Expendable and essential

24th May 2016

The best book that I read on holiday recently was a novel first published in 1963. My overwhelming feeling on finishing The Expendable Man was that both it and its author, Dorothy B. Hughes, deserve to be far better-known than, at least in Britain, they are. In a way, The Expendable Man is a noir novel, and certainly there’s a murder and a mystery and a manhunt. But the book is also a remarkable study of social attitudes in America, an exploration of race and of sex and of class in the early ’60s. This was the moment when John F Kennedy’s progressive administration had begun to make an impact but when ingrained prejudices were still powerful – as they remain today in many parts of the United States. Which is part of why The Expendable Man feels so contemporary. read more »

On democracy and fascism

23rd May 2016

Something is happening here, with Donald Trump, and no-one really knows what it is. These are four important and truly, truly scary Stateside articles that begin to make sense of it:

Democracies end when they are too democratic: Andrew Sullivan on 1 May for New York magazine:

The vital and valid lesson of the Trump phenomenon is that if the elites cannot govern by compromise, someone outside will eventually try to govern by popular passion and brute force… It seems shocking to argue that we need elites in this democratic age — especially with vast inequalities of wealth and elite failures all around us. But we need them precisely to protect this precious democracy from its own destabilizing excesses.

read more »

Sunday links

22nd May 2016

I fell well short this past week of my intention to post more often than every Sunday, but I shall do better next. Meanwhile, here is today’s list of links to interesting and surprising stuff from the past week.

• R.I.P. Alexandre Astruc, “the uncle of the French New Wave”: an elegant tribute by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at The A.V. Club to the French critic who has died at the age of 92; an especially important essay is ‘The birth of a new avant-garde – la caméra stylo, first published in March 1948.

The surrealist roots of video essays: Adrian Martin at Fandor on the links between Ado Kyrou’s writings from the 1950s and video essays; among his examples is Conor Bateman’s Terrence Malick’s City Symphony:

Terrence Malick’s City Symphony from Fandor Keyframe on Vimeo. read more »

The week ahead: Rattle, research and radio

16th May 2016

After a really splendid week walking in Italy (thanks to Inntravel and their itinerary A Stroll Through History), it’s back to a busy week, starting with Simon Rattle on Sky Arts tonight.


Tonight at 9pm sees the premiere of our new Sky Arts programme, Simon Rattle conducts The Seasons. Just exactly a month ago at London’s Barbican Centre we recorded the great conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus performing Haydn’s 1801 oratorio The Seasons. The soloists are soprano Monika Eder, baritone Florian Boesch and tenorAndrew Staples, who was a late replacement for the indisposed John Mark Ainsley. The resulting 140-minute programme, which is a co-production with the LSO, features the full work, together with introductory comments by Simon Rattle between each of the four sections. Rhodri Huw directs the screen version with his invariable flair and precision, and Lucie Conrad is our producer. read more »

Sunday links

15th May 2016

Back from a week’s walking in Italy, I am happy to propose today’s links to stuff that I have found interesting and useful over the past week; I’ll contribute some additional ones later today.

Remembering John Krish, 1923-2016: touching tributes from three BFI staffers to a singular filmmaker (above in a 2003 photograph by Peter Everard Smith) who has died, plus some great clips.

The psychological western: Graham Fuller at Sight & Sound on the post-war Hollywood western…

• A speck in the cosmos – the inner frontiers of Raoul Walsh’s Pursued: … and a new BFI video essay by Tag Gallagher (which frustratingly can’t be embedded). read more »

Sunday links

8th May 2016

A somewhat truncated list from my post-Shakespeare Live! holiday… normal service to be resumed next week.

Lonely rangers – the dark side of westerns: Michael Newton for the Guardian on an excellent BFI Southbank season, Ride Lonesome: the Psychological Western.

• Anna Karina recalls her life in film with Jean-Luc Godard: an interview with Glenn Kenny for The New York Times; and because you can never see this clip too many times, here is Anna Karina in Une Femme est Une Femme, 1961:

read more »

Life (of the theatrical sort) before Shakespeare

6th May 2016

Just over a couple of years ago Illuminations worked with the Shakespearean London Theatres research project (ShaLT) to produce a clutch of performance videos and interviews about early modern theatre. One of these, which is embedded below, is concerned the playwright John Lyly, who wrote a clutch of brilliant comedies in the 1580s and early 1590s just before the first stagings of Shakespeare’s plays. Dr Andy Kesson, author of John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship, is one of those interviewed in the film, and he is now leading his own research project, Before Shakespeare, about the beginnings of London’s commercial theatre between 1565 and 1595. And with timing that could be considered foolhardy or a bold statement of intent, given how it has been all-but impossible recently to ignore Will, Before Shakespeare has just launched its website and blog. read more »

Tomorrow… television

5th May 2016

Picking up the theme from Monday’s post, here’s another wonderful glimpse of early television, albeit this time in the United States. The embedded film below comes courtesy of the great and glorious Prelinger Archives which offers online some 6,000 educational and corporate films, and home movies. These are entirely free to access and to re-use, and collectively are a wonderful resource. Some sense of what is on offer and the background to the collection is in this post by Colin Marshall at Open Culture. For today, here’s the 12-minute Tomorrow Television (or it might be Television Tomorrow), made for American servicemen and women in, probably, early 1945. read more »

The quiet cinematography of Ozu

4th May 2016

Andrew Saladino’s video essay about the cinematography in Yasujiro Ozu’s Floating Weeds, 1959, isn’t the most innovative or the most profound or the most theoretically rigorous analysis of this kind. But it is beautifully assembled, is genuinely informative with an engaging tone, and it highlights both verbally and visually elements of great and glorious beauty. Open your eyes… (and for more about Ozu, pictured above, and the film, see the links below).

Quiet Cinematography- Floating Weeds (1959) from The Royal Ocean Film Society on Vimeo. read more »

I ❤ Artforum

3rd May 2016

So which magazines do you access online and which do you (still) read as print? TLS and London Review of Books still drop through my letterbox every week and fortnight respectively, and I find something pleasingly material about both. I can carry them around easily, I can clip from them easily and I can share articles as pieces of paper. So I’m not looking to change my subscription to either anytime soon. The New Yorker I get in its digital edition, in large part because the print one used to arrive days or even weeks after it was published across the Atlantic. Ditto New York Review of Books, and with this on my iPad I especially like the way I can toggle between a page view that replicates the print version and a text view that is easy to read. read more »