Sunday, December 5, 2021

In “Souvenir Part II” the epic ends on a human scale.

NEW YORK (AP) – Joanna Hogg first had the instinct to film her then relationship with her first heroin addict – a traumatic and formative time that coincided with her coming of age as a director – in 1979. …

Then she did not feel able to take on something so ambitious and personal. Instead, her career turned into television. It wasn’t until Hogg turned 47 that she decisively returned to cinema. After creating three well-received features, Hogg felt like she was finally ready.

The result – “Memento”, which Hogg filmed in two parts, filmed two years apart – is stunning. A magnificent work of memory and autobiography “Souvenir” (the second part of which a24 opens in cinemas Friday ) captures a skilled filmmaker using all his accumulated skills to return to his early, half-formed life as a young filmmaker in the midst of his self-discovery.

“I was surprised to make both of these films because I remembered more than I thought,” Hogg said in a recent interview from London. (Fellini was written on her Zoom window.) “Sometimes you just need to focus on a particular moment in time, and then something pops up. I would not say this before the trial, because I did not believe that it was possible. I thought you remember what you remember, that there is no way to recover the memory. ”

“But I think you can actually direct something. Thoughts, ideas, memories, images, sounds. I think they can be returned. “

As a director, Hogg is a seemingly incongruous mix of fluidity and formalism. Her camera movements are precise, her haircuts are strict. She carefully dresses her set – re-creating her London apartment in Knightsbridge using old clothes to dress her fictional stunt double, played by Honor Swinton Byrne, with whom Hogg shared her old diaries. However, she does not sketch the dialogue. Hogg, 61, uses the 30-page document as a starting point and shapes scenes through rehearsals and assorted takes.

In the first part of Souvenir, we see Julie annoyed by the structures imposed by her film professors, and later, in the second part, we see the crew members wanting a more concrete process. But these issues are just part of Julie’s struggle to evoke her voice and elevate life into art. That these two films exist as they are is a kind of living proof that the Hogg path, now firmly adopted, gives something authentic and alive. We watch Julie find her courage as a director; Hogg is self-evident.

Tilda Swinton, who stars in both films as Julie’s mother (Byrne is Swinton’s real daughter), is Hogg’s longtime friend. She even starred in the final project of the Hogg Film School. She recalls how, four decades ago, Hogg took detailed notes and photographed the views from the window – preparation for a future theoretical film. Swinton describes The Souvenir as “a beacon in a new kind of poetic cinema.”

“When I think of these films, I think back to the feeling that projecting a movie is a challenge to the times,” Swinton wrote in an email.

“It takes a lot of heart and nerves to be as honest as she is about people – and to give my colleagues the support to be as open as her films demand of us all,” continues Swinton. “This is a big road, and like all the dirtiest roads, it is impregnably clean and reliably grounded.”

Two parts of “Souvenir” have received wide acclaim – from the Sundance Film Festival to the Cannes Film Festival this year. and festivals in New York. Some of her biggest fans are filmmakers. Martin Scorsese is an executive producer.

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“I think Souvenir Parts I & II is an epic on a purely human scale,” Scorsese says via email.

While Scorsese recalls racing to make his first film before he was 25 (how old Orson Welles was when he made Citizen Kane), he learns a different trajectory at Hogg.

“Joanna started at a different moment and went her own way, and in a completely different mood,” says Scorsese. “I think this is reflected in the work. There is a clarity about it, an intensity of concentration that you won’t find with someone younger – an intensity, yes, but of a different kind. But also, of course, it is Joanna herself.

Coming up with her own beginnings in filmmaking, Hogg also led Byrne to her first steps into filmmaking. Despite growing up on set, Souvenir was the debut of 24-year-old Byrne. Hogg, dissatisfied with everyone she auditioned, chose her just two weeks before the start of the first part, when Byrne was 19. Julie’s evolution coincides with Byrne’s.

“So much has happened in these two years between the first and second parts. I went to Namibia for 10 months. I like to think I’ve grown a lot during this time, ”says Byrne from Zoom in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is studying psychology. “So I think I moved on to the second with a lot more options.”

“I’ve changed myself,” she adds before laughing. “There wasn’t much acting.”

For Byrne, the second part of Souvenir is particularly inspiring. Upon graduation, she expects to continue acting.

“Hollywood portrays this perfect expectation of what to experience between the ages of 20 and 30, so I’m really touched by both films,” says Byrne. “These two films in general shed light on how to make mistakes, and that it’s perfectly normal and completely normal, and the more mistakes you make, the more you learn.”

Due to the fact that fiction and life are so merged together, Hogg sometimes did not know what was real and what was not.

“Things get very confusing, not so uninteresting, and very difficult to unpack,” says Hogg, smiling. “Sometimes now, when I see a picture from a film, I have a moment of confusion as to whether it is a still from a film or a still from my own life.”

Having spent most of her career fighting conventional filmmaking methods, Hogg – her voice as a filmmaker is crystal clear – feels the urge to try her hand at more well-known genres. Film noir, in which the past never parted with anyone, is now especially attractive.

“Now I’m interested in playing with known shapes within my parameters,” she says.

Last year, Hogg co-filmed Eternal Daughter, a Wales detective about long-buried secrets, with Swinton. “I’ve been her playmate for 50 years and now we feel like we’re finally starting our work together,” says Swinton.

As much as Souvenir has long been obsessed with returning, Hogg already feels the films are leaving her. Films are now also memories, and they are difficult to recover.

“Part II is getting harder and harder to talk about because it’s receding,” says Hogg. “They float away on the air.”


Follow AP writer Jake Coyle on Twitter:

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