Sunday, 27 February 2011

The sought after review.

Fellini’s Satyricon

If one positive thing is to be said about the aberration that was ‘Satyricon’, it is that at least Fellini seems to have fulfilled his own warped criteria.

The film was based upon the then-recently discovered book ‘Satyricon’ by the Roman writer Petronius, which gives greatly degenerate versions of mildly degenerate classical myths. The film is fragmented; one cannot follow a plot or a narrative; this is a direct reflection of the nature of the book, which was only discovered in pieces. Some may say those who disliked ‘Satyricon’ were dissatisfied with the lack of narrative. No. The film ‘Slacker’ also had a complete lack of narrative structure, too, but you didn't see people walking out of that. Falling asleep, maybe, but not walking out. I actually really liked ‘Slacker’, in hindsight. Despite its catatonic delivery, it was surprising insightful. The disjointedness of the plot really worked well and created an atmosphere that was both challenging and enjoyable.
       In marked contrast, ‘Satyricon’ was offensive, crude and disgusting. And I know Fellini's 'reasons' behind it; he was portraying an entirely amoral world, but none of that mattered. I watched for the first ten minutes and I felt very much attacked and disgusted. It was a depraved and ghastly film that should be cut up into little pieces and disposed of along with waste and menstrual matter. Except that would be a dishonour to the waste and menstruation.
      Satyricon’ was clearly designed to shock, albeit in a decidedly lackadaisical way. But there are better ways to shock an audience. The painting ‘The Death of David Kelly’ by Dexter Dalwood is gently shocking through its bold colours, collage-like style and the understated title. Things that are too ‘in-your-face’ are often not well received. I suppose the thing to consider is whether you prefer being cleverly quiet, or brashly memorable.
       Fans of the noxious film will tell me 'that was the intention'. But I firmly believe that filmmakers, artists and designers have a great responsibility. I was reading snippets of the Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, who believes that ‘Art by itself tends to the good of the work, not to the good of man.’ That definition would justify a lot of art in all forms; it is definitely true. Nobody considers the wider implications of the work, only that the work be good and acceptable in the eyes of the artist and the arty minority. Maritain also believes artists are the ones who (and this may be especially true in today’s anti-religious climate) provide mankind with food for the spirit, important things which affect the inner person, whether or not we want to pretend it does not. I say, in a world where perversion is generally shunned, why does the art community seek specifically to teach and indoctrinate us in perverse things, and why is perversion celebrated?  Indeed, during a search on the web I found that ‘Satyricon’ received standing ovations and positive reviews worldwide.
Perhaps we should all watch Fellini’s ‘masterpiece’ intently; it shows us a way of life that should never be sought after. Perhaps it will enrich our lives... But I doubt it. Rather, I can truly say I’ve learned firsthand the meaning of the phrase ‘clinical shock.’ My brain has only just stopped crying and shuddering in pain.

Turner Prize 2010, ‘The Death of David Kelly’, Dexter Dalwood room, Tate Britain)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Films. Part Two.

Please first read Part One.


One of the things the tutors consistently emphasise is the idea that cinema is meant to do more than entertain; that a film can be important, so one must watch it even if one finds it disagreeable to the very soul.

I'd like to challenge that.

What, I wonder, was the first point, if you like, of film? Its original raison d'etre.

The first movie ever to have been made is thought by many to be 'Roundhay Garden Scene' in 1888, in which a bunch of late 19th century-ers sit around laughing in a garden in England.What was the point? Of course, it could have simply been Because. Because it was possible, and why not. Moving on from that, it's fair to say that movies of all sorts were made
     * to entertain
     *to inform
or possibly both.
   Good  examples of such would be the silent films we were treated to last week at the Odeon. Buster Keaton's lighthearted antics were a good example of the medium of early cinema being used to entertain and raise a laugh back in 1924, and although the slapstick and obvious humour is slighjtly out of fashion to most today, silent films still make us laugh, and are entertaining through the sheer jollity of them.
    In contrast, Man With A Movie Camera was not made purely to entertain or make us laugh, it was likely propaganda showing the happiness (debatable) of the Soviet people under Stalin, at that time a relatively new leader. It was enjoyable because it was so interesting.
    Moving very quickly through history, it's clear that the movies which did best in any genre at any time, were movies designed to entertain the audience. Obviously at some point, other forces started realising cinema was  a good way of reaching the masses and thus the concept of film being 'important' arose.
     In some cases, films can be important. I would say that generally anything of a historical nature is a very important film, because it is very important for everyone to know history well, and if they're in positions of even very little power, learn from it. I do Not think that the genre of 'important film' should extend to films designed purposefully to shock, offend, antagonise or pervert.

     Of course, this is a big topic; it touches on all kinds of moral issues such as whether films should be censored, and that sounds atrociously Holocaustic. But I do think that some kind of discretion should be used as to what is and is not appropriate. Films that are mentally damaging should not be allowed to enter production, let alone be seen by masses of people. I'm constantly thinking about that. It's quite worrying, when one does think about that, that anyone, perhaps of a damaged or questionable nature can go easily and see films like Saw or Se7en, or Fellini's Satyricon. Perhaps, well, certainly A Clockwork Orange can be put into that list as well. It seems people in important postions within the film industry- the writers, producers and directors etc, never heed the warnings that such depraved content can affect people in adverse ways and give the most dangerous ones in society not just ideas, but a little 'how-to' pack.
     In a way, the public are being given the old 'carrot-&-stick'. On the one hand, logical sources such as the News, journals and countless reports of professionals, officials and journalists teach society that basically wrong things are wrong. The stories we hear about through the media (and the ones we don't) of murder,  horror, evil and various kinds of sexual perversion are abominable and highly distressing, which of co.urse they are.
            Then on the other hand, the other powers and personalities in this world lure common, everyday, essentially normal people to watch and be actually entertained by the same topics, dressed up in the rags of fiction, through film, though games and increasingly even through books.
       Of course, we humans and the society we live in are imperfect. Of course, these awful paradoxes are bound to happen, and bad things are inevitable.
       But I think we all have a duty, then, to make sure we are not led on to believe that such forms of entertainment are fine, fun and without consequence.

A film should not be watched simply because it is 'important' for whatever philosophical, cultural or arty reasons. Thoses concepts are interesting and important to study to an extent, of course; one must grow from the previous learnings of the past. But I think we need to not lose sight of the fact that certain boundaries are boundaries for a reason, and so should not be crossed.

Just as an endnote, I was thinking again of Satyricon...clearly humanity has progressed since the times of the amoral and hedonistic classical Greeks and Romans.

Why can't entertainment do the same?

Alright. The Films. Part One.

This will be the first of many, I'm sure, because I have many opinions regarding the film choices at this term's cinema screenings.

Today I'm going to make a quick point in reaction to something said by one of the tutors speaking before today's film about Fellini's Satyricon.

Lots of people walked out of that movie; I myself didn't watch, I wrote and listened to music instead. I was just about to leave when the curtain fell, so to speak, on our time slot at the cinema. I wish I had left earlier, just so I could have been one of the ones to make that point.

The tutors were apparently surprised by the reaction to the film, and also by the incredibly low turn-out the following week, which, if you ask me, was directly related to the Satyricon week.
    One said that the reason he didn't like, and the reason he thought most of us didn't like the Satyricon was the lack of narrative structure.


Slacker had a complete lack of narrative structure, too, but you didn't see people walking out of that. falling asleep, maybe, but not walking out. I actuaaly really liked Slacker, in hindsight. While I was there, I found it relaxing, and many of the snippets were really interesting, even though its delivery was a little catatonic. But afterwards, I would definately enjoy seeing it again. The disjointedness of the plot really worked well and created an atmosphere that was both challenging and enjoyable.
     In marked contrast, Satyricon's lack of narractive was really not an issue with me. The film was a challenging watch, some might say, and it was definately not enjoyable. Hence I stopped watching and many walked out.
    Personally, I felt that the reason I didn't like Satyricon- wait, scratch that, HATED Satyricon was that it was offensive, crude and disgusting. And I know Fellini's 'reasons' behind it. I. Don't. Care. None of that mattered. I watched for the first ten minutes and I felt very much attacked and disgusted. It was a depraved and ghastly film that should be cut up into little pieces and disposed of along with waste and menstrual matter.

Except that would be a dishonor to the waste and menstruation.

Probably, fans of the noxious film will tell me 'that was the intention' and that 'my view clearly shows Fellini was successful'. I think filmmakers, artists and designers have a great responsibility. The human eye is a marvellous thing. Out of all our senses, sight is the fastest and most permanent way of engraving information ont the brain. Should the foul images from Satyricon (and remember, I only watched ten minutes) be engraved on our minds? They say it's an exploration of humanity and its boundaries, or of transcending those boundaries. Should such barriers be crossed? In my opinion, no. Humanity would fester and rot until we were all dead should people in reality cross such barriers. Of course, the vast majority of people aren't going to go out and directly copy the behaviour in Satyricon   (and I say that with a modicum of doubt; I have learned in my classical civilisation studies that once upon a time people actually did behave in that way), but I ask, is it worth it? Is it worth the death of humanity just to question what humanity is? We do not have to go to such offensive extremes to challenge such ideas.
    And, although I know many in my peer group may object to this, I really don't think it should have been selected to show to an audience of Foundation students. As a group, I'm sure most of us are not mature students, and even though we live in a cosmopolitan environment in 2011, we're by nature still impressionable. And I balk to think/say that, too, but I accept it as fact. Psychologically and biologically. The film should not have been shown. And today, we shouldn't have had other (I'm sure) similarly depraved and perverse  films recommended to us.
   In a world where perversion is generally shunned, why does the art community seek specifically to teach and indoctrinate us in perverse things, and why is perversion celebrated?

By the way, these are rhetorical questions; I feel there can be no justifiable answer by sane people.


After Madonna's first venture into film, with the universally slammed 'Filth and Wisdom', I remember reading in one review that cinema-goers left the cinema in a state of clinical shock. I laughed when I first read that, I hadn't heard much about the film, hadn't (and haven't)  seen it etc. And I felt quite sorry for Ms Ciccone. (Even though I'm sure she's fine, she's likely grown a very robust skin.)
       After seeing a portion of Satyricon, I now know what that critic felt like. I don't know so can't comment as to whether or not he was justified, but I know that I was disturbed after watching that. And not in any kind of arty, pretentious, 'it's-good-for-your-practice' way. In an actuallu clinically disturbing way. Afterwards, I had to go take myself to my favourite relaxing place in the city (Waterstones Piccadilly Circus) to calm my recently abused mind, soothe it, comfort it, and make it stop crying and shuddering in pain. I ended up spending £40 in there. Therapy.  I'm sure if I had watched the rest of the film, or even the rest of the bit they chose (drunkenly and blindly) to show us, I would be needing real therapy.

And rehabilitation.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


I had previously heard of Sara Faneeli's work, and of course, I've been one of the many who have walked through it. :) So naturally she was the first I thought of when I decided I wanted to do handwriting on my book project.        Marion Deuchars however, I discovered on that project. I actually found these exact images recently, as in, post project, and I was really surprised how well they complement my work! For example, Deuchars' handwriting is eerily like my own, and Faneeli's timeline actually looks exactly like my 'slides'- I swear I didn't see them first! Both designers use their handwriting natural talents beautifully.

been away...

...not with the fairies, unfortunately.

I've been ridiculously overwhelmed and stressed, so i haven't posted in a while. to be honest, i find it quite hard to keep this up. I love writing, and now that i'm a week into preparing for the FMP, i've been keeping a reflective journal. I ADORE it. It takes no effort!
   So sorry if i've been neglecting you, my online diary friend. Often it's just not feasible that i should waste time waiting for my unpredictable router to step up its game and give me internet. (Sometimes it's fine, but sometimes it can take about half an hour to boot up. The longest I've mucked about trying to get teh wireless to work was 2 hours forty minutes. And even then it didn't work. I gave up. You see why I don't try very

So what has happened since i last posted?

Let me put some artist stuff up first. I know i said i would.