Being John McLean

This time last year, as relief from the winter gloom, we went down to Margate to see an exhibition of paintings by Patrick Heron. This year there’s no need to travel quite so far; the Art Space Gallery in Islington is full of winter sunshine until the end of January. I don’t know why I’ve never been before. It’s an intimate series of rooms and alcoves and niches, presently framing some wonderfully joyful bursts of colour by John McLean. It’s a memorial exhibition for a sharp, bright and generous spirit. Continue reading “Being John McLean”

Frames of reference

Le Quattro Volte

Six years ago I posted a trailer on Frames of Reference for this magical film by Michelangelo Frammartino, Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times). Now, at last, here’s the whole thing. It’s a film unlike any other. Time passes slowly from one to another. These are some words from the trailer…

We each have four successive lives within ourselves; each one contained within the others. We are mineral; we are made of salt, water and organic matter. We are vegetable; like plants we breathe, reproduce and nourish ourselves. We are animal; we have imagination, memory and knowledge of the outside world. In the end we are rational beings; we possess will and reason. We each have four distinct lives within ourselves… and so we must discover ourselves four times.

Frames of reference

Patience (After Sebald)

This modest, immensely enjoyable documentary is about one of my favourite books, ‘The Rings of Saturn’ by the German poet and critic W G Sebald, who was born in 1944, taught for much of his adult life in this country, mainly at the University of East Anglia, and was killed in a motor accident in 2001. It was first published in German in 1995, translated into English three years later and is an account of a walking tour of Suffolk, the people he meets, the places he visits, and the historical and literary reflections prompted by what he sees and senses, taking his mind around the world. Suffolk becomes a sort of palimpsest for his eloquent, precise, lugubrious, often drily witty meditations about war, death, destruction and decay, about memories and continuities and the feeling that nothing entirely disappears.

Grant Gee’s film should make anyone want to read ‘The Rings of Saturn’ and the rest of Sebald’s relatively small but exquisite oeuvre, some eight or nine books in all.

Philip French

Frames of reference

The Phantom Revue

The Ghost Cat Phantom Revue (to give the full title) is an annual Darktown cabaret, part of the Cadaver Clamjamphrie, held at the Starlight Hotel, every halloween. The revue have also been known to perform around St. Within’s Day too.

The Cat People, Domino & Rufus, inspired by the great Jacques Tourneur film, will appear on stage and tell polite jokes, which the audience may or may not find amusing. Continue reading “The Phantom Revue”

Frames of reference

Mio Pomodori (1)

On holiday in Italy last year, we were surprised and amazed by the supermarket tomatoes, so different to the usual British varieties. Now, with holiday season approaching again, I was looking back through our photos, and this one was pretty much the first I took. And then I discovered there were lots more that I’d overlooked, so here are a few of the freshest and ripest. Continue reading “Mio Pomodori (1)”

Frames of reference

Patience (After Sebald)

This modest, immensely enjoyable documentary is about one of my favourite books, The Rings of Saturn by the German poet and critic WG Sebald, who was born in 1944, taught for much of his adult life in this country, mainly at the University of East Anglia, and was killed in a motor accident in 2001. It was first published in German in 1995, translated into English three years later and is an account of a walking tour of Suffolk, the people he meets, the places he visits, and the historical and literary reflections prompted by what he sees and senses, taking his mind around the world. Suffolk becomes a sort of palimpsest for his eloquent, precise, lugubrious, often drily witty meditations about war, death, destruction and decay, about memories and continuities and the feeling that nothing entirely disappears. Continue reading “Patience (After Sebald)”

Frames of reference

Sovana & Pitigliano

From Saturnia it’s a short drive to Sovana, a small village with just a single street, beautifully paved in herringbone brickwork. There’s a ruined castle at one end and a cathedral at the other, and a piazza in the middle where we ate delicious lemon pizza for lunch. Continue reading “Sovana & Pitigliano”

Frames of reference

Homage To Andrei Tarkovsky

The Tarkovsky Quartet – François Couturier, piano; Anja Lechner, violoncello; Jean-Louis Matinier, accordion; Jean-Marc Larché, soprano saxophone – at the Nostalgia Festival, Poznań in 2013.

Andrei Tarkovsky is my favourite filmmaker. “Andrei Rublev” was a revelation for me. Since then I have seen all his films over and over again… They are long poems, hypnotic in their slowness, and pervaded with spirituality. There is very little music in them. Tarkovsky used to say, “It’s my personal conviction that a film does not need music at all.” Anyway, he was a master of using it.

So I did not seek to make ‘scenic’ music of any kind but have tried, instead, to represent in each piece a specific emotion linked to the universe of this director – to his films, of course, but also to some of his favourite actors (Anotoli Solonitsyn, Erland Josephson) or composers (Bach, Pergolesi). Or even to the very original way he plays with shades of colour (“Crépusculaire”). This is our way of paying tribute to this great artist.

François Couturier

Continue reading “Homage To Andrei Tarkovsky”

Frames of reference

Andrei Tarkovsky, Cinema Of The Soul

And then I found this short homage by Martin Kessler. It’s a collection of well-chosen clips from some of Tarkovsky’s best films, beautifully woven together with music by Beethoven and Bach, to produce a sampler that just leaves me wanting to see more of these memorable moving images.

Open Culture: Andrei Tarkovsky

Frames of reference

San Galgano

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A couple of days later we discovered another ancient abbey, a counterbalance to the beauty and elegance of Sant’Antimo, the Abbazia di San Galgano stands open to the sky, with all the breathtaking grandeur of a canyon carved out of the rock, its great hulk like a ship run aground. Continue reading “San Galgano”

Frames of reference