The Souvenir Part II – Film review
Death is a table with an empty chair in a familiar restaurant. It’s a view from a window. It’s the L on the apartment door that young filmmaker Julie (Byrne) shared with Anthony before letting her heroin addiction ruin their relationship and ultimately kill herself.
For anyone who watched Joanna Hogg’s heartbreaking semi-autobiography in 2019, Memory, the opening sequences of The Remembrance Part II are funeral, as Julie slides almost without a word between fractured moments. She’s the ghost of her own life, the naivety of her performance in the first film replaced by a sense of confusion that she herself can barely recognize. It’s not simply a quest to understand the enigmatic, damaged, and duplicitous Anthony, and exactly who he was behind the Byronic figure she saw (though these questions torment her). This is what she will be after that fateful phone call. Still The Remembrance Part II is less a sequel than an extrapolation. It’s less immediate than the first film, cumulatively less dramatic, but it flourishes in its complexity, in its portrayal of Julie’s ensemble as she tries to focus her loss through her graduation project. in cinema.
Hogg’s work here belies the idea that observational and heavily improvised films are easy. There is extraordinary control here, expressed in large part through Julie and in particular through Grace Snell’s period costume work, which reflects the ebb of her post-loss depression. It’s all about Julie’s physical evolution, from the ghostly sheets she cries under while seeking refuge with mater (Swinton) and pater (Ashworth), to her fractured porcelain statue half-life under thick long coats. padded shoulders (de rigueur among bright young people of the time), in form-fitting post-romantic silks with the odd angular notch. These decisions complement and inform Byrne’s performance, her organic growth reflected in the seasonal flower schedule on her parents’ farm.
In the heart, The Remembrance Part II is a film about cinema as art, industry and identity. Ayaode returns as acerbic Patrick, now fully revealed as mercurial director at Julian Temple on a screaming set Novices. His brief appearances are so many challenges for Julie, to face her grief, to face Anthony’s legacy, not to think that his family are the only concerns in the world. Within these are some of Hogg’s deepest moments of quiet self-criticism, essential in avoiding any feelings of self-pity. It is, after all, a brutally honest self-portrait.
Julie’s graduation film is also titled “The Souvenir,” and the fact that it shares the title of the first half of Hogg’s duo is revealing here. Part II Does Hogg look back on that time in her own life, but also the first movie itself, and what it would have been like if she had tried to do it at 28. Autobiography and comments are harmoniously intertwined, with the graduation film as well as Julie’s effort to synthesize her experiences through the history of cinema and the iconography borrowed. The projection becomes a fantastic sequence in its own right, a crow’s nest of The Wizard of Oz, French New Wave, and Powell and Pressburger (a self-critical nod to Hogg’s graduation film, “Caprice”), but Julie’s voice is still booming – even though she’s making the money. thanks to the commercial gold mine of music videos.
Ultimately, The Remembrance Part II Hogg is watching Julie’s next steps, even though she becomes more of a fictional character than a proxy. Yet, it is not about something as mundane as “getting past” grief. The last moments of The Remembrance Part II crystallize the themes of the films, and with a final word Hogg exposes his own reality. For all of Julie’s journey (which is the filmmaker’s own), making these films won’t give the cathartic resolution that her young self is looking for. Cut to black, and The Remembrance Part II is still there.