Sunday 5 June 2022

The Souvenir Part II [2021]

 If “art imitated life (and vice-versa)” in Joanna Hogg’s nakedly autobiographical film The Souvenir, that was twice over in her superb, intimate, nuanced, delicately composed and wonderfully metatextual sequel. Where the former film was about its heroine’s debilitating affair with an enigmatic man – based on the director’s remembrance of her own days as a young woman – the complex interplay of “real” and “reel” were taken a step further as the protagonist here decides to make a film to remember, interpret and understand that tragic relationship, along the lines of what Hogg already did in the earlier one; therefore, like Kiarostami’s sublime masterwork Through the Olive Trees, the protagonist – who herself is a stand-in for the filmmaker – directs an actress who’s a stand-in for her in the film-within-film. And yet, despite the formal ingenuity, the work itself brimmed with disarming simplicity, poignant reminiscences, affecting mix of emotions – joy, melancholy and pathos – and fine evocation of an artist’s startling coming-of-age as a woman and an artist through her art. It took off where the earlier one ended, with Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) trying to recover – at the charming countryside estate of her parents (played by Tilda Swinton, Byrne’s real-life mother, and James Spencer Ashworth) – from the crushing impact of her boyfriend’s addiction and demise. And, as part of this recovery process, she first tries to understand who he really was, and thereafter deconstruct her own memories of him and their relationship through her graduation film – a memoir, instead of a social-realist documentary that she’d initially planned for – against her professors’ wishes. Multiple moments of self-deprecating humour and bold stylistic splashes were adroitly blended into this otherwise sombre, muted and self-reflexive gem.

Director: Joanna Hogg

Genre: Drama/Film a Clef

Language: English

Country: UK

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