Sunday, 18 May 2014

Crash of the Titans: Adaptation and Authorship in the Films of David Cronenberg

It is like making a child, you need two people, and the film turns out looking a little bit like both of its “parents”.
—Cronenberg on Cosmopolis (2012)[1]

It’s like Burroughs and myself fusing in the telepod of The Fly.
—Cronenberg on Naked Lunch (1991)[2]

How fitting it is to consider these adaptations in terms so Cronenbergian: like the demented psychokinetic child projections of The Brood (1979) and the disfigured human-insect hybrid of The Fly (1986), Cronenberg’s reconfiguration of others’ work has made for a cinema as potent as it is perverse. Across twenty features, the Canadian director has not so much carved a niche as conceived it, earning acclaim as the originator of the body horror subgenre and crafting an aesthetic of singular proportions. That his style has remained so recognisable across a distinct diversity of subject matter would seem to position him as the ideal auteur, yet the equal division of his oeuvre along a line of original and adapted scripts penned by a plethora of other writers poses a problem of authorship only exacerbated by the fidelity with which his ten adaptations have been mounted. Across an array of original work from authors as varied as Stephen King and Sigmund Freud, Cronenberg has adapted novels, plays, graphic novels, epistolary correspondences, and even other films to his specific vision, all the while—or often, at least—preserving the peculiarities of his source. Toward an appreciation of this duality on which Cronenberg’s cinema is founded, and the questions of authorship and adaptation it raises, this essay will consider three films adapted from the work of authors as thematically and stylistically distinctive as he: Naked Lunch, from William Burroughs’ book (1959); Crash (1996), from the novel by J.G. Ballard (1973); and Cosmopolis, based on the book by Don DeLillo (2003).

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ah, the Fabled Failed Filmmaker: An Open Letter to the Ignorant

The following is a series of emails, with intimate details redacted, from a filmmaker intent on my reviewing his new film:

The following is an open letter to (un)said filmmaker, and hopefully all like him:

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Same-sex unions: the real question is 'what are you talking about?'

Being that this blog exists primarily solely to catalogue my writing, I feel justified in posting this comment retort to an appallingly ignorant Cork Independent opinion piece which, at an eventual and unintentional 600+ words, is significant enough to warrant preservation.

Theologist Anna Shephard is campaigning for a no vote in the 2015 referendum on same sex marriage. A recent article in the Cork Independent presents her case for what I call “a momentous step towards true inanity”.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Equal Opportunities? Not Specified

“Not specified” was the drop-down option I reluctantly selected under the “religion” section as I completed the online registration page for the National University of Ireland, Galway. It’s rather a personal piece of information to ask, so the possibility of non-disclosure is a welcome one. What’s not so welcome is the lack of a “no religion” option: I want to specify, I’d like my personal details to fully reflect who I am—an atheist, among other things—rather than suggesting faith is a topic on which my lips are sealed. It’s not some militant mindset that leads me to complain: I’ve lived happily and quietly without religion for maybe a decade now, and never felt the urge to run about trying to convert the faithful. Few subjects interest me as little as religion, so why not simply not specify with a shrug of the shoulders?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Locarno 2013

A collection of content from the 66th Festival del Film Locarno.

Next Projection
Review: The Dirties
Review: Exhibition
Review: Wrong Cops
Review: Our Sunhi
Review: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears
Review: Distant
Review: Short Term 12
Review: Real
Douglas Trumbull masterclass report
Locarno Dispatch 1: 2 Guns; The Dirties; Christopher Lee; What Now? Remind Me; By the River; The Human Variable; Wrong Cops.
Locarno Dispatch 2: Exhibition; Gare du Nord; Our Sunhi; When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism; Pays Barbare; Short Term 12; Gabrielle.
Locarno Dispatch 3: Story of My Death; Human Geography; The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears; The Stone; Sangue; Douglas Trumbull; Distant; Coast of Death.
Locarno Dispatch 4: Real; If I Were a Thief... I'd Steal; "Dare to Be Weird"; "Why Film Critics Still Matter"; Roxanne; The Special Need; The Green Years; Abel Ferrara; 2001: A Space Odyssey; It Should Happen to You; Mouton.

"Corneliu's Comic Catharsis: 'When Evening Falls on Bucharest' Looks Back With Laughter"
"Blurred Lines: Claire Simon's 'Gare du Nord' and 'Human Geography' Challenge the Boundaries Between Fiction and Doc"

—"We Had a Good Run: The Festival Fete for Paulo Rocha"
—"Egoism and Eternity in What Now? Remind Me and The Dirties"

Film Ireland
Report: Locarno Film Festival

Pardo Live
Short Term 12 press conference report

FRED Film Radio
Interview: Nontawat Nombenchapol, By the River

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

On the Road Again: Kelly Reichardt and the New American Road Movie

Unlike, for instance, comedy or drama, both rooted primarily in inherent faculties of human emotion and empathy, certain cinematic genres find themselves and their life spans distinctly linked to specific cultural and historical contexts. Film noir is the classic example, its immediate life—from the early 1940s to the late 1950s—short enough to warrant the protracted argument that continues to this day as to whether it can indeed be classified a genre at all. Inextricably linked to the social circumstances of the United States in the period immediately following the Second World War, noir’s dominant themes and tropes, though still reworked now in films categorised as neo-noir, address issues particular to that place in that period of time. The western, too, though still more recognisably intact in its classical form than noir, would seem to offer little explicit relevance to modern America, its frontier narratives now outdated by more than a century. The road movie, then, is a particularly interesting case: arguably growing only more relevant with the passage of time and the ever-increasing ubiquity of infrastructure, the genre has nonetheless encountered ebbs and flows through the course of its lifetime that suggest an important link between social circumstances and the road’s cinematic exploration thereof. In briefly examining these resurgences and assessing the predominant narrative and stylistic tropes that characterise the genre, this essay aims to examine the films of director Kelly Reichardt in the context of modern America, and through them to posit the emergence of a new breed of road movie that speaks to the issues facing the nation today.

24 Lies per Second: Illusionism and the Excess of Reality in the Films of Michael Haneke

“Film is 24 lies per second at the service of truth”
—Michael Haneke (24 Realities per Second)

Such a play on Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dictum as to the inherent truth of the cinematic medium is typical of the cynical postmodernism of Michael Haneke, the Austrian writer-director whose feature films have consistently engaged in revealing and reassessing what he sees as the inevitable falsity of the filmed image. Considered a realist by virtue of his often long takes, predominantly naturalistic dialogue, and anti-sensationalist presentation of violence and sexuality, Haneke’s work has in fact constantly pointed toward its own unreality, exposing the abstraction of the cinematic image and the long tradition of the mechanical reproduction of reality as, necessarily, a manipulation of truth and thereby of the spectator. In eleven theatrical releases to date, he has repeatedly drawn attention to the extent of this manipulation, using his films as incitements to his audiences to re-evaluate their own relationship to reality and question the degree to which modern media—television and the internet as much as film—has divorced them from a meaningful connection to the truth of the world in which they exist. This essay intends to assess Haneke’s subjugation of the cinematic apparatus to his own self-reflexive end, and to reach—through an investigation of the manner in which he implements and inverts typical tropes of screen realism—an understanding of the key themes his oeuvre addresses by way of this intently self-aware, postmodern deconstruction of filmic reality.