In Defence of “Ammonite” (2020) by Francis Lee |IcthusBookCorner

Ammonite, set in the 1840s, follows Mary Anning. Mary was a British palaeontologist whose work was undervalued due to her being a woman. She sold her findings to different men, who then presented the findings as being theirs. Mary Anning was a real person, from a working-class background and even nowadays her work is not as valued as it should be.

Francis Lee, the director and writer of the film, is obsessed with classgender and landscape (he has said so in interviews in the past), which is visible in his earlier film Gods Own Country. So, it is clear why this woman, who was born into poverty and with no formal education but was able to be one of the best professionals in her field, is someone the director found fascinating. Not to mention, 19th-century England was a patriarchal and utterly classist society, which makes everything about Mary Anning even more intriguing.

The director has also stated that he wanted to “look into same-sex relationships in this patriarchal class-ridden society”. Since Mary Anning had been both looked over and used by men for her scientific discoveries, Francis Lee felt it was better to depict her having a relationship with a woman rather than a man. And given that there were no records of her ever having been in a relationship with a man, while there were several romantic letters between her and other women, this made even more sense.

Now, I truly enjoyed this film. It had several things that I am interested in, such as female leadswomen in sciencebeautiful landscapesaccurate depictions of working-class people, and the list goes on. 

I get that it is a slow film with very few lines, which is not for everyone. But it is my cup of tea. What I did not like to see was a lot of people saying how it doesn’t compare to other films with queer female leads (namely Portrait of a Lady on Fire). People were comparing films that, besides the already stated, had nothing else in common. They are not the same, and the intents were not the same. Just because both of these films have queer female leads walking along the seaside, it doesn’t make them the same.

Portrait of a Lady on Firewhich I loved, has nothing to do with working-class women being recognized for their work. It’s about two people who meet under a circumstance where they know there is no future for them and about the power of the gaze (of how you perceive others and others perceive you).

Anyway, I think people comparing these “types” of films is a symptom of something else. I truly believe it is the result of there being very few films with a queer female love interest, not just that get made, but that actually get mainstream recognition.

So, I hope my little rant made sense. If it is something you are interested in, I highly recommend all of the films mentioned in this pseudo-review. Please, let me know what to think about it.


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My Thoughts on “Simon of the Desert” by Luis Buñuel

A few weeks ago, I watched Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty (1974), and I was like: “Hey! This Luis Buñuel guy is onto something.”. So, I decided to do some research, and apparently, he made like 33 films. Being the obsessive person I am, I decided to watch all of the films he directed during his life. (this has been a mission)

I’m thinking of writing a post later on rating all of his work, or at least rating the films that I manage to find on tv and online.

Anyway, I’m here today because Simon of the Desert has been in my mind since I watched it. (It has been 11 days now, so I need to analyse why it stuck with me.) Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Simon of the Desert (1965) was the last film Buñuel directed before moving to France, therefore this film is included in his Mexican period. (a period which is often considered anti-ecclesiastical) The film’s central theme concerns the contrast between high-minded spirituality and its mundane/real version. It is a satirical abstract film, and, at least for me, there is a lot of dense information that is difficult to grasp in a single viewing.

Before anything else, I want to mention a few things. The cinematography is one of the best things this film has to offer, the writing is incredibly astute, and the narrative structure is perfect (especially given the film is only 45 minutes long). 

Now, regarding the plot. Simon has spent six years, six months, and six days on top of a pillar. (what a random number, ah ah ah) When the film starts, he is coming down from his tower, even if briefly, to move to a much taller one. The new pillar was provided for him by a rich benefactor, which is the first moment the audience realises the irony of what is going on. (Or at least that is when I realised it.) We have this man who is supped to be above money and material possessions in favour of being close to God, but he accepts expensive and unnecessary gifts. 

Simon is a caricature of what we think a prophet would look like. He even goes through temptations similar to the ones Jesus had in the desert from the Devil, which are somewhat reproduced in the same order here.

The film ends with Simon being unable to refuse the devil one last time. Because of that, he is taken to hell which is portrayed as a busy nightclub full of people dancing. The idea that hell is “drugs and rock and roll” is not that complex or grounded in theology. It is banal, and I think that is why Buñuel chooses to present it in such a manner. It is portrayed as silly and largely incongruent with biblical teachings, just like Simon’s religious practice.

At any rate, I loved this film. Even with my limited cinema related knowledge and a brain unable to understand complex concepts without thinking about them for way too long, I still loved it. Highly recommend it!

I have to end this with the interaction between the devil and Simon once they get to hell:
Simon: ”What’s this dance called?”
The Devil: “Radioactive Flesh.” It’s the latest – and the last!”


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Wings, by Larisa Shepitko – Film Review

Wings was Larisa Shepitko’s debut feature after she graduated from the famous All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography.

The film follows forty-one-year-old Nadezhda Petrukhina, a once WWII Soviet pilot, now living a quiet but unsatisfactory and ordinary life as a principal at a trade school. While treasured and respected by the generation that experienced the same War, Nadezhda struggles to connect with the generation that followed hers. She disapproves of her daughter’s (Tanya’s) choices in men and worries that her daughter might discover she is adopted.

The film is filled with a sense of neverending alienation deepened by a rich array of subject matters. These topics create a cracking portrait characterized by remembrance, grief, longing, and the struggles that come with getting older. 

The film is a superb character study that, surprisingly, ends up providing more hope than sorrow. Maya Bulgakova’s portrayal of Nadezhda has incredible nuance. She effortlessly conveyed the profound, wounded warmth of the character underneath the thick exterior of sombre uprightness. That final closeup of her eyes filled with tears while in the cockpit gave me a punch of sudden sadness!

Wings has a strong sense of Russian postwar nationalism, but it is not afraid to explore the morally ambiguous ramifications of that same nationalism on the human mind. Managing to also explore femininity through the lens of feminism while the movement was picking up steam worldwide.

I recommend this film to everyone who enjoys contemplating human existence and is interested in Soviet cinema. Please, let me know what to think about it.


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My Thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing” (play and film)

I watched and read Much Ado About Nothing, and here is what I think.

First, let’s talk about the 1993 film. It is wonderfully acted, let me tell you. With the magnificent ensemble of Keneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale, who could expect anything less?

I have to give all due respect to the cinematographer (Roger Lanser) for using the landscape available so beautifully. Not to mention, the soundtrack (Patrick Doyle) goes amazingly well if the overall absurdist feeling of the film. Overall, the directing style (Kenneth Branagh) was suitable for the story being told.

Just like the original play, this film manages to maintain its fun, lively and light feeling, while somehow adding to the play’s Pythonesque tone.

Listening to Emma Thompson reciting Shakespeare is an entire experience in and of itself, which I didn’t know I needed. What’s more, I believe I feel a bit in love with Denzel Washington, but that is neither here nor there.

Now, allow me to explain the plot. Claudio catches a glimpse of Hero and is immediately in love, and by her expression, she lets us know she reciprocates. While this is happening, Benedick and Beatrice are becoming aware they too are attracted to each other. However, unlike the other pair, their passion is expressed through quarrels and insults.

Since this is, what I would call, a Shakespearean romantic comedy, there is quite a bit of mockery, farce, zingers, and there is melodrama beyond contempt, but it all is right in the end.

The original play is known as one of Shakespeare comedies, and it was written around 1598. But let me tell you, it was only one step from falling into tragedy.

The play’s action is remarkably gamelike. There are dances, eavesdropping, disguises and misunderstandings, which gives us a lighthearted and upbeat pattern.

Something I realized after watching the film was that the play was very much dominated by two side characters. I found myself overlooking the main couple and rooting for Beatrice and Benedick. I reckon this is the result of their intellect and strength when compared to that of other characters in the story. However, I also believe they are afraid of rejection and of being the object of ridicule, so they choose to pretend they hate each other’s guts, for that reason too.

Beatrice is, without a doubt, my favourite of all Shakespeare’s characters. She is both sharp and fierce. Beatrice invented feminism, and we are just living but her rules.

I truly enjoyed this play, mainly because it overflows with wit and has a beautifully engaging set of characters. Furthermore, I applaud the play’s exploration of relevant themes such as betrayal, hypocrisy, and gender roles. (I can’t believe Shakespeare really brought light to the problem with gender roles.)

Please, let me know what to think about this film and play if you have watched or read it. And your experience with Shakespeare overall.
Bye, keep on reading.

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I know I didn’t post anything last week, don’t come for me! |IcthusBookCorner

Hey there people! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Today I’m here to ramble on with you, nothing bookish.

Probably no one cares, but I haven’t posted anything since my birthday, and that was a scheduled post. To be honest, I got a bit tired of posting two times a week, and it got to a point when I had no idea what to post. I didn’t feel like writing reviews, and I was, overall, burned out.

I’ve always enjoyed talking about books and films, and it’s something that brings me joy. That is why I created this blog: to express myself and find people who love books as much as I do.

At the end of 2020, I decided to create a regular posting schedule again, and it was fine. (Mind you that I’ve had this blog since 2016, which is a long time.) In the beginning, this new attempt at organized content was amazing. It was so good that I had the idea to monetize the blog. I was excited by the interactions and visitors I had for my review of Death at Intervals and took it as a good sign. It was a stupid idea! I now felt forced to post even if I had nothing to say, and I felt like people weren’t interacting with me as much as they once did, which lead to me feeling like I was talking into the vacuum. (And by the way, I made no money so far, it was a stupid idea.)

Now, I feel like I’m now back on track, but I’ll probably only post once a week (two if I feel like it). I want to write a sort of essay on “The Shawshank Redemption” and “A Pocket History of Human Evolution”, and I also really want to write my reviews for “All The Light We Cannot See”, “If on a winter’s night a traveller” and “Notes from Underground”. As well as other things that I don’t want to reveal because I think they are better as a surprise. (I’ll post my March Wrap Up as soon as I can.)

Once again, I hope you are all doing well and living a Covid-19 free life. It was nice to talk to you all.
Bye, keep on reading.

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