documentary

quilt, Ken Burns, video, documentary

“Civil discourse… quilts and films are ways to do that”

Ken Burns, well-known American film-maker, recently revealed that in a lifetime of making films for other people, he was quietly collecting quilts, for his own enjoyment. Then he let them go on public show, at The International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The whistle-stop tour in under 2 minutes.

And for the threads enthusiasts – the 10 minute version – which also features great footage of how a textile exhibition is mounted.

“The common sharing of our heritage becomes a way in which you can continue to have a civil discourse – and that’s really, really important to me.  And quilts and films are ways to do that.  And that’s been my mission in life.” – Ken Burns

I love it that a man with a camera move named after him (the Ken Burns effect, look for it in your home video editing program) is that ‘into’ quilts, and sees the same attention to detail, colour, line and creativity which he used in his film medium.

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Comedy writing – Monty Python

As a fully-paid up comedy writing fan, I’m delighted by a Youtube documentary “Life before the Flying Circus” – featuring the background to the Monty Python comedy team.

I’ve watched lots of comedy documentaries in my time, and will seek out ones on Monty Python – but this programme seems to have the edge over so many I have already seen.  It not only has the boys themselves, but also brief but insightful contributions from the bigwigs in comedy who encouraged them at the start.  You get a sense of the industry.  The sight of Frank Muir, with the inevitable bow-tie, was delightful.

What comes across is an unglossy version of the beginnings of being an ‘overnight success’.  When you hear that Eric and Michael would spend all week writing comedy sketches, to only get 2 minutes of their material on air and earn £14 – which they then had to split between them – you realise things have always been tough at the bottom.

So, comedy writers – watch this and rejoice – there is hope, there can be breaks – and here, what worked was being hardworking, focussed and taking the unglamorous jobs and just grafting away – ironically while saying that at least we don’t have boring desk jobs.

The picture from the documentary which I’ve chosen as the photo for the top of this blog post is grainy and not taken with an eye to the future.  But I love it – it’s the start of something special, and it’s “in the room”, as it happens.

How to make a photography exhibition

Paul Duke documented the decline of the fishing industry in the Moray Firth, with a series of life-size photos.  He tells the story of how he took those and made them into a whole exhibition.

Paul’s Black and White photos are stunning, and have been put into a book by the same title as the exhibition: “At Sea.”

This is photography as documentary of a community, which will become a record of a traditional industry, as it fades.

At the same time, it is a study in portraiture – for Paul, it was very important that the size of the finished photographs be life-size, as though the people depicted were there, in person.

And finally, it is a collaboration between the photographer, the framer and the maker of the text for appearing beside the photographs.

Russian Revolutionary Art

Occasionally, with very good films, you come away stunned.  On Saturday, I saw “Loving Vincent” and was affected – similarly with today’s viewing of a memorable documentary on Soviet revolutionary art.  I saw a whole range of arts took on vital new forms – as the film tells us the gripping, memorable and mostly tragic tale of what happened next in Russia.

I knew a little about Russian art around 1917, and less about the history, but I now know far more.  “Revolution: new art for a new world” is made by Margy Kinmonth.  I hadn’t seen her work before, but will need to rectify this, as the list of her art documentaries is long and distinguished.  The range of resources and research in this film are vast: previously unseen paintings, artworks which are too precious to leave the country, and interviews with the children and grandchildren of the featured artists.

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stained glass, Arran

Stained Glass and Making films – Richard Leclerc and Make Works

Having had so many posts last week about collage – here are 2 similar in a much more expensive media – stained glass and video.

  1.  Stained Glass

    A brief, one and a half minute film about Richard Leclerc, who lives and works on Arran Island, with a stained glass making practice.

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Songwriter – Carly Simon

Just watched a BBC documentary on the making of the album “No Secrets” – which includes the song “You’re so vain”.  Absorbing.

 

We get to hear from the producer, bassist, sound engineer, drummer, lead guitarist, her manager and most of all Carly herself.  What were her inspirations for her songs?  What was it like to be at the centre of recording such a phenomenally successful album?

A great insight into songwriting and the team effort which is recording an album. And also of the personal and emotional toll it takes on the performer, in the concentrated pressure chamber of the studio. Should be watched by all wouldbe musicians.

Much of the documentary is about the single “You’re so vain” because there are so many little separate elements which made it special.  One of these is backing vocals by a very young Mick Jagger, whom Carly randomly met at a party shortly beforehand, and brought into the studio.

Carly also talks about how she was influenced by the soul stylings of singer Odette (photo featured above).  The photo on the album and its title were not chosen til the very last minute.  The photo used on the front cover was literally as Carly left the photo shoot, dressed in her own favourite clothes, to go back to the studio to work.

Much of this album and its making are indeed life and art combined – the life of one particular musician, at a particular phase in her life and in the technology of sound recording.

This one hour documnetary is available to view on BBC iplayer but only until 5 June – so watch or download soon.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08pg5tq/classic-albums-carly-simon-no-secrets

I’m on the Riviera…..

with film star Richard E Grant.  And the painter Matisse.  And a BBC camera crew.

As you’ve probably guessed, I am watching a BBC Arts documentary – “The Riviera: a history in pictures”.  (We have only seen episode 1.  For UK viewers, episode 2 is on Monday at 9 pm, BBC4).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01ps9jr/the-riviera-a-history-in-pictures-1-painting-paradise

 

 

Joyfully, our companion/presenter/guide, Richard, is obviously glad to be there in the sunlight (he has holidayed there over many years) – and explains how the South of France coastal landscape influenced the artworks painted there by Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Cross, Signac, Matisse and Braque (co-creator of Cubism with Picasso).  Richard is not only pleasant company, he has really done his homework well and unfolds an insightful story of art.

Through what he says, you can see the influence of the particular light and harsh rocks landscape on the way these painters made art.  And you feel like you’ve been sitting in sunshine, with a delightful, charming and witty companion.