Whole Hog on Hogg

I’ve now watched all four of Joanna Hogg’s films. Here they are from most recent to oldest:

The Souvenir 2019
Exhibition 2013
Archipelago 2010
Unrelated 2007 originally, made a USA splash in 2014

And here’s what I have to say first. It’s a sad state of affairs, when lesser movies like Assayas’ Non-Fiction get more local attention than a masterpiece like The Souvenir. Specifically, trendy artsy conversations (as in Non-Fiction, vindicated by a favorite film podcast movies.imo as intellectual masturbation and also by the film God Martin Scorsese who was executive producer of The Souvenir) some how trumps heroin amongst a similar bourgeois population.
It’s not that something wicked has to befall wealthy people, yet without a conflict, (in Non-Fiction, they’re all cheating on each other except for the emotionally abusive character) a movie doesn’t really resonate. Again, to agree with the imo movies men, the characters in Non-Fiction are forgettable.

Now I sound like someone on the Democratic panel last night moaning about current digression rather than talk about the positive.
Despite my defending The Souvenir, it’s not my favorite of the four Hogg films, though second is nothing to feel remorse over. In the top spot would be her first film “Unrelated” which stars a very young Tom Hiddleston (26) (who Hogg uses in roles both big and small in all but The Souvenir) and Kathryn Worth. In this film, Worth is the fifth, no make that seventh wheel of a family on vacation in Sicily. Without spoiling this (you can watch it on VuDu for free), Worth is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis and Hiddleston is a young and restless youth corrupting the morals of the nuclear family’s young adults.

What’s delicious about all of Hogg’s movies is she’s a reliable artist where you’ll find all of these trinkets in every film:
closing doors
phone conversations
wind in trees, long winding paths
boisterous shots juxtaposed with quiet nature
lying prostate
the theme of disconnection or search for true self

If you’ve never seen a Hogg film, seek one out, they’re meditative voyeuristic compelling features that may annoy you at the beginning, but I dare you to walk away from there deep magnetism.

Roger Ebert “Life Itself”

I tend toward constant vacillation (and I say that chagrined, not bragging) so I really wanted to see Life Itself when the doc news was first revealed. But typically, in the lag time between announcing and screening, I started to dread the gruesome medical procedure discussed by the director on an NPR feature.

Yet, I am so glad I went anyways. Part of what drew me was Ebert’s insistence to have Steve James direct due to his love of James’s Hoop Dreams from 1995. While James made the map most recently with The Interrupters in 2011, he is not the most famous director to choose for your walk off the planet life story.

But as proof to Ebert’s keen expertise Life Itself is gorgeously organized and filmed! While I never want to to ruin the surprise elements of anecdotes, I think telling my strongest epiphany won’t be a ‘spoiler’.

Anyone in the 29th year of the same career (23 years in the same building, a vindication to my self-deprecating vacillation intro) certainly has a touch of jaded cynicism. I still love my students and obsess about ways to help them learn, but this documentary reminded me that my encouragement, like Roger Ebert’s was to Scorsese, can be life altering to anyone at life’s crucial tipping point. In fact, we can each be kind mentors to each other, encouraging creativity and nurturing confidence.

According to the film’s recent Scorsese interview, Scorsese went through a rather cocaine infused confidence crisis in the 80’s. Ebert’s faith in him and his insistence that Scorsese go with him to the Toronto Film Fest during this dark period, saved Scorsese’s career.

I actually hope to buy the dvd for Christmas gifts, if the sale date coincides with the holidays. Roger Ebert’s evolution from selfish writer to ‘pay it forward’ Buddha is truly heroic.

Sophie Fienne’s Documentary “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology”

What’s not to like about Slavoj’s Zizek’s “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology” (available on Netflix) which had its Rochester, New York premier at the majestic George Eastman House Dryden Theater on May 17th?
And yet how do I impart the vast knowledge that Sociology and Psychology Scholar Zizek imparted in his two hour plus documentary? Perhaps this Zizek quote may give you the flavor of the man’s manifesto:
“I am a pessimist in the sense that we are approaching dangerous times. But I’m an optimist for exactly the same reason. Pessimism means things are getting messy. Optimism means these are precisely the times when change is possible.”

In appearance and speech Zizek vaguely resembles a Werner Herzog on amphetamines, reporting with a twitchy kinetic energy that makes the movie fly by, but that also makes you wish you could slow down to 33 and 3rd rpms.slavoj zizek

Morsels gleaned as they skimmed by me like skipping stones:
Movies can be viewed as metaphor for our basic fear and Freudian needs. An example of the former was Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) with the great white shark representing United States’ fear of Cuba.
The latter example exemplified by Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) in which the three floors represent man’s id (basement), ego (first floor) and super ego (2nd floor).

Last Zizek made an interesting case that atheism is a much kinder and gentler belief system, given the torture, human sacrifice, and twisted interpretations Christianity and other theologies espouse. For this theory, Zizek cunningly wove in clips of The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988).

While this all sounds quite heady, Zizek wrote the screenplay with humor, putting himself into the scenery of the films mentioned, prone on a dilapidated apartment twin bed during a talk about DeNiro in Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) or clad in a monk’s frock for The Sound of Music clips (Wise, 1965). His sardonic view gave the viewer the spoonful of sugar enabling us to entertain the intellectual medicine. Kudos to Zizek and director Sophie Fiennes for a fine doc! sophie fiennes