Anyone looking for an astringent corrective to the postmodern hypertrophies of the Tarantino style will find it in the beautiful and profoundly intelligent new film from Joanna Hogg, The Souvenir, executive produced by, among others, Martin Scorsese, and starring Tilda Swinton and her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, as a fictional mother and daughter in 80s London.
Like Once Upon A Time In Hollywood... The Souvenir is especially interested in framing a narrative around film, and directing film - in this instance, the hero is a young woman, from the English upper class, who has become a film student, and is seeking to make a film about working class life in a part of the country she barely knows. Hogg allows us to see how a film student (her in actuality looking back in memory) might film and tell the story of her own aesthetic awakening, through the medium she loves - through the story of her sentimental education, as it were, as a naïve lover, swept up by a Heathcliffian slightly older man (Tom Burke, both haunted and arrogant, and ultimately unforgettable) with enigmatic and potentially criminal tendencies.
Where Tarantino's violent movie is about style unbound, and narrative excess, Hogg's is about careful, controlled, and judicious revealing, and withholding, of what is ever to be seen or known, about any story. Intriguingly, she employs the opposite of dramatic irony, so that the characters always know more than we, the audience, ever will. Rather than ever shown the entirety of an act or its consequences, we see moments that appear random, until the final moment, when all adds up, cumulatively, to one of the most powerful few final images of any film I have seen.
Tragic, romantic, poetic, impeccably acted, directed, written and shot, The Souvenir left me moved, and wounded, in the best of ways, by a vision so masterfully compassionate, it becomes an elegy for all youth, all love, and art, doomed or not. Already celebrated by The New York Times and the LA Times, this is sure to be on every list at year's end as one of, if not the, finest films to be released in 2019.