tati played in several films, as he stumbles through a France he finds unfamiliar and devoid of humanity; and Barbara, an American tourist visiting the city. In approximately six fairly distinct vignettes, Tati explores a vision of a consumerist, modern, and alienating Paris, the Eiffel Tower, symbolising the warm, cosy Paris of old, a long way away, merely a distant feature on the horizon or a reflection in a window. It’s an attitude for which José has little sympathy, though Mike suggests that the development of the final scene, a kind of funfair around a traffic jam, can be seen as a synergy of the traditional and modern, and finds it moving.

There’s a huge amount to discuss, including the design and execution of the jokes; the impossible scale of the set, nicknamed ‘Tativille’ and whose astronomical cost would ruin Tati, who was forced to file for bankruptcy; to what other films, if any, it can be compared; the visual design, cinematography, choreography, and colour; the use of nationality, particularly American; and how the film might play differently today compared to upon its initial release – Mike arguing that it may have anticipated changes to the real world that would later materialise, such as the cubicle office, that diminish the otherworldliness we might otherwise feel.

Playtime is a significant work of satire and well worth seeing, particularly given its beautiful restoration in 2014. Don’t miss it for fifteen years. Don’t be Mike.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 255 – The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or Spotify.

One a great masterpiece of cinema, the other a cultural icon of its day, we compare and contrast Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner with Nora Ephron’s technologically updated remake, You’ve Got Mail. We discuss how each film treats its conceit of two people who dislike each other unwittingly falling in love over anonymous correspondence, the former film’s couple hating each other less vitriolically, the latter giving us more insight into the details of their messages; the latter making their story the entire focus, the former handling it as the main part of a range of stories that take place amongst its characters.

We consider whether James Stewart’s Alfred and Tom Hanks’s Joe are nice people, and what the films’ endings have to say about them and the women they fall for. José focuses on the films’ approach to class and power, praising The Shop Around the Corner‘s portrayal of working people and decrying You’ve Got Mail for barely even seeming to notice its uncritical acceptance of corporate power. And we consider more besides, including how Lubitsch’s camera makes a static setting evocative and expressive, that Godfather bit, and the similarities and differences in Hanks and Stewart’s often-compared personas.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies254 – L.A. Confidential

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A corrupt police force intersects with the glamour of Hollywood in L.A. Confidential, the tightly-plotted neo-noir that won the Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress in a year dominated by Titanic, and established the status and careers of Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey. Over twenty years since its enormously successful release, does it hold up? We discuss its basis in the real history of L.A. and its sense of place, whether the screenplay deserves its plaudits, how it functions as a noir and more.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 253 – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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

Horror tropes pervade I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Charlie Kaufman’s oddball drama about a girl doubting her relationship, but it can’t be considered a traditional horror. Instead, it turns these tropes inwards, likening a controlling, toxic relationship to an isolated, threatening, haunted house. It’s a fascinating and brilliant idea, but despite the film being well-observed and intriguing, it’s not engaging enough, and offers little opportunity for confident interpretation. Mike has little sympathy for its developing surreality; José wants more humour. Still, it’s an ambitious, interesting film, and worth delving into.

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

John Mercer and José Arroyo on Evan Purchell’s ‘Ask Any Buddy’

 

ask-any-buddy-2

A discussion of Evan Purchell’s great new film, Ask Any Buddy, just shown recently at Boston´s Wicked Queer Film Festival. The film is a compilation of clips from 126 gay porn films from the early 70s to the mid 80s that construct a narrative of different ways of life and structures of feeling of post-Stonewall/ pre-AIDS North American gay male cultures. It richly depict a cultural history of gay male life in relation to places and spaces as well as desires, ideas of self, relationships, romance and liberation. It’s terrific. The discussion revolves not only around the film itself but a discussion of history and culture sparked by the film´s images and narrative.

 

Evan Purchell has also started a new podcast, incredibly knowledgeable and yet fun and accessible that goes through each of the films, very detailed in its account of the people involved, the making of the individual film as well as the ways each circulated. It´s also a kind of queer cultural history taking porn as a springboard to history and discourse, really smart and lovely to hear (I love how one of the commentators refers to a hard-core sex scene as ‘adorable´)

José Arroyo

In Conversation with Gary Needham on The Boys in the Band

gary needham

When I was growing up, everything I heard or read about THE BOYS IN THE BAND was terrible. Recently, after the Broadway revival, it was meant to be ´period´and wonderful. I´d never seen the film until now and found it a difficult and unpleasant watch, an experience I’ve written about here. When I had the opportunity to talk to Gary Needham about CRUISING, I also took the opportunity to ask him about THE BOYS IN THE BAND. Gary’s work on queer cultures is by now extensive and wide-ranging:

 

His is the voice of reason; thoughtful and considered on the initial reception of the film, its relation to the play and its subsequent afterlife. I come across as quite brattish. It makes for a lively conversation, one that references a range of films, from Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon, 1959) to My Hustler (Andy Warhol/Chuck Wein, 1965) to The Queen (Frank Simon, 1968) to Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme, 1993). We discuss the film’s uses of camp, Friedkin’s interest in sub-cultures, the stageyness or not of the mise-en-scène, the possible classist dimension of the film, and Tom Waugh’s argument on the duality of sound and image in My Hustler in relation to the hustler and the queen with the hustler afforded the image  and the queen given power over the sound. The discussion can be listened to here:

If you’re interested in further exploring The Boys in the Band, I highly recommend Matt Bell’s The Boys in the Band: Flashpoints of Cinema, History, and Queer Politics as a wonderful addition to Gary’s insights and as a possible corrective to my contributions:

matt bell boys in the band

Matt Bell has also written a very interesting piece on the 2018 Broadway revival (and its various contexts) for The Huffington Post called ‘Taking Pride in The Boys in the Band‘ that can be accessed here.

As with the podcast on Cruising, Gary has kindly made available a range of resources:

 

An entire issue of After Dark, featuring an interview with Leonard Frey where the actor discusses the filming of Boys in the Band, and the strong possibility that it might result in a better film than play: After Dark (Boys in the Band)

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 13.51.19

An interview with Mart Crowley on the 25th anniversary of the play’s premiere: An_emotional_state_Mart_Crowle

An interview with Mart Crowley that discusses various productions in the context of the recent revival of the play on Broadway: And_the_Band_plays_on

A discussion from 1973 on reasons to see the touring production in San Diego: Boys_still_good_theatre

An appraisal of the film’s DVD release by Peter Burton: Playing_up…

An image of the New York Cast Album, which featured dialogue from the play: Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.21.19

A 1969 review of the LA touring production praising ‘the authenticity of the dialogue’: Reflections_on_’Boys’

A 1979 interview with Robert La Tourneaux for Gay News: Robert_la_tourneaux

An ad for the San Francisco production with an invitation to the cast paty: YEQWMD727018207

 

Various reviews and ads for other touring productions:

 

Images from the film (and the play — you can see Natalie Wood in the centre below):

…and perhaps the greatest find is this episode of Emerald City, where the great Arthur Bell —  whose columns in The Village Voice in the  early 80s were so important to me personally — interviews Robert La Tourneaux on the 10th anniversary of the release of the film. Bell talks about how he didn’t like the film then or now but how he still acknowledged the ‘piercing moments of truth’. La Tourneaux is frank about hustling and equally frank about how appearing in the film affected his career giving concrete examples of how his mere appearance in the film was reason for people like Bob Evans to not even see him for roles much less interview or audition, and this from the horse’s mouth. A fascinating show, with the ads in between the interview being at least as fascinating as the interview itself. It can be seen here:

 

 

José Arroyo

In Conversation with Gary Needham on Cruising (William Friedkin, USA,1980)

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I can think of no one who knows more about Cruising (William Friedkin, USA, 1980) than Gary Needham. He’s already written extensively on Warhol, Queer TV, Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) and many aspects of Queer Histories from various historical perspectives, and has recently published, ‘CRUISING IS A PICTURE WE SINCERELY WISH WE DID NOT HAVE TO SHOW’ United Artists, ratings, blind bidding and the controversy of William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980) in his own co-edited collection.

 

The discussion in the podcast ranges from the film’s production history to New York S&M clubs to Disco Music to Queer Representation and Queer Politics, to ‘New’ American Cinema of the period to the film as a text characterised by incoherence, doubt and ambiguity. The kind of commentary a 40th anniversary re-issue of this still alluring film deserves.

Aside from his scholarly work, one of the reasons I so wanted to talk to Gary about the film was the series of brilliant images related to the film that he had been publishing on Twitter. Gary has kindly provided some of them. Here is a series of images documenting the protests the film sparked during the filming itself and after its release:

Here are a series of images from gay people defending the film:

Here are a series of images referred to in the podcast:

And Gary has also kindly provided two pdf’s of contemporaneous coverage of the film: ‘Cruising, Blueprint for Carnage’: QKPZCB716161002

and an article from Gay News: Cruising, The Lure – The Novel of Death: REVMIB524278205

 

Lastly, Kevin Heffernan has kindly directed me to a long three hour forty-five minute  podcast on Cruising by Mike White and The Projection Booth Podcast: for those of you who can’t get enough of the film.

 

José Arroyo

The Youssef Chahine Podcast, No. 1: The Blazing Sunaka Struggle in the Valley/ Sira` Fi al-Wadi (Youssef Chahine, Egypt, 1954)

 

 

José Arroyo and Richard Layne discovered the work of Youssef Chahine at a retrospective of his work at Bologna last year, are thrilled that so many previously difficult-to-see films of his are now available on Netflix, and hope that these podcasts encourage people to watch and discuss the films. This is the first in a series. We hope to cover as many of them as possible, and in chronological order. We hope you join us on this journey

 

In Film Alert 101,Peter Hourigan alerts readers to the Chahine treasure trove on Netflix but writes of Blazing Sun: ´BLAZING SUN  (aka Struggle in the Valley 1954, 116 min) An example of his early work, when he was trapped in commercial Egyptian film production. This is a hoary melodrama – but enormously entertaining, and with brilliant b & w photography. There is also an absolutely ravishingly beautiful young man called Michel Chelhoub in the lead.  Later, he was to find fame in the west as Omar Shariff´.

We agree on the film being enormously entertaining and on the extraordinary photography but I also happen to think it´s a great melodrama and a great film, the struggles of the poor against the wickedness of the rich, about love, life, community, the material aspects of life that  reproduce it, all bound with questions of morality and justice. It´s very moving, extraordinarily beautiful to look at — Chahine is a visual poet — and the moments of awkwardness that often accompany cinemas of poverty seem to me to only add to its power. 

A great opportunity to see these films and we hope the podcast will convince you to take a look,

The Blazing Sun

 

Richard Laine has been able to track another Faten Hamama/ Omar Shariff vehicle, with English sub-titles if not in the best condition, and you can see it here:

‘Cinema Sojourns: Time Tripping Through the World of Film’ has published an article worth reading on Omar Sharif: The Youssef Chahine Years, 1954-1956

Other websites of interest:

www.youssefchahine.us/chahine/bio.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/jul/28/youssef.chahine

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/6468-youssef-chahine-restorations-tour-europe

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-jul-28-me-chahine28-story.html

https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/in-the-realm-of-the-senses-the-egyptian-stories-of-youssef-chahine

https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/4/47380/Remembering-the-epitome-of-golden-cinema-Omar-Sharif

https://insidearabia.com/omar-sharif-and-faten-hamama-egypts-legendary-celebrity-couple/

https://martinteller.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/siraa-fil-wadi-struggle-in-the-valley/

https://www.kviff.com/en/programme/film/5228409-the-devil-of-the-desert/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udOs2GN4p80&t=10s

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 225 – Stranger on the Third Floor

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

A 62-minute-long, 1940 B-movie whose director you haven’t heard of and whose top-billed star has barely ten minutes of screen time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Stranger on the Third Floor is nothing remarkable, but its reputation precedes it: Here we behold, if the legends are true, the first film noir.

José, a lover of noir, both likes and dislikes this line. On the one hand, it enjoyably disrupts what is already a fairly shaky narrative of noir beginning practically overnight in 1941; on the other, noir is a term that encompasses many visual styles, stories, character types, associated genres and influences, and artistic movements like this develop gradually, not immediately. But this taxonomic discussion says nothing of Stranger on the Third Floor‘s quality.

And for a good fifteen minutes or so, that quality is not promising, but the film explodes into life upon the protagonist’s descent into a hallucinatory nightmare brought on by guilt and fear. It’s José’s first time seeing the film, and immediately he proclaims its dream sequence as one of cinema’s greatest. And throughout the film, before, during and after this central visual treat, there is conveyed a vivid sense of the difficulties of life in Depression-era America, alongside a severe critique of the absurdity of a justice system that can be relied upon to offer nothing of the sort. All of which is to say nothing of Peter Lorre, who imbues his titular stranger with both understandable threat and surprising empathy.

So, Stranger on the Third Floor, The First Film Noir, is rather more than an historical curio. It embodies stylistic and thematic developments that were taking place in American cinema of its era, though the question of what counts as first is best left to those who think it’s even deserving of an answer, let alone possible to establish one. It’s a film that is on its own terms deserving of your attention, and in between its B-movie cheapness and clunkiness, offers something truly great.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 221 – Un flic

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

Jean-Pierre Melville’s final film, Un flic (A Cop), has a bleak feel, its characters isolated amongst harsh architecture and the neverending business of cops and robbers. Alain Delon’s cop follows the trail of Richard Crenna’s thief, whilst handling informants, other cases, and an occasional relationship with Catherine Deneuve.

It’s a film in which feeling shows through small actions, glances, and behaviour. The cop has seen the worst of humanity and carries a weariness with him, but that just makes his capability for generous gestures more meaningful. Mike remarks upon the similarity between cop and thief, both going about their work with a sense of lifeless inertia. We also note the central heist sequence’s clear influence on the climactic set-piece in Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible, comparing the ways in which the scenes work and what their intended effects may be, and José comments on the film’s blue-tinged look, something that contributes greatly to its sense of melancholy.

Those of you interested might follow up with Le samourai, Bob le flambeur, L‘armée  des ombres/ Army of Shadowsand other Melville films.

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

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 220 – Commando and Predator

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

Hollywood action in the Eighties was a world unto itself, and we look back on two specimens of one of the genre’s icons, Arnold Schwarzenegger. One a delightful, over-the-top romp, the other a macho, moody sci-fi, we compare and contrast Commando and Predator.

We’re in agreement that Predator is the better film, but that Commando offers the better time. José describes this era as his awakening to the fact that heterosexual men were checking out each others’ bodies – Arnie and co. are put on display, made to flex their muscles in absurd ways, their bodies painted in glistening sweat, for the pleasure of a straight male audience. We discuss how Arnie’s extraordinary body means entire films have to built around it: elsewhere cast as a pseudo-Greek hero and android killing machine, in Commando and Predator he’s theoretically human, but still a G.I. Joe male fantasy inhabiting similarly oversized films. Similarly, his accent always needs at least a hint of acknowledgement – the films taking a line of dialogue here and there to reassure us, don’t you worry, we also know he sounds odd.

We also think about the fact that these films have simply lasted. Commando in particular is not a very good film, but 35 years after its release it retains a loyal audience, and has to be considered a classic of a kind. Though dated and easy to critique in all sorts of ways, there are still pleasures in this cinema, and Arnie in particular.

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

In Conversation with Deborah Shaw on The Daughters of Fire (Albertina Carri, Argentina, 2018.

 

If you want to see what a female gaze looks like, what queer cinema by women might feel like to see, what a combination of porn and poetry might evoke, have a look at Albertina Carri´s ‘The Daughters of Fire,’ currently playing on
@mubi.

Skyping with Deborah

‘it´s so sensational that I asked Professor Deborah Shaw, a specialist in Latin American cinema from the University of Portsmouth to join me in a discussion of this great film so we could mull it over together. We also discuss ‘Barbie también puede eStar triste/ Barbie can also be sad’, an extraordinary stop-motion queer short using Barbie dolls to dissect and critique gender under patriarchy. The two films together are proof of a major new voice in world cinema, one worth watching and talking about. The Barbie film can be accessed freely on Carri’s Vimeo channel by clicking on this link.

 

 

In the podcast we discuss how female-centric The Daughters of Fire is and how unusual that is in cinema. It´s a film about women, 95% of the cast and crew were female, and the  film seems deliberately designed for a female gaze.  Its success is evident by how we both felt: as if we were seeing something new, something  we´d never seen before.

We discuss the film in relation to pornography. Can it void patriarchal norms? Can porn be rendered poetic and what would that look and feel like? Does the film succeed? The film defies many norms. Scenes that might not seem so unusual in an interior urban metropolitan setting make even more of an impact as they are set in the natural rural setting of Patagonia.

We also discuss The Daughter of Fire as a ‘Road’ movie: our protagonists set out on a journey, meet more people, give expression to themselves. The film laudably makes it difficult to  generalise about female desire or female sexuality because each woman in the film is so different. What matters is each character´s pleasure.The film transcends a lot of the codes that have been used previously in relation to lesbian culture.

Is there a discourse on nation in The Daughters of Fire? What is the relationship in the film between people, community, nation?

We also discuss whether queer culture in its present form erases lesbianism or whether the relative lack of attention the film´s been getting is due to Anglo-centrism. Anyone working on queer theory would have a field day with the film. What is porn? What is female pleasure? How do we escape the patriarchy. Sexuality is seen as fluid, butch/femme is de-centred. We discuss how the film is trying to find a way to say something that requires a new or different form.

‘The problem is never the representation of the body but how those bodies become territory and landscape in front of the camera`, the film´s narrator tells us. How can cinema show female bodies without objectification? If it does´t objectify does it then cease to be pornography?

 

We both agree that The Daughters of Fire and Barbie Can Also be Sad are individually major works and together announce a major voice in the cinema, a major artist: Albertina Carri.

 

We hope you see the film, and if you do, you may want to check that there are no children in the room.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 173 – Ad Astra

Ad Astra sees a withdrawn, isolated Brad Pitt take to the stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut in search of his father, and with him writer-director James Gray shows us stunning imagery and brings us brilliantly into McBride’s suppressed mental state. José is head over heels in love with the film’s epic feel, its exploration of universal human problems, the way in which it imagines a human race that, in spreading to and taming other planets and moons, brings its pre-existing problems with it, and the way in which Gray expresses McBride’s inner turmoil through action. Mike is less keen, particularly arguing for the weakness of the film’s first act, and asking questions of the film’s gender theming, but finds much to love too.

Ad Astra is a vast, careful, $100m art movie, the likes of which only Christopher Nolan normally gets to make. It’s very much worth your time. See it on the largest screen you can.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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

This entry was posted in Podcasts and tagged Ad Astra, Brad Pitt, epic, James Gray, loneliness, space, Tommy Lee Jones on .

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 170 – Ne Zha

 

Ne Zha, a Chinese animated film, holds the record for the biggest box office in a single market (having made over $700m in China), but Mike isn’t that impressed with it, comparing it to the likes of Ice Age. José had a better time, though asks himself why he overlooks some of its more questionable elements, including a rather homophobic running joke that just doesn’t go away. But there’s a certain flair and thoughtfulness to some of its visual design and characterisation that we appreciate, and it gives us food for thought.

Discussing Ne Zha leads us into a conversation about British film culture as it relates to foreign language cinema. It’s not impossible to see foreign language films in Birmingham – though Ne Zha making it to Cineworld, as opposed to the Electric or mac, is notable – but outside London, the kind of culture that European and South American countries have of showing films from other countries as a matter of course in the main cinemas just doesn’t exist here. In going through our list of podcasts so far we see this reflected, a little over one eighth of our podcasts to date being about non-UK/US films, and a number of those thanks to MUBI, the streaming service, rather than cinema screenings. We can definitely do better, and intend to, but it is the case that foreign cinema culture in the UK barely exists.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 169 – Transit

Adapted from the 1944 novel of the same name by Anna Seghers, writer-director Christian Petzold’s Transit behaves to some degree like Shakespeare in modern dress. The story follows a German man, Georg (Franz Rogowski), escaping facist-occupied Paris to Marseille, and there encountering other refugees, forging connections and affections with them, making arrangements at consulates for passage and visas to Mexico and the USA, all while rumour and hearsay about the spread of the occupation to the port city hangs over him. But with markers from nearly a century later – present-day vehicles in particular, although much of the clothing lives in an ageless world that bridges the years, and an ethnic component that makes more sense in today’s world than the Forties – Petzold turns a historical narrative into a fable of creeping fascism and the refugee crisis of today. Indeed, the idea that Transit functions like modern-dress Shakespeare might make it sound terribly stilted and artificial, but the real power of Transit‘s transposition to the modern day is just how perfectly it works. Transit‘s world is deeply convincing.

Mike argues that part of the reason that this is the case is the film’s focus on the refugees, and the details of day-to-day life in a city merely threatened by future occupation rather than currently undergoing it. The film’s explicit visual symbols of occupation – stormtroopers lining up citizens against walls, dragging refugees from their families – do stand out, and are both necessary and necessarily rare. That the occupation looms is enough, for the most part – it’s what it makes people do and feel that is the film’s focus, and it doesn’t need to build a Children of Men-style dystopia to explore that. The film is described on the poster, in rather an exciting quote from Indiewire, as “Casablanca as written by Kafka” – a glib line that we partially agree with. The Casablanca connection is clear, at least in basic terms being a complicated World War II love story set in a – for now – safe haven for refugees, the assignment and value of visas and travel documents of constant importance. The Kafka connection is inaccurate, the bureaucratic systems depicted in the Mexican and US consulates being ones that, while overwhelmed by vast numbers of refugees, aren’t designed to confuse or dehumanise. Whatever ails Georg isn’t Kafkaesque.

Georg, as José points out, is something of a cipher. We hear little of his story, know only one or two real details about him of any substance – and even one of those may be a lie – but to the film’s credit it’s not something we ever question. His mental state, reasons for behaving as he does, are always clear, if, as Mike suggests, a little frustrating at one point. Through him, we are able to hear people’s stories, those he encounters in queues and cafés keen to tell him who they are and why they’re there. Being able to tell one’s story and having it heard is a central theme to the film, as well as the ways in which we change or misremember our stories to our benefit – a slightly unreliable narrator occasionally describing things that differ in details from how we’re shown them. Georg may not speak much, may not tell anyone his story during the course of the film, but the narration tells his story in the third person – José having read that some or all of the narration is lifted directly from Seghers’ novel, though having not read the novel, we cannot be entirely certain of how much.

The narration, when it faithfully describes what we see, comes across to Mike as rather needless – showing and telling at the same time to pointless effect. Mentioning one scene in which the narration tells us that a number of refugees feel shame for standing by as a woman is violently separated from her family, he complains that the film should be able to convey this visually. José argues that underlining the point through narration is purposeful, bringing home that we in the present day should feel the same shame for standing by as refugees and immigrants have the same things done to them today. The narration changes a dramatisation into a call to action, and in so doing the film constantly asks us pointed ethical and moral questions of ourselves.

In short, Transit is a considerable film and unquestionably worth your time. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 168 – It Chapter 2

Following 2017’s It, the characters are 27 years older, the events of the first film mere memories, and the effects are more thrilling than ever. But it leaves us feeling much the same as its predecessor – despite fantastic production values, wonderful monster design, and attempts to delve into interesting themes of trauma and the scars with which it leaves us, it’s, well, kind of stupid really.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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

 

José Arroyo in Conversation with Joaquín Aras

 

Joaquín Aras is an artist and filmmaker from Buenos Aires. His work is on show alongside that of María Agustina Fernández Raggio and Paula Monzillo at the What It Became Is Not What It Is Now exhibition curated by Louise Hobson and currently on show at Grand Union until the 9th of November. Aras also screened Snuff 1976 at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham. Snuff 1976 is a reworking of the original ´snuff´/horror/ soft core porn’ American exploitation film shot in Argentina just at the time when a military dictatorship was coming into power and beginning to commit the atrocities this period in Argentine history will forever be remembered for. The film was advertised as ‘A movie that could only have been made in South America, where life is cheap’.

 

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This is a wide-ranging conversation that touches on: film history; what is centre/ periphery in relation to how film cultures circulate?; how does one reconstruct popular memory?; film preservation; the connection between Snuff 1976, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the Manson murders; and Aras´ ongoing attempts to give voice and expression to those areas related to history and popular memory currently occluded, bypassed, sometimes even lost or erased.

Joaquín and I also discuss the relationship of his work to the video essay, how his choices of what to focus on are contextual and specific to Argentina. We discuss the relationship of guest and host in the horror film and what the work of Levinas and Derrida can bring to an understanding of that relationship. We also talk about how memory might be a great way to challenge historicity. A conversation worth hearing and a show worth watching. Details of the exhibition are below:

 

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Those of you interested in issues of film history and popular memory might want to follow up by reading Annette Kuhn´s foundational work in these areas:

An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002. Published in the US as Dreaming of Fred and Ginger: Cinema and Cultural Memory. New York: New York University Press.

Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination. London: Verso, 1995; rev edn, 2002.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 167 -Notorious

 

 

 

 

Considered by some to be his best film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious comes to the mac in a beautiful 4k restoration. We explore its sumptuous close-ups, complex characterisation and smart, effective editing, which elicited big responses from the audience. We also have an argument about focus pulling.

Below, you can see several screenshots and four clips of moments and scenes to which we refer in the podcast.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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

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José Arroyo in Conversation with David Greven

 

A conversation with David Greven, distinguished Hitchcock scholar, author of Intimate Violence: Hitchcock, Sex and Queer Theory, Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin and many other books (see images below) which took place at the Under Capricorn +70 Conference at King´s College, London. We talk of Hitchcock as a queer filmmaker, how his works undermine gender roles and expectations. We discuss David´s explorations of the intersection of Queer Theory and Hitchcock and what he´s learned by bringing them together. We bring into the discussion recent television work by Ryan Murphy as well as the work of Pedro Almodóvar. We touch on the significance of the re-release of five Hitchcock films in the 80s in the context of gay male representation, as well as on E.M Foster adaptations such as Maurice, Room with A View, Howard´s End and the recent theatrical deployment of some of those structures and tropes in The Inheritance. Finally the conversation refocuses on his work on Under Capricorn, the presentation of which is David´s reason for being in London, putting it in the context of Ingrid Bergman´s ‘trilogy’ with Hitchcock (Spellbound and Notorious are the others). Under Capricorn is enthralling but is it goodP? Finally David offers some recommendations on how to introduce yourself to Hitchcock´s work if you haven´t already done so. If you don´t love Under Capricorn, you don´t love Hitchcock, and if you don´t know how to appreciate Hitchcock, you don´t know how to appreciate cinema. An informal but stimulating and all too brief conversation.

 

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 166 – Pain and Glory

It’s probably fair to say that Pedro Almodóvar’s films seem to be made specifically for José. It’s in every detail: the locations, eras, sexuality, ways of life, attitudes, class, love of cinema and countless other aspects of Almodóvar’s ouevre speak to José on a deep, intimate level. He’s watched every one of his films time and time again, and he considers Pain and Glory, which he has already seen twice and plans to see again, a masterpiece. Mike doesn’t have anything like such a specific relationship to Almodóvar, and indeed has only seen one other of his films, 2016’s Julieta, which he liked very much – and indeed he likes Pain and Glory just as much… though not quite as much as José.

We discuss how Pain and Glory stands alone but might benefit from being seen in relation to Almodóvar’s ouevre. Several of his regular collaborators appear, including Cecilia Roth, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano and Penélope Cruz; this film, as with The Law of DesireBroken Embraces and Bad Education, is about a filmmaker; it makes use of art as an unconscious but pointed visual layering and underlying theme; images of characters writing on typewriters or computers show up – this is a film about, amongst other things, writing. Mike brings up the way chance events are used to drive the plot forward and thinks about how they’re contextualised; José praises how fluid Almodóvar’s storytelling is here, effortlessly bringing together disparate timelines and plot strands.

Is this autofiction, as the mother in the film accuses her filmmaker son of so often indulging in? José considers the appearance of Almodóvar’s own mother in his previous films and how so many of his previous films are in fact about mothers (All About My Mother and Volver being the most obvious examples). We discuss the structure of the film, the movement from the relationship with an actor who’s an addict to a previous relationship with an addict, through the performance of a confessional monologue titled Addiction, then a sexual awakening seen from a young boy’s point of view. Representations of Spain in the 50s, memories of the past and a present setting fluidly intermingle. We also consider its themes of illness, ageing and loss, and how it’s a film about cinematic expression, the revelation that half of the diegetic world is in fact a film within a film recontextualising half the story, similar to Bad Education but to different effect here.

It’s a film on which as soon as we finished, José regretted not saying more: The references to Lucrecia Martel’s La niña santa, the clear allusion to Fellini’s , the use of Rosalía to sing the song by the river, the section on films that feature water such as Splendor in the Grass and Niagara. He’s only scratched the surface of a great film.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

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