Ken and me

Ken and me

Like many others, I was sad today to learn of the death of Ken Russell. There are already tributes aplenty online, including Derek Malcolm’s Guardian obituary, a Telegraph obituary, some excellent short interviews with those who worked with him, and an artsdesk Q&A with Jasper Rees about his photography and early films. Film Studies for Free has a great page of links titled ‘Pity we aren’t madder’ (it’s from Women in Love) to academic engagements with the films. My thought here is simply to record the place that Russell had in my life. I’m sure a similar storycould be told by ten or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. But perhaps its particularity gives it an interest. In any case, it’s one very small way of saying ‘Thank you’.
Read more »

Sunday links

Sunday links

Looking for a Christmas present? For the start of Advent, here are links to my five favourite 2011 exhibition catalogues: Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement by Richard Kendall and Jill DeVonyar, from the wonderful Royal Academy of Arts show (above, until 12 December); Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the Twentieth Century by Peter Baki and Colin Ford, also for a wonderful RA show this autumn; de Kooning: a Retrospective by John Elderfield, accompanying the landmark MoMA show (until 9 January); Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980, edited by Rebecca Peabody, Richard Perchuk and Glenn Phillips, which provides the background to all the shows on at present in L. A. and the surrounding area; and Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 edited by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt for the current V&A show (until 15 January). Across the jump, links to articles that I’ve found interesting across the past week.
Read more »

Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

Launched this week, with 200 hours of  freely accessible streamed video, is the immensely welcome new website of the East Anglian Film Archive. The archive’s collection (about which there is more here) features films from 1896 to the present; among the highlights of the available selection are programmes from Anglia Television and the BBC’s output for the East of England. There are countless treasures – to some of which we’ll return in future weeks – but today’s choice is the cherishable Introducing Anglia, the first programme shown by the new regional ITV station on 27 October 1959. Host Drew Russell, with the accent of a mid-Atlantic Scotsman, cues up delights to come, including what he calls ‘a torrid love scene’ from the rehearsals of Anglia’s first television drama The Violent Years starring Laurence Harvey and Hildegard Knef (we see a rather less-than-torrid kiss). There’s much here of interest for the television historian, as well as a good deal of innocent amusement, not least courtesy of children’s television presenters Roger Gage and Susan Hampshire (long before The Forsyte Saga) singing ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’. Below, nine more treats freely available online as alternatives to ITV’s offerings more than fifty years on.
Read more »

‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’

‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’

Needless to say, we are completely thrilled at the announcement that we are to film the RSC’s 2012 production of Julius Caesar for the BBC. The full text of this morning’s press release is here, but here’s the heart of it:

Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s greatest political thrillers and, as directed by the RSC’s Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran, the play finds dark contemporary echoes in modern Africa. The cast will include Adjoa Andoh, Ray Fearon, Paterson Joseph, Jeffery Kissoon and Joseph Mydell.

This will be the third Shakespeare film for television that we will have made with Greg Doran, after Macbeth (2001) and Hamlet (2010), and we could not be more delighted to be collaborating with him once again.
Read more »

Nine Imagine irritations…

Nine Imagine irritations…

… and one delicious delight. I wanted to like last week’s Imagine: Alan Ayckbourn – Greetings from Scarborough. I really did. Contemporary theatre gets few enough full-length documentaries devoted to it, and Sir Alan Ayckbourn (the link is to his excellent website) is one of our greatest writers. But as I watched Jenny Macleod’s film for BBC Scotland (which remains available on BBC iPlayer until 27 December) I could feel myself becoming more and more frustrated – to the extent that I decided that rather than writing a conventional review, I would simply itemise my irritations. Nor would I neglect to celebrate the programme’s moment of wonder – but for that, along with the irritations, see below.
Read more »

Sunday links

Sunday links

Friday in Denver, Colorado saw the opening of the long-awaited Clyfford Still Museum. The reclusive Abstract Expressionist painter, who died in 1980, stipulated in his will that his personal collection (which was far and away the bulk of his work) should be given to the American city prepared to build him a museum. The fascinating tale is told well by Leah Ollman for The Los Angeles Times in Clyfford Still’s will is executed with Denver museum, while in Abstract expressionist made whole Carol Kino files from Denver for The New York Times. The Denver Post has a terrific slide-show from Friday with images (including the one above) by Andy Cross. [Update: Christopher Knight in The Los Angeles Times is also hugely enthusiastic: 'a graceful small museum, reserved for experiencing one great artist's art.' Inside the new Clyfford Still Museum is a brief New York Times slide-show narrated by the artist's daughter Sandra Still Campbell.] Below, the usual Sunday links to other stuff that interested me during the week.
Read more »

Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

It’s been something of a crazy week – and I’m acutely aware that I’ve neglected the blog. We’re finishing off my colleague Linda Zuck’s film for More 4, Vic Reeves’ Turner Prize moments (to be broadcast on 4 December), and preparing for an announcement of a new Shakespeare film for television this coming Thursday. There are iPad apps to which we’re contributing, another big performance film (hopefully) for the end of next year, and much more besides. Not to mention the continuing research work on the Screen Plays: Theatre Plays on British Television project. Apologies – I’ll do better next week. Meanwhile, here’s the weekend’s usual list of free (and largely legal) recommendations of alternative online viewing. First off, don’t forget the first and second episodes of The Killing, Series Two, above, at 9pm on BBCFour tonight and on iPlayer afterwards – nine more below.
Read more »

Make it new

Make it new

Arts Council England and the BBC today launched a hugely exciting initiative called The Space. As they describe it, this is ‘an experimental digital arts media service and commissioning programme that could help to transform the way people connect with, and experience, arts and culture. the arts and media.’ You can read more about it here – and on the same site you can read my ‘Inspiration essay’ (their title) suggesting how important The Space might be. I’ll blog this project’s development over the coming days and weeks, but to kick things off here’s my essay.

The arts on television have long been defined by forms and formats established more than fifty years ago. The documentaries and magazine shows of the 1950s and ‘60s still set the terms for mainstream media presentation of the arts on our screens. In those fifty and more years, the arts have changed, technologies have changed, audiences have changed – all to the most extraordinary degree – while media about the arts, by and large, has not.


Read more »

Sunday links

Sunday links

Among a host of good writers who blog regularly about cinema (David Bordwell and Jonathan Rosenbaum are two obvious names) The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody is one of my favourites. And this week he posted a short piece, Redeeming criticism, that we would all do well to recall whenever we write about any cultural object. Prompted by the responses in the States to Clint Eastwood’s new movie J. Edgar (above) and by a great Los Angeles Review of Books essay by Jonathan Lethem, My disappointment critic (read this too), Brody teases out what criticism should do: ‘Criticism is, at best, contacting the spark, the idea, the inspiration, the creative moment, the inner life from which the work arises, followed by working outward to see how the work became that which it is—in effect, re-living the artist’s creative process.’ Below, more links to pieces that caught my eye this week.
Read more »

Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

Yesterday’s review of The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit attracted a lot of traffic (for which, much thanks). For those interested in British documentaries of the 1930s (and at other times too), the BFI’s recently launched The Reel History of Britain (still in beta) is a treasure trove of films available for free at full-length, including the two documentaries on which John Grierson took a director’s credit: Drifters (1929) and Granton Trawler (1934). But Grierson’s sister Marion was also a significant filmmaker, even if until recently she has been eclipsed by her more far more celebrated relation. The Reel History… features her fascinating Beside the Seaside (1935, above), made not for the GPO but for the Strand Film Company. There are numerous interesting angles to this, including W. H. Auden’s (minimalist) commentary and the camera’s delight in bodies in motion. Across the jump, nine more recommendations for alternative weekend viewing.
Read more »