Hogg. London born Joanna Hogg’s debut film was at the age of 47 in 2007. Hogg made four films total (as of 2020) and all four landing in the archives including one top 100 of its respective decade film (Archipelago) and another that is very very close (The Souvenir). Hogg has an absolutely unique discernable style. Hogg is a realist—but unlike most realists her work is about artist’s struggle and relationships between family/friends/lovers in the upper and upper-middle class. I get into it more below but she, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, is an Ozu acolyte in terms of camera movement, lack of close-ups, long takes, and excellent compositions.
Best film: Archipelago
- An announcement of a burgeoning auteur- Joanna Hogg- it is her second film after 2007’s Unrelated
- Archipelago is much prettier than the crassly shot debut—much more attractive in its photography and decidedly more poised in its compositions
- It opens with an artist (Christopher Baker) and a painting recreating life- a landscape and a discussion on abstraction and understatement in art. It’s both Hogg speaking to us directly about her work and setting the ground formally for what is about to unfold. Hogg would bounce us off the artist here in the film — discussions on art as brilliant formal invention
- Like Unrelated we get one-sided conversations of broken relationships on the phone, and we overhear awful family blow-up fights in other rooms or on the phone
- Depth of field in doorways, a bikes in the arrangement in the alleys—like Ozu, alleys and hallways
- Frequent collaborator Tom Hiddleston (he was in Unrelated as well) with his Art Garfunkel hair here and agreeable soft-spoken demeanor
- Set on holiday, small talk, glances, painful silences and eavesdropping on discussions— this is not expressionism but realism and it’s not for people not interested in cinema as an art. We literally wait for the mom here to finish brushing her teeth
- Ozu is a clear influence—family drama, mise-en-scene focus—there is a great shot as the characters use the house phone, there’s shadow from the window’s natural light—and the camera shoots them through two open doors –perfect
- There are plenty of throwaway scenes that keep this from being Columbus from Kogonada—two people talking about shellfish in an ugly bland kitchen. It’s putting us in this world, realism
- Hogg often sets the frame beautifully though. In another composition the camera is perfectly placed between chairs at the restaurant
- The sister- Lydia Leonard the actress- that character is a nightmare. In one of the film’s most difficult scenes she’s complaining at the restaurant and sends her stuff back
- The tilted trees in the landscape—really stunning
- Long pauses, realism – the guy who tells the maid how to pluck the pheasant isn’t an actor
- So the title is a series of islands (I don’t think it’s wrong to bring up L’Avventura here and the setting as character) and these characters are continually shot by Hogg alone, in their bedroom at night in isolation —it’s a brilliant metaphor. They’re failure to connect wallops you and the only real pleasure seems to be in the interludes on art. They’re damaged- looking out their own window—alone even when they’re together
- No score, birds
- Peter Bradshaw in “The Guardian” gets Hogg- “works with a series of static “tableau” camera positions. There is no musical soundtrack, just the ambient sound of birdsong or distant airplane buzz, only really apparent when it cuts out into silence for the next scene”
- Philip French in the Observer- “As with the Japanese master Ozu, Hogg never moves her camera, each shot being carefully composed and long held. There are no close-ups until near the end, at which point there’s also a single camera movement when one character comes down the stairs and startles us by rushing across a room to open a letter of farewell.”
- The compositions are an achievement, as is the formal elements and Hogg speaking to us through art—it wallops you
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Archipelago)
most overrated: Their isn’t an overrated film for Hogg. She’s made four features total—two land in the top 1000 of the 21st century from the TSPDT consensus (Archipelago, The Souvenir) and neither are overrated (The Souvenir is a few slots higher than I’d have it for 2019 but nothing crazy).
most underrated : Archipelago. Blown away by the first viewing. I have it well inside the top 10 of 2010 and the consensus from TSPDT has it as #45. I just don’t think anyone has seen it. I try to see everything and didn’t catch it myself until 2019.
gem I want to spotlight : The Souvenir
- A subtle character study—a story of first love and addition
- The final shot sticks with you—it’s a giant door opening—sounds simple- but given the context of the film, her awakening, naivety (not just sexual, but about life in general)—we’re going from the sealed off movie studio here to opening the door to the outside- an amazing visual metaphor
- The film, and it’s in the text, references the Jean-Honoré Fragonard titular artwork—intelligent discussion between Honor Swinton Byrne and Tom Burke. Both leads are really good here—Swinton Byrne is Tilda’s daughter (who also excels, as she always does, in a small role here) – her looks almost resemble Keira Knightley more so than Tilda though—Tom Burke is a mixture of an English Stacey Keach and a young Albert Finney with the requisite mixture of charm and acidity
- Great shot of Swinton Byrne on a pay phone through an open door, another stand out is on a date of theirs in a room flooded with lamps—I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a triumph of mise-en-scene though
- It feels like a found film from 1983 (which both a description and a compliment to the costume and décor work)—16mm—I see the Rohmer influence—it could be a lost Rohmer film (in English obviously)
- The film has a strong meta and autobiographical reading of the film– Honor Swinton Byrne is Hogg- she’s in film school and making a neorealist film. She sounds like a hack talking about it- even bumps into the camera once awkwardly. The Tom Burke character asks, with a dagger, if she’s fascinated in rot. She calls it “interesting” over and over and sounds anything but. He’s challenging her. Both positive and negatives. Positive- “Why are they more real than me?” he asks. Talks about Powell and Pressburger and how they achieved something truthful without documenting reality. Then later he says– “Stop inviting me to torture you”. Impressive writing
- Hogg is observational, this is a memoir – with much to say on art—both hers as an auteur and in larger context
- The Fragonard work comes in the mail from the Burke character – 3 times total in the text
- A formal achievement- one tying bind is a reoccurring shot of the landscape as she reads the letter with the trees at the bottom. It happens 3 times—26 minutes in, 70- minutes in and then 92 minutes in and this is the landscape at the very end of the film when the studio (and metaphorical) doors open—really powerful film form
- Reoccurring shot of the mirror at her place- not quite on the level of Exhibition 2013 film from Hogg- tellingly cracked/fractured in one scene
- The ending packs a wallop. Honor Swinton Byrne stares at the camera and the massive studio door opens to reveal the trees and landscape
- Understated—when Tilda tells her daughter of Burke—she says “the worst”- a brilliant scene
- Strong composition and use of hallways- Hogg doesn’t achieve the highs of Archipelago in this regard, Ozu, or Hou Hsiao-Hsien but still- a few really nice compositions—the final one and the phone through the doorway mentioned above the best
- The film is a series of conversations, shots of her in film school, posh dinners, yuppie conversations and parties with her in the mirror again and again.
- The finale, a few compositions, and Hogg as a clear auteur—a realist
- in both Archipelago and The Souvenir art, and art imitating life, the creation of art through struggle with real like is half of the story- and in Archipelago especially- it unfolds in the form of the film
- life is a mess, art is perfect
- Hogg is a realist, no plot, observational— detailed nuances in interactions between friends, family, and lovers. Often at dinners in bed
- Static camera, strong compositions (especially in Archipelago– many beautifully set frames)—Ozu is clearly the lineage – bikes in the alleys, figures in the doorway
- Awkward disputes and fighting at kitchen tables, one-sided painful phone calls
- Rohmer is an influence, it also reminded me of Woody’s severely underrated 1978 Interiors– Hsiao-Hsien Hou as well- Hogg is sharply observant and like HHH is an Ozu acolyte- She has a static camera, no close-ups, long takes, some improvisation
- Hogg is an artist and from a class shown (upper, elite, yuppie, bourgeois) here in her films so it feels like a memoir and authentic. It does feel like Antonioni- ennui—this isn’t a critique of Hogg but it also feels like this is what Bunuel was trying to lampoon, parody and take down. There’s a shot in Unrelated of a group of people walking along a road that is almost exactly like the reoccurring shot in Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois
- Use of mirrors- in Exhibition and The Souvenir especially
- Vacations- travel abroad in three of the four films actually
- The Souvenir
By year and grades
|2010 – Archipelago||HR/MS|
|2019- The Souvenir||HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Will Ceylan make your 250 directors? I rewatched his three 2010s films and I think I was underrating him a lot.
@Cinephile– That’s interesting– and encouraging. He won’t be on the list here — not without further study. I’ve seen all three of his 2010’s films once— I have Distant from 2002 in the archives as well – so a total of 4 archiveable films.
Who I’d the greatest female director of all time?(Wachowskis dont count because they made some films as men and because they are siblings and not just one person).
Also, what is the greatest movie directed by a woman?
This is pretty easy @Azman, I’ll answer you, Agnes Varda is the best female director ever.
Regarding the movie is Lost in translation
@Azman and @Aldo– these would be be my choices. I did a closer Varda study in 2019– really impressive work.
I’d say Sofia Coppola. Followed by Campion (as now Drake has Bright Star as a MS) and Varda.
My personal favorite though has to be either Kelly Reichardt or Lynne Ramsay. Leaning towards Ramsay.
The best film objectively has to be either LIT Or The Piano but my personal favorites include Morvern Callar, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Wendy and Lucy and Bright Star.
Have you seen The Souvenir part 2, if yes what are your thoughts about it?
Also do you plan on upgrading The Souvenir part 1 because on further study it’s a better film i feel.
@M*A*S*H- I have not had the chance to catch The Souvenir Part 2. If I have time I will try to catch Part I again before.