Here Comes Everybody. Again.

 TV Back in 2006, blogs had become something close to the mainstream, or at least were the primary form of social media online in various forms.  This was a couple of years after they were popular enough that I'd almost received a commission to write a book about them (this was the phone call), Facebook was only just making itself open to non-students and Twitter was still yet to launch.  YouTube had only been in business for eighteen months and was only just in the process of being acquired by Google.

It's at this moment Alan Yenton's Imagine arts strand decided to make a documentary to journey "into the world wide web to find out how it began, who's out there, and where it's taking us" (source) which suddenly put all kinds of what had otherwise been relatively insider elements of the web onto BBC One at half ten in the evening just after the news.  It was one of the most exciting forty minutes of television I'd ever experienced.

If only I'd kept my recording of it.  I know such a unicorn existed at some point because the next night, I posted this "annotation" of the programme on the blog which went through the various contributors and topics and linked to them all.  At the time the title, resolved to BBC One's listing page which wasn't much of a web presence so I had a bee in my bonnet about filling the gap.  That URL now leads to a Go Daddy holding page.  It's still owned by somebody.

Fifteen years later a lot has changed, not least that the web has become as mainstream as fuck and you simply wouldn't make this programme now.  About four years later Aleks Krotoski presented The Virtual Revolution which covered the topic in greater depth (page full of clips) and now, ten years later there are weekly shows, like Krotoski's The Digital Human on Radio 4 and Click on the BBC News channel both of which retain from of the pioneering spirit.

You can see where this is heading if you've been reading this blog for long.  All of these years later, do these contributors still have an online presence?  Where are they now?  Are many of these links still active?  Is everyone on Twitter?  Are they on YouTube?  I'll italicise any broken links and added some commentary also in italics and margined if necessary.  Is everybody still here?


Alan Yentob [wikipedia]

Toby Warwick Jones, Alan's helper [blogImagine recording]
Toby's blogpost about the recording is archived and contains some exceedingly 00s images.  His extremely broken myspace profile is here.  He moved over to his own domain for a bit, but that's gone now and wasn't archive.  BUT this website for a successful author has a similar domain in which case this could be his Twitter account.  I've emailed him a for confirmation.

General Contributors

Clay Shirky, internet consultant [websitewikipedia]

Dr David Weinberger, Harvard University [blogbiog]

Professor Henry Jenkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [bloghome pagewikipedia]
Professor Henry is now a joint professorship at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  He is on Twitter.


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor, World Wide Web [bloghomepagewikipedia]

Morris Wilkes -- EDSAC, world's first practical programmable computer

Sputnik -- caused internet to develop because of US end of the space age

Doug Englebart -- demonstrated an online system using the world's first mouse

Enquire -- early project by Tim Berners-Lee



Jimmy Wales, co-founder, Wikipedia [blogwikipediauser page]

Ewan McDonald, author, millionth entry, Wikipedia [user page]
As Zoe says in her blogpost, this was recorded the just as she was being outed by The Sunday Times and they day after she appeared on The Sharon Osbourne Show.  2006 was a strange time.  She is on Twitter and YouTube.

Dickon Edwards, blogger, 'Diary At The Centre of the Earth' [blogwikipediaimagine recording]

Natalie D'Arbeloff, blogger, 'Blaugustine' [bloghome pageimagine recordingimagine broadcast]
Natalie is not on Twitter.  She is on YouTube.

Tom Reynolds, blogger, 'Random Acts of Reality' [blogbookimagine broadcast]
Tom Reynolds was the pen name for Brian Kellett who continued to blog until 2018.  I can't find a Twitter profile for him but he has a reddit profile which updates.
Is still there!

Arctic Monkeys

Tom Flannery, Arctic Monkeys fan [unable to find web presence]
Still can't - there are a lot of Tom Flannerii in the world.

Roxana Darling, Arctic Monkeys fan []

James Sheriff, founder, [flickrportfolio]
James's portfolio has moved hereHe is on Twitter.

Steven McInerney, Arctic Monkeys fan [bloginterviewmyspace]

Alan Smyth, Producer, Arctic Monkeys Demo Sessions [wikipedia]
Bebo's subsequent history has been a clusterfuck.  Bought by AOL two years later, it was sold to a hedgefund in 2010, bankrupt in 2013 bought back by the original founders who relaunched it several times as different things until they sold it to Amazon in 2019 who then shut it down.  Now the founders have relaunched it again as an old school invite only social network without a news feed.



Chris Anderson, author, The Long Tail [blogbookwikipedia]

User generated content

David Firth, animator, Salad Fingers [blogwikipedia]
David is on Twitter and YouTube, where he's now uploaded all of the Salad Fingers episodes.


Ken Russell, Director [wikipediaimdb]

Deathline, the band featured in Second Life
Incredibly, Second Life is still running.  I wonder if the ghost of virtual Alan is still haunting the place.

My University Year.

Film For this blog's fifth year I was back at university, studying an MA in Screen Studies at Manchester Uni. In the years following, part of me has always thought that this has been wasted, but more recently perhaps because of the internalising which has been needed to cope with anxiety, I've come to feel better about it. Considering my origins, it was a personal Everest in which I managed to do something which the much younger version of me could only have dreamed of, attending a red brick university, even if it was for just one year. What do you do when you've achieved your life's ambition? Carry on. 

 Fifteen years later, much of what I learnt at university is still in here somewhere and everything I've forgotten is in easy reach on a bookshelf or at my fingertips. Everything you need to know about why a film doesn't work is in film books as is why those projects which have a reputation for their mediocrity are far more interesting than they first appear. If anything I just became more aware of the issues surrounding the business of film and the effect it's supposed to have on the audience.  If only Black Widow had been released after Captain America: Civil War instead of now.

Throughout the years since, various essays and parts of my uni work have found their way onto this blog in various forms (ahem).  The only reason the following hasn't been hastily posted in desperation before is because it isn't very good.  The module it was written for, with its psychoanalytical approach to gender and sexuality in contemporary French cinema was a struggle for me, as is revealed in the following, which gave me one of my lowest marks of the course, 60%.  There some good writing in here but its structurally stolid and I don't compare and contrast the two films nearly enough.

To what extent do When The Cat’s Away and Amélie conform to the nostalgic view of femininity?

In the opening scene of When The Cat’s Away (1996), Chloe, a young woman who shares a flat in Paris, is attempting, by telephone, to find someone to look after her cat, Gris-Gris, whilst she goes on a much needed holiday.  She entrusts the feline with local cat lover, Madame Renee.  When she returns from the break, the old lady admits that Gris-Gris has been lost.  With her help, Chloe engages the local community in looking for the cat; during the course of the film she learns to engage with this community for the first time and concurrently she looks for a partner.  

Amélie (2001) tells the story of a café waitress who has grown up in a world of fantasies, because of a childhood spent alone with her parents.  She too lives her life outside the community until one day she finds a small boy’s box of childhood keepsakes under a floorboard.  She decides to return it to the rightfully surprised owner, and in doing so discovers a new way to engage with others - by creating small miracles in their lives.  Her altruism leads her to meet Nino, a porn shop worker whom she finds shares the same interest in displacement activities, and is forced to confront her loneliness because she has fallen in love with him.

Both films are about confronting isolation – from the wider community and one’s own sexuality.  But there is a separate concern in the representation of the femininity of Chloe and Amélie and how that compares to the traditional model within film and in mainstream French cinema in particular.  This essay will examine the extent to which When The Cat’s Away and Amélie conform to the standard conventions of femininity in film, considering whether Chloe and Amélie are simply portrayed as a passive spectacle or an active protagonist defined by their femininity.

Before examining femininity as a description of the visual spectacle, it is important to investigate a woman’s function within the narrative and how to some extent her ability to keep her feminine gender identification is dependent upon how active the character is.  Effectively, if she remains passive – an aspiration or object of desire, her femininity is considered to be stronger than if she makes an activite contribution to the plot.  In most classic film narratives, the female is stereotyped within one of two roles.  She will either be a pure woman (marriage material), or the fallen women (the mistress) and in both of these cases, it is the male attitude that codifies them despite their passivity within the story.  

This function is encoded within male Oedipal trajectory, used to describe the movement of a male character through the narrative of a film.  As Susan Hayward explains, the male trajectory merges the psychoanalytical theories contained in Freud’s Oedipal complex with elements of Lacan’s theory of the mirror phase in the development of human sexuality.  In essence this trajectory imagines a scenario in which the mother will hold her male child who has bonded to her up to a mirror.  He perceives the difference between himself and his mother as a form of castration – she lacks a penis.  Even though he is still unified with her, he begins to identify instead with his father, partly because of their biological similarity but also because it allows ‘lawful access’ to his mother whom is now also in the position to objectify - and so he falls into his expected gender role (Hayward, 2006: 262).  Relating this to the male protagonist within a film, this signifies that their story will be one in which they must resolve a crisis so that they can move into a place of social stability and at the same time confirming the status of the woman in his life as a passive object (Hayward, 2006: 262).  

Part of the women’s function within this narrative model is as spectacle, both for the male characters inside the film and for the spectator within the audience.  Laura Mulvey explains that ‘in their traditional exhibitionist role, women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness’ (Mulvey, 1989: 19).  Mulvey uses the term ‘scopophilia’ - based on Freud’s phrase ‘scopic drive’ (Hayward, 2006: 318) to identify the process in which an audience member views a female character through the look of the central protagonist, ‘the pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual simulation’ (Mulvey, 1989: 18).  A division of labour within the film is proposed in which the ‘pleasure in looking has been split between the active/male and passive/female’ -- the female character strengthens the active position of the male protagonist because he is able to objectify her through his gaze and therefore pacify her importance to the story.

The extent to which these conventions are reflected in mainstream French cinema finds its roots in the 1920s.  A falling birth rate in the country led to the introduction of laws outlawing abortion and the distribution of contraception.  As a result womanhood became interlocked with motherhood and films indirectly presented a pro-family message, often by portraying in a negative light single mothers giving birth outside of wedlock (Rollet, 1998: 126).  The impression developed that the choice for a woman was either to become maternal and domesticated or selfishly seek a career.  By the late 1930s, government initiatives were attempting to keep women in the home with the enticement of benefits, and propaganda was presented directly or indirectly through magazines and surveys celebrating motherhood (Rollet, 1998: 126).

By the 1950, domestic melodrama had increased in popularity (Rollet, 1998: 127).   These are films in which a female character has narrative agency within the plot, conforming to a female Oedipal trajectory.  Here, to return to the previous analogy, a girl apparently keeps her bond with the mother and her desire, but lacking the penis she is drawn to the father because of something Freudians describe as ‘penis envy’ – and he is able to provide her with something her mother cannot, in the form of a child.  Feminist Lacanians dispute this theory and suggest that the girl is obliged to turn from the mother anyway in order to join the social order.  In actuality, that she must return to the position of the male subjectivity and that to withhold this position would lead to punishment – either through being marginalised or through death (Hayward, 2006: 263).

In film narrative terms, this means that even when there is a strong female at the centre of the action, in the dénouement she must place herself in the position of classic male subjectivity and become their partner or face isolation from the community.  Mulvey explains, ‘woman is no longer signifier of sexuality (function ‘marriage’) […] now the female presence as centre allows the story to be actually, overtly, about sexuality; it becomes a melodrama’ (Mulvey, 1989: 35) or as E. Ann Kaplin paraphrases, ‘about a woman’s difficulty in finding a stable sexual identity’ (Kaplin, 1989: 17).  Women were being persuaded that happiness will only come to those who give up work and autonomy, with love being denied to those who want to continue with their career (Rollet, 1998: 127).

In later decades, mainstream French cinema sought to disrupt these traditional principals of femininity.  In 1968, after the student riots, the importance of women’s rights were emphasised on the political agenda and before the end of the following decade the role of women in society was redefined (Rollet, 1998: 129).  A primary example of this change in attitudes would appear to be New New Wave Cinema, of which Dina Sherzer characterizes When The Cat’s Away as an example.  The New New Wave evokes the concerns of society in contemporary France, particularly issues which have developed since the 1980s, including such social problems as unemployment, racism and class differences.  As Sherzer describes the women in this genre ‘are not punished for their sexually free behaviour and there are no ambiguities concerning sexual freedom.  […] Furthermore, women’s sexuality is not coded as having a dangerous power leading men to destruction’ (Sherzer, 2001: 229).  Women are presented in a realistic way ‘active, energetic, assertive and either strong or gaining strength […] with their questions, their problems, their hopes, their strengths and their weaknesses  (Sherzer, 2001: 230-231).  

The impression that the opening few scenes of When The Cat’s Away are evoking is that of Chloe as an unspectacular figure so that logically she can have narrative agency.  On the first occasion that the audience see Chloe at work, they are able to compare her to female characters her own age for the first time and a contrast is provided between her gender-neutral image and those surrounding her.  In the first shot, in which she is shown applying make-up to the face of a model, Chloe’s hair is tied back and she does not appear to be wearing much make-up other than foundation.  She is attired in a white t-shirt and dark green dress covering her whole form and must stand on a couch to reach the face of the model.  In stunning contrast, her client has long blonde hair around her shoulders and is covered in the make-up that Chloe is applying, her pink dress revealing a bust.  In the cutaway to the reverse shot, as Chloe steps away, she disappears into the edge of the frame as the model is fussed over by her colleagues.  The effect makes Chloe seem very small and unimportant and particularly unfeminine.  

The basic plot of the film is very slight, perhaps because of its original inception as a short film.  The first indication that Chloe is as interested in finding a man as her cat, happens during an evening scene when she is disturbed by Michel’s lovemaking.  As she stands in her apartment looking out through the window towards Bel Canto’s studio, watching him paint, the sound of a cat, perhaps Gris-Gris, can be heard in the background.  The English title of When The Cat’s Away is a mistranslation of the French title for the film, Chacun Cherche Son Chat, which in reality to suggest a double meaning, ‘La chatte, in French, is a euphemism for female sexual parts, so by extension, in the film, if he old ladies are looking for Gris Gris, the young people are looking for sexual partners’ (Shezer, 2001: 236).  The non-diegetic sound of the cat juxtaposed with Chloe’s surreptitious viewing of Bel Canto subtly indicates to the audience were her dreams really lie.

Chloe is convinced that she requires a change of image to find herself a partner by her work colleagues and friends.  In becoming a passive object of spectacle, manipulating who she is on the surface, Chloe performs the kind of masquerade that Mary Ann Doane describes, ‘womanliness’ as ‘a mask which can be worn or removed’ (Doane, 1991: 766).  In this film, the process is subverted because it is Michel, Chloe’s gay flatmate who presents his opinions on the clothes she must wear to attract her opposite sex.  Elizabeth Ezra explains that ‘Michel can speak the gendered language of fashion better than Chloe because he has come to terms with the ‘feminine’ side of his nature in a way which Chloe has not’ (Ezra, 1999: 217).  

If the film was following the rules of the female Oedipal trajectory, Chloe would indeed find someone on her night out because she has become the passive object, but the results are disastrous.  She attracts the look of the man she would later discover to be the drummer, the man whose noise has been annoying her and the rest of the community and holds out a cigarette.  He approaches and gives her a light but before she can make contact, he is nudged out of the way by a gigolo.  Outside, she is manhandled by a group of drunk, aggressive men who attempt to drag her into a car which leads her to being walked home by the barperson Blanche whom she is propositioned by.  To make matters worse the moment is viewed by the gigolo who uses it to re-affirm his heterosexuality, the implication being that to decline his attentions, Chloe must be a lesbian.  In not presenting an image of who she really is, she fails to attract the attention she is really seeking.

Generally within the film, the camera work necessarily draws the viewer away from looking on Chloe and the other women objectively.  As Sherver explains the New New Wave director’s camera is not voyeuristic or harsh, and does not aggressively display the female body’ (Sherzer, 2001: 231).  There are, however,  moments in When The Cat’s Away that follow the conventions of the gaze, particularly when the ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey, 1989: 19).  In the scene set at the photographic studio referenced above, a photographer fawns over the model, for example, and she is presented in long shot, displaying the contours of her body.  When Chloe has later been invited up to the drummer’s apartment, he sits playing his instrument watching her.  She’s wearing a light dress and he keeps his eyes fixed on her smiling.  The repeated juxtaposition of shots is of his face in close up and her in long shot nearly squirming on a couch.  This is one of the few occasions in the film when Chloe is viewed from point of view of a different character but because she cannot hold his look, she effectively deflects his gaze.

Ultimately Chloe’s desires are actually fulfilled through an increase in her confidence and actively taking control of her fate.  Although the coupling turns sour, it is Chloe who approaches the drummer outside the record shop and asks for a light.  She finally meets Bel Canto by offering to help him move out and their attraction develops because they are communicating.  His painting implies the reason she is  falling for him – it is very simplistic, in broad strokes and just presents her outline.  As Ezra indicates, ‘the implication is that he sees the ‘essential’ Chloe, and his opinion of her does not change according to what she is wearing’ (Ezra, 1999: 217).

The end of the film is ambiguous.  Lucy Mazdon and Elizabeth Ezra interpret the musical accompaniment in different ways, and each opinion has some bearing on how closely the film conforms to the conventions regarding femininity discussed in the opening paragraphs of this essay.  In the closing moments of the film, as Chloe says goodbye to Bel Canto, the community gathered in a café for his leaving party sing the chanson, ‘Paris is a woman’ which then gives way non-diegetically to Portishead’s track Glory Box.  For Mazdon, this indicates that Chloe ‘does finally belong to the quattier in which she was previously so isolated’ (Mazdon, 2001: 104), but remains alone because Bel Canto is but one possible future.  

Ezra, conversely, agrees that Chloe has entered the community, but notes that as the chanson reaches a crescendo, the words ‘mais reviennent toujours’ (always come back) can be heard as Bel Canto walks towards his moving van; ‘we know that although he is moving to the suburbs, he and Chloe will maintain their relationship’ (Ezra, 1999: 221).  Certainly Ezra’s is a closer textual reading and a happier conclusion for the romantics in the cinema audience.  It also appears more logical given Chloe’s final run through the streets, her jumper falling from her shoulders, wind in her hair.  Under Mazon’s reading this would simply be her happy response to finally joining the local community.  But it is important to note Portishead’s lyrics: ‘Give me a reason to love you.  Give me a reason to be a woman’.  For all of the film’s radicalism this indicates that in allowing herself to enjoy Bel Canto’s subjectivity, she can finally be considered a woman.  Exactly the circumstances summarised by Hayward, ‘to fulfil her Oedipal trajectory and enter into the social order of things, the female child must confirm male subjectivity’ (Hayward, 2006: 263).

Amélie is an example of the cinema-du-luc, a type of French cinema that emphasises the cinematography and editing of a film as well as narrative.  The film contains some extremely lustrous cinematography that emphasises the colours red and green, both of which appear in almost every shot, emphasising the film’s themes of passion and life.  Both colours appear in the clothes that Amélie, who is coded as feminine even though the character does not appear as a traditional object of desire.  

For most of the film, Amélie’s clothes seem just slightly too big for her form, her large boots ‘which happen to be fashionable […] also make her look like a child’ (Vincendeau, 2001: 25).  On the one occasion that she is shown in her underwear although she is applying perfume, her appearance in the frame is from the side and front in mid-shot in fill-light and the audience’s attention is drawn more to the sound and vision of the news story rather than to Amélie who only becomes the focus of the scene again when she drops the bottle top.  

The character is allowed to keep her virtue because she not shown to be sexually active.  She is someone who understands sex and but simply has no interest in it.  On the single occasion the audience see the character in the midst of the act, it is shot from above, at one remove, her partner grunting and growling as he is gaining the pleasure she cannot.  Her expression is of bemusement and the voiceover (here presented in the translated subtitle) explains ‘Amélie doesn’t have a boyfriend.  She tried it once or twice but the results were a let-down’.  Later, in a shot of the character standing on a rooftop looking out at the expanse of Paris, the audience is advised that ‘Time has changed nothing.  Amélie still takes refuge in solitude.  She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many couple are having an orgasm now?”’  Amélie has a generally comic attitude to sex and its implications.    As Michelle Scatton-Tessier explains ‘penises are plastic, wrapped in boxes and kept in view behind the counter.  Young women leisurely serve coffee and dance in a backroom peep show.  Orgasms are serialised’  (Scatton-Tessier, 2004: 203).  

Amélie is never presented as being the subject of the gaze.  She actively withholds her image from Nino – appearing in disguise, both when she returns his book to him viewed through the touristscope or in the passport photographs she uses to pass messages.  She engages in a series of ‘strategems’ designed to turn her into a focus of his mythologizing.  The reason for her subterfuge are not clear but appear to be tied into a fear of the implications of breaking what has apparently become a self imposed isolation.  It is important to notice that in the sections of the film which present Nino’s enquiry,  Amélie’s immediate presence drops from the narrative and her game is presented from the point of view of Nino – she becomes a mysterious figure to him and her actions are not explained.

There is a tension at play with the character of Nino Quincampoix, since the structure of the plot requires him to assume narrative agency at these certain points whilst still allowing Amélie to remain the central character.  This tension is increased because of the casting of Mathieu Kassovit, who is traditionally connected with tough guy roles, something director Jean-Pierre Jeunet indicates on the director’s commentary for the British dvd release of the film:  ‘Sometimes Mathieu looks so sweet, so charming it’s very funny for me because like a director he does some very tough films with violence.’ 

Nino’s characterisation is essentially designed to make him acceptable to the audience as a romantic interest for Amélie and allow her to retain her own narrative agency elsewhere in the film – and this is achieved by making them appear as equals.  In a flashback sequence which introduces his difficult childhood, it is revealed that they lived ‘five miles apart.  One dreamed of having a sister, the other a brother to spend all their time with’.  He is the brother she never had.  Her attraction to Nino is never presented in sexual terms, more that of a teenager with a crush.  Although he works in a porn shop there is little indication that he finds any connection with his surroundings; indeed later when he is attempting to asks the half-naked, dancing, Samantha to mind the shop whilst he goes to another of his possible meetings with Amélie, when he looks through the glass she doesn’t look on her as anything other than a work colleague – he’s uninterested and the only vision the audience has of her is uncomfortably from the front in the point of view of the punter.  It is a spectacular image, but not one that Nino can engage with.

The character is also much less threatening because he is coded with the same asexuality as Amélie and to a degree she domineers him.  When she meets Nino for the first time it is on a train platform.  He is sprawled on the floor attempting to fish what we soon discover to be discarded photographs from underneath a photo-me booth with a ruler.  When he looks up his expression is of a naughty schoolboy.  Essentially when Nino is in Amélie’s presence he is not the dominant male and indeed allows her to continue the role of the ‘fantasy mother figure’ (Vincendeau, 2001: 25).  When she finally meets him, face to face she reaches up and stops him from speaking, and she pulls him through the door.  She kisses him not on the lips – but on the cheek, the neck, the eye, and then she shows him where to kiss her.  After intercourse, as they lay together, his head is on her chest and she strokes his hair as a mother might comfort a baby.

Rick Clifton Moore, is unconvinced, by the finale of Amélie, in which the heroine breaks through her isolationism and allows Nino into her life.  He believes the film to be a much darker and bleaker work than is generally agreed.  He argues that Amélie is a ‘borderline sociopath’ and that the good will Amélie has created amongst the other characters does not mean that she too has or will change: ‘Suddenly we are expected to believe that she has secured a happiness that will last’ (Moore, 2006 :16).  Moore questions their future happiness because the couple do not converse on screen when they finally meet; that the similarities of the shot of Nino dozing on Amélie’s chest after consummating, with the earlier scene when the girl is with a different man prove that the character’s long term happiness with Nino is far from assured.  Wrapping this reading within the context of the classic Hollywood model, because Amélie has offered herself up to Nino she has become coded as the fallen woman, and oblivion awaits.

The film been criticised for being illogical, with this ending following the narrative conventions of a romance more closely that the rest of the film would indicate as being possible.  The events make more sense in relation to the active/passive dichotomy and like, When The Cat’s Away, the female Oedipal trajectory.  As has already been established, Amélie is presented as a virginal character finding little enjoyment in boyfriends and sex, meaning that under the traditional model she will be able to find someone by the end of the film.  But the glass man, speaking through her television set, presents Amélie with the same choice offered to other strong female characters within the trajectory and which Chloe apparently accepts without question, to come to her senses and let Nino into her life or face marginalising herself (‘If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton’).

The classical view of femininity in relation to film is that women are an object of visual spectacle, passive and whose place within the story is codified in relation to the male’s narrative trajectory.  Cinema which features women at the centre of the story – in melodrama for example, the expected outcome is that they will fall in line and become the object of male subjectivity or become isolated from the community.  The presentation of women within French cinema has been tied into the state’s expectation and requirements that women must be seen as an icon of marriage and womanhood, with independence and a career to be discouraged. 

Although When The Cat’s Away would on the surface appear to subvert these expectations because of the loose plotting and experimental mise-en- scène, at the conclusion Chloe only finds happiness, becomes part of the community and finds a partner when she allows herself to enjoy and be comfortable in male subjectivity.  Amélie, equally, despite initially describing the story of someone who values her freedom from sexuality and relationships, shifts its concerns closer to a more traditional view of femininity because of the need for a happy ending.  Amélie comes to understand that her happiness is based on her compatibility and ability to engage with Nino, because in the end she does not want to remain alone.

Clifton Moore, Rick.  2006.  Ambivalence to Technology in Jeunet’s Le Fableux Destin d’Amélie Poulain.  In.  Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society.  26: 1.  February.

Doane, Mary Anne.  1991.  Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator.  In.  Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (ed).  1999.  Film theory and criticism : introductory readings.  5th ed.  Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Ezra, Elizabeth.  1999.  Cats in the ‘Hood: the Unspeakable Truth about Chacun Cherche son chat (Klapisch, 1996).  In.  Phil Powrie (ed).  French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference.  Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hayward, Susan.  2006.  Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts: Second Edition.  Routledge, Oxon.

Kaplin, E. Ann.  1989.  Introduction: From Plato’s Cave to Freud’s Screen.  In.  E. Ann Kaplin (ed).  Psychoanalysis and Cinema.  Routledge, Oxon.

Mazdon, Lucy.  2001. Space, Place and Community in Chacun Cherche Son Chat.  In.  Lucy Mazdon (ed).  France on Film: Reflections on Popular French Cinema.  Wallflower, London.

Mulvey, Laura.  1989.  Visual and Other Pleasures.  Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Rollet, Brigitte.  1998.  Coline Serreau.  Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Rollet, Brigitte.  2001.  Deforming Femininity: Catherine Breillat’s Romance. In.  Lucy Mazdon (ed).  France on Film: Reflections on Popular French Cinema.  Wallflower, London.

Scatton-Tessier, Michelle.  2004.  Le Petisme: flirting with the sordid in Le Fabuleux Deston d’Amélie Poulain.  In.  Studies in French Cinema.  4: 3.  

Scherzer, Dina.  2001.  Gender and Sexuality in New New Wave Cinema.  In.  Alex Hughes and James S. Williams (ed).  Gender and French Cinema.  Berg, Oxford.

Vincendeau, Ginette.  2001.  Café Society.  In.  Sight and Sound.  11: 8.  August.


When The Cat’s Away.  1996.  Production:  Canal +, France 2 Cinéma, Vertigo.  91 mins.  Directed by Cédric Klapisch.

Amélie.  2001.  Production : Claudie Ossard Productions, ,Union Générale Cinématographique, Victoires Productions, Tapioca Films, France 3 Cinéma, MMC Independent GmbH, Sofica Sofinergie 5, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Canal+.  122 mins (129 mins in France).  Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

The Road To Beijing.

Sport Glancing backwards through the archives, it's notable how obsessed I was with the 2004 Olympics in Greece with this essentially becoming a sport blog for two weeks. A oist about the women's triathlon's a good example as I wade in on the coverage of Austria's Kate Allen and how she'd won the race after travelling up the line-up from 44th position after the swimming a fight which had gone totally uncovered by the tv directors or the commentators despite her split times presumably being right in front of them.  Now you can relive the whole race on YouTube.

In the final few days, after watching numerous athletes outdo their potential but still leave without a medal, I hatched a plan to follow six of them during the ensuing four years, the highs and lows of their preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, three men, three women across various disciplines.  Mostly this involved feeding their names into Google News alerts and posting the results.

For a while I became genuinely engaged in their struggles referring to them as "my athletes" and doing my best to at least see their competitions despite the time differences, continuing to follow their efforts right up to the London Olympics in 2012.  After none of the qualifying athletes made the final and assuming it was because I'd jinx them, I stopped.

Well, here we are another eight years later, there's another Olympics on the horizon and although none (?) of them are still athletes, I thought I'd drop in and see what their post-competition careers have been like.  The initial descriptions of their Athens performances and why I chose them are here.  Let's see how they went from there.


Michelle Dillon Triathlon

James Goddard Swimming
2004 (Athens): 4th place, men's 200m backstroke
2008 (Beijing): 6th, 200m individual medley
2012 (London): 7th, 200m individual medley

Retired from competitive swimming in September 2013 - he hadn't qualified for the World Championship team.  In 2017 he signed up as a coach for a swim travel company and it looks like he's been coaching in various capacities since.  He's on Twitter but hasn't updated since retweeting something last October.

Laurence Godfrey Archery
2004 (Athens): 4th place
2008 (Beijing): 4th place
2012 (London): 9th place

Larry wasn't in Team GB for Beijing and if I'm interpreting his World Archery profile, he just didn't qualify.  His LinkedIn profile says that he's now a full time engineer at Rolls-Royce having worked for the company since 1992.

Abi Oyepitan Athletics
2004 (Athens): 7th place, women's 200m final / 5th place, 100m semi-final
2008 (Beijing): Didn't qualify
2012 (London): 6th place, women's 200m semi final

Retired from competing in 2013 and has had various jobs since, at Carphone Warehouse, on a Clipper team for the round the world race, as a motivational speaker in schools and most recently running a vegan skincare company.

Lucy Wainwright ne Hardy Canoeing
2004 (Athens): 7th place, Women's K1 500m
2008 (Beijing): 7th place, Women's K1 500m

Competed in the 2009 World Cup but fell of the radar since then.  She's now a Senior Performance Nutritionist working for British Triathlon as part of the sports heat and humidity strategy, recently winning an award for the preparations they're making to help athletes cope with the humidity at Tokyo.

Matthew Elias Athletics
2004 (Athens): 5th place

Wasn't selected for the Beijing Olympics and retired in 2010 and took up a position in Welsh Athletics as the Development Officer for South East Wales.  This British Athletics site suggests he competed in a few half marathons and 400m races in the ensuing decade.  This was concurrent with his work for Welsh Athletics eventually becoming National Talent Development Coordinator for Sprints.  On June 28th this year he announced he'd be moving on to pursue other opportunities, although he'd be remaining to see through the relay programmes to help them qualify for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.


What can we draw from this?  I'm not sure other than that being an Olympian carries weight and that making finals and semis is still achievement enough to put you in a position put your experience back into the sport.  Perhaps if you repeated the exercise for most ex-athletes you'd end up with similar results, but I'm happy that all of "my athletes" have found a good career, seem to be healthy and are still with us.  

Life Laundry.

Life The third year of this blog continued in much the same veign as the previous couple, personal blogging and links intermixed with film reviews. It's also the year I began writing for Off The Telly, the TV website which I'd been a fan of for years and was overwhelmed to be even a small part of. My articles from there would eventually become folded into the archives of this site and they're all here, ending with a review of Merlin.  The first more traditional blog project, Scene Unseen began in 2004 but I've already revisited that many times over the years so let's do something else.

Preparing for this retrospective, I've been glancing through those archives and in-between finding the odd massively embarrassing post which the older version of me has very much set to draft so they'll disappear from the web at large (people grow), it's mainly a reminder of just how much the modern world, especially in the area of entertainment consumables has changed.  Just look at the enthusiasm with which I greeted my first DVD-by-post thanks to a freebie in The Guardian.  Little did I know that a decade and a half later I'd still be doing exactly the same thing.  Plus there's streaming.

The epitome of such things is this post from August 2003 written during a packing session for moving house again and having another clear out.  From line to line it's a treasure so I thought I'd provide an update to everything in there and the extent to which the world of 2021 has made it both possible to stop being a hoarder but also the sheer tragedy of what was lost.  There's a couple of moments in here which'll make YouTube archivists cringe.  I mean it's not like I disposed of Doctor Who's Marco Polo for no good artistic reason but still.  I'm getting ahead of myself.

In a fortnight we're moving back to the flat we vacated a year ago for building work. For some reason the packing doesn't seem to be as monumental this time. I didn't really unpack anything so most of my life is still in cardboard. But I filled three boxes tonight and half of everything and that seems to be half of everything I need doing.

When we moved into the temporary flat I filled a wall of the bedroom with boxes and walled them off with a giant piece of fabric and filled in the rest of the room with furniture expecting those boxes to simply be moved back again.  Instead the removal firm decided we need to rebox them into even larger receptacles and so here I was having a "life laundry".

I'm also being very ruthless when it comes to clearing out. Watching Life Laundry has taught me that I don't really need to keep half the stuff I have. 

Told you.  Awful programme.  So much irreplaceable culture lost.

The CD Roms were easy. Most were cover discs with massively old and inferior software on them and some simply weren't compatible anymore. 

Fortunately most if not all of these are now preserved on  But keep in mind I was still using Windows 98 so I'm not sure what was incompatible.  Now you can run most of it in a browser.

The paperwork was difficult and filled with value judgements - how long do you need to keep payslips for a job you left four years ago?

You don't is the short answer.  Everything is online now.  One of the gratifying elements of having my student loan forgiven is not having to source facsimiles of payslips ever year.

I've always had a rather excessive video collection. I've hoarded tv recordings and I've got thousands of tapes. But looking through some of the boxes I've already packed I can't think for the life of me why I'm keeping half of them. 

This is true.  Walls and walls of shelves filled with VHS tapes most of which I've now replaced with DVDs that without the boxes fit into a single file box.  It was like sleeping in a Blockbuster Video.  For a while I videotaped everything, diligently recording every episode of The Sopranos which I then didn't ever get around to watching (and still haven't).  

Perhaps I've been spoilt by DVD but what's the point in keeping a second generation copy of Steel Magnolias in full screen which I taped and retaped from ITV ten years ago. 

On to my second DVD copy of Steel Magnolias.  It's also on Netflix.

I've also rammed up against the sticky problem of long play incompatibility between recorders. So all of the Quantum Leap episodes I faithfully collected from the BBC are all unwatchable because I've changed recorders twice since then.

I'd forgotten this was a problem.  Those old Quantum Leap episodes were second generation by the way, after I spent a month or two copying them from SP to LP so that they'd take up less space.  Now I have the whole thing on DVD in box the size of a double VHS release.

Black bagging it all is a liberating experience. 

Honestly, at the time it really was.  But I can't think how many films which have since gone unrepeated and aren't available anywhere went to the tip.  Not to mention all of the advertising bumpers and scraps of live shows which Kaleidoscope would kill for.  Sorry, it's all gone.

There are lots of programmes I would never let go of. Like the Adam and Joe Fourmative Years programme from when Channel 4 celebrated fifteen years of programming; 

A VHS which I kept for many years until it turned up on All4 and now it's on Britbox too.

or the Mark Kermode documentaries about making his favourite films; 

or the John Cusack movie Better Off Dead. 

Have the DVD.

But in the past I've thought it was important to have an archive of all these programmes, in case I had to teach a class, or anyone wanted to borrow them. 

Neither of which could or would ever happen but these are lies you tell yourself when you're a hoarder.

But I realized that HMV has a better archive and Blockbuster loan out things as well. 

But I realized that Amazon has a better archive and Cinema Paradiso loan things as well.

If it's the difference between having a room which doesn't look like the stacks at the British Library Audio Visual section and having a clear head, I'll choose the latter.

Smirks as he glances around the walls full of bookcases, all the books and discs.  Honestly, a lot of this was just making room for newer media.

 I have tapes which I bought or taped five years ago I still haven't watched. Sometimes you have let go.

Within a few years I'd be making all of these mistakes again once I'd bought a HD-DVD recorder which made it even easier to record everything and store it.  The next time I moved and had to dump everything, I carefully checked what was available and still have a lot of these old discs on the shelf, ready for the day I don't still have access to Box of Broadcasts.  But they fortunately take up less space than VHS tapes.

I'm even losing many books. If I've read it and it doesn't have some special significance, it's gone. Douglas Adams and Monty Python are staying, Tom Clancy and John Grisham are going. I'll be keeping all of the literature I studied at school and losing all the literature I collected but never read. I've got all of Charles Dickens' novels just to look impressive on the shelf. I've never read them so why keep them? If I get the burning desire the library is always there and it won't be wasting shelf space when its finished. Already some will be pouring scorn on me, but it's amazing actually how much the human brain can keep in store. I don't need to have the volume on a shelf to talk about it.

Later, not even Douglas Adams would survive with everything other than hardback and early editions ending up in charity shops.  Most of the books I own now are either Doctor Who, Shakespeare related or about film and although there's a lot in there I haven't read yet.  I will.  The TARGET novelisations are sat on the shelves above this desk nagging at me.

There are special cases. My Yahoo Internet Life's aren't going anywhere. 

Still hasn't and I recently took them out of the box and shelved them in all their nostalgic glory.  Of all the magazines of the period, this is the one you would expect to have a collection of pdfs online somewhere.

Neither my Empire movie magazines or SFX. 

Just completed my Empire collection, everything since issue one.  SFX went, another space issue (and not because of the space issues).  Had to choose so kept DWM and Sight and Sound instead.  Ironically my subscription to the latter provides access to a complete digital archive of back issues.

But as a trade off Premiere has gone south as have Total Film (except for the earlier issues when it was new and fresh and Danny Wallace wrote for them). 

I think I still have the first issue of Total Film somewhere ...

Although I know I need to filter my CD collection for the same reasons as above, for some reason music feels different. I know I'll never listen to that Speedball Baby album again, but I really like the cover. And I really couldn't live without the six minute version of Underwater Love by Smoke City.

Listening to the Speedball Baby album again on Spotify.  It's ace.  Wish I'd kept that CD.  Underwater Love by Smoke City hasn't gone anywhere.  Along with what's left of my CDs, it's in a long box under the bed.

Will there be anything I'll regret chucking out? Probably. 

No shit.

Now and then my Dad talks about the mint condition copies of Amazing Stories and Eagle comic my late Gran threw out when she cleared out his boyhood things for him (have you seen how much the former are going for)? But almost everything is replaceable I think and there are too few hours in the day to enjoy anything anymore. And besides I'm always more interested in the things I haven't seen / heard / read before than those things that I have. Which is probably why I can't wait to see what Lucas does with the old Star Wars trilogy in the next few years.

You naïve fool.  Also I'd forgotten that story about my Dad.  That'll explain why I bought him a random issue at a comic mart for Christmas the same year.  Much of Amazing Stories is now on

But that's a different discussion for another time. For now I'll just put it in that box over there …

It's still true that I prefer to watch new things, partly because I have a decent memory for films, especially those I've enjoyed.  If the lockdown variants have been about anything, it's trying to find new things to watch and wondering how far in the past something has to be before I can legitimately see it again with fresh eyes.  

Everything has changed.  Nothing has changed.  Unlike music, film companies still ruthlessly hoard their archives and it isn't yet possible to subscribe to one service and have access to everything and nothing is available permanently assuming it ever is at all.  So although I'm subscribed (at last check) to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, MUBI and Britbox, I still ruthlessly have a few thousand DVDs filed together "just in case" and I don't see that situation changing soon.  Better Off Dead is still not available to stream in the UK ...