Thursday, 24 February 2011

Part 2: Directors' Art Outside of Film

A few weeks ago I wondered why so few Directors had tried or were trying their hand at other artistic disciplines.

Following the comments for my post it was clear that I had thoroughly underestimated how common this exploration of other arts was (if not how well publicised it is).

Therefore I decided to add those examples to the ones I wrote about originally to create a gallery of images, videos and quotes relating to those creations.

David Lynch 

Aside from his work in advertising (a cigarette advert that runs backwards, spots for Playstation etc.), and his involvement in writing music for his films (Polish Poem from Inland Empire, co-written with Chrysta Bell) David Lynch is a sculptor and a painter:

His rejected contribution to the 2000 New York Cow Parade:

Eat My Fear

Exhibiting in the window of Galeries Lafayette in Paris:

 Viewed from another angle the eerie, curtained display space seems transported from one of his films:

Finally a painting entitled The Face :

Danny Boyle 

The Director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours has recently returned to the theatre as director of Frankenstein in London. This is a trailer released for the production. 

It received its premiere at the Olivier Theatre this week. It was awarded a five star review by The Times who call it "a hell of a production" and "rather wonderful". The Telegraph gives a "viscerally exciting and visually stunning" production four stars, saying Boyle pulls off the "impossible task" of making the "old story seem fresh".

Boyle is Artistic Director for the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, a role so brilliantly filled by Zhang Yimou for Beijing three years ago.

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray designed posters and created fonts, wrote short stories for children and, from Teen Kanya onwards, music for his films (links to compositions most welcome). He was also a film critic. Here is his book Our Films, Their Films at Google Books. 

One of his fonts:

A poster for Charulata :

Jerzy Skolimowski

The Polish actor, writer and Director is also a painter. 

The Judgement (Top) 

Albert Lamorisse

Best known for the shorts films The Red Balloon and The White Mane, Albert Lamorisse created the world-renowned board game Risk : La Conquete Du Monde. It was first sold in 1957, conquering the world soon after.

Albert Lamorisse (top) and Risk

Wim Wenders

In both fiction and documentary film-making Wim Wenders has built a great reputation. Beyond the screen he is an avid photographer, capturing the world in a different frame:

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick was fascinated with still photography, a passion whose indulgence pre-dated his work in film (though not documentary film-making).

In 1946 he became an apprentice at Look magazine, eventually being taken on full-time (click for enlarged image):

Top: Lovers; Middle:
a photo taken as a 16-year old 
on his way home from school following 
the death of Franklin D Roosevelt; Bottom: Self-Portrait

Kubrick was also enthused by Jazz music, though his efforts to turn professional came to a dead end.

Woody Allen  

Woody Allen has been a more successful Jazz musician. He is (supposedly) an accomplished clarinetist who plays as part of his New Orleans Jazz Band. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, of which he was a member, provided music for his 1973 film Sleeper.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Aside from writing, directing and starring in his films, Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote music for them. Listen to the first four tracks of El Topo here.

He was a playwright and theatre director, producing over one hundred plays. He also wrote comic books such as The Incal, a science fiction series illustrated by revered artists such as Moebius (Jean Giraud):

In the 1960s he wrote and drew a series entitled Fabulas Panicas for a Mexican newspaper. A Chilean, he has spent a lot of his life in Mexico, where most of his theatrical productions were staged.

Fabulas Panicas

Vincent Gallo

Director/Actor Vincent Gallo has other strings to his bow (I leave it to others to determine whether they are out of tune) : a singer/songwriter and a painter/photographer. Below is his Stranger # 20:

Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda, as well as being an influential film-maker, is a photographer:

She wrote the song "Chanson Lola" for the 1961 Jacques Demy film Lola. The next year they were married. She has created art installations. In the Summer she is to be found teaching in Saas-Fee in Switzerland as a Professor of Film and Documentaries at The European Graduate School.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder wrote his first play, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, when he was nineteen years old. It was never produced (Fassbinder never wanted it produced as its 'scandalous' tale was autobiographical and intimately personal) in his lifetime. Thirty-Six years after it was written and eighteen years after his death it was turned into a film by Francois Ozon:

 From Francois Ozon's 2000 film 
Water Drops on Burning Rocks

In total he wrote twenty-four plays and four radio plays.

Federico Fellini

Fellini was a cartoonist, an artist who sketched his ideas both for his films and for his own amusement. For three decades before his death he had literally drawn his dreams.

Hiroshi Teshigahara

Hiroshi Teshigahara made some fine films (Pitfall, Woman of the Dunes, Face of Another as well as the splendid 'documentary' Antoni Gaudi). His father, Sofu Teshigahara, was the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana Flower Arranging.

This love for the organic and the meticulous is evident in Hiroshi's film, Rikyu, about a 16th Century master of the Japanese Tea Ceremony and also in his Bamboo art installations:

These works, along with designing and producing operas in Europe, filled up the last, film-less, decade of his life.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Russian Director Andrei Tarkovsky was given the opportunity to direct the Modest Mussorgsky Opera Boris Godunov in Covent Garden in 1983. One of the performances is available on DVD.

Werner Herzog

Some may call his fiction films and (ficitionalised) documentaries weird and wonderful, idiosyncratic and operatic. It is not too surprising then to find that he has directed opera. Here are two clips from his production in Baltimore of Louis Gentile's Tannhauser: one and two.

Sergei Parajanov 

As his film-making career progressed, Armenian Director Sergei Parajanov's films became a succession of tableaux vivants. He made many collages including:

The Virgin Collage, 1971-73

His collages were like sculptures. He would often use dolls that he made while imprisoned.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Cinema is a Cave

A cinema is like a cave. The bright screen is the light of the world outside, and its images the many and diverse vistas seen through its mouth.

There is something civilising (one could say the essential character of all art) for a group of Neanderthals staring out.

*   *   *

Caves and underground passages of any kind can be used in films not just as an impressive setting or as a claustrophobic space to ratchet tensions but as a metaphor for, and exposer of, the hidden fears of characters, their insidious subterranean thoughts (with sewers and catacombs as the corridors of the subconscious). Perhaps we too, in this darkened room, have our (collective) troubles (and joys) projected before us.

The Descent
Mourning the loss of a daughter and a husband

 *    *    *

Batman Begins

"If you make yourself more than just a man, 
if you devote yourself to an ideal,
then you become something else entirely"

"Which is?"

"Legend, Mr Wayne"

It is well known that the person and the idea of Batman is born in a cave. 

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne decides that he doesn't want to be a spectator any longer. He doesn't want to watch corrupt and criminal elements bring down Gotham.

We see him pass his hand through the waterfall that guards the Batcave's mouth:

This wall of water acts as a silver screen and by going through it Bruce Wayne becomes a "legend". At first he is tentative. Later he launches the 'tumbler' punching through it, becoming an actor, a changer of things and not a bystander, no longer hiding:

His butler Alfred is far more circumspect. He declines to go up to the waterfall:

"Alfred, come up here!"

"I can see everything all right from down here, Sir,
thank you"

He's happy to watch from the cave. When we are sitting in a cinema, watching things we wish we could see in real life, watching others do what we wish we had done, how happy are we to stay hidden? How happy are we to let the fiction calm our restlessness, to inspire us without consequence? How often do we, like Wayne, step out of the protection of the cave and see and do and create in the world beyond?

Saturday, 12 February 2011


There have always been film-makers who seem to take inspiration from a particular actress, casting them in many of their films. These pairs of director and actress shared an understanding and an admiration that elevated both to new heights. It was an understanding, too, that often went beyond the camera - people often say 'the camera loves her'; in many of these cases it really did.

For a period of time these women were more than stars. They were at their best caught in the eye of these directors...

 Lillian Gish - D.W. Griffith

 Hideko Takamine - Mikio Naruse

 Monica Vitti - Michelangelo Antonioni

Giulietta Masina - Federico Fellini

Liv Ullmann - Ingmar Bergman

Mia Farrow - Woody Allen

 Stephane Audran - Claude Chabrol

 Anna Karina - Jean-Luc Godard 

Bulle Ogier - Jacques Rivette

 Maggie Cheung - Wong Kar Wai

 Helena Bonham Carter - Tim Burton

Penelope Cruz - Pedro Almodovar

What other actresses were similarly inspiring for a particular director?