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mediaposted on 2023-06-09, 14:57 authored by Christopher BrownChristopher Brown
'Soap' (15 mins, directed by Christopher Brown) is an experimental black comedy set almost entirely in a bathtub. It’s meant to be entertaining and is full of sensational subject matter and melodramatic twists – but is also a formal experiment with performance in relation to confined cinematic space, and designed to pastiche commercial storytelling. When developing the project, I was thinking of 'Trash' (1970, directed by Paul Morrissey as an ‘Andy Warhol’ project) and the ways it anticipates the staging of reality TV, ideas I earlier explored as part of my PhD thesis on seventies American cinema. Morrissey followed Warhol in believing that films should focus on performance, specifically those of stars, developing a formal approach that offered a pioneering space for gay and trans representation, and transgressive, camp performances. Drawing on these ideas, I sought to explore the impact on the audience of performance saturation, rendered via spatial restriction (once the characters step into the bath, they do not leave), an insistent focus on close-up cinematography, and constant quick-fire dialogue. The construction of classical film space, and its techniques, are often seen both as conventional and as masking the ideological apparatus of film production. But if this was pushed to an extreme, and an entire film was allowed to play out largely in classical shot-reverse-shot, would it be possible to subvert the form from within? Could a film project conceived almost entirely in terms of pastiche enable the actors to deliver performances that underscored the constructed nature of gender and sexuality? Restricting the action both physically (the actors sit in a bath) and visually (we do not cut away from the bath once the actors are in it), I sought to explore the impact, in terms of filmmaking process, of directing screen performance in the context of a confined, intimate cinematic space. 'Soap' premiered at the 2015 New Jersey International Film Festival (30th May 2015), hosted at Rutgers University, where it opened the competition section and won an honorable mention. It was also screened at the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of their ‘Great Performances’ series.
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