Hey there! I hope you’re all having a fab week. First of all, apologies for being so inactive recently – I’m currently moving house and was away on holiday last week and have in general been suuuuper busy but I’m ready to get everything up and running again. I may even edit together some clips from my holiday and post them here. Who knows?
This week’s feature is from one of my favourite films of all time. La Haine (Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995, France) follows three young men travelling through the banlieues in France. It touches on subjects such as class injustice, police brutality and racial profiling.
The narrative shook me to my core but it is the incredible work of Pierre Aïm (cinematographer) that caused this film to steal my heart. As a film with an unconventionally slow pace and little dialogue at times, the shots throughout truly help to speak volumes as to how the characters are feeling and how they experience the world around them.
The infamous ‘zolly’ shot (as shown above) is iconic due to the skill it takes and the message it portrays. The (sometimes referred to) ‘Vertigo effect’ is achieved by a wide angle zoom lens, a steady zoom and a dolly. The result is a poetic expression of how these three men who have made their way to Paris feel as though there is a strong disconnect between themselves and the city. All of these characters, none of which are simply French, feel isolated in their own country due to their low class background and different ethnicities.
What other shots do you like from this film? Are there any films you would like to see featured? Comment below!
In light of the recent Academy Awards and the general under-appreciation of cinematography I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the art. For myself, cinematography is the aspect of cinema that draws me in the most. Cinematography, when done well, can provoke emotion, further develop the story and inspire the audience in so many ways.
Professional cinema image-taking should integrate, serve, interest, and enhance the story. I judge cinematography not just for a story well told but for what the story is.
– Haskell Wexler
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I feel like it’s only right to start with one of the films that always sticks in my mind simply because it’s jampacked with beautiful shots. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2004, USA) tells the heart-wrenching tale of two lovers who have erased each other from their memories and the journey that they then take together after they meet again. It dives deeply into matters such as emotional vulnerability and connecting with others and the shots taken by the incredible Ellen Kuras echo this.
Let me know what you think of the shots from this film and if you have any requests for future features!
I spend an embarrassing amount of time on Netflix aimlessly scrolling, adding new films to my list or rewatching the same series I have already seen a thousand times (I’m looking at you, Drag Race). So when I saw the trailer for Velvet Buzzsaw I was super excited – a genre-bending, Jake Gyllenhaal-led satire film written and directed by Dan Gilroy – what’s not to love? I’m a massive fan of Nightcrawler so naturally, I had high hopes for this release.
Velvet Buzzsaw follows various characters in the contemporary world of art in Los Angeles, including art critique Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), an intriguing man with a great deal of influence in his field and Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), owner of the Haze Gallery. Morf feels unsatisfied in his relationship with his current boyfriend Ed (Sedale Threatt Jr.), and rekindles his previous attachment to Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who works for Rhodora.
Everyone seems to be discontent with present collections and are on the hunt for the next big thing. This is when Josephina discovers a man called Vetril Dease who lived in her building has died – she enters his home to discover thousands of paintings. As Josephina begins to release his work to the eye’s of the public, strange things start happening. Anyone that attempts to profit from or act greedy in any way due to Dease’ work ends up dying under mysterious circumstances – the art starts to come to life to kill anyone who has done wrong morally, sometimes causing all evidence of the person’s death to disappear.
Pretty cool concept, right? All in all, it follows the classic horror narrative of being punished for sin, making it fairly predictable. Dease’s ‘spirit’ acts as the force that deems the guilty few to be punished and decides their fate. One by one, the profit-hunters are picked off by Dease’s art (or his ‘spirit’ seems to embody other artwork such as the Sphere and the Hoboman) – even when Morf realises the danger and warns everyone.
Morf starts to head towards a mental breakdown and becomes haunted by the negative reviews he’s written and how he has harshly critiqued these different artists’ work. He becomes more aware of the damage he has caused and feels guilty, although is still deemed sinful and he is killed when the Hoboman is brought to life by Dease’s ‘spirit’. Rhodora seems to narrowly avoid death, however, just before the credits her tattoo of her old band ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ comes to life and kills her, taking his final victim. Is the ‘spirit’ finally satisfied?
These underlying themes of greed and paying the price for acting in a selfish manner, especially displayed in the world of art, strongly shone through, working to subtly comment on how artforms and creative expressions that are so pure and passionate are drained for profit and celebrated for all the wrong reasons. Originally created as a outlet to reflect on Dease’s abuse-filled childhood and bad mental health struggles, his artwork was always meant to be destroyed and was never intended to be sold for fame or fortune. His ‘spirit’ seems set on punishing those who have forgotten the purity and hard work that goes into artistic expression – Dease literally painted with his own blood. If that doesn’t prove a point (and make you feel a little uncomfortable) I don’t know what will. His legacy and body of work act a symbol for the passionate artist, unfit and too vulnerable for such a superficial world. John Malkovich’s character Piers also symbolises this belief. An artist who hasn’t created anything ‘show-stopping’ in years and is now seen as less important and less worthy of attention because of this – expression should be for the self. This is amplified during the credits where we see him on the beach drawing patterns in the sand only for them to be washed away – he is creating simply to create, not to be observed.
Also, the role of the critic is touched upon with Morf’s character. I can only assume this stems from Gilroy’s own experiences in the public eye, having your work torn apart (whoops, sorry) without true thought of its consequences. Through this I can sense the drive for celebrating the creation of art simply just to create and not to be analysed and placed value on. I find this take and exploration about expression truly intriguing and powerful, however, part of me feels as though more could have been done to really push the message within the narrative. Using such a limiting skeleton for the plot I believe hindered the impact this film could’ve truly had.
To describe my viewing in one word? Underwhelmed. Some of the characterisation was enticing and the general concept was edgy, however, the weight of the narrative didn’t pull it over the finish line for me. Some themes that were touch upon like greed and harsh critiquing (which is now hilariously ironic) I enjoyed but it just felt as though something was missing. My understanding with Dan Gilroy, from this piece and Nightcrawler is that he enjoys a darker side to realism, where the events and chaos that have occurred suddenly seems to disappear as life all around us continues and I can see that through his work. I just wish he’d taken the surrealist elements that step further to amplify the message.
Velvet Buzzsaw is available to stream on Netflix now
As a 19 year old woman I guess you could say I’ve had my fair share of interesting encounters with various men. ‘Various’ being the key word here – by that, no I don’t mean ‘all’ men, I’m not complaining about the gender as a whole but there are some topics that I’ve just got to discuss. I’ve dated, slept with, been gawked at by, got touched up, been catcalled, been encouraged to get drunk (and therefore less in control of my actions), ‘fucked and chucked’ by a wide range of men (and some women, but we’ll get to that). Most of these experiences were from ages 16 to now, and as I get further and further away from the young, insecure, vulnerable girl I was then, the more pissed off I seem to get.
I never really thought much of my appearance as a ‘tween’ and throughout school – I was pretty geeky, I went through an emo phase, I wasn’t a size 6 or a makeup artist so the whole idea of being looked at and judged was a lot for me. Everyone knows puberty is tough and even though I didn’t realise it then I was properly under construction, and having to go through that process surrounded by judgemental teenagers is pretty shit. I felt as though I didn’t have a lot going for me and thought very little of myself – not many guys at my school seem interested so I looked elsewhere. And you know who can smell insecure teenage girls a mile off? OLDER BOYS.
Yep, that’s right. Being insecure and naive apparently makes a girl perfect prey for any lonely older boys (who, let’s face it, can’t get girls their own age)*. As someone who’s never been shown much attention by boys before, the bar is set suuuper low, a perfect opportunity for these lonely lads to swoop in and give this innocent gal a bit of attention in return for some sexy times. With no history of sexual experiences, no knowledge of consent and the fear of disappointing the boy showing an interest, who can blame a girl for being unaware of what was really happening.
Oh, what I would give to go back and protect younger me from the (toxic) life lessons I was about to learn. Fellas; feeding off a young girls insecurity just so you can get laid is super fucked up and I KNOW your mum didn’t raise you like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had similar experiences with girls. At 16 I had barely had much experience with guys let alone consider having these feelings and experiences with girls (oh honey just you wait) but the story doesn’t change. When being looked at as a sexual object is new to you it’s a bit intimidating and it’s easy to be made to feel uncomfortable. I would meet older girls for the first time and they would immediately comment on my looks and express interest – cheers for the compliment boo – but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I literally felt like a piece of meat and because this was all new to me, I just accepted this was how you were meant to feel. Is this what teenagers did? Because I wasn’t crazy about the lack of consideration for how I felt.
If you relate, I feel for you. Honestly, I do. If you don’t you may think I’m being dramatic and I’m sure I wouldn’t be if this wasn’t how girls seem to be raised and treated in the past, in the present and hopefully not in the future. Girls are brought up being told that their looks are everything, and their worth is based on how much attention they get. For some reason, possibly because of how they’ve been raised, these boys (and girls) think it’s ok to get what they want without a care for if that person feels comfortable or respected. Not cool, guys. This shit can be damaging and when someone is new to the world of sex and being intimate with others it can shape the way they think and the kind of behaviour they accept from people. I cannot stress the importance of consent and making sure the person you’re interested in doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Time to stop thinking with your genitals and start using your brains.
*Please note I’m only being super sassy to lighten the mood and probably as you can tell this topic gets me a bit riled up, sorry not sorry xoxo
I was inspired to touch upon this issue because of a poem I wrote a couple years ago – I had no exact topic in mind at the time but when I had finished it it seems to capture how these experiences made me feel. Now, I am more informed, more confident and more aware than ever of the importance of respect for one another. My body is my own and I don’t owe anyone shit just because they give me attention, and no one should be made to feel that way.
For support and advice on some sensitive topics discussed here are some sites I’d recommend:
I’ve been intrigued by Black Mirror and its themes since it began. Through the topics discussed within the show it invites us (or somewhat forces us) to look inward at ourselves, our morals and our behaviour. Each episode is a stand-alone story, reflecting on the society humanity has created and the dangers that lie ahead if we utilise technology in a perilous way.
Their first ever interactive film, Bandersnatch, has caught a large amount of attention from the public due to this new concept that allows you to choose your own fate. Every few minutes you get given two choices (e.g. Frosties or Sugar Puffs) and ten seconds to click a choice – the path your storyline goes down is solely up to the choices made by the viewer, some choices having larger significance than others. There are over five main endings and at every dead end there is the chance to revisit the last important choice or to restart completely. The variety of these choices makes us question how much free will is given regarding the viewer and the protagonist’s actions – we’ll be looking more at that later.
The film follows Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a young video game programmer in 1984, who is undergoing the creation of a choose-your-own-adventure game ‘Bandersnatch’, based off a book of the same name. The book is written by Jerome F. Davies whose detoreation of sanity results in him cutting his wife’s head off. Something is telling me this isn’t going to end well…
Stefan visits Tuckersoft, a successful video game company to pitch his idea where he meets Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), his favourite programmer. At face value we are presented with an oddball video game programmer but he seems to become a mentor of Stefan’s from the second he meets him. He seeks to understand Stefan and give him advice – if the viewer declines the offer to work at Tuckersoft Colin agrees that working alone is more beneficial.
He also has this all-knowing presence as well – if Stefan chooses to accept the offer straight away, Colin says “wrong path” and the story loops back to the previous decision again. He appears to be aware of the parallel realities and existing within the loop – every time the story restarts the clip of Stefan meeting Colin now shows him saying “we’ve met before” which is untrue other than through the looping of the story.
Stefan is presented as a rather passive character and seems to hate feeling watched and reviewed. His uncertainty and lack of sense of self is evident from the start, as he mentions talking to his therapist (Alice Lowe) that he feels ‘monitored’ and out of control of his choices (I wonder why). This portrayal of anxiety and low self esteem makes us sympathise with Stefan, and his self aware nature begins to change the tone of the film, making the viewer feel more uncomfortable and concerned as to whether he will discover the audience.
In Stefan’s first session with his therapist is where we discover (if you choose to talk about it) what happened to his mother and this leads to the only opportunity where you don’t get given a choice – (possibly due to it being a flashback) this immediately takes away this idea of free will and choice. Stefan’s five year old self’s stubborn decision has dire consequences – is this why he can’t trust his own judgement? This loss has led to a life of uncertainty over his choices and actions – perhaps this is why he is so intrigued by Bandersnatch and being able to have control over other people’s choices and storylines (ironically, but hey, that’s Black Mirror for you). His mother ends up getting on a later train than originally planned (that derails) because Stefan can’t find his beloved rabbit toy that his father (Craig Parkinson) has hidden – his whole life he blames his dad due to his own overwhelming guilt.
After deciding to work from home to create Bandersnatch, Stefan slowly becomes overwhelmed with programming. This, of course being a Black Mirror piece, acts as a warning of technology and its capabilities – the new innovative software causes Stefan’s mental health to deteriorate. He begins to disconnect from the real world and focuses on nothing but completing the Bandersnatch game. He becomes so consumed in the story and the structure that he starts to believe that he too is on a set path. He begins to lose all sense of control and self.
There is the choice to go back to Colin’s house to seek support and advice where he offers Stefan a tab of acid – if the viewer decides against taking the tab Colin slips it into his cup of tea anyway and remarks that he ‘chose for him’. During their trip Colin discusses a ‘spirit’ controlling us and how PAC man is a reflection of society – he is ‘programmed and controlled’ and can only consume looping round and round in small circuits, pursued by demons. Stefan is living his life in the format of a video game, a never-ending loop that he is trapped in.
Colin gifts Stefan a taped documentary to watch on Jerome F. Davies’ life and his spiral into insanity – Stefan becomes paranoid, as Davies did, that he is being controlled and drugged and begins to question his own free will. The documentary explains how Davies believed he had no control over his fate therefore suggesting his actions were guilt-free if his fate was dictated for him. Stefan, having always been haunted by guilt since he was five ends up (if the viewer chooses to) killing his father – the choice is perceived as not his to choose. He obeys but appears to do so with restraint, yelling that he’s “not in control”.
One of the endings shows Stefan talking about the finished result of Bandersnatch, discussing the stripping back of loads of choice giving the illusion of free will and stresses how he gets to decide the ending – does this suggest a switch around in power play? We, the viewer, have been perceived as the more authoritative part of the game, however the illusion of free will is being reflected onto us, giving the whole experience and story a deeper level to it. Did Stefan always have the intention to kill? Is the whole film a piece of video game software that he has created?
Whether Stefan decided his fate or not, it doesn’t have a happy ending.
Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch is available to stream on Netflix now
We are used to seeing drug abuse glamorised in the media – from Hollywood celebrities throwing extravagant parties and sniffing cocaine to rappers bragging about being rich and taking pills, but the topic of addiction and the reflection of people’s reasoning to partake is more important now than ever. Drug abuse and addiction is spoken about and experienced by celebrities and everyday people, making it seriously relevant and cause for concern at this time. Expressing these problems and keeping the conversation around it alive and present isn’t easy, however, some creators can give this topic the depth it needs to captivate their audience and strike a chord.
Film is such an intriguing medium as it can be used as a window into someone else’s life, the average person like you or me, and explore these issues that many of us face. Various films touch on occasional experimental drug use, coming of age stories like The Perks of Being a Wallflower where Charlie has a weed brownie (unknowingly) but many don’t dive so deep as Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream. These portrayals go above and beyond to tell stories of true hardships and explore the nature of addiction.
Set in the dog days of the Tory government, Trainspotting follows a very atypical group to be portrayed in cinema; ‘underclass’ heroin addicts in an economically depressed area of Edinburgh. Renton, our antihero, discusses those who partake as doing it simply for the pleasure, “take the best orgasm you’ve ever had, times it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near”. When you’re a junkie all you need to worry about is scoring as opposed to paying bills, having a relationship, being a functioning member of society – this rejection of society’s norms could be a reflection of the youth culture at the time. Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel of the same name was created at a time where the presence of nostalgia, consumption and this idea of a lost generation was apparent. This being said, Renton still attempts to quit – after his ‘final hit’ he has aggressive diarrhoea in the ‘worst toilet in Scotland’, fully disclosing and reminding the audience how unglamorous drugs can be.
Drug abuse is never without tragedy, and Trainspotting is a harsh portrayal of the pain it causes – most harrowing of which is Allison’s baby Dawn dying due to neglect, met with her begging Renton for a hit to suppress the pain. Taking heroin is now portrayed as self-destructive and a form of escapism from reality, similarly with Tommy who starts to partake after a breakup and loses his life to AIDS through the sharing of needles – this all allows the group to reflect on the severity of their actions. They’re fully aware of the damage it can cause.
Requiem for a Dream explores four different characters battles with addiction, desire and a pursuit of a dream – similarly to Trainspotting it closely follows heroin junkies doing what they can to score and the tragedy their addiction causes. However, the parallel story of Sara Goldfarb, mother of one of the addicts, is heartbreaking. After her husband passes, she becomes obsessed with being on a television game show and begins to take uppers to lose weight, attempting to live up to society’s standards. This portrayal of addiction to prescribed drugs removes the binary conventions of good and bad drugs and allows us to think deeper into what causes addiction. This technique almost normalises drug addiction, travelling from heroin (one of the most addictive illegal drugs ever) to diet pills which anyone can access over-the-counter. Requiem for a Dream makes you question the difference between these two addictions, and re-evaluate how the addicts themselves appear in your eyes. The heroin addicts are immediately deemed more sinful and the lonely house-wife is pitied, even though they are all suffering from the same illness. The fairness of this evaluation is challenged.
Sara takes the pills so she can live in her own fantasy, stopping her from facing true reality and coming to terms with how lonely she has become. Her fix has become a companion, a friend – her addiction caused by isolation and her desperation to feel valued and surrounded by love and approval, all of which she is lacking. Her reliance on the pills to ignore reality is destructive and pushes her further away from real people, making it harder to connect. All characters end up losing something due to their addiction – a relationship, a limb, their sanity – leaving them an empty shell of their former selves.
These are the groups in society that people do not wish to be reminded of and are pushed aside, however, the issues raised through these stories are painfully relevant and help to reduce stereotypes of those who become reliant on drugs. These films all humanise addicts by telling the realness of drug abuse through the most captivating characters, a sobering reminder of the heartache it causes. Drug abuse is used to fill a void in your life due to feeling discontent or lacking hope in reality but these films help bring awareness to these matters – don’t let your fix become a friend.
Hello to everyone who has stumbled across my page – here are where all of my thoughts live. Whether it’s a film I apparently have a lot of thoughts about or a social issue I wanna shed light on or even some top tips and daily motivation (we all need it from time to time) it’ll probably end up here. So kick back, get a cup of tea (or beverage of your choice) and party on, Wayne.