Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

The Shape of Water

The-Shape-of-Water

The Shape of Water

The protagonist doesn't speak, and neither does the one she loves. Her confidante is a single man in late middle age, struggling in vain for work. These are not the heroes you expect, the violence that punctuates the film isn't there to make you swoon in awe. The Shape of Water isn't a movie whose like you will have seen before, or at least, not done this well. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Splash (1984), in which A-list alphas Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah pretend to be outsiders.

Subversion of the norm isn't enough by itself, of course: what made this film so captivating? Sally Hawkins in the central role, a mute girl of expressive eyes and sign language, conjures up in her performance something wistful, lonely, but optimistic. Her empathy for a monster, held by the government agency she works for as a cleaner, is filled with both compassion and believable desire. Their love scene is one to remember, involving a flooded bathroom and glittering, alien blue.

But there are a dozen film reviews already extolling how good this film is, in terms of plot, sincerity and character. Why did I feel so emotional during this film? The idiom of monsters and freaks is unavoidable: in the post-Second-World War surroundings of this film, African Americans and gay men are asked to leave an empty bar room – it's a place for families, they're told – while people who don't conform live alone like refugees. Sexual love seems impossible for the girl. A transgender narrative, perhaps, of the fear of a future consigned to isolation. It takes something special to give Hawkins's character hope, while an agent played by Michael Shannon – whose name could be Patriarchy – is both fascinated and repulsed by difference and desperate for the sake of his career to track them down and rid them from normality.

Anyway, it's rare to see a Valentine's Day film celebrate difference to this degree, and make it look this sexy and alluring. It's the nuclear-family love life of Shannon's chauvinistic agent that looks garishly devoid of warmth; it's the soiled bathroom of the silent girl that becomes this fantasy's equivalent of the balcony of Romeo and Juliet. Difference as something attractive and sexual: even if Hollywood is guilty of selling lies about romance, give me more of this kind of romance.
Black Panther
Walk With Me
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Monday, 17 December 2018

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

December 09, 2018

Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines If the anime films of Studio Ghibli and writer/artist Hayao Miyazaki were to be turned into live action movies, they would look like this. Steam punk machines, whirring aircraft and zeppelins, with utopian valleys and dystopian wastelands sharing screen time, reminding us of how one can turn into the other through the rapacious consu...
Creed 2
December 08, 2018

Creed 2

December 08, 2018

Creed 2

Creed 2 I remember Rocky IV in the mid-1980s, at the peak of Reagan's (and Donald Trump's) America. It's a film so mesmerizingly patriotic to American exceptionalism, the boxer 'Italian Stallion' Rocky Balboa as the plucky underdog, avenging the brutal death of his friend Apollo Creed by taking on the steroid-abusing giant who killed said friend in...
December 04, 2018

Transgender milestone (#5): visiting a foreign country

It means nothing to me This means nothing to me Oh, Vienna (' Vienna ' by Ultravox) It's up there with your first full day as an out trans female, with the admin changes, your first job and that conversation with your family. I went to Vienna this weekend to a conference, my first time out of the country with my passport grasped at my tender bosom,...
Widows
November 25, 2018

Widows

November 25, 2018

Widows

Widows A taut, stylish heist movie spotlighting destinies of gender and race in the U.S., Widows is the kind of movie I'd forgotten they still make for adults. Contrasted with multiverse fantasies like Crimes of Grindelwald , Widows is proof you can have several characters as vivid, substantial, and delicately drawn, while the action and the tensio...
November 18, 2018

The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Crimes of Grindelwald A curious film, one to categorize under 'part of a series' than self-contained. But you sit down to these 'multiverse' sagas from Marvel and Warner Bros. (et al) expecting the cliff-hanger concept that really belongs to TV shows. With this expectation, I entered the dark cinema an intrepid explorer like Eddie Redmayne's Ne...
November 09, 2018

Gifted Transgender Writers: Jamie Berrout

in Books

Portland Diary by Jamie Berrout I never use to read short stories, but I'm glad I found Portland Diary: Short Stories 2016 / 2017 by Jamie Berrout. As a transgender woman of colour, Berrout is able to go beyond the clichés of isolation and domesticity of cisgender appropriations (David Ebershoff's nauseating The Danish Girl , for example), but also...
November 03, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody It's received so-so reviews, a biopic imbued with a trashy, karaoke lack of quality. But I quite like Bohemian Rhapsody . The star turn by Rami Malek as the iconic Freddie Mercury is on the nose, projecting talent, swagger and vulnerability. His loneliness as his marriage ends is poignant, with the other band members settling down...
October 28, 2018

San Francisco Forty-Something

San Francisco Forty-Something San Francisco, my city. I have never been there. I met a San Franciscan last Friday in a bar, like a Catholic meeting the Pope; or a younger version of me discovering you've been to Disney World in Florida. We sit there, two forty-something cis and trans. I hang on the person's every snippet of daily existence, ad...
Venom
October 21, 2018

Venom

October 21, 2018

Venom

The trailer for this film was not encouraging: Tom Hardy becoming host to a slimy parasitic alien of fangs and giant tongue, with blank membrane eyes. The hero turned into unsettling CGI nightmare: is this really what I wanted for my hero? After the event, I can say that the film is better than the trailer, and progressively has its giant, sli...