Archives for posts with tag: genre: feminism


And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin?

– T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915)

The association between butterflies and the feminine in the western narrative have been canonised in Puccini’s verismo opera Madama Butterfly, itself an allegory for western imperialism. In Act 1 of the opera, the character of Cio-Cio San (a.k.a Butterfly) sings to Pinkerton, “Dicon ch’oltre mare se cade in man dell’uom / ogni farfarla da uno spillo è trafitta / ed in tavola infitta!” (“They say across the sea, if it falls into the hand of man, each butterfly from a needle is pierced and on (a) board fixed!“). The proverbial subjugation of the butterfly (woman) by the man inevitably spells doom, foreshadowing what is to come if Butterfly allows herself to be captured by a colonial lepidopterist.

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O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

– “Coventry Carol”, c. 1534

A quavering viola, a solo adagio for piano, a 16th century chorale – the score of Byzantium evokes all the gothic mien befitting a tale of vampirism spanning two centuries. It is the vampirism not of a vicious, mindless sort associated with bloodlust and stakes through the heart, but an oddly human one; centuries of isolation, loneliness, and time. Javier Navarrete’s score features the haunting 16th century “Coventry Carol”, which tells of a mother’s lament for her doomed child, after the Massacre of the Innocents from the Gospel of Matthew. It is an entirely appropriate theme, mirroring the primary story in the film – that of the bond between Clara (Gemma Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), two vampires who drift through English towns, searching. Despite being mired in loose narrative threads and lack of focus, Byzantium appears to elude most hackneyed tropes of the genre, illuminating a fresh perspective into the realm of the undead.

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Remembering our past, carrying it around with us always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self.

– Milan Kundera, Identity

Western audiences are still largely confounded by the Middle East (the term itself has pejoratively Eurocentric origins). It remains difficult for them to believe that the same countries (“the others!”) that they see on their news programmes, those populated by suicide bombings and perpetual turmoil, contain rich heritages of culture and art that existed long before Western society. Take for instance, last year’s “go-to” foreign film, A Separation. Aside from being a fine film, I suspect a large portion of its praise (at least from Western audiences) was due in part to the novelty of the scenario – “An Iranian film that isn’t about terrorists?! You mean that Middle Eastern society isn’t all about oppression and war?!”

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In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michaelangelo

– T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

It is a fact well-known that scent is a powerful trigger for arousal – not just of a sexual nature, but an emotional one as well. Memories, too, are inexplicably modulated by recurring scents, and a triggering scent often comes without the conscious recollection of a memory, leaving one in a nebulous state until realisation. It is no wonder then, that Bertrand Bonello’s L’apollonide is a evocation of this very sensuality, promising dreamlike delirium and corporeal fantasies. A strict narrative is entirely secondary, and the intention is to convey the sort of hazy atmosphere associated with plumes of opium smoke in the fin-du-siecle bordello.

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Plato said, “What is honoured in a country will be cultivated there.” Of the many things to which he referred, undoubtedly creativity springs to mind. The historical examples are endless – the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment; the Italian Renaissance painters; and relevant here, the 18th century German composers. Perhaps Plato should have added the following caveat to his statement: “but for men only!” René Féret’s Nannerl, la sœur de Mozart is both a speculative account of the early life of Maria Anna ‘Nannerl’ Mozart, and a fascinating and rapturous examination of genius and gender.

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An exhalation of breath in the frigid Yorkshire air; the evanescent heat dissipating into the cold and immediately retracting into stillness – such is the quality of Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. The warmth goes as quickly as it comes, just as the flickering flames of a candle flee into darkened corners, but leave them just as fleetingly. That is not to say that such a nature leaves the film barren in any way – on the contrary, it lends an entirely new shift in the kaleidoscope of the themes interwoven throughout the novel, which should be the intention of any literary adaptation.

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