The Compleat Ingmar #10: Scenes from a Marriage (TV series) (1973)

We recently watched the Netflix-produced Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach. It’s a tough watch: you quickly develop sympathy for the two likeable main characters (played beautifully by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson), and when a legal system that seems to prioritise making a buck over helping two people separate as amicably as possible starts working on them it hurts to see how they are twisted into nastier, pettier, crueler and more antagonistic versions of themselves, particularly when a child is involved.

Where Marriage Story is about the film’s leads becoming the people they never wanted to be due to the legal system, though, the two main characters of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage don’t need lawyers to become enemies: intimacy, fueled by insecurity and resentment, becomes a more cutting and more precise weapon than the sharpest scalpel.

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2019

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3The festive season is upon us. Turkeys are being defrosted, eggnog is being whisked, and your cultural baristas have brought along presents for everyone. It’s a surprise, really, and we don’t want to spoil anything, but here are some hints: Matt asks you to unwrap a strange, tasty treat filled with choices, strangeness, the debris of failed revolutions and potentially lethal ties, while Mege promises a hangout to remember over Earl Grey with some of the most memorable actresses of the last few dozen years, and Julie has prepared a double bill of big egos, dirty dishes and culinary hijinks. Wishing everyone happy holidays and all the very best for what remains of 2019 – be safe and see you in 2020!

Continue reading

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3The festive season is upon us. Turkeys are being defrosted, eggnog is being whisked, and your cultural baristas have brought along presents for everyone. It’s a surprise, really, and we don’t want to spoil anything, but here are some hints: Matt asks you to unwrap a strange, tasty treat filled with choices, strangeness, the debris of failed revolutions and potentially lethal ties, while Mege promises a hangout to remember over Earl Grey with some of the most memorable actresses of the last few dozen years, and Julie has prepared a double bill of big egos, dirty dishes and culinary hijinks. Wishing everyone happy holidays and all the very best for what remains of 2019 – be safe and see you in 2020!

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Hayao Miyazaki (1941)

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!

I have the writer Neil Gaiman to thank for my first experience with director Hayao Miyazaki and his fantastic worlds: at the time, Gaiman wrote the script for Princess Mononoke‘s English dub, which was probably the first dub of a Miyazaki movie that didn’t cast actors primarily known for their voice work in the main parts. Instead, we got names such as Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton and Gillian Anderson – and we also got a wider release than anime features (as opposed to, say, the latest Disney princess movie) usually got in my neck of the woods.

Continue reading

Of Horses, Women, Men and Children: Three Icelandic Films

This I can already conclude: films from Iceland are obviously like buses. You wait for an Icelandic film to watch for years, and then within a week you end up seeing three. (Okay, I cheated somewhat for the sake of the joke – I have seen an Icelandic short film about an old man who declares war on seagulls, but I must be misremembering the details, as I can’t find it on Google.) Another thing I can conclude: I like what I’ve seen of Icelandic cinema.

Continue reading

The Compleat Ingmar #9: A Lesson in Love (1954)

A Lesson in Love doesn’t exactly start very well, at least from a contemporary perspective: after an arch voiceover telling us to prepare ourselves for a comedy for grownups, we first meet a comely but angry young woman, Susanne (played by Yvonne Lombard), listing the failings of her older lover, the gynaecologist David Erneman (Bergman regular Gunnar Björnstrand). The lines are sharp, even witty, but it still seems that we’re watching what is essentially a male fantasy: obviously the young, attractive patients of a middle-aged, jaded gynaecologist would fall over themselves to undress for him in private as well as in his practice. It’s not that Bergman spares his protagonist, but whatever criticism is leveled at David, in the end it doesn’t matter. Young women seem magically attracted to him, and even as Susanne berates him for his cynicism, she still can’t help begging him to continue being her lover.

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #29: There Will Be Blood

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Prepare to have your milkshake drunk right across the internet: your cultural baristas once again return to the Paul Thomas Anderson well, this time to talk about his grim, disorienting epic There Will Be Blood that still confounds after multiple viewings. We also briefly touch upon family horror story Hereditary (which Mege talked about in this post), the surreal comic treat Legion (which we discussed in podcast #9) and and the celluloid nightmare that is The Lighthouse.

Continue reading

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Prepare to have your milkshake drunk right across the internet: your cultural baristas once again return to the Paul Thomas Anderson well, this time to talk about his grim, disorienting epic There Will Be Blood that still confounds after multiple viewings. We also briefly touch upon family horror story Hereditary (which Mege talked about in this post), the surreal comic treat Legion (which we discussed in podcast #9) and and the celluloid nightmare that is The Lighthouse.

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

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!

My mother was an emigrant from England. Since both my parents were from countries other than the one where I was born and where I’ve always lived, I always felt to some extent that wherever I was from, it was elsewhere – and if pressed on the matter, I would have said that I felt a connection to England and to the UK that I didn’t feel to the place my father came from. However, over the last few years I’ve very much had both an opportunity and a reason to re-examine my feelings towards the UK. Probably it started before then, but ever since the summer of 2016 it’s been impossible to avoid the escalating conversation/shouting match/toxic circle-jerk that, at its core, seems to be about identity: what does it mean to be British? What does the UK want to be? What does it want to represent in the world? Does it want to look forward or backward, outward or inward?

Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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!

Bear with me, even though it’s still a few weeks before Christmas, but there’s no way we can’t talk about Frank Capra’s eternal holiday classic now that the Rear-View Mirror is reflecting the year 1946 back at us. When Frank Capra is mentioned, it’s easy to think of a certain kind of corny sentimentality, doubly so when the film in question is It’s a Wonderful Life. The fairy-tale ending, the song about lassoing the moon, the twee story about how an angel gets his wings whenever a bell rings, and Zuzu’s damn petals: it’s easy to be dismissive of the film. Easy and wrong.

Continue reading

A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #28: Werner Herzog

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3It is finally time for us to talk about the Grand Old Wild Man of German cinema, the director who made Klaus Kinski drag a boat across a mountain, the man who directed a film where all the actors were under hypnosis and another film where Nicholas Cage may have been one of the more normal parts of the whole. Join your cultural baristas for a conversation about Werner Herzog and his films, ranging from Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978) via Grizzly Man (2005) to Encounters at the End of the World (2007).

Continue reading

Girl, Incandescent: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

The painter’s job is clear: she must paint a version of the young woman that her potential suitor in Milan will treat like the 18th century version of Tinder, except for ‘swipe right’, read ‘marry the young woman you have never met in person, and she doesn’t have a choice in the matter’. The painter’s job is less that of producing enduring art than it is to advertise a product to be sold: the young woman is a commodity and the painter is there to make her into the most alluring commodity possible. Except, in the process of observing the young woman, the painter begins to desire her. The young woman is no longer an object of art, she is the subject of the painter’s longing. But if the painter fails to complete the portrait that will lead to her losing the woman she has fallen for, someone else will be called in to paint the young woman instead. They will lose one another either way – but, in painting the young woman, she can show her for what she truly is. For the painter, loving her subject finally entails the act of relinquishing her.

Continue reading