A REFLECTION: Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 1989)

Davis’ The Desiring Image interweaves an argument which seeks to broaden the category of queer cinema beyond classifiable gay cinema, and dislodge automatic relations within sex, gender and desire through cinematic form and structure. Notably describing the ‘first generation’ of New Queer Cinema, this view unfolds itself towards the view that desire should be an examination outside the norms of heteronormative cinema.

David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1989) echoes Davis’ advocation of Deleuzian theories of perception and desire, suggesting that Cronenberg resists gendered and sexual norms in the representation of desire. Instead, he becomes more interested in how desire transforms through the aesthetic and conceptual, shown through his exploration into the complexities which govern the connection between the brother twins, Eliot and Beverley. The breakdown of Beverley’s sibling link with Eliot, whereby the horroresque nightmare of Claire physically eating through the fleshy link between the twins, depicts a deconstruction of the binaries between the mind and body. The psychological mental state of Beverley deteriorates throughout the duration of the film, complicating the biological bond shared with Eliot – where their previous experiences

Here, Cronenberg expresses the non-singularity of identity, manifesting the brothers into twins to emphasise the shifting of individuality according to desire. This is depicted through the subtractive framing of the film, where the out-of-field shots obscures a wider frame, conveying the perceptual barriers which Cronenberg imposes upon his film. As Deleuze writes, the “subject” remains a fixture of social interpretation – where Cronenberg thus generates new structures of sexuality and desire by offering different perspectives upon a singular character. Consequently, by ignoring simplistic assumptions regarding identity, he suggests that humans do not have a “singular” identity, but rather that this reveals itself according to singular impulses.

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The bold colours, lines and limited depths of field creates a sense of cinematic desire by suggesting that it an omnipresent immanence.

While Davis’ book acknowledges the misogynistic and homophobic problems of Cronenberg’s film, it chooses to focus on the way Cronenberg is able to pose complex questions about what desire is. By deterritotorialising the model of queer cinema from heterosexual or homosexual conceptions, Davis elevates Deleuze’s notion that sex, gender and desire must defamiliarise itself as mutable and as “open-ended forces”. This is depicted through the womb, which becomes the ultimate wreckage of the brothers’ sense of an ordered whole universe. The surgery conducted by Beverley further reinforces this, where the cuts from the tools to the close-up of the surgical assistant in a crimson red aesthetic, highlights the total degeneration of traditional desire as it debauches into the unbalanced mindset of the twins.

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Yet while Davis’ argument refutes the idea that New Queer Cinema should offer a narrow lens into LGBT stories, his advocation for New Queer Cinema in relation to Dead Ringers is an early generation of the term – whereby the development of this terminology has evolved into a movement coined by B. Ruby Rich to describe queer-themed independent filmmaking. Thus, whilst it is important to examine the way Cronenberg interrogates desire beyond the realms of a heterosexual relationship, it must be noted that Dead Ringers still exists within the realm of a heterosexual white male centric universe – bringing alight some problems which prevail under Davis’ desire to universalise the term of ‘queer cinema’ towards a broader spectrum of relationships.

Top 10 Films of 2015 (Also… a hearty welcome!)

Welcome to The Social Film Network!

I thought it would be a nice way to introduce the creation of this film blog by outlining some of my favourite films from 2015. This website has been in the making for a while now, but after a year or so of procrastination, I am back and determined to start writing and continue watching as many films as possible.

So… here are my TOP 10 FILMS FOR 2015. Hope to see you around!

10. Mommy

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My first Dolan film didn’t disappoint – an intricate and breathtaking look into family dynamics. Establishing a reputation upon himself as a blossoming young filmmaker, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy flourishes with its tenderness and angst, its tonal shifts,  altering film ratios and interesting soundtrack choices. It’s exasperatingly powerful, but also interweaves a ray of indescribable warmth through its running time.

9. The Dressmaker

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By far one of the better Australian films I have seen, The Dressmaker is crisply shot and subverts genre expectations with both glee and tongue-in-cheek intellect. Winslet, Hemsworth, Davis and Weaving’s performances are excellent (with Winslet perfecting the Australian accent), and it draws in Australian humour within a film that replicates a Shakespearean revenge tragedy. It may be shot in the outback, but with a mother-daughter relationship, an unconventional plot and its gorgeous costume and production design, its far from the typical Australian outback story.

8. The Revenant

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A gruelingly cold film, The Revenant‘s long running time is saved by its stunning cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) and Leonardo DiCaprio’s haunting performance. Pitting the helplessness of mankind within a survival revenge story, Innaritu’s recreation of Hugh Glass’ story is undeniably brutal and confronting – yet, its exploration into the deterioration of ‘civilised’ white mankind, remains an intriguing study into the dangers of underestimating the natural world and the authority of an overarching power.

7. Tehran Taxi

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The newest venture from Jafar Panahi is an optimistic one – Tehran Taxi blurs the line between documentary and reality, commentating on Iranian censorship in a manner which is equally hopeful and unique. Driving around Tehran in a taxi and picking up a variety of passengers along the way, Panahi’s encounters in the city landscape consist of amusing and interesting characters, tying itself with more urgent issues. Importantly, its self-reflexive awareness to its own film shooting, juxtaposing to Panahi’s niece’s own attempt to capture real-life within the strict censorship rules of Iran, highlights the inherent difficulties of representing ‘reality’.

Read my review here.

6. Room

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Room reduced me to a blubbering mess and Lenny Abrahamson’s wondrous direction with his actors, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, is a real testament to that. In a story that encapsulates itself within closed spaces and an underlying darkness, its simultaneous openness to emotionality and heart is the real shining light of this film. Tremblay carries this performance from his narrative point-of-view, bringing the audience a return to innocence and an exploration into an unbreakable mother-son bond that will break your heart and stomp all over it (in a good way).

5. Carol

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Todd Haynes’ Carol is nothing short of heart wrenchingly beautiful. Shot in gorgeous 16mm, its aesthetic is simply alluring – reflective windows and grainy textures –  drenching the film inside its 1960s milieu. It is bound to grow on a rewatch, but meanwhile its subdued and controlled tone, continues to linger hazily in my mind. Led by exquisite performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and accompanied by a sweeping score by Carter Burwell, Carol is an intimate, elegant and momentous glimpse into a forbidden love.

4. Inside Out

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A fresh, original concept underlies Pete Doctor’s Inside Out – a film that imagines that emotions inside one’s head are real characters – controlling thought and active human processes. It’s rather an innovative rarity in the realm of contemporary films, which form basis around real historical events, people and novel adaptations. And whilst inventively fabricating this notion, it remains a touching story of adolescent growth, concurrently hitting a wave of adult nostalgia that allows it to retain accessibility across generations. Notably, Bing-Bong as the pink elephant imaginary friend and the glass balls of memories that end up in lost realm of long-term memory rings as poignantly truthful – something the whole film successfully achieves.

3. Phoenix

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In some ways, Phoenix is 2015’s Ida. There lies a similar difficulty in articulating the complexities the film embodies – its evocation of agonising pain yet also a hopeful yearning touches upon its post-Holocaust context – but extends towards the need for remembrance and forgotten suffering. To reflect the comparable complication of claiming a new sense of identity after significant trauma, coupled with Petzold’s slow direction, and its haunting performances, notably Nina Hoss’, it all remarkably pays off (and let’s not even begin to talk about the closing scene).

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Riveting, pounding, and never relinquishing its control over its audience – Mad Max: Fury Road is one impressive action flick. George Miller’s direction is absolutely unforgettable… I don’t think I can remember the last time I left a cinema so dazed by the continuity of action happening up on a screen. The collaboration of excellent editing, cinematography and Junkie XL’s under-appreciated, incredible score, combines into an elevated experience that is unmatched in the 2015 year. Its simplicity in plot never plays as a disadvantage, and is instead used a mechanism to heighten its technical achievements to create its powerful and thrilling momentum.

1. Brooklyn

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On the surface, Brooklyn seems like a conventional, costume-drama pic – but dig a little harder, its sincerity and charm is easily its shining glory. Led by Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey – a girl trapped between two countries, its examination into what shapes a ‘home’ is heartfelt and profound. It’s a movie that begins to creep up, and grows on you, almost like Eilis’ own sense of realisation and identity as she learns about herself throughout this moving journey. Shaped by its gorgeous costume and production design, Brooklyn‘s lovely and genuine excellence holds it up as my favourite film of 2015.

Honourable mentions: The Peanuts Movie, The Lobster, Suffragette, Trainwreck, The Martian, Love & Mercy, Sicario, Bridge of Spies, 99 Homes, Pan, Seymour: An Introduction, Shaun the Sheep: Movie, Far From the Madding Crowd, Girlhood, Beyond the Lights, Infinitely Polar Bear