Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Krzysztof Kieslowski at the NFT

March is an exciting month at the NFT as they are revisiting the works of Polish film director, Krzysztof Kieslowski. This is, I think, one of the highlights of the modern age (second only to last June’s Michelangelo Antonioni retrospective; an event that still makes me giggle with geekish nostalgia) and paradoxically, one of the great tragedies. Kieslowski’s films frequently encourage comparisons with the likes of Hitchcock – an association that is well noted, especially in the case of White and Red – yet, if you were to casually assume that your sad friend down at the pub had even heard of the Polish director, much less preferred him over the legendary Hitch, I think you’d have likely overestimated your drinking coterie.

Enter: The Tragedy

One might ask why this is the case. My answer is, despite the overwhelming desire to reductively solve every such mystery, 'Who the crap knows?!' Not I. Why did it take Steven Spielberg and friends to help ‘revitalize’ Akira Kurosawa’s career in the 80s? Why does Miramax insist on marketing films like Hero and Chungking Express in the US with Quentin Tarantino’s name across the top of the dvd cover instead of the prolific and brilliant Chinese directors, Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-Wai? These are just a few more questions I had while pondering why your lame friend doesn’t know who Krzysztof Kieslowski is.

Much like the complete contentment I find in Bob Dylan’s, Time Out of Mind, when I’m engrossed in the Three Colors Trilogy I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be watching (I must also say that Red is my favorite and, going against the critical grain here, I enjoy White more than Blue). Part of this is because of the way that Kieslowski deals with the human condition. In Krzysztof’s world there is no sense of immunity to the travails and/or successes of life. That is to say, bad things happen to good people and sometimes vice versa – a sad, stinking certainty to be sure. Although this seems to suggest a certain level of amorality, Kieslowski navigates the troubled realities of social decency in a way that often reflects the Christian themes found in the films of Andrei Tarkovski. The monumental achievement that is The Decalogue, ten short films loosely based on the ten commandments, further illustrates a delicate attention to the moral aspects of life as well as the difficulties and paradoxes that one often faces when striving only to be an upstanding and civil member of society. And, although these themes often present themselves through the intimate conflicts of everyday characters, Kieslowski never fully indicts the viewer in this voyeurism (unlike Hitchcock, bless him) which tends to endear rather than alienate.
This endearment has a comforting effect that, unlike Spielberg’s cockeyed imperialism, comes across as tactful and genuine. Similarly, Kieslowski handles the intertwining lives of the characters with such care and sincerity that it makes Tarantino’s scavenged methods look vulgar and opportunistic. But these are the filmmakers that get distribution and subsequent recognition by that same fella in the pub, not Kieslowski. And while many will argue that the tragedy lies in Kieslowski’s premature death, I would have to say that the true misfortune is that many will never even realize he was here to begin with.

If you find yourself in or near London during the month of March the good news is that you can take your friend to the NFT to rediscover one of the great filmmakers of our time. He/She’ll thank you afterward, and maybe buy you a drink.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Man Called Dave

How do,

Thought I'd make my first proper posting a rant against the British Film industry. We just had our awards, the BAFTA's, and I was, quite frankly, shocked. Admittedly, BAFTA's tastes are not mine, but it has become - no offence- little more than a mid-atlantic love-in with Hollywood studios.

Normally, I'm a mild-mannered sort of chap, and rarely take offence or actively hate anything. If I have to do someone else's dishes, I won't complain. If I'm kept waiting half an hour at the dentist's, well, I might try and look at him in an angry way, but it's hard to do this when you've trusted him to look after yer teef. But when I saw David Puttnam (Lord Puttnam to you and me, guv) pick up his lifetime award, and then say he gave up films 8 years ago because 'the type of message films I wanted to make could no longer be made in Britain' my pipe damn near fell out of me mouth. Where has the Puttster (responsible for The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire, The Mission and that great message film Memphis Belle) been?

Has he not heard of Shooting People's Best Vs Best DVD? Did he not see Dead Man's Shoes? Does he not know about Pawel Paweikowski, genius BBC documentarian turned genius filmaker? This is an age old problem, and one that you guys are no doubt grappling with. I could list many more organisations and films for Puttnam to see, but chances are he would have never heard of them - because they ain't really studio films, they're independents. Yes, that age-old worldwide chesnut: indie's are often better, but they ain't getting seen or distributed -or if they are, they are not then duly recognised and awarded, or even defined as indie films.

If I hear anyone else talking about 'message films' in the future (and in the same speech congratulating George Clooney for making some of these) I'll take it to mean that he's really talking about mainstream studio blockbuster 'message' films, especially if he is a man called Dave, who's clearly been shuffling along to his local multiplex and nothing else. To poach another book title, We Need To Talk About Dave - and send him some decent DVD's.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

This one is possibly more appropriate (tho a large file size! -what is our limit?) : a contemporary sculpture residing in Hampstead Heath, a large park near where I am living. Needless to say, someone took this in the summer right after it was first put up: at the moment it is covered in snow, carvings such as 'lucy 4 tim 4 ever', and loads of litter. I'll take it off soon, I just wanted to see how the blog looked with this sort of high res/high def image.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Up and running

Originally uploaded by Carlos Noboro.
To the vindicating applause of friends and countrymen, we are proud to unveil a weblog that is sure to provoke the ire of all those angst ridden culture sheep who dare to conform with mediocrity in a world where there are so many other, better, alternatives. In our battle to redefine the word, Pretentious, we say, bring it on.

(Photo 355 taken by Carlos Noboro. Thanks!)