Cinema Scope

SAINT MAUD

he gruelling triumph of pro-Brexit forces last year has cemented the UK’s temperament as a nation whose collective search for identity, purpose, and renewal means never looking forward or sideways, only backwards. Then again, given the teeth-gnashing agonies towards the present in recent years, it’s understandable that many British filmmakers have made their own strategic retreats into imagined pasts—even if their chosen varieties of nostalgia are often far more discomfiting than the brand sold so vigorously by the firm of Johnson & Farage. Just think of the battered furniture, burn-scarred carpets, and urine-hued wallpaper that epitomize the ass-end-of-the-’70s suburban Birmingham in Richard Billingham’s (2018), or the severe, stoic, prewine bar early-’80s London of Joanna Hogg’s (2019). Likewise, the thoroughly queasy (2018) conjure up a hauntological fever-dream of middle-class materialism in the innocent days when Daleks were still regarded as more terrifying than Jimmy Savile. Others may prefer nobler versions of long-gone Britain, but these are the ones that live on for these creators.

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