Monthly Archives: May 2014

Juliette Binoche season 1: war torn worthies

As promised, following Kate Winslet season, we move to another European actress with an interesting career of challenging, deep films.

Juliette came to the notice of the more general cinema public in Chocolat (not simply a sweet tale, as I wrote here http://bookstove.com/drama/chocolat-not-simply-a-sweet-tale/). And she’d also come on the quality mainstream radar for her nurse in The English Patient.

But the arthouse goers had long known Juliette, particularly for her Three Colours: Blue role, but also for the obsessive affair with Jeremy Irons in Damage, in sex and philosophy with The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Perhaps her most recent well known role is in Cache/Hidden. But these are not my favourites – as I will show in other posts on the season.

She’s continued to challenge, to walk the line of the uncomfortable (eg, Elles), probing reality (in Mary and Certified Copy).

Two films I saw this week of hers had a common theme – the alien woman who’s been at the heart of armed conflict, whose tornness is as much about family as it is about military violence. The first was a new release at the cinema – A Thousand Times Good Night. There was more conflict at home, with a family who are sick of emotionally saying a final goodbye everytime their wife/mum takes a new assignment as war photographer. I found her marine biologist husband difficult, not least because I wanted to cut his hair and beard, but because of his reactions. Not the feelings themselves but his sharing of them (or not). I struggled with the very European film ending – ie that there wasn’t one. As the screen turned black, I wondered if there was more film coming or if the credits would start. When the latter happened, I felt cheated, and do not have a sense of closure or final understanding of the film.

I disliked the notion that one has to choose which family needs you more – your own or the one of your calling, and that the first family has to concede Juliette’s Rebecca to the Africans. Can’t they find a way to share, rather than one let go?

The moral point I’d like to debate is about war photography. Do people want cameras in their faces held by aliens, intruders, as the method of telling their story to the world? I feel cameras are intrusive and we’re having them too often – CCTV, unsolicited snappers at public events, who can put on the net for all to see. Have those crying maimed people given their permission, do they understand what the photographer intends to do with that image of them?

Whereas the belief of the photographer seems admirable, I am not sure about it as a method. In this film, Juliette’s character risks her life taking photos of a refugee camp that’s stormed (we do not understand why or by whom). She rushes the photos to New York (why there, when it’s a Scandinavian/Irish film?) and their publication leads to military support for the camp. Job done, says Rebecca and the film’s maker Eric Poppe, who was a war photographer himself. But I see swapping one set of pointing guns for another; these people, already having left their homes, still have the daily fear of soldiers and guns around them. Often guns beget bigger guns in retaliation. It means loss of freedom and fear for these refugees. Is this really the solution?

I was angered that there is an emphasis on the Muslim Middle East and suicide bombers in the film. I was more interested in the African issues – which seem less well known – than perpetuating a link that feeds the war on terror.

War photography does not act in itself – it leaves that to the viewer – but those being photographed at the time are not saved.

But then Diana used that technique to powerful effect; some say it gave her powerful enemies.

I also picked out an older film of Juliette’s: Breaking and Entering, where she is a Bosnian asylum seeker in London, with a son whose catlike agility is soon utilised by criminals. And he preys on a landscape architect with a fractured relationship and a daughter who also has gifts that feel like conditions. Unlike 360 which I also saw this week, Breaking and Entering combines several characters and communities from different countries in a way that didn’t feel overloading or spreading too thin. I cared about the central characters who I felt I knew, unlike the ensemble cast of 360 where only familiar faces gave any sense of resonance. In 360, we lurched from one scenario to another like a third world bus; but Breaking and Entering was well crafted and about deep issues – sometimes overlapping with 360, about marital breakdown and extramarital attraction, about crime and prostitution…. and yet did so in a satisfying, compassionate way.

The place I wasn’t satisfied was the resolution with Juliette’s character Amira in B&E who (PLOT SPOILER COMING) has to endure the sight of her lover holding the hand of his real partner, telling a non-court that their relationship was ‘inappropriate’. Will (Jude Law) brushes Amira off cruelly when she begs his help to not send her son to prison. Will  never apologises, never gives closure to that affair; and Amira, already living in reduced circumstances below her capabilities, already a foreigner here on Home Office’s permission, is further diminished and damaged by this man whose kindness and touch now seem tainted and counterfeit.

Juliette was excellent in both films as ever, but endings in both left me feeling a twitch of disappointment.

More on Ms Binoche anon.

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Cinema with Elspeth – another blog launches today

I know, I’m on a roll, but I’ve long loved cinema and wanted a place to put the cinemas themselves, not the films, which are often on here.

 

Here it is: http://cinemawithelspeth.wordpress.com/

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naughty guides and days out have a new home

I’ve started another blog for these. There are links to similar posts around the web on previous articles on this one:

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/my-travel-writing/

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/naughty-guides/

I’ll keep my other posts on travel and heritage on here – eg churches, a sense of place, and musings on a couple of Essex cities – and the Elephant grey bottom post. (you’ve noticed the search box and category filter on the right?)

but I’m going to start updating the Day Out With Elspeth series and putting these all together.

They now live at http://elspethsnaughtyguides.wordpress.com/

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Kate Winslet 3: patterns in her lovers

Further (and probably final – for now) musings on the 20 year career of Ms Winslet…

 – the short term intensive relationship

Titanic, Labor Day, The Reader, perhaps Finding Neverland; the first two are a matter of days in isolation – one on a voyage, the other, a weekend; the next, a summer

– Her loves set her free

They’re often childlike men and not macho – Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Titanic who spits and runs and has a boyish aspect, though an inner maturity and sortedness; James M Barrie (Johnny Depp) in Finding Neverland who dresses as a Red Indian and wears spoons on his nose at dinner – truly his Peter Pan; Bilal in Hideous Kinky does handstands and magic tricks and has little sense of real responsibility or adult relating; Miles in The Holiday; Brad in Little Children wants to skateboard and play ball, and isn’t comfortable in his relationships or responsibilties. In The Reader, her lover’s a teenager half her age. In Iris, John Bayley’s perhaps a little bumbling and eccentric and less experienced in relationships; Iris looks after him in a childlike way until her illness; in Enigma, Tom’s a genius in meltdown. Monty in Mildred Pierce is less boyish physically, but he’s a playboy in both senses; he leads her out sexually, but he and worldly wise Wally contribute to Mildred’s downward arc. I am not sure Monty can be said to contribute to Mildred’s rise in confidence or business success – rather, he reaps its rewards.

Note how often chasing, fights, games come into the halcyon days with her loves – Jude, Iris, Eternal…, Titanic.

Jack, Bilal and James bring her character out; Kate’s character brings out John and Michael; in Eternal…, Clem embodies what’s in Joel’s head.

The only macho man so far in Kate’s career is in Labor Day, where Frank’s the controlling one, although he does a traditional women’s thing – he bakes and feeds the family, but then ties up Adele and plays baseball, the right of passage to manhood also in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, and in Little Children. I would say that another Frank in Revolutionary Road is controlling – but then, his behaviour leads to demise. Note that Leo’s role here is a reverse of his Titanic one.

Ruth disarms PJ of his machismo in Holy Smoke.

Men who give her power and encouragement lead her forward – Jack lets Rose come onto him and take the lead, and he contrasts with her controlling Mum and fiancé by giving Rose the tools for a life of freedom and fulfilment away from stricture.

By working together as equals, and Hester and Tom solve the Enigma.

Kate’s played a woman interested in other women (even subtly, tangentially) 4 times:

Heavenly Creatures is all about a female friendship that’s arguably love (though it’s too complicated to simply call lesbian); in Holy Smoke she dances with another women and kisses her sensuously; Iris is bisexual, and so’s Hester in Enigma, whose drive towards solving a mystery with Tom is because both have feelings for Claire (in the book it’s more obvious). And then, there’s Veda in Mildred Pierce, a hard to place mother daughter relationship where Mildred has physical thrills around her daughter and kisses her on the lips, and fights like a spurned lover. In the novel of Little Children, Sarah had a relationship with a woman before she met her husband.

Her loves are her undoing

Like Shakespeare plays, Kate’s onscreen loves come mostly in two categories, often not overlapping:

Those drive her mad or to near death; and those who give her new life (tradegy/comedy)

The former are in Heavenly Creatures, Hamlet, Jude, Quills, Revolutionary Road, Mildred Pierce

Marianne’s first love in Sense and Sensibility is her undoing (the charismatic, handsome, playful libertine Willoughby), but the second, older love (Colonel Brandon) is reliable and moral.

– Escape through imagination, travel, learning

This is recurrent and the most empowering: even if it goes wrong, it’s due to forces or society.

In Heavenly Creatures, Pauline and Juliette create worlds, but are severed through paranoid families and schools and a legal system

Jude‘s advanced through learning and geographically moving, but classism and judgement about marriage creates poverty leading to tragedy and parting

Travel and the search for the spiritual (which involves some imagination and reading) empower Julia of Hideous Kinky and Ruth of Holy Smoke.

The desire to travel – and not getting it – thwarts April in Revolutionary Road; and its lack is behind the problems of Maddie in Quills and Adele in Labor Day; but it opens up possibilities for Rose in Titanic, Iris in The Holiday

Reading is the solace of Maddie in Quills, whose goodness in life comes from vicariously not being good on the page, and of Hannah in The Reader. Iris Murdoch’s whole existence is around words and worlds – academically and in fiction.

Isolation in body and spirit causes demise; keeping on metaphorical corsets means loss of mind and self, and ultimately, life.

It’s meant to be a warning to do differently, I think, rather than suggesting that bohemianism is destructive, so stay conventional: I think those stories say the reverse.

Breaking out of that gives the autonomous women Kate regularly chooses a better life, a life to the full, and is one of the reasons I enjoy watching her and following her career.

Next season will be Juliette Binoche to go with her new film, A Thousand Times Good Night

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Eternal Sunshine – going backwards and erasing too much

This is part two on this 10 year old cult indie movie, and part of a Kate Winslet season I’m having on here.

I’ve now watched the whole DVD commentary and the film backwards, and tried to read the shooting script backwards too.

I feel a little fading of my own, as I prewarned in my first post….

The three things going on in different orders make it hard to see, but I still believe that the story should work in chronological order. I’m focussing on Clem and Joel’s original, pre wipe relationship.

I think some significant things have gone to the eraser guys – which seem to be studio bosses. In the DVD commentary, Michel kept seeing, it had to go, it was too long. Says who?

We have this fetish that films – and now novels – have to be a certain length. I’m glad that there’s a trend (which I wanted to start) with two or three movies to adapt one book. I think you often need 4-6 hours of screentime to do a novel justice.

Even as a penned for the screen, non adapted story, Eternal… is too short because now I’ve analysed it and got used to it, there’s some important character/story arc missing. Sadly, much of it seems to be lost in the cutting room, for it was actually in the shooting script (ie the published version which they used to shoot the film, though this is often deviated from).

I definitely disagree with Jim Carrey that a Charlie Kaufman script is near perfect; I felt I could do lots of erasing and it would be nothing we’d miss; odd bits of dialogue, mini scenes that we could glean in 1 (eg 3 to show they’re at a beach party), but I don’t believe in cutting dialogue for its own sake, only when something’s said which isn’t needed or is not well written.

Here’s the arc as I see it and what’s missing:

So where do we start from? Joel’s in a nice, safe relationship, but he’s restless.

We have the central dichotomy: nice Naomi vs crazy Clementine

One of the bits of wisdom I love that I think is cut from the movie is where Clem says [in her first re-meeting with Joel] that truth changes; and to stay alive, you must be open to change. She disagrees that a sign of maturity is consistency; for that is how we die.

Feeling frustrated with ennui and unexpressed thoughts, Joel goes to a party without Naomi and meets Clem.

Missing important line: Clem’s opening gambit is, on seeing Joel also alone at the party: “Thank goodness for someone else normal who doesn’t know how to interact at these things”. And Joel is touched by her sensitivity, even though her confident introduction feels like a contradiction.

So I’m liking Clem, understanding why Joel does. Without that line, I don’t.

But what of the rest of that day, where their interaction is important enough for Joel to seek out Clem again after a bad ending and to throw off his live in girlfriend of 2 years?

The little dialogue they had on that first meeting – about shared pharmaceutical drug taking and poetry taste – is cut, and we’re left with maverick, criminal, pushy Clem who disdainfully tells Joel to go. It seems their attraction is mutual, but that they’ve not kissed or talked about it – Clem checks which sex Joel lives with “so [she] knows she’s not barking up the wrong tree” and Joel comments that Clem knew that once he was in the beach house, she had him… and then she goes upstairs to “change into something a little more Ruth” ie like the woman who owns the house, which sounds like seduction is to follow. But how did they get to that point?

The shooting script has Joel then deliberate over his life with Naomi, which he sees continuing forever as it is, and the regretful, hollow older man he’d become… and the aliveness that Clem sparks in him – except I’m struggling to see how a criminal interloper, smotherer, unprofessional employee, pissy, immature Clem represents ebullient life for Joel.

This part is also cut from the finished film.

When Joel seeks out Clem in the bookstore (which we don’t know he knows she works in at that point), another vital line is axed: that Clem represents something important to him. (I note that the script mentions both Barnes & Nobel and Borders – which is it that Clem works at?!)

In the released film, we don’t have Joel’s break up with Naomi, we don’t even fully understand it’s happened. The first date – ‘second acting’ (ie, the theatre without tickets) – is also cut, and it’s important because Joel says he wasn’t fully sure about being with Clem and not Naomi then, but that he is as he was being erased.

Then comes a big chunk of silliness with Joel and Clem together, and it’s where vital turning points are left out.

Joel and Clem feel like their childhood counterparts: immature post student companions, but not lovers, not really a couple. We never see their first kiss, their first protestations of love, their first physical consummation. The script tells us that they made love on the frozen Charles river, and if you freeze frame, you can see the deleted dialogue about this written in Kate Winslet’s hand being pulled out of Patrick Baby Boy’s rucksack towards the end of the film. I think I’d have chosen that memorable place to show Clem and Joel as lovers, to show that development. There’s another love scene without a context on the DVD extras, but not in the movie.

Then comes the turning point scene, the hacked and shortened Velveteen Rabbit speech which becomes a tale beneath the covers about the ugly doll which represents Clem. As Joel reassures Clem she’s pretty, they begin the only passionate kiss I can recall in the film, and that’s when Joel decides he wants to keep a memory…. and then that he’d like to call the erasing off.

Nothing seems to change in their oddball friendship until suddenly, having had an affectionate time pillow smothering and armpit sniffing, Clem and Joel are ‘the dining dead’, and she’s criticising his domestic habits. Then it’s the fleamarket scene, where they’re in love enough to consider children but in which she threatens to leave him after Joel implies she’s not ready and possibly a unsuitable parent.

Then it’s the bored TV watching scene where Joel plays dead as Clem stomps out and returns at 3am, drunk with a dented car and quite possibility having been unfaithful…. and the fight which ends their 2 year relationship. And we never see or understand Clem’s decision to erase Joel, other than being impulsive. I didn’t feel that fight was big enough to end the relationship, and neither does Joel, who’s tried to make up by Valentine’s day and call, only to find Clem’s number has been erased, and that when he goes into her bookstore, she doesn’t recognise him and is with Patrick.

The film’s ending grates. I think it could be improved with a single line change. So when Clem says, I’ll get bored and feel trapped, that’s what I do… Joel should say, “But what if that’s because you keep telling yourself that. What if you told yourself a different story this time?”

I do note that Joel seems to have learned something, for his mumbling stops by the end, and he is clear and Jim-Carrey-esque in his mind (aren’t many of us clearer and more confident in the privacy of our own thoughts?) I was glad that Joel is, as Clem observes, closed mouthed – I realised how much Jim zanily shows his teeth usually, and therefore what a change of role this is for him. But Clem doesn’t seem to be any more ready for a better relationship.

Joel and Clem’s mutual taste in books is also cut, which gave them a deeper connection, and you don’t see the reading together in the movie, but you do the script. Strangely for a bookseller, Joel tells Dr Howard that he can’t really talk to Clem about books, she’s more of a magazine girl.

If you freeze frame the film, you can see lots of things which are so sped up you’d miss them: eg a scene with Rob, Carrie Joel and Clem – for I was wondering how they were all mutual friends.

I’m unsure about Howard and Mary having had an affair; even the one grown up calm character buys a silly toy (the desk wind up frog) as a sign of love, and it doesn’t fit. What if Mary’s crush were unreturned and therefore Dr Mierzwiak didn’t have to live with a memory and feeling she didn’t? I can see that Mary’s discovery of having gone under the Lacuna experience is the cause of the return of the tapes (and presumably, the end of Lacuna’s business); but I felt little interested in the Lacuna staff and would have gladly lost screentime with them in favour of the missing bits with Joel and Clem.

Yes, I think this all matters, for the kind of person who like this film will analyse deeply – as Kaufman said, they often rewatched several times and notice new things. And for me, ten years on, I’ve noticed that things are missing. Just because it’s in a crazy order with quirky bits and big ideas, doesn’t mean that lack of narrative progression is excusable; and it seems that much of that progression was in Kaufman’s shooting script, but that the director and studio made him erase it, and it’s a poorer film for it.

Take note, studios – the golden 90/100 minute movie is not golden if you don’t tell your story properly.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 10 years on

I note others have done an anniversary post, and today by date was the day I first saw the film, at an art house cinema in Newcastle, shortly after its UK release. I’ve just rewatched my collector’s edition and read the screenplay. I’d like to add my thoughts as they fit with my Kate Winslet season.

First off is the personal issue of “what would I erase?” and whether I have regrets I can live with. There’s the life I had then, and now… and it’s hard to disassociate the film from those two aspects. That angle will not be part of this post, although it’s the most powerful.

Eternal…. is an example of Kate Winslet’s continuing interesting choices, one she claims was surprising for her, but it did not surprise me, it delighted me. She wasn’t purely ‘corset Kate’, having done Holy Smoke and Hideous Kinky within the last 5 years; and only the year before had she been a modern American journalist. There’d been humour in her work before – particularly Holy Smoke again, and Quills. It was no surprise Kate could do quirky and zany, but it was also an ideas based romantic drama – very much like the majority of her work, and where she’s deviated from that, I think Kate’s been her least successful.

I knew little of Charlie Kaufman, though I’d seen Being John Malkovich, but he came to be a screenwriter I admired for his original, quirky, sweeping ideas – something that makes him one of the few well known film writers. On the DVD extras, Jim Carrey called a Kaufman script as near to perfect as they come, but I’m now not so sure.

I consider the Kaufman/Michel Gondry alliance as comparable to George Martin and John Lennon’s. I’ve heard George’s orchestral tracks on the Magical Mystery Tour album, and I’ve heard John’s own original versions of Tomorrow Never Knows and I am the Walrus – the two songs that attracted me to the Beatles for their surprising, multilayered, interesting orchestrations. Lennon and Martin need each other; apart they are disappointing. Similarly, I was wowed by Michel Gondry’s visual style and the unusualness of his filmmaking technique. After Eternal came The Science of Sleep from Gondry, which I excitedly awaited. Amid the appealing stop motion animation, there was a naïve charm, something I feel in the work of both him and Charlie K – but it felt to me a much less successful story than Eternal. I skipped his cornucopia of famous movie remakes Be Kind Rewind and gave up after family documentary A Thorn in the Heart. My pleasure at Kaufman faded after Synecdoche, New York, where the size of his ideas and contortions of his mind lost me – and moreover, so did the misery and self loathing of the protagonist. It was there again in Adaptation, which I saw later, and I can see it now in Eternal.

Charlie Kaufman feels a little like Woody Allen – a writer who puts himself in his movies, set in his favourite city, plays with layers of the self, and laughs at his own angst and works through it with us. So far, I follow him and thus sympathetic. But that written self is too depreciating, too mumbling, too bitter. The introduction to the published script of Synecdoche was a rant of “I’m obliged to write this but I don’t care and I’ve nothing to say.” After not enjoying the movie, I really was put off and decided I’d seek out neither filmmaker again.

I dislike the Newmarket shooting script ending to Eternal: a simple sour mutual  “OK”. Clem and Joel have learnt nothing, just come to a point of acceptance of the inevitability of another demise, but they will try and enjoy their renewed relationship til then. Kaufman’s work is about big themes but never spiritual, and I personally don’t think growth and profundity is possible without it.

Apart from the wisdom re unreciprocated love, I recall being disappointed in the ethos and personal growth presented in Adaptation. When I’d got my head round the journey in Eternal, I felt similarly. Clem’s speech about being ‘a fucked up girl looking for her own piece of mind – don’t assign me yours’ might have sound a self aware, honest speech, but it belies an inability to take interest in others and to fully let down her mask. Others may seek her for completion – but she is not yet complete herself. (Obviously, I am…!?)

I note Kaufman’s earlier collaboration with Spike Jonze, who’s just made such a thoughtful film where people are articulate (see my earlier post about being congruent and Her). Clementine is sometimes congruent, eg when she twice tells Joel she’s pissed by the hurtful thing he’s just said (‘talking constantly isn’t communicating’; that fucking is how Clem gets people to like her). That is when I liked her best, and when I felt these two movies are most akin.

Eternal Sunshine’s strongest card is, for me, Kate Winslet. The younger staff at Lacuna are too unethical and immature, recalling Ruth’s family in Holy Smoke, I presume to make an ironic contrast with the deprogramming in both films. Joel is “nice” but I found his muttering unbearable and wanted to join Clem’s injunction to “open your goddamn mouth, I can never the fuck understand what you’re saying!” (He actually does – hooray for the listener and for the story arc!) I like that Clem acts out Joel’s inner desires. I disagree about the hair dying criticism (see Kate Winslet 1 post) but not sure I’d follow Joel in calling it ‘topping”. Only in the childhood scene does she have her hair dyed properly, ie all over (when she looks gorgeous). Otherwise it looks amateurishly done and smeared on. I was concerned by the smothering scenes as a kind of game. The real sign of Clem’s childishness and recklessness is not just her poor professionalism (her snog-boyfriend, ignore-customer would’ve got her sacked from most bookshops), not just her going on a frozen river, but in the breaking into someone’s home at the chronological start. It’s not only illegal, it’s a horrid thing to do, but the Lacuna guys also steal liquor from someone else’s home. And then Clem gatecrashes a play (which is not anti elitism, but not supporting the arts), she drink/drives, which Joel rightly calls irresponsible. As much as I want to like Clem, I’d grow tired of her, and with that she’s a poor listener – note how often she interrupts Joel. And that she erases Joel not only on a whim, but a kind of lark.

I love the concept and the message of Eternal Sunshine – that one should not try to blot our difficulties but embrace them – but arrogant as this may sound, feel I’ve partially outgrown the story, which saddens me, because it’s long been a favourite.

I am finishing watching the commentary and will put final thoughts up shortly.

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Kate Winslet 2: family, friends and lovers

Apart from noting that she’s played characters with the same name a few times, I also started to browse for themes among the relationships of the roles Kate Winslet plays. In the last post on her, I looked at whether she goes mad and dies in all her films. In this one I’m wondering: is she a mother often, a lover, a sister/daughter or a friend?

I note that the relationship that appears in nearly all her films is lover; only in small parts (such as Divergent/Insurgent and the Extras episode) does she not have romance – with the exception of The Life of David Gale, where the principal relationship is between her as journalist to condemned campaigner. In Steve Jobs, her relationship is again to the titular man in a professional sense and her own family is unmentioned. In Contagion she barely has a relationship at all, but is part of a much wider cast.

Kate has often played a mum, talking about this at great (and I have to say) cloying length in interviews. She was first a mum in 1998’s Hideous Kinky, when she was yet to be one herself. She spends her promotional material for Little Children saying what a bad mum her character Sarah is, unlike her, and how she found the scatty adventure loving mum roles hard. Kate’s very keen we know she’s not like that to her own children, dropping in anecdotes of how close and involved they are.

But as for being part of a family in her films, this is a rare scenario. The few times we see Kate’s character’s parents, it’s often dysfunctional – an easy word to slap on most of us – but Juliet of Heavenly Creatures is unhappy in the love triangled, emigrating Hulme family; in Holy Smoke, although there’s a strong link with her mum, she’s betrayed by her whole kooky family into being captured to be deprogrammed by an arrogant stranger. Rose’s so desperate to escape her snakily controlling mum that she allows her to think Rose is dead after Titanic sinks. In Quills, Madeleine bed shares with her mum whom she works with, and is one of her happiest mother daughter roles, putting a protective arm round her blind mum when they’re interrogated. I note she’s often got an absent father –  in Sense and Sensibility and Quills; and he leaves the family for an affair in Holy Smoke. The only time sisters are important is Sense and Sensibility and we see brothers in All the Kings Men and The Holiday. Quite often, her own birth family’s not mentioned.

Even rarer is friendship. Other than her debut film, where the friendship is seen by some as psychopathic and unhealthy, Kate is not really with any significant friends in her films. I’d like to make clear that I don’t consider the possibly gay or homo-romantic relationship in Heavenly Creatures as unhealthy, mad or anything to do with the crime they commit, except for the bigotry and paranoia which led to the attempt to separate them. But it’s notable that Kate’s never had much onscreen companionship since. Ruth’s got Prue in Holy Smoke, who tells on her, and there’s a girly posse who arrive and warmly greet her on her return from India. In Hideous Kinky, there’s the small part of Eva who appears as the veiled fellow Sufi-chaser, but little mention of friends at home; I’m not quite sure that the rich house Julia stays in could be called friends. Adele has only one friend by default in Labor Day (the neighbour with the disabled son Barrie). In other films, she’s got people round her – often workmates, such as Quills, or other mums she meets at the playground and her walking/book group older friend in Little Children, but she’s not really close or always happy. There’s friendship with other couples in Iris (although secondary to her lovers, which many of them also were) and Revolutionary Road. In The Holiday, she makes a friend with an older man, returned screenwriter.

Kate’s characters don’t always have a wide circle. Writers often have to choose a small bunch of characters round our protagonist that is not representative of the breadth of interactions we’d have in life. But Kate’s often working with one or two others (in Contagion and The Reader she seems mostly isolated), and sometimes it’s implied she doesn’t have unseen other friends. Did Rose have friends mentioned in Titanic, did Hester in Enigma seem to know anyone but house sharing Claire, on whom she has a crush? Clem in Eternal Sunshine has a pair of friends who are mutual with her ex.

The ten year anniversary of that film in Britain will be marked with a special post.

I’d like to come full circle and suggest that Kate’s characters’ repeating madness and demise (the topic of my previous post) is often because of her romantic relationships. It is almost ubiquitous in her 20 year career. I’ll explain more in another post.

I’d like to end with sharing my disappointment that Kate takes so few roles which embody strong friendships, and for all the many articles I’ve read about her, I have not heard her extol friendship in an interview either.

More thoughts on Ms Winslet anon.

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