I cannot argue with your ghost
Cannot reason with the dead
I take your silence everywhere with me
I carry it like a wounded bird
It is likely that you do not think of me fondly
I split my emotions at the bar and became the thing you feared
Arrogantly, I stand right where you left me
‘What are you, a junior? Senior?’
Sofia Coppola’s ‘Priscilla’, based on Priscilla Presley’s book; ‘Elvis and Me’ explores the infamous relationship between Elvis Presley and his wife, Priscilla. We first meet a fourteen-year-old Priscilla who is approached by Elvis (twenty-four at the time) while he is stationed in Germany for military service. Coppola makes no attempt to shy away from the uncomfortable ten-year age gap and the evident power that Elvis held over Priscilla. We first meet Priscilla as a young, impressionable schoolgirl. Cailee Spaeny portrays Priscilla beautifully, first as the baby-faced schoolgirl, enamoured by the spectacle of Elvis. Later we see Elvis’ influence as well as his manipulation over Priscilla as he chooses her clothes, hair, and make-up, curating her into the perfect wife. In classic Coppola montage style, we are given a makeover scene with yet another iconic soundtrack. Priscilla is branded with her iconic winged eyeliner and dyed black beehive hairstyle. Priscilla essentially becomes Elvis’ doll, loitering around Graceland with beautiful outfits and perfectly styled hair and make-up, awaiting a call from Elvis while he is on set or having affairs with other women. It is evident that Elvis wants Priscilla to exist solely for him and be the perfect wife according to his way of life.
We watch the breakdown of the Presley’s relationship through a variety of tabloid headlines, articles, and letters. Coppola highlights the relevance of the celebrity spectacle, a common theme in Coppola’s filmography. The absence of Jacob Elordi’s Elvis in these key moments of marital breakdown highlights this importance of the “image” of Elvis as this untouchable, unattainable figure whereas the reality of the situation is clear as Priscilla attempts to navigate the end of girlhood and the start of womanhood with the supposed man of her dreams. Coppola navigates the subject of evolving from girlhood in a way that is almost universal to every woman watching Coppola’s films. Priscilla starts off as a teenage girl with a crush and a dream and ends the film with the courage to leave the life curated for her by a man who she knows is not right for her.
Elordi’s performance as Elvis is subdued yet powerful, capturing the essence of Elvis whilst allowing Priscilla’s narrative to be the one of importance. Other reviewers have suggested that Priscilla “destroys” Elvis’ reputation, I would argue that it simply shows the reality of the relationship between the couple as well as the difficulties of being one of the most famous couples in America. Coppola often plays with the subject of fame and the power it holds over her characters, showing both the highs and the lows.
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is a triumph, once again showing her incredible ability to capture the pain and beauty of girlhood and womanhood.
Oh how she longs to be the cool girl
Instead she will replay every moment that went wrong
Every word, every glance, every interaction at the bar
She will wear perfume in her hair
She will hope the smell lingers and reminds him of her
But instead it will bring him bitter memories
Of the girl who could no longer play it cool
She felt too much
She said too much
She was too much
I wash my hair for the first time since you left
The traces of your cologne are erased permanently
The last love bite you left is fading away
The first snow has fallen and you weren’t there
I stand at the bus stop you walked me to on our first date
The air was warm when we met
Now I stand in the same spot as the snow pierces my skin with no lover to hold
I stare blankly at my phone
Waiting for your call
I know nothing will come
I know my words were too strong
My feelings too much
I long so much to be the poem and not the poet
Charlie Paul presents an astonishing documentary; ‘Prophecy’ on one of Scotland’s most famous artists, Peter Howson. I had the privilege of watching this film at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh followed by a Q&A with Charlie Paul and Peter Howson. The film follows Howson as he undertakes a new painting depicting the gates of hell. We are given a huge amount of insight into Howson’s life and how this contributes to his art as the masterpiece develops. What stood out to me the most was how humble Howson remains despite his worldwide success, the dedication to the craft of the painting remains the number one priority.
Howson’s perfectionism is shown through Paul’s incredible animations of Howson’s developing works; Howson paints over his works repeatedly until Howson deems them worthy of being shown publicly. As Howson is creating this painting, we learn that the painting has already been reserved by a private collector before the piece is even finished, exemplifying Howson’s influence on the art world. Howson listens to classical music throughout his painting process, he discusses how this allows him to have no distractions and fully immerse himself in his work-Howson also does not bring a phone with him to the studio so that the outside world is completely uncontactable. Similar to Howson’s work, the depictions are almost other worldly whilst still showing the realities of humanity. Paul creates a beautifully intricate depiction of Howson’s intensive process, focusing on the details of the painting that the casual observer may never notice. Paul’s documentary style gives the viewer both deep insight into Howson’s artistic life and process. A beautiful, must watch documentary.
Your kindness seems to fade everyday
Was it all just an act to make me stay
Until I bored you, now I walk by your house and think about blocking your number
Your drunk texts used to excite me
Now I’m not even worthy of your sober second thoughts
Not even worthy of a Friday night drunk text
What kind of conversations went on with your friends
That made my name twist its way into your liquor filled talks
The friends that I once met and talked with while you made eyes at me from across the room
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ explores the events that lead up to the creation of the atomic bomb as well as the aftermath of the world changing weapon. Cillian Murphy gives an outstanding performance as the titular role, J. Robert Oppenheimer. The film’s timeline jumps from Oppenheimer’s past to the aftermath of the creation of the nuclear weapon, the film is largely dialogue amongst courtroom drama scenes which increasingly builds tension throughout the three-hour long film. Despite its long running time, every scene in the film feels necessary to the plot and keeps the viewer constantly engaged. Despite the obvious subject being the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer is essentially a character study; centred on a man who has dedicated his life to science and must deal with the global consequences of his genius but deadly creation. Visually, the film is beautiful, often feeling slightly claustrophobic as the plot thickens. The scenes showing the courtroom drama are in black and white, emphasizing the sobering repercussions of the atomic bomb.
The women in Oppenheimer have limited screen time but steal the moment when they do, Oppenheimer’s somewhat mysterious past is represented through his ‘former communist’ wife, Kitty (Emily Blunt) and communist lover, Jean (Florence Pugh). Despite being background characters, their impact on Oppenheimer is evident. Nolan has been criticised for writing women badly however in this instance both Kitty and Jean impact the plot whilst letting the titular character take the main stage.
Note on ‘Barbenheimer’
Both Gerwig’s Barbie and Nolan’s Oppenheimer have proven that cinema is still very much alive and thriving. The films have ‘sparked the biggest UK box office opener since 2019’ according to the BBC, proving that straight to streaming is not the way to go. Recently I have visited my local cinema for other films and the turnout was nothing like Barbenheimer opening weekend which made me worried about the potential death of cinemas. But seeing so many people dressed in pink (for Barbie) and all black (for Oppenheimer) has restored my faith in people’s love for cinema and the arts.
Greta Gerwig’s modern masterpiece ‘Barbie’ is a must see. Controversially, I saw Barbie first on opening night (21st July) instead the generally suggested Oppenheimer-to-Barbie double bill. This was under the impression that you would come out of Oppenheimer feeling down about nuclear bombs and the general state of the world whereas Barbie’s wonderful pink fun would be uplifting and fun after Nolan’s three-hour film (note: Oppenheimer review coming soon). Don’t get me wrong, Barbie was filled with laughs, beautiful pinks, and lots of fun. But in 2023 did we really expect a film praising the idyllic, blonde, skinny, capitalist Barbie? No, of course not, it’s Greta Gerwig for goodness’ sake. Gerwig tackles the way we perceive perfect, plastic ‘Barbie’ in the real-world V.S Barbie land in which all the Barbies are extremely successful, and sexism is essentially non-existent. Barbie (Margot Robbie) gets a shock when she discovers the realities of a patriarchal society whereas Ken is in awe of the men-oriented society. Barbie is for everyone, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will most likely be pleasantly surprised. With a variety of pop culture references from various films, ‘that’s so me’ moments and an Oscar worthy song from Ryan Gosling, the entire cinema was laughing and fully embracing this wonderful film. Barbie dolls have been an integral part of some of our childhoods, but ‘stereotypical’ Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) can often represent an unrealistic representation of the “perfect woman” for little girls growing up. The film embraces this criticism whilst also celebrating the collective experience of girlhood. Barbie beautifully portrays the joys of being a girl and embracing femininity but also the human experience; the highs and lows of life and the beauty of simply experiencing life. Barbie celebrates the amazing things that woman can achieve but also accepts the hardships and burdens that every woman feels. Gloria (America Ferrera) delivers a beautiful monologue, depicting all the things women are told to be and not to be. Whilst celebrating women, Barbie also explores the collective feminine pain and rage we all share. When the credits rolled, the pink filled room applauded. Seeing so many people dressed in pink, embracing the energy (or Kenergy) of this film felt like a well needed celebration of girlhood.
I stayed in that place for far too long
That place between comfort and holding on
Holding onto nothing but a vague memory
A feeling that started to fade, but I was determined to keep
There is strength and fear in letting go
The places that once instilled fear in my heart
Are now places of solitude and peace
The streets of my pain become memories
That’s all you are, a memory
Wes Anderson’s much anticipated film of the summer; ‘Asteroid City’ is a surprisingly short and sweet story that explores a myriad of stories within a small fictional town. Anderson shows a story within a story; similar to some of his previous work like The French Dispatch however with a more to-the-point plot this time. Asteroid City is a play, narrated comedically by Bryan Cranston, and written by Conrad Earp (Edward Norton). The film dances around Anderson’s classic subjects: the human condition, the delicacy of childhood, death, grief all amongst quirky one liners, an all-star cast and the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. Ultimately this is not something new from Wes Anderson however a new blindingly bright colour pallete, reminiscent of William Eggleston’s photography, that we have not seen in Anderson’s 50/60s pale, pastel colour palletes which adds a new element to the ‘Anderson aesthetic’. The story revolves around a group of scientifically gifted kids and their parents who carry their fair share of issues which are divulged throughput the film. Once again, we are reminded that both the kids and adults are in fact, not alright but a life altering event, perhaps mirroring recent events like covid, brings them together whilst simultaneously driving them insane. By the end of the film, most of the characters have ultimately gone their separate ways and the small town remains ultimately almost the same as when they arrived but they have all lived through this shared experience that shows the best and the worst of humanity.