Archive for Holy Smoke


Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2017 by dcairns

We’re halfway through season one of Top of the Lake, Jane Campion & Gerard Lee’s TV series. (Lee co-directed PASSIONLESS MOMENTS, one of my very favourite Campion things.) It’s not quite auteurist TV a la Twin Peaks, so it doesn’t fill that (rumbling) void — Campion directed most but not all of it. So we’ve just had two episodes directed by Garth Davis. It’s all beautifully photographed by Adam Arkapaw, reminding me of the first True Detective in its landscape work. But you do notice the difference when Campion’s not at the tiller. The shots cut together less fluidly, the changes in shot size are less intelligible.

We get this beautiful close-up of Elizabeth Moss all of a sudden, in the midst of a conversation, and it doesn’t appear to signal an important intensification or development. It feels like either Davis felt he couldn’t sustain the interest with his previous angles so threw this in at random just to liven things up, or he got bewitched by Moss’s eyes, which look normal/small in medium shot but here suddenly transform in the sidelight into great goldfish bowls with targets painted on them. Huge, shiny, fragile, challenging.

“A closeup is like a trump at bridge,” said Billy Wilder, cautioning the filmmaker to only play it when it will have a meaningful effect.

Rewatched it to get screen grabs. I can see better what Davis is up to now. I think the line we cut in on IS meant to be a turning point in the conversation, but it doesn’t quite come off as one in the performance or cutting, which again makes the sudden close-up seem arbitrary. The point when he goes back to his two-shot, a relaxing of the tension, IS lucid and effective.

Fiona’s bothered by the fact that all or nearly all the men in this show are arseholes. I don’t feel persecuted, though. I don’t identify with them. they are the kind of men who make MY life less pleasant at times too. Maybe the plot just isn’t clever enough. With the cast searching for a missing girl, they’ve twice played, or attempted to play, the trick of having a dog turn up in a situation where we might expect it to be the girl. Of course, everything gets better when the top actors come on: Holly Hunter and Peter Mullan are energizing presences here. Although weirdly, when you put Mullan together with the weird coven of recovering women, the mix of crazies kind of cancels out the possibility for involvement. It gets a bit HOLY SMOKE.

Final verdict when we finish the thing — which we will.

Oh, I never got around to praising Happy Valley, which we caught up with quite belatedly.Both seasons. That definitely IS a terrific TV show, and apart from the coincidence of all the characters being connected in multiple ways, extremely well crafted from a story point of view, and with a central character who is both seriously flawed, capable of terrible mistakes — and at the same time, a mountain of goodness. Sarah Lancashire’s eyes aren’t limpid pools, maybe, but bolstered by Sally Wainwright’s writing, she makes an inspirational figure. (And a very credible cop.)