Metafiction and the metaphysical detective story: Vertigo

A re-reading of the Alfred Hitchcock classic

The subject of my Phd thesis was in part what is referred to as the “metaphysical detective story”, a mostly literary subgenre of the detective novel (e.g., Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy). In their seminal study of such narratives, Patricia Merivale and Elizabeth Sweeney have identified some common tropes:

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Death, grief and rebirth

A reappraisal of two psychological thrillers starring Nicole Kidman: Dead Calm and Birth

Two films I have recently revisited strike me as being two parts of a piece, and not only because they both feature Nicole Kidman – the first being her final performance in an Australian-made film, Philip Noyce’s Dead Calm (1989), and the latter being Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2004). Moreover, each film deals with the grieving process, with the lost loved one resurfacing in an Oedipal scheme as a vengeful son committed to possessing the mother and destroying the father. Continue reading

The accidental tourist

Jack Nicholson in The Passenger

Some thoughts on Antionio’s 1975 arthouse thriller The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider

My late conversion to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up has had me checking out some of his other English-language films, including this slow-burning 1975 piece starring Jack Nicholson as a disaffected political reporter who has ostensibly reached the end of his personal road on a job in Saharan Africa. Returning to his hotel after a bitterly unsucessful day out in the desert, he siezes the chance to swap identities with a man named Robertson that he resembles and met only briefly the evening before, and whom he finds dead in his room unnoticed by the hotel staff. Continue reading

Hearts of darkness – Deliverance and Wake in Fright

Kangaroo hunting in Wake in Fright

Death, debauchery and survival in two early ’70s film classics

I’ve recently acquired an interest in the so-called Aussie New Wave cinema of the 1970s and 80s. Although encompassing a range of genres and often overlapping with what is known as Ozploitation, the period really identifies a period of resurgent confidence and productivity in Australian cinema rather than any kind of aesthetic stance. That said, a number of the stronger works of the ‘Wave’ seem to capitalize on the country’s geographical peculiarities with strange and often sinister results. Notable filmmakers who came of age during the period include Peter Weir and Philip Noyce, who went on to enjoy successful Hollywood careers. Continue reading

The Draughtsman’s Contract

A review of Peter Greenaway’s 1982 period film The Draughtsman’s Contract

Currently on holiday, I am using the blog not to sketch out lesson ideas but to jot down thoughts on films I have recently watched. One such movie is Peter Greenaway’s first feature, The Draughtsman’s Contract, a surreal 1982 costume drama. Having grown up in 1980s Britain, I am extremely grateful to have witnessed the arrival of Channel 4 and its groundbreaking support for British cinema via what was then Film on Four. Continue reading

Chocolat

Giulia Boschi as Aimée and Isaach de Bankolé as Protée

A review of Claire Denis’s 1988 directorial debut Chocolat

I’ve recently acquired an Artificial Eye Collection of Claire Denis movies. By no means an exhaustive anthology of her work – there are just four films (Chocolat, Nénette et Boni, Beau Travail and White Material) – it provides the introduction to her oeuvre I was hoping for. Having read a lot about Denis’s films, and long harbouring the suspicion that I have long overlooked her, I decided to have a binge. I should add that I have seen 2009’s White Material before and that, while I found it unsettling and beautifully photographed, I don’t think I quite gave it the attention it deserved. Continue reading

Dreamchild

Review of the 1985 fantasy film Dreamchild, written by Dennis Potter

This post heralds a change in tack for this blog. I initially wanted to channel all my critical energies through the prism of ESL/EFL lesson plans but have begun to feel I had imposed unsustainable limits on myself. Henceforth there will be no such constraints: English language-specific content will be filed under the category ‘Lesson Plans’, as well as any other pertinent categories (Cinema, Music etc.). But from this point on I also hope to use the blog to sketch out ideas I may decide to explore in more detail in my research or simply to post reflections on things of interest to me culturally, notably cinema. This will begin with the following post on Dennis Potter’s 1985 film drama Dreamchild.

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