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THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY (2016) dir. Andrew Rossi

20 May

I would’ve loved the director to have taken a hammer to the mirror of society we were privy to. If English-speaking aliens were to come to Earth tomorrow, they could deduce many things about the way we live and contemporary attitudes from this documentary. Perhaps they could ascertain something of the psychology of the masses, the state of being human, the racial impression we’re dressed by every day and with every lasting breath. The First Monday in May is also known as The Met Ball movie, a behind-the-scenes documentary of the Costume Institute’s annual fundraising party, the number one event in modern fashion society’s calendar.

How many of the glitzy celebrities attending the party live in squalor-like conditions with dirty dishes in their sinks or coffee rings on their bedside tables? It wouldn’t hurt to obliterate the self-perpetuating machine of celebrity culture. Instead this documentary reinforces the great separation people insist upon because they exist on another plane, they exist in images, their words are immortalised in interviews, their music now—in the spinning of the world around the sun—is playing at a rate of a thousand laps a moment. Famous people, like gods, are immortalised. What they do supposedly reaches everyone and retains a legacy. Anna Wintour (editor of Vogue, creative director of Conde Nast, household name), will be Anna Wintour for all the scrutiny and eternity and awesomeness there is and was and ever will be. The party is at her command. The party opens an exhibition. This time round the theme was China.

Why am I taking the tack of celebrity culture? Well, you see, there’s this sub-text running through the narrative from the opening first five minutes. Is fashion art? Are clothes art forms? The answers are presented in a subtile way. Dame Wintour thinks the Alexander McQueen exhibition in 2010 changed public perceptions of fashion as art. Baz Lurman, who acted as creative consultant along with Kar-wai Wong, makes some comment about art appearing in galleries and fashion not belonging in a museum context. Not necessarily his own views, I should add. Karl Lagerfeld skirts around his own opinion by talking about dress maker and clothes designer Coco Chanel.

Some people don’t perceive photography as art. I mean it’s a recent development to appreciate certain art forms as art and not mere arts. Applied arts, I think, was the term used to describe the living and breathing art forms residing a shelf higher than the craft category.

When I worked in an art gallery between 2002 and 2005, somehow it was apparent that in their art and in their everyday existence there were many people like myself who were blurring the lines between being alive and being an artist. When MySpace came about, it was fascinating to have found so many other people in the same ideological realm. MySpace was instrumental in the evolution of society in this way. Art became something people were living. People did more than one thing, too. It was possible to be many things all at once. There was no need to apply one label upon oneself and adhere to the label. In fact, why fix any label? MySpace challenged and changed like art itself does. Art is the fluctuating background we create in order to design ourselves new fluctuating camouflage. Art is evolution actively at work.

Passing MySpace it seems strange to question whether certain art forms are art or not. Plus the ideal of celebrity has altered—possibly due to MySpace’s influence on culture. The distance between the Other and ordinary people closed in a little. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: they’re ways to be closer to your out-of-reach idols. Nevertheless, why do we think celebrities are special people and why do we query whether an art form is an art form is an art form? MySpace delivered.

My number one celebrity moment in the movie was Chloe Sevigny’s disappointed face when she found her table: tucked away in a remote corner. Anna and an assistant had been heard talking about the very same table. “There aren’t any celebrities on here, are there?” asked Anna. No worries, Chloe. I wonder if she felt relegated. There are some superb shots of other celebs dancing and being pally. Dresses that looked great on the red carpet seemed stripped of their glamour once inside. I guess the ordinary person doesn’t get their photograph taken on the red carpet so even jeans and an old t-shirt could look amazing on a famous body there. But under the disco ball you can’t help but wonder what you would make of it if you walked into a local gig and found your friends as overly dressed. Even if it was the Met Ball, the famous faces seemed too familiar, too dressed.

Kar-wai Wong dealt the most Chinese moment. “To see too much is to see nothing,” he said. I was thinking about it for a little while to follow.  They wanted to put pictures of Chairman Mao in a room full of Buddhas, which seems vile from this angle. Imagine Elizabeth II pictures in a room given over to Jesus? Too weird, yeah.

Dragons came into it in a couple of ways. I actually laughed out loud. Information on actress Anna May Wong, then the Chinese Dragon Woman stereotype, then cut to a shot of Anna Wintour in the backseat of her ride. The director next confronted Anna’s public image, which is one of firebreath and terror, though I can imagine her enjoying a cup of proper builder’s tea or a pint of Worthingtons. Dragons later gave another burst of amusement when Lurman gave his consultancy. “How Chinesey… how Chinois-y… do you want it to be?” he says. “Are these dragons?” He quickly passes over the picture of the entrance adorned with two huge lurid green monsters. “Yes,” says Anna confidently. He gives his approval for the less gaudy interior before returning to the dragons, which were then tactfully scrapped.

Making changes to celebrity fees was another matter on the agenda. Rihanna, who wore the most gigantic yellow gown and looked more Hollywood than the sign in the hills, sung to the crowd in another outfit. Rihanna raised the audience’s eyebrows when an assistant e-mailed Anna with, Re: Rihanna’s budget. “It has to come from someone higher up,” says the assistant. “It has to come from you.”

“I feel so much better,” says Rihanna at the rehearsal. Did they or didn’t they pay for her village-sized entourage? Ten thousand people in China could have survived for a hundred years on what we -bleep- we heard she had asked for. Personally, I didn’t think the figure sounded that high. I mean, Rihanna is a famous person. She doesn’t run out of toilet paper or eat baked beans on toast.

We saw the pre-event staff brief taking place but who were the staff? I spotted a glass collector on the dance floor, wedged between some people whose names I don’t remember, kitted out to look like a guest. Discretion is everything. Throughout the documentary there is a sense of it being a last minute affair, which events usually are. What could have been even more insightful for the audience is more focus on the less significant contributors and staff. When the man with the 20 foot perspex rod bamboo garden says that he thinks the light might carry all the way up the rod, what someone with an event background hears is that there is a strong possibility that the light won’t carry all the way to the top of the rods alongside the planned outcome. Once he says this and gives a demonstration on a length of rod, I wished we could watch him suffer as he lies awake at night crossing his fingers and toes that there would be enough rods to fill the space and that his mastermind genius event design idea would come to fruition and work. There’s a lot of risk involved with events.

How could I have written all these words without mentioning Andrew Bolton? He wins the audience’s affections immediately by explaining that when he was asked what he wanted to do in life -as a Lancashire lad aged 17- he had replied with Curator at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan museum. If you please! Remember the universe will help you to achieve your goal and the more extreme or specific the better. Go for it! Andrew Bolton is pure inspiration.

It seemed as though Bolton had decided upon the costumes and done a lot of research before the event was brought on schedule. It seemed pretty early on that he flew to Paris to examine the Saint Laurent vaults. There were just enough of the clothes involved in the exhibition caught on camera. There could have been more exploration of the micro-politics of fashion and the psychology of orientalism. However, we can grasp the sensitivity and questions of taste well from the movie. Without having seen China: Through the Looking Glass I can’t say how much more was in the exhibition.


ENTER THE VOID (2009) Gaspar Noe

2 Mar

This movie has found me. Last weekend a man in a nightclub mentioned it, then a striking image included in a digital magazine drew my eye: a still from the same movie. The neon triggered a memory of seeing the trailer and wanting to watch it. I like life in neon.
The guy in the club didn’t say too much about Enter the Void. The movie ends with the words ‘The Void’ as we’re somehow flung into the underlying plot: the self-analysis of our own lives. Some things are best left unsaid. Dazed and Confused gave a synopsis when including it in their article about mind-fucking films. Once I’d read it, I couldn’t wait to see it.

It’s about an American bloke, Oscar, who lives in Tokyo. He smokes DMT, hallucinates and gets a call to go and meet Victor. He walks to the meeting place – The Void – with his mate Alex. On the way there they talk about The Tibetan Book of the Dead and, ironically, what happens to the soul when a person dies. Almost as soon as Oscar walks into The Void club cops descend upon the place. He runs into the bathroom and tries to stall them. They shoot him. He dies.
The rest of the movie is a transcendental vision from the in-between that recounts childhood moments with his sister Linda, the traumatic death of their parents, the events that led to Victor setting him up to get busted. These flashbacks are interspersed with ariel shots taken from above the city. Through these we follow his sister and how she’s coping with life in the world without him.
It ends with a scene where the omnipresent witness has shifted into his friend Alex’s consciousness, while he is making love to Linda; the camera follows sperm moving towards an egg. Then Linda and the protagonist’s mother merge into one while giving birth. It might be a new incarnation. It might be that life is a loop, one long Vine, playing over and over.
The two most outstanding things about this film are psycho-geographic visuals and the experiential gain of having seen it. If you enjoy hallucinating or enticing epilepsy with bright flashing colours, then this will be your kind of movie, even if the pace is a little slow. If you want to know what union with nirvana is about, then you might prefer to look elsewhere. The greatest failing of the movie is that once Oscar is dead an emotional state less concentrated transfers to the viewer.

The night before I watched Enter the Void, I was wandering around Sanchome in Shinjuku, lost, in awe at the neon signs, appreciating the static and thinking about what an animated, trippy environment it is. It’s the only place in Tokyo where I’ve felt surrounded by that criminality associated with cities in Europe. Even the ghettos are fairly smart. The muggings, pickpockets, prostitution, homelessness and all the other joys of urban life are closer to the surface in this area of Tokyo. Yet this is a part of the city that is very different visually to a European city.
Buildings in Japan have a lot happening on all floors, not just the ground floor, like in London. (There is an elevator law that insists upon installing one if the building is seven floors or above. The result is that a lot of buildings have six floors). It’s not unusual to find a nightclub on the 4th floor surrounded by offices, restaurants, boutiques, apartments and beauticians above and below.
To draw our attention to what is going on higher than street level, there are signs that run all the way up and down the building, indicating what is on each floor. In Shinjuku, in Nichome and Sanchome, these signs – along with shop fronts – are very brightly lit and spaced closely to each other, causing a sensation of stepping inside a fruit machine. Being immersed in so much light, coming from so many different angles, is an experience.
I rented the DVD (downloading is illegal in Japan) from the giant Tsutaya shop on Shibuya Scramble, the busiest road crossing in the world. I asked an assistant to help me look. We searched on the computer and it didn’t come up so I said, “Shinjuku”.
“Ah-ah!” she exclaimed, before darting up the aisle and returning with a copy. Obviously.

The headachey static of Shinjuku is more present in the trailer than it is in the film. Not to worry though, it is very psychedelic, disconnected and ambivalent if you like that sort of thing. Today I have an electric sensation of the film as a memory. Maybe the whole thing is an incarnation recollecting an incarnation? Plus from time to time I’ve thought ‘well at least I’m alive unlike that bloke in that film,’ which was slightly shocking to think of as a lot of the movie doesn’t include him at all. Unless the back of his head – on a journey into nowhere – counts.
If you’re interested in the spiritual side of it, psychoanalytical literature often employs allegory to explore ideas of identity. Unconsciousness: it’s worth getting your fangs into. Enter the Void is a psychoanalytical lucid dream. Possibly, even absurdly, a dream untrue.

NOBODY KNOWS (2004) dir. Hirokazu Koreeda

4 Aug


When I asked my Japanese colleague to suggest a Japanese movie, she pitched the same film that London’s Institute of Contemporary Art emailed me about that very same week, the film they are showing to their members free this month. I guessed there must be something in it. Nobody Knows: the first movie I’ve watched for three months.

Akira, Kyoko, Shigeru and Yuki are aged between 12 and 5. Accompanied by their mother, Akira moves into a new apartment in Tokyo, with Shigeru and Yuki smuggled into the building inside suitcases because children aren’t allowed. Kyoko arrives later by herself. Only Akira can leave the building or go onto the balcony. None of the kids go to school (there is no compulsory education in Japan, I was told, therefore it is possible to not attend one).

The director, Hirokazu Koreeda, uses a kind of Hitchcockian attention to detail to give us so much more than what is presented. The mother in this film is not so much a bad mother than not a mother at all. They say that sometimes bad homes produce good children and good homes bad ones. Despite dreadful conditions some people grow up to become beautiful with noble values. At the start of the film we see Akira shiftily looking at magazines in a mini-mart, the manager pulls him over to check his bag, finds unaccounted for things, stolen goods. Luckily the checkout assistant noticed some boys putting items into the bag. Akira’s innocence at this moment subtly is retained throughout the rest of the film. He’s a good person; we can be sure. We see him studying, wanting to better himself, rise out of circumstance.

The mother, Keiko, who talks to her children more like a friend than a mother clearly has mental problems. Every now and again in Japan, someone with an annoyingly sweet syrupy voice comes along – for instance, there’s a waitress in a Denny’s that I go to regularly – it makes me totally wonder if it’s all front or how it is even possible to squeak and smile and be so false sounding when at the same time genuine. It’s a voice so sincere it can only be artificial. The Japanese aren’t known for their great expressiveness. Bad feeling can easily be disguised or blockaded by a smile – or a citrine voice, babbling insane. The kid’s mother speaks in this naive way.

She disappears ‘to work’ for a month, leaving them about as much yen as an average monthly salary, only the money runs out and Akira has to ask round Yuki’s possible fathers for money in order to survive. Akira and Kyoko know that really their mother has gone off to be with some man; she promises them a normal life with the education that they dream of when she marries. In Japan, marriage is similar to how it was in the 1970’s in the West and more expected of couples living together. A single parent family is unusual. The kids, each with their different fathers, are odd even with a mother. But without any emotional, financial or physical parental support the kids are super! Mature and well-behaved. Not at all the wild savages one might expect.

Their mother eventually returns. Briefly. Akira tells her, over coffee in Mr Donut, that she’s selfish. The Japanese have a concept called amae, which roughly translates as a bitter-sweet love, like the relationships we have with our parents. I think that more than this, amae is the sweet aspect to the love and it doesn’t have to be so, amae you can give and you can take it away too. If Akira was adult, he might be more deeply pissed off with his mother in the cafeteria. As it is she encourages him to eat his donut, while he quickly forgets his harsh words and laughs at hers. She leaves more money, promises to be back by Christmas, then goes again into the bitter chill of a night lit with the cold, harsh, bright white artificial light common to Japan.

Of course, she’s not back at Christmas. Akira and Kyoko take the male and female domestic roles. When we were kids were used to fantasize that we were fourteen and had younger siblings to rear. It was a game we would play when we were ourselves still babies. The reality is living in squalor, wearing unwashed clothes, a sea of garbage [Japan has totally Americanized my language, no apologies], unpaid bills and (wait for it) a diet of… noodles! If it sounds like life in East London, then you should see it on screen, the kids are so lovely and respectable, despite fending for themselves. It isn’t an entirely bleak movie, although their suffering is presented without much gloss or veneer.

Plus cup noodles in Japan are way better than cheap noodles from the Kingsland Sainsburys! Even tramps in Tokyo, living without social security, wouldn’t eat those soggy relics that taste like recycled cardboard and are actually better eaten uncooked like biscuits. For about 45p, a cup noodle is pretty reasonable, maybe not delicious (oi shi) like the kids ironically declare but not bad. The freeze dried content is ok. There is a whole aisle in Tokyo supermarkets given over to noodles. U.F.O. green are my favorite – yes, soba with wasabi mayonnaise is oi shi! I think cup noodles are fairly average for lunch or dinner in Japan and not as scorned upon as in the U.K.. The kids also eat going off sushi that they get free from the mini-mart. It’s not an idyllic existence.

The key symbolism in the movie evokes a sensation of being in the situation of the mother, even though we haven’t seen her for most of the film, we are sutured into her mindset of absence through clever portrayals. Close-ups of feet and hands. The camera spends just a second or two too long on Kyoko’s frilly socks, making her feet seem half-way between tiny and adult, while walking in the adult role in the household. The manicured red nails that her mother gives her, so grown-up, a final memory of her primary carer, chipping away, fading away like the carefree childhood she doesn’t have, stained by responsibility.

Likewise, Yuki’s slippers, which make a noise, represent the silence the family endures in their secret abandonment. Akira allows her to wear them outside, in his youth immune to the contagious noise that any self-respecting parent would confine to indoors, oblivious to the attention they attract. We know Yuki is dead when we see her hand still and unmoving, upturned, unresponsive. The tacky, noisey, much loved slippers are pushed onto her feet one final time.

An interesting scene is at the start when Kyoko accidentally spills her mother’s nail varnish. “I told you not to touch my things!” the mother says angrily, trying to wipe up the stain. Later Kyoko blames herself for her mother’s departure. But the real insight to be gained from this moment is the idea of ‘my things.’ We spend the rest of the movie watching this woman’s ‘things’ as they go through a winter alone; face the rebirth of spring alone; make friends alone; sell their possessions alone; bury one of themselves alone. We’re kept captive in her psychology because these little hands and feet that we repeatedly see belong to these children. But they are children that have formed inside her body. They are her hands and feet as much as they are theirs.

As a viewer I was expecting the film to end with the mother’s return. But it ended with a sudden still shot. And I could look inside her head because I had unknowingly been conditioned by the director to become the mother. I kept going when the movie stopped; my absence roared deafeningly.

Out there, somewhere, in a miserable marriage that could turn sour, a child-like woman with a dishonest voice keeps a dark secret from her husband. She fears the reprisal of her children for abandoning them. The longer she spends away, the worse it gets, the more difficult it becomes to return. So she doesn’t return. Instead, during the day, she believes the lie she has created for herself, while at night she lies awake haunted by the terror of being found out. She is the mother of four children and nobody, absolutely nobody, knows.


THE TURIN HORSE (2011) dir. Bela Tarr

5 Sep

Have you ever had a flash of insight – for a just few seconds – into a mind-boggling idea that you couldn’t ever quite grasp again in the same way?  Physical events can lead to an inexplicable, monumental, moment of marvel. Reading Wittgenstein in the Freud Museum, for example. For a catastrophic instant the notion that this could be possible secreted awesomeness.

Whatever he acknowledged, Frederich Nietzche – great philosopher, saw a horse being flogged in Turin. He flung his arms round it, sobbing, before descending into a weary, bedridden state that he lived through for ten years before dying. The Turin Horse follows on immediately after the encounter between man and horse, taking the path of the stubborn horse and her owner, back to their rural abode.

Perhaps the reason for the intense fascination at the little we are presented with on screen is that – filmed in monochrome – it is almost as if we are travelling back in time to January 3rd, 1889 and watching the mundane lives of the owner of the horse and his daughter. It doesn’t seem acted, the slow pace and clever camerawork give a level of realism that’s extraordinarily easy to watch, albeit with minimal action.

The wind is howling, the girl boils some potatoes, they get dressed, they get undressed, the girl fetches water, they muck out the horse. This is their daily routine. This is being human. Stark. Mysterious. What about variety? Why don’t they want more to happen? Don’t they tire of potatoes? There is a strong sense of purpose heightened by the camerawork creating something resembling a moving black and white photograph.

Some people will find it as interesting as being locked in a dark room with some straw to lie on and nothing else to do. But I found it strangely mesmerising. I expect in the cinema this is an extraordinarily relaxing movie. Perhaps the repetitive melody on strings for the score – music to leave a sense of anticipation and excitement, music that makes my heart race through listening – helps lull the viewer.  

I’m left curious about connecting to this motion picture experientially during a theatre screen view.

The other characters that come into the plot remind us loosely of Nietzsche’s ideas.  The girl reads out loud from a book given to her by gypsies in an exchange (with water). There is a visitor incorporated into the script. He sits at the table and talks. It’s as if we can see an occurence in history, somewhere near the apex of the philosopher’s suggestions, as they begin to filter down through the pyramid of mind and embed themselves into the collective-consciousness of human psyche.

Just as a small child can these days discern between a circle and a square, when this was once a ‘discovery’ of great men, all ideas sink deeper and deeper into our being. Whatever was always already there troubling Nietzsche, what might have happened to his mental faculties on that fateful day, is not known although the tale is not lost to aeons thanks to The Turin Horse.

THE POSSESSION (2012) dir. Ole Bornedal

27 Aug

The name Sam Raimi might be asssociated with this movie but as producer his role was to make the soil fertile, not to grow the crops. Don’t be surprised either, that something is all too familiar about The Possession. The greatest downfall of the film is that it has already been done elsewhere.

If we hadn’t seen an exorcism film before, then we might enjoy it more, although it lacks the tingles of ultimate exorcism-gore film The Exorcist, it does have an appeal and beauty. It is well researched and inspired by a true story written about in an article by Leslie Gornstein that you can read here.  

A young girl (Natasha Calis) buys a wooden box at a yard sale. It is engraved with Hebrew letters and is mysteriously unopenable. When she finally gets to look inside it, she finds it filled with creepy bits and bobs: a ring, a dead creature and a tooth amongst other things. The possession begins with a plague of moths. The girl is obviously behaving strangely by this point – she sits on her bed hugging the box – oblivious to the insects that surround her.

Her obsession with the weird box begins to alarm her father (Jeffery Dean Morgan), who is surprisingly intelligent for someone in a horror film, quickly drawing the conclusion that she must be possessed. He goes off to find a Rabbi to do the work.

In the meantime, the mother (Kyra Sedgwick) also discovers something is wrong with her daughter, her newly warped behaviour is inexplicable. Instead of typing ‘possession wooden box’ into google, she sensibly takes the girl to hospital to investigate further.

The tension between the recently divorced parents was excellent and added to the sharp pace of the film. The well-delivered script drew some light relief and raised a laugh in places (but not Evil Dead style). There were just enough frights to stay alert.

The cinematography gave the impression of being well thought through, with muted colours creating light and dark contrasts, slowly building a wall of fear. I would say that it was easy-going horror, the kind of film that you might want to put on when you get in from the pub, when you want to curl up and feel safe and be a voyeur.

SELENA (1997) dir. Gregory Nava

15 Aug

There is something about the song Dreaming of You that I seem to remember from my youth. Maybe travelling to windsurfing with the radio on in the car – I don’t know – the American music chart on Atlantic 252, or possibly MTV. Anyway, most of the people who I’ve pestered since ‘discovering’ Selena have never heard of her or say “who?” looking misty-eyed, as if it’s a name they hear around, someone they ought to know. A comment on a youtube video led me to investigate who Selena was, what her legacy is about, and now I’ve been touched I won’t forget.

This isn’t Selena Gomez.  Oh no, this is Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Mexican-American superstar, a heroine. She was shot in the shoulder by the swindling president of her fan club and bled to death in spring 1995, 16 days before her 24th birthday, 3 days before her 3rd wedding anniversary. This sad occurence ought to be scrubbed out of her history, eradicated, forgotten, and no more associated with her life. She was one of the most wonderful musicians of her generation, Queen of Tejano, a Texan beauty. I feel sorrow that when people remember Selena, they will always remember her untimely passing, alongside her music and spirit.

The film Selena is a beautiful account of a family in Texas facing financial hardship, turning to the band they formed as a hobby ‘to keep the kids of the streets,’ in order to make ends meet. Rebecca Lee Meza plays Selena when she was a young girl with big dreams. It came as a surprise, conflicting with stereotypes, to learn that Selena didn’t speak any Spanish. Her father encourages her to sing from the corazon. They moved to Corpus Christi, which seems a pleasant enough place besides the sea, and began touring round Texas playing at weddings and fetes.

Jennifer Lopez plays Selena in her older years. It’s a role she lives up to the challenge of playing. Selena seems to realise her fame when the tour bus breaks down and some guys pull over to help, not minding that their own car breaks, anything to help ‘Selenas’. EMI Latin signed them. They go to Mexico to play a gig and attract a crowd a hundred thousand strong, ten times greater than expected, the tiny stage inadequate for the ocean of fans.  Everyone is surprised by how smoothly things are going for the group against the odds. Selena has relentless determination and a positive outlook. Whenever her father has doubts, she remains absolutely confident in herself.

When her father forbids her from seeing her guitarist Chris Perez, with whom she is in love, a shotgun wedding occurs, forcing everyone into accepting their feelings for one another. It’s very romantic. But my favourite scene is in a mall in Los Angeles before the Grammys. In a nice shop, she asks the snobby assistant to try on a dress, the assistant replies that she doesn’t think she’ll be interested, that the dress has a price tag of $800. She looks at her as if she is a Mexican maid. Justice is poetic when Selena is spotted in the changing room by a Latino. Before the shop assistant can eat her words, the shop is filled with Hispanics seeking autographs, bombarding Selena. She’s just so lovely and embodies family values that you want her to be a success, to win the award, to be a household name. It’s a triumph when she gets the chance to accomplish everything she always dreamt of, to bring tejano to the mainstream, be a name on everyone’s lips.

J-Lo is great as Selena. The costumes are wonderful. The tejano music is energising. The vast majority of the film is very upbeat and inspiring. Of course, knowing what is to come, my eyes were filling up and I had a bit of a cry towards the end. The portrayal of the last few hours of her life was sensitive and respectful towards the wishes of her family and friends. If you want to know more, then have a play around online for further information. The film isn’t at all morbid but there is plenty of footage to be found on youtube. Selena is one to watch over and over, great for a rainy day, full of vibrancy, enthusiasm and optimism. Plus the music is awesome, you can’t help but wonder how far she would have gone, a star.


DREAMS OF A LIFE (2011) dir. Carol Morley

15 Aug

Joyce Carol Vincent is a name to remember. She was found dead in her flat in North London, apparently of natural causes, three years after she died in 2003. The documentary charts how this could have happened, with Zawe Ashton playing Joyce in fictionalised scenes. The people being interviewed either responded to an advert on the side of a taxi or were tracked down by Carol Morley, the director. There was little to go on.
Who was Joyce? Was she some sort of vagabond who no one cared about? No, she was stunningly beautiful. Time and time again the people who knew her described her as ‘immaculate.’ She had responsible jobs in the City. In the nineties she dated a music producer and met many artists. She had an aura about her. She wanted to be a pop star.
She was only 38 when she died. Her family aren’t featured in the presentation, they were around but they weren’t close to her. Many of the people Joyce met (worked with, dated) commented that it must be, to some extent, her own fault. She had moved around from place to place within London, going from relationship to relationship, never fully keeping in touch with anyone.
A lady described her as not ‘emotionally matured’ because she didn’t retain close relationships. It happens. Work takes over, people lose contact, drift in and out. ‘Was she abused?’ says one. ‘She must’ve been murdered,’ asks another. Yet, secretive as she was, their claims are speculation and ironically seek further scandal by way of explanation. It takes a lot of guts to be self-reliant and not depend upon the past for definition.
Her friend and ex-partner, Martin, who she met in 1985, last heard from her in 2002. His experiences of their life together build a more concrete picture. There were sometimes years between seeing each other. It must have been distressing to have heard the story on the news and not have associated it with bubbly, enigmatic Joyce. He was contacted by the director to find that not only had she passed away, she had lain there decomposing whilst he wondered about her.
Judging from the film it would seem that no one knew much about her. The police and press had little to go on. The power of the story is in the fascination it creates, the mystery in her voice, her incredible presence. All those people we somehow let go of; it has a too familiar resonance. Around us in the web we weave are faces we don’t know in the way we want to believe that we do. Dreams of a Life is a fascinating portrait of contemporary, geographically mobile, convenience culture.