Saturday, September 26, 2009
Only The Middle Classes Will Find Working Class Story "Grim"
We've had an an interesting few years for movies that deal with poverty as a conflict. In some ways Fish Tank is a dance movie, but terribly unlike Fame, Save The Last Dance or Footloose. Fish Tank has more in common with Wendy and Lucy and Frozen River where the effects of contemporary economics plays out for females. Some of the most powerful films about poverty are the gangster rap movies made in the last twenty years...but there is also a quieter string of movies studying the characters who live in the margins of our wealthy lands. In some ways these films are excellent metaphors for independent film making and perhaps that has something to do with the independent original writer/directors making these movies. We could add Slumdog Millionaire, Gran Torino, Jamacain movies Life and Debt and Shottas as other examples of narratives studying environment and struggle. The film makers are pushing against a corporate capitalistic energy much like the main characters in their films. These films might seem like they fit into a box once called "social realism" but what a film maker like Arnold is doing is more like a genre-busting of the idea of working class motifs being used for a political agenda. No, these films have in common a respect for the emotional life of the characters stifled or contested by a bigger force than political idealism can legislate. I was impressed when I read a recent interview with writer/director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) who points out an economic class system in the film industry...
Andrea Arnold sets her teacup back on it's saucer and flicks her eyes around the heavy paneling and drapery of London's Covent Garden Hotel, where she is holed up all afternoon giving interviews. "The thing about the film industry is that it's incredibly middle class, isn't it?" she says, "All the people who look at it and study it and talk about it-write about it-are middle-class, so they always see films about the working class as being grim, because the people in the film don't have what they have. I very much get the feeling that I'm seeing a different place. People at Cannes kept asking me about grim estates and I though, ugh, I don't mean that. I tried not to mean that."
The Essex estate in question is the setting for her new film Fish Tank and-depending on how your sliding scale of poverty is calibrated-it's not so bad, really. Certainly it's paradise compared to the looming los-res menace of the Glasgow tower block in Arnold's feature debut Red Road (2006), where the tectonic plates of death, sex and revenge crunched together with such riveting inevitability. Fish Tank the story of a troubled girl struggling to relate to her own physicality, builds up some fairly seismic emotional pressure too, but it's not so much the fault of the shabby, banal setting as of the cultural and emotional limitations of modern life. From, Sight & Sound Magazine.
Still from the MUST SEE movie Wendy and Lucy. You know I mean it when I start shouting in my posts :)
I'll tell ya what I'd like to see. I'd like to see Katie Jarvis perform on the hit tv show So You Think You Can Dance with a trailer for the movie. The elimination episode every week features all kinds of guest dancers and singers. I think wedding the idea of a character like this with a dance show that has accomplished bringing the art of the body back to the mainstream...would be a profound opportunity to showcase this story to young people.
1) Review in The Independant
2) The Guardian
3) Renewed interest in Keynsian economics?
4) Excerpt from movie...
5) Wendy and Lucy review.