Friday, September 28, 2007

The Gospel According to PJ Harvey

Just read this interview with PJ Harvey in The Grauniad. This bit caught my eye, as what she says is completely on the money:

'Our time is almost up. In the car park, Harvey points out the remains of Abbotsbury's 11th-century abbey and a chapel dedicated to St Catherine - the patron saint of spinsters, she tells me - and then goes on her way. On my long journey home, I tune into Radio 1, and hear Zane Lowe once again playing When Under Ether, which sounds every bit as singular as Harvey had suggested. By comparison, the music that follows it seems hollow and generic, which rather puts me in mind of something she had said earlier on - an outburst, by her standards, in which she said her sense was that the quality of music, literature and film seems to be going "down and down and down, and I struggle so hard to get excited about anything".

Characteristically, she wouldn't be drawn on exactly who or what she was railing against, but lurking in what she said, there was a kind of mission statement. "There's too much of everything in the world, but particularly too much of everything that's not all that good. The world doesn't need any more art that's just all right. It only needs mind-blowing, inspirational, life-changing stuff."'

Friday, September 21, 2007

Folie: Clip Now Online

A short clip of the making of Folie is now online. Go to and click on the bottom right-hand image of the four displayed (showing Sally Scott in the shelter scene). The clip is from Rhys's documentary about the making of the film, which I saw for the first time yesterday, and a fine piece of work it is. Hopefully it will be on the DVD, once that comes out sometime next year. Right now, I'm in the midst of trying to get the remaining pick-ups in the can and trying to get things on track for the final stage of post. Watching Rhys's film reminded me as to why we got into this particular adventure in the first place - I only wish it was longer. Perhaps I can talk him into a longer cut, for those keen on the realtime experience...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why We Need Art

Mikhail Kononov, who played Foma in Andrei Rublev, has died. Obituaries can be found here and here. Something he said which is reported in the latter of these two articles reminded me of something I've been thinking about in the past few days. To quote:

"I am guided by the precepts with which our generation regarded art. This is why I desperately refuse to act in the TV-serials I am offered. I am terrified by the scripts I read: they are horrible! ... I have no right to allow myself playing in such nonsense. During one role test I even burst into tears. They all thought I was weeping because of growing into my role, while I cried for the horrible state of today’s cinematography and TV. I rejected the role, though it offered big money. One cannot meet the viewer on such a low moral and intellectual level. If we follow the mass public tastes we can lose our way. This is what is happening in cinema today. This is anti-art, anti-aesthetics. We must not support vice and mass psychosis. Otherwise our profession is not needed. Neither artists nor writers are needed."

It occurred to me that one of the reasons why arthouse/world cinema - call it what you will - is needed more than ever is due to the psychotic nature of Western civilisation. The film The Corporation makes that clear: that putting profit about all else has lead us into a state of cultural pyschosis. Money matters more than anything else. Now, I'm not against making money, but it seems fairly clear that we need to value other things as much as, if not more than, making a profit. These other values could include nuturing the imagination, pronoia, fostering the idea that each one of us has repsonsibilities for our own lives and other people, that every decision we make matters, etc.

This is where so-called unprofitable arthouse films come in. The best of them do foster, I think, some of the values mentioned above. In order to make these films more viable for exhibitors, maybe we need to change the whole cinema-going experience. Your average multiplex has perverted the whole idea of a 'House of Culture' that the French were trying to establish in the 50s, where you could go to the same place for films, dance, galleries, theatre and music. The multiplex simply gives you a dozen or twenty choices to choose from, and they're mainly all crap, junk food for the mind and soul. Plus you can't even get anything decent to eat or drink: it's all sugary crap. (Popcorn ought to be illegal at film screenings. If you eat it during a film, you are effectively saying you are a moron.)

We need art and culture (high culture) more than ever to fight against the relentless drivel of our society. Tarkovsky quoted Gurdjieff in The Sacrifice, and it is a quote worth repeating here:

"If sin is that which is inessential, then our civilization is built on sin from beginning to end."

Mikhail Kononov was right to cry: we should all be crying. The inmates have been running the asylum for far too long. It is time to pity them, and begin their re-eduction, otherwise the asylum will turn into a prison, from which there will be no escape.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sunset Song

Now that we are out of the Dog Days of August, which have been very frustrating with little progress on the project (July remains largely unspeakable - never my favourite time of the year), I have a few updates: we should have the film finished in time for the Berlinale deadline (around 01/11/07), as we now have a smidgin of cash potentially in the bank. More cash is of course needed, but I am now starting to feel that the whole bloody film will finally finish itself by the end of the year, meaning that 2008 will be our year! If we miss the Berlinale, we'll show it somewhere else instead (somewhere slightly warmer would be nice!).

I have also had some interesting conversations with people who have seen the cut. All have been positive, but a chat I had tonight in Glastonbury (of all places) has made me wonder whether we should add something else to the film, namely a voice-over. (Think Sunset Boulevard or American Beauty.) What Folie is about, in one respect, is the sense of being alive in the world, the sheer strangeness of being in a body, of feeling the wind against your skin, hearing a dog bark or a church bell, smelling the sea or a bonfire, smelling the salt of the sea. So the idea of a voice-over adds to the general ontological conundrum posed by the film. In other words, I want the film to ask the viewer, Is It Worth Being Alive At All? And If So, Why? Why Do You Appreciate Life? You should, because one day it will be taken from you. As The Doors said, 'Someday soon you're going to die.' This is the inherent tension at the heart of Folie - when will they (we) die? And how?