Wednesday, June 25, 2014

camille claudel 1915

I went along to the Watershed yesterday afternoon to see my first film since my hip operation… only now can I face the prospect of sitting on a non-raised seat for 90 minutes or so! The film in question was Bruno Dumont’s “Camille Claudel 1915” starring one of my favourite actors, Juliette Binoche. It tells the harrowing story of the celebrated and gifted sculptor Camille Claudel, one-time protégé and lover of Auguste Rodin, who was committed to an asylum in 1913 by her younger brother Paul, following the death of her father. Claudel appeals impotently against her imprisonment – where her claims of persecution are seen as proof of her “madness” (alleged poisoning of her food, abandonment by her family and theft of her art by Rodin). The film deals with just three days of her life in the asylum – at a time when she still had hope of being released. Tragically, she lived in confinement for 30 years until her death in 1943.
The film is based on Claudel’s medical records and the letters between her and her sanctimonious brother (who, according to Wikipedia, visited her just 7 times in 30 years) and, somewhat controversially, is filmed in a French asylum, using actual residents as the supporting cast – and their presence acts to underline the unfairness of Claudel’s incarceration.
It’s a tragic, upsetting but quite brilliant film. Binoche gives a simply stunningly performance.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


As some of you will be aware, I started my “One Day Like This” blog in September 2012 – posting a daily photograph or drawing on alternate days. Thus far, I’ve posted well over 300 drawings and 300 photographs. Until quite recently, I was producing drawings in various A4 spiral-bound sketchbooks and then ripping out individual sheets and scanning them for blog purposes. In February this year, however, I was given a smaller, A5 “hardback” sketchbook and decided that I would keep the sketchbook in tact and NOT to rip out individual pages (ie. simply scan in situ as it were).
Four months later, I’ve now used up the entire sketchbook… and I’ve found the whole process strangely liberating. The A5 format is much handier for carrying around in my shoulder bag and (perhaps encouraged by its smaller size?) I’ve found myself become far less “precious” about the resulting drawings. One of the bonuses has been that I’ve speeded up my sketching “technique” – with many of my drawings now taking me no more than 10-20 minutes to produce and far more being drawn “on the spot” rather than perhaps a combination of on-the-spot and photographs.
I’m not quite sure where to go from here (but I have been given a rather lovely A4 hardback sketchbook recently!), but I’ll certainly be continuing to post drawings on my blog every other day.
Photo: the finished sketchbook (not that you can see all 62 pages of scribbles!).

Friday, June 06, 2014

may-june 2014 books

More book stuff:
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): I’m rather ashamed to admit that I’d not read any Marquez books before now, so it’s good that it was chosen as our book group’s next book. It’s a long and complicated story of six generations of Buendia family in the mythical town of Macondo. It describes (at times, very amusingly) the outrageous, complex, fantastic life of Macondo going through laborious alternate cycles of prosperity, war and decay before finally being swept back into the swamp by a cyclone. Although I did enjoy the book, there were times when I found it rather too unrelenting in its detail and I certainly had great difficulty in trying to remember the names of the key characters (particularly as many of the names were repeated!).
Dear Life (Alice Munro): A collection of beautifully-written, melancholic, dignified, short stories (ending with four “not quite stories” that verge upon autobiographical reflections) set in post-war Canada. Unshowy, and yet, each one quite haunting and memorable. 
The Railway Detective (Edward Marston): Set in London at the time of 1851 Great Exhibition. As the name suggests, it’s crime novel (about a mail train robbery) and the blurb on the cover describes it as a “grand romp very much in the tradition of Holmes and Watson”. If only. Whilst it’s extremely readable (I read it in a day), I found the plot rather banal and the characters all appallingly stilted (the highlight of the book was a reference to Bradshaw’s railway guide!). If it’s as easy as this, I think I’m going to be a crime writer when I grow up…
The Quarry (Iain Banks): This is a book about a father dying of cancer. You’ll probably be aware that, tragically, Banks had almost finished the first draft of the book when he received news that he too was dying of the disease. I loved this book. It’s filled with the author’s gift for humour and, certainly for me, his rather left-of-centre political stance on life. As the book’s cover says: it’s about “a dying man and his only son, six old friends, a missing videotape and a reunion in a crumbling house on the edge of a quarry”. It might be about death (and at times I found it quite heartbreakingly sad) but, for me, I also found it incredibly hopeful and life-enhancing. I’m going to miss Iain Banks’ books a great deal.   
The Great Galloon: Voyage To The Volcano (Tom Banks): Another Banks’ book (Tom and Ian aren’t related!). As I noted in post about his first book, I wouldn’t normally include children books in my “reading diary”, but this one was written by our good friend Tom Banks… and is another excellent children’s book. It’s full of clever invention and is VERY funny (I’d love to hear an audio version with all Tom’s voices!)… my ONLY reservation is that I’m not a great lover of the illustrations. But hey!