Yes Way (Maybe Way)

Eternals (Chloé Zhao, 2021)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts, 2021)
The Eyes of Tammy Bakker (Michael Showalter, 2021)

I’ve general felt the non-central Marvel adaptations were the best – or I liked a couple of the previous Spider-Man movies and the first Guardians of the Galaxy – but my patience in running short.

Eternals – which should be called Eternity – features a bunch of protecting the Earth superheroes who we haven’t previously been told about and some big bads which haven’t gone extinct after all. There’s some nice local colour of Camden Lock and they seem to have confused the Natural History Museum with the British Museum is Bleeding Obvious Sequel Easter Egg. One of the Eternals might be a baddy or not. You might even care. There’s some nice diversity, but I’d rather see Nomadland again.

Meanwhile, the third in a franchise often features the hero as the enemy – Superman vs. his Doppelganger and so on – but this Spider-Man goes the Three Doctors route. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been framed for murder and mayhem and decides that Dr Strange (Bongodrums Candypatch) can cast a spell to make every one forget his secret identity, so he can get into college. The spell goes wrong and ends up summoning Alfred Molina from career doldrums from a different universe. Then other big bads and then Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) show up. There’s a neat in-joke about Spider-Maguire’s bad back and he’s the last to done the suit – I thought he might have refused to wear it – and Garfield is as interesting as he always is. The moral and parable is as pointed as the rest of the re-reboot series and you can’t help but feel the whole film is a trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Garfield is much better, however, in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, although it feels as if Jim Carey has been cast as Prior Walter. By coincidence, an episode of Jon Ronson’s Things Fall Apart featured an episode with Steven Pieters, a gay minister living with HIV, whom Tammy Faye had featured on one of her televangelism shows and who is portrayed her, possibly a little anachronistically in the rise and fall of two of the most significant television preachers. Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) is a bundle of energy, seemingly always performing, wanting to spread the Word and sceptical of the patriarchal and homophobic philosophy of the flavours of Christianity around her, whilst being quite happy to embrace the trappings of wealth. These trappings are fraudulently taken – and the film is never quite clear how much she knows this. It plays her religion straight, although it might have been a reason to be accepted. Chastain is in every scene, if not every shot, and it is an Oscar worthy performance. We can’t quite follow through a suspicion that her husband is a closeted gay, but we do get to see that other preachers are using the Bakkers’ fall for their own ends. At times, it feels as if it could have been another GoodFellas, but Scorsese would have fetishized the period detail.

26 February 2022: Research Seminar

The School of Creative Arts and Industries at Canterbury Christ Church University warmly invites you to attend this research seminar led by Dr Andrew Butler. 

The session will be delivered in Ng07 on Wednesday 23 February at 12.30pm, and can also be joined online by clicking on the following link: https://eu.bbcollab.com/guest/c4fe72a2aef042ff82d790212a1d741a

‘Why Don’t You Go Home?’: The Folk Horror Revival in Contemporary Cornish Gothic Films 

The Folk Horror subgenre, focused on tensions between incomers and residents and modernity and tradition, has been revived in recent years, especially with Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. This paper will discuss Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019) and Make Up (Claire Oakley, 2020), both set in Cornwall – the former focusing on the tensions around Down From Londoners and the fishing community, the latter on a young woman visiting a holiday camp to be with her boyfriend. Like much Folk Horror, they push at the boundaries of genre, with differing attitudes to the incomers and the horror is more implicit than explicit, but Oakley seems to be drawing on the Rebecca paradigm of Daphne Du Maurier. Jenkin is moving into clearer Folk Horror territory with the forthcoming Enys Men

Flees Free

Flugt (Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, 2021)

Whilst animation tends to make us think of Disney, there’s a whole world of adult animation such as Persepholis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, 2007) and Waltz with Bashir (Aru Folman, 2008) from the documentary genre. Flee is an autobiographical account of “Amin Nawabi” confessing his life history to a friend (presumably Poher Ramussen) in Denmark and New York.

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Almost the Whole Hogg

Unrelated (Joanna Hogg, 2007)
Exhibition (Joanna Hogg, 2013)
The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, 2021)

It’s pretty rare for low budget independent movies to have sequels – Hogg’s The Souvenir is a rare exception.

Meanwhile, not being aware that it was getting an imminent release, I went back to earlier films.

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Kelly’s Eye

This is Tomorrow (Paul Kelly, 2007)
Finisterre (Paul Kelly and Kieran Evans, 2002)
What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (Paul Kelly, 2005)
Kelly + Victor (Kieran Evans, 2012)

So, Paul Kelly has made at least three documentaries with Saint Etienne, a musical beat combo whose work I confess I’m not familiar with, although I’ve listened to some since. And I suspect that means I’m missing something with Finisterre.

Of course, This is Tomorrow is mistitled, because it surely refers to the iconic exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956, featuring artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull, Richard Hamilton, and many more. Instead, it takes us back to the Festival of Britain in 1951, of which the Royal Festival Hall is one survivor. Designed by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew, compromises in building meant the acoustics were not as rich as they might have been. There was an attempt to improve this in 1964, followed by a major restoration and improvement between 2005 and 2007. The documentary shows the festival and then moves into an account of the work. I confess I was interested more in the former than the latter and it’s such a shame the Skylon was destroyed.

Having realised this was a loose trilogy, I then watched Finisterre, which includes extracts from The Shipping Forecast and music from the album by Saint Etienne. It’s a version of the City Symphony genre although, despite some really interesting shots and juxtapositions, doesn’t compare with Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1921) or Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (Walter Ruttmann, 1927). It’s a day in the life of the city, from 6.00am to 6.00am at Victoria Station, apparently also biographical of the band. I missed all this, but did like the snark about Camden.

Like This is Tomorrow, Mervyn was commissioned to be performed and screened in the Barbican, and is a depiction of the Lower Lea Valley, at around the time of the announcement of the 2012 Olympics. This coincided with the 7/7 bombing, which is brought in via snippets of news broadcasts. The trajectory depends on the wanderings of a paper boy, Mervyn Day (Noah Kelly, presumably the director’s son) on his rather extended paper route. David Essex and Linda Robson contribute as his grandfather and mother. Presumably his name is taken from a Leyton Orient footballer. It’s diverting enough, I learned a fair bit, and maybe needed to be watched alongside reading Iain Sinclair’s Sorry Meniscus (1999), about trying to walk to the Millennium Dome.

Kelly and Saint Etienne have since collaborated on How We Used to Live (2014), which I haven’t seen.

Evans, co-director of Finisterre, has also made a fiction film, Kelly + Victor, (apparently) loosely based on a novel of the same name by Niall Griffiths. Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris) meet at a club and go back to her place where they have violent sex in which she bites and chokes him. Kelly is a shopworker, who occasionally helps out her dominatrix friend, whilst Victor is a romantic who works on Liverpool dock and whose idea of a date is wandering around the Walker Gallery or Sefton Park.

I’m in.

Of course, this can’t end well, so it needs a bit of caution.

They Were Not Divided

Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928)
Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt/Carol (1952)

So, it turns out I bought these books on the same day, in April 2000, in High Wycombe I assume, and chose the last couple of days of 2021 to finally read them. Both are, for better or worse, foundational lesbian novels.

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The Art of Sex

Sequin in a Blue Room (Samuel Van Grinsven, 2019)
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (John Maybury, 1998)
Jumbo (Zoé Wittock, 2020)
Postcards from London (Steve McLean, 2018)
Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau (Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo, Theo and Hugo, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, 2016)

I think three of these films were distributed by Peccadillo Pictures, a distributor of gay-themed films of varying quality. These were at the better end of the scale, beginning with Sequin, the story of sixteen-year-old Sequin’s (Conor Leach) conflicting search for anonymous sex with older men and for the attractive man he met at the orgy at the private and mysterious The Blue Room. Unfortunately, one of his hook-ups is with B (Ed Wightman), who wants more than a one-night stand. The narrative mutates into something closer to thriller, but feels a bit disjointed. Unlike Théo & Hugo, there doesn’t seem to be any concern about HIV.

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Anyone for Denis?

Un 32nd Août sur terre ((August 32nd on Earth), Denis Villeneuve, 1998)

Maelström (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)

Incendies ((Fires) Denis Villeneuve, 2010)

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Québécois director Villeneuve has had a run of big budget sf blockbusters – Arrival (2016), Blade Runner (2017) and Dune Part One (2021) – of variable box office success and various level of my own disdain. Arrival seems to be scuppered by Sapir-Whorf nonsense, whereas the other two were unnecessary. Whilst Amy Adams is strong in Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 has less excuse for its misogyny than the original and a major female character in Dune doesn’t get to speak for the first three days of the running time. (Apparently she will be more prominent in Part Two.)

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Isn’t It Actually Fitzrovia?

Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, 2021)

Wright first came to prominence for me with the sitcom Spaced, working with Simon Pegg (and the fantastic Jessica Hynes/Stevenson), but I confess I’ve been a little less than methodical with his films. I largely enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Baby Driver, although had issues with the blokeiness of both. I blinked when The Sparks Brothers was released and still can’t decide if he made it all up.

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Mentioned in Dispatches

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Wes Anderson, 2021)

Anderson is a Marmite director and I confess to blowing a little hot and cold – I can’t help but admire the inventiveness and – like Jim Jarmusch and, formerly, Woody Allen, he gets a high octane cast. I just wonder if he doesn’t go too whimsical and self-indulgent.

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