Friday 30 March 2012

Archival links in published books

I think this is a tendency in all archivists really, or in anyone who loves their jobs - finding connections everywhere!  In my case I always seem to find archive connections in what I'm reading, listening to, talking to friends about, or going to see in exhibitions.  I'm still really enjoying reading through Raymond Chandler's published letters in The Raymond Chandler Papers (sadly reaching the end of the book now!).  I was particularly happy when I came across a Lindsay Anderson link (if you're new here then I should point out that I spent 3 years working at Stirling University Archives cataloguing parts of Lindsay Anderson's archive). Towards the end of the book there is a letter from Raymond Chandler to the editor of Sequence magazine.  This is undated but is in amongst the early 1952 letters which would have been about right given the content of the letter.
“I hate to see the magazine fold. There is so little intelligent writing about films, so little that walks delicately but surely between the avant garde type, which is largely a reflection of neuroticism, and the deadly commercial stuff. I think you have been a little too hard at times on English films, which even when not top notch do give you the feeling of moving around in a civilised world – something which the Hollywood product falls pretty short of as a rule. Even if you had been less intelligent, I should be sorry to see you go. Sight and Sound is all very well so far as it goes. I suppose it is subsidised, and everything that is subsidised compromises, and everything that compromises ends up by being negative."
Sequence covers, ready to go up as part of an exhibition at Stirling Uni ©Lindsay Anderson Archive, University of Stirling 
Sequence was a film journal started by Lindsay Anderson, Gavin Lambert and Peter Ericsson. It started in 1948 and fourteen issues were published, the final in 1952. I still get so happy when I come across links to Lindsay Anderson so of course my first thought was to check the catalogue. I knew I'd catalogued all the Sequence correspondence and I didn't have any memory of a Raymond Chandler letter but of course there's no way of remembering everything you've catalogued! Unfortunately it's not there so the original of the letter didn't make it to the Lindsay Anderson Archive. In the book the authors say that Raymond Chandler's archive is held between the Bodlein and UCLA, though neither of these have their Chandler collection catalogued to item level online so I can't even see which archive holds Chandler's carbon copy of the letter he sent.
It's disappointing the letter isn't in the Lindsay Anderson Archive but then it would be impossible for an archive collection ever to be 'complete'.  Maybe the letter is in the archive of one of the other founders of Sequence (Gavin Lambert's papers are at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre in Boston) , maybe it ended up with someone else who was a fan of Chandler, or maybe it just got lost of misplaced at some point before the collection arrived at the University.  We'll never know I suppose.
Interestingly, there is a mention of Raymond Chandler in the Sequence series of the Lindsay Anderson Archive. It's in section LA/4/1/6 'Letters from readers and subscribers to Sequence' and is a letter from J. B. Priestley to a Mr Panting and my catalogue description reads
Thanks for sending a copy of Sequence; and expressing interest in an article on Raymond Chandler. 
It's dated 30/05/1949 so I wonder if there was an article in Sequence which discussed Raymond Chandler's writing, either novels or screen writing, or a film adaptation of one of his books. Mr. Panting seems an odd name but I seem to remember that the authors of Sequence would sometimes write under pseudonyms. I know from the Raymond Chandler Papers that Chandler knew Priestley, but I don't know when from - the earliest mention of Priestley in the book is from 1951.  I'm going to have delve a bit further into this sometime, starting with another good look through Sequence - a good excuse for a visit to the new BFI library at Southbank!

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Archives and the filmmaker - Pedro Almodóvar

Sticking to the same format as their previous '..Archives' books on the Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick Archives, Taschen have released 'The Pedro Almodovar Archives'.  This book came out in October 2011 according to Amazon but somehow it managed to pass me by.  All three of these books look very beautiful, are well laid out with high quality reproductions and very well researched.  However I'm only going on having seen them online as at roughly £100 a pop I can't afford to buy one!

It's an interesting concept, particularly in the case of Almodóvar, as the film director himself is authorising and controlling the use of his archive to project an image of himself which, we assume, is the image which he wants people to believe in and buy into.  Here's a quote I found from the Taschen web page for the book:
For this unprecedented monograph, Pedro Almodóvar has given TASCHEN complete access to his archives, including never-before-published images, such as personal photos he took during filming. In addition to writing captions for the photos, Almodóvar invited prominent Spanish authors to write introductions to each of his films, and selected many of his own texts to accompany this visual odyssey through his complete works.
It's not that I think the use of personal archives in the construction of self-image is a new idea, or a bad idea.  It's just interesting to see it in this form.  As well as constructing self-image these books really seem to glorify the archives (would fetishises be too strong a word?) in a way that equates their uniqueness with something exclusive that can be yours if you can afford the asking price.  With the added incentive to get in there quick to ensure you get an' actual piece of the archive' in the form of a piece of film strip, in the Almodovar book from 'Volver' (2006).  I'm all for glorifying archives, it's just a shame when there's such a price tag attached.  However I'm happy it's available online for a browse through, and, you know, if anyone wanted to buy me a copy I certainly wouldn't say no!