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.
• Face to face with Leonardo da Vinci: this regular Saturday column isn’t just about film and television – very smart things can be done with slideshows and linked audio, as is demonstrated by this offering from the Guardian‘s interactive team plus critic Jonathan Jones (who has also made this Guardian video); it’s the first in a regular weekly series (running until February!) looking closely at Leonardo’s drawings – and linked of course to the National Gallery’s big new show.
• The Middle Ages in colour: the Leonardo show wasn’t the only major exhibition in London that opened this week – in this delightful BBC slideshow British Library curator Scot MacKendrick introduces Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illuminations (at the library until 13 March).
• Fanny and Alexander prologue: David Hudson for Mubi.com introduces the opening of Ingmar Bergman’s great, great film from 1982, newly released in the States by Criterion on Blu-ray and DVD; Hudson quotes Chris Cabin in Slant describing this luminous autobiography as ‘one of the towering visions of cinema’.
• Lost landscapes of Detroit 2: the most recent of the glorious compilations (in this case 80 minutes long) that archivist Rick Prelinger (@footage) assembles of film shots of American cities; as he says, the subjects are life, love and labor in Michigan between, roughly, the 1910s and the 1970s.
• Nineteen Eighty-Four: Brain Pickings this week – amongst many other terrific links – pointed out (since it would have been George Orwell’s 108th birthday) that the full recording of the 1954 BBC adaptation starring Peter Cushing is available on YouTube – it’s one of the earliest BBC studio dramas to survive, and was produced by Rudolph Cartier, a master of the form, but it unquestionably stands up as a compelling watch today.
• Photographer Daniel Meadows’ best shot: a short video from the Guardian series with the snapper recalling with great charm a summer photographing Butlins at Filey in 1972; linked to a show of Daniel Meadows’ early photographs at the National Media Museum (until 19 February).
• TF1 interview with Robert Bresson: truly fascinating television interview from 1983, which was apparently directed by the great filmmaker himself – the subject is Bresson’s then-new film L’Argent, but it’s also about cinema and truth and life and more (thanks to @errolmorris)
• The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizou, 2004: Wes Anderson’s weird and wonderful comedy-drama with Bill Murray that’s as much about what the camera can do as it is anything else; available on BBC iPlayer (no downloads) until 17 November.
Also, while we’re here, can we just return to the absurdity of BBC iPlayer not including director credits (or indeed anything beyond the actors’ names) in the ‘More programme information’ section? Why wouldn’t you – especially (but not only) when the writer and director here are so crucial to the identity and interest of the film? Why?
• The future of cinema: video record of an ideas-packed recent panel discussion at the Vancouver International Film Festival with David Bordwell, Andréa Picard, Tom Charity, Alan Franey and our esteemed colleague Simon Field from Illuminations Films (whose complementary website is coming here very soon) – thanks to @filmstudiesff for the link.