At the end of every year each of us at Illuminations and at our sister company Illuminations Films contributes a top ten of cultural highlights of the year. We run these through this holiday period, with the third contribution today from Illuminations Films’ Keith Griffiths. Thank you, Keith – happy new year to you!
Keith: Being a country recluse with little London or overseas travel this year, my cultural input was rather limited in comparison to the non-stop lives of some. But then when I read the about the vast number of exhibitions, concerts and performances friends have visited this year, I get a fierce attack of indigestion. So much ‘stuff’. Do we really need all this to improve our minds and lives? I think I am fast turning into an Edmund Burkean reactionary.
1. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s
In this spirit – my most pleasurable documentary was Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, a riveting story of one of NYC’s mythic landmarks. Fabulous stories from Bergdorf Goodman’s iconic history directed by Matthew Miele. The legend, the parties, the fashion idols, the windows, the women, the buyers and shoppers all come to life in an essay to a site where creativity and commerce reigned equally.
2. The Great Beauty
I had started to despair of the disappearance of what I call ‘cinematic’ when up pops The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza). Director Paolo Sorrentino has made one of the most spectacular films I have experienced in a very long time. It is often written, but I think Fellini breathed life into this story of lavish nightlife in Rome.
Cheating a bit I can’t pass film by without tipping my hat to Gravity 3D, to Nebraska for a b&w road movie with Bruce Stern stealing the show, Blue Jasmine giving me faith in Woody Allen again and Blancanieves, a Spanish black-and-white silent fantasy written and directed by Pablo Berger. Based on the fairy tale Snow White by The Brothers Grimm, the story is set in a romantic vision of 1920s Andalusia. With 2014 bound to be dominated by Walerian Borowczyk restorations, I can’t really complain.
4. George Bellows
The small George Bellows show at the Royal Academy knocked me to the canvas in one round, and what a punch and revelation. He rightly claims to inherit the Boxing Belt as American realist painter of his generation.
5. Jacques Henri Lartigue
Another really exciting small show was at The Photographers’ Gallery, of Jacques Henri Lartigue’s photographs documenting his relationship with his first wife and the mother of his only child, Bibi (still on until 5 January). Having followed his work since being a student at the RCA and bearing in mind he only started taking photos at 69, maybe I can get over my fear of pressing a camera shutter and find a new creative life yet.
Jacques Henri Lartigue, Bibi, Freddy et Margot, Aix-les-Bains, 1928 © Ministère de Culture-France/AAJHL
6. Paul Poiret
I also loved an exhibition in Grasse, in Provence, which honoured the renowned French renowned French fashion designer Paul Poiret and the first to have created his own perfume house. It’s 1911 and Les Parfums de Rosine made him quite simply a pioneer: a century later, the perfume industry and the importance of the creators of fragrances is a critical issue in the world of luxury worldwide. The show was beautifully laid out with a collection of art deco photographs and objects to die for.
7. Henri Matisse
Also in Provence, 2013 was declared A Summer for Matisse and eight municipal museums across the city held simultaneous exhibitions dedicated to him, showing some 700 works by the modern master. Matisse first visited the Côte d’Azur in 1905 and later returned in 1917, staying almost 40 years until his death in 1954. Matisse fell in love with the Riviera and created several of his modernist masterpieces during his time here. One of the centrepieces of the whole programme was a monumental fresco measuring 2.3 metres by 8.5 metres – a ceramic work offered by his grandson and exhibited for the first time ever in the Cimiez Archaeology Museum.
8. Welsh Rugby Team
I think the Welsh Rugby Team made a few thrills and spills this year if I remember correctly – and I know I am interested in the fantastic, but I think Wales not only won the Six Nations title but thrashed a small territory called England 30-3. Can’t wait to see if England have the talent for revenge.
9. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives
Television seemed to be dominated by dreary crime stories set in parts of England that one doesn’t want to visit and featuring people one would rather not have a cuppa with. So, thank you Freeview for Channel 41 – The Food Network UK for more of Nigella, for Delia, the very special Barefoot Contessa and – outstanding food commentator of the year award – for Guy Fieri and his TV series Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Join Guy Fieri for the ultimate food road trip, as he eats his way across America, visiting classic food pit-stops, from a roadside shack in Texas to a Las Vegas sports bar. Top marks.
10. Second Run DVD
Illuminations still struggles to publish a really engaging series of largely art based DVDs. I know how hard this work is, so I just wanted to also acknowledge the brilliant work of Second Run DVD. Second Run films encompass many genres and languages but what distinguishes them is their quality and their ethos. They are niche-market films which one would hope that anyone who seriously cares about cinema would want in their collection – and which, crucially, have never before been available anywhere in the world on DVD. Now they are, additionally being presented with newly-translated English subtitles. I tip my hat to Mehelli Modi. If anybody deserves a bfi Fellowship or a BAFTA it is Mehelli for his outstanding commitment and work.
Header image: George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909 (detail), oil on canvas, 92 x 122.6 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection. © The Cleveland Museum of Art. Royal Academy exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.