Scratching the Surface - A Peter Strickland Thread

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thread for hungarian-based English film director Peter Strickland.

quote is an innocuous phrase from a Berberian Sound Studio interview here.

I think it does a decent job of suggesting the way he delves under both genre and the ideas sex, revenge and horror, as well as implying the essential factor of sound in his film - sound as a space of exploration and scenery as much as the visual, to the point of representing another narrative of sorts.

I quite liked Katalin Varga without loving it, Berberian Sound Studio is the great film of recent years for me, one of my favourites of all time I think, and I thought The Duke of Burgundy was great as well, without being certain how much weight it carries... still thinking.

Duke of Burgundy posts ported across from the [url=Berberian Sound Studio]BSS thread[/i]:

just went to see the duke of burgundy. v enjoyable. long-game fetishism and lepidoptera. a small figure of eight of sexual domination.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 15:43 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

sound again central. the list of recordings listed at the end as if not more important than the visual scenery. pleasing joke in the credits - the informal English names of the moths and butterflies played by their Latin classification.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 15:46 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink


― touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:04 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

v nearly did - or a P Strickland thread - and still might, but the film itself feels a little lightweight. not all in a bad way - wish there were more films that were intriguing bagatelles - but I'm still thinking.

actually that's not true, I'm sitting in the cinema bar drinking, but that's what passes for thinking round my way recently.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:16 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

A Strickland thread would be better.

― Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:21 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Title keeps making me think of the Mr. Show Burgundy Loaf skit

― Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:23 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

no men in this film btw. relying on Morbs or someone equally well informed to mention other general release films where this is the case.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:27 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

That's a really good question, and a unique aspect I'm not sure I've encountered reading about this film yet.

― Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:36 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

the film is superbly punctuated by lectures on lepidoptera, with slow scans of the all women audience - they're all fantastically dressed and individually beautiful - in the way that is sometimes demeaningly termed "striking". the only exception being a slightly toppling badly wigged mannequin.

this film is as much about dress and dressing up as it is about anything else. the visual and aural aspects of the fabric are v sensually indulged in.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:41 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

very high among 2015's anticipatings

― describing a scene in which the Hulk gets a boner (contenderizer), Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:43 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

will port all this over to a new thread when I get 'ome.

― Fizzles, Sunday, 22 February 2015 16:45 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Saw the trailer when I went to see Goodbye to Language (another film of tiny bits of very beautifully done sound) (as almost all Godard) and I quite like to see this as well.

― xyzzzz__, Sunday, 22 February 2015 20:03 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Thanks for reminding me that I missed my chance to see "Goodbye to Language" in Chicago, apparently. How does Herzog get a 3D documentary about a cave into theatres, and Wenders gets a 3D doc about a dance into theaters, but Godard's lauded latest barely sneaks in for a couple of weeks? And alas because this is meant for 3D, I have a sad feeling that means I will never get to see it.

― Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 22 February 2015 20:13 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I was quite taken with Duke of Burgundy.

The psych/soft folk soundtrack by Cat's Eye sounded good as well.

― the gabhal cabal (Bob Six), Sunday, 22 February 2015 22:38 (2 days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i missed this at ifc, sadface
josh, tbf, both herzog and wenders' films are narrative and about subjects people can easily grasp and are in focus

― the plight of y0landa (forksclovetofu), Monday, 23 February 2015 03:08 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Hope I manage to see this next week.

― Robert Adam Gilmour, Monday, 23 February 2015 03:27 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Fizzles, Tuesday, 24 February 2015 08:54 (seven years ago) link

Will revive when I watch next week :-)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 25 February 2015 13:10 (seven years ago) link

Just saw this and loved it, he has just about my favourite aesthetic of any director atm. His title sequences are a joy.

ewar woowar (or something), Wednesday, 4 March 2015 17:26 (seven years ago) link

Some interesting and weird allusions to 2001 in this too, unless i imagined them.

ewar woowar (or something), Wednesday, 4 March 2015 20:07 (seven years ago) link

Really enjoyed DOB, moreso than BSS in fact. Easy to see the whole role-playing aspect as a commentary on performance, with characters literally reading their lines from cue cards, or as an effective metaphor for the transactional, power-inscribed relationship that exists between author and audience. Also very smart on the way that other people's desires, even people we love, can bore us, or disgust us.

That sense of decadent European boredom reminded me strongly of Kumel's Daughters of Darkness at times, and it's easy to see the film as a very oblique vampire story, one where sleeping in a coffin becomes a fetishistic act.

Best line: "Would a human toilet be an acceptable compromise?"

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Friday, 6 March 2015 08:57 (seven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

People certainly laughed at that line, the whole scene around the discussion of the bed with the disappointment in Cynthia's face as it can't be made in time for her bday was all round hilarious.

This was so beautifully designed and its sounds so well recorded -- it was the first time I felt surround sound as threatening and spooky by itself. Maybe it was where I was sat? V much like Goodbye to Language in that respect -- really nice to see two film where the material of film is being used a new, the space of cinema as a site for experiment on us poor viewers -- although its points around desire were easier to make something of than Godard's scattershot commentary.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 23 March 2015 21:06 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

That whole conversation would have seamlessly slotted into an episode of Blue Jam or maybe The Phantom of Liberty and it was funny, but also there was genuine pathos from Evelyn's character (the momentary look of horror) and it was also quite a humanising moment for both characters.

xelab, Sunday, 3 May 2015 22:47 (seven years ago) link

The lip-quiver upon realising it'll take eight weeks to deliver the bed...

p:s nerds know (dog latin), Monday, 11 May 2015 10:50 (seven years ago) link

i just wish i'd watched this on a decent system. as it happens we watched it on my computer screen with stereo speakers. Love the sequence of the moths piling up and getting closer and closer to the camera until it's just a static-y blur of wings and abdomens.

p:s nerds know (dog latin), Monday, 11 May 2015 10:52 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

There was a pretty good Strickland radio play on 4 this aft "The Len Continuum". Toby Jones voicing a hapless failed actor who peaked with a bit part in Never The Twain and it featured some Stricklandesque sonic diversions.

xelab, Thursday, 18 June 2015 14:07 (seven years ago) link

three weeks pass...

This was a dull and sometimes awful movie.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 July 2015 00:01 (seven years ago) link

three months pass...

ahead of tonight's radio adaptation of the stone tape strickland selects his favourite horror soundtracks and films.

Fizzles, Saturday, 31 October 2015 18:03 (seven years ago) link

Music and electronics: James Cargill
Vocal effects: Andrew Liles
Analogue effects: Steve Haywood and Raoul Brand
Sound mix: Eloise Whitmore

Written by Matthew Graham and Peter Strickland
Based on the original TV play by Nigel Kneale

Milton Parker, Thursday, 5 November 2015 22:01 (seven years ago) link

there's a link to a '3D sound' version down on that page which I would avoid; the best parts of this come with the abstract sound design, which doesn't fare well when rendered for binaural listening.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 5 November 2015 23:06 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

Score to "Duke of Burgundy" is gorgeous and evocative in a Wicker Man meets Picnic at Hanging Rock way. On par with Berberian

Paisley Window Pane (Ross), Thursday, 13 July 2017 20:51 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

In Fabric was a blast, looks incredible, funniest movie I’ve seen in quite a while.

JoeStork, Saturday, 1 June 2019 16:30 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

Hey Alfred, I want you to watch In Fabric and post your thoughts please!

flamboyant goon tie included, Thursday, 17 December 2020 04:57 (one year ago) link

still need to watch this. duke of burgundy and berberian sound studio are famous stuff.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:49 (one year ago) link

He has another short film on Euro MUBI at the moment:

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 17 December 2020 15:31 (one year ago) link

Thanks for the heads up, Ward.

Fizzles, Friday, 18 December 2020 12:22 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Flux Gourmet is great, very funny and very odd. Possibly the closest reference is Berberian... due to the concentration on sound art and a similarly floundering 'everyman' lead, but it's much further from the horror genre. A little unnerving to discover that Strickland was in a band that basically did verrry similar conceptual work to my solo project, but fuck it, nobody was going to notice my stuff anyway. I highly recommend it!

emil.y, Monday, 19 September 2022 17:06 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

I'm still not quite sure what to think of this a day after seeing it. As emil.y says, it goes even further into the relationship between food and sound, and relating both to how you explore conceptual spaces that might otherwise be unmappable. It is also an amusing 'what if' whimsy where 'sonic catering' is an artistic space with many artistic collectives vying for bursaries, funding and attention, as well as creating a slightly satiric kink out of the modern socialised fetish seen on food programmes for capturing the sound and sizzle of cooking as something sensuous, amusingly extending that into the mundanity of the bourgeois in the supermarket via a series of mime scenarios.

That is the space the film creates and in which it operates, but the main dynamics are where and how this mixture of sensualities are digested and absorbed, and what if you are incapable of digesting them, getting acidic flux (comparable to the sonic flux which is a source of artistic and dramatic contention in the film) and flatulence. the mode of the writer and recorder is meticulously captured in a brilliant performance, again, v delicate and underdelivered, from Makis Papadimitriou. Strickland reverses the Italian group / vulnerable English in this case, to make Makis Italian, suffering social discomfort in an absurd English mixture of rigid dinner party performance (after dinner speeches are given by each of the collective, each of them excellent), and avant-garde resistance and fetishistic subliminal reaction to those social rules.

The other ruleset in this space is performance and 'backstage', where audiences show their gratification in post-performance orgies. What intimacies are available in which spaces, where do we... where are we... able to reveal ourselves, our intestinal and gustatory beings, our sexual fetish - what is the interplay in these spaces, what freedom. What role does the private performance of writing and recording have. Stones (played by Makis, and no Strickland is not frightened of the grotesque or heavy handed joke), sits, a slightly malevolent shadowy outline in the glass panelled toilet, undergoind who knows what malevolent transformation.

The sound, as you might expect, is extraordinary, spacious, dense, discrete - the writer and recorder's flatulence is barely registered, the speech of the actors is beautifully captured - that speech in itself nuanced, from Asa Butterfield's slightly dreary and shy wealthy dropout London, to Gwendoline Christie's poised, over-rich, and melodramatic depth, and ofc Fatma Mohamed's crisp, autocratic, ironic voice (god, she and her voice are beautiful). Birdsong and field recordings fill the night and the 'thinking walks' the collective go on. The sonic performance and malevolent background miasma of recorded food is also exhilarating and appropriately vicsceral. So yes, the sonic space is, as ever, as rich as the pictorial, dramatic and scripted matter.

Fizzles, Sunday, 23 October 2022 08:26 (one month ago) link

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