Talking Movies

November 28, 2020

Irish Film HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK by director Pat Collins wins InScience Audience Award

Pat Collin’s new feature film, HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK has won the NTR De Kennis van Nu Audience Award at InScience Film Festival.

InScience is a unique festival in the Netherlands, an international platform for scientific documentaries.  The themes in the InScience program are endless. About the possibility of tinkering with the basis of life, about the symbiosis of art and science, about the minuscule hope of an eternal life, about researchers being daredevils, and about revising our past and building our future.

Pat Collins in his acceptance speech thanked the film programmer Rob Van Der Berg and said it was “an honour to win the InScience Audience Award and to bring Henry Glassie’s work to a wider audience. The film is a true collaboration and couldn’t have been made without Henry’s creative input and generosity.  Henry has always acknowledged the debt he owes to the people who taught him – his teachers within the universities and the artists he has spent his life with, out in the field.  It’s very satisfying to see Henry’s long life of learning getting this acknowledgement, from a festival so dedicated to building bridges between the worlds of science and arts. Producer Tina O’Reilly of South Wind Blows said “It is such a pleasure to work with a director of the calibre of Pat Collins.  I’m delighted that the audience at InScience also felt the beauty and inspiration that we experienced collaborating with the truly remarkable Henry Glassie. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland for their significant support of our film, from concept to closing titles.”

Following on the success of ‘Song of Granite’, Henry Glassie: Field Work from Director Pat Collins also won Best Irish Documentary at the 2020 Galway Film Fleadh. It is a magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist Henry Glassie now in his seventies. This film is a beautifully intricate exposition of Glassie’s life’s work which displays this director’s trademark deft touch and remarkable eye for details of the deepest significance. Glassie’s subject is folklore but his deep abiding love for the people who create it resonates throughout the film. “I don’t study people . I stand with people and I study the things they create.” Field work is at the heart of Glassie’s lifelong engagement with folklore. In the words of poet Seamus Heaney “where the perfect eye of the blackbird watched, where one fern was always green I was standing watching you”  ‘Fieldwork’ – 1979.

This film celebrates Glassie’s work, the people with whom he stands and their artwork.  Glassie’s long professional life encompasses the people and folklore of his native southern states; from the sublime vocal purity of Ola Belle Reed whom he befriended and recorded in the sixties, to the potters, sculptors, metal workers, gilders and painters of sacred art in Brazil, the ceramic masters and the women rug makers and weavers of Turkey, the story tellers and singers of Ballymenone on the Northern Irish border to mention just a few. Pat Collins’ sensitive positioning of Glassie’s own archive photographs, film and exquisite hand drawn maps deepen our understanding both of Glassie and the folklore he has so tenderly honoured in his work over decades of study scholarship love and friendship.

Filmed in Brazil, Ireland and the US in Glassie’s benevolent presence, artists like the sculptor Edival Rosas from Salvador city describe their practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings “a momentary fullfilment of what it is to be human”. Under Pat Collins’ ever mindful direction the process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands, of the physicality of that work , and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work. Pat Collins’ achievement with Henry Glassie: Field Work is to bring these makers of art, in wood, fabric, yarn, paint, clay, metal, in song and story to our attention through their work, through the raw materials they shape into art objects and the through the undeniable passion they carry to their work. In this way the work is accorded profound meaning for the societies out of which it is generated an aesthetic value which is transcendent.

“What matters is passion and the devotion” and also “sincerity and fullness of being”. Without this, for Glassie, no art work can claim authenticity. The film itself stands as a realisation of this sincerity and fullness of being. Over the last 50 years the celebrated American Folklorist Henry Glassie has been writing in-depth studies of communities and their art.  Inspired by the writings and ideas of Glassie – ‘Field Work’ is an immersive and meditative documentary set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists across Brazil, Turkey, North Carolina and Ireland.  The process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work.

HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK will open at Irish cinemas in early 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 7:07 pm

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November 22, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXXVII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The late Spielberg and the late Hitchcock

Having recently, finally, watched The Post, just because it was on prime-time Film4 twice inside a week, I regard my scepticism towards it as having been fully justified. A movie about the wrong newspaper and the wrong heroic actors who were all not breaking a huge story, and featuring an intolerably annoying lead performance even for Meryl Streep, it’s only value was it that it set me to thinking about the late Hitchcock and the late Spielberg. It is no secret that Spielberg found it so hard to get financing for his ponderous Lincoln that it looked like it might end up like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra – a cable TV movie in America, given a small art-house release in Europe. Such an outcome would have been a shocking fall from grace from a man who made his name being a crowd-pleaser par excellence.  But the truth is that Spielberg has entered a phase of decline in that regard. Since nuking the fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Spielberg has struggled to find an audience. His 2010s output (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, War Horse, LincolnBridge of Spies, The BFG, The Post, Ready Player One) has been prolific, but desperately uneven when it comes to connecting with an intended blockbuster audience, and the more niche trilogy of Constitutional Amendment films plagued by dull writing. The technical mastery is still there, but, like the late Hitchcock (Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, Family Plot), it is in service of poor to middling scripts – so that outre camera moves stand out more and more than they would have in previous decades where the entire films were good, not just certain sequences or conceits standing out like oases in a desert. The fact that Spielberg’s next film is an unnecessary remake of West Side Story worked over by his Munich and Lincoln writer Tony Kusher does not inspire confidence that Spielberg can pull out of this slump, and that’s before you realise the star is … Ansel Elgort.

Yippee Ki Yay Memoriser!

A Die Hard Christmas jumper having just arrived in the mail I found myself wondering the other day whatever happened to its director John McTiernan. Lawsuits. Indictments. Jail. His Wyoming ranch being liquidated. And not a film made since 2003’s Basic. In fact, it’s kind of remarkable that McTiernan only made 11 films in his 18 active years, (allegedly he is making sci-fi blockbuster Tau Ceti Four with Uma Thurman, but I will believe that when I see it), but those films include both impeccable classics and unwatchable disasters. How can someone capable of Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance have ended up battling studio incompetence and his own poor choices to have come away carrying the bag for Last Action Hero, The 13th Warrior, Rollerball and Basic? McTiernan has given some extensive and revealing interviews explaining how things went sideways so often, and he seems to have had a lot of bad luck. But one thing he said leapt out: while studying at the AFI a crazed teacher insisted on him memorising movies – shot for shot. On the grounds that a concert pianist would commit piano concertos to memory, and when asked to improvise a cadenza would have those to draw on, so a film director should have a set of classics in his cerebellum to creatively rework when needed. And so McTiernan said he had memorised every shot in A Clockwork Orange, among others. Which leads to one to think about his films in terms of such classicism. I can easily believe that it is possible to memorise every shot in Die Hard, with especial relish for the many delightful focus-pulls, but Rollerball?… Can the decline of McTiernan’s artistic clout in the editing room be directly seen in the betrayal of the principle of memorable shots rather than hyper-cut gibberish?

November 11, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Manchurian Candidate and the GOP

I was reading Richard Condon’s 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate in the last few days and was extremely disconcerted to find what seemed to be the language of the present moment.

I will be representing the Senate, you might say – and I will be there to remind the forgetful rulers of Europe and England that the United States was established not as a democracy but as a Federal Union and Republic that is controlled by the United States Senate, at this moment in our history, through a state-equality composition designed to maintain this establishment and that it exists, in the present moment of our history, to protect minorities from the precipitate and emotional tyranny of majorities.

There is no list…

Spotify these 60 songs for a 90s mood

John Williams – JFK theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight Tonight // Garbage – I’m Only Happy When it Rains // Natalie Imbruglia – Torn // Sixpence None the Richer – Kiss Me // Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box // Blur – To the End // Thomas Newman – Dead Already // Red Hot Chili Peppers – I Could Have Lied // Garbage – Stupid Girl // REM – Radio Song // U2 – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me // John Williams – Jurassic Park theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans // Massive Attack – Angel // Madonna – Bedtime Story // U2 – Numb // Radiohead – Let Down // Portishead – All Mine // Smashing Pumpkins – Today // Guns’n’Roses – You Could Be Mine // Madonna – Ray of Light // Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid // U2 – The Fly // Massive Attack – Risingson // Red Hot Chili Peppers –Under the Bridge // Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks theme // Pixies – Motorway to Roswell // Bjork – Isobel // Madonna – Vogue // Beastie Boys – Sure Shot // Metallica – Enter Sandman // White Town – Your Woman // Gala – Freed from Desire // Underworld – Born Slippy // Republica – Ready to Go // Pixies – Alec Eiffel // Alan Silvestri – Point of No Return // The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl // Massive Attack –Safe from Harm // Blur – Trimm Trab // Nirvana – Lithium // REM – Losing My Religion // Blur – The Universal // Green Day – Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) // Blur – Parklife // Portishead – Glory Box // Radiohead – Just // Pixies – Velouria // Beastie Boys – Intergalactic // Kula Shaker – Tattva // Portishead – Strangers // Happy Mondays – Step On // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away // REM – Man on the Moon // Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit // John Williams – Duel of the Fates // Beastie Boys – Sabotage // Radiohead – Creep // Pulp – Common People

November 8, 2020

Lykke Li: 10 Songs

I’m Good, I’m Gone

Tonight

Little Bit

I Follow Rivers

Get Some

Sadness is a Blessing

No Rest for the Wicked

Just Like a Dream

Heart of Steel

Better Alone

20:20 on 2000

Donald Trump is a loser. A two-time loser in fact, depending on your point of view.

It’s strange to think that in 2000 a split between the electoral college and the popular vote had recently been depicted in The West Wing, and yet fiction seemed to be its proper place, whereas now it is a huge relief when the electoral college manages to actually coincide with the popular vote. What in 1992, when my class was following the fascinating three-horse election, seemed to be an endearing eccentricity of the Americans now stands revealed as a deep structural flaw. George Bush Jr was, initially, rightly sheepish about governing without the popular mandate. Donald Trump had no such qualms. Hell, even now he is trying to maintain that despite losing the popular vote again he is not a loser. He is a loser. On both counts. But the real loser is America. There is no chance that the electoral college will be consigned to the dustbin of history where it so richly belongs. Not when Republicans are bleating about America being a republic, not a democracy. It is a good thing none of these useful idiots were around in the 1950s to stymie Eisenhower’s farewell address – “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow”.

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