Thursday 23 November 2017

Film review: Director Joanna Hogg the star of Exhibition

Cert: 16


Hilary A White

WHEN I interviewed director Joanna Hogg a couple of years ago, she spoke about her fondness of leaving "room for things to happen" in her films so that "nice accidents occur". That sense of spaciousness is still very much present in this third feature-length film from the much-lauded UK auteur whose films always seem to revolve around that old Pink Floyd lyric about hanging on in quiet desperation being the English way.

Unlike the landscaped Archipelago, Exhibition is almost exclusively an indoors project, detailing the behaviours of an understimulated, childless couple living in a glass box in leafy West London. She (former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine) is a performance artist while he (conceptual artist Liam Gillick) is an architect, both beavering away in separate rooms and trying not to get on each other's nerves, when they come face to face. Hovering over the hot-cold relationship is the sale of their beloved house (Hogg favourite Tom Hiddleston features as an estate agent) and the disruption this is causing.

Albertine's character (simply named D to his H) is a very natural blend of selfish and fragile, worried about his honest opinions of her work and unwilling to share with him because of this, but also needy for his affection. All of this starts to manifest itself around the house in unusual ways. Without something as consuming as children to anchor their concentration, they flounder slightly.

Albertine and Gillick are superb for untrained actors in a distinctly naturalist-style drama. Hogg, however, is the real star of the show. Despite moving in elusive directions (through-glass reflective shots, spliced asides) and detailing the first-world problems of well-off Londoners, Exhibition is a beguiling and fascinating art piece in itself.


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