I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of Anne Billson’s career. Not only has she published numerous books, both in fiction and non fiction, such as Suckers, Big Lips and the BFI book for the Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In, as well as written for The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, Vogue, Elle, Esquire and Monthly Film Bullitin, she has also worked as a photographer, screenwriter, lyric-writer for Japanese pop-singers and once appeared as a Dutch girl in a Japanese TV commercial starring a famous sumo wrestler (MULTIGLOM 2015). I also can’t help but admire her personally; her writing style is sharp, incredibly perceptive, often hilarious and reflective of her (and my) many filmic interests and passions such as vampires, fantasy, Japanese anime, feminism and Tom Hiddleston’s naked body (Billson 2015). Her writing is honest and brazen; she doesn’t shy away from expressing her judgement and yet is able to simultaneously reflect on the strengths, weaknesses and techniques of a film, even if what she’s saying is at odds with her opinion.
My one frustration with Billson is that her writing has at times made me examine a film in retrospect with a far more critical outlook than what I had held prior. I found this to particularly be the case in her post ‘How To Make A Bad Woody Allen Film’, originally from the Telegraph and now updated on her blog. Although I agree with her, as I think most people do, that Woody Allen has made some amazing films as well as some (or many) terrible ones, her points on some of my more loved recent films of his were too truthful to be overlooked. While Allen’s work has traditionally revolved around the world of upper-class Manhattan (fair enough, he does know and do it well), his latest ventures in Europe have been mixed at best.
“He is still filming what he knows. His knowledge of London, Paris or Rome is accordingly limited to that of a wealthy American tourist who stays at the swankiest hotels, dines at the poshest brasseries, and meets only the most stereotypical examples of the natives… He seems to have exhausted his own first-hand experience, but shows no real interest or curiosity about anything outside it. His Italians are loveable buffoons, madonnas and whores who might have stepped right out of Big Deal on Madonna Street. His Spaniards? Hotblooded, of course!” (Billson 2015)
She’s right, and that killed Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight In Paris a little for me, two films I have a real soft spot for. Billson then goes on to closely examine the other defining traits of Allen’s more poorly received films, of which she is acutely accurate and highly detailed, as each element can be seen throughout a range of his films. She’s not spiteful, her fondness for Allen is still clear; she just uses a blend of humour and cynicism to illuminate the filmmaker’s foibles.
Billson isn’t always so critical in her writing, in fact in her blog post originally written for the Guardian titled ‘Some Thoughts About Crimson Peak and Other Alternative Chick-Flicks’ she becomes encouraging, suggesting that if films and genres must be boxed into gendered audiences, then why not open up the parameters?
“I still have nightmares about an otherwise convivial hen weekend where, once the male stripper had got his kit back on, the well-meaning hostess presented us with a choice of Sleepless in Seattle, Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman on DVD. I think it was at this point that I ran screaming from the room. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Isn’t it time we expanded the definition of “chick-flick” to include more exciting elements? Why is it assumed that women aren’t interested in the lust for power, mid-life crises, saving the world and so on? Why does it always have to be weddings and shopping?” (Billson 2015)
She invites her audience to feel sympathy and camaraderie through her personal anecdote, of which a lot will have felt or experienced something similar, and cajoles them into a knowing smirk and giggle at the ridiculous nature of stereotypes surrounding women. She often employs this technique in her writing, enticing her audience to side with her views through personal anecdotes and amusing observations. Her style may not be particularly academic, but I find it to be more appealing and often insightful having that personal connection (yes Anne, it IS frustrating that most critics are men who dictate what we should and shouldn’t like; yes Anne, I DO agree that in a film prefacing a statement with “sometimes, the only way…” doesn’t make it wisdom; yes Anne, I DO think that we should stop feeling ‘guilty’ for enjoying The Devil Wears Prada).
Billson’s blend of sardonic humour, perceptive observations and personal tales define her writing which is both highly enjoyable and thought provoking; she makes me both reflective of my own cinema appreciation and understanding of what makes a work ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and enraptured as I chuckle and nod at her clever insights.
Billson, A 2015, About Me, MULTIGLOM, viewed 14 November 2015, http://multiglom.com/about/
Billson, A 2015, How To Make A Bad Woody Allen Film, MULTIGLOM, 20 July, viewed 14 November 2015, http://multiglom.com/2015/07/20/how-to-make-a-bad-woody-allen-film/
Billson, A 2015, Some Thoughts About Crimson Peak and Alternative Chick-Flicks, MULTIGLOM, 20 October, viewed 14 November 2015, http://multiglom.com/2015/10/20/some-thoughts-about-crimson-peak-and-alternative-chick-flicks/
All the above are particularly enjoyable articles, however here are a few more:
- somewhat destroyed my Wes Anderson/Michel Gondry love but in the best way
- We’ve all been thinking this for a while
- Why should I feel guilty for actually enjoying the Twilight franchise?
- An interesting look at the city of light, a fantasy I know I’ve been caught up in
- Because screw the haters, Keanu I love you too you keep doin’ your thang boy ❤
- Very important this one – young Brando and the afore mentioned Keanu, does it get any better?
- Made me giggle