Cinema Italiano

The museum of modern art in Bologna (MAMbo) has all the things you would expect to find in a contemporary art space; large sculptures of an almost industrial nature, paintings in monotone blocks and thought-provoking ceramics.  I make no pretence to understand it; when the Turner Prize took up residence at Gateshead’s Baltic a few years back I would have ranked the four finalists in almost the complete reverse of the eventual result. I do appreciate it however, for it can make me think about composition, texture, colour and light in ways that could influence the way I approach photography.

This being Italy, and more particularly Bologna, there is also a political element in several exhibits, and in the large ground floor space I found a special exhibition dedicated to a single artist who combined all of these and more, Pier Paulo Pasolini.

Italy in the 20th Century was a fertile breeding ground for film directors.  If you’ve seen the film Nine (stellar cast, mediocre film) you’ll see a stereotype of the model portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis; stylishly dressed entirely in black & white (to match his output), riven by personal anxiety and highly promiscuous.  It’s a musical version of Fellini’s masterpiece  8½, but you could apply the archetype to Roberto Rossellini (infamous for his affair with Ingrid Bergman), or Michelangelo Antonioni (whose Blow Up featured David Hemmings doing his best David Bailey impression).  Bertolucci shocked the world with Last Tango in Paris, Visconti gave us Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice and Zeffirelli the definitive Romeo & Juliet with Burton & Taylor.  There there are the genre directors:, Dario Argento for horror, and far more significantly Sergio Leone for his westerns (and of course Once upon a Time in America).

But back to Pasolini.  Creating a static exhibit on the director of the moving image isn’t easy, nor is trying to convert that through photography!  The museum did so with mannequins wearing costumes from his films and then creating zones around the gallery for each film, with clips shown above stills, letters, scripts and other material relating to each one.  Personally I never feel that a costume conveys much without the performer inside it, but I found the remaining material fascinating.

Pasolini’s life (and death) were eventful; son of an army officer and gambler who seems to have been aligned to the fascist right, Pasolini was taken to the country by his mother, the more significant influence in his life.  He became a writer and poet, a political activist of the far left, and of course a film director whose works are renowned for their sex, nudity and farce. (Little wonder that he inspired a Monty Python sketch)  He was murdered at the age of 53 in what appeared to be a mafia-style revenge killing, though the man convicted claimed it was because the Pasolini had tried to sodomise him.  (He was openly gay and his relationship with a young boy would be illegal under UK law).  Decades later the “murderer” retracted his confession, claiming that he had been under duress because of threats to his family, and that those responsible referred to Pasolini as a dirty communist.  Another possibility is that it was an extortion claim gone wrong; rolls of film from his last movie having been stolen.  That film was Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom._PW_4849

The man was certainly an intellectual, but based solely on some brief and unsubtitled clips of his films I can’t comment on his value as an artist.  The names of those who claim to be influenced by him seen around his portrait at the end of the exhibition suggest there are plenty who would.  Meanwhile my emotional sensitivity remained un-disappointed._PW_4851


Film (Habana 20)

Cuba has a cinematic tradition that goes back to the late nineteenth century when a number of theatres in Havana adopted the new technology to show short films, and this expanded in the decades that followed to include film production too, but in the years immediately following the revolution it reached its pinnacle.

Cultural exploits were encouraged by the new regime, and a department was created to support the production of documentaries.  A culture law passed at this time declared that film was “the most powerful and provocative form of artistic expression, and the most direct and widespread vehicle for education and bringing ideas to the public.”  In other words its potential as a propaganda tool was swiftly recognised.  Revolutionary and anti-imperialist themes were encouraged, but not exclusively.  Perhaps the most famous film produced, Lucia, is a historical drama told through the eyes of three women who share the name.

With so much output, you need places to show the films so Havana is dotted with cinemas.  The age of the multiplex has passed Cuba by, so seeing these places with the current features emblazoned on boards that require manual updates brought a sense of nostalgia.


The Very Visible Lighthouse

View from the Black Beacon to Orfordness Light

A couple of years ago my daughter Holly and I attended an unusual screening at Tyneside Cinema in which a film director was premiering his latest (and only) film.

The evening was in three parts. Firstly the film was shown, though soundtrack and narration were performed live from a spot to the left of the screen, then a leather armchair was manoeuvred to centre stage for the director to answer questions. Finally he returned to his console, strapped on a small keyboard and performed a short set of his greatest hits.

Thomas Dolby, Boulder Colorado 2006
Thomas Dolby, Boulder Colorado 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The director/writer/performer was Thomas Dolby, and the film was The Invisible Lighthouse, a tale of the role that this landscape had played in his childhood, replete with war heroes, UFO’s, an undercover operation, and in particular the Orfordness Light which was being decommissioned due to the increasing risk of it being swept away like so much of that coastline had before. Whilst the building itself was being left to the forces of time and tide, the light and ancillary equipment was to be removed because of the toxic impact it might have on the environment. Orford Ness is a nature reserve._MG_2615

So here we are a couple of years later and that encroaching sea has yet to deal the fatal blow. The lighthouse is clearly visible from many directions, largely due to the otherwise unused land that surrounds it. There are reasons that so much of that land is unused and I will explore them in the next posting about the Ness but for now lets concentrate on the light.

Dolby’s tribute wasn’t the only expression of sadness at the passing of a local landmark (there has been a lighthouse here since 1792). An association was formed to look into ways to temporarily defend the structure from the sea until more detailed plans for its preservation could be agreed.

They needed to act swiftly as it was only expected to survive a further 6 or 7 years after decommissioning in 2013. An article in the Daily Telegraph in January 2013 pointed out that the tower was only 11 metres from the sea, and that four metres had been lost in the previous month alone.

18 months later and the building still stands.

So far so good.


“How Distant Your Heart”/”How Close Your Soul”*

Not really a photography entry today, just an observation on the strange world of online dating at the suggestion of a friend who has featured on this blog herself in the past.  When I dipped my toe in these waters a few weeks back I happened upon a former colleague so naturally sent her a “fancy seeing you here” message.  In her reply she told me that she’d left the site after too many experiences with “dirty old men”.  Hmmm.  “Nice to know which category I fall into now.”  I replied.  Needless to say she backpedalled, wished me luck, and said at least I wouldn’t have to worry about them.

And yet there were still strange experiences in store.  The woman in Stockholm who I originally gave what I thought was a polite brush off too (only been to Stockholm once, and no immediate plans to pass that way again soon) who challenged me about that response and has turned into a platonic pen friend.

Then the enigmatic Mrs Smith whose monosyllabic responses seemed calculated to be provocative, and she was, provoking frustration and irritation (though at least she pointed me in roughly the right direction to get some pictures).

Most people on the site I have been using post a few pictures of themselves, but many do not.  If you’ll excuse the pun I find it hard to get the whole picture without an accompanying image.  If you think yourself so unattractive that you daren’t put a picture on the site, then how are you going to get over the challenge of that first face to face meeting?   I can understand that some people don’t want to share an image for professional reasons, and I had some nice chats with someone fitting this category who on sending me her photograph clearly had nothing to hide.  There were others of whom that cannot be said!  At the other end of the scale, shortly after making contact with one woman, she sent me this image of “her younger self” completely unbidden (I added the blurring).  What message was she trying to convey?  I don’t know as I never managed to develop a conversation with her.blur

And then there was the delightful lady who sent me a couple of  abusive texts for having the temerity to decline a meeting with her, waited several hours and then sent me another.  Not bitter at all then.  I didn’t have her picture but I was reminded of her when out riding at the weekend and finally encountered the fish wife Dolly Peel._MG_7261 _MG_7260-Edit

I just can’t get away from pictures it seems.  I’ve suspended my membership of the site now, but not before encountering the subject of  a couple of shots made yellow by a the colour temperature of the light they were shot in, which was coupled with the fact that she lives some distance away and I didn’t seem to match the profile she was seeking.  It should have been a non-starter.

Still, sitting here in Widnes as I write this, there’s an interesting metaphor at hand.  There’s a structure here dating back to the late 1950’s that transformed the local economy.  The Runcorn Gap made insignificant by a 50+ year old!_MG_7333_4_5

*In 2007 Harold Budd collaborated with Robin Guthrie to simultaneously release a pair of albums that could rightly be called twins: After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks.  The tracks on each album are linked to the corresponding track on the other, hence the pairing of these pieces, which seemed appropriate.

How Distant Your Heart      How Close Your Soul

Hang on to your hat!

Early in the film Unfaithful, Diane Lane‘s character does battle with gale force winds in New York City. Whilst this fictional storm is as nothing compared to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is enough to cause Miss Lane some problems with her dress (shame!) and ultimately blow her quite literally into falling for Olivier Martinez which is where the trouble begins as she’s married to Richard Gere!

High winds hit Sunderland today so I made for the town centre which was once notorious for its wind tunnel effect, to see what drama may ensue This was never going to provide a Diane Lane type wardrobe malfunction, after all “tracky bottoms” are de rigueur for many of the population, but I thought there might be the odd lost hat or two!

In the end I grabbed a few candids of frustration and desperation, including one guy who seemed to feel the need to hold onto his hair, though he didn’t look much like Wayne Rooney.

Eventually I met John who had the perfect solution to the conditions. His head covering was neither hair nor fabric, yet it was completely weatherproof. It was ink!