Mum's Cards


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Mum's Cards
"An anthropological honesty and something that is a catalogue of intimacies."

"Routes to sociology are individual." In a fluid hand which is explained in depth, text verbatim when quoting "critical comments or relationships" in square brackets [I do that in my own notepads], notes are taken. Notes upon notes upon notes. Luke Fowler's film (one of dozens in his own records) is personal and touching, assembling from a collection of artefacts and what amounts to a monologue a portrait of a subject that has an analytical remove which gives it an anthropological honesty and something that is a catalogue of intimacies - this is at once a system of thought and the system that informs someone's thinking.

Luke's mother Bridget mixed a complex academic career with raising four children - and now in what passes for retirement an index of knowledge, a taxonomy of threes by fives bound up on paperclips and alphabetical order. There's exploration of origin, talk of a department of exiles, a place that would give sufficient cause to "displace your cosy disposition that [the] capitalist world was well ordered and benign" - well ordered indeed, and not just the subject. There are structural moments here - not just close-ups so finely grained that you can see the voids and hollows of each card (longer lasting than paper), the tiny fragments of pulp pressed into something at once smooth and granular. Past that though, there are the lenses - perched on critical theories they are literally ways of seeing that shed (or draw) new light from the same things.

There are inky shapes unfathomable as letters, lockstep ligatures that hyperfocus does not allow the eye to resolve. Dotted and crossed, tucked away in shoeboxes and filing cabinets, the cards are a part of career - books and articles and study, a focus on culture and the ways it uses myths to support the things taken for granted, but as much as it shows it's the things elided that also tell stories. There's a groove pushed into the paper by a stroke that didn't quite carry enough ink, a thin line of blue like an example from another field of study, arroyo straight in a square nibbed valley. There's a warmth of colour, sunshine through windows, three dots for therefore as or more meaningful than any ellipsis. A series through the letter 'H' flickers with a rhythm that puts pace to the slower exploration of character - one letter on one notecard at a time.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2019
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The filmmaker's mother, a sociologist, used index cards throughout her career to make notes on all that she read. Now that she no longer has an office her house is filled with these cards.

Director: Luke Fowler

Year: 2018

Runtime: 9 minutes

Country: UK

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