Thursday, 6 June 2019

Sydney Film Festival (5) - Barrie Pattison reviews THE SOUVENIR (Joanna Hogg, UK, 2018) and mentions ANIMATION AFTER DARK

Yes, it’s Sydney Film Festival time. 

Who else would throw a roof over The Souvenir. It belongs to the tradition of Brief Encounter, the Terence Davies trilogy and Hunger. It's so British I guess Tilda Swinton has got to be in it but it’s a bit much to find this one is made by her school chum Joanna Hogg and stars her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne.

Briefly, in what we are told is the early eighties (I.R.A. bombs, sixteen millimeter film, manual typewriters but not the street scenes, traffic and costumes to clue us in) young Swinton Byrne is found renting out a room in her Knightsbridge flat (“I’m a terrible landlord”) and among her film school chums discussing the underprivileged as subject matter. “I think we’re all as real as each other.”

Into her life comes toff Tom Burke who claims to do top secret stuff for the Foreign Office and pays for snacks at his club by personal cheque. In easy stages they become a couple. He brings her back suspender belt undies from Paris and borrows money from her, claiming he can’t reveal why he had to burgle her flat in the interests of National Security. Coming home with the flu she finds a half dressed stranger in the place and that winds that up. 

She continues with her student production of which we see only shots of her lead actress on a stool. Burke goes through a nasty withdrawal as Swinton Byrne watches and, after a fling with a willing skin head and Burke’s spell in rehab, she takes him back into her home and her bed. Those of us familiar with these elements know that’s not going to work out. Sure enough mum Tilda will advise “The Worst.” 

Joanna Hogg
The pace is solemn. The nearest they come to a sex scene is a montage of peeling stockings off legs with austere music. Most of the film is uninteresting wide shots set in a replica flat where we can see Hogg’s blown up old photos of the real life setting of her story through the windows, spaced by jarring inserts. 

I never encountered a British film school with well-behaved students listening carefully to their instructor before tasking with the tidily stored gear. Where did supplier Jonathon Ware find that cool desk top editor anyway?

There is a certain interest is watching the piece creep on to its unremarkable ending in the hope of finding revelation but instead we get our heroine taking time out from her student film to look at the camera pensively.

They say part two is on the way. 

Also had a look at the Animation after Dark program - much bat children being consumed by fecal matter. Ones that actually had some kind of plot like the Australian Eat Beef (cops persecute Vegans) or the Slavonic Putka (industrialised crap eating) had the edge over the more abstract items which tended to merge despite their striking imagery. One at a time these are substantial individual works but together they leave you missing Donald and Mickey or at least Ren and Stimpy. It's a pity there isn't more documentation on them.

Forthcoming screenings of The Souvenir

Saturday 8 June 9.30 am State
Friday 14 June 6.15 pm Orpheum Cremorne
Sunday 16 June 4.45 Ritz Randwick (SOLD OUT)

Australian Distributor - Universal Pictures International Australasia

No further screenings for Animation After Dark 

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