Saturday 26 September 2015

The Craft

When Dau.I and Dau.II were growing without schooling in the depths of rural Ireland, I discovered where it seemed that you could buy any movie ever made then pay some pretend-money off your credit card and a DVD in a box would arrive in the mail-box about 4 days later.  I bought movies for pretty much every birthday and Christmas (several at Christmas) for about 5 years: things I thought should be part of any child's experience of our common culture. That probably means 'films [Diva] and [Dinner] I liked'. I went off and bought a bunch of Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh. Much ado about Nothing were just gorgeous and Henry V was truly goose-bumping inspiring.  The Boy, who has high A/V standards, laughed at us huddling round a lap-top on a coffee-table to watch films and bought us DVD projector and a white 2m x 2m Ikea roller-blind to act as a movie-screen. We'd sit in a row on the sofa watching classic movies together. Happy nights.

In the early days, when Dau.II was maybe 7, I put on Much Ado. She was confused; "What's happening?", she whispered, "What's he saying?".  We could have paused the film and explained, but we were take-no-prisoners in our dealings with the girls: they had to work to keep up because we weren't going to talk down. Soon the kidder's expostulations died away as her ear tuned into the cadence, her mind interpolated language she'd not yet encountered and Shakepeare's magic worked on another generation. Drama, including the Bard's, is meant to be played not parsed; enjoyed not explained. I wasn't always on the button in my choices.  Driving in the car one day with the girls, I heard Zorba's Theme on the wireless and thought that Michael Cacoyannis' 1964 version of Zorba the Greek must be on the list in the next parcel.  Hmmm, they still twit me about the inappropriateness of thinking that a woman being stoned to death for adultery was appropriate visual input for an eight year old. "What's adultery, daddy?"  ...."I don't know darling, I'm not married".  The Z theme is still pretty good fun.

Sometimes, as well as the movie, the distributor would throw in 'extra features' with out-takes or director's commentary. That's how I discovered that David Lean had booted Julie Christie's hair in Dr Zhivago. In the extra features of A Fish Called Wanda DVD, there was a series of out-takes with an voice-over explanation from John Cleese, the writer and star.  In lots of the cases, the scene had been left on the cutting-room floor because it slowed the pace of the film; hilarious in itself but sacrificed for the whole. It was the best lesson I ever had in how films get made.

The DVD-era is long gone. The laptop died, its replacement didn't have an inbuilt DVD drive. The movie-screen fell off its bearings. Dau.I, then Dau.II left home. I had so little work that there was no $lack for fripperies. Nobody seemed to have the attention span for a 90 minute movie when there were 5 minute clips on youtube. Over the last Summer, over a few idle evenings, I've discovered the comedian Louis C.K. I'd never heard [of] him and yes, I've lived a very sheltered existence. It's also ironic that I was living about 500m from Newton North High School in suburban Boston when the young LCK was there cutting his teeth in stand-up. His stuff is edgy and the opposite of PC but that allows him to expose some of the evils and pretensions of our times. He is an acknowledged master of his craft, so it's interesting to watch Louis C.K. interviewed after a preview of some of his material.

The last question from the floor is sort of incoherent but his answer is true for every good thing I've ever been involved in. What he says is that film works, film takes off, when everybody on the set - the boom-operator, the best-boy, the key-grip and the continuity girl - is giving it socks. Being attentive to your craft, even if it's fetching tea or repairing the leading man's make-up, is important. It's not about the money, it's about doing it right. My girls are not slavies in the catering trade for the big money, but b'god they work - if the bins are brimful or the sink is full of matter then Dau.I or Dau.II will clean up and set right. They can do no other.

1 comment:

  1. But we never attempt anything without the rubber gloves.