Derik Badman's Journal

2020-04-28 08:34

Sunday I finished my tour of Celine Sciamma's films with Girlhood (a not great translation of Bande de Filles). Like her previous films there is an element of gender fluidity to the protagonist, but it is much delayed in the narrative and is almost a surprise when it appears. The film takes place in the suburbs of Paris amongst large housing blocks. The protagonist is a French African girl, a teenager, who we see stop going to school and start hanging out with a bunch of these other tougher girls (they wear leather jackets and act pretty tough when she first meets them). She struggles with her future, her family (her brother is a domineering abuser), her friends, and more. At any one point I couldn't have clearly said where the story was going, how it would end up, or even what the primary throughline was. What we end up with is a complicated portrait of a number of characters and their lives, and a protagonist who doesn't always seem to know what she wants or how she should act. The oddest part is how it starts with an American football game played by the protagonist and a bunch of other girls but then never revisits the idea.

Having watched and enjoyed her four films, I can also say that Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the only one by Sciamma I have a strong desire to watch again.

Still reading Neveryona, though I am up to the last chapter I think, but also started on Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison. She starts out on an interesting thesis about narrative design that is not the classic dramatic arc, moves into some discussion about texture of text on the page (which I don't recall reading much about before). She brings in a lot of ideas from various authors and critics, then moves into specific patterns and discussion of a few works she finds that implement her patterns. For me this is where it started feeling... light? Unresolved? There are a lot of quotations throughout (only cited at the end and only the works not pages), that make it feel like there is not a lot of Alison's content. And in focusing her argument in the introduction on the dramatic arc, I expected that the patters and analysis would feel more about the larger structure of the narratives as a whole, but a lot of the analysis feels more like a discussion of motifs. For instance, the "wave" sections seem more like a discussion of contrasts/oppositions in the language/themes than about the structure of the narratives as a whole. It feels like the analysis is operating on a different level than the original argument about dramatic arc.