Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
I should flag a festival happening in Paris' Cite de la Musique, under the banner Lenine, Staline et la Musique.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
The short story is that our ex-partner and landlord, Mr Amin Taha, has reneged on an existing agreement to enter into a new lease, at market rate, at our premises at 171 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, and has re-taken possession of the premises with a view to sell the entire building as vacant and without an existing tenant in situ. As Cinéphilia West was occupying the premises under a temporary arrangement ahead of the formal execution of a long-term lease we have no choice but to cease operation there and seek alternative premises for our business. This is with immediate effect, as no notice was given but bailiffs imposed to re-possess the premises, leaving us completely exposed to the damage to our reputation as though the business itself was not viable or successful, which it was, and giving the impression that we are in any way at fault, which we are not. We have been torpedoed by a very unscrupulous man, but do not have the substantial means to challenge his behaviour through legal channels, despite having the full force of the law in our favour.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
AND SO, IT STARTS…
If culture was hoping for a stay of execution until October’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), yesterday it was disappointed. 55 organisations chopped or merged, the most high-profile demise being the UK Film Council.
The UKFC bestrode a huge – perhaps unbridgeable – field. Simultaneously making the economic, cultural and educational cases probably proved an unmasticateable mawful, and in film funding it often tried to make sure the toast fell jam-side up, with minority shares in semi-bankable projects.
Their First Light fund successfully supported young filmmakers but there’s little for experimental and artists’ film: Nowhere Boy and Hunger, whatever they are, aren’t cutting-edge and arguably Taylor-Wood and McQueen could have found their money elsewhere. And the UKFC wasn’t interested in gallery video art.
Not that that’s necessarily bad: The senior management’s background was overwhelmingly commercial, and wisely chose to channel money to organisations who knew the subject. But there was precious little of it.
The BFI used some to programme and release on DVD artists’ films, and even commission installations from people including Mat Collishaw and the Wilson Twins. Then there’s the Independent Cinema Office, onedotzero and others servicing (usually) slightly different groups. The Digital Innovation in Film programme (co-funded by NESTA – relatively safe under its endowment) helped some small (and not so small) companies.
Beyond that are bodies largely or wholly independent of the UKFC. Having been kicked around far too much in past years LUX, with its superb archive of artists’ films is an ACE client – though they’ve also been helped by UKFC. no.w.here does some great work with precious little. There are galleries such as the Tate and the (possibly, still troubled) ICA and publisher/distributors like Wallflower Press. Outside London, though, the picture is patchier.
So how might the UKFC’s demise affect artists who work in film? At the moment it’s hard to say, but the temptation is to say “not much”. Their money – when they have it – comes from elsewhere.
So, we still await the CSR…
Friday, 9 April 2010
Sometimes the sheer challenge of presenting a work and the exigencies of concert-planning can mean that even the most important ones exist more by reputation.
I haven't seen it yet but it's entirely in keeping with Varèse's ideas: another of his classics, Poème électronique, was written for the Philips Pavilion at Expo '58 in Brussels, where it was broadcast through 350 or 400 speakers in a stomach-shaped space designed by Le Corbusier's assistant (later a composer) Iannis Xenakis. Le Corbusier himself oversaw the accompanying images and film clips. Though the pavilion itself was dismantled, we do have various designs, notes and stills and a stereo version of Varèse's composition, so that it was possible to make a sort of virtual recreation.
Riccardo Chailly (carrying the imprimatur of Varése's amanuensis Chou Wen-chung) includes a couple of byways that are otherwise unobtainable and presents the original version of Amériques - Varèse's later, less resource-heavy version is generally performed. But even without those, Chailly's is the single set to get. For historical interest, you can also get the boxily recorded Frederic Waldman etc al "volume 1" (there was no volume 2) that inspired Frank Zappa.
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's Barbican concert reflected the two halves of a career split by tragedy.
Stanko, who had up to then been content within Komeda’s group, set out on his own, but continued to play his friend's music, climaxing with the 1997 album Litania, which itself became a classic.
But the evening began with the world premiere of the Brothers Quay’s new short film, Maska, based on Stanislaw Lem’s 1976 short story. Anyone who has seen their work (this excellent two-disc set collects their short films) will know what to expect: odd animated marionettes playing out oblique but disturbing dramas in gelid, granular light. Maska showed their usual love of craftsmanship: even a shot that could be achieved in a few minutes in live action - a diaphanous cloth being drawn back - was carefully animated. Rich, luminous visuals – the dense shadows of the cavernous set, pierced by shafts of glowing highlights, are accompanied by a soundtrack that included sections of Penderecki’s De Natura Sonoris.
As the last credit held the screen, Stanko’s sextet appeared and launched into a selection from his own score to the 1999 film Egzekutor. Starting insouciantly, Stanko’s husky trumpet was shadowed by soprano Justyna Steczkowska, each taking turns to ride over the other. Saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk occasionally joined in, adding more subtle colours to the duet. Meanwhile Steczkowska, in her spangly mini-dress, once or twice broke into a brief, self-absorbed, gentle wiggle. In the middle Pieronczyk’s dense and harder driven solos contrasted with pianist Dominik Wania, who alternated fluid runs with cool but decisive chords.
The second half was the Komeda tribute – majoring on his films with Polanski – minus Steczkowska, but with accompanying visuals: archive and original footage, clips from Knife in the Water and live relays of the musicians. In the event, it was dominated by the live relays – of the rest there was too little to be something and too much to be nothing.
The highlight was an extended medley, Wania again showed his versatility punching out a jagged but contemplative opening and later returning for a dreamy Debussian response to Pieronczyk’s tightly frantic solos. It was all held together by Stanko’s recurring Spanish-tinged trumpet.
For an encore, the dream sequence from Rosemary’s Baby was accompanied by one of Komeda’s greatest hits – riotously welcomed by the crowd – Sleep Safe and Warm again with Stanko and Steczkowska leading. The sextet beautifully captured the music’s lullaby mood, but abandoned the original orchestra’s bitterly ironic saccharine tone - and of course ignored this sequence's hypnotically somnolent soundscape. The new approach reflected the deep well of Komeda’s creativity, making a fitting end to the evening.
A quick note to point out (to those who don't already know) that I'll be at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 22 April introducing Karl Grune's 1929 film Waterloo, with the Philharmonia Orchestra playing the UK premiere of Carl Davis' score, under the composer himself. The film starts at 7.00 but I'll be talking at 5.45.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Somewhat belatedly (the problem of coordinating diaries), I just saw Shutter Island. A lot of reviews have concentrated on the labyrinthine (dare I say implausible?) plot though the "twist" - guessable in essence, if not in detail, within the first few minutes - bothered me less than in The Sixth Sense, which simply wasn't good enough to stop me being annoyed at how its self-proclaimed USP had failed.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
We came to fight to the death. To fight to the death, the people came forward. With our blood we have defended Russia. We have defended our mighty land. Our Field Marshal led us onward, led us rightly into battle for our country.
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