Saturday 27 November 2021


Tate Britain, London

“I like to channel naturalist, abstract, ornamental, fetishist and childish images” 

- Paula Rego

Fighting Fascist Realism

Paula Rego was born in 1935, in a Portugal still under fascism. Remarkably, she painted ’Interrogation’ (1950, below) while just fifteen. The - for want of a better word - purity of those interrogator bodies is emphasised by the echoing whiteness of their symmetry, and by their headlessness throwing emphasis onto their puffed-up torsos. Which contrasts with the poor figure in the chair, so twisted and contorted. It’s a remarkably assured work for someone so young. But if you were to pin it to a label you’d pick Expressionism.

Whereas ’Salazar Vomiting the Homeland’ (1960, below) is more indicative of her future direction. Its wild reductions and distortions of the human figure, its colours so vivid it almost looks like the work vomited itself into being, these are more reminiscent of Surrealism - particularly Miro. And, not unlike Miro, at the same time it keeps up the political themes. Salazar was Portugal’s dictator.

Surrealism, we should remember, emerged in opposition to fascism - aesthetically as much as politically. Propaganda art typically aims to appeal by making easy sense out of complex subjects. So, against its neat and tidy imagery of heroic male figures rendered in almost geometric anatomy, Surrealism twisted and stretched the human body until it was barely recognisable. And fascism, let’s remember, was perfectly able to recognise this in its enemy.

By 1951 Rego had been moved by her liberal-minded parents to England, the following year enrolling at the Slade. So it’s entirely possible that, with home censorship, the Portuguese artist only saw the work of the Spanish after arriving here. And there’s no denying her most impressionable years were spent under Salazar’s controlling maw.

Nevertheless, the show perhaps makes too much of these early years. It talks about the restrictive roles fascism forced women into, accurately and understandably. But it seems needlessly narrowing to confine her art into a response to this. If patriarchy was your prison, a move to Fifties England was a sure-fire way to discover its bars didn’t end at Portugal’s borders. In fact in ’57 she moved back there to have a baby out of marriage, after undergoing several abortions. And if we’re to take abortion as a barometer of women’s freedom it wasn’t legalised in England until 1968, then Portugal in 2007. Some while after Salazar had ceased vomiting.

Besides, that was scarcely the limits of it. One exhibition refused to display ’Salazar’, not in fascist Portugal but supposedly liberal London.

Added to which, if fascism held sway in her homeland until the shockingly late date of 1974, Rego was there to witness its end. The later work ’Madame Lupscu Has Her Fortune Told’ (2004, above) features the widow of the would-be dictator of Romania, who’d fled there. She’s pictured beside a seig-heiling statuette while attempting to get a blank palm read, fascism reduced to no more than a sick form of nostalgia for atrocity. (Oh to be back in the days when it seemed something consigned to the past!)

More widely, it risks mislabelling her art at agitprop. If ’Interrogation’ could have illustrated an Amnesty leaflet, ’Salazar Vomiting The Homeland’ requires you to read the title to get the context. And this is the vein in which she continues. In the accompanying filmshow she comments art should be as much about what’s inside you as what’s outside.

We see this in her collage works, which ran through the Sixties and much of the Seventies. (Though the term’s a little misleading here, as she chiefly collaged her own drawings.) ’The Firemen of Alijo’ (1966, above) was based on a sight she witnessed, the Portuguese poor barefoot in the show and huddled around a fire. But the finished work is so far from this that it’s more impetus than basis. In Rego’s hands, the scene becomes a phantasmagoria.

That green stripe is a horizon line, or perhaps the base of a wall. And the left-most figures do stand barefoot upon it. But from there they’re arranged in a grand sweep across the canvas, which trails out just before reconnecting to the ground. And the colour scheme becomes bolder and more varied as that sweep progresses. The result is such an accumulation it becomes an assault on the senses, which takes some while to resolve. Other works follow this arrangement, such as ’Manifesto for A Lost Cause’ (1966).

The ground-as-base is reminiscent of children’s art. But it also seems employed as a thin thread to perspective, and with it the naturalistic conventions of art. It’s there largely to show what is being left behind, try to stand on that seeming solid base and you’ll soon be yanked off our feet.

Painting With Children + Animals 

In 1974, for the first time, Rego illustrated some Portuguese folk tales. And there were not just more works to come in this vein, the themes would creep into her art more generally. (Yes this was the year the dictatorship fell, for those who like to make something of such things.) Perhaps the main thing is how little she has to change them to make them hers. It’s like she isn’t twisting or making use of them, they really were this sinister all along, just without us noticing. Take for example the print of ’Baa Baa Black Sheep’ (1989), below.

Slightly earlier, but in what seems a related move, she began making what she called ‘dollies’ - soft-form creations, something like home-made children’s toys. Though the show calls them ‘sculptures’, and though no article on her is complete without a photo of her studio festooned with them (see Wikipedia for an example) unlike Dorothea Tanning she doesn’t seem to have seen then as art objects in themselves, but as props to incorporate into her artwork. They were something like a Commedia Dell’arte troupe she could have on standby. From this point on her art is regularly rooted in the ‘types’ of folk tales, fables and fairy stories.

In the early Eighties she began a series of bold, thick-lined acrylic works, often on paper, largely featuring animals. Take for example ’Red Monkey Offers Bear a Poisoned Dove’ (1981, above). It looks so stark and bold, with everything handily labelled by that descriptive title, it must surely have a straightforward meaning. A poisoned dove is admittedly an easy enough image to read. But why a monkey, why a bear? We realise we’ve been looking at it for a while, waiting for this straightforward meaning to emerge, then a little later that it won’t.

A bunch of responses suggest themselves (countries in the Cold War?, characters in Rego’s life?, psychological archetypes?), yet none stick. And in this way it reflects the simple, direct prose which fables and folk tales are told in. In a Guardian interview she confirmed: “I always need a story. Without a story, I can’t get going.” But the story is often like the witnessed scene in the earlier collages, not something to illustrate but break off from.

Other works in this era are large-scale, and built up from the baseline like the earlier collages. However now they’re more mural than collage, a series of smaller pictures with linking devices. Some you even read by following a series of ‘lines’ across, like a piece of text. ’The Raft’ (1985, above) is the only one to be arranged around a central motif. And, while that blue dragon seems to personify the sea, the girl on a raft seems more adrift amid a sea of images. And she sits dispassionately through it all, a solid central block amid the pandemonium.

And this Girl character recurs frequently, as in ’Girl And Dog’ (1986) where she shown absurdly shaving the dog’s throat. There’s a biographical reading here, this was the year in which her husband Victor got Multiple Sclerosis and she inevitably became his carer. (Something we’ll see in other works.) But more important may be that impassive expression.

The show takes her as a feminist heroine. Perhaps partly, but she never seems wild and free. More accurately, as Laura Cummings pointed out in the Guardian: “The dogs have a whole range of expressions, but the girl… has only one. She is a vision of fixed determination.” She seems what we aren’t, calmly accepting of this absurd world. We should remember a child doesn’t have the same relationship to animals as an adult. And this Girl is shown either living in a world of animals, or morphing into one herself.

She comes closest to an expression with ’The Little Murderess’ (1987, above) where a trace of a smirk crosses her face. The standard reading seems to be that this is again about her Victor, perhaps the return of the repressed part of her psyche that could do without the constraints of caring for him. The Pelican, we’re told, can be a symbol of self-sacrifice.

But could it not also be a metaphor for growing up, the adult ‘murdering’ the child by replacing her? Look at the way she’s virtually emerging out of the picture frame, leaving her old world behind. The objects behind her, the toy cart and brightly coloured chair, look like something from a child’s room, a room she’s leaving. And we see a spectrum as if it’s a timeline. The most vivid red is in the chair to the very right, the most vivid green in the stretched-out ribbon to the left.

Into Tableaus 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because in the late Eighties Rego pulls another switch. She embarks upon large-scape acrylics, which are set in recognisable pictorial space. Colours, once almost impossibly vivid, become more muted. And while animals still appear, in this era there’s less of the human-animal hybrids.

Yet at the same time as perspective opens there’s neither movement to the work nor naturalism to the figures. They’re beyond realist, in their smoothness they’re idealised, almost hyper-real, paintings with the sharpness of line drawings. They’re tableaus, as arranged as in any diorama, their poses and gestures feel weighted with meaning. Even when we’ve no real notion what that meaning might be. They can be like looking at a nativity scene with no knowledge of the Bible.

Take for example ’The Policeman’s Daughter’ (1987, above). There’s no reason why you couldn’t re-enact the scene in real life. But that pure white dress, for example, is too pristine to exist in the real world, let alone for the messy task of boot polishing.

The title gives away whose boot is being so dutifully shone, recalling the ever on-stage synechdocheal boot in Strindberg’s play 'Miss Julie’. And the arch-backed black cat, who we can safely assume is a Tom, effectively rhymes with the boot.

Just as the wilder, free-form style went with agitational content, so this aesthetic plugs into a politics. But quite a different politics. It’s an illustration of patriarchy more than an assault on it. It seems simply too ordered to allow for change. The style dictates the tone - “this is just how it is”. And perhaps the world feels more like that as we grow older, the things we once assumed we could mould have instead moulded us.

And it should also be said that folk tales and fables, inherently common property, are inherently subversive - but they’re also fatalistic. They’re not concerned with politics, with events in the world, but with the essential state of things. Their animal figures suggest we are simply born to live out our nature.

Except, as you may have guessed, things aren’t quite as neat as they look. In ’The Family’ (1988, above) a male figure is attended by two females - this time dressing him. But he’s both obscured by and sandwiched between the two. And as they exchange a glance a third looks on with clasped hands raised, like the criminal mastermind of the enterprise.

Unsurprisingly this is another Victor picture, illustrating the way care work determines an intimacy that’s inherently not between equals. But like the Portuguese poor this is more impetus for than meaning of the work. It’s based in the ironic relationship of the servant to the master, as they make him up they simultaneously wipe him out. Look to the diorama on the chest of drawers.

And ’The Maids’ (1988, above) follows along the same lines, based on a Genet play about servants who murder their mistresses. A Maid isn’t just the central figure, her extended limbs dominate the frame, shadows splaying out from her, while her Mistress is closed up on herself. There’s still a kind of fatalism here. But it’s a fatalism in reverse to the existing order, in which the servant will inevitably rise and the master fall.

There’s also… um.. a wild boar in the room. In fact a motif of Rego’s in this period is to incorporate such an element, nromally in the lower right foreground. In the two examples above, these are entirely explicable. But it’s as often jarringly incongruous, out of scale or - as here - something of both. Earlier, her base lines kept her work semi-anchored in realism. Now it’s the reverse, she stays linked to her Surrealist roots.

To quote Laura Cummings again: “The Tate wants to make an activist of Rego… But the artist is ill-served by this reductive brief. Her gift is for the exact opposite: for the deeply ambiguous and morally disturbing scenario.”

The ink-and-watercolour work ’Island of The Light’ (1996) is part of a general return both to mural style and fable-based content. It’s based on a scene from ’Pinocchio’ where children are stolen and forced into labour, causing their transformation into donkeys. (Nicely, Rego was inspired by watching the Disney film while a child herself, rather than researching folk tales at the British Library or some such. It suggests both a personal connection to the material, and that something in these tales survives even Disneyfication.)

Rego slips between every variant of this motif: two-legged donkeys, humans riding donkeys, humans riding humans, humans with donkey heads, even a donkey mounting and biting a horse. It suggests something compelling but irresolvable about the central image.

It’s a classic child fantasy, to transform into an animal in order to roam free, unbridled by the social conventions adults try to impose on you. But the concept is double-edged, for at the same time the child’s aware that animals themselves can be made beats of burden. So what should be a means of escape here becomes a form of capture. And the jumbled nature of the composition suggests no way out.

’War’ (2003, above) is again based on something Rego witnessed, though this time at one remove. It’s based on a newspaper photo of the invasion of Iraq, which featured a screaming girl in a white dress. It’s a starker image than 'Island of the Light’, but still elusive when you try to pin it down. It’s partly inverting the folksy kid-lit image of cutesy anthropomorphised figures, with the bloodied rabbit masks. But there’s more…

There are almost as many variations as ’Island of the Light', just within two figures. The main figure has a rabbit mask, but human hands and feet, while the child she carries sports paws. The adult’s ‘mask’, dead-eyed, could equally be an enlarged rabbit skull. (And the death figure with animal skull appears elsewhere in Rego’s work, for example ‘Scarecrow and the Pig', 2005.) Yet the child’s looks bent from shape, as if papier-mache. You can’t see this as actual rabbits. But neither as people figleafed by anthropomorphism, or actors in rabbit masks. You need some combination of all of them at once.

With all the twists and turns, ’The Raft’ may well be the central image, itself depicting being at sea amid a flood of images. Rego is simultaneously compelling and inscrutable. But perhaps best of all, this is not just a retrospective of a living and working artist but one whose more recent works are still well worth seeing. And, while the content of Rego’s art may often seem less than uplifting, that seems a reason for optimism…

Saturday 20 November 2021


Union Chapel, London, 15th Nov

This fad for playing an old album through, initially it didn’t seem in the spirit of Faust. They often feel like those re-enactment societies who restage ancient battles, diligently reproducing every move but adhering rigidly to modern Health and Safety guidelines. While Faust were a band who rarely placed the same thing the same way twice; who when I last saw them I was moved to describe as “arch-antagonists of the formulaic.” They’ve picked ’Faust IV’. And not, for example, ’The Faust Tapes’. 

But it came with the news they’d be playing as an expanded troupe, which included even yer proper classical instruments. Which suggested the aim was other than mere fidelity.

Then during the great gig interregnum we somehow got through, when dates were being bounced later and later, came the news that Zappi was no longer performing with Jean-Herve Peron. The two stalwarts I’d seen live twice and heard on countless CDs. Which made the endeavour seem still-more unguessable…

The stage is set for no less than twelve players. Much as the Can Project had replaced the irreplaceable Jaki Liebezeit by double up, there’s two drum kits. One of which turns out to be for longstanding band associate Chris Cutler.

It starts strangely. Not Faust strange, but strange. The three string players lull us with something calming and neo-classical. Naturally, we all wait to hear how Faust will mess with it. It turns out, to our perplexity, they don’t. It finishes to bemusement as the others stroll on stage. “You’re very quiet”, Peron tells us.

But from there, three things are obvious straight away. They’re not bothering with the Sacred Track Order rule of these events, a small but sure-fire sign they’re playing this the way they want. And after A Certain Ratio, this is two bands within a week who’ve taken on a transfusion of younger members. They point out at one point the line-up takes in every decade from teen to Seventies. And not least, when musicians aren’t required they don’t neatly slip off stage but loll about, reading books and sipping wine. Anti-rockism by now being a Faust tradition.

The set’s bookended by the titans ’Just a Second’ and ’Krautrock.’ But perhaps the test isn’t the trance-out riff tracks, which lend themselves to reworking, but the songs. And this is after all their most song-based album, the one they recorded here in Britain with Richard Branson peering nosily over their shoulders. They often feel treated as if they were folk standards, things everybody knows and now exist only to be amended. Peron and his daughter do most of the singing, normally undertaken with mock theatricality, as if saying “we’re here to have some fun with this old stuff.” A band so irreverent about everything should surely take that attitude to their own back catalogue. And they do.

What’s essentially the backing vocals of ’Bit Of A Pain’ are magnified and extended to the point they become mesmeric, like a remix artist seizing on one element to rearrange everything else around. Even if getting the audience to hum along ran into the English reserve. Over the top, this being a Faust event and full of chance collisions, someone then read out a story in Japanese.

’Sad Skinhead’, nobody’s favourite Faust song, slighted by Julian Cope in ’Krautrocksampler’, doesn’t just work better here but even works well, lurching to it’s own off-kilter rhythm, somehow out of time and keeping to it’s own time. Perhaps because the sinuous violin line provided such a counterpoint. Dada Ska finally achieved after only fifty years!

It doesn’t all work. At times it meanders, at others feels self-indulgent. At one point Peron broke off into a ditty about not selling out, when they should be above such stock notions. At others he seemed intent on livening the ensemble up, with the others not quite sure how to respond.

Overall, though it was the better of the two gigs, it did feel reminiscent of the Can Project. Not just the expanded line-up, the presence of just one original member or the double drums. Carelessly left on for a softer number they then trampled, ’Thief’ and ’Jennifer’ respectively. But because, by the very design of it, there cannot help but feel something commemorative about proceedings.

Of course, by the time of the Can Project it couldn’t be other than a tribute to a band already gone. But the other Faust gigs I’ve seen had faced forwards, like they were the radioactive particle that had no half-life. Hopefully this won’t mark the point where their relentlessly creative/destructive spirit finally started to relent.

Just to prove I wasn’t making it up about ’Sad Skinhead’… (The camera does stop careering so much after a bit.) There’s also a fuller, if still not quite complete, film here.

Saturday 13 November 2021


Chalk, Brighton, 11th Nov

A Certain Ratio effectively personified the chance encounter between post-punk’s arch dourness and funk’s infectious energy, the moment grey raincoats were paired with dancing shoes. Which meant that the mid-Eighties, for so many in music a slamming set of dividing doors, was to them an opening drawbridge. A Factory band, they often played the label’s in-house venue the Hacienda, which equally segued neatly into the siren beats of Acid House. So much so that to this day the whistle is an on-stage instrument. 

Except for me… well, call me an old grey raincoat but there was something compelling about that initial ice-and-flame combination, foregrounded in album titles like ’The Graveyard and the Ballroom’. Perhaps what made it compelling also made it unsustainable. But what came after sounded more assimilatable, more regular.

And as the gig gets going I wonder if they’ll spend the night crossing and re-crossing that dividing line, like an explorer finding the equator and excitedly hopping back and forth between Northern and Southern hemispheres. There’s tracks which, while there’s nothing wrong with them, just aren’t going to lodge themselves in the memory. At least, not mine.

Though things turn out to be much more unpredictable. One instrumental number, for example, is based around a Balaeric beat so regular it could have come out a tin. But the players sinew around it like Miles Davis had discovered Acid House and pledged to make it his own.

What this band do best, at least in this incarnation, is combine the insistency of repetitive beats with the free flow of jamming, getting in a groove and soaring off simultaneously. It’s a shame they don’t just do that, but you don’t want to miss it when they do. I’d rate this gig above their last showing three years ago, in fact it’s the best I’ve seen them. (Admittedly, only of three. Don't spoil it.)

Which could be to do with the release of a new album, ‘Loca Remezclada’, the first in twelve years. And I was later to read the album’s blurb boldly asserting they were “revitalised by their most successful tour in over two decades” and so made an album which “distils the different directions and styles that have run throughout the band’s career.” 

Alternately, or perhaps additionally, there’s the enlivening presence of two new, much younger members, on vocals and keyboards respectively. Though the presence of the new second singer, Ellen Beth Abdi, has a somewhat tragic cause. Longstanding vocalist Denise Johnson unfortunately died last year, with a track dedicated to her memory. Still, virtue springs from adversity.

Same tour, from London… 

Saturday 6 November 2021


Reader beware, serious PLOT SPOILERS ahead!

Edgar Wright’s new film (he of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘The World’s End’) could be described less as good than as bravura. It’s a whirlygig of experiences, but unlike many films which go into psychological horror territory it holds them within a perfectly structured story. And the two leads, Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie, are well cast.

Stuffed with so many hallucinogenic scenes, the film has the wit to work out any kind of heightened dialogue would overegg things. So it devises regular-sounding speech which still has a way of working on you. The repeated line about London being “a bit much”, it’s one of those phrases whose oxymoronic oddness only becomes apparent when you strip it of its familiarity.

Similarly, the boyfriend’s line about being a stranger too in London because he’s from south London… it’s one of those funny-because-it’s true moments. Or egocentric posh student Jocasta announcing she’s only to be known by her first name, in order to make herself a brand, the character helpfully nailing herself for us on first meeting.

Though widely compared to ‘Repulsion’ (1965), even by its own director, in a sense it’s more an anti-‘Repulsion’. The challenging thing about the Polanski is that its masterfully inventive and entirely unsurprising it was made by a rapist, making its subject matter out of female hysteria. (A challenge so larger that most seem only able to see one or the other of these things.)

True enough, there’s a similar creative tension here over whether what protagonist Ellie sees is real or vision, and consequently over whether she’s cracking up or not. But while this works moment-to-moment we know, in fact we’re told very early on, that she has some sort of psychic ability.

And the film would simply not function without this; we know she’s witnessing something, even if we - and her - aren’t always sure what. She calls this a “gift”. And though of course it becomes part-curse this inevitably steers her towards being a more pro-active character, even if she does spend a fair amount of time screaming and running.

She sees, at first through dreams, the unfolding life of another young woman, Sandie, from Sixties Soho. In fact, rather than ‘Repulsion’ this is an English ‘Mulholland Drive’, with the central character is essentially split into two roles. In fact we see the split as it happens…

Sandie sometimes reflects Ellie (literally, in mirrors), sometimes observes her. As Sandie’s introduced she sashays into a club, radiating confidence, intent upon stardom. As she descends the stairs Ellie’s reflected in a wall mirror. But while Sandie sports a glamorous dress, Ellie’s still in her night clothes. We then see her deliberately dressing more like Sandie, as if she has an imaginary role model.

But Sandie’s route to stardom is derailed by dodgy ‘boyfriend’ Jack, who’s soon domineeringly pimping her. At one point, meeting one of many prospective clients in a club he suggests this is not the life for her, and that she should look in the mirror. She refuses, not wanting to see what she now is. Which of course means she won’t look at Ellie, who responds by flailing hopelessly at the separating glass.

As all this might suggest the film goes to some pretty dark places. We see Sandie trapped not just in prostitution but its inevitable bedfellow, abuse and violence. Now, films are entitled to go to dark places. Provided they don’t treat the material salaciously. (Which this doesn’t.) But also, there needs to be some pressing purpose to take them there, an end to justify those means. And I confess I’m not quite sure what the point of all this is.

Wright has given a personal motivation, that he felt seduced by the supposed innocence of the Sixties and wanted to show their underbelly. He’s said: "Something that I find truly nightmarish… is the danger of being overly nostalgic about previous decades. In a way, the film is about romanticising the past and why it's ... wrong to do that.” The scene where Sandie first enters the club is essentially a filmic scene inserted into a film, after which we see more of the reality.

And I can sympathise with this, it’s the decade I missed too and so held a similar fascination with it through most of my teens. (Though I was more about the Beatles and the Doors than Petula Clarke.) But this doesn’t seem enough. It more explains the setting than justifies the film.

In the end, Sandie tells Ellie she can’t save her but only herself. So is the point how much things have changed for the better since then? The first sign we’re back in the Sixties is literally a sign, the ‘Thunderball’ poster with Connery adorned by bikini babes like accessories. And it may well be the differences to ‘Repulsion’ are those between a film set in the Sixties and one made then.

But overall the film goes out of its way to tell us the opposite. A leery taxi driver tells Ellie the old London’s still there underneath, a point proven when she starts finding landmarks from her dreams in her waking surroundings.

Ellie can only see Sandie as a victim. Trying to research her murder she scrolls past newspaper headlines of disappeared men, oblivious to the fact it’s Sandie who killed all of them. But, with the exception of Jack, she doesn’t kill them in self-defence but out of revenge. (Again, somewhat disappointingly, prostitution is seen as coming through another’s individual malevolence and a moral fall, rather than economic pressures.) So they’re traditional ghosts, hanging around this place because they’ve been wronged. Their haunting of Ellie suggests a displaced haunting of Sandie. The film gestures at the moral complexity of this, but ultimately seems unsure how to deal with it.

Is the point that Sandie’s life reached a point where she could only be consumed by revenge? She continues living in the same house, stacked with bodies of her murdered 'clients', and when it burns down she has to burn with it too. Of course ‘let the dead be dead’ is a familiar moral of ghost stories. But what are we supposed to do with this here? If anything it seems to lead back to where we were, that she inhabited a time which offered her no escape. A point that the film raises to dispel. It all seems something of a circle.

As said, the film excels in terms of structure. But there are two big weaknesses. Mostly it doesn’t just maintain consistency but is deft at foreshadowing. Ellie’s landlady tells her she’ll need to keep the plugs in the sinks to stop the smell, and only lately do we discover this is Sandie with her dead bodies and join the dots. 

But the Terrence Stamp character is originally described to Ellie warningly by someone from the pub as an “octopus”, a sexual predator. Then, once he has died, someone else from the pub says he was a cop who tried to help victimised women. Which feels like cheap misdirection. (And anyone who knows anything about the Met’s Vice Squad of the era knows being a cop from then is less alibi than evidence of guilt.)

And the putative boyfriend, John, really doesn’t have much character beyond well-meaning. He’s essentially a plot function, someone Ellie can talk to, can try doing normal things with, masquerading as a character. There’s one brief line about him having an Aunt who “believes in weird stuff”, which isn’t exactly sufficient.

This does seem symptomatic of a tendency in ‘women’s issue’ films to have one male character who’s unfailingly nice, as if to counter any objections the film has an anti-male agenda. Even ‘Repulsion’ had one! But it’s scarcely going to quiet the Men’s Rights Advocate mob who are not exactly coming from a position of good faith, and should really be resisted.