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November 28, 2014

Exhibition (2013)
Director: Joanna Hogg
Actors: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tim Hiddleston

Still-from-Exhibition-a-f-013-300x168.jpg (300×168)

Synopsis: Performance artists-cum-architects, D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick), are a live-in couple, and set in process the sale of their minimalist, three-storey apartment in London. The estrangement in their relationship mirrors the forlorn last throes of life in the apartment.

Review: I’ve always sensed Joanna Hogg is much more of a conceptual artist and sociologist than a fully-fledged dramatic filmmaker, and this is confirmed by Exhibition –  a rigorously-realised filmed thesis on the relationship between architecture and social interaction, but a work that’s tedious to the point of abstraction, and follows a through-line of rhetorical obviousness you can trace to her previous films, Archipelago and in particular, Unrelated.

The problem with Hogg’s conception of the cinematic medium is that it’s almost entirely one-dimensional and (in the literal sense of the word) ‘conceited’. Every frame of Exhibition smacks of the term, “get it?”, meaning that Hogg – akin to the mindset of a conceptual artist – is attempting through the interplay of abstract means to communicate a linear context or truth. Thus, Exhibition is awash with static tableaux and distinctive (but rather obvious) visual or aural conceits – such as the continual sound of building work outside (symbolising transition and disruption), and the late closing shot of the dishevelled cake which was made in the same image as the apartment itself (hint, hint)!

Maybe I don’t speak for every cinephile, but I want films that move, immerse and transport me, and that try and tap into some of the uncanny, experiential ephemera of life, rather than films like Hogg’s which seek to reduce, explain and flatter people’s intelligence. All I can say in defence of Hogg, is that at least she’s not compromising her conception of cinema for commercial reasons, and she does unquestionably have an innate understanding of framing and mise en scène. It would just be nice to see her relinquish some of her control tendencies next time around…(November 2014)


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