Pedro Almodóvar is arguably the most written about Spanish filmmaker since Buñuel. Is there anything more to say of his work? After reading The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’; and I wanted to talk to its author — Ana María Sánchez-Arce — to find out more: What did she seek when starting out on the project and what did she find? What has now come to light about the Movida that was missing from earlier accounts? What are the benefits of analysing the film in chronological order and what do we learn about Spain’s culture and history in doing so? Were Spanish critics really that blind to Almodóvar’s accomplishments and that mean to his person? Did Almodóvar really invest his own money into the production of Law of Desire (1987)? There was so much talk about — we could have gone on for several hours more — that we only really cover the first parts of his career, trailing off after the controversies of Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (1989) and Kika (1993). Those of you who find it interesting can turn to the book for more. The podcast can be listened to below:
Ilaria Puliti holds an MA (with distinction) in Film and Television Studies (University of Warwick), an MA (with distinction) in Teaching Italian to Foreigners (University of Urbino, IT), an MA in Intercultural Business Communication (University of Urbino) and a BA in Asian Languages and Cultures (University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’). She is currently researching Rural Modernities: the Politics and Aesthetics of Extra-Urban Experiences in Italian Cinema.
What follows is an extended conversation with Ilaria on Luca (Enrico Casarosa), focussing on how it lends itself to readings of queerness and of migration, and also relating the film’s world to postwar Italian culture and society. You can listen to it below:
…or watch/listen to us in what is my very first vodcast below:
Martin Stollery is the author of a monograph on Youssef Chahine’s The Emigrant (see below), the most sustained analysis of any one Youssef Chahine film I’ve been able to find in English. The film is available to see on Netflix and seems more pertinent and resonant than ever. In the podcast above Martin and I discuss the film itself; how it allegorises; the meaning and uses of water in Chahine’s films; the famous court case that is part of the context of the film’s release; and the tension between the film’s relationship to Biblical epics as well as Youssef Chahine’s more personal style of filmmaking. An illuminating discussion of texts, contexts and modes of analysis that ends with a renewed appreciation of Chahine’s achievements as a director.
In conversation, Martin mentioned that his work on Chahine was sparked by a series of Arab films programmed by Channel Four in the late 80s/ early 90s. I asked Sheldon Hall to check up on this for me, and he generously provided a pdf of all the films screened from 88-91, which you Chahine-films-1988-91. Sheldon notes that ‘For the record, the Arab ‘season’ seems to have been only three films: ALYAM ALYAM, CAIRO CENTRAL STATION (sic) and REED DOLLS. CCS was repeated in the Cinema of Three Continents series on 05/08/1990. ALEXANDRIA ENCORE was shown in the same series on 17/11/1991. The TVT review is by David Quinlan, the RT one by Derek Winnert. First showing of CCS was 08/02/1988′.
The Youssef Chahine Podcast has never been so lucky before: you can now see the film on Netflix, listen to the discussion above, and then follow up the author’s discussion by reading the book on the film.
The French legal scholar Nathalie Bernard-Maugiron has published a nice piece on the trial: Bernard-Maugiron N. “Legal Pluralism and the Closure of the Legal Field: the al-Muhajir Case”. In B. Dupret, M. Berger et L. al-Zwaini (eds.), Legal Pluralism in the Arab World, Kluwer Law International, La Haye-Londres-Boston, 1999, 173-189.
Below is the shot mentioned by Martin in the podcast from Cairo as Told by Chahine – about fourteen minutes into the film – ‘quotidian spirituality and the sensuality of cinema combined in an inclusive, utopian image of what Chahine wants Egyptian culture to be’.
This is the longest trailer Martin’s been able to find for the Marianne Khoury film:
I include the gif I made to advertise this podcast
….as well as the trailer, merely because I had fun making them and they do give a flavour of the film:
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 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)
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:
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.
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
‘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.
A wide-ranging conversation with Ian Francis, founder and director of Flatpack, about cinema, community, building audiences, and developing the festival from a pop-up in a pub 12 years ago to one of the leading festivals in the UK and a cornerstone of film culture in the West Midlands. We talk about cinephilia in Birmingham, about showing films in canal boats, churches, warehouses; about programming mixed-media, animation, shorts, experimental and expanded cinema and how international art-house might now be amongst the biggest challenges; we talk about funding and about ‘Heritage’ projects, from the recent ‘Birmingham 68’ to a forthcoming project on South Asian film from the region. It was a great opportunity to discuss key aspects of culture in general and film culture in particular that, because they often take place behind the scenes, don’t often get the public airing they merit. You can listen to the podcast below.
I was invited to participate in a discussion on Una mujer fantástica/ A Fantastic Woman with the legendary Rosa Bosch, now also Honorary Visiting Professor at Warwick, and thought I’d grab the opportunity to lasso her from her busy schedule and into a conversation on her extraordinary career. In fact no lassoing was necessary, and she was as open and generous with her time, experience and knowledge as anyone could wish for. And great fun.
Born in Barcelona in 1962, part of the last generation to have experienced Franco’s dictatorship, Bosch depicts her career as peripatetic. She dropped out of studying chemistry, fell in love with an American, moved to LA around 84-85, and began working at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles, where because of her language skills, her first task was looking after Agnès Varda, Yevtushenko, and Tarkovsky. When the AFI decided to send someone to Havana, the American embargo and Bosh’s speaking Spanish contributed to her being chosen as the delegate. The Havana film festival was then the focal point and agenda setter for Latin American film cultures world-wide; and as Bosch tells it, Latin American cinema and culture has been, in one way or another, at the centre of her life ever since.
Names like Pedro Almodóvar, Fernando Trueba, Wim Wenders, Terry Gilliam, Fernando Birri, Gabriel García Marquez (Gabo), and Julie Christie pepper the conversation. She’s got a connection to Warwick through John King and pays homage to Sheila Whitaker who brought over to London to help bring Latin American cinema to the London Film Festival.
Bosch shares anecdotes about the screening of Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone at the Toronto Film Festival falling on 9/11; about the great Maria Luisa Bemberg taking her under her wing; about the making of The Buena Vista Social Club and about how Julie Christie sparked her re-connecting once more with The University of Warwick. The conversation ranges through various aspects of her extraordinary career – she’s been engaged with the business of culture in almost every capacity from curating to finding money for films like Amores Perros to developing campaigns so that films succeed in reaching their audience– right up to her producing the legendary Karl Lagerfeld/Chanel show in Cuba, which catwalked its way down Havana’s legendary Prado and evoked a clash of ideologies still heatedly discussed today.
The conversation can be listened to here:
Many thanks to Alison Ribeiro de Menezes and the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick for arranging the event and making the interview possible.
Guy Bolton, author of The Pictures, is the subject of our third ‘In Conversation With ….’ Podcast. The Pictures is a detective novel set in 1939, around MGM, during the making of The Wizard of Oz. It begins with two deaths: a young woman, Florence Lloyd, has been brutally murdered; and Herbert, Stanley, an MGM producer, married to MGM star Gale Goodwin, has hung himself.
Detective Jonathan Craine of the LAPD is called in ostensibly to ‘investigate’ but really to present whatever happened to the producer in the best light so that it doesn’t affect the box office of his wife’s new film. In doing so, he and his partner Patrick O’Neill begin to discover links between the murders that lead them to the mafia, Las Vegas, the corruption of the film unions, the availability of drugs in the studios, the uses of prostitution in Hollywood, how coverage in newspapers can be bought and the fine line dividing a studio ‘fixer’ from a hardened criminal.
It’s a tough, sexy, brilliantly textured whodunit that depicts a 1939 Hollywood in a rich and layered way, with characters as you like them in noir, and a plot that will keep you guessing. It’s been widely and excellently reviewed and we here get an opportunity to discuss it with its author: on the lure of pulp; the attractions of Hollywood as setting; what are the influences, both literary and filmic; what decisions were made as to structure and point-of-view; and when the next one is coming out. Enjoy.
The podcast can be listened above or by clicking here
The Pictures is published by Oneworld and available in bookshops across the country and on kindle via Amazon
The second of a series of conversations about books on cinema with their authors. The intention is to expand and disseminate our understanding of cinema and its diverse histories and various cultures by bringing attention to recently published books in the field in order to enhance understanding of and access to the knowledge the books provide.
This one is with Pamela Hutchinson, founder of the great Silent London website and a regular correspondent for Sight and Sound,The Guardian and many other outlets on various aspect of Silent Cinema. The occasion for the chat is the publication of her wonderful new book on G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, a BFI Film Classic, so recent that it’s literally hot off the press, and as witty as it is informative.
What you hear in the background is the bubbles in a glass of champagne and one can only hope that our chat is as fizzy. The conversation ranges from the film’s aesthetic achievements to its continued influence, the appeal of Louise Brooks, what Marlene Dietrich might have done with the part and what the film has to tell us on sexual desire, the options open to women and the prevalence of rape culture then and now. Pandora’s Box seems more pertinent than ever and just as powerful and hypnotic as it always was. Pamela Hutchinson’s book is not just a beautifully written introduction to the film but one which provides new information and enhances our understanding in various ways and does so with great charm and wit.
I hope that the quality of the chat compensates for that of the editing and recording. It can be accessed above.