David Hockney: a life on film

16th January 2012

Although I have no easy way of checking, there must be hundreds of films – and quite likely thousands – that feature David Hockney. By the end of the week, with the opening of David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts, there will most likely be a fair few more (the RA’s website has one, above). Far far more than other major artist of the past century, Hockney’s life, work and ideas have been exhaustively chronicled both by television and by numerous independent filmmakers. Coming of age with the box in the corner in the early 1960s, Hockney is a master of the medium – and his persona, his willingness to perform and his relative accessibility mean that scattered across the globe is a glorious archive of audio-visual fragments. I have chosen ten to highlight below, but I want first to make the serious point about how difficult – indeed, let’s say impossible – it is to track down and view this material. Each and every appearance of the artist in print is collated in scholarly bibliographies. But if you want to find out from any central source whether there’s footage, say, of Hockney talking about Domenichino (which there is), or of Hockney buck naked taking a shower (ditto), well… good luck! read more »

Weekend links

15th January 2012

Yes, my friends, this is another Dickens-themed post (following on from the recent What larks and The film of the films of the books). Or at least the start of it is, because across the jump there’s the usual collection of recent links to interesting and relatively random stuff. But in this first paragraph I want to draw your attention to Charles Dickens, filmmaker, which is a wonderful filmography compiled by The Bioscope of silent film adaptations of Dickens. This includes all sorts of intriguing films, a good number of which are available on DVD, most notably on the invaluable Dickens Before Sound DVD from the BFI. But the image above comes courtesy of the Danish Film Institute from the 1922 David Copperfield directed in Denmark by the Dickens specialist A. W. Sandberg, and there are further stills and clips if you follow the link. read more »

The film of the films of the books

10th January 2012

Headline: while The Mystery of Edwin Drood, part one of which we saw on BBC Two tonight, has much to recommend it, the television treat of the evening – and indeed most certainly of the year to date – was Arena: Dickens on Film. I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but let me record my immediate enthusiasm for a film that is imaginative, intelligent, distinctive and delightful as well as being, before all else, a film. Kudos to Arena and Film London for co-producing such a treasure, to the estimable Mick Eaton and Adrian Wootton for conceiving and achieving it, to some tremendous film research (and the confidence to allow the film extracts to have their own place and presence), and to D. W. Griffith, Alastair Sim, David Lean, W. C. Fields, Johnny Vegas, Sergei Eisenstein, John Mills, Hablot Knight Browne, Arena editor Anthony Wall (who also directs) – together with a few more – as well as the genius who was Charles Dickens. read more »

Weekend links

8th January 2012

Keen to start off the new year with a vision of the future of television? You could do a lot worse than read John Seabrook’s Streaming dreams for The New Yorker. Seabrook casts a somewhat sceptical eye over the plans for YouTube Original Channels and along the way raises a host of interesting questions about what how our media experiences may change over the coming months and years. I was particularly taken by his sense of the disconnect in the planning between ‘information people’ and ‘entertainment people’. This is encapsulated by the riposte of one executive to a question about definitions: “‘What do you mean, “What do I mean by ‘a show’?” ‘ ” (The New Yorker, of course, is immaculate about the placing of quotation marks, and I hope I’ve carried that concern across here.) Below, more links to more interesting stuff, with quite a bit of essential ‘digital’ reading this week. read more »

What larks

7th January 2012

To BFI Southbank on Friday evening for two screenings in the wonderful Dickens on Screen season. First up was The Life and Adventures of Nicholas NicklebyAlberto Cavalcanti’s adaptation for Ealing released in 1947. After the briefest of breaks (no time even for a beer) I plunged into Great Expectations, directed in 1946 by David Lean. It’s a critical cliché that Great Expectations is considerably superior to Nickleby (as films) – and viewing them side by side did nothing to challenge the notion. But it was really revealing to see the former in the light of the RSC/Channel 4 version and the latter so soon after the exceptionally strong BBC series. The following handful of notes also includes a truly bizarre story about one of the scriptwriters of Great Expectations as well as a paragraph about an intriguing curiosity from 1949 that was also screened. This followed on from John Mills’ Pip thrillingly ripping down the curtains and letting in the sun to stop Estella (Valerie Hobson) becoming Miss Havisham – which of course is not at all what happens in the book. read more »

Happy 20th birthday, NVAP

5th January 2012

The National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) is a great and glorious resource – and shamefully little-known. Thanks to a generous agreement with theatre unions (which permits taping without the payment of fees to artistes and others), the NVAP creates high-quality archival recordings of theatre shows. These can be accessed by researchers (and back in 2009 Annette Brausch contributed a wonderful guest post here about this process), but for the most part – because of the terms of the agreement – they are not publicly screened or otherwise distributed. To mark twenty years of the NVAP, however, the V&A, which is where the archive is based, is mounting a series of showings on Sunday afternoons – including on 12 February Gregory Doran’s recent Cardenio in Stratford (above). All the details are across the jump. (I know we don’t usually do announcements of forthcoming screenings here, but these are rather special.) read more »

O brave new world

4th January 2012

As the out-of-office alerts are turned off and and the Christmas chocolate biscuits run out, there is inevitably something about this week that prompts reflections on the future. Not The Future in very general terms, but just how things might pan out over the coming couple of years for a small independent production company committed to innovative forms for the arts and media. That’ll be us. And what strikes me, more perhaps than ever before, is just how hard it is to prepare and to plan for whatever may be coming down the digital pipe. At the same time, and for all the reasons that promote the uncertainty, I know there has never been a more interesting and exciting time to be involved in cultural media production. read more »

The TV year ahead… 1962

2nd January 2012

Twice before I’ve looked back to what lay ahead for viewers fifty years ago. The Illuminations blog archive (which holds pretty much everything we’ve ever published) has my post about the television year that was 1960 as well as the one for 1961. Today I’m going to ask you to imagine it is 2 January 1962. What television treats lie in store over the coming months? Well, among other things, the start of Z Cars and Steptoe and Son, debuts for Fireball XL5 and The Saint, and a World Cup football tournament in Chile. The big television story of the year, however, will be off-screen rather than on.  read more »

New Year links

1st January 2012

Below you’ll find all sorts of good things that I’ve been reading and watching (or at least meaning to) over the past fortnight or so… In contrast to previous weekend collections, I’ve mixed up articles and videos – a practice that I think I’ll continue on coming weekends – but I have tried to assemble everything into some kind of narrative. That said, do feel free simply to dive in anywhere.

PS. After my slightly self-pitying post yesterday, my aim is to return to a daily post – with another The Year in TV contribution tomorrow, this time about 1962, and then on Tuesday a kind of back-to-work piece about Illuminations’ plans for the coming months. (If I announce these posts here, that will act as a kind of prompt for me to complete them.) read more »