#DavidBowieis was…

13th August 2013

… a bit, well, ordinary. At least that’s how David Bowie is happening now came across in my £14.20 seat at the Cineworld Wandsworth. Tonight’s 7pm screening was billed as ‘a live nationwide cinema event’ and the ‘finale’ to the V&A exhibition that closed on Sunday. As a ‘live’ cinema event (I’m going to keep using the inverted commas), this followed in the footsteps of Pompeii Live from the British Museum (about which I posted here) in aspiring to present an exhibition on a cinema screen in real time.

As I commented then, Pompeii Live didn’t feel very, you know, live, and neither, if truth be told, did DBihn. This was despite the slightly desperate measure of cutting from the numerous prepared packages back to our uncertain presenters – exhibition curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh – leaping up onto a little stage to floor-manager-cued applause. Otherwise, I saw some compelling archive footage, admired some nice video graphics and got told again and again and again what an amazing, transformational, astoundingly original, epoch-defining genius DB is. Yet I didn’t even really feel that I actually saw the exhibition. read more »

Electronovision: ‘the theatre of the future’

13th August 2013

Oh to be in Edinburgh now that Hamlet‘s there. The Wooster Group‘s radical adaptation of the play has its last performance tonight as part of the official festival – it’s sold out, of course, but there is a hope that the production may come to London next year. As the company’s web site explains, this is ‘Shakespeare’s classic tragedy… re-imagined by mixing and repurposing Richard Burton’s 1964 Broadway production, directed by John Gielgud’, and a taste of its pleasures can be gleaned from this ‘flight plan’ video:

HAMLET in NY – flight plan [10.24.12] from The Wooster Group on Vimeo.

Lyn Gardner for the Guardian was won over when the show was in Dublin last year and for the same paper Andrew Dickson more or less concurs. Dominic Cavendish in the Telegraph is, by contrast, underwhelmed: ‘altogether too much straight-faced mucking around’. But what this clearly glorious theatrical event does offer me is the chance to replay the astonishing video interview and trailer with Richard Burton (extracts of which appear above). He gave the interview and recorded the trailer when his Hamlet – on which The Wooster Group base their production – was filmed on the Broadway stage back in 1964 for release to cinemas. How prescient of NTLive and RSC Live from Stratford Upon Avon is that! As Burton rightly says, ‘This is the theatre of the future, taking shape before your eyes today.’

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the launch of ‘Theatrofilm with Electronovision’.

read more »

‘Sound trumpets, and set forward’

12th August 2013

Time, I think, to start posting – initially on a weekly basis – about the preparations for Richard II Live from Stratford Upon Avon. This is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s live-to-cinemas broadcast of the company’s new staging with David Tennant as the king. Directed by the company’s artistic director Greg Doran, this opens in Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 10 October before transferring to London’s Barbican Theatre for a run between 9 December and 25 January (for which there are some tickets still available).

The live showing in more than 250 UK cinemas is on Wednesday 13 November and this will be followed by a range of encore screenings as well as by presentations in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Russia and elsewhere. We are also very excited that the broadcast will be shown for free in more than 1,000 schools in the UK in the week following the cinema showing. Details of the cinemas where screenings are already on sale are on the RSC’s Live from Stratford Upon Avon web site. The broadcast is not an Illuminations production, but I am producing it for the RSC – and I hope you will not object if I chronicle its development here each Monday from now on. read more »

Links for the weekend

11th August 2013

Continuing this weekend’s British cinema theme (see Ealing before Ealing here), my first recommendation has to be for Xan Brooks’ delightful Guardian essay and video A pilgrim’s progress: on the trail of A Canterbury Tale. Brooks uses the detective work of local historian Paul Tritton who has identified many of the locations used for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s extraordinary 1944 feature (details here, along with a page of links of various walks around Canterbury). If you want to know more there are further links at The Powell and Pressburger Pages lovingly assembled by Steve Crook. There are more film links across the jump, as well as links of other kinds, with my thanks this week to @KeyframeDaily, @OWC_Oxford and @longform. read more »

Ealing before Ealing

10th August 2013

Neither rhyme nor reason seems behind the choice of the four films in the first volume of the DVD series that Network have called The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection. Which is most excellent – the apparently random selection , that is, as well as the four-film DVD. Each DVD set in the series features a quartet of titles from the StudioCanal archives (yes, Virginia, a French company owns the legacy of this most British of film producers) drawn from the lesser-known and even downright obscure output of Ealing Studios. Thrillingly (at least for those of us fascinated by the by-ways of British cinema), the choices come both from the studio’s glory days (1938-59) under producer Michael Balcon and from the years before this when Basil Dean‘s Associated Talking Pictures was chief among the companies that made movies on the Ealing stages. Five DVD sets have been released, with three further ones announced, and many of the films on offer are rich and remarkable. And the unmotivated gathering on each set positively encourages sampling of titles of which you have probably never heard. read more »

Links for the weekend

4th August 2013

Catching up (far too slowly) after China, there is a mountain of great stuff to read – and to recommend. One of the richest pieces published while I was away is David Bordwell’s post Twice-told tales: Mildred Pierce which includes the video essay below. Bordwell is fascinating on the use of flash-backs in the great 1945 film noir (a detail of the poster is above), and his ideas are also illuminating in relation to recent movies including Side Effects and Now You See Me.

With thanks this week to @filmstudiesff, @zimbalist@LondonSounds, and @filmdrblog, further recommendations include the following… read more »

Back to Beckett

31st July 2013

After China, I am slowly re-entering London life, and I am delighted to highlight the premiere showing at 9.30pm tonight, Wednesday, on Sky Arts 2 HD of our new production Samuel Beckett: Not I. The 45-minute film features a new single-shot recording of Lisa Dwan’s remarkable performance of Beckett’s astonishing monologue. Written in 1972 and famously performed by Billie Whitelaw at the Royal Court Theatre in 1973, Not I in the theatre features simply a pair of lips seemingly floating some eight feet above an otherwise entirely dark stage.

Exceptional reviews (including Lyn Gardner’s 5-star rave for the Guardian) greeted Lisa Dwan’s performance of the work earlier this year at the Court, and it is a privilege to bring this to Sky Arts and a wider audience. The performance itself is preceded by a half-hour of contextual documentary with Lisa and with interview contributions from actor Simon Callow, stage and film director Roger Michell, Beckett biographer Professor James Knowlson and the critic and artist Derval Tubridy. Making the film has been something of an adventure, but it is thrilling to have produced only the third film version of Not I.

Postcard from China, 9

28th July 2013

Stupidly, I seem to hurt the a tendon in my left leg, and this has meant that I have been hobbling around Shanghai for these final two days of our holiday. We have nonetheless been up a very tall building, visited a famous ‘fakes’ market, seen a lot of skyscrapers, marvelled at the Pudong business district across the river from the Bund, and generally lived much closer to European life than anywhere we have been for the past three weeks. We can have a croissant for breakfast and hear as much English spoken in the street as Chinese. It’s all a bit like a cultural airlock preparing us for an easy re-entry into London. read more »

Postcard from China, 8

24th July 2013

If I push the point a bit I can make this post a tale of two movies. Monday night we watched White House Down in a state-of-the-art cinema in Hangzhou, while last night we saw part of a classic black-and-white drama from perhaps the 1950s being projected from a 16mm print on an outside wall in Wenzhu. Of both of which, more follows. Sunday morning we took the a bullet train from Ningbo to Hangzhou. During the hour-plus ride, the sign informing us of our speed hovered tantalisingly around 295 km/hr, then 297, even 298, but it refused to reach the magic figure of 300. And we had left the luxury of a major hotel chain behind in Ningbo, being booked in here to one of the many often-excellent youth hostels across China. read more »

Postcard from China, 7

22nd July 2013

Saturday we spent in Ningbo, another major city in southern China that very few tourists visit. We came here because our son Nicholas has been studying here over the past year for a MA in International Business. He has been enrolled at the University of Nottingham at Ningbo, one of two international outposts for the British university (the other is in Malaysia). Nick has had a great time here and has found the course very rewarding, and we wanted to see him here before he finishes in a week or so (although he still has his dissertation to complete). We had a really interesting time, and taking half a dozen of his friends to dinner and doing a couple of hours of karaoke with them seemed an appropriate way to celebrate the end of his studies. read more »