Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
Message
Author
User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Aug 26, 2021 3:40 pm

Maybe, but this film is so clearly going for a deeply subjective existential/psychological experience that anyone making such comparisons will likely be doing so with apples and oranges. Nothing Larrian has done (especially lately) indicates that this will be anything but a singular artwork that provokes areas of our empathy to open where we didn't know they were closed, and I'm not so sure The Crown is going for such novel manipulations of the medium. But yeah, the superficial aesthetics might be similar.

User avatar
The Narrator Returns
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:35 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#27 Post by The Narrator Returns » Thu Aug 26, 2021 5:26 pm

The only comparison that's giving me pause about this is to Jackie, since this appears to have the exact same murky, handheld 16mm aesthetic as that. Granted, this is obviously a very short summary of the movie and the whole thing could be trying something different, but if it's just a retread of that movie (which I do like, though it diminished on rewatch outside of a theater setting), I don't know how interested I am except for Stewart.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#28 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Aug 26, 2021 6:19 pm

Jackie used narrative splitting with the interview to gain some distance from her, and also paint a more intimate objective portrait in the process. I have no idea how this film will be, but early reactions seem to be indicating a different kind of film. Also, everyone involved is one of the best in their respective fields- even if I agree that Stewart's perf is what I'm most interested in too!

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#29 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:27 pm

Holy shit, was Spencer great — obviously similar to Jackie in many ways, as we were expecting, but still distinctly its own creature. Like a scored-glass Molotov cocktail, Stewart’s Diana is both dangerously fragile and incendiary; hard to see how Stewart isn’t the favorite for awards season, and the film should be very successful in that arena generally.

To twbb’s point above about the myriad of talent involved, nearly everyone is at the top of their respective games, from Claire Mathon behind the camera to Jonny Greenwood and Steven Knight’s stellar score and script, respectively. I don’t want to give too many of the film’s surprises away, but there are some more surreal elements at work here than in Jackie that combine with Mathon’s and Greenwood’s contributions to raise the psychological intensity of Stewart’s performance to almost unbearable levels. I have no idea whether this particular sliver of royal drama has been covered by The Crown or elsewhere, but it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t the definitive portrayal of Diana.

I’ll have more to say about this film later, but I’ll close by noting that after two of the best examples of the subgenre ever produced, at this point I don’t really have much interest in seeing a biopic that isn’t directed by Pablo Larrain.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#30 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Sep 06, 2021 6:15 pm

So glad to hear this is right in the camp I expected it to be- have you seen Ema yet, DI? Larrain has established himself as the greatest modern male director of women with his last (apparently) three features, biopic or not!

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#31 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Sep 06, 2021 7:07 pm

I have the Blu-ray waiting at home, actually!


User avatar
Finch
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#33 Post by Finch » Wed Sep 08, 2021 11:39 pm

FFC's Walter Chaw's 3.5/4 review
Stewart makes for an exceptional Diana, playing her as a variation on her personal brand of anxious, intelligent woman forced to contort herself into impossible boxes for the pleasure of others. She finds a motive for Diana's hunched, head-down gait, adopting it when in the company of those who burden her with expectation and abandoning it, as if shrugging off a great and unwanted coat, when amongst those who do not. Like Natalie Portman in Jackie, she is the perfect muse for Larrain's near-tactile considerations of the architecture of uniformity and the way some people constantly batter themselves against it. Stewart's Diana is a caged thing. She tells Maggie at one point that she's hopelessly common, and Larrain portrays that as a love of fast food and Mike + the Mechanics. She says she needs to be free, and Larrain has her cutting open curtains that were sewn shut to defeat the prying eyes of an insistent press. Spencer is, like The Last of England, not subtle, though it does manage in the end a kind of sublimity.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#34 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 26, 2021 1:01 am


User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#35 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Oct 22, 2021 11:01 pm

Spencer was expectedly great, a psychologically-intrusive, yet sensitive anti-biopic (the stated thesis declaring this piece a tragic fable at the start is amusing, for it's likely closer to the Truth of Diana's experience than any traditional biopic could be). Stewart is sensational, and should win her much-deserved Oscar, as are the actors who play her children- their moments together often existing in a vacuum as the best scenes in the film, and perhaps coincidentally (or not) the only circumstances we feel we can breathe during the two-hour runtime.

Larraín continues his recent broad interest in the relationship between women and freedom, the drive against systemic friction to find an ability to self-actualize on their terms. As opposed to Ema, Diana’s confines don’t allow her room for liberation, to remain 'untamed'. She resides in an abstract prison of coerced expectations, striving for independence. Sometimes the oppression is conveyed with physical forces in people watching her, violating her with their eyes; customs like being weighed, measured, commodified; or with physical spaces- an ironic juxtaposition between literal openness and closed loops of communication (Sally Hawkins is the only support who can momentarily boost Diana's will power to simply 'get by'). These fancy physical objects are chains, sterile violations of agency, that suffocate via extravagance. Knight's script can be a bit heavy-handed at times, and he was the one attached voice that caused me trepidation approaching the project, but it works most of the time. A presented metaphor in the first act, about the intervention to be smothered with garments as a solution for discomfort, being dressed in an intrusive manner, rather than simply turning on the heat which would allow a liberal comfort in one’s own lightweight state of being, is handled well and a creative method to drive home Diana's claustrophobia of powerlessness in choice. Still, while Knight’s overstated delivery may be well-suited for the material, I can’t help but wonder if another writer comfortable with practicing more restraint could have assisted in crafting an improved masterpiece.

This is a film that is both about the oppression and rigidity perpetrated by upper class ideals, and also more generally about a woman deprived of the freedom to express herself (a third-act dance montage, fantastical as it may be, is more "extravagant" for delivering her low-bar satisfactions than any piece of coldly supplied lavish product ever could). Larraín understands that repression does not discriminate through specific economic groups, or even gender, but can be an experience worthy of exploration in any setting. I didn't find as many similarities between this film and Jackie (which is probably, honestly, the better film for treating its material with more nebulous complexity) but there is a throughline where Jackie and Diana were both traumatized by challenging upbringings and husbands' infidelities, and ultimately we are left wondering: Who is the "real" Diana, or Jackie? This film strives to answer that question for Diana, while Jackie leaves the audience more space to challenge ourselves to view the question itself as impossible to justly, or respectfully, answer.

The thematic meditations on the past, present, and future helped to create that same sensation of impossible catharsis in this more subjective film though. For Diana, the idea of no future means no room for growth, and is another trapping. However, she's equally impotent to reclaim her past when given the opportunity.
SpoilerShow
Diana takes the coat of her father from the scarecrow, attempts to create present and future out of the past, rather than be controlled by her 'past-present' Royal Family predicament, but her efforts don't provide tranquility. Later, once Spall decides to let her abandon the rituals and leave the grounds, Diana finds her home decrepit, and is unable to locate the happiness from her youth in the past and bring it into the present either. The reality of the house’s condition represents her elusive capacity to regain a stable sense of self, and Diana's sobriety to a deteriorating identity, divorced from tangible actions she can administer to alter her condition, is brutally-conveyed. She is stuck in an impossible situation where she needs individualism to survive, but is in a relentless cycle of torture without aid by the present, unable to tap into the past or future for hope or salvation. The film asks a very important question, especially given our knowledge of Princess Diana's mental health issues: How much does one's environment/social context reinforce these symptoms?

So, Diana controls her situations in the only ways she can- sometimes through maladaptive strategies of physical self-harm or feeding rumors about herself to fight back, sometimes through difficult behavior like choosing her dresser or picking the wrong dresses (when you're objectified as an icon, iconoclasm is an attractive, if impulsive defense mechanism), and pervasively by rejecting the fancy food prepared for the population she doesn't fit in with. Sometimes she gravitates towards healthier means, and Diana is truly happy when she engages in play, often with her children but even alone or with Hawkins or in her fantasies. Through play she can express herself freely, and unlock the vivacious potential she so desperately seeks.

So what of the scarecrow? Well, she scared away the pheasants to protect them, upset with the destruction of the dignified, God’s creatures devalued for sport. Diana feels a kinship with them, and part of the reason some audiences may love this movie rather than find it a bore (as my theatre-mate unfortunately did) is how sensitive we are to unlocking the valve for identification with that feeling of being trapped. How willing are we to broaden our scopes outside the specifics of this 'historical' situation and feel empathy toward a human being deprived of their will, unsupported and alienating and alone in a milieu- literally or figuratively. The choice to place a proper dress onto the scarecrow may symbolize how Diana finds the connotation of these garments frightening, or perhaps it's a statement that she matters, a compromised form of agency in singularly choosing to become the scarecrow in spirit. Maybe it's Diana's way of becoming connected to the idea of her past property of Spencer- unable to grasp the past, she leaves her garb as an independent choice in the present, to help her forge a future- away from and spiritually aligned with that area of her soul. She's shed this coat thrust upon her, like the blankets or coats offered at the start as a coldhearted response to being cold in this emotionless 'home'. After physically rejecting the adorned food with bulimia, Diana gets KFC on her terms, returning to play for empowerment with those that truly love "her", and we get a bittersweet final shot of impermanent freedom. She knows it and we know it.
It is a tragedy, but also an existential demonstration of how to find fleeting serenity to give us meaning, to fight for our freedom when we can; and to hold onto those moments, knowing that they don't allow us to escape the past, nor provide us with promises of a brighter future.

User avatar
DarkImbecile
Ask me about my visible cat breasts
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#36 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Oct 23, 2021 11:32 am

To your point about Knight’s heightened presentation of the trappings of wealth being the mechanisms of her subjugation,
SpoilerShow
the use of the pearl necklace as a collar that she can only break free of in a deliriously self-destructive fantasy could be obnoxious in the wrong hands, but Greenwood’s score, Mathon’s uncomfortably, oppressively close camera, and Stewart’s performance make that scene the one that looms most prominently in my memory. For some reason, I grow less and less enamored of subtlety for its own sake as I get older, and more interested in how strikingly artists can deliver on the earnestness of their ideas and make scenes like this powerful almost in spite of themselves.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#37 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Oct 23, 2021 4:30 pm

Totally agree, my issue with Knight is less about his use of creative external devices to demonstrate the suffocation- which is earned and accomplished marvelously (and that necklace scene at the dinner table might be the best moment in the film for reasons you describe)- but the dialog segregated from those other elements can sometimes feel repetitive and, not hollow, but idle. It’s still one of my favorite films of the year, and I don’t by any means intend to indicate I disliked Knight’s contribution to the film (he actually seems well-suited to its reflexively deliberate obtrusive style), but I wonder if a different writer could have made this masterpiece firing on most cylinders even more perfect, by balancing its loud regurgitation of psychological themes with pockets of restraint.

User avatar
Red Screamer
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:34 pm
Location: Tativille, IA

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#38 Post by Red Screamer » Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:20 pm

Spencer is dramatically inert which, since the progression of the film then comes in the slight changes of Stewart's unusual and engaging performance, is pretty interesting. It's also completely overwritten, stacking several obvious metaphors ontop of one another and repeating lines and types of scenes a half-dozen times, which isn't. I like Stewart's choice to do the Kim Novak thing where she breathes unnaturally in the middle of sentences, creating a sense of being both overly controlled and out of control. Her performance deserves a much better movie than this, which plays like a caricature of "psychological drama". But I also thought Portman was horrible in Jackie so what do I know?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#39 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:49 pm

Red Screamer wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:20 pm
But I also thought Portman was horrible in Jackie so what do I know?
Image

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Spencer (Pablo Larraín, 2021)

#40 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Nov 16, 2021 4:38 pm

The more I reflect on this film, the more its "overwritten" elements bother me, which is a shame since everything else is pitch-perfect. However, the use of an unexpected and pretty awful diegetic pop song near the film's end, somehow translating into one of the most euphoric and momentarily empowering existential scenes of the year, deserves resounding accolades, and I imagine that was one of Knight's contributions- which are basically all strong even with the inclusion of obvious metaphors.. outside of the excessive stagnant dialog

Post Reply