Emergence, part 2

Capes, games and Stromboli with Joanna Hogg.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Walking to the castle in Unrelated: "Anna wears that looks like a maternity dress. It belonged to Kathryn Worth's mother."
Walking to the castle in Unrelated: "Anna wears that looks like a maternity dress. It belonged to Kathryn Worth's mother."

In part 2 of our conversation Joanna Hogg and I discuss the influence of Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli on Archipelago, how Edith Head would not have come upon Tom Hiddleston and Kathryn Worth's capes in Unrelated, the many roles Viv Albertine and Liam Gillick have in Exhibition, A Nos Amours starting with Chantal Akerman, Catherine Deneuve in Jacques Demy's Donkey Skin, and games people play.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Unrelated, Archipelago, Exhibition, each have totally distinct concepts about costumes.

Joanna Hogg: It's so much about the different stories. With Unrelated, there is a dress that Anna wears that looks like a maternity dress. It belonged to Kathryn Worth's mother. Stéphane [Collonge] and myself were looking at what Kathryn has of her own clothes that might fit into the story. We didn't have a huge budget where we could have an Edith Head approach and have everything especially designed for the film. It's finding what's there already. Doing that is always very interesting. One uncovers some nice stories and nice details.

Unrelated drinking: "I was really interested in the games because that's what big groups of extended families do."
Unrelated drinking: "I was really interested in the games because that's what big groups of extended families do."

AKT: Which scenes is she wearing the dress in?

JH: When they're walking to the castle and have lunch. When she is ostracised by the group and she is eating alone. She wears the dress when she goes to stay in the hotel on her own. What we thought was poignant about that dress was that it looked like she's pregnant but her big problem is that she can't have children.

AKT: The baby blue capes in the church, I didn't catch right away. Of course, visiting a Cathedral in Italy you have to cover your body.

JH: Yes, the Duomo in Siena has those capes. Again, they were already there. We just had to find them and use them. This is what I really love about approaching film in this way. Sometimes when you have very little money to spend, actually you have those wonderful gifts. Those capes, when I first saw them - with sleeveless shirts they have to wear these plastic capes - it's such an ugly thing. But there's something quite beautiful about them.

AKT: It also tells a lot about the characters. They didn't prepare to bring something to cover their arms in the Cathedral. I liked how you combined this with the underwear shopping scene. I saw it as the relationship with Oakley [Tom Hiddleston] - the cover up and the uncovering.

JH: That's nice. I don't think I thought of it in that way. But what was nice about the capes was that it unites Oakley and Anna together that day. And then there's the underwear shop. Yes, that's a nice connection.

Kathryn Worth and Tom Hiddleston - Unrelated in the Duomo: "what was nice about the capes was that it unites Oakley and Anna together that day."
Kathryn Worth and Tom Hiddleston - Unrelated in the Duomo: "what was nice about the capes was that it unites Oakley and Anna together that day."

AKT: Anna braids her hair as if she were the child. That's the opposite and companion piece to the maternity dress. She wants to be with the young ones and goes maybe too far back.

JH: Yes. Yes. So much about Anna is about trying to relive a past that she never had. I think she's a woman who never had a rebellious teenager time. All that energy is still there within her. And Oakley brings all of that out.

AKT: You go far in exposing her, which makes spectators slightly protective of her. You want to tell her "don't do this, just don't!"

JH: I know many people who've seen it feel very uncomfortable watching her. It's that awkwardness that I find so interesting.

AKT: It's in the details. She uses hair ribbons that are two different colors - which is something you stop doing when you're five. On the other hand, in Archipelago, it's the male where the costume is most telling. Tom Hiddleston's Edward wears pajamas with a sweater over them in a semi-public situation.

JH: A sweater that is too short. Tom found that very uncomfortable to wear. It's a sort of scratchy jumper that's too small for him. So he is being forced to stay young. Yes, he is the equivalent of Anna [in Unrelated].

AKT: He wears this vulnerable outfit in front of the cook. Were you going for that discomfort Tom felt?

JH: Very much. And this stranger who comes into a rented house and has to witness this strange family. All families are very strange when they're seen from outside. I'm really interested in how alien a family can be. Families have their own rules and behavior.

AKT: How did you go about writing the script for the Archipelago family?

JH: I didn't have to go very far.

Tresco picnic in Archipelago: "The hunted in Archipelago is Edward, the character Tom plays."
Tresco picnic in Archipelago: "The hunted in Archipelago is Edward, the character Tom plays."

AKT: The pajama discomfort made me think of Jacques Demy's Peau d'Âne. For a large part of the film, Catherine Deneuve has to wear a long white nightgown with a donkey skin wrapped around it. It also ends with a helicopter.

JH: I don't think, I've ever seen it. I'm going to write this down.

AKT: Tell me about the hunting scene.

JH: I wanted to show life on the island. One of my references for that was Rossellini's Stromboli and the scenes he had in that film on tuna fishing which are very shocking. It has these layers. The kind of documentary on tuna fishing leads into the drama of the story so brilliantly. If I could dare to make a comparison.

AKT: Last month, Isabella Rossellini picked this exact clip from her parents' film during her discussion with Salman Rushdie at the Morgan Museum & Library here in New York as one of the most important films of her life (see the feature here). I thought about two other hunting references. Jean Renoir's Rules Of The Game and a quote by Oscar Wilde on fox hunting as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.”

JH: The hunted in Archipelago is Edward, the character Tom plays.

AKT: Lobsters tell about the relationship of a couple trying to cook them. That's true in Archipelago, in Woody Allen's Annie Hall and in an obscure film with Lilli Palmer and Louis Jourdan [No Minor Vices].

JH: No cinematic references. The lobsters just came out of the reality of the island [Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly]. If you rent one of those houses you can go and get lobster from the lobster fisherman. He exists, he is real. And Amy [Lloyd], who plays the cook [Rose], was a cook in real life. Now she acts as well and makes films herself. We discussed these issues - what is a humane way to kill a lobster.

Tom Hiddleston as Edward with Amy Lloyd as Rose in Archipelago: "Tom found that very uncomfortable to wear. It's a sort of scratchy jumper that's too small for him."
Tom Hiddleston as Edward with Amy Lloyd as Rose in Archipelago: "Tom found that very uncomfortable to wear. It's a sort of scratchy jumper that's too small for him."

AKT: Hiddleston's Edward also wears a cufflink shirt without cufflinks in front of the cook. Clothes are often too big or too small for the wearer. In all of your films you work with the question, who is the parent and who is the child?

JH: Yes, and sometimes they're interchangeable. Skipping forward to Exhibition, what I was interested in was all those different roles played by one couple, sometimes by one person. H and D project all those different roles onto each other. D (Viv Albertine) is mother, daughter, friend, wife sometimes, to H (Liam Gillick) but also to the house. She's like a mother to the house. D projects onto H the role of professor and critic, whereas in fact he is not criticising her, he is very supportive of her.

AKT: Game playing has different forms. In Unrelated they play types of charades, even the passing the orange-under-chin game from Stanley Donen's Charade. Were you thinking of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in that brilliant scene?

JH: No. But I like that. I was really interested in the games because that's what big groups of extended families do. They play games. That's something I've observed.

AKT: I saw that you started a new project and blog called A Nos Amours.

JH: It's a new venture. It's interesting for me because it's separate from my own filmmaking, a refuge in a way from having to talk about my own work. We show films from many different filmmakers. Right now, we are doing a retrospective of Chantal Akerman.

AKT: People often only know Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Her Pina Bausch film [One Day Pina Asked Me]…

Viv Albertine as D in Exhibition: "She's like a mother to the house."
Viv Albertine as D in Exhibition: "She's like a mother to the house."
JH: We just showed that a couple of months ago and she [Akerman] came over for that screening, in fact. It'll take two years to screen all her films. We're nearly halfway through.

AKT: There are so many films that should be seen on a big screen. Screener links can be disastrously different, in coloring, for example.

JH: That's what we're advocating with A Nos Amours - seeing cinema with an audience, a community of people and the power of seeing work in an audience where you can discuss it afterwards in an informal way. It's also about that sacred dark space. There's nothing that beats that for watching films. Part of what we're doing is shedding light on films that are little seen or not very appreciated.

AKT: You are also promoting films that have not been distributed?

JH: That's more challenging because we really want to show films that don't get a release in the UK, maybe don't get a release at all. It's a lot of work to get the rights to show work.

AKT: It is a struggle. Whenever I am asked for Best-of lists, I try and mix the big name films with more unknown ones that deserve so much to be seen and often disappear without theatrical distribution [like Whitewash].

Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli: "The kind of documentary on tuna fishing leads into the drama of the story so brilliantly."
Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli: "The kind of documentary on tuna fishing leads into the drama of the story so brilliantly."

JH: That's a great thing to do. I think that really makes a difference. We are doing this for exactly the same reason. Even a director like James Gray, none of his films have been shown in the UK. And we showed Leviathan, the only contemporary film we managed to show so far. It's a challenge but it's one of my missions.

AKT: In Unrelated, there is a lot of drinking going on. In Archipelago, there's eating and what leads up to it - lobster killing and hunting and cooking. Sexuality is central in your third film. What's next?

JH: Yes, where can I go next? That covers everything. In more general terms, [the next film] is about obsession, co-dependency in a way. All my films have co-dependent aspects. It's also about the development of creativity. It's set in the early Eighties.

AKT: A historical film is a new departure for you.

JH: It doesn't seem so historic to me but time flies. It's set between 1980 and 1985.

In part 1 of our conversation we discussed D and H as not in DH Lawrence, Stéphane Collonge's production design, turning absence into a character, how to begin and what an arranged marriage means to her and Viv Albertine in Exhibition.

Exhibition opened theatrically in New York on Friday, June 20 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Followed by Unrelated and Archipelago from June 27 - July 3, 2014.

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