The King and President Nixon

22nd June 2016

Linda Zuck writes: Friday sees the release in the UK of Elvis and Nixon. Starring Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey, practiced presidential impersonator, as Nixon, the film is the truly bizarre story of the day in December 1970 when the leader of the western world met the king of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis had turned up unannounced at the White House to meet President Richard Nixon and the encounter was documented by the official White House photographer. If the movie doesn’t entirely do the story justice (here the review at Roger Ebert’s site) I’d like to think the documentary about the encounter Illuminations made (and that I produced) over twenty years ago certainly did. read more »

Sunday links

19th June 2016

Links spotted or recommended to me (for which thanks, and apologies for the lack of name-checks) over the past week.

Lost colours: The estimable Luke McKernan has added to his flickr site a wealth of images from filmmaker Charles Urban’s 1912 Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects, and has written this erudite background post as context. The images are rich, resonant and remarkable, like the one above (edited to a 16:9 frame) advertising Shakespeare Land, produced in 1910 by the Natural Color Kinematograph Company. The scene in Stratford-upon-Avon looks much the same today. read more »

Making The Wars of the Roses

18th June 2016

With just over a week until our release of the 1965 BBC-Royal Shakespeare Company production The Wars of the Roses as a 3-disc DVD box set, we are delighted to present here The Making of The Wars of the Roses. This is the 20-minute ‘extra’ film to be included in the set. David Warner (who takes the role of the king in Henry VI) and Janet Suzman (Joan la Pucelle and Lady Anne) recall the theatre and screen productions of this ground-breaking adaptation, and speak about working with the stage directors Peter Hall and John Barton.

The Wars of the Roses can be pre-ordered here.

TV tower: Kaknastornet

17th June 2016

To Stockholm for meetings with colleagues on the 2-IMMERSE research project, and to dinner on the 28th floor of the television tower known as Kaknastornet. This truly splendid example of 1960s brutalism is 155 metres tall and remains a major hub for satellite services. They say the views from the restaurant are spectacular, but last night pretty much all we could see was the dense mist that was shrouding the building. The building itself, however, is more than enough of a treat.

1024px-Kaknas_towerA shot of Kaknastornet by Jonas Bergsten, released into the public domain via Wikimedia.
read more »

‘Great Shakespeare Speeches’

16th June 2016

On Monday I wrote about the recording of the Rambert dance work Tomorrow that is featured on the Shakespeare Lives 2016 website. I am following that up today with a pointer to a quite different page that I curated for the website. Great Shakespeare Speeches features extracts from a range of Royal Shakespeare Company productions adapted for television. What follows is a version of my text together with embeds of three of the clips (which my colleague Todd MacDonald edited). Do visit the page itself for all twelve of the speeches. read more »

Building sights 1.

14th June 2016

Over the past week I have contributed in a small way to two events involving screenings of television documentaries about architecture. On Thursday I introduced at BFI Southbank two films written and presented by Kenneth Clark, Great Temples of the World: Chartres Cathedral (1965) and The Royal Palaces of Britain (1966). And on Saturday the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image presented Broadcasting the Arts: Architecture on TV, which included further screenings and a talk by me about Clark and architecture. The BFI Southbank event is part of an Architecture on TV season at the BFI, and both are contributions to the extensive and month-long London Festival of Architecture. There is plenty more to explore at BFI Southbank and across London (as below), but today and in a couple of other posts I mostly want to highlight how with online resources you can organise your own little architecture-on-television festival. Starting today with the films of Ian Nairn. read more »

We need to talk about ‘capture’

13th June 2016

I want to begin outlining some thoughts and some questions about the idea of ‘performance capture’. And I want to do so partly in response to a ‘capture’ of Rambert’s dance work, Tomorrow, which is choreographed by Lucy Guerin as a response to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (There is a very good Judith Mackrell feature for the Guardian here about Rambert 90 years on from its founding.)

The Tomorrow capture is on BBC iPlayer for another four months and was made possible by Shakespeare Lives 2016, a six-month online festival from the BBC and the British Council in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe, the British Film Institute, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hay Festivals and the Royal Opera HouseShakespeare Lives 2016 is publishing a wealth of fascinating stuff, more of which I hope to highlight and discuss in the coming weeks. Just as I intend to develop in more detail my argument below. But for the moment my interest is Tomorrow and the questions it brings into focus. read more »

Sunday links

12th June 2016

It’s been a week of Hamlet, the live cinema broadcast of which I produced for the RSC on Wednesday, and also of talking about Kenneth Clark’s television at a BFI Southbank screening on Thursday and a Broadcasting the Arts: Architecture on TV seminar at Birkbeck yesterday. Which, along with other work, the cricket and the football, has not left much time for the blog. As always, I aim to do better next week, but in the meantime here are links to articles and videos that I have found interesting over the past week.

Trump – the haunting question: Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books:

It’s by now clear that the presidential election of 2016 is something larger than and apart from just another quadrennial contest for the highest office; it’s a national crisis.

of the North / Tabu: in an interesting essay for Reverse Shot, Max Carpenter reflects on film, anthropology, documentary and truth as he responds to Dominic Gagnon’s found-footage documentary and Miguel Gomes’ remake of Murnau’s feature.

• Le amiche – Friends—Italian style: a new essay by Tony Pipolo for The Criterion Collection about Antonioni’s underrated 1955 feature film, available in this country in the Masters of Cinema DVD series.

• Acting under a spell – Jean Pierre Leaud in Rivette’s OUT 1: a strange and rather wonderful video essay for Fandor by Daniel Fairfax and Kevin B. Lee:

Acting Under a Spell: Jean Pierre Leaud in Rivette’s OUT 1 from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo.

Out of it: … and for more on Rivette’s 1971 epic film, see Luke McKernan’s blog post here. read more »

Monday links

6th June 2016

Véra et Arlette, Cannes, May 1927 by Jacques Henri Lartigue

Links to interesting stuff that I have discovered over the past week. A day late, I fear, in part accounted for by the preparations for the RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast of Hamlet on Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton vs herself: an excellent profile by Rebecca Traister for New York magazine.

A visit to the nitrate picture show: Hillary Weston for The Criterion Collection reports from a ‘glorious weekend’ at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York.

• Ingmar Bergman’s 1950s soap commercials wash away the existential despair: far from a new post at the excellent online resource Open Culture, but I had not previously come across the film ads that Bergman made in 1951 for a new anti-bacterial soap called Bris (“Breeze,” in English).

• Rohmer at the water: a lovely video essay by Tope Ogundare for Fandor, with more here: ‘Why water? Rohmer at the beach‘:

Rohmer at the Water from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo. read more »

34 years on…

1st June 2016

So I logged on to Facebook today and this is what I found…

34th anniversary! How can that be? What I think must be the case is that we incorporated Illuminations Television Ltd 34 years ago. My then-colleague Geoff Dunlop and I bought for a few pounds a company off the shelf – which as I recall was a bankrupt double glazing provider – and changed the name and the articles of association. And suddenly we owned an independent production company. We didn’t have an office, we didn’t have any commissions, and we didn’t have much sense of what being independent producers entailed. But then nobody did back then. This was before Channel 4 had gone on air, and like lots of others we recognised an opportunity and took a punt. 34 years ago today! read more »