Archive for the ‘rome’ Tag

Art Vandals 2: La Pietà

Weapon: Geologist’s Hammer

Reason: Religion, religious delusion

La Pietà,by Michelangelo (1499) sculpture

La Pietà by Michelangelo (1499)

The exquisite Renaissance sculpture La Pietà by Michelangelo was attacked with a hammer in 1972 in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican where it resides. On 21st May a man with a professional interest in stone, geologist Laszlo Toth (then 33), hit the statue 15 times while exclaiming: “I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!” Toth was a Hungarian-born Australian who moved to Rome in June 1971, knowing no Italian. He  wanted to be recognised as Christ. He was born into a Roman Catholic family. He sent letters to Pope Paul VI and tried to meet him, without success.

He chipped the Virgin’s head, nose, left eyelid, neck, veil and left forearm. The forearm fell off and the fingers broke on the ground. Most of the fragments were saved and collected but a few were taken by tourists.

Toth was subdued by other tourists (the good kind), including American sculptor Bob Cassilly, who hit Toth several times as he dragged him away from the Pietà.

The sculpture was repaired and is now shielded by bulletproof glass.

Toth was not charged with a crime (due to his evident insanity) but was sent in January 1973 to a psychiatric institution in Italy for two years. On his release in February 1975 he was deported to Australia. He died in September 2012.

geologists hammer

Coincidences No.s 349-355

No. 349 Rome

villa wolkonsky British Ambassador's residence rome

The Villa Wolkonsky, British Ambassador’s residence in Rome

I am on a train to Exeter to be on the panel of a documentary pitching session at Two Short Nights film festival. I am with my colleague Harold who is telling me about his choir and a recent performance at the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome.

As he mentions the residence an email notification appears on my phone, right that second. It is from a woman at the British School at Rome (interdisciplinary research centre) who I met at a cocktail party at the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome, Villa Wolkonsky, when I was in the city in October to speak at the MIA Film Festival.

No. 350 A Man of Parts

things to come hg wells on set

HG Wells on the set of ‘Things to Come’

I am finishing a novel, A Man of Parts by David Lodge, about HG Wells, which I started ages ago but never got round to completing. The date is 28th October 2018.

I notice that I started reading it on 29th October 2015.

No. 351 Rishikesh

beatles white album portraits

A see an old Channel 4 colleague of mine at the annual Christmas drinks of Sheffield-based indie, Joi Polloi – an event now known as The Circle. He wants to train in transcendental meditation and one of the places he is considering is Rishikesh in Northern India.

I have just finished a book called Revolution: The Making of the Beatles’ White Album by David Quantick. It centres on Rishikesh where much of the album was composed. It’s the only context in which I’ve ever come across the city.

No. 352 Dimmer Switches

Heavyweight podcast by Jonathan Goldstein

I am listening to an episode of the Heavyweight podcast by Jonathan Goldstein, one of my very favourite podcasts. It is one about the making of the ‘one-take’ film Russian Ark by  Alexander Sokurov. In it there is discussion of changing a dimmer switch/rheostat to a regular on-off switch.

Just before leaving the house for the jog on which I was listening to Heavyweight I had had a domestic discussion about changing a dimmer switch/rheostat to a regular on-off switch – not a regular topic of conversation in our household.

No. 353 Meeting Your Heroes

Pete Shelley, Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto - Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley, Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto (L to R)

The news of the death of Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks is on the radio news. I met him once (as well as seeing him perform, supported by Joy Division at the Lyceum, London) on the studio set of a TV comedy entertainment show called In Bed With Medinner, execed by Jeff Pope [Philomena]. He turned out to be a bit of a cock, pissed on champagne, and made me think of that old adage about not meeting your heroes. Steve Diggle, the guitarist in the band, thankfully was a much more pleasant individual and asked for his wasted mate to be excused.

The next morning on the same radio station I am listening to novelist David Mitchell talk about his collaboration with singer Kate Bush on the Before The Dawn concerts in 2014. He evokes that old adage about not meeting your heroes and explains that in his instance with Kate Bush it did not apply, she lived up to his image of her.

No. 354 Catwatching

catwatching by desmond morris book

Ziggy look-a-like

I order the book Catwatching by Desmond Morris for my cat-loving older son for Christmas.

The book arrives today – I peel off the plastic cover and the cat on the front cover is our cat Ziggy – or a clone of her.

No. 355 Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa

Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa

I am talking to Enfant Terrible No. 1 about racism in football. It brings us on to a discussion of the movie Green Book and he says he is glad the pianist Don Shirley did not play in a restaurant in the Deep South in which he was not permitted to eat alongside his white band members by dint of the colour of his skin. I mention that it was jazz clarinetist and band leader Benny Goodman who made a stand on this issue, refusing to have his band divided on the basis of skin colour.

The same day I am reading a crappy-but-enjoyable adventure novel (based on the Richard Hannay books), The Thirty-One Kings by Robert J. Harris. It mentions Benny Goodman.

Benny Goodman is who introduced me to jazz via a record I bought on my first trip to LA as a teenager, his greatest hits including Sing Sing Sing, featuring the proto-Keith Moon which was Gene Krupa on drums. Goodman is closely related to my best man’s Argentinian wife.

 

 

 

 

Let people talk about what they want (Michael Apted)

Michael_Apted young director

Michael Apted back in the day

Yesterday evening I went to see documentary & movie/drama director Michael Apted speaking at MIA (Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo) in Rome – where I have been speaking on short-form video. He was in conversation on stage with an Italian journalist, Marco Spagnoli. A big focus of the interview was the Up series, the longitudinal documentary series from Granada which started with 7 Up in 1964 and gets to 63 Up in May next year on ITV. He has been filming with the same cohort (and largely the same crew) for 54 years – shooting with them once every 7 years. It is unique in the history of documentary film, enabled by starting in the right place (Granada in the era of World In Action) at the right time (a golden age for British factual TV). It couldn’t happen now. It was actually a World In Action colleague who had the idea to revisit what was originally a single doc 7 years later and then the snowball got rolling…

michael apted up series documentary 7 up

The Up series

Michael Apted director

Michael Apted now

The most important thing he has learned over the years is to go into the interviews, not with a list of questions, but ready to talk about what the contributors want to talk about. He does jot down his key questions but he leaves them back at home and just as a rough mental checklist against the free-flowing conversations.

Stardust 1974 Still david essex

Stardust (1974)

I asked a question about Stardust, as I remember it making a big impact on me as a teenager, a really freaky strange world (and I always liked David Essex as both an actor and singer).

And after the session I got to have a chat with him. He had talked about how he once, as a young director, saw Pasolini in a hotel lobby in Rome and froze, didn’t exchange a word. So I wasn’t going to do a Pasolini – we spoke a little about Charles Furneaux who was a 7-year-old contributor in 7 Up and a fellow Commissioning Editor with me at Channel 4 when I started (he must have been 46 at the time). He talked about his generation at Cambridge, which included Stephen Frears and the Pythons, and how motivating it was to feel part of that movement.

thunderheart movie 1992

Thunderheart (1992)

Whether he’ll make it to shoot 70 Up is probably a bit touch & go but for all his extensive filmography from Bond to Thunderheart (which was shot by my ex-boss Roger Deakins) without a shadow of a doubt his legacy will be Up. In 2005 the Up series topped the list of the 50 Greatest Documentaries in a Channel 4 programme.

I walked to the Apted session along the Via Veneto from the Villa Borghese gardens. I was sitting on a marble bench there dealing on the phone with a casting problem on a documentary I am currently working on on prejudice against facial and neck tattoos. It is a follow-up to In Your Face which did very well on Real Stories channel earlier this year (over 50 Million views). While I was on the call, which was addressing the fact that one of our contributors had gone AWOL, a heavily tattooed couple sat down beside me. I took a surreptitious picture of them and sent it to the producer on the other end of the line saying as a joke “Shall I book these two?”

Jessica Rebell tattooist Melbourne

Jessica Rebell of Melbourne

After the call, as the couple got up to go, I decided not to do a Pasolini and asked the woman if she got any gip over her neck tattoo, a high collar of leaves. She said in Rome yes, noticeably, whereas it was all par for the course in Melbourne where she lives. Rudeness, aggression and dismissiveness have all been visited on her in the Eternal City. London and Paris nothing worse than a bit of staring. Both Jess and Stephane are tattoo artists working at the same Melbourne tattoo. We had a long chat during which I flagged up a few of my 50+ tattoo docs for their viewing pleasure.

It was one of those chance encounters which makes la vita dolce.

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960)

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960) – Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee (Dir: Federico Fellini) [Photo courtesy of The Kobal Collection]

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Some of my tattoo films/series (over 40 films just here):

 

Anita Ekberg created a moment of magic

a moment of magic

a moment of magic

another magic moment in the same place

another magic moment in the same place

Sad to hear about the death of actress Anita Ekberg today, all the more so as she died in poverty after having lived the dolce vita during her movie-making days. This is what she did for me…

I’m flying home with my family on a cheap flight which means picking up a connecting flight in Rome. I balls up the time because of a combination of variable time difference between place of departure, place of transit and place of arrival together with shift to British Summer Time while we were abroad. So we miss our flight back to London and it’s the last flight. We end up going into the city for the night as I’ve never been there. My Mrs is frazzled, Enfant Terrible No. 1 is feeling under the weather, so they hit the sack. Meanwhile Enfant Terrible No. 2 and I decide to see what the Eternal City’s got to offer. It’s already past midnight when we head off along the Via Veneto (Fellini’s hang-out). I think of the first famous site of Rome that comes to mind: the Trevi fountain. I don’t even know really what it looks like. I know the name mainly from Holly Johnson’s Love Train. We make our way through the warm night city navigating as best as I can manage with a crappy hotel map, passing various minor fountains along the route. Eventually we come round a corner to see the fountain that matters. There are loads of people hanging out there, all very chilled, bit of a hippy vibe. The air is pleasantly warm. We drink in the atmosphere and absorb the magic of the place at that time. A man offers to take a photo of us both on my camera (above). It’s all an extended moment of magic. I’ve never seen La Dolce Vita at this point.

We get back to London and I rent a DVD of Fellini’s masterpiece. I find the movie captivating but that scene truly magical. The design of the audio really strikes me, the not using the sync sound of the fountain. Seemingly this is because Fellini was shouting directions while they were actually shooting. Whatever the reason, it helped create one of cinema’s greatest moments and Anita Ekberg was central to it. That enchantment she created somehow elevated what was already a beautiful experience in my life.

That’s what Anita Ekberg did for me and I’m grateful. It’s a shared experience I’ll never forget – and nor will my beloved son.

You’re a work of art, you’re the Trevi fountain
You’re a golden heart, you’re the highest mountain
You bring me flowers every day of my life
You save me from the worry and the strife
Take me in your arms

Baby, baby, I’m on a winning streak
When I met you I reached my peak
Your perfect view makes me feel brand new, yeah
Well, you’re just right to keep me up all night, up all night

Working all the time to make you mine, all mine, yeah
Riding the love train, stroke it up, riding the love train
Lovin’ all the time to keep you feeling fine, yeah
Riding the love train, stroke it up, riding the love train

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