November culture

It’s good to play around with your projects and try new things. I still suffer from a degree of imposter syndrome, and I probably always will. That’s partly a working class thing, but it’s also because I didn’t study literature or writing until I was well into my thirties. At this point in my life, nobody is going to give me a reading list. I have to create my own structures. I want to be more conscious of how the books I read, and the films I watch, play into my writing. That’s why I’m trying new things with this blog.

After watching so many films in October, I was desperate to read a book again. I chose The Glass Kingdom, by Lawrence Osborne. It follows the residents and workers in an expensive Bangkok apartment complex, after the arrival of Sarah, a serial con artist with a suitcase full of cash. The women Sarah falls in with are all escaping something and in different ways unengaged with the world round them. As the story unfolds, the city and its citizens impinge more and more into the lives of the privileged women. It made me think about how I approach point-of-view. Osborne breaks all the rules of holding one viewpoint at a time, and doing that makes it feel less personal and more like Bangkok is telling the story. His descriptions are brilliant. It’s bleak and impressive, but a little cold for my taste.

I decided to go all-in on Mubi in 2021 and bought a subscription. I started with Two Days, One Night, in which we meet Sarah, who works at a solar panel factory somewhere in France, and is suffering from depression. Her co-workers are forced to vote between keeping her on or having a substantial bonus. After finding out on a Saturday morning they voted for a bonus, the rest of the film follows her attempts over the weekend to convince each of her fifteen co-workers to change their minds. Everyone is on the poverty line except the factory boss, who doesn’t care about the fallout. The vote pits employees against each other. The interactions are sometimes brutal, sometimes empathic, but always understated. The film rewarded my patience.

In contrast, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a joyous experience from beginning to end. It’s fun, has emotional depth, and is easily one of my favourite films this year. Other films I watched in November, in descending order of enjoyment: Finding Vivian Maier (2013), Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You (2020), Color Out Of Space (2019), Opera (1987), Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011), Transamericana (2020).