30 June 2010 | oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx
You'll need a digestif after this cannonball, lots of food for thought and doesn't lead by the ear
The first riddle we have here is what exactly does the title mean? The programmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival went with the de Beauvoir idea that "women are made not born", though she quoted Dworkin co-opting this poor translation. The full Dworkin quotation offered is: "Woman is not born: she is made. In the making, her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so.". I find this a slightly ludicrous statement, as if it's implying that men by contrast are not subject to intensive (and ruinous) social conditioning and abstraction by the opposite sex, when quite patently we are. It's worth having feminist ideology in mind though whilst watching this film as it is a good way of understanding the commentary offered on the various men in the film.
My take on the meaning is to link the title to the melancholy lyric of a song played near the end, "too late to create a world with care", that is, the world is already made, Pandora's box is already opened never to be closed again (recognising the irony of using the term in a review of a feminist or at least superficially feminist film).
The film is often marketed as being about an affair between a housewife and a rock star, however Valerie is more of a working mum, and there are three men in the movie with designs on her. Pop star Mike Preston is outwardly charming and modern, but really this charm is a teflon shield he holds in front of his sophistry, Father Dyson is the local priest who abuses his position of trust to woo Valerie, whilst Mahdav is an Indian immigrant who is university educated and the boss at the switchboard where Valerie works.
Each of these men are deconstructed. Father Dyson and Mike Preston are shown as equivalents (after being set up as opposite poles) in staggering scenes where they feed off of Valerie's grief, Father Dyson for a sermon, and Mike Preston for his sermon equivalent, a pop song. Dyson records his sermon and sits in a church listening to himself on playback, whilst Preston does the same in a recording studio. I think there's an idea here that men are systematisers, expanding their observations into grandiose theories, going from the specific to the general, whereas women understand people on a case-by-case basis. To quote from Dworkin myself: "While gossip among women is universally ridiculed as low and trivial, gossip among men, especially if it is about women, is called theory, or idea, or fact."
Mahdav is a fantasist who interprets a roll in the sack with Valerie as meaning she wants to marry him, he treats her as an object of veneration. He's deeply insensitive, and, like Preston, uses her grief as an opportunity to get closer to her.
Maybe the film is about how confused people become by their own ideologies. I know a young lady who quite confidently told me that a man's weight is not important in terms of attractiveness (the ideology), a couple of weeks later she is telling me of her alarm that her boyfriend is putting on weight, and her action plan to sort that out (the practise). The programmer of the festival, having quoted Dworkin, then complained about the director's lack of chivalry in revealing that he had slept with actress Carole Barker on set (chivalry being an opposite concept based on the concept of the weakness of women). People take themselves very seriously, I for example am sat here re-reading what I have been writing, using the movie as fodder for my sermon.
The movie becomes a Satan's Brew in the end, none of the characters end up being likable, and the film pines for the playground, which is supposedly a pure state, a quite iconic black and white shot of an iron maypole with chains dangling down and coming to a halt symbolises this. I don't think you can call Valerie a heroine either, once you've got past her beauty (something that the men in the film can't do) she is quite cynical, "I don't think people are that lovable really", and simple. Ah what a wicked wicked film.
Apparently the inspiration for the movie is the Beatles' song Eleanor Rigby ("All the lonely people/Where do they all come from?"). One of the lyrics is pretty reflexive for the film, given the director's own name (Mackenzie), "Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear", especially as this film remains little known and the programmers had to instigate a dig around in the archives at the distributor to even find a copy.
Just to note that it's very well shot at all times, in particular there's a montage of baby items that is quite staggering, won't spoil the context.