Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Censors Working Overtime

It may not be common knowledge, but the British Board of Film Classification celebrates its centenary in 2012, see this useful piece by Andrew Pulver in the Guardian recently.   Recently, along with my colleague Alexander Sinclair, I have been working with the BBFC on a book project that celebrates this centenary. Our chapter broadly covers the years 1975 to 1982. These were exciting years, and our chapter covers the extension to the Obscene Publications Act and the passing of the Protection of Children Act, along with the release of important films such as Salo, The Life of Brian, Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby.
The book is due out in November 2012, but those of you who have read the blog previously will have seen a series of pieces about the history of our own Cinema at the University and the campaign to revive the birthplace of British cinema, see earlier posts such as this.  Drawing upon these links, we are hoping to run some joint events between the University of Westminster and the BBFC in 2012. More details to follow as I have them.

Finally, apologies for the pun in title, but it does give me a chance to make reference to my beloved XTC, and happy new year to all.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Art of the Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad: Bell ringers of the world, unite and take over

Whilst technically spread over four years, and starting with the end of one edition of the Games and finishing at the closing ceremony of the next, this week has seen something of a relaunch of the  Cultural Olympiad for London 2012 and the London 2012 Festival programme. Perhaps the most eye catching, or ear splitting, highlight of which is Martin Creed's Work No 1197 which has campanologists of the world polishing their bells in excited expectation.

As part of this, a number of high profile artists have designed posters in celebration of the event, the seemingly omnipresent Martin Creed amongst them, and his effort is reproduced above. A slide show of them all, including efforts from Gary Hume, Rachel Whiteread, Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin, can be viewed here. Its fair to say that these have come in for some criticism, some of the Daily Mail ultra reactionary variety (see Louise Eccles' A splodge of blue paint and coffee cup rings...Infant school art? No, posters for the London Olympics)  but a lot of the criticism seems to have picked up on the lack of an overt  identity linking it with the place the event is taking place. Certainly there are a number of previous examples that have made this link more explicit, see for example one of the posters for the 1948 Games that plays on some, frankly pretty obvious, London iconography.
Perhaps some of the Daily Mail readers were a bit perturbed that there weren't enough bowler hats, London taxis and red telephone boxes on the posters, but I liked them. At least they were not safe and cliched, and did celebrate some great contemporary British artists. It did however get me thinking about art and sport more generally, and also about cultural aspects of the Olympics. First anyone who has been on a tour at Camp Nou will have seen the art gallery, much of it inspired by a competition that is run by FC Barcelona (mes que un club) and the famous Miro poster. 

This is a famous example, but I am sure there are others. In the meantime, all of the posters for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are not only available as poster prints at the reasonable price of £7 (all good stockists etc - but can only be bought with a VISA card on London 2012 site, but that's another story)  but also high end signed art prints of these have been made available from the admirable (I have bought some work from them in the past, but not London 2012 work) countereditions although these will be beyond many people's price range with the box set currently set at £11,000 but unavailable and Bridget Riley's piece already sold out.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Now on twitter

Now on twitter! Am working out way to embed this in site too. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

It was thirty years ago today...

The papers this morning were full of reports of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, but in terms of anniversaries today has a much more personal resonance for me. 30 years ago today I went to my first ever proper concert, XTC and The Members (purveyors of The Sound of the Suburbs, lest anyone forget) at Birmingham Odeon along with my good friend Tim Worth, now one half of the dynamic wine duo that is the Worth Brothers. It was in fact one of XTC's last ever gigs as shortly afterwards Andy Partridge felt unable to tour anymore and retired from live performance. Pictured above is my only memento of that day, still lovingly preserved. Plans were originally afoot to recreate that day in some form, perhaps by persuading Mr Partridge out of retirement, or a nostalgic trip to another gig to commemorate this event. However, Mr Worth is at his own sold out event whilst I, somewhat more surprisingly, am also involved in a food related event with my good friend the spice monkey at the Star in Highgate.      

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Olympics and the British Library

On a way back from a trip to the Olympic Stadium yesterday (note incongruous welcome sign above, viewed through electrified fencing and razor wire, with the picture taken shortly after my friend and colleague JP was chased away by a security guard!) I popped into the British Library. Whilst I am a Reader there and do occasionally visit other exhibitions, I had not visited the Treasures of the British Library exhibition before. It is a superb and wide ranging collection with lots of really interesting and important material. Lots of it was topical for me, I had been talking with my third year entertainment law students on the Wednesday on the links between technology and copyright law and the section on early printing was illuminating, also Haydn's music publishing contract from 1796 is currently on display - its a lot different to the ones we look at now its fair to say. Obviously the Magna Carta and early versions of the bible or Shakespeare's portfolio get a higher billing but there are some great treasures in there and its well worth a look. Its free, and open to all, all week. While I am talking of the British Library, I should also flag up their excellent Sport and Society site, of course I also have to declare a vested interest as Mark James and I have contributed a piece Consuming the Olympics to this site, and almost seamlessly, the British Library links back to this very blog!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Films, the X Certificate and the University of Westminster

Three years ago I blogged about the passing of Tony Tenser and in passing mentioned that the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster was the location for the first showing of an X rated film in the UK. This was in January 1951, and the film in question was La Vie Commence Demain. The film was described by Hal Erickson in the the All Move Guide, reproduced in the New York Times as

Documentary filmmaker Nicole Vedre's first semi-fictional feature was released in France in 1949 as La Vie Commence Demain. The film made it to the U.S. in 1952 as Life Begins Tomorrow. Made in cooperation with UNESCO, the film speculates on the future of mankind after the advent of Atomic Energy. Many prominent French artists and intellects contribute to the narration: Jean-Pierre Aumont plays The Man of Today, Andre Labarthe is the Man of Tomorrow, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Daniel Agache, Jean Rostand, Le Corbusier, Pablo Picasso and Andre Gide are respectively seen as "The Existentialist," "The Psychiatrist,' "The Biologist," "The Architect," "The Artist" and "The Author" (talk about typecasting!) Film clips of hospitals, schoolrooms, scientific laboratories, and even nightclubs are woven into Vedre's fascinating tapestry. 

Since my original post I have uncovered some disputes as to which was the first X rated film, see for example the debate on this blog. We can see from the British Board of Film Classification archives that it was first classified 60 years ago this week, following recommendations from the Wheare Report that introduced a new classification system, so January 1951 was when the new X rated certificate went live. At the time the Cameo Poly, now the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster and currently the subject of a campaign to revive the birthplace of British Cinema, was well known for showing foreign films and La Vie Commence Demain was certainly shown in January 1951 at the cinema and billed as its UK premiere. We hope to show this film again as the Cinema is redeveloped, hopefully to mark the centenary of the British Board of Film Classification which takes place in 2012, and will keep you posted. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Art and Artifice

I just came across this really interesting new blog on art and law, Art and Artifice - well worth a read, regular readers of this blog will know that art and law often crops up on Dispatches.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The late, great, Pete Postlethwaite

I was really saddened to learn of the passing of Pete Postlethwaite at the weekend, see the Guardian obituary here. He truly was a great actor, and I have enjoyed seeing him in lots of films as varied as Distant Voices, Still Lives which I saw at the Scala many years ago and James and the Giant Peach which was a favourite of my daughter Keir for a time ('marvelllous things will happen'). As an academic working in the area of film and law, I was also well aware of him - his brilliant portrayal of Guiseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father is well known, but I had forgotten about his portrayal of a lawyer in the film Amistad until I read Peter Bradshaw's piece A face you won't forget. He will be sadly missed.