Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category
I was working at Chelsea School of Art in Pimlico recently and took the opportunity, after a meeting about a prospective TV programme, to nick into Tate Britain which is directly opposite and see the David Hockney exhibition.
To mark the occasion of this major retrospective, entertaining if a little rammed, I’d like to dig out my Hockney Picture of the Month, Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, which is in the show of course.
And to add an extra something to celebrate the exhibition I’d like to highlight some other artistic devices in evidence in this show. For the significance of ‘artistic devices’ I’ll quote from my earlier post:
The person portrayed is partly obscured by a pile of (obviously painted) cylinders. Above his head is a shelf on which are a selection of large brushstrokes. The cylinders are crude 3D representations, obvious devices or techniques, which stand out as abstract in a still figurative world of suits and rugs and shelves. The shelf is just a 2D line. The strokes on the shelf are more flat, abstract components of painting, exposing the technique and undermining the illusion. The pile of cylinders is actually painted on a sheet of paper glued to the canvas to leave the viewer in no doubt as to the artifice, physical materiality and flatness of the endeavour.
14/4/17 Screening of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ at The Barbican cinema, London to mark his birthday (16/4/1889):
Herring (based on Hermann Göring):
We’ve just discovered the most wonderful poison gas. It will kill everybody…
Adenoid Hynkel (based on Adolf Hitler, birthday 20/4/1889):
All right. Later.
11/4/17 President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer at his regular press briefing at the White House compared Adolf Hitler to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad
Sean Spicer (based on Josef Goebbels and/or a buffoon):
We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.
If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.
Chaplin and Hitler were born the same year, same month, same week.
While Hitler celebrated his fiftieth birthday in April 1939, backing and speaking at the largest military parade in history, Chaplin celebrated his birthday working on the script of ‘The Great Dictator’ which included a huge military parade and an extended sequence of a ranting dictator’s speech.
Both Chaplin’s Tramp and Hitler’s dictatorial scamp wore a toothbrush moustache.
I am in a cafe in Kentish Town with a Syrian refugee film-maker. We discuss my helping her get some job shadowing type work experience. I offer to contact a colleague at a particular documentary company. Within 60 seconds an alert comes up on my phone lying on the table indicating an incoming email from the boss of that very company.
We have been talking about dreams, half-dreaming, out of body experiences and premonitions. I mentioned my interest in coincidences in this regard – the unexplained, the patterns behind the surface world.
I suggest the best way to make a film of this film-maker’s dream-like experiences (which is her ambition) is through animation and a viable way of creating those animations might be by collaborating with students or graduates of the National Film & Television School. We talk about her recent interaction with the Head of the Film School and that he wasn’t feeling well the day they talked. Within 60 seconds an alert comes up on my phone lying on the table indicating an incoming email about the boss of that very institution who is stepping down from his role after 14 years.
I fall asleep with the radio on and half-wake up in the middle of the night to a story on Up All Night (BBC Radio 5) where Rhod Sharp is interviewing a Canadian about his efforts to preserve the house where the first ever surviving quintuplets, the Dionne quintuplets, were brought up. I’d never heard of them.
Later that day I’m reading my book group book, ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ by Sinclair Lewis. On p.73 I read: “…upon the impossible occasion of Bishop Cannon’s setting fire to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, kidnaping the Dionne quintuplets, and eloping with Greta Garbo in a stolen tank.”
Harvey Keitel and Don Galloway (of ‘The Big Chill’ fame) take turns and tag one another as Joel McCrea in Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ (1940)
This is just a small one (but I liked it).
I go to the Telegraph’s offices for a meeting in Victoria.
I reflect on how different these slick new offices (two floors of a modern office building) must be from the grand old days in Fleet Street and their own building.
I walk from the Telegraph meeting across St James’s Park to an evening gathering of scriptwriters in a basement club. When I pop to the Gents above the urinal is an old Daily Telegraph 1D ad on enamelled metal. Not a huge coincidence but a nice little throwaway one.
Saturday 1st April
I’m walking into Saracen’s stadium at Allianz Park, North London for the Sarries V Glasgow Warriors European rugby fixture. As we walk past a kilted Scotsman the Enfants Terribles are discussing the origins of Kilts and the younger one (who is always full of useless facts) talks about how it is actually an Irish invention.
The next evening I’m watching Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ with Enfant Terrible No. 1 when the main character grabs a military type at a drinks and asks him, as a distraction and to get rid of a fellow guest who is in his way, to explain the origins of the Kilt to this in-the-way Latvian.
So the question of the origin of the Kilt twice in two days.
– Excuse me. I beg your pardon, sir. I have a Latvian friend here… who’s particularly interested in the origin of the kilt. I wonder if you’d be interested in talking to him. He’s a lovely fellow.
– It’s a most amazing story. You see, the Greeks, in the early period, they used to wear a kilt…
I am at a meeting in BAFTA with an old colleague of mine. He mentions his films are distributed by a company called DRG. I said I think I met a bloke from there a couple of years ago at a documentary festival in La Rochelle. It was the company name with three letters which made me make the connection. (We had dinner together in a group one evening, nice fella, but I haven’t seen or thought about him since.)
About an hour later, thirty feet from that spot, I go to the loo and bump into that very man. It’s turns out his company is not DRG but TCB.
So two years on, based on an incorrect connection, the same man is in the same place. Now that’s what I call a Coincidence (No. 394)!
I was standing under this poster at the foot of Waterloo Bridge on a Skype call to Germany, homeland of Fassbinder. The poster was on the wall of the BFI/NFT advertising a new season of films. The bridge is the next road bridge down the Thames from Westminster Bridge. The call was to fellow participants of Berlin-based Documentary Campus and we were discussing the films we are all working on.
I was Skyping from my phone on the street because I had an adjacent meeting about the creation of an app to address the global problem of 10,000 children dying every day from preventable diseases. I had no time between the call and the meeting so had to dial in from the open air.
The other call participants commented on the noisiness of the London streets – sirens, helicopters, traffic. I said this was just normal for London (which it often pretty much is along the river there). Then one of the callers from Germany said no it’s not, there’s been a terrorist attack. For a moment I hesitated to see if it was some kind of joke, the same reaction as one or two of the other participants. But then it became clear he was not joking, that the site of the attack was around Westminster.
A strange way to learn of such a tragedy.
This was the blood red sky in the direction of Westminster as I left the meeting.
This was the blood red sky as I reached the river under Waterloo Bridge.
This was the view towards Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. The blue lights were still flashing.
A second big indiscriminate attack on the multicultural population of this greatest city in this grim period for the world. Innocent bystanders from Brittany and Romania, Lancashire and Lord knows where, no more than the perpetrator knew where. This beautiful view in stark contrast to the ugliness of the act and the ‘thinking’ behind it.
I got up and went to enjoy the early morning sunshine in the garden, reading Jay McInerney’s ‘Bright, Precious Days’. I noticed for the first time that the word ‘bright’ recurs in his novel titles: Bright Lights, Big City; Brightness Falls; Bright, Precious Days.
I went to a funeral at lunchtime. In the service human life was compared to a passing shadow and the religious leader drew attention to the brightness that created that shadow.
In the evening I saw ‘An American in Paris’ at the Dominion (where Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ was premiered in 1931). In that show the composer character has a revelation that what his tunes are missing is brightness in the wake of World War Two and the occupation of Paris.