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 »
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 »
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 Nickleby, Alberto 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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »