12 February 2021

Carol Morley's Girl (1983)

Girl is one of two of Carol Morley's graduation shorts, and is about loss. Through suicide. Suicide is devastating because it's not a natural occurrence through illness or age, but something very often inexplicable, even if there's a death note: narrators are very often unreliable even in reality. If suicide itself is caused by truama, it in itself causes trauma to those living, and this trauma can last for the rest of the lives of the people concerned. My first cousin Charles Pembleton killed himself in 1990 at about the age of forty, by carbon monoxide poisoning. I was told that he left no death note, just a brief collection of self-published poems under the title Living in a Timewarp from sixteen years before. I occasionally read a few of these poems, and although the meaning in these often opaque abstractions eludes the reader, the obvious existential anguish is written large, and the suggestion of suicide as an end can't be written off.

Suicide haunts the Manchester Morley family, and did so long before the journalist Paul Morley wrote a book about his father who killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning: Nothing (2000). The first short of two of Paul's younger sister Carol's graduation films was released as Girl in 1993, lasts just seven minutes and reconstructs the relationship she had with her father, the initial mystery of his death to her, and attempts to relive the time in memory.

This reconstruction is done in shots of her father taking her to school, shots of the staircase, and the bizarre background sound of a sketch from television's 'The Morecombe and Wise Show', involving the 'singing' of 'Boom Oo Yata-Ta-Ta' to 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?': this partly serves as a background to part of the film, and the viewer understands the memory of the young girl too. Interestingly, the shots often reveal only a partial shot of the whole object, as if to underline that this is only a partial memory, and memory can only ever be partial. Significantly, 'Are you Lonesome Tognight' – a song of yearning and loss – is the opening song to another short by Morley: 'The Week Elvis Died'.

A good start.

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