Joanna Hogg’s Women
Joanna Hogg (director). The Souvenir. 2019.
The Souvenir: Part II. 2021.
The Eternal Daughter. 2022.
In Exhibition, Joanna Hogg’s account of a marriage between two middle-aged artists, a woman named D and a man named H live in a house partitioned by walls that look like Rothko paintings. In this austere, idiosyncratic place, the two of them make art. H’s studio is a white room with a slit of a window that seems to be upstairs; D’s is an airier, red room, closer to ground level, with a long built-in desk sandwiched between a floor-to-ceiling window and a sliding door. H works on the computer. D works with her body. Throughout the film, she experiments with a pose that involves placing her hands on the seat of a stool, arching her back, tying garments around herself, and pulling on them to press her torso out of shape.
The repeated appearance of this process, to which nobody ever refers, makes what might otherwise seem like understandable deficiencies of a long relationship (laconic exchanges, bored sex) feel bizarre. It is like an unrecognizable animal occasionally peeking its head out of the deceptively static surface of their shared life. In conversation, D or H will often sit silently in the face of the other’s speech. They reject explicit invitations from one another — to come to the other’s studio, to have sex — little denials that take on sharper meanings once it emerges that they are in an extended conflict, because H wants to sell their house, and D wants to stay.
Short, barbed lines also betray D’s belief that H, who has the more established career, doesn’t respect her work. D has dreams about being vulnerable with men who do, and in bed, while H sleeps beside her, she relates these encounters into her dictaphone. One night, he hears her mumbling, “He really listened, he really got it. . . . I loved the sound of his voice. Could have listened to it forever.” In another dream, where D is interviewed by H, H is lucid, engaged, and seems to grasp D’s project. He praises her for offering “a critical and analytical framework” without “being overly didactic.” “When I’m looking at certain situations, I’m brought back to your work,” he says. “It works as a road map to try and unpack a lot of these kinds of psychological aspects of the domestic that are normally quite hard to reach.”
D says nothing. Impatience crosses H’s face. He complains that he feels he’s “missing something”: “I feel that there’s this barrier. I can be useful to you. I can be useful. I’m not completely — ”
“But the thing is,” D says, “I — I don’t want your input, I don’t want your judgment, I want — I don’t want your ideas, I don’t want your cleverness, because it derails me.”
This is the familiar story of the woman artist who feels ground down by her proximity — often organized in the form of domestic partnership; usually the result of real love — to a man. Many versions of this story end with freedom or its promise being secured through a separation. Hogg’s does not. Even as D is repelled by H, she wants to be near him. She panics when he leaves for a walk one night, and trails behind him like a ghoul. She lies with her body wrapped around inanimate objects when nobody else is there. She seems to value, even worship, constancy: on a video chat with a friend, she admits that the reason she loves their house is because she feels it has “recorded” the love of the husband and wife who built it and lived there into their old age.
If D loves H, then where does this prickliness — this obstinacy verging on imperviousness — come from? Watching her swing between secluding herself from H — physically, verbally — and clinging to him, I think of the painter Celia Paul, who became Lucien Freud’s lover in 1978 after meeting him at the Slade School of Art, when he was 55 and her teacher and she an 18-year-old student, and who has described young women in such circumstances as facing a “dilemma.” These women have “their own ambition for their art, and their need to be loved and desired. The two ambitions are usually incompatible.” This incompatibility has many causes, among them the duty that arises out of love, which, Paul testifies, makes it difficult to remain “dedicated to my art in an undivided way. I think that generally men find it much easier to be selfish. And you do need to be selfish.” I think of Alice Munro, who admitted to interviewers dispatched by the Paris Review that, while all young artists needed to be somewhat “hard hearted,” “it’s worse if you’re a woman. . . . When my oldest daughter was about two, she’d come to where I was sitting at the typewriter, and I would bat her away with one hand and type with the other.”
Another cause of this incompatibility might be the shadow that sexual objectification can cast over heterosexual relationships. D’s poses, some of which are performed nearly naked, seem to recognize the scripts of femininity that are inevitably called up by any image of a disrobed female body and, upon that recognition, refuse to yield. The one work of female iconography to which the film overtly refers is Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, a photograph of which is reflected in a hand mirror that D uses one night while applying makeup in her studio. Bernini captured the saint in a moment of rapture, just before she was liberated from her body by an angel. (“He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart,” Teresa wrote of that angel and its scepter, “and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God.”) In one scene, standing under cellophaned lights that flush the room a garish blue, D wears nothing but horizontal neon bands wrapped around her body, a pair of underpants, and a shroud on her head, as if exhibiting how far she is from the ecstatic obliteration of the desexed nun.
Hogg’s cinematic vocabulary — a painterly compositional sense; intensely considered, freighted restraint — invites you to look for the secret in the plain face.Tweet
D has money, some success, no child, and lives in a time and a place with at least a notional commitment to sexual equality — all conditions that should make it easier to devise a plausible life as a woman, a wife, and an artist at once. And yet she still experiences a conflict of such intensity that she becomes compulsive, almost schizophrenic, like Munro’s two hands. Framed by this problem, D’s silence around her husband begins to look strategic, not desperate, more like a method she has found to maintain a boundary around the part of herself that she cannot pour into the domestic arena — the one way she can limit the sometimes difficult, sometimes necessary, and sometimes pleasurable activity of ceding her being to a man.
Female silence animates many of Hogg’s dramas, which follow women whose problems manifest as failures of expression: women with suppressed desires, thwarted ambitions, or a reluctance (sometimes approaching inability) to say what they mean. Hogg’s debut feature film, Unrelated (2007), follows a woman who is so paralyzed by the source of her misery that she does not reveal it to the friend with whom she is on holiday, until the trip — and the film — is nearly over. Hogg’s own biography featured a long period of what might be thought of as creative silence: after graduating from film school in the mid-’80s, she spent nearly two decades directing music videos and television episodes. Unrelated was released when she was 47.
Her first three films are slow, subdued studies of upper-class malaise. (Martin Scorsese, who has since become one of Hogg’s advocates, was so bored by her second feature, 2010’s Archipelago, on his first attempt to watch it that he turned off the DVD after a few minutes.) They are accomplished portraits of sad or incompletely self-actualized people constricted by social norms — though this might make them sound virtuous but stolid, like dutiful commentaries on a certain kind of stereo-typically English reserve. In fact, despite their pace, they are not stolid. She frequently casts amateurs, whose performances often have an accidental quality. (The couple in Exhibition is played by Liam Gillick, a conceptual artist, and Viv Albertine, the guitarist of the Slits, who inhabits D with a slightly jerky, fitful inwardness.) Hogg’s cinematic vocabulary — a painterly compositional sense; intensely considered, freighted restraint — invites you to look for the secret in the plain face. Her takes can be quiet and static, long and lacking in dramatic significance, but they are never boring — you are never actually waiting — because she has trained you to inspect the small change for the news of life.
Hogg returns explicitly to the problem of male influence in The Souvenir (2019), which, along with its sequel, The Souvenir: Part II (2021), dramatizes a period of her late adolescence and early adulthood when she was a film student and had a love affair with a man who was a heroin addict, an affair that ended when he died. The diptych is usually referred to as a Künstlerroman, but the term elides the films’ fixation on the entwinement of Hogg’s development as an artist with the instruction, both formal and emotional, she received from a turbulent relationship with an older man.
In the films, Hogg’s avatar is a woman named Julie Harte, who lives in a replica of Hogg’s former real-life apartment, a duplex in Knightsbridge owned by her parents. Julie meets the man, whose name is Anthony, in the first film’s first scene, at a party in her apartment where he has come as a guest of a guest. He has dark hair, a cleft lip, a slightly slurred, deliberate voice, and wears a tailored pinstripe jacket. Amid the flat’s silvery surfaces — white walls, white sofa, white mirror — his fluid, louche way of holding himself gives him the look of a spill of wine. In their first conversation, Julie tells him about her thesis project, a tragedy about a young boy living in Sunderland, observing its decline and loving his mother, who, by the end of the film, will be dead. She fiddles with her hands and speaks in long sentences, with the halting clip of a person who is eager to talk but not accustomed to being listened to. Anthony, by comparison, sounds like he hasn’t needed to explain himself to anyone for a very long time.
The exchange prefigures the asymmetry that will come to define their relationship, in which Anthony will become a kind of guide, a role conferred not just by his age and his implied sexual experience but also by his covert assertion of superior tastes — that ulterior motive of the inveterate recommender. At their second meeting, he questions why she, a young woman from a family of means, would want to make a film about a place whose conditions were so far from her own. His voice has the accusatory caution of a professor trying to steer his student away from something unwise. “You’re not trying to document,” he asks, “some received idea of life up there, on the docks, the daily grind, huddled listening to the wireless?”
The knowledge that Hogg is Julie gives Julie’s feelings of smallness and doubt a special poignancy. You know she will succeed.Tweet
Anthony’s suggestions, even those that verge on criticism, are never cruel. But they exist on a continuum with the disparagement Julie receives in the rest of the world, where she — rosy-cheeked, often clad in a pink cardigan — is frequently dismissed or ignored, as if her thoughts and feelings are negligible. Julie is treated as a violable naïf, seen by those with power — institutional power, social power — as an appropriate target for scorn. Watching Julie be dismissed by her teachers, treated shabbily by Anthony’s friends, and subordinate herself to Anthony’s whims, the word that comes to mind is humiliation. Julie is humiliated by the film school faculty, who think that because she comes from money she is not serious. (Her response to a teacher’s chastisement is to nod her head vigorously in agreement.) When a friend of Anthony’s discovers that Julie doesn’t realize she is in a relationship with a heroin addict, he smirks with pleasure and amusement.
These humiliations appear in their raw form on the face of Honor Swinton Byrne, the actress who plays Julie (and whose mother, Tilda Swinton, plays Julie’s mother). Byrne is not professionally trained, and her performance has a transparent, especially reactive quality; feeling spreads across her features almost instantaneously. It is jarring to watch her face full of hurt in one scene and then hear her try to describe what she imagines — what she wants so desperately to make — in another. Watching her alternate between naked woundedness and vehemence, I was reminded of Louise Glück’s description of the aspiring poet’s debased yearning — her “adamant need which makes it possible to endure every form of failure.” The harshness of that failure is as little veiled by Julie’s face as a flush.
The autobiographical element of Hogg’s project, which she has discussed freely in the press, connects Julie’s torments and humiliations to a belated creative fulfillment. The knowledge that Hogg is Julie gives Julie’s feelings of smallness and doubt a special poignancy. You know she will succeed; you’re invited to imagine a line between this moment and the one in which The Souvenir is released, notched with twenty-odd years of lessons sought and involuntarily received, of experiencing love and encountering dishonesty, of not making her own films — and then, change.
When The Souvenir came out, some critics bemoaned its apparent disinterest in the mechanisms by which Hogg had unearthed and then transformed her memories. It is a strange critique, given how much the film seems devoted to providing proof that the painful processes of creative frustration, of confusing guidance and dominance with love, cannot just be overcome but are also a worthwhile subject for art. In an essay that appears in A24’s Souvenir DVD box set, Elif Batuman notes that watching Julie reminded her of In Search of Lost Time, and of how “Albertine took up the narrator’s time and money, and only her death has finally freed him to write his book — and yet, she also furnished the material of the book.” This might distill the nature of any work of art made out of a ruin, but The Souvenir suggests that the transfiguration of experiences based largely on degradation might possess higher stakes. In being attached to a persistent truth — in Julie’s case, heterosexual womanhood — such transfiguration carries the promise that circumstances that will persist throughout one’s life might be converted from hindrances into tools.
How the artist metabolizes experience is the central subject of Part II, which follows Julie’s attempts to construct a story about what happened to her and to then commit that story to film. Still a student, Julie has abandoned the Sunderland idea and decided to make her thesis a portrait of her love affair instead. The film is more expansive than The Souvenir, showing Julie with friends and colleagues, and in many more kinds of spaces, like trailers and stages and pubs and school buildings. She has much more time for all these things, of course, now that she no longer has a boyfriend.
Though Julie knows how she wants her film to look — watching her shoot it, we have a sense that it will be a sort of Souvenir in miniature, an intimate and basically realistic portrait composed of loose, close takes — Part II flirts with genres Hogg hasn’t experimented with before. The film encompasses, arguably, four separate films: one is a musical directed by Anthony’s friend Patrick — the one who mocked Julie for her obliviousness to Anthony’s drug habit. It’s shot in black-and-white and depicts young men roughing one another up. The second is another student’s thesis, a sci-fi movie featuring aliens. The third is Julie’s thesis, which she is shown making throughout the movie but which never airs onscreen. The last is a dreamlike film-within-a-film that elapses immediately after Julie introduces herself at her class’s graduation screening, and to which Hogg cuts from a shot of the motes of dust caught in the projector’s milky light. (None of the characters mentions this movie, which might be taken as Hogg’s surrealist remake of her earlier Souvenir.)
There is a teasing indictment of Hogg’s aesthetic early on, when Patrick tells an interviewer, “Look at us. We’re in the pissing rain. Wouldn’t you want to be on a soundstage, in widescreen, rather than here, like every other fucking English film ever made, where it’s drizzling?” But rather than campaigning for any of them, Part II runs through these new styles, as if it too wanted to embody the art student’s imperative to experiment. Compared with Hogg’s other films, there is more technical manipulation: faster cuts; a sweeping dolly shot; more nondiegetic music. Its sensuousness can be less ambiguous, less restrained. The film is studded with shots of flowers, in which the film grain is so dense and legible that the frames look like blown-up slivers of Seurat paintings. When Julie returns to London from a long convalescence at her parents’ house in the country, she sleeps with an actor named Jim while she has her period. Their encounter consists of long close-ups of their faces. Jim wears a slightly villainous expression, a red smear on his lips. The scene ends with a cut from a bloodstain on Julie’s white bed to the glossy metal surface of a car, so smooth it looks like nail polish, which as the camera drifts is revealed to be a prop on the alien movie. This might seem like a wink at the gulf between certain conventional oppositions — flesh and steel; verité and melodrama — but then, didn’t Jim look a bit like a vampire? Didn’t the bright mess on the crumpled cotton and the menacing light falling through the doorway remind you a little bit of Scream?
Boundless feeling has to be bound if it is to be encapsulated.Tweet
There is something a touch unsatisfying about the way Hogg’s metafictional meditation is tied together. The obvious parallel between Julie and Hogg casts Part II as a study about making The Souvenir. But Part II’s account of the role that style has played — in Hogg’s work, in Julie’s artistic maturation — is incomplete. What does this embrace of different styles have to do with Julie’s self-knowledge? How do they shape what she believes happened to her and Anthony? Julie’s impediments are workaday: not knowing how to give her crew consistent instructions about lighting, or how to talk to her actors so they understand the emotional undertow of a scene. Exhibiting the process of becoming an artist as incremental and unglamorous is valuable for its honesty, but there’s also something slightly boring about it — though I suppose this sort of thing is boring, when compared with dating a man who tussles with your father about the IRA and also knows a lot about poetry. (The absence of Anthony, who seemed both clearly doomed but was in his theater so magnetic, also leaves Part II somewhat drained.) But perhaps counterintuitively, the film’s uneven texture is intriguing and oddly cheering. More than anything else, the film is striking as a document of an artist in the midst of change.
This arc continues through The Eternal Daughter (2022), where Hogg expands the scope of her examination of a dynamic to which she had already begun to shift her attention. In Part II Julie is placed in contact with all the mundanities, beautiful and tedious, that regain color once romantic obsession recedes. Many people fill the space Anthony left behind: a friend and supporter; an artistic foil; the boy with whom she has her tryst; a therapist. Most of all, there is her mother. It is her mother who sits in bed with her, who agrees to lend her money (at one point, £10,000), who stands outside the bathroom wearing a look of fenced concern when Julie is so grieved she is sick. Who touches her hair and says it looks like her own mother’s, and whose voice drops half an octave as she says to her, when asked what it was like to learn of Anthony’s death, “I felt through you.”
In The Eternal Daughter, Hogg presents a midcareer artist and her mother on a short holiday at an estate in the English countryside. Because she has to give her name at the front desk, we know this filmmaker’s name is Julie Harte, and that this new film is thus an extension of the Souvenir project, though one with a different slant. The Eternal Daughter is unconcerned with the dynamics of romantic love. Julie has a male partner — when she goes outside at night, it is often because she is seeking a cell phone signal to call him. Brief mentions establish that their relationship is imperfect; in a moment of frustration, Julie tells her mother (whose name, as in the earlier films, is Rosalind), “I have a husband I neglect completely and I don’t have that much time left, and I don’t have a family beyond you. I don’t have any children, I’m not going to have anybody to fuss over me when I’m your age.” All of Daughter takes place at the manor, over a few days. Despite how spatially and temporally constrained the film is, Hogg conjures the sense that, just offscreen, Julie and her partner are attempting to eke out slips of freedom in heterosexuality’s compromised country. Those slips might be partial, but — seeing as Julie no longer feels that her romantic desires and her work are in such urgent competition — perhaps they are enough.
The grown-up Julie wears heavy-rimmed glasses and has an artful and expensive-looking haircut. In fact, all of her clothes look expensive, curated and appraised by a woman of discernment and specific desires: her dark coat, her pajamas. Her mother has aged, though her wardrobe has not much changed since we saw her in Part II, in pearls and smooth wool. In the manor, the two of them share meals, chat, go through Christmas cards by the fire. Julie is both capable — she’s the one who’s booked the room, who writes out her mother’s cards — and visibly destabilized by witnessing Rosalind’s frailty and listening to her accounts of bitter episodes from her youth. Throughout the trip, Julie returns to a room at the top of the building, trying to write and not quite being able to. Though she is by now more at ease with the banality and tedium of creation, she confesses to feeling like she has no right to her mother’s stories — “trespassing,” she calls it — as well as the sense that thinking about her mother’s life requires confronting a sadness that she cannot bear. “I just want her to be happy all the time,” she says.
Celia Paul began to paint as a schoolgirl, but it was when she began to draw her mother that, in her own words, she made her “first true works of art.” “They were necessary because I loved her. Their necessity gave them their force.” And yet that love can also be a kind of stricture. Hogg wrote Daughter in 2008, but, as she explained in a recent interview, could not make it at the time: “I felt too bad for my mother.” The film she eventually produced reveals this kind of pain to be chaos. Chaos because its issue is unmanageable — Julie sometimes cries when she’s with Rosalind, overflowing with need or petulance or frustration. And chaos because its source is a conflict between the limitless — everything she might want to know about her mother, might want to do to protect her; everything that her mother once did for her; the entire world she once was — and the inevitable but intolerable limit of her mother’s death.
But boundless feeling has to be bound if it is to be encapsulated, and in Daughter Hogg borrows motifs from ghost stories and gothic tales to scaffold the mother-daughter encounter. On their way there, Julie and Rosalind’s cabdriver tells them that the hotel is haunted, and when they arrive the lights in its hallways are a violent, ectoplasmic green. When Julie tries to sleep, she hears banging noises that cannot be accounted for. More than once, she sees a white vapor drifting in the estate’s back garden, after which she scuttles inside.
In their ambiguity, these conventions pose questions that lend the story shape. Perhaps the ghostly presence is a symbol of what Julie and Rosalind are unearthing during their time together? Or is it the specter of capital, a haunting by class guilt? (Is this also the reason that the receptionist, a young woman who has a Northern English accent and gets picked up at night by a hatchback blaring loud dance music, seems to dislike Julie so much?) The film’s central technical conceit is the fact that Julie and her mother are both played by Tilda Swinton, reprising her role as Rosalind. The film’s supernatural elements introduce a continuous instability into the viewer’s understanding of how Julie and Rosalind relate to one another. Maybe they look the same in order to emphasize how the mother-daughter relationship can be one in which two people are so similar, and so emotionally enmeshed, that they sometimes feel indistinguishable. Or maybe Rosalind isn’t even really there. If Rosalind is haunting Julie — that is, if she is not just her doppelgänger but also, literally, a phantom — then the simple reading also suffices. That the mother is the daughter’s ghost.
Part of The Eternal Daughter’s immense creative accomplishment derives from its balance between these contrivances and, to a shocking degree, documentary qualities. For it is possible to see in Swinton’s depiction of the older Julie her observation of her own daughter, whose mannerisms she seems to know well. Swinton improvised her lines. Her facial expressions and the clip of her voice, the turns of phrase she uses when she speaks, all recall Byrne’s in the earlier films, refined through age. I felt a bolt of recognition when Rosalind asks if she’s going to try and do some work, and Julie says, the words rushing out of her and then slowed by reservation, “Yeah, yeah, I think so. I’m going to give it a stab, anyway.” In another scene, when her mother confesses to feeling “a bit wobbly,” Julie’s “Aw, mum,” has the exact same sweet, pained, slightly childlike tone of Byrne apologizing in Part II when she drops and breaks a clay bowl that Rosalind has made.
The implied gift of these films is not just one to the dead beloved, but also to the younger Hogg herself.Tweet
One night, when they sit across from each other at the dinner table, Julie takes a picture of her mother, who complains, “Darling, will you stop doing that? You must, must have enough photographs of me now.” Enough — as if anything could ever be that. The memoiristic impulse that courses through Hogg’s body of work is clearly tied to an urge to preserve who she has been marked by, who she has loved. (And what is the film camera’s most basic function, except storing up little swatches of time?) The fact that in Daughter Julie has such trouble organizing her feelings — failing to write her script, failing to be sufficiently patient with Rosalind — suggests that the mother-daughter dyad is, as far as the material of autobiography goes, the representational limit case. When Julie reacts with horror and sympathy to something her mother remembers about the year, during the Second World War, that she spent in this manor, her mother replies, “That’s what rooms do — they hold these stories. And we’re here now. And that was then. And there’s just this muddle in me.”
In the Julie Harte movies, the methods Hogg uses to make sense of her mother’s life are first exercised in the film-within-a-film in Part II, where Julie materializes in a hall of mirrors, by a misty river, and has to walk, like Carroll’s Alice, through an undersized door. The film is dreamily disjointed and obvious, filled with symbols of romantic intimidation, of the end of adolescence, of ambition. It has a kinship with the terrible brightness and emphatic, externalized rendering of the ballerina’s inner journey in The Red Shoes. The allusion reaches back both to Anthony telling Julie, in the first film, that he likes Powell and Pressburger (“I think they’re very truthful,” he says, “without necessarily being real”), and to the urgent journey of that film’s protagonist, an aspiring ballerina who is told by her impressive but dour mentor, “You cannot have it both ways. The dancer who relies on the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer.”
This statement, directed by an older man at a younger woman, that love and work cannot coexist (again, I think of Munro’s two hands, each one betraying her heart), is winked at and troubled by the sum of the Souvenir films, which show Julie to be overpowered but not exactly coerced, to be dragged down but also creatively fed by her romance, to be loved but not exactly fairly treated. Although Anthony is not domineering, and comes to depend on Julie’s financial and emotional support, his will eclipses hers. There are imbalances that precipitate this — his age; his undeniable, if qualified, self-possession; the fact that Julie does not know how to address his addiction, which is camouflaged by his rakishness. But there is also the fact that one forfeits protection from certain cruelties when in love, and Anthony is careless with Julie’s feelings.
And yet at the same time that Anthony is stormy and unreliable and a liar, he is also worldly and useful. Broke, he elides some of the world’s necessary mundanities in favor of the beautiful. (Julie, having been given money by Rosalind, always pays.) The couple do wondrous, fanciful things. They eat at Harrod’s, where Hogg’s bluish color correction gives the room’s crown molding the look of frosting. They take a trip to Venice. Anthony plays Béla Bartók in her apartment and takes her to the Wallace Collection to look at a tiny Fragonard — The Souvenir, from 1776–78 — depicting a young woman named Julie in a chiffon dress carving her lover’s initials into a tree. In real life, Joanna Hogg did get taken to this painting by her lover. In her film, their avatars disagree about her expression. “She looks sad,” Julie says, to which Anthony replies, “I think she looks determined.”
Hogg’s gradual wandering-off from her old realism might be taken as a protracted reaction to what Anthony claimed when critiquing Julie’s Sunderland idea — that viewers of films “don’t want to see life just played out as it is. We want to see life as it is experienced within this soft machine.” Perhaps Hogg was told this too, by her own Anthony; some of the baroque images in Part II’s film-within-a-film, like those of Julie walking through enormous pieces of torn paper, are swiped straight from her real graduation movie, Caprice, about a young woman played by Tilda Swinton who becomes stuck in a fashion magazine. After Anthony has died and Julie has begun to make her film about their love affair, she goes to the faculty to propose her new movie, which she describes as a film about “a relationship in a fairy tale, in a fantasy.” The teachers — a board of men — sneer at her and refuse to fund it, but we get the sense that she knows exactly what she wants to do. She’s even laced together the pages of the treatments with red ribbons.
When Julie embarks, after Anthony’s death, on an investigation into his past, she stops his friend Patrick outside a soundstage to ask him whether some of the things she’d believed were true. Patrick tells her, instead, to “make a memorial for him.” Onstage at her graduation screening, Julie calls her movie a “gift” to someone “I loved very much,” and the term seems to apply both to the film she shoots, the dreamlike sequence that appears in the middle of the movie, and the feature from 2019, all of which are cut from the cloth that Anthony — or the man upon whom Anthony was based — gave her. Cut from that cloth, but by the woman he met and knew for a time and who learned from him, and then kept learning, such that the implied gift of these films is not just one to the dead beloved, but also to the younger Hogg herself, who was — as she admits — naive, imperfect, privileged, self-conscious, sometimes bold and sometimes desperate, and uncertain whether she would ever make what she wanted to make. Who didn’t know whether, despite all the quietly cutting remarks and underestimations, she’d be able to do it. Who did.