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José´s Week in Culture:

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‘Edvard Munch: Love and Angst,´ British Museum

 

The exhibition of Edvard Munch´s printmaking at the British Museum is easy to poke fun at but very much worth seeing. It´s organised too like Bergman themes in a Scandi noir and makes one wonder if the categorisation of the work comes from the work itself or from a received understanding that renders for easy if a bit clichéd structuration, The show is titled Love and Angst with subcategories such as ´Free Love´, ´Despair´, ‘Jealousy’, ´’Loneliness´, ‘Love and Torment’, ´’God and Humanity’ ‘Anguish and Isolation,´ ‘Sickness and Death’ etc. It is ripe for satire: ‘Laugh Along with Munch’! Luckily there are forays to Paris and Berlin. The prints are very striking, there are a few paintings as well and his work as a designer for theatre (for works by Strindberg, Ibsen, Gunnar Heiberg) is well documented.

Ive been going through the publication for the manga exhibit and it is truly excellent. One of the things that fascinates me is all the ´boy love´ manga, written by women for women, a bit like those Kirk/Spock drawings Constance Penley used to write about, though even more fragile and more delicately drawn. There are also various types of manga explicitly addressed to gay men, including a series where a Japanese man falls in love with his Canadian brother in law. And of course a very long tradition of cross-dressing heroes and heroines. For those of you interested i´m posting images from the exhibition and from the catalogue here:´

 

Kiss My Genders at the Hawyard Gallery: a series of extraordinary images, all of which have the effect of interrogating binary discourses of gender whilst nonetheless often juxtaposing elements associated with binary discussions of masculinity and femininity to demonstrate and argue for a more fluid and more inclusive discourse.

light at the piazza

Light at the Piazza at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ciinephiles might have heard of this as a 1963 film, one of Arthur Freed´s few forays into drama, the very last film produced by the very greatest producer of musical films. Yvette Mimieux played the young girl who´d been kicked in the head by horse and rendered ´backward´’, George Hamilton is the Italian who falls in love with her, Rosanno Brazzi is the father of the boy who initially sees an opportunity but backtracks. Olivia de Havilland starred as the mother who wants to give her daughter a chance to love. It was not a big hit in 1963. And it´s not been a big hit as a musical remake. Which is a pity. Adam Guettell´s score, particularly when played by a large-ish orchestra is simply gorgeous. And the singing, by Renée Fleming, Dove Cameron, Rob Houchen, Alex Jennings and Celine Shoemaker, is wondrous. A subline evening of musical theatre.

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A further note on Sauvage:

I was watching some of the extras of Camille Vidal-Naquet´s ´Sauvage´. There´s joint interviews with the director, cinematographer and editor where they speak about cuts, choices of lenses, filters etc. And there was a moment where the director is discussing the first scene of the film and says ‘we wanted the moment where Léo opens his eyes and looks up to be a moment akin to the the curtain going up in the theatre´, the beginning of the drama after the overture. And it struck me that part of the problem with current criticism is that filmmakers themselves offer analysis of their own work that are considerably more complex than most film criticism now offers. They also do a fantastic analysis of how they tried to symbolise freedom through money in Leo´s pocket, a moving zoom shot, and Félix Maritaud´s walk. To generalise, when film criticism seeks to unpack complexity they go to theory or philosophy (particular works of cinema don´t seem worthy enough) whereas filmmakers have no problem articulating the dense, the complex, the symbolic, the poetic…at least on the level of intentions. #ducks

 

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Amazing Grace:

The Midlands Arts Centre has the best projection system in town and one of the best sound systems. It was mostly full and the audience was mostly black. Seeing the film was akin to a religious revival. Aretha´s voice would soar, and the audience couldn´t restrain themselves from whooping and clapping. In a cinema. Lots of Wows were heard throughout. That voice, that singer, singing those songs. It´s like all pain and sadness is transmuted into joy and hope. And one really is left agog that a person can do that, with such freedom and such control. Even her father was rolling in his chair in amazement. See it in a cinema if you get a chance. It was a form of communion.

medici

Medici: Master of Florence is the kind of EU transnational production we may not see much more of in the future. The majority of key actors are British; most of the rest of the production people Italian. It´s quite trashy but also sumptuous and glamorous. Richard Madden is very pretty in it. And it was lovely to see Steve Waddington as a horny bishop, Frances Berber, Brian Cox and even Dusting Hoffman in smaller roles. Ostensibly a huge hit in Italy.

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Late Night

It was amateurish and inept. All good intentions, feminist rah rah, but terribly done. Not a good laugh in it, and overly sentimental. Worth seeing only for Emma Thompson, who is fabulousl.

black dhalia

I didn´t even know this graphic novel existed. It´s fab.

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Everyone´s been saying Dark Phoenix is terrible but I wanted to see for myself. Everyone is right. A director who gets this budget and this cast and comes out with only this movie doesn´t deserve to make another one. Jessica Chastain is the only actor who makes an impression.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

 

Lucy Calderbank: Boundary and Division in ‘Paris, Texas’

Creator’s Statement

 

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) is by far one of my favourite films. The emotional depth is deeply interrelated with its unique use of space, which creates distance between the characters. The film delivers a portrait of 1908s Western America from the perspective of a foreigner, Wenders being a German filmmaker. His European approach is interesting as he combines both cultures in his cinematic language. His attitude towards America is both critical and compassionate. He has described television, a major symbol of American modernism and technological innovation, as a source of ‘optical toxins’[1], but he also honours those landscapes by magnifying their strange beauty.

The video essay is concerned with the themes of boundary of division in relation to space in Paris, Texas. Roger Bromley in From Alice to Buena Vista: The Films of Wim Wenders (2001), writes: « The title of the film announces boundary and division, a seemingly contradictory state, an entre-deux-never reducible to the differences it joins and separates (bonding and separation are themes which recur throughout.) »[2]. I looked at three main points: Travis as the aimless wanderer, the failure of the ‘American Dream’ and the confined spaces. They map out a journey of the film, with its different movements across America, the changes of dynamics between the characters and how the space affects them psychologically and emotionally. The locations vary from vast open spaces like the desert to small confined spaces like the peepshow club where Jane works. The protagonist Travis has been in a state of transit since he has lost his wife and child, and the film can be seen as his quest to reunite his family as well as his return to civilisation. The desolate landscapes reflect Travis’s loneliness and pain as well as his desire for freedom and escape. Travis embodies the division between the desert and the city, the urban and the rural. I chose to use a split screen showing on the left side Travis entering the peepshow club and on the right side the Texas desert in order to contrast the city to the desert. Indeed, these two locations differ hugely in what they represent, as the peepshow is associated with greens and reds and confined spaces, whereas the desert looks more natural looking with its sandy colours and vast open space. The film establishes and compares different worlds, the desert and the home, the father and the mother, exile VS the return. Travis is put in contrast with his brother Walter, who is introduced to us in a shot against an oppressive building, directly associating him with capitalism and the modern life. The video essay compares and contrasts the different ways the characters exist in the world Paris, Texas sets up for them.

 

 The characters always seem to be torn apart between their desires and the reality they have to face. They chose a path that perhaps wasn’t right for them at first, and they are now dealing with the consequences of their actions. Travis and Jane seem to be lost as if their lives had been put on pause since the tragic incident. They both inhabit surreal spaces, Travis the empty desert, Jane the dehumanised and lonely peepshow.

 

I chose to let the images speak for themselves at times, without putting voice-over everywhere. I left the soundtrack of the film to emphasise the poetry and loneliness of the shots. I tried to create a similar in the video essay to the film itself, a slow, steady rhythm, which allows the actors to experience deeply every moment. The opening is a close-up on Hunter holding a picture of Paris, Texas, the land Travis purchased many years ago, whilst Hunter asks: “Where’s Paris Texas?”. Paris, Texas appears to be a foreign promised land, a utopia, and the audience is made to question if such a place really does exist, or if it is the fruit of Travis’s imagination. The point of the video essay was also to emphasise the surreal nature of the spaces in the film, as they seem to be disconnected from any point of logic and time, but are more a psychological and emotional extension of the characters. I chose to end on the scenes in the peepshow club, which separates and finally reunites the long-lost lover, Jane and Travis. There are boundaries between them that the past has built forever.

 

Lucy Calderbank

[1] Alexander Graf, The Cinema of Wim Wenders : The Celluloid HighwayWallflower Press, 2002

 

[2] Roger Bromley, From Alice to Buena Vista : The Films of Wim Wenders Praeger, 2001

Carlo Anghel- Haltrich: New York, Capitalism, and ‘Lost Book Found’

The purpose of New York, Capitalism, and Lost Book Found is to elucidate how Walter Benjamin’s Marxist political theories inform Jem Cohen’s Lost Book Found (1996). There are four different voices in the video essay in the form of voice-over, including the narrative voice of the original film. I chose this diversity of voice-overs with the intention of distancing the work from mainstream video essay practice, which can tend to be problematic insofar as there are only a couple of dominant voices in the field – most of which are male, American, and white. This issue has been discussed in one of the seminars. The original voice-over is indeed American-sounding – and this isn’t an issue because the film is set in New York. However, the other three voices are differentiated through accent – two of them are Romanian (mine and Tudor Mihai Popescu’s) and the other is French (Lucy Calderbank). Each of the accents is an idiosyncratic alteration of British Received Pronunciation.

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Once again, the intention was to offset the dominance of the singular authorial voice which can tend to acquire a dictatorial quality in video essays. I tried to further undermine the authorial voice (which is mine) by maintaining its presence to a minimum, and mainly using it to frame other citations Each separate voice in the film corresponds to a different source which has been cited, such that an impression is created that there are many different authors speaking. I avoided having my authorial voice draw direct conclusions from these citations. Instead, the they are punctuated by clips from the original film which instantiate the ideas which are put forth. I did not want to dictate their meanings and connections myself. Instead, I tried to show, rather than tell (or dictate).

The reason for sticking to few sources is so that the engagement with the theory would remain focused. The main text which is cited is a chapter from Walter Benjamin’s Selected Writings, Vol. 4. I chose this text because it features extended commentary on the idea of the flâneur, which is cited by Jem Cohen as an important influence on his film. My endeavour was to foreground the connection between this theoretical material and the film. The way I went about doing it is by juxtaposing selected ideas from Benjamin’s work with ideas expressed by the narrator of the film, in conjunction with clips from Lost Book Found which support this connection.

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The video essay doesn’t consistently fit into one genre. While it contains elements which would make it a straight-forward argumentative or informative essay, it can also be classified as a rather artistic or poetic work. This is because it re-arranges segments of the film in keeping with its original style, in a certain sense enhancing its mysterious aura. This is illustrated by the introduction and conclusion of the video essay. The pace of the introduction is slow, mimicking Lost Book Found’s lingering and oftentimes hypnotic aesthetic. The voice of the in-film narrator opens the video essay, in a certain sense misleading the audience into thinking that this is the authorial voice. It then reveals a different female voice, which also turns out not to be a permanent authorial voice, but which serves to introduce the content and production context of the film, and then segment into the section on Walter Benjamin and Marxism.

Finally, the video essay does not establish a conclusion at the end, but instead uses an unedited montage from the film. This montage serves to underscore the Marxist ideas presented previously by depicting the excesses of production which accompany New York’s Capitalist economy of the 1990s. The images are allowed to speak for themselves, which is very much the case in the original film, despite the presence of the narrator. This once again reflects and builds upon the style of the work on which the video essay comments.

Filmography:

Cohen Jem, director. Lost Book Found. Jem Cohen, 1996.

Bibliography:

Benjamin, Walter. Walter Benjamin: selected writings. Vol. 4, 1938-1940 / translated by Edmund Jephcott and others; edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings.Cambridge, Mass; London: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2003.

Engels, Friedrich. Die Lage der arbeiten Klasse in England. Berlin: Dietz, 1947.

Lost Book Found (1996).” Lost Book Found (1996) Directed by Jem Cohen. Reviews, Film + Cast – Letterboxd, 1 Jan. 1996, letterboxd.com/film/lost-book-found/.

Rosenheim, Jeff. Diane Arbus: in the beginning. Copyright 2016 New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 153 – Godzilla: King of the Monsters

But for its astonishing visuals, we don’t have much time for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a rather boring, incoherent film with an aspect that is at best lazy and at worst offensive. But it does look pretty! Wait, as Mike says, for its home media release, and capture yourself some lovely screenshots.

Mike’s review of 2014’s Godzilla

José’s review of 2014’s Godzilla

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.

Josh Bullin: ´Eighth Grade – The Contemporary Teen Film’

Creators Statement – ‘Eighth Grade: The Contemporary Teen Film’

This video essay explores Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018, USA), a recent example of the ‘teen film’ genre that has received critical acclaim since its release last year. The film follows Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a thirteen-year-old girl in her final days of eighth grade, before she will make the difficult transition to high school. Through contextualising the film within the context of the recent history and writings on the teen film, the essay seeks to illustrate how its portrayal of social anxiety in Kayla, as well as how the ubiquity of social media and the internet in today’s teen lives, reflects our current culture – consequently becoming a defining film of the genre for the 2010s.

 

The critical writings that surround the teen film genre generally consolidate around several ideas. While several aren’t directly cited in the video essay for reasons of time and fluidity, their ideas greatly influenced the script by bringing me greater clarity of the context of the genre. For example, the assertion established by Timothy Shary and reiterated by multiple critics, regarding the age range and subject of the teen film[1] is alluded to in order to establish the genre in the essay quickly. The most significant idea to the essay is that the most defining teen films reflect the culture in which they are set and were made in. As cited in the video essay, Shary writes that “Teen films, like successive generations of teenagers themselves, have grown up and changed with the times, testing their boundaries, exploring their potential and seeking new identities.”[2] Eighth Grade does exactly this, testing the boundaries of the teen genre by genuinely exploring contemporary issues for teenagers, which have gone unexplored in recent years due to the generally lower profile of the teen film in Hollywood. In her book, Betty Kaklamanidou suggests that the end of the studio-era ‘teen comedy’ came in 2010 with Easy A (Will Gluck, USA, 2010), and that this has given rise to more mature indie content[3], like Eighth Grade could be attributed too. However, the crucial themes and motifs of the teen film have now continued to resonate despite this movement.

 

Recurring themes, plots and motifs have been identified by critics, as laid out in the video essay through a variety of films that stretch back to the 1980s, where the genre boomed and many of the key themes were widely established in the cinematic and public sphere. Catherine Driscoll lays out three key themes in her overview: “the rite of passage to social independence; the bodily and social trauma of developing a coherent individual identity; and the interplay between developing agency and social alienation.”[4] As illustrated in the later sections of the video essay, these themes appear in Eighth Grade through its contemporary viewpoint, displaying how identity has been complicated by social media and the internet as well as the rise in acknowledged anxiety and depression in teenagers.

 

Contributing to the film’s overall impact is the contemporary realism it achieves through the character of Kayla. The overly matured or idealised appearances and/or dialogue of many iconic teen film characters and actors, as observed by Roz Kaveney in her book, Teen Dreams to embody “an adolescence that has nothing in common with anything we actually experienced,”[5] are not seen in Kayla’s appearance. As shown in the video essay, her acne and body is highlighted throughout the film to resemble an actual teenage girl of her age, with little attempt made to look ‘prettier’ unless the character consciously does so herself. Additionally, the true inarticulacy of teenagers is shown through her and the other teen characters’ dialogue, which incorporates vocal tics and mannerisms – such as an overreliance on the word “like” as a connector in sentences.

 

The essay goes onto examine the frank portrayal of social anxiety in the film, which is pointedly relevant to today where reported cases of teenagers suffering from mental health issues has risen substantially in the last fifteen years alone. The discussion is based around the ‘Pool Party’ sequence, where the heightened sense of stakes inherent to the narrative conflicts in teen films manifests by the event becoming a social minefield for Kayla. The sequence first depicts her candidly experiencing a panic attack before rendering the scene of the party to be horrifying through her gaze. By rendering these experiences, the film illustrates its exploration of the genre and strong relation to today’s social issues.

 

Tied into her anxiety is the question of identity, a pivotal theme to the teen film considering these are the ages that are most formative to the development of people’s identity. As referred to earlier, the prevalence of social media and the internet amongst adolescents further adds to the complexity of identity. From an early age, youths are consciously constructing identities through social media platforms as a form of self-actualisation, while the way they interact has directly informed the way they interact. The film reflects this in Kayla, who makes vlogs on YouTube giving advice, as a method of creating her ideal self. The reality is her quiet and anxious demeanour, demonstrating that the advice is really addressed to herself. These personas are both made visible within clips highlighted in the essay.

 

The reliance and importance of social media and the internet is not heavily critiqued by Burnham in the film, who has stated in interviews that instead the general “living with (the internet) is what I was trying to visualise” and that “it’s not some giant crisis.”[6] Most significantly, this is vital to the current youth generation, where the apps displayed in the film, such as Instagram and Tumblr, are increasingly popular platforms in the real world. By non-judgmentally displaying these social trends that define childhoods in the twenty-first century, the film again reflects today’s culture and thus matches the significant feature of the teen film as written by Shary.

 

These illustrations of contemporary culture are indeed what make Eighth Grade the defining teen film of our current generation. Like how the films of John Hughes define the youth culture of the 1980s, the video essay asserts that the film is firmly marked as a powerful indicator of this period for generations to come.

 

 

 

Filmography:

 

American Pie. Dir. Paul and Chris Weitz, Prod. Universal, 1999. Main cast: Jason Biggs (Jim), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Chris Klein (Oz).

 

Bring It On. Dir. Peyton Reed, Prod. Universal, USA, 2000. Main cast: Kirsten Dunst (Torrance), Gabrielle Union (Isis), Eliza Dushku (Missy).

 

Clueless. Dir. Amy Heckerling, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1995. Main cast: Alicia Silverstone (Cher), Brittany Murphy (Tai).

 

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck, Prod. Screen Gems, USA, 2010. Main cast: Emma Stone (Olive), Patricia Clarkson (Rosemary), Aly Michalka (Rhiannon).

 

Eighth Grade. Dir. Bo Burnham, Prod. A24, USA, 2018. Main cast: Elsie Fisher (Kayla), Josh Hamilton (Dad).

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Dir. John Hughes, USA, 1986. Main cast: Matthew Broderick (Ferris), Alan Ruck (Cameron).

 

Grease. Dir. Randal Kleiser, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1978. Main cast: John Travolta (Danny), Olivia Newton-John (Sandy).

 

Heathers. Dir. Michael Lehmann, Prod. New World Pictures, USA, 1989. Main cast: Winona Ryder (Veronica), Christian Slater (JD), Shannen Doherty (Heather).

 

High School Musical: Senior Year. Dir. Kenny Ortega, Prod. Walt Disney, USA, 2008. Main cast: Zac Efron (Troy), Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay).

 

Juno. Dir. Jason Reitman, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2007. Main cast: Ellen Page (Juno), Michael Cera (Paulie).

 

Love, Simon. Dir. Greg Berlanti, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2018. Main cast: Nick Robinson (Simon), Katherine Langford (Leah).

 

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters, Prod. Paramount, USA, 2004. Main cast: Lindsay Lohan (Cady), Rachel McAdams (Regina).

 

Pretty in Pink. Dir. Howard Deutch, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1986. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Andie), Jon Cryer (Duckie).

 

Risky Business. Dir. Paul Brickman, Prod. Warner Bros, USA, 1983. Main cast: Tom Cruise (Joel), Rebecca De Mornay (Lana).

 

Riverdale, second series, USA, The CW, 2017-2019. Main cast: Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl), Madchen Ameck (Alice).

 

Scream. Dir. Wes Craven, Prod. Dimension, USA, 1996. Main cast: Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courteney Cox (Gale).

 

Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Dir. Ian Samuels, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Shannon Purser (Sierra), Noah Centineo (Jamey), Kristine Froseth (Veronica).

 

Sixteen Candles. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1984. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Sam), Michael Schoeffling (Jake).

 

Superbad. Dir. Greg Mottola, Prod. Columbia, USA, 2007. Main cast: Michael Cera (Evan), Jonah Hill (Seth).

 

The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Universal, USA, 1985. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Claire), Emilio Estevez (Andrew), Judd Nelson (Bender).

 

The DUFF. Dir. Ari Sandel, Prod. Lionsgate, CBS Films, USA, 2015. Main cast: Mae Whitman (Bianca), Robbie Amell (Wes).

 

The Fault in Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone, Prod. 20th Century Fox, USA, 2014. Main cast: Shailene Woodley (Hazel), Ansel Elgort (Augustus).

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Dir. Francis Lawrence, Prod. Lionsgate, USA, 2013. Main cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta).

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. Stephen Chbosky, Prod. Summit, USA, 2012. Main cast: Logan Lerman (Charlie), Emma Watson (Sam).

 

Thirteen. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2003. Main cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Tracy), Nikki Reed (Evie).

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Dir. Susan Johnson, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Lana Condor (Lara Jean), Noah Centineo (Peter).

 

Twilight. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Summit, USA, 2008. Main cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward).

 

Bibliography:

 

BUILD series, ‘Bo Burnham and the Cast of “Eighth Grade” discuss their new film’ (20 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUzFkqby6-c.

 

Colling, Samantha, The Aesthetic Pleasures of Girl Teen Film (London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2017).

 

Driscoll, Catherine, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011).

 

Hill, Logan, ‘Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade,’ Anxiety and Why Social Media Is a Curse’, Rolling Stone (2018), online: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/bo-burnham-eighth-grade-interview-700514/

 

Kaklamanidou, Betty, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018).

 

Kaveney, Roz, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006).

 

Murray, Iana, ‘Bo Burnham and the Changing Face of Internet Comedy’, The Skinny (21 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/film/opinion/eighth-grade-bo-burnham-and-dissecting-the-internet.

 

Oscars (Youtube), ‘Academy Conversations: Eighth Grade’ (19 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJmunVzdvLY.

 

Sandberg, Bryn Elise, ‘Making of ‘Eighth Grade’: How Bo Burnham Brought His Anxiety to Screen in the Form of a 13-Year-Old Girl’, The Hollywood Reporter (21 November 2018), online: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/making-eighth-grade-how-bo-burnham-brought-his-anxiety-screen-1162239.

 

Shary, Timothy, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Grant, Barry Keith (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012).

 

Shary, Timothy, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005).

 

Slater-Williams, Josh, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media.

 

Music used:

 

Meredith, Anna, Eighth Grade (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Columbia Records, 2018. Simple Minds, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’, The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Virgin/A&M,

 


 

[1] Timothy Shary, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012), p. 581.

 

[2] Timothy Shary, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005), p. 3.

 

[3] Betty Kaklamanidou, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018), p. 25-28.

 

[4] Catherine Driscoll, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011), p. 6.

 

[5] Roz Kaveney, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006), p. 1-2.

 

[6] Josh Slater-Williams, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media

Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, USA, 2019)

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A film to see in the cinema. Gloria Bell has an odd distancing effect. The  shots are beautifully composed but sparsely peopled. And the depiction of Gloria´s routine and her loneliness initially seem repetitive and rather boring. I was tempted to walk out. But I´m glad I didn´t.

Gloria goes about her life, driving to work each day, finding release singing along to songs she identifies with, dealing with difficult neighbours. She´s lonely, goes out dancing, has sex with men when she can and when it suits her. We see this routine with slight variations several times. And cumulatively, their effect is to make us understand Gloria. We get that Gloria is a nice woman, divorced for twelve years. She hasn´t hasn’t given up on love but she´s not finding it either.

She does find comfort in the yoga classes,  laughter therapy, the going out, the work, the friends, her children. But none of that alleviates her loneliness. Then she meets Arnold  (John Turturro) , nice but weak, and, nice as he is, instead of making her life better, he makes it worse; and much as she want a relationship, she stands up for herself and chooses to remain alone. Her dancing is a greater joy to her than her man.

As many critics have already remarked, Gloria Bell is an almost too-close remake of Sebastián Lelio´s  earlier Gloria (2013). ´Why bother to remake it at all,’ some ask? Well, duh: to allow Julianne Moore to play the part, obviously. And Gloria Bell might well be be her greatest performance. Moore is mistress of the constellation of emotions that revolve around ´niceness´. Anthony Lane´s review of the film in The New Yorker has two lines that have stayed with me: his opening one: ´The smile of Julianne Moore is one of the delights of modern cinema. It is the smile of someone who knows, all to well, that you can´t rely on life to be delightful;´  and,  ´the genius of Moore…is how plausibly, and how patiently she fills the spaces of ordinary living.´

The film is not without faults. Some elements don´t work as well as they did in the original. The boyfriend having been in the military has a different resonance in Chile, as do his obligations to his family and former wife. But this version looks better. Every shot is interesting and expressive. And by the end Gloria Bell becomes something quite extraordinary, and rarely seen in American cinema: a middle-aged woman looking for love, being sexual, being disappointed, taking pleasure in what there is. The last shot is extraordinary. There is indeed something heroic about Gloria accepting her present, taking joy in it, and letting that joy in her body and in the music carry her onto a future which is certain for none of us.

I´m glad I didn´t walk out;  and I think audiences who are not just there to be superficially pleasured will find the film  rewarding. Gloria Bell lingers in the mind. Like Gloria, you go about your routine, maybe wash some dishes, and then find your thoughts drifting on to her and to the film: how does one live one´s best life? How does one deal with disappointment? How does one acknowledge need and desire but maintain dignity? Will we be as heroic as Gloria when confronted with similar choices? The experience of watching the film is somewhat dull and demanding. The experience of having seen it, is rewarding indeed. Gloria Bell ends up being a fascinating film with one of the very greatest central performances in recent cinema.

Also worth noting that Lelio being the director of A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience are reasons enough to see Gloria Bell. 

José Arroyo

 

Ellyse Partington: The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

Creator’s Statement

The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

The thesis for this video essay originated from an interest in the use of sound in A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018). The use of diegetic and non diegetic sound brilliantly portrayed the perspective of Reagan, the deaf daughter, and how her experience of being deaf aided in the family’s survival within the film. A Quiet Place was a success amongst critics and received a fair amount of recognition as a unique and creative horror film. Whilst previous films had experimented with sound in the past, in films such as Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016) and Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016), others had not been credit for its delineation of deafness to the same extent as A Quiet Place.

Whilst debating the avenues of discussions the horror genre presents, following careful consideration of the themes of mental illness and disability, it was useful to ponder over the influx of films that explored disability such as Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016) and Bird Box(Susanne Bier, 2018). Disability became a topic that has been present within recent texts, however, deafness and the presentation of sound was a stronger area of study for this video essay to focus the trajectory of the project.

After considering the use of sound within the contemporary horror film to explore the representation of deafness, I began to consider how the use (or the lack of) sound encouraged the spectator to consciously become aware of how they use their senses in their viewing experience. In aid of this contention, Vivian Sobchack explores the notion of the “lived body”.[1] She explores the physiological responses the spectator experiences whilst watching a film. It was this theory that grounded my analysis in which I could explore the stylistic techniques of contemporary horror films, to understand how they represented deafness.

Horror is possibly the first genre to be considering to evoke a physiological response from the audience, through its ambition to insight fear within its audience. The subconscious and immediate response of the audience to the action on screen is the desired response of the filmmaker. However, the aim of this video essay is to explore how cinema can construct a sensory event for the spectator for a larger purpose than a jump scare. The primary ambition of this video essay is to execute how sound encourages the audience to utilise their senses to enjoy the tactility that the contemporary film, and horror as an extension, can present.

Through the analysis of Dawn of the Deaf, Hush and A Quiet Place, this project attempts to explore how the sensorium of the spectator, and their physiological being is called upon to experience the story of the respective deaf characters. Sobchack’s notion of the spectator subjectively experiencing the films through the objective body of the character, positions the audience to the explore a fictitious scenario that they would otherwise not experience. Through the exploration of sound, image, and theory, this video essay explores how the representation of deafness in the contemporary horror film. The provocation of the spectator’s senses through the relationship of sound and image, fabricates an immersive event for the audience to relate to a character.

Bibliography

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Walter Benjamin Illuminations: Essays and Reflections,ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: schocken, 1968), 240.

Miriam Hansen, “ ‘With Skin and Hair’: Kracauer’s Theory of fIlm, Marseilles 1940,” Critical Inquiry 19, no.3 (1993): 458.

Barker, J. 2009. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience.Oakland: University of California Press.

Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Filmography

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven,1984)

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018)

Bird Box (Susanne Bier, 2018)

Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016)

Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016)

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016)

Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz,1945)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

The Exorcist (William Friedkin,1973)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The Silence (John R. Leonetti, 2019)


[1] Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Josh Bullin and José Arroyo on Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, USA, 2018)

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Following Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham), finally making its way over the pond to the UK last week, Josh and I discuss the coming-of-age tale in the latest instalment of the podcast.

We discuss Burnham’s origins as a comedian and what attracted the film to myself, delving into how the film depicts anxiety and social media in the 21st century.  Reflecting on how it reflects the contemporary climate insightfully, we go into the nightmarish pool party sequence, as well as the touching relationship between Kayla (Elsie Fisher) and her father (Josh Hamilton).

The use of colour, YouTube and its context within the teen film genre give us plenty to talk about, and Josh even takes the time to explain some internet slang to me.

Alfie Watson-Brown: Baths and Bathrooms as Narrative Spaces in the work of Lynne Ramsey

 

Click on the link below for the video essay:

 

 

Abstract

 

Lynne Ramsay’s tackling of social and emotional issues, particularly poverty and trauma, is frequently revered as ground-breaking- or at least expertly crafted, due to the element of artistic poeticism her films are centred around. Studying cinematography at the National Film and Television School, her films are often viewed through a cinematographic lens. However, much discussion of Ramsay’s work is so centred around cinematography and visual poeticism that it neglects the narrative, characteristic and emotional impact of said visual focus, meaning that many readings of the emotional content of her films are left underdeveloped, without sufficient focus on textual analysis. Most video essays centred around Ramsay focus purely on her visual style, with popular essays such as Tony Zhou’s (under the pseudonym ‘Every Frame a Painting’) ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, amassing almost one million views[1], focusing on tiny visual elements of Ramsay’s work without giving significant depth to the impact of this style. This is not necessarily a misdemeanour on the respective essayist’s part, merely it is a symptom of a heavy focus on as large and undefined topic as visual poetry. For this reason, my project is given more specificity, focusing in on a smaller subsection of Ramsay’s stylistic tendencies, centred around the significance of the bath and the bathroom. In this project, I first aim to give some contextualisation over the previous uses of baths and bathrooms in cinema, arriving at the conclusion that while these examples, do contain key scenes in baths, the bath is mostly used to symbolise something which is already present, namely, in these examples such as Scarface (1983) and Pretty Woman (1990), the luxury their respective characters have come into. There is a sense that while these scenes take place in a bath, much of the narrative effect could have still been achieved in a completely different setting. However, in Ramsay’s films, largely due to her incessant return to the theme of water, there is a sense that the bath is perfectly suited to the narrative and characteristic through lines she aims to explore. Through justifying these thoughts alongside a foundation of texts such as Annette Kuhn’s ‘Ratcatcher’ and Stella Hockenhull’s ‘British Women Film Directors in the New Millenium’, as well as interviews with Ramsay where she gives some background to her films, I aim to digest the emotional connections Ramsay seeks to explore through the bath and bathroom. One potential drawback of this style of analysis could be the lack of academic founding. Despite considering the two key texts listed above, this textual analysis-heavy approach to film criticism requires much of my own input, and with a lack of pre-existing, relevant research into the narratives of Ramsay’s films, the project risks being too subjective. However, I have aimed to counter-balance this, with much credit being lent to the unique format of the video essay, by justifying my points with on-screen references and backing.

 

Content Focus

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Ratcatcher- Ramsay’s first feature, following a guilt-ridden child, James, who finds himself responsible for the accidental manslaughter of his friend, Ryan. In this film, the bath acts as a vessel to hold the recurring theme of water, offering a place for Ryan and Margaret Ann to take some respite from their harsh surroundings, and indulge in play. However, due to its associations with water, it also acts as a merciless reminder of James’ guilt, tied strongly to the canal through Ramsay’s use of montage between the bath scenes, and scenes of James’ dad saving another child, Kenny, from the canal.

You Were Never Really Here- Following hitman Joe as he tries to save Nina from a child-exploitation ring, Ramsay here makes use of the bath to tie Joe’s work life to his home life. While he cleans up the overflown bath for his mother at home, he also cleans up the pedophile ring for Nina. This works as a tying together of Joe’s affinity for the two important women in his life, and when his mother dies, Joe transfers his emotional connections on to Nina, marked by a crucial scene in the lake. However, this connection is foreboded in the previously mentioned bath sequence.

Swimmer- Our brief relationship with a long distance swimmer becomes increasingly convoluted, and we begin to wonder what his true connection with the water is. Although there is no space for a bath scene in this short, Ramsay’s classic use of water is ever-present, and we can carry some of the ideas explored in this film in to our discussion of the bath.

Morvern Callar (2002)Holding a scene which I would argue is symbolic of Ramsay’s depiction of the bath and the bathroom, the film sees born-again Morvern take control of her life in the wake of her boyfriend’s suicide. The bath scene works as a depiction of her growing confidence, and preludes her further emotional development in the film. Before she can fully move on with her life, she has to completely end any previous connection with her deceased boyfriend, and it is no coincidence that Ramsay decides to host this scene in the bathroom.

Don’t Look Now- I argue that this self-professed influence on Ramsay carries into her use of trauma explored through water, with the opening scene, following John’s despair at watching his daughter drown, carrying particular relevance.

 

Through tying these examples together, I aim to provide a cohesive, pragmatic, and comprehensive view of Ramsay’s use of water, which is exemplified in her use of the bath.

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Bibliography

Kuhn, A., Ratcatcher (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

Hockenhull, S., British Women Film Directors in the New Millennium(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

 

Filmography

Morvern Callar (2002), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Seven Pounds (2008), dir. Gabriele Muccino, Overbrook, USA.

The Shining (1980), dir. Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros, USA.

Pretty Woman (1990), Garry Marshall, Touchstone, USA.

Scarface (1983), dir. Brian de Palma, Universal, USA.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), dir. Wes Craven, New Line, USA.

American Beauty (1999), dir. Sam Mendes, Dreamworks, USA.

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Working Title, USA.

Fight Club (1999), dir. David Fincher, Fox, USA.

Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Universal, Paramount, UK.

Ratcatcher (1999), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

You Were Never Really Here (2017), dir. Lynne Ramsay, Film4, UK.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Swimmer (2012), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK..

 

 

 

 

 

[1]Every Frame a Painting, ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, published on 7/5/2015

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 152 – Rocketman

A musical biopic that understands its own music, that uses its songs not necessarily when they’re chronologically appropriate but when they fit emotionally and thematically, Rocketman beautifully and energetically tells the story of Elton John’s rise to and struggles with fame. Taron Egerton is notable for his work in the Kingsman films, but here he is given a true star role, imbuing his Elton with attitude, presence, and a bolshy walk. And, for the two of us in particular, it does us the great favour of giving us a new appreciation for the music, helping us realise that each of us has always taken both it and Elton’s cultural importance for granted.

The film is produced by Elton, functioning as a sort of autobiography, and although this justifiably raises questions of authenticity, honesty, filtering and bias, the film and man are so likeable, and the way in which it depicts his lowest points so open, the film completely sells its story and depiction of Elton’s character and those around him. (Though, as José describes, the coda in which we’re shown a modern, married, parental Elton, who is nothing like the one whose story we’ve just been told, does suggest that for all the authenticity we feel during the film, the message we’re left with is a somewhat disappointing, “anyway, that was a different Elton, I’m not him any more”.) Similarly, certain tropes common to gay stories, such as pining for a straight friend, being isolated emotionally, and being preyed upon by another, more confident, gay character – something we criticised Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody for – are here rendered convincing and understandable.

We fall in love with its style and storytelling strategy, the risks it takes in building slightly cheesy set-pieces, set-pieces that indeed reflect a certain amount of cheesiness present in Elton himself. The film impressively and confidently narrativises its music, flowing into songs, turning emotionally-charged conversations smoothly into musical numbers, liberal new arrangements allowing Elton’s entire family to share their loneliness in I Want Love and making Elton’s decision to enter therapy a moment of trumpet-worthy triumph. José doesn’t go for the climactic moment with Elton’s childhood self, but Mike is with it completely, tearing up – before Elton could heal, before he could love, before he could fight all his addictions and fears and pain, he first needed to learn to love himself!

Rocketman is simply wonderful. It deeply understands its own music and freely reworks it to give it new life and teaches us to love and appreciate it all over again. It’s lively, funny, imaginative, bold and entirely engrossing. Don’t miss it.

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: 151 – Booksmart

Ridiculously, relentlessly, laugh-out-loud funny, we had a brilliant time in Booksmart. It’s a last-day-before-graduation high school comedy about two girls determined to finally have some fun having been bookworms their entire lives. José loves the central relationship between the straight and lesbian best friends, Mike loves the empathy and openness the film shows towards every one of its characters, deliberately constructing them at first as high school archetypes so that it can go on to reveal their hidden depths.

Booksmart is a simply brilliant comedy with tons of heart and you will have a fantastic time. Don’t miss it.

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.

Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher, 2019)

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Taron Egerton looking his very worst is at his most attractive in Rocketman: a real star-making performance for those, like I, who might have thought the Kingsman films didn´t quite do it for him. He´s terrific at capturing a particular kind of blokeish queeniness one associates with Elton John; he´s the first public figure to evoke that combination of football laddishness and out of control queenly glitter,  obviously characteristic of a whole social formation, an under-represented one. The actor´s bolshy relish is also the film´s. A musical through and through, most imaginative in the way it narrates through song, choreography, costuming. I´ve never been a particular fan of Elton John´s but Rocketman made me realise the extent to which he´s been part of the soundtrack of my life. It´s a very funny film and I was quite moved at times: the ‘I Want Love’ number is lovely and beautifully staged to convey a structure of feeling across family relations. The film seems to be very English also. I liked everything about it except the codas at the end. They come across as too self-congratulatory. And I could have done without the bit of Elton hugging his younger self. The film would have ended better just with the ‘I´m still standing’ number. But these are minor niggles. Rocketman is brilliant.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 150 – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

First they killed Keanu Reeves’ dog, and in revenge, he killed everyone, and it was brilliant. Then they had to make two sequels, and they couldn’t come up with a very interesting story. But the action was still world class. Or was it?

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.

Un couteau dans le coeur (Yann Gonzalez, France, 2018

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Yann Gonzalez’s Un couteau dans le Coeur is a film I feel I should like. It’s got so many element I love in it: a late 70s setting, a porn milieu akin to Jean-Luc Cadinot’s; a lesbian story of amour fou; a gay serial film akin to Cruising but done from a queer perspective; a whole array of fluidly gendered characters; the kitschyness of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures; Vanessa Paradis giving a great performance as the central character; Nicolas Maury, so gloriously campy in Dix pour cent, and just as good here; and even Félix Maritaud, my new heartthrob, playing a heroine addicted porn star. And yet, it doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.

 

Vanessa Paradis is Anne Parèze, a producer of gay porn who’s recently been left by Loïs (Kate Moran), the woman she loves, and the editor of her films. As Anne is driven crazy by this stab to the heart, her stars are killed one by one, and in rather gruesome circumstances: a knife shooting out of a dildo is the weapon used to stab one up the arse, another through the throat and so on. Who’s killing Anne’s stars? We see someone wearing a mask doing the deed, we get little experimental montages of the negative of the images, there are some allusions to Sixties Hammer horror, there’s a crow and a feather and a cemetery and ….I don’t care. Nothing generates suspense. Gonzalez is very good at dialoguing with a history of camp, of gay porn, of gay cinema. He’s wonderful with actors and indeed with tone: he beautifully captures that 70s soft-core look and attitude, but somewhere along the line I stopped caring about the people, the themes or what would happen next, even when it’s revealed that self-hatred is the motivator and even when the queers in the audience get their revenge.

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From ‘vivre de l’air et d’eau fraiche/air and fresh water  to ….

 

I found Un couteau dans le coeur a disappointment. But I’m not sorry I saw it and indeed it’s made me eager to see more work by Yann Gonzalez.

 

José Arroyo

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 149 – Game of Thrones, Last Episode

For the first time, Eavesdropping at the Movies is not talking about a film… or is it? Game of Thrones spent eight years and countless millions of dollars in pursuit of cinematic production values, visual spectacle, and the world’s unquestioning fealty and attention. Is it television? Is it film? Is it something in between? How can we even talk about it if we can’t define our terms?

Well, after 73 episodes, HBO’s epic, brutal, violent, sexy, melodramatic fantasy has finally reached its conclusion, and everybody’s been watching. José’s been watching it since it started. Mike’s been watching it since last month. Did it end well? What made it interesting to watch? How did it change over the years? What of Podrick? All these questions and more might be answered in this spoilerific conversation.

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.

El hijo del sueño (Alejandro Alonso, Cuba, 2016)

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Julio Cesar left Cuba as part of the Mariel exodus in 1980, contracted HIV and disappeared from view. This beautiful film, made up of postcards and pictures, is Alejandro Alonso s attempt at a re-encounter with his uncle, a putting him back in the picture. The film´s style evokes a hazy memory of things unsaid, half-remembered, all enveloped by very strong bonds and much love, pieced together through postcards he sent home, family pictures, and textured sounds. It´s very moving and brings together many histories: political exile but also those kinds of exclusions, structural, that seem to appear once the suspicion of homosexuality makes itself felt. Part of a cycle curated by Dean Luis Reyes for Rialta magazine and featuring beautiful sound work from José Homer Mora.

The film can be seen here:

El hijo del sueño

 

A preliminary note on Sauvage

sauvage

I finally got around to seeing Sauvage last night. I have no doubts as to the greatness of Felix Maritaud´s performance: brave, varied, intense, transparent. If he can breach the glass ceiling of polite homophobia, he´s headed to stardom. But I´m not sure I liked the film. The film´s depiction of male prostitution seems complex and true to the life. I liked the frankness, the combination of romanticism and grit, the film´s treatment of love, sex and longing. But I didn´t find the freedom dramatised by the film´s ending convincing; and it lacked the poetry and lyricism one finds in Genet, which the film references. There will surely be more to come after a second viewing.

José Arroyo

The ending of Jacquot de Nantes

 

Screenshot 2019-05-12 at 07.57.22.pngI suppose no one can ever know what goes on within a couple. But I do hope someone writes a biography of Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda so we at least get to know a little more than we do now, which is that they met, fell in love, had a child to accompany that of Varda’s from a previous relationship, broke up, got back together in the end. We also know Demy was bisexual. To what extent is Le bonheur autobiographical, if not in plot, in feeling? We know that Demy was dying of AIDS when Varda filmed him for Jacquot de Nantes, something that Demy then wished to be kept secret. And we know that she loved him. Her camera caresses his hair, his face, his body, it pans through his skin, mottled with liver spots, and then on the off-chance you thought she didn’t love him enough, she sings him Terrain vagues by Jacques Prevért, with its beautiful connotations of land and sea, but also of incertitude, of a proximity that ebbs and flows but which nonetheless offers a love to drown oneself in:

Terrain vagues

Démons et merveilles, vents et marées,
Au loin déjà la mer s’est retirée,
Et toi comme une algue,
Doucement caressée par le vent,
Dans les sables du lit,
Tu remues en rêvant.

Démons et merveilles, vents et marées,
Au loin déjà la mer s’est retirée,
Mais dans tes yeux entr’ouverts,
Deux petites vagues sont restées.

Démons et merveilles, vents et marées,
Deux petites vagues

Deux petites larmes

pour me noyer.

 

I’ve translated loosely –I’m no poet, it can only be loosely — as follows:

Demons and wonders, winds and tides,

In the distance already the sea has withdrawn,

And you like an algae,

In a bed of sand gently caressed by the wind,

Dreamily stir,

 

Demons and wonders, winds and tides,

The sea has already withdrawn into the distance,

But two little waves remain in your half-opened eyes.

 

Demons and wonders, winds and tides,

Two little tears,

two little waves,

to drown myself in.

 

 

 

It floors me each time, making me wistful, sad — no one’s loved me like Varda loves Demy — and leaves me admiring: If no one’s loved me like Varda loves Demy, maybe one can learn to love as lovingly, fully, as openly and acceptingly as she.

José Arroyo

Benny Moré in Agnès Varda´s Salut les Cubains!

A film composed mainly of photographs edited together to music and a celebratory narration voiced by Michel Piccoli, with Agnès Varda occasionally interpolating  qualifying commentary like pointing out to us how Cuban men possessively drape their hand over the shoulders of their women. The photos were all taken from December 1961 to January 1962, four years after the revolution. They´re very beautiful and cover a wide range of Cuban culture and society: the revolution of course, illustrated with wonderful photographs of Fidel (above left), Raúl, Ché; but also cigar factories, educational campaigns, volunteer drives, ordinary people in museums or dancing in the streets; the cultural figures of the day from Alejo Carpentier to Wilfredo Lam (above centre). We also get to see a marvellous scene of a very young Sara Gomez, here Varda´s assistant, later a celebrated filmmaker in her own right, dancing (above right). My favourite of all is the marvellous sequence of the great Benny Moré, el bárbaro del ritmo,  singing ´may only Cuban women caress your face´, wishing you that luck and singing of the joy in his. It´s glorious collage of sights and sounds, rendered even more poignant by Moré dying in between the photos being taken and the film being released. A real treat.

José Arroyo

A quick note on Paul Lynde and Cloris Leachman

Seeing Doozy las week led me to this very trashy book on Paul Lynde (top left), where I found out he studied at Northwestern with a class that included Cloris Leachman, Patricia Neal, Charlotte Ray, Jeffrey Hunter etc. Which led me to this new biography, also very trashy, of Leachman, forever Phyllis to me. What I found interesting about her book is how, at ninety, she still vividly remembers very specific scenes from films like Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn Leroy, USA, 1940) and how often the films that most deeply affected audiences are not what are ranked and re-ranked as ‘best’. Not a new thought but still an under-explored one. Also Lynde and Leachman, instantly recognisable nationally at the height of their TV fame but never the biggest stars, are still a very powerful evocation of childhood for anyone who grew up watching television in North America in the 70s.

José Arroyo