Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Flirtatious Use of Tape Measures (after Peter Strickland)

I'm double-bluff and Highsmith riffs, I know this:
if another woman's eyes met mine
the way Fatma looks at Chiara
during the measuring scene,
the shield I've built would crumble
like the edges of a burning index card.

How useful, then, this hat:
so proletarian, demotic, so glamour-resistant,
with its brim which pins my eyes to ground
like pavement braille, like peppers roasting,
moths repeating in a mount.

Not the only poem I've written recently inspired by The Duke of Burgundy, or indeed Patricia Highsmith, but the one which wears its influences most clearly on its sleeves. I reviewed The Duke recently for Clarissa Explains Fuck All,  and was a little hard on writer-director Peter Strickland for being too sympathetic to Cynthia, the domme character, despite her clearly overstepping a big red line in BDSM terms during a crucial scene in the film. I still think I was right about that, pretty much: but I've also been thinking a lot lately about how much - too much - we forgive for the sake of romantic love, and how desperate that emotion makes us: how much of a bullying concept love is. I think you can't remove the horrible turn the relationship between Cynthia and Evelyn takes from the fear of being without love, and it's hard to say who feels that more: Cynthia, who is ten years older than Evelyn, and perhaps worried this is her last throw of the romantic dice, or Evelyn, who 'never thought it would be possible' to meet a lover like Cynthia, and would therefore fear never meeting another. 

The wild card in all this is The Carpenter, played by Fatma Mohamed. Having seen the film a number of times again on digital download recently (perhaps in an attempted retreat into fantasy to escape recent political events - a world without men is a world without Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron and Michael Gove, after all) it's clear to me that the scene between Evelyn and The Carpenter is a key point in the film: it's the first time Evelyn has met a woman like her. There's such a wonderful sense of play between the two,  and both Mohamed, and Chiara D'Anna, playing Evelyn, convey so much purely through the way they look at each other. It isn't quite a meeting of equals: The Carpenter has clearly been around this stuff more often than Evelyn, and is more confident and aware of what she wants, a fact conveyed in the way Evelyn tries, but fails, to meet her gaze - but Evelyn clearly recognises a fellow member of her species in The Carpenter the way she never, quite, recognises Cynthia. 

The more quotidian subject of the poem is the pink camouflage baseball cap I wear to keep the sun off my face while I undergo laser hair removal treatment, which also has the added bonus of making it harder to make eye contact with others if, like me, you seem to be suffering from more social anxiety than usual at the moment. 


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