Links for the weekend

5th May 2013

Yesterday at BFI Southbank I saw a fine (although a touch short of immaculate) 35mm print of John Schlesinger’s 1967 Far from the Madding Crowd. Marred by inconsistency in its central performances, this is nonetheless a magnificent film in many ways, with breathtaking 70mm Panavision and Technicolor cinematography from Nic Roeg. But my pleasure was almost spoiled by the opening BFI corporate animation, which I assume to be new, with the Institute’s logo and the tagline ‘Film Forever’. Aaaaaarrrgggghhhh!

Whose ignorant and insulting idea was it to define our central body dedicated to the moving image in a way that excludes most television and all video and digital creation. Why does the BFI feel that it must take refuge in such a retro attitude? How, for example, when the BFI celebrates itself with such an alliteration, are we going to tackle the questions that Luke McKernan raises in his excellent post What is restoration? Luke makes some fundamental points about the low cultural status and lack of glamour associated with video restoration (such as that undertaken recently by the BFI on the BBC’s 1970s series Nationwide, above). But what the heck, eh, BFI? Who gives a f*** in a world of ‘Film Forever’?

Micro-rant over, below are further rewarding links from the past week or so, with thanks for Twitter recommendations to @Criterion, @AnthologyFilm@filmstudiesff and @emilybell.

Janus Films site for Voyage to Italy: in NFT1 yesterday, they also showed the BFI trailer (embedded below) for the new digital restoration of Rossellini’s great, great 1954 film, which opens in cinemas on Friday (do please try to see it on a big screen) – the link takes you to the site by Janus Films for the restoration’s release in the USA, with some good downloadable material via the ‘Press notes’ link – incidentally, this BFI trailer also features the shameful tagline:

Yasujiro Ozu and the art of the Benshi: a fascinating short video about the live performance of music and narration in Japan right through to the start of the 1930s; this is from BFI, who do many great things, although now I notice that the offensive tagline is also on every page of their website!!!

The roots of neo-realism: OK, one more BFI plug (and no further mentions of the tagline – although did this happen months ago and I missed the national and international outcry that must have accompanied its introduction?) – moving on, this is a terrific Sight & Sound ‘Deep Focus’ online feature to accompany the current BFI Southbank season; thoughtful analysis by Pasquale Iannone of twelve key films, each illustrated with a clip.

Steven Soderbergh’s ‘State of Cinema’ address: the director was Twitter love-bombed this week for his wide-ranging critique of today’s film industry delivered at the San Francisco Film Festival; the link is to Indiewire‘s full transcript, and here’s the video…

State of Cinema: Steven Soderbergh from San Francisco Film Society on Vimeo.

• Steven Soderbergh dissects Hollywood: … and now read Richard Brody at The New Yorkerwho argues that the talk is fascinating ‘as much for what it says (and doesn’t) about the state of cinema as about Soderbergh’s own state of mind and place in the art of cinema and in the movie business.’

Intolerance: this is a GREAT piece by Kent Jones for Film Comment about Westerns, racism, the importance of film history and analysis, and why Quentin Tarantino is ignorant and thoughtless in speaking about the work of John Ford.

Review: Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man: also for Film Comment, Amy Taubin on Jonas Mekas’ most recent film, premiered alongside his 90th birthday.

I built then my ecstasy – on Peter Kubelka’s cinema: Michael Metzger for Idiom on the Austrian avant-garde filmmaker.

Atmos, all around – a guest post by Jeff Smith: at Observations on film art, a rich discussion of contemporary Hollywood’s use of sound.

The lost films of the 1840s: a fascinating article by Adam Hofbauer in the new issue of Bright Lights about the proto-cinema of panorama paintings and the particular ‘river’ form of these that developed in the United States in the 1840s and ’50s.

Archaeology at the BBC: a wonderful collection of early archaeology programmes from the BBC archive, now available for long-term access.

BBC’s troubled £133m digital video archive delays ‘tapeless’ future: a valuable piece of reporting by Tara Conlan for the Guardian about the Corporation’s deeply problematic Digital Media Initiative.

Crass roots: Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker likes the second series of Veep a lot more than the first.

Watch Reese Witherspoon mostly redeem herself on Good Morning America: I guess you’ve been watching this one closely – you know, how the star of Legally Blonde got herself arrested by a traffic cop… on video… using the do-you-know-who-I-am tactic – well, this is the way she won back the hearts of millions of fans.

A Yorkshire Tragedy (Shakespeare Institute Players): Peter Kirwan at The Bardathon on a rare production of the early modern play once associated with Shakespeare and now given to Thomas Middleton.

Ten reasons to get excited about The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe: well, I’m excited and have got my ticket for the premiere productions in early 2014 – and here is the Globe’s Farah Karim-Cooper at Blogging Shakespeare on why you should be too.

Midsummer Night’s Dreaming: this week’s RSC’s press release about their exciting collaboration with Google for 21-23 June; see also Matt Trueman’s Guardian piece.

LA’s alternate realities: Martin Filler for The New York Review of Books dumps on the west coast from the vantage point of the east in a review of two current exhibitions in the Pacific Standard Time series about modern architecture in LA .

The invention of David Bowie: Ian Buruma, also for The New York Review of Books, is predictably good on the V&A’s current exhibition.

A novel, a writing machine and a leafy square in London: Jeremy Leighton at the British Library’s Digital Scholarship blog on ‘the first novel to be written on a word processor’ (take a guess before you follow the link).

Tribeca transmedia – the power of Sandy Storylines (sic): Frank Rose at Deep Media on judging five transmedia presentations – and on the qualities of the eventual winner, Sandy Storyline (this link is to the project itself).

Diary: thank heaven that the London Review of Books can stump up for Iain Sinclair to make a day trip to Gravesend:

Coming ashore at Gravesend like Pocahontas, the dying Native American princess, and wobbling up the raked walkway in a stiff breeze, I had to duck to avoid the menacing swoop of a tethered crow. This was a malignant spirit, in an evil wind, in a defeated place loud with absence. Naturally, on such a day and at such an hour, I was on the lookout for symbols and portents. The funeral rites of Lady Thatcher, the great leader celestially upgraded from her complimentary suite at the Ritz, began as our ferry, theDuchess M, butted out, cross-current, from the revived container stacks of Tilbury Riverside (Maritime)…

Eulogy for the blog: Marc Tracy for New Republic on the changing fortunes and future prospects for the form you have in front of you.

Screengrab: … and finally, this is a short film by Willie Witte which is sort of amazing.

Have a great holiday weekend!


  1. A few years ago now there was chatter at the BFI about keeping the initials but changing the name to Broadcasting & Film Institute. Didn’t happen.

    • John Wyver says:

      So just when was ‘Film Forever’ introduced as the BFI tagline, Luke? Did I just miss the outcry that must have inevitably followed?

      And was there not also an idea at one point that it should become The British Film and Television Institute? Didn’t happen, either.

  2. Film Forever is the name of the BFI’s business plan for 2012-17:

    ‘Film’ makes a lot of sense in branding and lobbying terms – it’s what policy makers understand as the central mission, and in statutory terms the word ‘film’ is given to mean moving image media of all kinds.

    But it’s still pandering to a narrow, sentimental and outdated notion of the medium, which scarcely seems sustainable in this day and age.

  3. Today, it’s a very different creature. This year, its 55th as a festival, is packed with gala screenings and red-carpet events. Stars flock to it, it has a global reputation, and there’s a sprinkling of Hollywood at its best among the 300 films featured, which was never the case before. The LFF has upped its game, much as its home, the old National Film Theatre, was smartly rebranded as BFI Southbank.

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