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.

Unrelated, it has to be said, feels like a rip off of Archipelago, although obviously she made this first. We have the comfortable middle class family on holiday abroad (Tuscany rather than Tresco, which admittedly isn’t entirely abroad), with a woman – Anna (Kathryn Worth) – on the mobile phone to a partner she seems likely to break up with. We have a young Tom Hiddleston (a son, Oakley), not yet a star. We have nonprofessional actors. We have rich people with problems and sexual tensions. Hogg’s habit of fixing a camera and have her actors walk into or out of frame for several minutes is already there. We have to work to fill in the gaps – and I think it is worth doing so. I couldn’t quite work out whose children were whose, but

Exhibition casts musician Viv Albertine as D and artist Liam Gillick as H, a childless and not entirely happily married artist couple who live in a modernist apartment in Kensington (James Melvin’s 60 Hornton Street, sadly demolished). D is working on a major exhibition and H, at the other side of the apartment and the intercom, is working on… well, it’s not clear what, but it seems to involve a lot of stuff at his computer. Meanwhile, they are selling the apartment, allowing for a cameo from Hiddleston (and Harry Kershaw, also in Unrelated). They are trapped in their marriage, in their apartment and in their attempts at creativity. They are separated by sliding doors, spiral staircases and glass window – almost as if the house is haunted by … something … especially when H stands silently outside and looks in at D. There is next to no music – the street sounds, including road works, are increasingly intrusive. This is cringe comedy for adults.

The Souvenir Part II is also haunted and haunting, haunted by Anthony (Tom isn’t that Dylan Moran? Burke). Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is recovering from the relationship and at one point it looks as the souvenir is a baby. She moves between the painful sympathy of her parents (the radiant but for once looking her age Tilda Swinton and nonprofessional actor but brilliant James Spencer Ashworth) and the painful, seemingly all-male, tutors at film school. Julie struggles to make her graduation film about her affair, as the cast, crew and tutors raise the sort of objections I did to the first film. It’s so meta, especially in the last two or three minutes. The camera is almost frenetic in comparison to the earlier films, the cutaways to flowers less Jarmanesque. Highlights include Swinton’s discovery of pottery making – with a jaw dropping moment – and Ayoade’s foul-mouthed, nervous-breakdown suffering film director. I’m guessing he’s making a film rather like Absolute Beginners – which fits the films rather vague sometime in the 1980s location. (Later, we see the Berlin Wall come down.) He steals every scene he’s in. I was a little sniffy about the cliché of portrait of the director as a young —- in the first film, but Hogg gets away with it.

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