Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Souvenir 2019

                 So for some this is the film of the moment, maybe the month or according to A.O.  Scott for him,  so far  it’s the film of the year.  I saw it the other day at the BAM and I have mixed feelings for it. I certainly found it intriguing and a challenge on many fronts and the director Joanna Hogg has made a film rich with visual treats and complex characters some of whom are difficult to like. The film is about a young woman, Julie played by Honor Swinton Byrne, who is Tilda Swinton’s  real life daughter and in the film they play mother and daughter. Julie is a lovely young woman, kind and giving and you are immediately taken with her. Tilda who is dressed down in tweed, sensible shoes and graying hair appears in only a few scenes but she is as usual mesmerizing especially in the close up of her near the end of the film as she tells her daughter some dreadful news.                    
           Julie is set up in a nice duplex in shinny bright London by well to do mom & dad and is going to  film school also financed by the parents. She wants to make movies about the real people, the down trodden and I thought that is noble, but naive of her, she wouldn’t know one of the down trodden if they came storming through her apartment and in a sequence one actually does. Hogg who has made a few other little movies sets her autobiographical memory movie in the early 80's and you know the period immediately upon seeing Julie tap tap taping away on her portable typewriter or talking on her land line.  It’s very clever and well played as is the look of the film.
           Each frame is tight, beautifully conceived and pretty, with intelligent use of space along with cropping of characters and objects, which play important secondary parts in the film, especially silly stuffed animals and monogrammed bedroom slippers. Hogg gives the viewer only so much information like the sequence where Julie and her lover (more about him later) take a quick trip to Venice and Hogg sets the scene using a beautiful foggy night shot of the city that just might take your breath away.
           In another scene in Venice Hogg only shows the train of Julie’s elegant gown as she climbs the stairs to a night at the opera. I know that the gown is elegant because I’ve seen a still of Julie and her Lover (more about him later) with her wearing the golden gown that must have been cut from the film. Hogg has a great eye for place and architecture whether it be a detailed room in her apartment or a cropped image of a building across the street or a fussy old fashioned dinning room in Harrods or the fabulous estate and surrounding land of her parent’s or a cracked wall length mirror.  
                When she’s not at school Julie hangs out with her hip friends at her duplex and even allows a few of them to live upstairs rent free. That's her nod to helping the poor I guess. A lot of the dialogue is muddled and low, the dense Brit. accents don't help either, maybe this was done on purpose to make us pay close attention to what is being said and done.   Julie is shy, needy and sweet and takes up with a guy, the wrong guy which is the big crack in the film and her life. I half expected a neon sign to start flashing “No good Julie big problem.”

We know early on that Anthony played by Tom Burke is no good, he is unappealing in every way including his looks, but more important than his looks is his lack of honor. He is a liar, a thief and a drug addict which Julie should have seen a mile away but she falls for him anyway, and I kept thinking why?  Their affair moves from casual to intense and the sense of dread and doom hangs over it in sad and irreversible ways, it ends badly. As I said I didn’t love the film, but I would recommend it anyway because it is demanding and calls out for attention.  I might have to see it again when it comes to DVD, as It has stayed with me, so maybe that is better than my loving it.



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