Fokua : Joanna Hogg
Image: Self-portrait of Joanna Hogg 1980 ©Joanna Hogg
Cinema returns to Tabakalera and with a new Focus: a complete retrospective on Joanna Hogg, considered ‘one of the best kept secrets of contemporary British cinema’. While the four films in her filmography have been screened at numerous international festivals, they have not enjoyed comparable recognition in commercial cinemas. Until now.
The success of her latest film The Souvenir (2019), produced by Martin Scorsese and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, has finally given Joanna Hogg the international recognition she deserves. With autobiographical references, the film takes us back to her beginnings in the film world to discover her most complete career path.
The Souvenir opens with a series of black and white photographs shot by Hogg in the 1980s while the voice-over of Julie, the main character, sets the scene for the movie set in a film school. Joanna Hogg studied during that same period in the British National Film and Television School. It was there that she made her first short film Caprice (1986), starring a then-unknown Tilda Swinton. It was also then when Derek Jarman loaned her his camera so she could film in Super 8. And like Julie, this was also the time when Hogg learned how to shoot in 16mm, all while debating film aesthetics and social realism and forming her own cinematographic perspective.
The most important thing about learning is that you somehow make a
connection between your experience and the one you are trying to film.
The Souvenir (2019)
After her education, Hogg spent 20 years working in the dynamic world of the videoclip and TV fiction before returning to film, with a commitment to total aesthetic liberty. ‘I wanted to put into practice everything that one cannot do in television but making use of the learning from those years".
Her four films to date have depicted human fragility and personal relationships using a subtle yet emphatic language. Her characters – predominantly woman and families from well-off backgrounds – face loneliness, family limitations, toxic relationships, fear of failure, addictions, difficult emotional bonds, everyday life, new opportunities, their past, and above all their own feelings. Hogg brings us pictorial portraits of bourgeoisie people experiencing huge emotional conflict; portraits strewn with irony. She turns away from moral superiority at all times, avoiding any sentimentalism.
About the painting The Souvenir by Jean Honoré Fragonard.
Julie: She looks sad.
Anthony: I think she looks determined.
Joanna Hogg’s films are essentially films of discovery. They achieve emotion through what is most intimate. They reflect on how art is understood. Her films are about specific spaces, houses and landscapes, like the striking house designed by the British architect James Melvin in Exhibition. Taking inspiration from Jean Renoir, her films incorporate improvisation into the performances and maintain a constant tension between fiction and reality. Her films brought Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton to the fore, and her latest does the same for Honor Swinton Byrne. This is cinema “in progress”, with The Souvenir II coming out at the end of the year.