Oliver Francis

Thoughts from the spaces in between


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Little grey cells

Last week I saw inside my brain.

I’d signed up for a research study on aging which involves various questionnaires, tests and scans. My replies, actions, charts and images become anonymised data; points for the researchers to plot and analyse so that what they see might perhaps become a tiny percentage of the beginning of an idea about how the brain ages and changes.

My data will become anonymous, but with this MRI scan you can still tell that this is me, even to the stubble of my beard and the shadows under my eyes. Great, even on an MRI l look tired. And I appear to be suppressing a smile – in fact just a squeeze of my cheeks caused by the plastic frame I wore to keep my head still. And then that strange wood-effect on my skin, as if by slicing me in half like that you could count the rings to tell my age. Continue reading


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The cars of Cuba

Cuba, especially Havana, wouldn’t be the same without its old American cars. When I visited in June this year I had expected just a few of these Yank Tanks to be knocking about, but in fact they’re everywhere. By my very crude reckoning, as many as one in four of Cuban cars on the road could date from before the revolution.

I’m not normally someone to get excited about a metal box on wheels, but there is something beguiling about these old beasts. Of all the ages of motoring to be frozen in time by geopolitics, this is surely the one you would pick, with its aggressive grilles, fat wheel arches and sleek tailfins. Continue reading


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The Artist gives me Vertigo

So Kim Novak wants to report a rape. All because Michel Hazanavicius used Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo theme in the marvellous The Artist. Kim, where to start with the whole explaining about things that are not like rape? Here, someone says it better than me. Quite apart from her staggeringly tin ear, it’s hard to tell if she even gets the Artistic irony of shouting “I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SPEAK NOW” in block capitals on her advert. And I don’t remember her making this sort of fuss about the brilliantly metafictional use of Vertigo in Twelve Monkeys

Novak also seems to think she is speaking on behalf of Hitchcock, and it can’t exactly be said that the director had the most enlightened views about non-consensual sex. The Marnie issue springs to mind. And given that Vertigo is as close as mainstream Hollywood has come to depicting necrophilia… Not actual necrophilia, but necrophilia of the… oh never mind. Continue reading