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Dion Kagan

Dion Kagan

Dion Kagan is an erstwhile lecturer in gender studies who is now a book editor and an arts critic.

Dion Kagan reviews 'Desire: A memoir' by Jonathan Dollimore

May 2018, no. 401 01 March 2018
In one of my pedagogical fantasies, I design the curriculum for a course called ‘Modern Theories of Desire’. My students read Marx, Beauvoir, Foucault, and Butler. They study Hegel on desire’s organisation of the everyday relationship between the self and the world; some critiques of developmental psychology, a sociology of addiction; Freud, of course. I also screen films – Almodóvar, Won ... (read more)

Happy End

ABR Arts 06 February 2018
The opening sequence of Happy End, the latest film from French director and provocateur Michael Haneke, is a funny–shocking series of domestic events captured via a livestreaming social media platform like Snapchat or Instagram. It shows the bedtime routine of a depressed, emotionally vacant woman. A pet hamster falls victim to an experiment with antidepressants. Then the woman too falls unconsc ... (read more)

Tom of Finland

ABR Arts 10 October 2017
Tom of Finland is a worthy enshrinement of the life of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen (1920–91) into the cinematic pantheon of queer historical biographies. The World War II veteran and advertising art director best known as ‘Tom of Finland’ drew thousands of naked and leather-clad men with gigantic nipples and enormous penises. Cumulatively, the language of playful hypermasculinity in his d ... (read more)

Dion Kagan reviews 'Transgressions in Anglo-American Cinema: Gender, sex and the deviant body' edited by Joel Gwynne

November 2016, no. 386 25 October 2016
As long as there have been moving images, people have fretted about cinema’s special dexterity at breaching sexual and social norms. We now have sophisticated tools to help us understand these breaches and the anxieties they trigger, and the privileged relationship of these dynamics to certain film genres and cycles. For example, women’s home-wrecking desires menaced the unconscious universe o ... (read more)

Queen of the Desert

ABR Arts 31 May 2016
Queen of the Desert recreates the life and times of British colonial explorer, cartographer, writer, and eventually Foreign Office adviser, Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), whose intimate knowledge of Bedouin culture played a key role in the re-mapping of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s. As German auteur Werner Herzog's first feature in six years, and with ... (read more)

Dion Kagan reviews 'What Belongs To You' by Garth Greenwell

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, an expat American teacher goes down into the subterranean bathroom beneath the National Palace of Culture, a known beat. There he encounters Mitko, a young Bulgarian hustler. Through foreign words with plural and ambiguous meanings, they negotiate a sexual transaction that initiates an intense, potentially ruinous relationship. Garth Greenwell's masterly début, Wh ... (read more)

Dion Kagan reviews 'Gay Directors, Gay Films? Pedro Almodóvar, Terence Davies, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, John Waters' by Emanuel Levy

May 2016, no. 381 27 April 2016
Emanuel Levy has had a prestigious career as a senior critic at Variety, professor of film and sociology, and jury member at fifty-four international film festivals. His exhaustive account of the careers of five gay male auteurs is peppered with quotes from his own interviews with them. This awfully titled book may frustrate some readers, including Levy's peers in screen studies, to whom it will s ... (read more)

Dion Kagan reviews 'The Sex Myth' by Rachel Hills

January-February 2016, no. 378 22 December 2015
The Sex Myth announces some lofty aspirations in its title, which invokes game-changing feminist interventions like Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth (1991). Saturated as we are now by sex talk of all kinds, it is hard to imagine a critique of sex/gender mores having anything like the same impact. Nonetheless, Rachel Hills makes her bold ambitions clear ... (read more)

Gone Girl

ABR Arts 09 October 2014
In David Fincher’s slick adaptation of Gone Girl, an attractive white woman, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), quickly becomes the prime suspect. Left behind at their Missouri McMansion are signs of a violent struggle – glass coffee table smashed, antique ottoman overturned, a copious amount of blood mopped up haphazard ... (read more)

Under the Skin | StudioCanal

June–July 2014, no. 362 01 June 2014
U nder the Skin is adapted from Michael Faber’s eponymous speculative fiction novel (2000) in which an alien disguised as an attractive woman hunts hitchhikers in the Scottish highlands. Once she has determined that a man is appropriate prey, she drugs him and delivers him to a subterranean abattoir hidden beneath a farm where, in a disturbing allegorisation of factory farming, he is castrated, ... (read more)
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