Revue ‘The Souvenir Part II’: A portrait of the artist as a young woman. | Arts

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“The Souvenir Part II,” Joanna Hogg’s sequel to her 2019 semi-autobiagrophic drama, could have easily fitted into a cliché mold. A film about cinema at its core, the 2021 sequel might have joined the ranks of “Mank” or “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” flashy films focused on film production. But in a refreshing and intimate twist, Hogg creates a masterfully executed image that elevates the prose of life into a moving story about the creation of a young director.

The film picks up where “The Souvenir” left off, following Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), an aspiring director, as she continues her film studies and navigates the trauma of a manipulative relationship. Disenchanted by her thesis project, she chooses to abandon it and, against the advice of her teachers, creates a surrealist painting that revisits her past.

“I want to show life as it happens in real life,” Julie says in an interview near the end of the film. Hogg’s image remains deeply attached to this mantra as he describes the intricacies of this real-life inspired story. Hogg relegates the backstage of film production to the background, focusing instead on the interpersonal side – the stress and trauma of past abuse. The result is a slow but incessantly insightful look into the life of a young director. The unintended consequence is that audiences scratch their heads when the film pays excessive attention to plotlines that it fails to resolve or adequately address, although this fits the reality that life itself rarely offers. a fence.

Tilda Swinton, who plays Julie Rosalind’s mother (and is Honor Swinton Byrne’s real mother), is fascinating, but doesn’t steal the show. Her supporting role allows the two actresses to bring real warmth to the screen and create a relationship of exceptional depth.

Unlike the veteran actress, the rest of the team are relatively new, and it shows in the endearing seriousness of their performances. Somewhat counterintuitively, the rough delivery to the edges improves the movie. Granted, Julie’s friendly banter with her crew members is stilted – the arguments sound like a mock high school drama, and awkwardness permeates meetings with her parents. However, they do manage to encapsulate the expectations of how these exchanges should look like, if not exactly how they play out in reality.

However, any problem with action or pace fades in light of Hogg’s remarkable cohesion of vision. His close-up, long shots from a static camera make it appear as if the audience is being told some sort of secret, watching from a few feet away, unbeknownst to the characters. This feeling is reinforced by the production design. Whether it’s a photo of a van, a cramped film set, or a narrow hallway in a British apartment, the tightly confined sets add an extra layer of privacy.

The sound design serves the same purpose. Effects that would generally only be background noises, from the rustling of leaves in the wind to muffled footsteps in the next room, take center stage, reinforcing the feeling that the viewer is there, surrounded by the same. environment.

The saturated colors and music are obviously lacking for the most part, and for good reason. Hogg uses a significantly warmer palette and only uses the music a few times. It’s always parsimonious and deliberate, with a very specific focus in mind: the few scenes devoted to the process of making a film. Whenever Julie finds herself on set, working on her production, the screen literally comes to life as saturation increases and the music takes precedence over otherwise pervasive background sounds. This remarkable confluence of audio and visual emphasizes the role of films more than a source of entertainment, but also a transformative avenue for self-expression linked only by the creator’s desire to act and to play. innovate.

“The Souvenir Part II”, with its plot and seemingly unpretentious characters, was a gamble that could easily have failed. But in her reluctance to compromise in the daring pursuit of describing her experiences in all their subtleties, Joanna Hogg has crafted a compelling portrayal of the growth of a young director that allows audiences and protagonist to feel the same appreciation for her. art of cinema.

—Editor-in-Chief Zachary J. Lech can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @zacharylech.


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