Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A scene from Weekend; (bits on Andrew Haigh) and preparation for Looking

Or, the Moment I knew I’d fallen in love with Weekend

To preamble, have any of you been watching Looking? I ask, because despite my unremitting laziness, I do miss writing about television and have been catching up, or beginning, so many good shows this last week but Looking – four episodes in – is easily my favourite show of the 2013/2014 television season. The sometimes, unfortunately, inextricable question asked when a show unlike the norm appears though is it is successful of its own accord, or only intriguing inasmuch as it provides something which the market is not currently filing. Is Looking a legitimately good show or just intriguing inasmuch as it offers a view of gay life currently absent on television?

I am being somewhat (very) counter-intuitive asking these questions here when this piece isn't really about Looking but I keep thinking of the correlation between the TV show looking and the film Weekend, going further than just the ostensible. Looking aired it’s fourth episode this past Sunday so by internet standards it’s an old show, but – for posterity’s sake – I’ll still address the episodes of the show, thus far, on the blog beginning tomorrow.

But, Before, addressing Looking on the blog though, I wanted to talk another trip back to Weekend, bthough. Andrew Haigh, writer/director/editor, of Weekend is one of the three executive producers of the new TV show and even without the knowledge of his involvement one of my favourite things about

Sometimes you’re watching a movie and it’s going along well, even excellently, but then a moment comes where you move from general appreciation into specific, and overwhelming love. For me, these moments are sometimes very innocuous but I am a man of multitudes. I was re-watching Andrew Haigh’s excellent Weekend last week (more on why, below) and I was drawn to one of my favourite scenes in it. In retrospect calling this specific scene a “favourite” is a bit disingenuous, considering how in its 90 minutes Weekend packs in so much profundity and effect, but for all its poignancy I think Haigh’s strongest asset as a creator (which has spilled over to Looking) is the ability to deliver searing amounts of pathos while still being humorous.

....a great scene from Weekend below and a few minor bits on Weekend....


We zero in on a scene with Glen and Russell on a date, interrupting them mid-conversation.

          GLEN: “Remember, this was pre-Internet, so it’s like, there wasn’t any “straight boy goes gay for pay” websites or StickAMonsterCockUpYourAss.com. (Russell laughs.) But my mum had this VHS of A Room With a View. You see it?” 

          RUSSELL: “Yeah. I think I have. Is that the one with all the pussies in all the houses?”

          GLEN: “Yes, well, they’ve got that, but also they’ve got this scene where all the boys go running naked around the lake.”

          RUSSELL: “Oh, I see.”

          GLEN: “And I’ve frozen the video just on the moment where you can see Rupert Graves’ cock and you know how it is when you pause a video? It’s shuddering. And I’m tanking away and there it was, and I spaffed up a huge spider web of juvenile semen, just as my mate walked in!”

          RUSSELL (laughing): “Oh my God!”

          GLEN: “And he looked at me, and he looked at the TV screen and saw Rupert Graves’ shuddering cock, and he knew.”

          RUSSELL: “What did he say?”

          GLEN: “He called me a faggot, he called me a queer. But the weird thing was, in that moment, I could see myself through his eyes. You know? I could see what I looked like. And you know what?”

          RUSSELL: “You didn’t care.”

          GLEN: “I didn’t care! If he wants to see me as some horny little faggot-y angry child, then that’s fine with me. It doesn’t make any difference.”

          RUSSELL: “You still friends with him?”

          GLEN: “Nah. I wasn’t friends with anyone else after he told the rest of the school.”
          RUSSELL (seriously): “That’s awful, Glen.”

          GLEN: “It is what it is.”

I loved Weekend the first time I saw it in 2012. I ended up seeing it too late for me to include it in my 2011 Actor ballot, although I’d have knock someone to earn New a place here, or maybe even both New and Cullen. New is playing the more prickly Glen and everything about how this brief moment is set up and delivered seems to suggest its insignificance. But it’s such a fine example of a character deflecting. Even in the short time we’ve known him (we’re a little over half way into the movie) we know that sharing does not come easily to Glen. He’s pitching the story as a massive joke burying the not-at-all-humorous punchline. It reminds me of the way John Gallagher Jr.’s Mason has this penchant for telling stories in Short Term 12 omitting the tragic end of a particular one, just to make the humour land.

Russell, obviously thrown by the story’s movement from jauntily humorous to immediately tragic is almost apologetic in that line, “That’s awful, Glen.” It says so much about Glen, though that not only does he respond, almost tonelessly, with “It is what it is” but Haigh (significantly, also the editor here) does not even let the moment linger, the scene immediately cuts and moves on. It’s the sort of efficient technical filmmaking in tone and form that makes me love Weekend – so much meaning in ostensibly small things if you pay attention. And, it’s the same effect I’m so fond of on Looking. Sometimes gay-films/movies are put in this awkward place where they're forced to address common issues of gay life (coming out, dealing with homophobia) but then faced with the potential of being called trite if there focus is too studiously on those commonalities but being castigated for ignoring the gay experience by not focusing on them. Weekend addresses the common issue but succeeds because it's just a well made film irrespective of sexuality focus, which seems like a backhanded-observation, but one ponders on what gay art owes us when so many of them are forced with the burden or representation which Manuel so effectively spoke of here.

The question of representation in any minority-related artwork is too thorny for a brief piece, but Weekend works. Or, specifically, it really works for me. And, even aside from the depth of import this moment has coming from Glen the scene is just so excellent on the basis of it bringing the phrase of Rupert Graves' shuddering cock into the world. See, you can have moments of effect, give us pithy phrases and also make a great send-up to Merchant Ivory films.

What more could I need?

(More on Haigh as a writer/director when I talk about Looking tomorrow.)

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