Written by Michael Clawson
Catharsis, renewal, and self-discovery through filmmaking, looking backward as a way of moving forward: a metatextual, Russian nesting doll of a sequel, The Souvenir Part Two’s ideas are embedded, ingeniously, in its very form. Opening with delicately beautiful shots of light pink flowers, reborn in what looks like Spring, the story picks up where Part One left off, with Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne, once again enthralling) wading through the fog of grief after the death of her addict boyfriend Antony, and simultaneously working on her graduation project for film school. Her thesis movie: The Souvenir. In other words, we see Julie shooting what appears to be Part One precisely as we know it, the process serving as not just a culminating school project, but also as the means through which Julie comes to terms with unanswerable questions regarding Antony, their relationship, and his death. Professors doubt Julie’s vision, she struggles to clearly articulate it, her peers get frustrated with her indecisiveness; in one wincingly funny scene, her cinematographer nearly walks off the shoot, fed up with how constantly Julie asks for changes in camera set-up to better reflect her memory of times with Antony. It’s tremendously endearing self-deprecation on Hogg’s part, and her capturing of on-set activity – the process of shaping and fine-tuning a scene, managing interpersonal dynamics – is never less than magnificent. If the minimalism of Part One’s static compositions reflect Hogg’s admiration of Ozu, Part Two eventually becomes an outlet for her affection for musicals and fantasy (the meta-element of All That Jazz seems like a likely source of inspiration). When Julie finally premieres The Souvenir, what we see turns out to not resemble Part One, and instead, directly nods to the surrealistic, fairy-tale design of Hogg’s true film-school thesis, Caprice. Perhaps the most ravishingly cinematic sequence in Hogg’s filmography to date, the feature it’s nested inside is intensely moving and astonishing in its craft.
The Souvenir Part II Trailer
The Souvenir Part II is currently available in theatrical release.