“British filmmaker Joanna Hogg has made three intimate, sympathetic features in which vulnerable friends and family members attempt to hide secrets from each other within large houses and open frames,” writes Aaron Cutler, who interviews Hogg for Artforum. Exhibition (2013) sees one more week at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, which’ll also be screening, starting today, Hogg’s debut feature, Unrelated (2007), and Archipelago (2009). All three are on through July 3.
When Exhibition premiered last summer at Locarno, we began gathering reviews and Critics Round Up has been following the film’s trek ever since. Today, we’re adding a few more notes. First up, Graham Fuller talks with Hogg for Film Comment and sets up Exhibition: “Married artists D (onetime Slits guitarist Viv Albertine) and H (conceptual artist Liam Gillick) have put on the market the modernist townhouse in Kensington where they’ve lived for 20 years. The decision has filled D with anxiety and triggered a sexual reaction in her. As the dread day approaches, she works on her solo feminist performance routines before the house’s windows; she also wraps herself around the house’s contours as she might have done the baby she’s never had…. Correlating landscape and interior space with the emotional distances between people, Hogg’s movies can seem reminiscent of Antonioni’s, while their cool, non-judgmental presentation of morally complex behavior suggests Rohmer’s influence.”
“Like Ozu, Hogg frames her characters often in medium shots in an invariably static frame,” notes John Oursler, writing for the FSLC. “The world around the characters may be moving, but they remain trapped within…. Because Hogg rarely uses non-diegetic sound, eschews voiceover narration, and often amplifies the natural sound in her characters’ environments, the uneasy tone of her films often resembles that of a mystery, even though the narratives (if you could call them that) are relatively straightforward. Exhibition has an especially strange vibe to it, which is a desired consequence of this stylistic approach.”
At Filmmaker, Sarah Salovaara talks with Hogg about Exhibition and, at Twitch, Hogg tells Dustin Chang: “With all three of my feature films, they all started with a specific place in mind. It’s very important for me to have an idea about the place. I don’t see the settings for my films as ‘locations’. It’s fundamental for me that it’s about a place that I know very well, that I have a lot of connection with. That was with all three films, a place being a springboard for the story.”
Unrelated is a “dyspeptic portrait of upper-middle-class Britons on a summer holiday in Tuscany,” writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. “The guests, who span two generations, convene in a spacious rented villa equipped with a large swimming pool and caretakers. The movie observes their leisure activities with a chilly documentary objectivity. Its focal character, Anna (Kathryn Worth), is a woman in her mid-40s whose husband, Alex, not shown in the movie, decided at the last minute not to accompany her…. If you have ever felt like a guest in a holiday paradise who doesn’t fit in, Unrelated is a movie to make you squirm. Heaven can seem like hell if you don’t feel as if you belonged there. The hostess, Verena (Mary Roscoe), is an old school friend of Anna’s, but the two have drifted apart.”
Unrelated is known to many as the film that gave Tom Hiddleston his first film role (following a good handful on television). He plays “the handsome, arrogant, curly-haired son of Verena’s cousin, George (David Rintoul), a macho rage-aholic with whom Oakley has a combative relationship.”
In 2008, the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw found Unrelated to be a “tremendously accomplished, subtle and supremely confident feature, authorially distinctive and positively dripping with technique. Writer-director Joanna Hogg learned her trade in TV, and this may look like a chamber piece at first glance. Actually, it’s ambitious, big-screen stuff. Hogg has genuine cinematic artistry, and she has effortlessly absorbed what appear to be personal contacts, non-professionals and family friends into an intelligent and utterly involving film.”
Time Out‘s Dave Calhoun: ” Hogg displays a welcome desire to draw on global film influences and ignore the unwritten rules of what British cinema should or should not seek to achieve, especially in the realm of films about the monied and unsympathetic.”
“Joanna Hogg—where have you been all my movie-loving life?” asks the NYT‘s Manohla Dargis: “Her painterly eye informs her every image, whether she’s sweeping over the natural world or closing in on characters arranged with the physical reserve, spatial harmony and otherworldly aura of an old master group portrait. Yet she also has a Modernist side and Archipelago (2010), her second feature, notably opens with a plein air painter giving impressionistic form to the magnificent scenery before him. He has a role to play, including, it seems, as a nod toward Ms. Hogg’s own stippled strokes and holistic vision.”
Michael Pattison: “Hogg’s film concerns itself with the family holiday of Edward (Tom Hiddleston), his older sister Cynthia (Lydia Leonard) and their mother Patricia (Kate Fahy) on Tresco, the second largest island in the Ilses of Scilly off the Cornish coast. Also present is their hired cook Rose (real-life cook Amy Lloyd) and family friend and professional artist Chris (real-life painter Christopher Baker). Increasingly, the film’s title carries allegorical significance, as we observe in what has been described as chamber piece the emotional suppressions and outbursts as a result of mounting tensions: this is an extended family comprising disparate personalities brought together as a collective through circumstance and tradition…. Less genuinely spontaneous than it appears—which might be an achievement in itself—Archipelago seems to be the result of a complex, unconventional process…. The characters feel real here.”
“When I was making Unrelated, Rohmer was hovering over me,” Hogg tells Ela Bittencourt at Reverse Shot. “I was inspired by a particular film he made, Le rayon vert (1986)…. With Archipelago, there was no one filmmaker, but right from the beginning I was interested in developing a style that had to with standing back from events or scenes. It’s more about how I experience life and less to do with a particular filmic reference, although there are plenty of filmmakers who are really brilliant at this, like Jacques Tati or Tsai Ming-liang.”
Photographer Robin Holland has posted two portraits she’s shot of Hogg: “Having been amazed by all three of Joanna Hogg’s features, I’m eager to see her next film. She said it’s about a young woman, a 19-year-old film student, who gets distracted from her work when she gets involved with a somewhat older boyfriend.”
Updates, 7/7: “While portrayals of working-class life have long held the moral high ground in British cinema, and images of archaic privilege continue to do a roaring trade as television luxury goods, the upper middle class is generally considered too bland or too embarrassing to be given screen space,” writes Jonathan Romney in the new issue of Film Comment. “In documenting this milieu, Hogg has gone out on a limb as a British filmmaker. That’s all the more true because of the kind of films she makes: laconic, gentle, yet delicately excruciating dramas of social unease. Her contemplative, slow-burn approach—at least in her first two features—marks her stylistically and temperamentally closer to Rohmer and to certain contemporary German filmmakers (Maren Ade, Pia Marais) than to Mike Leigh, say.”
For Bright Lights, Indigo Bates talks with Hogg “about how she achieves such strikingly realist cinematography on the big screen, the importance of sounds, Martin Scorsese’s support, Tom Hiddleston and her future projects.”
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.