Category: gender


CAROL directed by Todd Haynes (USA, 2015)

carol_film_posterI borrowed this film from my local lending library in Cesena, Italy. This excellent ‘mediateca’,  somewhat anachronistically, continues to maintain a healthy stock of old and new DVDs.

In a card inside the case of more recent acquisitions you are invited to write what you think of the movie: “Lascia un commento, potresti convincere qulache indeciso” (Leave a comment – it may convince others who are undecided).

For Carol, there is just one review which (translated from Italian) states that it is “the story of an upper class woman who destroys the life of her husband and, not content with this, also ruins the life of a poor young working woman. All this in the name of a presumed sexual liberation. A film of homosexual propaganda”.

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The offending review of ‘Carol’.

This blinkered and spiteful reading of Todd Haynes’ elegant and intelligent movie illustrates that, despite some encouraging advances in LGBT rights, this is no time for complacency. Continue reading

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SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE directed by Steven Soderberg (USA, 1989)

sex & lies“All life is sex. All sex is competition”. James Spader’s line comes from a cameo appearance the US sitcom The Office but could easily stand as a tagline for his captivating lead performance as Graham Dalton in Sex, Lies And Videotape.

This independent movie had a huge impact when it was first released and watching it again , almost three decades on, I was struck about how it still holds up for its bravery, integrity and originality.

The themes of sexuality, fidelity and gender politics remain as relevant now as they did in 1989. Indeed, these issues are arguably even more significant in the wake of the plethora of #metoo related stories and Trump’s brazen capacity for lying. Digital technology would now replace videotape but everything else about the story rings true.

The film deals with the notoriously delicate topic of sex with a liberating degree of frankness and maturity. This is all the more remarkable given that Soderberg was only 26 when he wrote and directed it. He’s made some decent movies since but the audacity and boldness of youth still makes his debut his best work.

Significantly, there are no explicit sex scenes. Soderbach’s stated aim was that of challenging mainstream audiences with ideas rather than with nudity. Continue reading

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins, 2017)

eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine-original-imaeufdjggmjv38wIt pays to increase your word power. I remember seeing this slogan many moons ago in a newspaper advertisement promoting a distance learning course aimed at those who frequently feel tongue-tied or inarticulate in social situations.

The promise was that a wider vocabulary would lead to greater self-confidence and would provide a vital step towards overcoming feelings of inadequacy.

The premise sounds persuasive enough but, as the fictional character of the 30-year-old Eleanor Oliphant shows, it takes more than precise elocution and fancy wordplay to win friends and influence people.

If anything, these factors make Eleanor more alone as she’s universally viewed as a freak of nature. She’s a woman who has learned to live with her scars both imaginary and actual. Her condition is summarised in the extended epigraph to the novel taken from Olivia Laing’s ‘The Lonely City’ which notes that “the lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents”. Continue reading

DUNKIRK Try to contain your excitement but it’s almost Oscars night again!

This year, the Academy will doubtless be relieved if the ceremony passes without a hitch and that it makes the headlines for all the right reasons.

After spectacularly goofing up the best film award last year and being under the shadow of the Weinstein-related sex scandals, the spotlights in 2018 will be about as comforting as interrogation lamps.

Under this kind of intense public scrutiny, the stakes are high. Political correctness used to be routinely ridiculed but is now the order of the day and woe betide those who step or speak out of line. Continue reading

1966 – The Year The Decade Exploded by Jon Savage (Faber & Faber, 2015)

1966“It’s pretty obvious that contemporary music reflects contemporary life. And vice versa” wrote Tony Hall in Record Mirror in 1966. What is taken for granted now needed to be spelled out then.

Nevertheless, there are still precious few writers who able to contextualize music as expertly as Jon Savage.

When writing about Punk in 2004’s ‘England’s Dreaming’, Savage was able to draw directly from his own experiences but, as he was just 13 years old in the Summer of 1966, he is not able to rely solely on first-hand knowledge for this book. The 55 pages of source references illustrate the substantial research that lies behind this authoritative and illuminating study.

I was just 8 years old in that year so I remember even less than he does but I do recall the impact of some TV shows (e.g. Batman, The Monkees, Time Tunnel etc.) and music like The Beatles, the Motown acts and Dusty Springfield. But as far as historical events go, only England winning the soccer world cup sticks in the memory.

Most articles about the sixties paint a superficial and idealised portrait of swinging London, sexual liberation and the birth of the Woodstock generation. Savage goes deeper and reveals the darker aspects of this era and shows that it has definite parallels with the world we inhabit today.

Far from being a time of hedonism and freedom, this was a year lived under the shadow of the atom bomb and the cold war. In addition, the black civil rights movement, growing opposition to the Vietnam war, the demand for women’s liberation and the struggle for gay rights were just some of the causes that led to politicization of the youth both in America and in the UK. Add LSD to this heady cocktail and it’s easy to understand why this year was so musically explosive and accounts for how “1966 began in pop and ended with rock”. Continue reading

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