Tuesday 26 September 2017

The master of horror, some international art excursions and a healthy dose of rock...

29th August - 10th September 2017

The Shining - BFI Southbank

We had a fortnights annual leave so managed to squeeze in plenty of cultural exploits both here and on a short break to Venice, so without further ado...

Nightmares & Dreamscapes : Stephen King On Screen

To kick off the Stephen King On Screen season at the BFI Southbank, curator Michael Blyth presented a talk encompassing all the on screen iterations of Stephen King works to date, along with a few clips and pictures to highlight some of the most notable and infamous.

Sitting only second to Shakespeare for the most adapted author on screen meant that this list of works was not inconsiderable, however Blyth's hugely entertaining, well researched and well written talk managed to fly through chronologically exploring not only the popular titles which have become staples in pop culture but also some of the more obscure takes on King's work, including the myriad of student shorts. 

It was quite surprising to realise how many we'd seen, and how many actually existing, although many probably not available for general viewing as they are either tied up in rights hell or part of the aforementioned student works.

As an introduction to the season ahead though it was superb and really whetted the appetite for catching some Stephen King on both the big and small screen, this year being King's seventieth birthday means it's a bumper year with the new adaptations of 'It' and 'The Mist', plus adaptations of 'Gerald's Game', 'Mr Mercedes', '1922' and the 'Castle Rock' TV series to come. Brilliant and geeky!

Damien Hirst : Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable

We decided whilst off to take a small break in Venice, part of the reasoning behind the choice was for the opportunity to catch Damien Hirst's latest monumental exhibition 'Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable' a huge, high concept show on display across two huge galleries.

This is Hirst's first show for a while, and is seen as a comeback of sorts, however he hasn't exactly been doing nothing, what with the construction and launch of his Newport Street Gallery in London and the shows there from his personal art collection.

However having read a few teasers for this show with Hirst explaining how it's been an idea germinating for nigh on a decade it promised to be something special, and with all the works in the show for sale and the massive spaces required to house it all the likelihood of this show being on display, (at least in this configuration), is pretty remote so we thought why not?

The concept behind the show is that a wreck of a ship containing treasures from several ancient civilisations was discovered and recovered from the sea bed, and the many articles are collected together here and have been been either restored, replicas created alongside the originals or left in the condition as discovered undersea replete with coral and barnacles which have become part of the items. However not all is as it seems, something which is alluded to at the opening of the part of the show at Punta Della Dogana, alongside one of many videos showing the recovery operation out at sea.

We started at the Palazzo Grassi, which opens with an eighteen metre high resin recreation of one of the finds, a headless bronze statue of a man with a sacrificial bowl, an immediately awesome sight which sits in the central courtyard of the building and is visible from every level as you go up and progress throughout the exhibition.

Alongside many of the pieces are photos of the items where they were found on the sea bed alongside the recovery teams.

However the fine line between truth and a lie becomes blurred when certain objects confound the whole concept of the show, for instance a bronze Mickey Mouse or a statue reportedly of the 'The Collector' which bears an uncanny resemblance to Hirst himself...

The wealth of artefacts, along with the research and stories connected to each piece is staggering and only heightened by the inclusion of items which add a certain authenticity to the whole show by their inclusion, whole display cases of mundane objects such as tools or various ancient coins which would be expected in such exhibitions sit alongside the massive fantastical statues and rooms of articles crafted from precious metals.

Hirst has been described as a modern day PT Barnum and this show certainly lends credence to that theory, however the artistry and craft on display is really something to behold and the show itself is a must see for that reason alone.

It's on display until December and is a must see as far we're concerned.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

After the monumental Damien Hirst exhibition we stopped by The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which occupies the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Guggenheim's former home and now a modern art museum which showcases her impressive personal collection of art.

Situated along The Grand Canal in Venice, it's an idyllic oasis away from the bustling streets and contains a small landscaped gardens brimming with sculptures and two buildings, one of which was the house, which houses the variety of art by some of the most famous names in modern art.

Featuring works by the links of Picasso, Rothko, Kapoor, Bacon, Warhol, Giacometti and Lewitt to name but a few, many of the pieces are less well known because they riside in this collection and have only been on regular public show sine Guggenheim's death in 1979.

The opportunity to take in such amazing works in such an intimate setting is truly something special, and the outside settings, either in the gardens or by the canal make the museum a true one off and certainly a must see if ever in Venice.

Grayson Perry : The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

As we were off on annual leave we decided to pop into town earlier to catch a couple of exhibitions before they close.

First up was the latest Grayson Perry show at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

Perry has entered the mainstream consciousness more prominently in the last few years, mainly due to his series of TV documentaries on a variety of subjects such as Brexit, his ceramic house/art project in Essex and the subject of masculinity and how it's changed.

This show exhibits a selection of his ceramics, tapestries and some other items which mainly look at society and the effects of Brexit, exploring attitudes in society as a whole.

Perry's skill as a potter, designer and artist, whether in his tapestry design, painting on his pots or his woodcut prints is clearly evident, and it's refreshing to see a show exhibiting such mediums which are sadly a rarity in the contemporary art scene.

His pots depicting the leave and remain sections of society are playful yet insightful highlighting the differences, but crucially the similarities between these cross sections of society.

Another of his ceramics on show was a piggy bank with different slots in it each labelled with a different emotion, such as hope or charity, allowing the viwer to decide why his donation is made.

Unfortunately the show has now closed, however Perry is quite prolific so a new show is surely not too far away, and the work is well worth catching for a more idiosyncratic and unique voice in the art landscape.

Their Mortal Remains : Pink Floyd

The next exhibition on out hit list was at the V & A, and was a retrospective of the career of one of the biggest British bands ever, Pink Floyd.

We'd been to the previous exhibition about David Bowie, (it's actually where it all began for us), so we had an idea what to expect, and it seems they've followed that generally successful format.

You're given a headset with a receiver and as you walk near an exhibit it plays the relevant music or audio from a video playing by that item or area.

The exhibition starts out laying the groundwork for the music scene at the time and the types of venues and clubs that influenced and hosted early Pink Floyd shows, then moves on to presenting the band chronologically by album.

There are cases and displays which house actual instruments used, along with other memorabilia and equipment used by the band in each of the eras, with detailed explanations of each, and each album also has a video running by it with interviews with the key personnel discussing the music.

Moving further into the exhibition and as the band grew both artistically, musically and in terms of stage show, other aspects of the group are detailed, including their architectural backgrounds and how they used them to produce monumental stage sets, they collaborations with artists to produce album artwork and their famous inflatables used in promotion and stage shows.

Also touched upon are the various incarnations of the band, and their evolution through the years.

For a band which has never really embraced a mainstream sound they have managed to become a juggernaut in terms of cultural presence and sales which has put them in a unique position as in total control of their output.

The show concludes with two video projections, one from the start of their career showing photos of the band against a backdrop of the song 'Arnold Layne' and then video of their last performance as a complete line up at Live 8 of 'Comfortably Numb', (Mr C was actually there so it brought back memories!), a fitting end to the show.

The exhibition has been extended until the 15th of October and is well worth checking out.

Creepshow and Discussion Panel

Our last stop of the day was the BFI Southbank and a Stephen King classic.

This was our first screening as part of the Stephen King On Screen season, and a first time viewing for Mrs C of this classic, which saw the melding of King's storytelling with George A Romero's horror direction creating a comic horror anthology which has never been bettered.

The style of the stories, short and sweet with a usually moral pay off at the end, all tied together with a framing story. Inspired by the EC horror comics of the fifties such as 'Tales From The Crypt' the garish colours and tongue in cheek tone is captured perfectly on screen, with creative use of comic book panels and graphics maintaining the influence.

There are five stories in all, 'Father's Day', 'The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill', 'Something To Tide You Over', 'The Crate' and 'They're Creeping Up On You' all with suitable gloopy special effects courtesy of the legendary Tom Savini, and a host of stars including Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, EG Marshall, Hal Holbrook and even Stephen King himself as the titular Jordy Verrill.

I won't spoil the stories, but needless to say the usual comeuppance and vengeance storylines are all present and correct and the whole movie is a must see for how it nails the tone, design and masterful storytelling, this was also a 35mm presentation which in itself was a rare treat and looked great in all it colourful gory glory.

The screening was followed by a discussion chaired by the season curator Michael Blyth and featured horror fans from within the industry from podcasters to film magazine writers as they discussed their affection for the film and it's impact on them.

A great start to our Stephen King cinematic activities...

Maximum Overdrive

On Saturday we headed to the BFI Southbank once again, for a self made Stephen King double bill.

First up was the only directorial credit to King's name...

Once again Mrs C was being introduced for the first time to another of the delights of King's film based output, this time directed by the man himself, 'Maximum Overdrive'.

Based on a very short story called 'Trucks' it concerns a group of people trapped in a roadside diner by a group of sentient trucks, although expanded more for the film encompassing various pieces of technology taking on a life of their own.

The film, (slightly unfairly), gets touted as terrible, when in reality it's no different to much of the eighties cheesy horror, and is very much in the vein of something like 'Tremors' or more recently 'Infestation!', with elements of comedy.

It stars Emilio Estevez and Pat Hingle who do well with what they're given, whilst King's direction is energetic to say the least it's shortcomings are mainly due to inexperience and his alleged Coke addiction, however it certainly has charm and passes the time well, plenty of laughs, ludicrous dialogue and a bonkers premise.

This presentation was also in 35mm which was great, replete with scratches and the marks of time it gave the movie a proper eighties low budget feel which was fantastic, Blyth's choices for the season and the acquisition of actual 35mm prints is to be applauded.

Definitely worth catching, don't be put off by the negativity it's a lot of fun.

The Shining

From the ridiculous to the sublime for the second part of our double bill, and a stone cold classic to boot, Stanley Kubrick's version of 'The Shining'.

This was the full length, (read American cut), of 'The Shining' which was originally shortened for international release, the shortened release rumoured to be Kubrick's favoured cut.

King famously doesn't care for this version of his novel, and the changes are evident, which means this film should really be considered a Stanley Kubrick film as opposed to a Stephen King adaptation.

The plot centres on the Torrance family, Jack Nicholson the father, Jack, Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy and their son Danny, Danny Lloyd who take up residence at the Overlook Hotel as winter caretakers, a hotel with a bloody past as well as many other dark secrets in it's past which gradually haunt the family, and are channelled through Danny who has a heightened sense which is referred to as Shining. All of which leads to tragic consequences for all involved.

Kubrick's meticulous staging and cinematography, coupled with Nicholson's domineering performance as Jack Torrance are truly the perfect match. The overlook hotel manages to convey it's dark past slowly but surely, with the memories of it's horrific past gradually revealed to the family through waking nightmares and subtle changes to Torrance's personality.

The atmosphere and tension Kubrick manages to build up and sustain is masterful and it really is a true classic which is a masterclass in film making.

This was a restored print, projected digitally and looked as flawless as you'd expect.

If you get a chance to catch it on the big screen it's well worth it to immerse yourself in the visuals and mood of the film.

Slowly playing catch up, so the next couple will be fortnightly, but plenty of varied and really good events to explore, so get inspired...

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