The Rear-View Mirror: W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

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All the Stream’s a stage

These are bad times for theatres, theatregoers, companies and performers. Playhouses are closed, festivals are cancelled, productions are postponed to 2021 – provided that the venues and companies survive until then. While some countries have made money available for the arts, to cover loss of income, it’s clearly not on top of any list of priorities, and likely it isn’t even on most people’s radar. Certainly it doesn’t help that artists, actors, directors, musicians, writers, and so on, are rarely sitting on a big, comfortable pile of money for a rainy day, and they know as much as the essential workers that applause has never fed a hungry mouth or paid for the rent.

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Mother Dearest: Lara (2019)

Lara begins as the story of a suicide postponed, and the question that hangs over the film is whether it will end with Lara finishing what she began. Even before she gets the chair and steps on it, it’s clear that Lara isn’t just looking out of the window to enjoy the view of Berlin. There’s something in how she holds herself that seems… defeated, perhaps. This is not a woman who sees her life as a bouquet of possibilities. This is a woman who has had enough. Enough of what, though? Of whom?

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #32: Synecdoche, New York

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Shakespeare once wrote that all the world’s a stage – but what if you turn that upside down and try to make your stage into all the world? This is what Cayden Cotard, sadsack protagonist of Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York attempts. Does he succeed? Does Kaufman’s first film as writer and director work as well as those of his scripts filmed by other directors, such as Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Is Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) relatable in his neurotic urge to make up for his lack of control in his life by means of his art, or is he what keeps the film from greatness? And, in the end, what the hell is it all about?

For this month’s journey into metafiction, Julie and Matt are joined by Eric, culture buff and contributor to A Damn Fine Cup of Culture. Get yourself some coffee, tea or whatever else keeps you afloat during these strange and trying times and join us for episode 32 of the podcast!

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d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Shakespeare once wrote that all the world’s a stage – but what if you turn that upside down and try to make your stage into all the world? This is what Cayden Cotard, sadsack protagonist of Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York attempts. Does he succeed? Does Kaufman’s first film as writer and director work as well as those of his scripts filmed by other directors, such as Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Is Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) relatable in his neurotic urge to make up for his lack of control in his life by means of his art, or is he what keeps the film from greatness? And, in the end, what the hell is it all about?

For this month’s journey into metafiction, Julie and Matt are joined by Eric, culture buff and contributor to A Damn Fine Cup of Culture. Get yourself some coffee, tea or whatever else keeps you afloat during these strange and trying times and join us for episode 32 of the podcast!

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Häxan (1922)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Häxan, a Swedish-Danish silent film from 1922, is a fascinating cultural artifact in so many ways, even before you get to the bit where witches kiss the devil’s behind. Historically, culturally and cinematically, it constitutes a trip to a very different time and place – both in terms of its depiction of medieval Europe and of when and where it was made. There is a strangeness to the film that is intriguing, but at the same time its format is oddly familiar – more so now, perhaps, than it would have been ten, twenty years ago. Because, essentially, Häxan is an extended video essay.

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The Compleat Ingmar #13: From the Life of the Marionettes (1980)

How’s that for coincidence? I ended my write-up of Saraband with a reference to everyone’s favourite dysfunctional married couple, George and Martha (sad, sad, sad) from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Fast forward to the next film on our Swedish odyssey, the 1980 From the Life of Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten), which Bergman made for German state TV while in tax exile – and there is more than a touch of the seething resentment and marital cruelty of Albee’s classic on display.

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About endlessness: La Flor (2018)

What better way to while away a pandemic-caused lockdown than by watching something really, really long? Isn’t that exactly what makes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and their like such an attractive proposition these days? Most of us have to stay home more or less all the time, so having things to keep us busy – books, films, TV series – is a lifesaver. The longer, the better, right? We don’t want to be done barely a week after we’ve started!

So a fourteen-hour film should be just what the doctor ordered, wouldn’t you say?

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The Rear-View Mirror: Benny Hill (1924)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

1924 was a good year in culture. James Baldwin was born, author of the novel Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), the collection of essays Notes of a Native Son and If Beale Street Could Talk, which Barry Jenkins adapted into a beautiful movie in 2018, and much, much more. So was Marcello Mastroianni, the archetype of the disaffected Italian playboy, and Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall. The composer Gabriel Fauré died (you’ve certainly heard the sublime “In Paradisum” from his Requiem), as did Franz Kafka – and indeed Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. Thomas Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) was published, as well as E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India.

In other words, there would be a lot to write about with respect to 1924, so honestly, there is little excuse for… this.

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The Corona Diaries: Virtually isolated

Warning: There may be spoilers for the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 in the final paragraph.

Dear Diary, it’s Matt again. How have you been? Going out, having a cappuccino, a glass of wine, going to the cinema? What, me? No, I’ve been a total homebody. Barely left the house, except for the occasional brief stroll. Though that’s not entirely true: I did leave the house – just virtually.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #31: Mind the gaps

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3We’re back after a three-month break – and right in the middle of a pandemic. What better time than this to listen to some new podcast goodness, though? And what better time to look at the gaps we’ve all got in our film-watching track record?

This month, Julie and Matt talk about the huge swathes of cinema that we’ve missed so far – the genres, eras and countries we’re barely aware of, the directors that everyone loves but we bounced off of, the films we’ve got on an ever-growing pile on a bookshelf that we keep telling ourselves we should finally watch. Grab a hot, fresh cup and join us for episode 31 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture! Continue reading

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3We’re back after a three-month break – and right in the middle of a pandemic. What better time than this to listen to some new podcast goodness, though? And what better time to look at the gaps we’ve all got in our film-watching track record?

This month, Julie and Matt talk about the huge swathes of cinema that we’ve missed so far – the genres, eras and countries we’re barely aware of, the directors that everyone loves but we bounced off of, the films we’ve got on an ever-growing pile on a bookshelf that we keep telling ourselves we should finally watch. Grab a hot, fresh cup and join us for episode 31 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture! Continue reading