popcorn

Happy New Year to everyone, wherever you may dwell. I don’t know about you but I can’t say how pleased I am to see the back of 2012, quite an odd, broken and unprosperous year, though, thankfully, the world didn’t end. It’s actually stopped raining too. I’m starting 2013 off with a bit of light popcorn, simply because I have nothing else up my sleeve,

Truly Human, or to give it its proper title, Et Rigtigt Menneske, is a Danish modern fairytale. It really made me laugh and smile throughout though, towards the end, things become more serious and there’s a sad finale, yet with a consoling twist.

et rigtigt menneskeA bit about Dogme 95 first. Unknown to me until now, this was a avant-garde movement in Denmark around 1995, to make films using traditional values of story, acting and theme, with minimal budget and no gimmickry and special effects. Et Rigtigt Menneske is an example of the Dogme genre. With this stripping down, I felt at times if this was a film made for television, there wasn’t much of a cinematic feel to it. What held it together and kept me watching was the superb performance of the lead, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and the compelling story by writer-director, Åke Sandgren. So, accepting this film as it comes, you get a good idea about what Dogme is.

The story begins with seven year old Lisa and her career-obsessed parents, both of whom appear to have little quality time or attention to spare for their only child. So Lisa has acquired an imaginary older brother who lives behind the wallpaper of her bedroom. Each evening, by candlelight, she speaks to him about the world prompted by the images she finds in her parent’s magazines.

The family home is due to be demolished to make way for a new development, so they have to move into a new apartment. Shortly after moving, tragedy strikes the family. Around the same time, their old home is being pulled down. The day after demolition, a young man emerges from the rubble, as lost and naive as a seven year old alien might be if newly fallen to Earth.

And that’s how the outside world sees him. Believing him to be a foreign refugee, he is taken to an asylum centre, first to be schooled in Danish culture, then given an apartment, a bus pass, and a shop job. This is where the fun starts – the good intentions of his mentors, the furtive advances of his boss, and the flirtatiousness of his colleague, the absurdity of his journey from naive to simply misunderstood.

Of course, there is a message in all this. Sandgren is questioning what it is to be considered a human being. One of the lines he gets the character to repeat is, “I am a real human being”, much to the bewilderment of the people he’s saying this to.

truly humanBut he lacks any of the nuances real human beings have, in particular their prejudices, suspicions, and acquired cultural codes of conduct. He is a blank slate, reacting without preconditions, but in a way that we might define as being truly human rather than merely human.

So, though probably not a great cinematic piece, it’s still a wonderful and captivating story with some real funny moments. A great character performance by the lead – and one of the better end credit sequence I’ve seen.

Truly Human, 2001

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pin screen animation: Michèle Lemieux

I’m not going to say too much about this because it’s all here on this video. I love short films and I love stop-frame animation, for years. Though I have the means, although basic, I’ve yet to try it myself. But not pin screen animation.


Pin screen animation has been around since the 1930s but I’ve just become aware of it. It comprises a screen, or matrix, of tiny retractable pins each contained within a tube. The pins can be drawn out of their tube by a mere 5mm to cast shadows which collectively and seen from a distance, render a tonal image.

Michèle LemieuxEnough of me. The wonderful animator, Michèle Lemieux, pictured left at her pin screen, describes it beautifully in this video on the making of her latest work, Here and the Great Elsewhere (link below). I hope it delights you as much as it did me.




Here and the Great Elsewhere (Making of) by ONFB , National Film Board of Canada

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popcorn

In the wrong hands, The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life could be sickly sweet and over-sentimental. Thankfully, it’s French. The French, I feel, are gutsier movie makers.

The story comes from a frequently drawn well. An average nuclear family growing up, growing away, growing old but, eventually, finding reconciliation, love and understanding.

There’s the usual tensions across the generation gaps – three generations, two gaps – and the common sibling rivalry and mistaken favouritism. Half of them are perceived somewhat successful, the other half not so, and though there is at times comedy and laughter, no one seems altogether happy and all are oblivious to the invisible bond that ties them together. It is as the poster has it, Cette famille, c’est la vôtre.

The film is set out as a series of short episodes, each focussing on one of the family members though not exclusively from their one point of view. Within these pieces, scenes leap forward by several months to almost a decade, showing the changes or no change at all. Yet, all is seemless and the acting is impeccable, and no one character dominates the film.

There can only be one end to this drama but when it comes it is executed swiftly and without the usual melodramatic deluge which often makes the rest of a film forgettable. It’s a brief but tender moment before the credits.

I enjoyed this story.

Le Premier Jour Du Reste De Ta Vie (2008)

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doodling: conceiving ideas unconsciously

I loves you porgyThis broken economy of ours is killing me. It’s dawned on me I no longer doodle.

I think the reason is during this recession I’m either laid-off, in which case I never find myself in dull office moments with pen in hand, or, whenever in work, I’m having to up my game meaning I can’t afford to be seen doodling.

laundromatcrusoeIt’s a shame as the majority of ideas stem from unconscious drawings in the margins of notes or the back of old papers. If any show some promise you can switch the brain on a bit and embellish or shade in or add a bit of colour.

Our printmaking tutor keeps a sketchbook of ideas. I think this might be an idea to try.

I’ve shied away from keeping a formal book of sketches and ideas; I have this inhibition about using a proper bound book for all the old rubbish I come up with.three fellas

What normally happens is if I come up with a doodle that I like I shove it in my workbag – the bag I carry my lunch and snacks in along with spare time sheets, invoices, parking receipts, memory sticks, correspondence with the taxman etcetera. So, when I need an idea I know where it could be and it’s simply a matter of pulling them out, ironing out the creases, and working them up. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of throwing the ridiculous stuff in the bin.urban doodleville

I believe I might start an ideas sketchbook for the new year.
girlfriend in a comaup a tree

from top to bottom,

  • I loves you, Porgy.
  • An Island for Crusoe & Friday
  • Laundromat
  • Three fellas
  • Urban Doodleville
  • Girlfriend in a coma
  • Up a tree
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    tony meeuwissen@corinium museum

    Tony Meeuwissen has a small exhibit currently showing in Cirencester. One thing about the modest gallery space behind the gift shop in the museum is when they display the work of someone as accomplished as Meeuwissen, it’s brimming with goodness.

    This is the second occasion I’ve stumbled upon his work in Cirencester. I see he’s based near Stroud, just up the road, so maybe it’s a regular event. Nevertheless, I think the museum is blessed.

    If you’re an illustrator, or into illustration in any way, you must already know his work. Even if you are not, you’ve probably seen some examples without knowing the artist’s name. That’s just awful, let’s try to change that.

    The cover of Rolling Stones’ Satanic Majesty’s Request is his, as are numerous covers of Penguin paperbacks. Maybe you’ve admired some of the commemorative stamps he’s done whilst sticking it to a Christmas card. A revelation for me today was discovering he’d illustrated the designs for the Winsor & Newton drawing inks boxes I used moons ago.

    There are some beautiful packs of playing cards on display, with some large scale individual cards. The tradition of illustrating playing cards using their suit and value as inspiration goes back a long time. 20121215-154136.jpgMeeuwissen has continued this tradition, his imaginative interpretations are truly delightful.

    Much of his work is themed around traditional games, the kind of board or table games that were around before video took over. With their bright palette and cheerful humour, they charm you back to gentler times, of chess and checkerboards, sweetshop treats, jars of tadpoles, and snakes and ladders. Even the ones depicting black widow spiders and death’s heads. Sheer magic.

    If you’re anywhere near this exhibition, be sure to pop by and see a truly fine body of illustrative work. If not, be sure to look out for it elsewhere. In the meantime, here’s a link to a good selection of his work at Creative Review.


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    Arnolfini: Matti Braun’s Gost Log

    Finding myself in Bristol for a few weeks, working a contract – which was unfortunately curtailed owing to the client’s (second) client’s indecision and the (first) client’s rather zealous thriftiness – I still had time and a couple of rain-free lunchtimes to pop along to the City’s Museum & Gallery to look at the art collection. It was closed; some sort of undisclosed refurbishment was in process.

    By way of consolation, the next day I walked over to the Arnolfini, down by the waterfront, the place for contemporary, leftfield art. I can’t say I’m into this, I don’t understand much of it, but I give it a go. It has, at times, entertained me during past lunch breaks.

    I do enjoy a bit of interactive art. I suppose it’s flattery. These artists are more aware of their public, it seems; they need you to join in.

    Matti Braun’s exhibition, Gost Log, takes over the whole gallery, which comprises two large spaces and several smaller rooms dotted about three floors. Approaching the first of the larger rooms, my first impression was that something was up with the lighting. It was dim. Too dim to appreciate the pictures – mostly abstract blotches on metal and silk, and a collection of framed illustrations – hanging around the walls. It was dark enough to miss the awkward step up at the door if it wasn’t for the warning notice provided. What on earth was this curator thinking of?

    Of course!, it’s all part of the installation. The lighting is prepared to give 50% UV, 50% utility fluorescence strip, with the wish to give the viewer an unusual experience. The step up was the result of an installed rough cast concrete floor, poured across the normal floor, to make the viewer more aware of his movement around the room. It works. In fact, for me, it was the only thing that saved it. The paintings were too random to express any meaning that I could imagine, and the UV rendered them void of colour. The illustrations seemed to be found images, simply framed. Again, too esoteric to fathom.

    The second large room, upstairs, was more delightful. Its entire floor area had been bunded to contain what seemed like three or four inches of brown, oily liquid. On closer inspection, it appeared to be water over some dark, plastic-like material. Spread across this lake are scattered sawn redwood logs forming a myriad of possibilities to traverse to the entrance to a small gallery on the opposite side. People were understandably hesitant. You’re putting a lot of trust in this artist, you might be trudging back to work with a booty (actually London schoolboy’s slang circa 70s for a squelching shoe full of water). It was fun. Quite exhilarating at times as some of the logs wobbled underfoot.

    matti braun: gost log

    The gallery on the other side contained some wall-hung printed fabrics and more abstract splotches, I think. After the log traverse, it was a let down. I was keen to get back, have another go across the pond.

    As I say, I’m a sucker for interactive art, and this was very interesting. I don’t know about the paintings, the collection of illustrations or the printed fabrics – I didn’t connect, they’re not my thing. Be sure to check it out and if you know something about the other works, be sure to let me know.

    Gost Log @ Arnolfini, Bristol

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    popcorn

    A recent development at LoveFilm is the decision to drop the limit for subscribers’ online viewing. It used to be four hours maximum per month, which is just two films. Of course, you’re required to pay for a couple of rental DVDs for this but, for some reason, we never seem to get around to watching them these days. Until this announcement, and times being what they are, I was beginning to doubt its value for money.

    As with music, films are better enjoyed as a solitary experience. That’s how I came to watch movies on the iPad, I like the closed intimacy of the small screen and earphones. Last night, I chose,

    The Isle

    What exemplary photography there is throughout this picture. One thing that I might do is pause the film anywhere and consider the captured still. How interesting does it look? Does it work outside the context of the drama? In this film, the composition, the colours, the mood, all seem spot on. The setting is otherworldly. The pace, despite the occasional violent incidents, is measured to suit, as tranquil as the water, dreamy almost.

    The Isle (2000)Somewhere in the wilds of South Korea, there is a ramshackle haven where men getaway to spend days fishing on a lake. They hire “floats”, simple, painted sheds secured to rafts anchored in the middle of a lagoon.

    Hee-jin is the forlorn, mute caretaker of this retreat, ferrying the men out and back, supplying them with their needs; provisions, fresh coffee, bait and prostitutes, sometimes providing the last service herself. The remains of a motorcycle lays semi submerged in a pond behind her shack on the shoreline. She appears abandoned, resigned to her fate, though not void of spirit. She moves through her watery world with the stealth of a water nymph, jealous, vengeful and violent towards the uncaring clients that cause her hurt.

    Hyun-shik is a fugitive lying low, a perpetrator of a crime of passion, now contemplating suicide. Finding him hiding and weeping on his float one day, Hee-jin feels an emotional connection. Violently distracting him at the moment he attempts to end his life, there develops a mutuality: of sex, self-harm, protection and rescue.

    Ultimately, past deeds catch up with them and they flee into a surreal final scene, symbolic, like an Ophelia, drowned in her scuttled boat, her pubis becoming the watery thicket of reeds in which he wades, searching for her.

    This film has much symbolism, I’m sure, if only I knew what it means. The colours of the two floats, yellow and purple. Good and evil? Life and destruction? It’s a film that’s worth a second viewing, which I can do now the limit has been removed.

    The Isle (2000)

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