Steve McQueen set the film world on fire with HUNGER (2008) five years ago. His debut film pinpointed to a director that not only knew how to fill a frame but took the time to familiarize himself with the in and out’s of his topic at hand. I mean, his first film was a reconstruction of a 90 second videotape left from the Hunger strike and riot that occurred in 1981 in Ireland, holy moly! Its a film about politics in every way. Its about the politics regarding the IRA and British Government struggle. Its about body politics; how the human body has been used as a political statement. And lastly it is about the statement itself, the political statement, the power that comes through it.
Like Hunger, Shame (2011) has all the seriousness one can possibly expect from a McQueen film. Shame had notes of Hunger. There is still an analysis on the body and its treatment. Just as Hunger had its constant reminder shots of the topic at hand so does Shame. Both films frequently had tight frames fixated on body parts. Hunger fixated on broken flesh, protruding bones or hands, especially the hands…hands, hands, hands. Each shot was filled with how the human body became a political statement. His focus on hands in Hunger points to the power of the political statement. He shot them making political demands. We see them writing letters to pass along to those outside prison to using their hands to defy on walls using their shit, we even see the bloody hands of the guards. Shame also focused on the body but this time the camera was aimed at the face (other parts as well, of course, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover) for example the first scene is an observation on the power of the penetrative stare. Tough stuff.
Both films have very hard pills-to-swallow for topics: one is about the struggle of prisoners of war while the other deals with the crisis of deviant sexual behavior. Hard topics aren’t often found in theatres so it is so refreshing to see a direction that doesn’t pick subject matter that cater to the crowds. So it was a nice surprise to see a full house last night.
In regards to style the films followed a cinematography of detail. Frames were full of detail relating to the topics. Each had great montages: in Hunger the scene of “the fucking Bastard” comes to mind, where prisoners start destroying their cells after been given civilian cloths in a taunting manner; in Shame, its the removal of the porn. They also each had long takes of the central character, allowing the audience to really see them as they were. Style.
One has to ask, does two films alone make the stamp for Auteurship? I would probably make the safe bet and say, yes. He has delivered films that keep a style and a narrative that has been, lately, only been touched by McQueen. McQueen indicated in 2008 that he was a filmmaker to watch. His films aren’t something you take a first date to, no; but they are films that with every revisit their meaning sets another tone to your perspective on life. Make sure to check out Shame as it comes out today.
Because I’m pretty short on time and at work I would just like to quickly say:
BLACKOUT TIME. INTERNET STRIKE!!!!!!!!!!!! Any readers from the US of A make sure to TWEET, WRITE, SHOUT, CALL, KICK, SCREAM to your congress wo/man for your rights for freedom of speech on the internet. For Canadians make sure to firstly readMichael Geist’s words on SOPA and how it will affect Canadians here:<—– click there and then write to your MP regarding Bill C-11. Wish I could blackout my site but unfortunately…work calls.
I’ve been thinking about the artist. That isn’t uncommon for someone like me. With the thought of the artist comes the thought of originality. I remember sitting in English class in University and the discussions of the death of originality springing up. This idea deeply unsettled me. The end of creativity meant the end of exploration. And that’s a pretty sad thought. So I am revisiting some works that have been re-mixed into art.
– Girl Talk – an artist who breaks all the rules with his illegal music.
– Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody has been said to be a pastiche of operatic style.
– “Weird Al” Yankovic whole career has been to parody famous singles. (Art? Sure, why not?)
– Joyce Carol Oats re-wrote the “Turn of the Screw”, kept themes and title but used her own words and style (another pastiche).
I can appreciate re-mixed art where appropriation is the intention. So I am going to have to revisit the artist. I am just wondering if I should use my Cineplex gift certificate or not. But for now I am going to re-visit some Oats before slumber overtakes this body.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend the CHEST FEST FUNDRAISER, at Broken City, which was part of a running Top Surgery Fund campaign for Kier Fist. I am sure there are a group of none rock’n’rollers who don’t really know who Kier Fist is. Well firstly, he’s an artist from Lethbridge, AB who has been part of the music scene in Southern Alberta since conception (seriously). He’s currently in a band called Fist City with his twin sister Brittany Fist and good pals Evan Van Reekum and Ryan Grieves. And secondly he’s an all round awesome dude who I feel lucky to call my friend (awww sappy thoughts). The fundraiser was a giant success not only monetary wise but it also made a beautiful example of how great the power of people coming together for a cause really is, plus the bands were a riot: Fist City,Soft Option and Sorry.
There was only one glitch in the night and it was something most of us were unfortunately expecting. We had the unnecessary task of being forced to argue with someone who didn’t understand the need for such a fundraiser. The incident really testified to the fact that a number of people aren’t thinking about transgender issues at all and can easily mistake this sort of fundraiser and surgery as unnecessary.
Let me make this blatantly clear: this sort of fundraiser is just as important and necessary as any other fundraiser, like cancer or AIDS, is. Being Transgender isn’t a main stream mentality so I do understand why people are not talking about it over coffee (even though we should be). Most people aren’t aware of the issues, process and trials & tribulations that come with a transition. To begin with, top surgery is not covered in Alberta’s health care plan and can cost an individual up to $8000.00 (including the cost of travel/hotel). Not only is the surgery costly but the medical aid in Alberta is limited. According to www.AlbertaTrans.org there are only two practicing psychiatrists in Alberta who can give the green light to an individual wanting to transition. An individual wanting to transition not only has to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (Disorder? Right. Even our language needs to be re-examined) but they also need to be put on a hormone therapy program by an endocrinologist. It is a long process and I’ve been seriously disappointed with the lack of support Alberta has given to the transgender community.
Not only does the government of Alberta send the message of being unsupportive so does the medical community of Alberta (oh, 2012). So there’s reason number 1 for such a fundraiser. A fundraiser for Top Surgery just highlights a need for government and medical support. The second reason comes from the argument that erupted at the fundraiser: we need to start changing our views on transgenderism. We need to start talking about it more so the government and the medical community start putting its support behind those who wish to become who they really are. But above all that we need to put ourselves behind the cause and see it as a human rights issue. I am glad that I went to the fundraiser to see a part of Calgary’s community come out and support. I was even more glad to see all the artwork and t-shirts that were bought & taken home by those who attended. Pesky argument put aside, the night was a success but it would’ve been greater if all of Calgary’s community would’ve came out to stand up for human rights. Its time Alberta.