Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The line-up for the next seven days is great:
Today - Lola (Jacques Demy 1961)
Wednesday - The 400 Blows (François Truffaut 1959)
Thursday - Jules and Jim (François Truffaut 1962)
Friday - Masculin Féminin (Jean-Luc Godard 1966)
Saturday - Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard 1962)
Sunday - La jetée (Chris Marker 1962)
Monday - Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Alain Resnais 1959)
Monday, 30 November 2009
About John Ford is a very interesting mixture of critical analysis of the films of John Ford, mixed with Anderson's personal reminiscences of his meetings with John Ford, and interviews he conducted with various people who worked with Ford. Anderson's admiration of John Ford began in 1946 when he first saw My Darling Clementine. It continued through his reviews and articles about Ford in Sequence, his meetings with Ford over the years, and two television programmes: an Omnibus two-part programme on Ford narrated by Anderson (1992) ; and a Channel Four programme (1987) , where Anderson gave a 'masterclass' to a group of students about the art of film-making through the example of My Darling Clementine
The boxes relating to About John Ford contain: notes made by Anderson on Ford's films; press cuttings re: John Ford; early drafts of the book; correspondence with friends, colleague's and family of Ford; correspondence with publishers; correspondence with readers and critics; promotional material for the book; and reviews of the book.
The first big piece of detective work was with the early drafts of the book. There were some pages paper clipped together which obviously ran as a section (anything from 2 pages to 32 pages long), but there were no page numbers or chapter headings to work out where in the published version of the book they relate to. The first decision I had to make was, do I take the time to locate each of these draft sections in the published book? Well, I quickly decided that yes, it was worth the time to do this as it would be of value to future researchers, and it's always interesting to see what remains and what is changed from draft to published version. So then, how to work out where all these pages were located in the published book? Not that I'm claiming any great shakes as a detective, just common sense really, but I determined that the quickest way would be to use the index in About John Ford, and look for the least common, or least famous, actors names or place names. Where there were only a few occurrences of a name it was relatively quick to locate the draft pages and reference them in my cataloguing. Now, this may not be interesting to everyone, but somehow to me, this job was immensely satisfying - I guess that's why I'm an archivist!
Another problem I encountered was due to my less than all encompassing knowledge of John Ford's films. By this I must confess that prior to cataloguing this material I had only seen one Ford film, The Quiet Man. So I started attending screenings for John Izod's class 'Genre in Hollywood: The Western' (the benefits of working in a University!) . I have now seen, and enjoyed, My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, and Iron Horse. Only a drop in the ocean as far as the number of John Ford films but it has helped with the cataloguing. It didn't help me much though when I came across a file with four black&white photographs of stills from John Ford films. With so many films to choose from, and having seen so few of them, I was having real trouble trying to identify them. So, rather than spend huge amounts of time going through images on IMDb from all his films, I decided to call in the cavalry (excuse the bad pun!). I e-mailed Charles Barr, a Professor of Film at University College Dublin and a John Ford expert (Charles Barr gave a very interesting paper About the John Ford Archive at our conference in September). Charles was able to identify the images for me, including the photograph of Charley Grapewin, from 'Tobacco Road' (1941) which I've included here.
LA/4/3/10/3, Still from Tobacco Road
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives
N.B. John Ford's papers are held at the Lilly Library, Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Paper published on audience reception to Lindsay Anderson's 'Britannia Hospital', examined through material in the Anderson Archive
Well, I'm pleased to say that the paper which I presented, which I co-authored with Karl Magee (with thanks to John Izod and Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard for their help) is part of the selection of papers published in Volume 6 of the journal. I really enjoyed the conference and thought all the papers were really interesting so it was great to get the chance to re-read some of them in the journal.
I've included the abstract from our article below and you can read the article here:
Britannia Hospital was the final part of a trilogy of films directed by Lindsay Anderson which started so successfully with If…. in 1968 and continued with O Lucky Man in 1973. However, Britannia Hospital, released in 1982, was condemned by the critics and largely ignored by the public, a disappointing end to the trilogy. This paper is going to look at aspects of the relationship between the director and his audience by examining the strains exerted on this relationship by the promotion and critical reception of Britannia Hospital. The Lindsay Anderson Archive at the University of Stirling provides the main source material for this through: Anderson’s correspondence with friends, fans and critics; ideas for the advertising campaign for the film; and correspondence with the distribution companies.
Monday, 9 November 2009
The letter which made my day on Friday was Lindsay Anderson writing to Lillian Hellman. It came as a real surprise to me as I didn't know that they had met. Although I had heard of Hellman's plays it was actually through her autobiographical book Pentimento that I first got to know about her. I know she is a controversial figure who is said to have invented her biography to varying degrees, depending on which critic you believe, but she was such a wonderfully strong character that I can't help but admire her. There is also a letter in the same file which Lillian Hellman wrote to Anderson in which she says 'It would give me great pleasure if you were ever interested in directing it[The Little Foxes]' (Lillian Hellman writing to Lindsay Anderson, 29/04/1981) - I wish that this had happened!
Section of a letter from Lindsay Anderson to Lillian Hellman, LA/4/3/16/8
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives
The Lillian Hellman papers are at the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas.
Monday, 2 November 2009
The Long Gone Lonesome tour van © National Theatre of Scotland
Thomas Fraser grew up on Burra with a passion for country and blues music. He learned to play the guitar and, when reel-to-reel tape recorders were invented he got a friend to bring him on e back from the mainland. He then used this to record himself performing, and perfecting, his own adaptations of his favourite songs, including songs by Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. He never recorded with the intention of releasing them as albums and on his deathbed he entrusted his recordings to the care of his nephew, Bobby. Cassettes were released of the recordings and Bobby received numerous requests for recordings. and then his Grandson, Karl, took the step of getting them transferred and released on CD - to great critical acclaim. Karl talks movingly about the reel-to-reel tapes on the Thomas Fraser web pages where he says:
"Transferring the reels developed into a harrowing task. It seemed to me that on this fragile tape were the entire history of my family. Many of the reels were at the end of their natural lives and very brittle. The slightest false move and you could wipe out a song, possibly the only surviving version of that song. It was fascinating but at the same time enormously stressful. "
The Lone Star Swing Band, from left to right: Ian Tait, Fiona Driver, Duncan Mclean,
Graham Simpson and Dick Levens © National Theatre of Scotland
The Lone Star Swing Band do a fantastic job of bringing this story to life, and their passion and enthusiasm for the music and the story shines through in the performance. When they played the original reel-to-reel recording of Thomas Fraser's version of 'Somewhere over the rainbow' I had to fight back the tears. This song, which in my mind, is schmaltzy and over-produced, is reduced back to a beautiful and heartfelt song of hope. The use of old photographs of Fraser and his family, and island home of Burra, projected on the backdrop of the stage added to the atmosphere and helped us understand the environment which Thomas lived in.
'Long Gone Lonesome' is going to be on in Glasgow as part of the highly successful music festival 'Celtic Connections' and I would heartily recommend going to experience it!
Duncan Mclean © National Theatre of Scotland
Lindsay Anderson, seated in front of part of his large collection of VHS tapes
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives
We decided to take a Flickr pro account as it meant we could organise the photos in 'Collections' and 'Sets'. There are two Collections - the University Archives and The Lindsay Anderson Collection'. Within each of the Collections there are Sets. In the University Archives we have a set for the 40th anniversary exhibition of the University of Stirling, a set for student prospectuses and one for student handbooks. In the Lindsay Anderson Collection, in addition to the individual photo albums, there is also a set of photographs which give a general introduction to the Lindsay Anderson Collection. We will continue to add to these collections and sets. Once the CALM catalogue I'm creating for the Lindsay Anderson Collection is online then the plan is to link each photo directly to its catalogue entry.
Photograph featured in University of Stirling 40th anniversary exhibition.
The newly-opened Pathfoot Building, c1968 © University of Stirling Archives
Cover of photo album, LA/6/2/1/8
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
This is all very timely given that the 27 October is UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage!
Friday, 16 October 2009
Pat Keely (died 1970) Night Mail, 1939 © Royal Mail Group Ltd
courtesy of the British Postal Museum & Archive
The images I've included from the exhibition perfectly illustrate the point made about the exhibition in the promotional material - 'the General Post Office was at the cutting edge of poster design and mass communication'. The image which I think is the most striking is the poster by Pat Keeley from 1939, Night Mail. I've included a few more images from the exhibition but I recommend going to the Archives Hub website to view it online, or even better, if you're in London, go and visit the exhibition at the University of the Arts at the London College of Communication.
Harold Sandys(HS)Williamson(1892-1978) Loading mails at the docks in London, 1934 © Royal Mail Group Ltd courtesy of the British Postal Museum & Archive
John Armstrong (1893-1973) Mail Coach A.D. 1784 , 1935 © Royal Mail Group Ltd
courtesy of the British Postal Museum & Archive
Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) Air Mail Routes, around 1937 © Royal Mail Group Ltd
courtesy of the British Postal Museum & Archive
The John Grierson Archive here at Stirling University includes material on his career at the GPO Film Unit. Grierson established the film unit at the GPO which went on to produce a series of acclaimed films including Coal Face , Night Mail , Song of Ceylon and North Sea . Filmmakers and artists who worked at the unit included important figures such as Humphrey Jennings, Alberto Cavalcanti, W H Auden and Benjamin Britten.
Still from Night Mail, John Grierson, 1936 © John Grierson Archive, University of Stirling
N.B. I don't think I made it clear in the original post that Night Mail was produced by John Grierson, but was actually directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I don't think I could pick particular films I'm looking forward to see as there's so many, including work by Margaret Tait, David Hall, Henry Coombes, Beagles and Ramsay, Matt Hulse, Luke Fowler, Katy Dove, Rosalind Nashashibi and David Shrigley. Here's a link to the full programme as I find the National Galleries website to be very badly designed, difficult to navigate and not always very clear on which gallery events take place in.
Particular special events that caught my attention are:
The Bedfords (2009) by Henry Coombes (recently on exhibit at the Sorcha Dallas gallery in Glasgow, 4 September - 9 October). The film tells the story of Sir Edwin Landseer and his relationship with the Duchess of Bedford. The screening will be followed by an 'in conversation' between Henry Coombes and Francis McKee, Director of the CCA, Glasgow. This event is free and is on Wednesday 21 October at the Hawthornden Lecture Theatre - Weston Link (national Gallery Complex) from 6.30 - 7.30pm
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Contact strip from If...., LA/1/6/4/1On Friday 2 October there was a screening of If.... as part of the Branchage Film Festival on the island of Jersey. Now I have to admit I hadn't heard of the festival before but looking at the line-up I'm surprised I haven't as it sounds like it would have been great - a really diverse selection of films, special events and music - definitely one to mark in the calendar! The screening of If....was in a college with added atmosphere created by a very stern headmaster ordering everyone to their seats.
There is a short interview with David Wood, who played Johnny in If.... and Paul Cotgrove, from the Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation, which is on the Branchage film festival blog. In the interview David Wood (now an OBE and highly respected children's dramatist) discusses filming If.... He brings out the tie he wore in the film, which he has kept since shooting finished, 41 years ago! What really grabbed mt attention though is that he is holding in his hand a copy of the dummy script of the film which I have heard about but have never seen. The dummy script was the one which was used to placate the headmaster and authorities of Cheltenham College, as they doubted they would have been allowed to film there had the headmaster known the conclusion of the film!
Contact strip from If...., LA/1/6/4/1
Monday, 12 October 2009
There was so much to see that I'm just going to mention a few things that really stood out for me. Velázquez's 'An Old Woman Cooking Eggs' was stunning, having seen it in books and on postcards it was completely different to see it in real life. The details, colouring and shadows are all amazing and I could have looked at it for ages, but I didn't get there till about 3.30 and I knew I didn't have all that long till it closed so I moved on. I think my favourite artist, whom I didn't already know a lot about, was Arthur Melville, a Scottish painter who worked with and was an influence upon, The Glasgow Boys. I can't name a favourite of his as I loved them all, though there are two that particularly stick in my mind , 'The little bullfight 'Brave Toro!'' and 'The Contrabandistas' (1892). 'The little bullfight 'Brave Toro'!' is filled with bright colours expressively indicating people and movement, the dust swirls around the bull in the ring, and the overall effect of movement and energy is wonderful. 'The Contrabandistas' is such an unusual work, the figures are in the centre of the composition but are small and seem overwhelmed by the swirl of trees and hills around them and the vast expanse of sky above.
only one I can remember the name of isn't one of these though, it's a wonderful vibrant painting 'Spanish Fiesta' (1836). I realised I must have heard his name before though as he features in one of the best books I've read in the past few years 'The Map of Love' by Ahdaf Soueif. Reviewing an exhibition 'The Lure of the East' at the Tate Britain in 2008 Soueif says of his paintings
"I find Lewis's work so attractive that it became a source of sustenance for the heroine, Lady Anna Winterbourne, of my novel The Map of Love: recently widowed, Anna visits the South Kensington museum and takes pleasure in "the wondrous colours, the tranquillity, the contentment with which [Lewis's paintings] are infused"... Lewis's truth, expressed in colour and brushstrokes, was a truth about the spirit of the place."
Ahdaf Soueif, Visions of the harem, The Guardian, 05/07/09
There were a number of versions of Picasso's 'Weeping Woman', which have a tremendous force and emotional intensity about them. Knowing more about the events surrounding their creation, after a visit to Malaga and the Picasso Museum earlier this year, I found seeing these again incredibly moving.
I am now looking forward to visiting the National Gallery in London to see 'The Sacred made Real'. This exhibition looks at work religious art works created in Spain in the 17th century, and includes the work of at least two of the artist in 'From Goya to Picasso' - Diego Velazquez and Francisco de Zurbaran. For the first time these painting are going to be shown alongside polychrome sculptures from the same period.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
As part of our AHRC funded research project on The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson we hosted a conference, 'Archives and Auteurs: filmmakers and their archives' here at the University of Stirling from 2nd - 4th September 2009. The conference went really well, I know I may be slightly biased, but from speaking to people that attended I know that was the general opinion as well. Attending the conference were archivists, academics, curators and researchers all coming together to discuss the ways in which the study of the archives of filmmakers and the film industry can provide new perspectives and insights into the history of cinema.
There was so much packed into the opening evening and two full days of the conference that I've delayed writing about it as I didn't know where to start. I'm not going to give a full run down as the full conference programme and abstracts are available here. We are also collating the papers here and these are continually being added to.
Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard and me (Kathryn Mackenzie) at the welcome desk on the first night of the conferenceThe conference started on the Wednesday evening with presentations from me , Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard, John Izod and Karl Magee, about 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' AHRC project which we are all working on. The final paper in this panel was by Charles Barr, an Emeritus Professor of Film and Television who is currently teaching at University College Dublin. He gave a very interesting paper about the John Ford Archive, which discussed the variety of material in the archive, including some letters from Lindsay Anderson. It is always wonderful to hear about the material in other archives, and as usual, it always makes me want to visit them!
My first panel on the Thursday morning was 'Collaboration and authorship'. This comprised of three papers; The Schlesinger papers and Sunday Bloody Sunday: compromise, collaboration and authorship - Sian Barber, University of Portsmouth; Ken Russell, Dante's Inferno and the BBC Archives - Brian Hoyle, University of Dundee; Lolita: a journey with Nabakov and Kubrick from the page to the screen - Karyn Stuckey, University of the Arts, London. Some of the many issues raised and discussed included; ideas on ways in which archival material can help us to rethink ideas of cinematic authorship; how archival research can deepen and enrich our understanding of a film; and how archival materials can be used to follow the evolution of a script and examine the changes made to adaptations from script to screenplay.The discussion that followed the presentations was to be typical of all the discussions - lively, engaged and interesting. There was discussion about the moral and ethical issues, and possible legal implications, of making available material that is critical of individuals. I know I tend to overuse the word interesting, but as an Archivist cataloguing an archive, and someone involved in research of that archive, it is interesting to hear of the experiences of others in similar areas of work and research with different filmmakers archives. It is also a very healthy way of not becoming too insular or obsessed with the Lindsay Anderson Archive.
Conference delegates entering the MacRobert filmhouse on the first evening, and enjoying extracts from Is That All There IsAfter a tea break the panel I chose to attend was 'Beyond the Director - the production system'. It was always a hard choice to make as to which panel to attend, for instance in this occasion the panel I didn't go to was 'Archives- current projects' which included papers about the Basil Dearden and Michael Relph Archive, Joseph Losey, Sally Potter and the Adelphi Archives - oh to be able to be in two places at once! The panel I chose to attend was really useful to me as it really deepened my understanding of the production system. Papers by: Brian Neve, University of Bath, 'Inside and Outside: Elia Kazan, Newtown Productions and notions of 'independence' in 1950s American filmmaking; Philip Drake, University of Stirling, 'Talent and reputation in Hollywood: the case of Hal Ashby'; Aaron Hunter, Queen's University Belfast, 'Down to the Last Detail: Archival reconstruction of Hal Ashby's Place in Hollywood Cinema'; and Andrew Spicer, University of the West of England, 'The Creative Producer: the Michael Klinger Papers'.
In the afternoon I chaired a panel 'Archive - creating and collecting' which contained: 'Private History, Public Persona and Preserving the Cinematic Past: Martin Scorsese and the Discourse of Film Preservation', by Nicholas Nguyen (NATO Archives); Scottish and Irish Experimental film, classification and archiving in national contexts, Sarah Neely, University of Stirling; 'Private Collections and Collective Authorship, case studies of amateur film practice, Ryan Shand, University of Liverpool; 'Watching Thought', revisiting Grierson and McLaren, Kirsteen Macdonald, Stirling Council.
Nicholas's Nguyen's paper contained discussion of the cultural prestige which Scorsese has got from his work as a film archivist/preserver, and explained how Scorsese's authority comes from his role as a champion of film preservation as much as from his role as a film director. This correlates to another theme which was discussed over the course of the conference and is something which I was discussing in a research seminar the other day - how 'the Archive' can be a source of power/authority, if a filmmaker creates their own archive what are the implications of this on their status as an 'auteur'. I think the example of Scorsese shows that the act of preserving can imbue an individual with a certain authority, which is not in anyway to undermine the work of Scorsese or The World Cinema Foundation (WCF), which Nguyen discussed in some depth. I've talked about the WCF before on this blog, in relation to their restoration of 'The Housemaid' and it was great to hear more about their work and about the history of Scorsese and his collecting/preserving of films.
Sarah Neely's paper discussed the distinction between amateur and experimental films and really broadened my understanding of the two, and the history of the distinctions between them. She explained how there is very little work done on Margaret Tait in this country, her home country, in contrast she is more well known and respected internationally. Once reason for this being that Avant-garde filmmakers are often marginalised because they don't say anything about nationality. An examination of the processes of classification of experimental film was also raised as something needing more research and something which she was looking into. This raised questions in my mind over the role of the archivist in this, and re-iterated for me the many areas of research which archivists are required to get involved in to give the materials we catalogue and describe the full respect they deserve - and reminded me, as if I needed it, of what an exciting and varied profession it is!
Ryan Shand's case studies of Amateur film practice discussed how debates on authorship can be useful in the study of amateur film practice. He focused on a case study of a film club in Bebington which has been running for over 50 years. Through interviews with them he examined ideas of individual and collective authorship that i think would be useful on debates in authorship in non-amateur films as well.
Kirsteen Macdonald looked at the questions which arise around the use of archival material in exhibitions. She discussed the development of an exhibition about Lindsay Anderson in 2007 which used material from the Lindsay Anderson Archive chosen as a result of conversations
between archivist Karl Magee, curator Kirsteen Macdonald and artist Stephen Sutcliffe. Then went on to discuss more recent collaborations between Stirling University Archives and the Changing Room with the work of Katy Dove and Luke Fowler with, respectively, the Norman McLaren and John Grierson Archives. The artist Luke Fowler was also in attendance and there was lots of lively and thought-provoking discussion after these presentations. The idea of artists taking the work out of context was discussed and Kirsten pointed out that in some instances the artists felt uncomfortable with the personal letters and photographs and found that removing them from their context, and only using selected elements from them, made this easier, and I would imagine, gives the artist a sense of control or ownership over the material in a creative sense.
Then followed an interesting presentation by Ruth Washbrook (Education and Outreach Officer, Scottish Screen Archive) which demonstrated the range of resources held at Scottish Screen Archive.
To top it all off, the day finished with a very rare screening of Red, White and Zero, the ill-fated trilogy of films by Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and Peter Brook. I think these films have only ever been screened together once before so this was a pretty special event. I've talked about The White Bus before in an interview with the Big Picture magazine so I won't go over it again. It was intended to be a trilogy of films based on short stories by Shelagh Delaney but it was only Anderson who stuck to the original concept and producer a wonderful film in The White Bus. This screening was the first time for me, and for anyone else at the conference, to see the other two films - pretty exciting, and a bit nerve wracking for us, what if they were really awful and n one wanted to see them! However this wasn't the case, well, the Tony Richardson film still received mixed reviews but I liked it. Tony Richardson's film was called Red and Blue and featured his wife Vanessa Redgrave playing a singer, following hr through various love interests and cities, singing as she goes along. I would say the reception to this film was generally negative although some people, like myself, did enjoy it. It was bright and garish, a bit cheesy, very OTT, but lots of fun. Isabelle pointed out to me that maybe the reason I liked it was the influence of the work of Jacques Demy, a filmmaker whose work I love. The other film in the trilogy was Peter Brook's Ride of the Valkeries, also known as Zero, in tribute to the star of the film Zero Mostel. Anderson described this film as 'amateurish and confused' in his diaries of the time but it seemed to go down well at the conference. It was funny in a Buster Keaton type way and although the plot was a bit confused I think overall it came out as a funny, yet gently film that it would be nice to see released again.
The Friday started, for me, with 'British Cinema (and television), a panel containing papers by: Nathalie Morris, BFI, on 'The problem of the non-film, archives and unrealised projects'; Philip Wickham, Bill Douglas Centre, university of Exeter, 'You don't need talent to get work these days, you need a miracle - the British film industry in the 1970s and 1980s through filmmakers archives'; and Dave Rolinson, University of Stirling 'Archival research into the television work of Alan Plater'. Nathalie Morris made some very important points abut the study of unrealised films, explaining that until recently these weren't often discussed in terms of a director's work, it was only with a return to the archive for film researchers that attention is beginning to be paid to the important of unfinished film projects in a director's career. She highlighted a book 'Sights Unseen', by Dan North (which contains a chapter by Karl Magee, Stirling University Archives, 'Hooray for Hollywood? the unmade films of Lindsay Anderson') which I will really need to read as it sounds fascinating. Philip Wickham discussed the problems filmmakers faced in 1970s and 1980s and he also highlighted some of the differences in holding the archives of living filmmakers. Dave Rolinson looked at the methodological implications of the way researchers used television archives and discussed differences between research into television and research into films and the implications of this on which archival resources get used for research i.e. TV research tends to focus on the writer therefore research carried out in archives with this agenda already in place, as opposed to films where it is focussed on the director, and therefore archival research is carried out with this agenda already in place. The important of archives as living and breathing resources which need to be used, re-examined, re-used in different ways was emphasised in this session.
After another tea break there followed a preview of the documentary film The American Who Electrified Russia. Produced and directed by the independent filmmaker and academic Michael Chanan, it featured material from public archives and private records that enabled him to portray an extraordinary character, Solomon Trone, who had left powerful memories with his relatives - Chanan's own family.
The plenary speakers who closed the conference illustrated the ways in which academic researchers and professional archivists benefit from co-operation between the two sides of archives use. Sarah Street presented a paper that highlighted a crucial function of close study of archival material. As opposed to using archives on an illustrative basis, she uses them as a platform to challenge or enrich existing theoretical writing on film authorship. Marc Vernet from Université Paris Diderot, shared the core of a report he had written for the French Government focussing on the implications for archival work of that nation's employment regime for archivists which affords them careers spent at the crossroads of film theory and film preservation - but without continuing professional development.
Finally, Barbara Hall from the Margaret Herrick Library - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gave an insight into the wealth of material it makes available to researchers. By focusing on the Library's holdings of Hitchcock's material, Barbara summarised the challenges of preserving and making available to the general public the Hitchcock archives. While attempting this, she and her colleagues have to keep in mind the materials' value for knowledge arbiters. The Herrick Library's endeavours to hold this balance speak eloquently of every archives ongoing difficulty in evaluating, and adapting to the shifting impact of any given filmmaker's work and legacy. (these final three paragraphs are taken from the review of the conference which was written by my colleagues and posted on the conference webpages
I realised at the top of this post that I said I wouldn't give a full overview, oops - once I started talking about it I couldn't stop. Suffice to say the conference was a resounding success and I'm very glad to have played a part in it, and for anyone who took part in it who is reading this - thank you all for your contributions!!
Thursday, 24 September 2009
'Playing the Building', David Byrne's installation was on at the Roundhouse in London from 8-31 August of this year. He has previously installed 'Playing the Building' in Fargfabriken in Stockholm, and in an old ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan, New York. In his original proposal for the project in August 2003 he wrote
"A sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of a building is converted into a giant musical instrument. ( I use the term musical loosely. It might not play melodies in the conventional sense... but it might.)....
It is a way of activating the sound-producing qualities that are inherent in all materials." (David Byrne, 2005, quote taken from the leaflet accompanying the Roundhouse installation)
The Roundhouse itself was a really interesting theatre to visit, with a photo display on the first floor which illustrates a timeline of the building and all the different events and organisations which have used the building. It's an unusual space, starting life as a steam engine repair shed, with, as you would imagine from the name, a round central space. I can imagine it would often make the use of the building for theatre/art/music more of a challenge. It worked incredibly well with this show though.
In the middle of the room is a beautiful antique wooden organ which is all connected up with cables which are attached to the metal girders and pillars which form the structure of the space. Anyone can sit down at the organ and 'play the building'. I liked watching how people, myself included, were at first a bit shy or scared to sit down and play but once people do it's great to see how much they enjoy it. While we were there there was a young girl, who looked like she knew what she was doing, who was getting so much enjoyment out of the strange sounds emitting from her playing. Hitting different keys makes different cables move, which then trigger vibrations in the pillars, girders and beams they're attached to. I found a quote from a press conference for the opening on Art Review which contains a quote from Byrne, discussing the democratic nature of the piece "“everyone is as good at playing it as anyone else. It’s not the sort of performance you consume. We’re used to consuming culture, of going to sit down and have it fed to us. In this case, you have to do it yourself – and if you don’t do it, you don’t get anything out of it.” Being forced to interact with the work and with the space was great - fun and thought-provoking.
NB. The first theatre in the Roundhouse was established by Arnold Wesker in 1964. Called Centre 42, it was the first time the building had been used as an arts venue. So, here's another Lindsay Anderson connection (it seems we can find them almost everywhere!). In an interview on 'What's on Stage' on 4 April 2005 Wesker says of Anderson
"There’s no doubt that my first career break was when I asked Lindsay Anderson to read a play of mine called Chicken Soup with Barley. He read it, and he said, "You really are a playwright, aren’t you? Will you let me show this to George Devine at the Royal Court?""
Friday, 11 September 2009
From the 18 July - 23 August there was a unique exhibition on in London. Called 'The Rock 'n' Roll public library' it is the personal vision and personal archive of Mick Jones, the lead guitarist and singer with The Clash, and later of Big Audio Dynamite. Since he was a young teenager Jones had been a collector and acquirer of 'things'.
"Suddenly people who've been given a hard time all their lives by their partners for never throwing anything out are feeling justified, " laughed Mick Jones. "Now they realise that they were curating social history."
The range of materials in the collection is huge - the subjects covered include music, film, art, drugs, crime, sport, war. There was one room just filled with music and film magazines form the 1960s on. There are almost 10,000 books, lots of records, films recorded on VHS, music memorabilia, film posters and some wonderful photographs. For seventeen years this personal archive had been stored in a lock-up and it was great to see so much of it out on display. I'm sure part of the enjoyment is in the feelings Mick Jones identifies when he says that it can justify the need/compulsion to collect, it certainly did for me! I've included a few photos, and yes, there are some Lindsay Anderson related ones, as ever!
This article draws upon the research currently undertaken for my doctoral thesis and is meant to act as a complementary study of Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin’s partnership on If…. (1968), following Charles Drazin’s 2008 article for the Journal of British Cinema and Television, ‘If… before If…’. Charles Drazin (2008: 318) highlights the idea of a ‘creative dynamic’ underlying the working partnership between Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin on If…., as well as in the subsequent projects they developed together. The following article aims to uncover the nature of the creative dynamic suggested by Drazin’s article by looking at both the personal and the artistic dimensions that the working relationship assumed. The aim is to highlight the distinctiveness of their collaboration in the cinema; the article will show that in the course of this collaborative work they realized their artistic potential through an exchange of expertise, and that their collaboration helped to bring about an alternative approach to the conventional opposition between screenwriter and director, especially when it comes to claiming authorship over a film.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Lindsay Anderson and Richard Harris rehearsing a scene from This Sporting Life
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling
Thursday, 13 August 2009
A few months ago I wrote about an exhibition that would be opening at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. The exhibition, Unfolding the Aryan Papers is by Jane and Louise Wilson. I first saw it in London in March at the British Film Institute. I've already written about the main part of the exhibition, the video installation, in an earlier post so I won't repeat myself. Except to mention the space the film is being shown in - it's a box, constructed of a gauze-like material, darkened, and with mirrors which project the film infinitely on either side. The effect of the mirrors is very powerful though the temporary structure meant that noises from outside the box, people walking past, chatting, high heels on the floor etc. made it difficult to hear the film properly. Though this could also be to do with the fact I saw it on the opening night when the noise level might have been increased slightly by the wine on offer!
Jane and Louise Wilson, Unfolding the Aryan Papers 2009, Installation view courtesy of the BFI London / © Dave Morgan
There was a large room upstairs in the Talbot Rice Gallery which contained archive material and new work by Jane and Louise Wilson which had not been part of the BFI exhibition. Old black and white photographs from the Ealing Studio Archive which Kubrick had collected are displayed alongside original photos of Johanna ter Steege, and new ones taken by Jane and Louise Wilson, and bronze sculptures of the yardsticks that are used in the original Ealing Studio photographs.
Once again what really struck me was how the re-use and re-interpretation of this material has finally brought it to life. It's very moving to hear Johanna ter Steege talk in the film, about the amount of time and feeling which she, and Kubrick, had invested in the project. She says something along the lines of 'this has brought some kind of closure to the film' which she was denied when the project was halted. I heard, though I can't find the reviews anywhere, that there have been criticisms of this exhibition as being too superficial, as somehow trivialising the very serious and horrific events it discusses. However that is so at odds with the impression I get from the film. The film is invested with the emotion and energy which Johanna ter Steege put into the original research and photographs for the film, the huge amount of research which Kubrick and his team carried out for it, and the amount of research and inspiration which the Wilson sisters have created with their film, and the photographs and sculptures, ensure that the installation creates a lasting impression.
On a final note about this exhibition - it's interesting how the revived interest in this film, through the re-use and promotion of the archive material, has reportedly led to interest in finally making this film. An article in The Times states that "Warner Bros still owns the rights to the film… and Harlan said the studio should employ a leading director such as Ang Lee, who made the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain, to bring Kubrick’s vision to the screen. He said he would happily become involved in the project again." Although Warner Bros. haven't confirmed yet if they are going to resurrect this film.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
The conference programme is now complete and will begin on the evening of Wednesday 2 September with a presentation from the AHRC Lindsay Anderson project team (that's Kathryn Mackenzie (that is I!), Isabelle Gourdin, John Izod and Karl Magee). Delegates papers will be presented at conference panels on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 September. I've included a full list of the panels below, but for further information on the content of each panel and the names of the speakers please see the full conference programme-
The cinema authorship of Lindsay Anderson Collaboration and authorship
Ingmar Bergman – the archival legacy British Cinema
Beyond the director – the production system Current archival projects
Beyond the director – from script to screen Creating and collecting film archives
Beyond the director – women in the picture
The event will end on Friday 4 September with a plenary session featuring papers from:
Sarah Street (Professor of Film, University of Bristol),
Marc Vernet (Professeur en Etudes Cinématographiques, Université Paris Diderot)
Barbara Hall (Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)
To accompany the conference there will be a major exhibition of material from the Lindsay Anderson Archive in the Macrobert arts centre (located on the Stirling University campus). The Macrobert arts centre will also be the venue for a super rare screening of Red, White and Zero on the evening of Thursday 3 September. This is an (unreleased) triptych of films by Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and Peter Brook. I have previously written about Lindsay Anderson's film in the triptych The White Bus but I have never seen the other two films so I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to do so.
Another special screening was recently added to the conference programme. Hitchcock on Grierson, a 1965 STV tribute to the ‘father of documentary’ from the ‘master of suspense’ will be shown at the Changing Room Gallery as part of a private view of the exhibition ‘Art is not a mirror, it’s a hammer!’, an exploration of the archives of John Grierson and Norman McLaren (see my previous post on this exhibition).
Friday, 31 July 2009
They currently have an online film festival dedicated to the World Cinema Foundation (WCF). The WCF is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring neglected films from around the world – in particular, those countries lacking the financial and technical ability to do so. It was established by Martin Scorsese and it's goal is "to defend the body and spirit of cinema in the belief that preserving works of the past can encourage future generations to treat film as a universal form of expression." So, something well worth supporting then! There are currently four films available to watch online, via The Auteurs, that have all been preserved and restored with the help of the WCF. So far I've only had the chance to watch one of them but on the strength of it I will be making sure I watch the others.
The Housemaid, directed by Ki Young Kim (1960) is a tense, claustrophobic film set mainly in the confines of the family home. The story concerns a piano teacher who, when his wife is away visiting family, sleeps with their housemaid. The film starts with a young female worker in the factory professing her love for him, something which is forbidden and which resulted in her temporarily losing her job. From this point on events just seem to spiral out of his control. The housemaid whom he takes on to help out his pregnant wife has some kind of personality disorder and after seducing him she gradually takes over the household. None of the characters are portrayed as being innocent and all are seen as out to get what they want without thought to the consequences to others. I love the melodramatic style and the black comedy throughout the film thought the ending just forces the morality aspect a bit too much for my liking.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Invitation to attend screening of The Old Crowd in Venice, California with ‘Director’s note’ written by Anderson © Lindsay Anderson Collection
I keep thinking about The Old Crowd after watching it again recently, it makes for such uncomfortable viewing and it's such a great piece of work that I feel it deserves to be considered on the same terms as Lindsay Anderson's films. I knew it was based on a play by Alan Bennett but I hadn't realised until cataloguing the correspondence what a collaborative piece of work the television adaptation was.
A little piece of context - Stephen Frears (who was Anderson's assistant director on If....) produced a series of six plays by Alan Bennett for LWT (London Weekend Television). The Old Crowd was the one that most interested Lindsay Anderson when he was asked to direct one of them.
[Plot synopsis – I realised after I posted this that I didn’t really include a plot synopsis as I got carried away talking about what’s in the Archive! Hmmn, not very good for an archivist though, not putting it in context, oops. So, what happens – George and Betty are having a dinner party in the large house they have just moved into with George’s mother. There is no furniture in the house due to a mix-up with the furniture ending up in another city. They are hosting a dinner party and the first people to arrive at the door are ‘the Slaves’, these two servants are Harold and Glyn and they instantly give off a sense of foreboding and menace. The windows in the house are covered in newspaper and whenever one of the guests arrives at the door there is an emphasis made on shutting the door, shutting out the outside world. There is a talk of a virus sweeping the country, of muggers, riots, rampant crime. All the guests arrive, including Totty, a friend they had been talking about who has just been given six months to live. The ‘Old Crowd’ are depicted as self-centred, boorish, bourgeoisie, but the ‘Slaves’ are not portrayed any better, they’re devious, threatening and opportunistic. The crack which appears in a ceiling at the start of the film is representative of the cracks within their own social group, the unlikelihood of their survival, and the cracks in society as a whole. All this is intensified by the glimpses of the camera, crew and edges of the set, making the whole thing much more uncomfortable and ‘real’ in the sense of a possible merging of their world and ours.]
In the correspondence files we have copies of the letter which Anderson originally sent to Alan Bennett, explaining that he would like to direct the play but asking if Bennett would mind if he made some changes. Then follows detailed correspondence between the two of them where they discuss changes to the plot, the script and the characters, it is also noted in Anderson's introduction to the play in The Writer in Disguise, that they met up to collaborate on the script. Every revision seems to make the play more disturbing, more satirical and more surreal. Anderson mentions Bunuel as an influence that came to his mind when reading the script, and also Max Frisch's play The Fire Raisers. I was very pleased to read this as one of my thoughts when I was watching the film was the Slaves, Harold and Glyn (played by Philip Stone and Frank Grimes, both wonderfully threatening and sinister in their roles), were reminiscent of the two intruders in The Fire Raisers. Indeed the overall feel of the play, the sense of foreboding, of events being out of their control, and yet that this lack of control was actually of their own making, their own blindness, is something that I got from both The Fire Raisers and Anderson's adaptation of The Old Crowd. In fact, thinking of it now, maybe the blindness of the piano player at the beginning is meant to be symbolic, I think it's one of those films that reveals more the more you watch it.
Lindsay Anderson, Jill Bennett and Frank Grimes on set ofThe Old Crowd © Lindsay Anderson CollectionWriting to Philip Stone, the actor who played Harold, before the film was aired on ITV, Anderson pre-empted the hostile reception the film would receive -
“I’m afraid it is fearfully sophisticated for a television “play” – in fact I have grown used to calling it an anti-television play. It will be another work I fear a few years advance of its time and one which disastrously will need to be seen more than once. And I don’t need to tell you that television isn’t designed for a product of this kind.” 28/07/1978, LA/2/3/3/4/17
There were a number of positive reviews, most notably by Alexander Walker and Tom Sutcliffe in The Guardian. These were however, overwhelmed by the slightly hysterical nature of the critical reviews, for example, Clive James writing for The Observer (04/02/1979)
"[The Old Crowd] was so unsophisticated in its presentation that it could scarcely be said to exist... People like Lindsay Anderson can never learn what people like Alan Bennett should know in their bones: that common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds".
Well I'm certainly not sure what that last bit is meant to mean but I know that 'common sense' as Clive James put it, is something which Anderson had little patience for in relation to humour. This is illustrated in a letter Anderson wrote to Melvyn Bragg where he asks ""the English tradition of Nonsense. Why have people generally lost their capacity to respond to it, or 'understand' it?" 28/02/1979, LA/2/3/3/3/9
The repeated glimpses, throughout the film, of the camera and crew are intended, in Anderson's own words "not to alienate the audiences from the drama, but rather to focus their attention on its essential - not its superficial or naturalistic - import." (taken from The Writer in Disguise, Alan Bennett, introduction to The Old Crowd by Lindsay Anderson, p164). He highlighted alienate as he didn't like the Brechtian term Alienation for the reasons outlined in the above quote. The critic Herbert Kretzmer, writing for the Daily Mail, said that these devices, intended to alienate, only served "in reassuring frightened viewers that they had nothing to worry about - it's only TV, folks!". Well, for me they did the exact opposite, making the content of the play more aligned with reality and illustrating the disturbing habits which we all have, of enclosing ourselves in our own little reality and ignoring what's going on outside.
There are a large amount of press cuttings for The Old Crowd in the file. A lot of reviews, but also a large number of letters to the editor from viewers who either strongly liked or disliked the film. It seems to have been, and will probably continue to be, a film which divides audiences into these strict camps.
Having all of Anderson’s correspondence relating to the film, all the press cuttings he collected (and was sent), the scripts, on-set photographs, production material and promotional material all together is such a wonderful resource and research tool and even from this preliminary look whilst cataloguing the correspondence, I feel like I’ve gained a much better insight into The Old Crowd. I hope quotes from Anderson’s correspondence and the on-set photographs are providing as much interest to others on here as they do to me whilst cataloguing them!
Lindsay Anderson and Rachel Roberts on set of The Old Crowd
© Lindsay Anderson Collection