Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The films of David Gladwell

“An impressionist prose poem on the themes of time, nature and mortality, symbolised through the pending demolition of an English village and its surrounding countryside ... in which economy and restraint, in terms of craft, become the agents of a near-hallucinogenic exploration of landscape and history” – Michael Bracewell on Requiem for a Village.

David Gladwell, born 1935, is best known as a British Film Editor and Director. Having started out making amateur films whilst at college on his father’s home-movie equipment, Gladwell produced a short for the BFI Experimental Film Fund in the late fifties.

This led to a brief stint at the British Transport Films Film Unit and credits, as production assistant and assistant editor respectively, on two of their best-loved works: Blue Pullman from 1960 and John Schlesinger’s Terminus made the following year. It’s the latter film which is most important in Gladwell’s case as the role of editor would become his most common source of employment and where his work has been most widely seen.

Lindsay Anderson’s If…. and O Lucky Man! were both cut by Gladwell, as was James Ivory’s Bombay Talkie and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing series for BBC television. He also did significant work under Derrick Knight, the documentary filmmaker, as did a number of his contemporaries: future creator of the prototypical ‘reality TV’ series The Family, Roger Graef; award-winning cinematographer, and occasional director, Chris Menges.

Look up Knight’s inclusions on the BFI’s Shadows of Progress set from last year and you’ll find Gladwell serving as editor twice more, on the ‘new town’ proselytising of Faces of Harlow and on the touching National Coal Board commission A Time to Heal. Continue delving amongst documentary releases and the BFI’s online presence and you’ll also find Aberdeen by Seaside and Deeside, which Gladwell made for the Films of Scotland Committee in 1970, on a Panamint Cinema disc and Knight’s Smoking and You (another editing assignment) on the BFI’s Vimeo channel. You might also recall, if pressed, Memoirs of a Survivor, the second and last feature which Gladwell directed for the cinema, adapted from Doris Lessing’s novel, starring Julie Christie and once available (but no longer) on DVD in the US courtesy of Anchor Bay.

As Director:

1985: Earthstars (TV movie)

1981: Memoirs of a Survivor

1975: Requiem for a Village

1970: Aberdeen by Seaside and Deeside (documentary short)

1969: New Ways at Northgate (documentary short)

1967: Dance (documentary short)

1967: Port Health (documentary short)

1965: 28B Camden Street (short)

1964: An Untitled Film (short)

1964: The Great Steam Fair (documentary short)

1958: Miss Thompson Goes Shopping (short)

1955: Summer Discord (short)

Further information here, here and here. Video content here, here & here.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The films of Jan Švankmajer

“I never call myself an animated filmmaker because I am interested not in animation techniques or creating a complete illusion, but in bringing life to everyday objects”

Jan Švankmajer (born 4 September 1934 in Prague) is a Czech surrealist artist. His work spans several media. He is known for his surreal animations and features, which have greatly influenced other artists such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, The Brothers Quay and many others. Švankmajer has gained a reputation over several decades for his distinctive use of stop-motion technique, and his ability to make surreal, nightmarish and yet somehow funny pictures. He is still making films in Prague. Švankmajer’s trademarks include very exaggerated sounds, often creating a very strange effect in all eating scenes. He often uses very sped-up sequences when people walk and interact. His movies often involve inanimate objects coming alive and being brought to life through stop-motion. Food is a favorite subject and medium. Stop-motion features in most of his work, though his feature films also include live action to varying degrees.

A lot of his movies, like the short film Down to the Cellar, are made from a child’s perspective, while at the same time often having a truly disturbing and even aggressive nature. In 1972 the communist authorities banned him from making films, and many of his later films were banned. He was almost unknown in the West until the early 1980s.

Today he is one of the most celebrated animators in the world. His best known works are probably the feature films Alice (1988), Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005), a surreal comic horror based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade. Also famous (and much imitated) is the short Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), which shows Arcimboldo-like heads gradually reducing each other to bland copies (“exhaustive discussion”); a clay man and woman who dissolve into one another sexually, then quarrel and reduce themselves to a frenzied, boiling pulp (“passionate discourse”); and two elderly clay heads who extrude various objects on their tongues (toothbrush and toothpaste; shoe and shoelaces, etc.) and use them in every possible combination, sane or otherwise (“factual conversation”). His films have been called “as emotionally haunting as Kafka’s stories.” He was married to Eva Švankmajerová, an internationally known surrealist painter, ceramicist and writer until her death in October of 2005. She collaborated on several of his movies including Faust, Otesánek and Alice. They had two children, Veronika and Václav.

Selected Filmography

Feature-length films:

1988: Alice. Něco z Alenky. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
1994: Faust. Lekce Faust. The Faust legend, Goethe's Faust and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
1996: Conspirators of Pleasure. Spiklenci slasti. Original story
2000: Little Otik. Otesánek. Otesánek by Karel Jaromír Erben
2005: Lunacy. Šílení. "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" and "The Premature Burial" by Edgar Allan Poe
2010: Surviving Life. Přežít svůj život. Original story
2015: Insects. Hmyz. Pictures from the Insects' Life by Karel Čapek and Josef Čapek

Short films & misc.:

1964: The Last Trick. Poslední trik pana Schwarcewalldea a pana Edgara
1965: Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasy in G minor. Johann Sebastian Bach: Fantasia G-moll
1965: A Game with Stones. Spiel mit Steinen
1966: Punch and Judy. Rakvičkárna. Also known as The Coffin Factory and The Lych House
1966: Et Cetera
1967: Historia Naturae (Suita)
1968: The Garden. Zahrada
1968: The Flat. Byt
1968: Picnic with Weissmann. Picknick mit Weissmann
1969: A Quiet Week in the House. Tichý týden v domě
1969: Don Juan. Don Šajn
1970: The Ossuary. Kostnice. About the Sedlec Ossuary
1971: Jabberwocky. Žvahlav aneb šatičky slaměného Huberta. Based on "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll
1972: Leonardo's Diary. Leonardův deník
1977: Castle of Otranto. Otrantský zámek
1980: The Fall of the House of Usher. Zánik domu Usherů. Based on "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe
1982: Dimensions of Dialogue. Možnosti dialogu
1983: Down to the Cellar. Do pivnice
1983: The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope. Kyvadlo, jáma a naděje. Based on "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe
1988: Virile Games. Mužné hry. Also known as The Male Game
1988: Another Kind of Love. Music video for Hugh Cornwell
1988: Meat Love. Zamilované maso
1989: Darkness/Light/Darkness. Tma, světlo, tma
1989: Flora
1989: Animated Self-Portraits. Portmanteau film by 27 filmmakers
1990: The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia. Konec stalinismu v Čechách
1992: Food. Jídlo

More information here, here and here.