‘Bones And All’: a must-watch cinematic feast for the eyes
Plus, a rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency
Monday 21 November 2022 By Matt d’Ancona
Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.
Outside, the fans scream for their spindly idol. Inside the Royal Festival Hall, we, the audience, wait for the preview of a movie that is meant to inspire screams of a very different sort.
On stage, Timothée Chalamet, slender in a white Alexander McQueen suit, radiating the impermeable cool of a malnourished James Dean, barely raises an eyebrow in recognition of the applause. Five years ago, such scenes were all very new for the rising star. But now? It’s all in a day’s work for the 26-year-old.
In Bones And All (general release, 23 November), he is reunited with Luca Guadagnino, who directed his breakthrough movie, the Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name (2017). Both films are set in the 1980s and explore the intersection of passionate love and social taboo. And there, the similarities most definitely end.
Based on the 2015 YA thriller of the same name by Camille DeAngelis, Bones And All follows Maren (Taylor Russell, excellent), a clever, ill-at-ease teen living in Virginia with her father Frank (André Holland). Invited to a sleepover, she seems to be fitting in with her classmates – until she bites off a girl’s finger and starts to eat it.
In this single jump scare, Maren’s entire future is capsized. Her father abandons her, leaving only some cash and a cassette tape – which reveals that this compulsion has afflicted her since she was an infant. In search of answers and her mother Janelle (Chloë Sevigny), she buys a Greyhound bus ticket and leaves behind all pretence of rootedness or belonging.
It is on the road, drifting in Reagan’s America, that the newly itinerant Maren finds her tribe: the ‘eaters’ who, like her, must feast on human flesh.
Yet it is her encounter with Lee (Chalamet) in an Ohio grocery store – exuding a feckless charisma by which Maren is quickly smitten – that presents her with the possibility that what looks like a life of damnation may be compatible with the experience of true love.
One of the finest releases of 2022, and a modern myth that lingers long in the mind like a fugitive dream, Bones And All is, in the best sense of the word, a true feast.
Here are this week’s recommendations:
Jews Don’t Count (Channel 4, 21 November)
Why did Whoopi Goldberg think it was acceptable to say in January that ‘the Holocaust isn’t about race’? Why did so many people claim that Rishi Sunak is the UK’s first prime minister from an underrepresented group (ignoring Disraeli)? Why are Jews so often left out of the inventory of vulnerable groups, even though anti-Semitic attacks are rising in number horrifically?
In his book Jews Don’t Count, published in February 2021, the comedian and novelist David Baddiel raised such questions to devastating effect, producing an instant classic of political and social analysis. Now, in this fine documentary, he continues his exploration of the theme, with a formidable line-up of interviewees including Sarah Silverman, Miriam Margolyes and David Schwimmer.
The heart of the matter is the confusion of race with religion: as Baddiel points out, the essence of the Nazi Nuremberg laws was ethnic purity, not theology. There is also the continued prejudice whereby Jews, in spite of centuries of persecution, are caricatured as wealthy, powerful and (essentially) white. To which Schwimmer responds: ‘I’ve never felt white… For me, white means safe.’
Baddiel is cautiously optimistic that ‘the dial is shifting slightly’ but believes that equality, when and if it arrives, will not be delivered in ‘an explosive, mass movement way.’ For now, in Marber’s phrase, Jews remain ‘an unprotected species.’ A must-see.
Based in a ramshackle building at 131 St Aldate’s, south of Christ Church, the dissolute Hypocrites Club was a feature of Oxford’s social and aesthetic life for only three years, from 1921 and 1924. But it is precisely the brevity of its existence and the identity of its members – the future novelists Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, L.P. Hartley and Henry Green; the great travel writer Robert Byron; the journalist Claud Cockburn; the aesthetes Harold Acton and Brian Graham; the scholar Lord David Cecil – that make the club and David Fleming’s book so fascinating. The Hypocrites were notorious for their rowdiness, their drunken gatherings and the homosexuality of most of the club’s members. For Waugh, it was a portal into aristocratic society. Cockburn described it as ‘a noisy alcohol-soaked rat-warren by the river’. High seriousness was disdained by its members but, as Powell would later recall, its members were ‘a collection, most of them, of hard-headed and extremely ambitious young men’.
The club was finally closed down after a riotous party at which its members dressed as Queen Victoria, choristers in lipstick, Madame de Pompadour and, fatally, a nun – who was in fact Arden Hilliard, the son of Balliol’s bursa, spotted by the porters trying to slip into the college on the evening of 8 March, 1924. But the bonds formed at the club would linger long into the century; 40 years after its closure, Waugh recalled it as the ‘stamping ground of half my Oxford life and the source of friendships still warm today’.
Though it has never been part of the mission of Christine and the Queens to claim the throne of David Bowie, the creative metamorphosis of the artist born Héloïse Letissier has been a compelling one. Now using male pronouns – in August he announced ‘je me genre au masculine’ (‘I self-gender as male’) – he has also renamed himself Redcar.
But this is not just artistic dress-up. The emotional price he has paid is all too real and extensively chronicled in the 13 tracks of his third studio album, which were recorded in a two-week burst in Paris last year. They are intended to form the first chapter of a pop opera in the style of Tony Kushner’s mammoth two-part play, Angels In America.
Looming over the album is the sudden death of his mother in 2019 – to whom he prays in Heaven in ‘Les étoiles’. The astonishing, balletic physicality of his earlier performances is supplanted here by the louche atmosphere of Parisian heartbreak, smoky cabaret and midnight trysts in the subterranean clubs of an ancient city. The sheer vulnerability at the heart of the album is sometimes breathtaking. In ‘Mémoire Des Ailes’, he sings ‘Je suis fait d’eau et de terre et mon cœur brille au milieu d’une cage’ (‘I’m made of water and earth, and my heart shines within a cage’). But there is still a spirit of hope embedded in the melancholy. A profoundly poetic musical creation that repays repeated listening and will leave you longing to hear the next chapter.
Don’t forget to send in your own recommendations for Creative Sensemaker to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the week and take care of yourselves.
Editor and Partner