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All art involves compromise and failure in equal measure so nothing to be ashamed of Simon and Woody…as Patrick Uden used to say: “documentaries are never finished just abandoned”…the secret is knowing when to stop “improving” something……and there are lessons in that for all commissioning editors, executive producers and clients too.
Posted by conor on May 17th 2012 at 4.04pm
Me and Woody Allen
Confession time. I read a quote from Woody Allen the other day that really hit home. It is exactly how I would describe my experience of being a director:
“Every time I start a film I think it’s going to be as good as Citizen Kane, and then halfway through I’m determined to prostitute myself in any way I can in order to prevent a total catastrophe”.
My excuse is that at Proudfoot we find ourselves having to give in to client requests, however far they may take us from our original vision. Not sure what Woody’s excuse is.
Posted by Eddie on May 17th 2012 at 3.15pm
Penises, Vaginas, Hawthorn Bushes and Finding Your Own Aestheic
Walking around David Hockney’s recent RA exhibition I was struck by how familiar it all seemed. The green fields and hedgerows of East Yorkshire in his paintings are so similar to my own native Lincolnshire. At one point I was really quite moved by it, I could almost smell the “featureless” countryside of my youth. In returning to his home ground Hockney has drawn our attention to a myriad of detail in a seemingly “boring” place: the changes of season, the deep purples and even oranges and reds to be seen in the rain soaked landscape of the north. In his films we track slowly down the same lanes and hedge rows comparing the seasons in pin sharp hi def, every detail of oak tree and plough furrow hitting our senses like some kind of heightened trip. One of the paintings is of a Hawthorn bush in flower, it put me in mind of a painting in The Usher Gallery Lincoln that I saw on numerous trips there with my keen Sunday-painter mother. The painting is called “The Spinney” and depicts a bush in the middle of a field, for some reason it has always stuck in my mind, it could be highly conceptual but like Hockney, the artist Kenneth Gribble is just marvelling at the ordinary, drawing our attention to the beauty and complexity in something we might otherwise take for granted. This led me to thinking about what defines my own aesthetic, having come from the prairies of East Anglia, I am slightly obsessed with landscape and establishing “where we are?” when making a film. Furthermore when I look at something and arrange it in a frame the dividing line between, headland, horizon and an uninterrupted sky are the markers by which I look at almost everything. If I’m interviewing someone I’m placing them in a landscape, it’s often the landscape of an interior but its still harks back to the boring Lincolnshire landscape whence I came.
When people look at a painter’s life’s work they often try to work out whether there is any dimming of the spirit or to put itmore bluntly: did they get any better? What you can say about Hockney’s recent work is that his ability to take a risk and try something new and dangerous is still in full swing, there is failure but there are also about five paintings that are absolute career bests, masterpieces. He is essentially still working on the same idea, analysing and re-showing us the world about him. He said to me a few years back when we were making a film for a client of ours, “I only paint the things I love” and somehow looking at the people crammed into the RA with smiles on their faces, they seemed to be seeing what he sees, a LOVE of our world.
An acquaintance of mine the other day said “I don’t think Lucian Freud really liked people” it was one of those moments you thought “have we been looking at the same artist?” Freud’s life obsession was the landscape of the flesh. That was Freud’s aesthetic, trying to understand the push and pull of skin and muscle and sinew and somehow showing us something new in something so familiar but also private,forbidden. He’s telling us something about these people that they wouldn’t, couldn’t offer up themselves.
Freud is probably the best painter of penises and vaginas ever – Gustav Courbet had a go at the sharp end of a woman in the nineteenth Century but it had to be put away until 1988 as it was deemed too shocking to exhibit. If you stand close to those Freuds on show at the National Portrait Gallery you get a real sense of depth and weight in the flesh…like the landscapes of Hockers you can almost smell the flesh with a slight hint of oil paint from Lucian’s easel behind us. Freud loved people.
The other small argument I have had with fellow Freud travellers is that in my opinion he got better and better, he grew increasingly less afraid of what the paint could do for him. In the early works the paint surface is smooth, almost photorealist but he twists and exaggerates features, accessories, backgrounds. To tell us more about his subjects Freud fits a slightly distorting lens to his POV and somehow we see the deteriorating relationship, the dysfunctional group. In the later works he changes his angle and viewpoint, the paint is globbing up everywhere to make us sense the breast, the buttock, the penis, the nose, the eye. He is offering us an experience of intimacy and carnality, making us aware of the world and what it really means to be human.
And so the conclusion to this ramble? You can learn a lot by looking at paintings because they teach us how to look… and looking (and listening) is what we do at Proudfoot.
Posted by conor on May 17th 2012 at 11.27am