Monday, 8 April 2013

A pod cast and a manifesto by Powell and Pressburger


Last week I got the chance to join in with a really interesting conversation recorded over at Theatre in the Mill in Bradford, by Chris Goode for his Thompson's Live podcast. Iain Bloomfield, Pauline Mayers and myself were the guests, but it kind of turned into a group chat in places (with members of the audience getting involved too) so the conversation just blossomed... There are so many things that people talked about that I've been thinking about since... Edible soil / politics of performance / proof of an afterlife / the inherent sadness in the act of remembering happiness - and that's not the half of it... Anyway click on Thompson’s Live: Series 2 Episode 2 (8th April 2013) if you fancy a listen : )  PS I was talking about 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' (1943) a film by Powell and Pressburger + a 'BFI Film Classics' book by A.L.Kennedy about what the film means to her...  In the recording I mention a 'Manifesto for Filmmaking' that Powell and Pressburger had created and which Pressburger sent to Wendy Hiller in an attempt to lure her into joining the cast for the film (a part that was eventually taken by Debora Kerr)... Anyway, as A.L.Kennedy says, this manifesto 'could easily be applied to almost any other creative medium' and its something I've been thinking about a lot in these days of arts cuts and a turning away from even the very idea of 'subsidised arts'. Check out the new Arts Council Chair Peter Bazalgette's ideas about subsidy where he says"Subsidy sounds like a European wine lake... It's an old-fashioned passive word that I've trained myself out of using." Well if the person running the arts council no longer believes in fighting for the idea of subsidy, you know things are a-changing... Anyway, yes I've been thinking about all of this a good deal, and when I found this manifesto I punched the air. Frightening how 'modern' and provocative this manifesto feels (though it must be admitted that sometimes the language is also quite old fashioned / male centric - but he was writing in 1942). It makes me think 'how regressive is our political thinking at the moment?' It scares me. BUT we have to be brave and look it in the eye and fight it... And there is something expressed in the five points below that gives me great hope. It's fighting talk. It's passionate talk. And it 100% believes in the importance of art and it's place in the world, not just for artists but for audiences too. There is not one iota of apology here. This sparks with passion and desire. I love that. And I love it because if you watch Powell and Pressburger's work, it reaches the high bar they set themselves. When I think that something is impossible I think of Powell and Pressburger. An inspiration who made magical, impossible things happen... 'Can we do it? YES WE CAN!'...

I'll stop there. But here's the manifesto:

One, we owe allegiance to nobody except the financial interests which provide our money; and, to them, the sole responsibility of ensuring them a profit, not a loss.

Two, ever single foot in our films is our own responsibility and nobody else's. We refuse to be guided or coerced by any influence but our own judgement.

Three, when we start work on a new idea we must be a year ahead, not only of our competitors, but also of the times. A real film, from idea to universal release , takes a year. Or more.

Four, no artist believes in escapism. And we secretly believe that no audience does. We have proved, at any rate, that they will pay to see the truth, for other reasons than her nakedness.

Five, at any time and particularly at the present, the self-respect of all collaborators, form star to prop-man, is sustained, or diminished, by the theme and purpose of the film they are working on. They will fight or intrigue to work on a subject they feel is urgent or contemporary, and fight equally hard to avoid working on a trivial or pointless subject. And we agree with them and want the best workmen with us; and get them.

These are the main things we believe in. They have brought us an unbroken record of success and a unique position. Without the one, of course, we should not enjoy the other very long. We are under no illusions. We know we are surrounded by hungry sharks. But you have no idea what fun it is surf-bathing, if you have only paddled, with a nurse holding on to the back of your rompers. We hope you will come on in, the water's fine.  

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