Monday, 21 March 2016

MA-Ness Week 12 - Distraction, Coffin Furnishings Visitations, Films (or fillums as my Nana would have said) Poetical Musings, Walking, Projects and Student Food.

Not a very full post it note but it has been a busy few days, though I have been struggling to focus properly today as am feeling distracted by health related woes - though hopefully they are more sorted now...and I am determined that I will not leave the desk ( I mostly write this sat at a proper old school pc so I feel in proper 'work mode') until it is finished...though I reserve the right to distract my self  by looking at pictures of cats on the tinternet or listening to Hacker T Dog (one of my current comedic heroes) as he never fails to make me chuckle.

So I last wrote this blog/research journal on last Thursday as I had got out of sync writing it due to lots of appointments at the start of last week. So this week I only have a few days activities to write up as opposed to the usual 7 days so I can get back into my usual rhythm  of writing it - but what fun days they were - firstly a visit to a coffin furnishings factory in Dewsbury to collect coffin linings offcuts. I intend to use the offcuts to print on so I shall have to book a time in the darkroom to paint them with cyanotype solution though I also have something called Solarfast which I haven't used yet. It says it works best on natural fabrics and the offcuts I have are possibly not made from natural fibres but manmade ones....oh well I shall have fun experimenting and as the company I approached were very generous indeed I have lots to practice on. I didn't take any photographs inside the building but it looked very similar in set up to Newman Brothers in Birmingham and I did take lots of photographs afterwards of the fabulous Victorian height of might of empire architecture nearby afterwards.

But it was like stepping back in time - from the paper card clock in system, the old tins which contained many years worth of tea bags, the truly beautiful wood and etched glass, the evidence of leaks on the ceiling and oh it was lovely - I'd like to go back but I'd like to have something to offer in return before I go ask again. They were very generous when they didn't need to be and I don't want them to think I am taking advantage. In the meantime I have sent them an old school postcard with my thanks on it and when the work I've got in mind is finished I'll send them copies of that too.

I also had a lovely time meandering around Dewsbury afterwards - got a good haul from the big Sue Ryder charity shop, saw beautiful tombstones in the Heritage Centre and a heartbreaking memorial tapestry made in 1866 by 36 year old Sarah Anne detailing the loss of her eight children (some died in infancy, the eldest Clara lived til she was 4 years and ten months) over the previous 11 years. I hope she got some comfort from the phrase/belief embroidered 'they are not lost though but gone before....'

I also took part in a community art/history project which was looking at peoples stories of Dewsbury, I stumbled upon it after walking down an arcade which looked interesting and being invited in by one of the contributing photographers.  I don't remember ever having visited there before but have been through it often on the train (especially when as an undergraduate I was travelling back to Manchester) and the artist co-ordinating it when I said why I was visiting said it was the 'most niche reason' she had heard or was likely to for visiting Dewsbury.

I've seen a lot of films recently - the last two weekends have been spent amongst the comfort and huge screen of Pictureville in Bradford watching Hail Caesar (2016 Cohen Brothers) which I absolutely loved - their recreation of lovely golden age of Hollywood genres (the homage to On The Town with Channing Tatum is especially funny as it takes homoerotic undertones to overtones and the Esther Williams water movies recreations is just glorious, as are Tilda Swinton's characters suits) and this weekend was Rams (2015 Hakonarson) - I thought it was going to be a comedic film about two sheep farming brothers who live next door to one another but do not speak to one another and haven't done so for 40 years. It did have comedic moments - the noise of the hidden sheep being explained as 'many cats', the delivery of the drunken almost frozen brother to the hospital via the bucket of a tractor, the written communication system the brothers use via sheepdog but otherwise it was bleak and somewhat grim.

Far more glamorous and exciting was yesterdays double bill of Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015 Jones) followed by Rear Window (1954 Hitchcock) - my only quibble about the otherwise excellent documentary about the interviewing by Hitchcock by Truffaut over 8 days in 1962 was that surely there must be some female film directors somewhere who could also have spoken about the influence Hitchcock had on their work though the male directors interviewed all had very interesting things to say - as did Truffaut and Hitchcock thought the most tantalising juicy bits of gossip were obviously relayed via interpreter after the mics were turned off.  I made some notes in the dark (well the limited light of the screen) and the things which struck me were:

  • the time and preparation Hitchcock put into how his films were going to be made (note to self find out more about his wife and her role in his work, he said he always made decisions in consultation with Alma) 
  • he was a roman catholic - I didn't know this
  • He said of himself - 'my mind is strictly visual, logic is dull' - the former bit makes absolute sense when you realise his made his start in silent films and that 'ideally you should be able to tell a story in film without dialogue'.
  • A director is 'an author writing with a camera'.
  • He made his films to be seen by hundreds in an audience situation 

And those directors interviewed or quoted in the film included Wes Anderson saying that his book of Hitchcock/Trufaut is now a pile of pages held together with an elastic band such has been his enthusiastic and constant reading of it for it is such a film makers bible, that various objects appear in a fetishistic way in lots of his films:
rope, keys, handcuffs,
The transfer of guilt in his films - overtly in I Confess (Montgomery Clift was indescribably beautiful) or the mistaken presumption of guilt (am guessing his roman catholic upbringing has no small part in this)
The omniscient camera angle often used - religion rarely overtly expressed in his films (I Confess being an exception though there are sometime minor figures who are religious eg the nun in 39 Steps)
his incredible use of back projection - which thanks to todays high definition projection equipment can look a bit shonky and dissolve effects
How he speeds up what you expect to be slow and slows down what you expect to be fast...and how as a director he wanted to wrongfoot the audience so that what they expected to happen wasn't going to.

There are elements though of Hitchcock's work which I find problematic, though how much of that is him and how much a reflection of the times he lived in I'm not sure - his portrayal and use of female actors, well all actors actually. Plus I also need to do some more research into the technicians he used plus praise must also go to Bernard Hermann and his incredible scores - Psycho and Vertigo being my favourites.

Rear Window was wonderful - yes there are some plot holes, but as a voyeuristic exercise (as all films are in some ways) it is wonderful. I love the nurse who comes in to give LB his physiotherapy and her somewhat gruesome fortune telling and the costumes made by Edith Head are GORGEOUS!! I know I'm going to really enjoy a film if there is a credit for 'gowns' or if the costumes are made by Edith Head.

A few days ago I got a couple of books from Chapel Allerton Library - from the pile of books set aside to be sold. I always think it is bit sad to see the word 'DISCARDED' stamped inside the cover but I am happy to them be able to buy them and keep them in my greasy little mitts or rather in piles around the edge of the bookcases as the bookcases are already doublestacked and having at the seams so to speak.

One of the books I got was All Points North by Simon Armitage (2009  Penguin Edition) which is giving me both food for thought and funny looks by fellow passengers on public transport as bits of it are making me laugh out loud. His description of his visiting the film set of Regeneration has given me lots of food for thought as he states on page 83 that film is:
'...only just at the potty-training stage in comparison with certain other ancient and well practised art forms' plus it is a 'fairly passive medium, requiring very little of its audience short of not falling asleep. Film rests very comfortable on the retina, whereas printed words seem to get right down through the optic nerve, like microbes of thought, inflaming the imagination.'

Plus films are made by 'collectives' and often are remakes of books and as a rule 'the greater the book, the poorer the film'. Lots and lots of food for thought there.... and I think he is definitely and obviously right re the collectives and mostly right re film adaptations. The only one I can think of that I don't mind as a version of the book is the 1962 version of To Kill A Mockingbird directed by Robert Mulligan - which I think stands up as a good film in its own right...though how much that has to do with my love of monochrome films in general and Gregory Peck in particular I'm not sure.

I'm really interested in place and how place influences the people who love in it and walk in it - I feel an instant 'aaah' feeling of peace and kind of completeness whenever I visit St George's Fields for instance, and I also like discovering new places - though I am also a creature of habit and have certain definite routes to places I follow, so much so that I have to make myself walk a different way to places sometimes, along with making myself look up - you'd be amazed by what gorgeousness you see on buildings just by looking up - especially in Leeds City Centre. I also like the physical process of walking - I find it quite meditative and get most of my best ideas when I'm walking - so much so I always have either a notebook and pen in my pocket or my phone to draft notes notes.

I am still trying to decide which projects to include in my portfolio (hand in is in August) and what format I want them to be in, and this is contrast to my undergraduate self who left things to the last moment and didn't really plan things through til the last moment. However in other ways I have almost completely reverted to early student behaviours ie I listen to Fall albums on repeat - though these days it is less likely to be the Wierd and Wonderful World and more likely to be Fall Heads Roll or Reformation Post TLC. I wear a lot of black (though to be fair my recapturing of my lost goth youth began in earnest some 13 years ago) like I did then but I have also started eating manky but delicious lazy food like I used to - namely pasta slathered with salad cream - though I now add sweetcorn in a somewhat futile attempt to make it more nutritious and at least it's one of my five a day....

Technically it's the Easter Holidays now but I have so much reading to do still, phd opportunities to research, images to make, work to sort out, papers to write I doubt I'll be taking much time off....

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