Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Roman Polanski Rule

My expression on reading Polanski's Wikipedia page. 
(First, I need to say that my writing here has faced another setback, with the death of my hard drive. I'm in the process of getting a new one and I've backed up everything but typing without a computer is hard. In fact, I'm typing up this post with my thumbs, on an Xperia XA1 Ultra. Sorry about that.)

It's come to this. Do you have secret rules you don't talk about? Is this just me? See, I have a Roman Polanski Rule.

Monday, 20 November 2017

I am ambivalent about his death

Yesterday I received notice, sensitively given, that someone I had once worked for had died.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

We Don't Go Back #71: Without Name (2016)

Lorcan Finnegan must have seen A Field in England before embarking on the production of Without Name. The sense of menace imputed to an area of land that's not especially remote, as if it's a character in the drama, the use of stroboscopic effects to represent an altered state of consciousness, and the epic mushroom trips that lead to a sort of twisted enlightenment, they're all there. But all of these things are cosmetic.

All of my film essays necessarily give away plot details; some more than others. This one is most decidedly on the more side. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

We Don't Go Back #70: Take Shelter (2011)

It's been a couple of weeks  since I've posted. Life got a bit complex, in ways both good and bad, and I needed to take a while to get back on the horse. So I'm starting again, now that half term is done, and, well start as you mean to go on, right? Let's talk about something scary.

The things that most frighten us are often very personal. I'm not going to bare my heart here, but I think it's fair to say that, while it's not really what I'd call a horror film, I found Jeff Nichols's 2011  Take Shelter terrifying.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Question in Bodies #5: eXistenZ (1999)

In Summer 1999, The Matrix came out, and that's pretty uncontroversially one of the most culturally significant films of the last two decades, if not the most.

The Matrix changed the way mainstream films were made and watched, and its iconography is a shorthand now for the campaigners in a war against everything that many of us, including, lest we forget, the makers of The Matrix itself, stand for. But as important as The Matrix is, the thing that it isn't is prescient.

As far as its relationship with culture goes, it's mainly a set of commonly scrambled symbols, part of our cultural lexicon. It's not half as profound or coherent  as it thinks it is, and its images, which are powerful, exciting images, are in fact sort of without any real anchors of meaning, and lend themselves to being appropriated by any number of functionally illiterate Agent Smiths. In hats. And that's how the world's most influential white supremacist can bang on with the rest of them about using the Red Pill and no one really goes, wait a minute here. But The Matrix, while absolutely a film that helped to get us where we are, was never a film that told us where we were going.

On the other hand, the second half of 1999 also gave us another VR Movie, David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, which did not gain an enormous following, did not transform cinema, and did not become part of the cultural lexicon. But of the two of them, it's eXistenZ that hasn't dated. While The Matrix looks now like the most 1999 film imaginable, eXistenZ is a film that feels like now.

Friday, 20 October 2017

We Don't Go Back #69: The Pied Piper (1972)

The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin was very much part of the fairy tale repertoire when I was a kid. I remember seeing Cosgrove Hall's animated adaptation as a kid, had at least one book of fairy tales that included a retelling, heard it at school. One of my dad's Prediction magazines had a typically unsettling piece (for a kid) about the history and folklore of the story (March 1982, "Who was the Pied Piper?"). Although it goes back to the fourteenth century, it was retold by the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning, among others, and so you'd think its entry in the canon is assured.

None of my children had heard of it before I asked them yesterday.

It isn't one of the stories they were told at school and thinking about it, of the multitude of fairy tales I read to my kids, or saw with them adapted on TV, it was absent. They know the stories of the Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, all present, all correct.

But no Pied Piper.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Catullus LXXXV

odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris?
nescio sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
— Catullus
It is the prerogative of first-time lovers
To claim yourselves the creators
Of the language of romance. I know that.
And yet, if in singing to uncomprehending Latins
About things that did really did not as yet have names,
If in locating the precise intersection
Of friendship, obligation and desire,
If in explaining what it is to find yourself
One of many and only one of many
And never more than one of many,
If in curdling inside and
Calling her obscene and calling worse things
And yet still closing my eyes and seeing
That full red lower lip, that cream-white throat,
Those soft pale upper arms around which
I could close my fingers without hurting her,
If in remembering her salt and wit and filthy lovely laugh,
If in being crucified across loathing and wanting
I failed to see that I was a true pioneer of heartbreaks,
What difference will it make?
You will be able to invent all these things yourselves
Perfectly well without me.