Archive for February, 2010

The Secret Gallery

February 28, 2010
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Sometime ago I read about Room A at the National Gallery. It’s a gallery that not many people know about and is rarely open. In fact they only open it from 2pm to 5pm on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s almost like they don’t want people to see it. Well I love a challenge so me and the wife took a day off and went along.

We had a hell of a time finding the room. We went to the right floor. But we were on the wrong part of the floor. We asked for guidance at the information desk. “Room A?” she asked incredulously. I nodded. She sighed. She got out a map. “You need to go up these stairs, go through the central hall, through room 12, go towards room 29 and then towards room 26 and then go down the stairs.” When we got to the stairs they were roped off. Was it closed because of the staff’s industrial action? Wifey went and spoke to a guard, who spoke to another guard, who then let us through.

The room is harshly lit with strip lights. There’s the constant white noise of portable air conditioners as well as repeated buzzing from the over-sensitive alarm system. Hear a buzz and you’re too close.

The collection is a real jumble. There is some really fantastic stuff in there. There’s also some things that are so poorly rendered you’d wonder who paid money for this crap (there are so many poorly rendered baby Jesus willies I was starting to freak out. Is it blasphemous to misrepresent Jesus’s willy?).

There were too old dears who, when they weren’t discussing the merits of Morrison’s (the supermarket that is) were making criticisms such as “I think that painting’s too big”

There was a painting called the Toilet of Venus. There was An Allegory of Justice which was some dude riding a grumpy ostrich.

My favourite thing of all was a painting called After the Misdeed by Jean Beraud. The picture at the top of this post does not do it justice.

It’s well worth checking out, if they’ll let you in. If not you can see the virtual gallery here.

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Film Review: Privilege

February 7, 2010

As I was saying in my previous review of Permissive, I have recently acquired three films on BFI’s Flipside series. Since I love all thing Sixties and groovy some of these films are rather appealing to me.

Next up for review is Privilege.

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Privilege is about a pop star with the dull name Steven Shorter, played by the boringly named Paul Jones of Manfred Mann. His act is a recreation of his time in prison where he is put in a small cage and sings while being tortured by his guards. All the while girls scream and eventually rush the stage. Backstage we see that he is managed by stereotypical music business types. Further, we learn that he is employed by “the establishment” to contain the masses by channeling their outrage into these performances.

Later on we also find that he is used to sell British products, promote the governments views on healthy eating, and eventually he is promoting the Church of England.

All through the film we can see that all is not well with Shorter as he appears to be deeply uncomfortable at all times. Eventually he encounters a pretty young painter, played by Jean Shrimpton, someone with whom he can finally open up about his unhappiness which opens the door to his inevitable public breakdown.

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The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the two lead roles are Paul Jones (a singer) and Jean Shrimpton (a model), two people who’d never acted before this film. While their performances are not great they’re not the worst offenders in this film. (There’s a guy who plays a musical arranger who is also a “self confessed anarchist” and it’s a shockingly poor performance.)

The more eagle-eyed will also have noticed some flawed logic where the establishment is redirecting rage from themselves by directing it the prison services who, presumably, are also part of the establishment. Yeah, I don’t get it either. These lapses in logic are littered throughout the film.

The film was made in 1966 and the most dated aspect of the film is the idea that it’s the government that has somehow gained almost exclusive control of culture to push their propaganda. I guess back in the sixties the idea of Britain turning into a quasi-Communist state seemed more realistic than now. These days I think most of us realise that it isn’t the government that’s all powerful, but the wealthy; the government is just as manipulated by these people as the rest of us. However this film isn’t so far off the mark when you consider that people these days often feel more animated to vote for X Factor than their local MP.

Privilege is a flawed film that seems to be pulling in several directions at once. There are many cliches and a serious lack of tension or sympathy. Steven Shorter’s meltdown is eventually a big anti-climax and the repercussions of his actions for him or anyone else are not investigated.

Still, I wouldn’t want to be too negative. The film is beautifully filmed and many scenes look fantastic. Also it does hit some high points when it strays into more exotic imagery: toe-tapping bishops, walking apples and ticker tape parades.

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Ultimately it’s hard to recommend, but anyone who has a love of the quirkier end of sixties film-making will find at least some of this film very enjoyable.

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I Was at the C&H 100th Podcast

February 2, 2010

I was at the Collings and Herrin 100th podcast last night. It was very much a celebratory occasion.

I’m almost embarrassed that I’ve listened to over a hundred hours of this nonsense. I could’ve done something more useful and less geeky with that time. Like building a scale model of the TARDIS out of circuit boards.

I got the opportunity to ask a question in the Q&A. Before I got to ask my question Richard Herring compared me to John Lennon and suggested I might get shot. I’d heard Mark Chapman shot Lennon because he wanted to be famous; Someone would only shoot me if they wanted to become anonymous. Anyway, I asked how they felt about inspiring so many other people to do podcasts of their own. Unsurprisingly they wanted them all to stop. Fair enough.

(By the way, my shitty podcast is at http://abadidea.org/. Sorry.)

Now, for those of you who don’t know, at the end of each podcast Andrew Collins will take a picture with his MacBook to go alongside the recording.

I’ve now appeared in two of these – which could well be a record. A pathetic record, but I’ll take anything I can get.

Here I am in last nights photo:

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It’s not the clearest of pictures so here’s an arrow pointing me out:

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Here’s me in the photo for the 31st podcast:

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Again, just in case you’re wondering which one is me:

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I don’t know why I’m pointing this out. I feel ridiculous.

Strangely, while my wife was sitting next to me when both of these photos were taken, she doesn’t appear so I guess she was ashamed to be there and hid when the pictures were taken. Clever girl.