RIP Nic Roeg, one of the greatest film directors. I love ‘Don’t Look Now’, a masterful film which shows what filmmaking can do at its most powerful.
Although the film primarily deals with loss and the unbearable reality of human powerlessness in the face of tragedy, as the lead couple struggle in vain to reclaim their past it becomes clear this is also one of the greatest depictions of realistic love in all art, to my knowledge. It’s a wonderful, human film, and leaves a deep imprint on your heart.
This is a still from the final shot of the final scene of the legendary film 'Rocky', and for certain reasons I think it is one of the greatest ever moments in cinematography:
It's a classic film which for many of us was first watched in our childhood. Whenever I watch Rocky, I feel it glows with that quality of wonder which I experienced often when I watched movies back then - as with films like Star Wars, Breakin', Ralph Bakshi's animation of Lord of the Rings, 2001: A Space Odyssey etc.
But I only recently came to appreciate the real nature of the victory in the film, which is encapsulated in this shot above. I am revisiting so many films these days with the perspective of Experience rather than Innocence, perhaps such new understandings are inevitable.
The story of the inception of Rocky is wonderful as it is famous - an unknown actor by the name of Sylvester Stallone was hitting thirty and could not get a good role for love nor money. So on a suggestion he wrote a screenplay to which he could be attached as the lead. He came up with Rocky, a film about a journeyman boxer on the wrong side of thirty whose career has taken him no further than being a glorified punch bag. He gets a break by pure luck to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, and captures hearts of millions.
Life mirrors art. And inasmuch, the film has inspired just as many. Not only real world-class boxers, but also artists, lawyers, fishermen, postmen, the struggling, the dispossessed, the disappointed, the depressed - anyone who has felt life's struggle bearing down on them, crippled with dread by the odds on the betting slip, with a sense that life has no particular place for them to be. Art is human technology for the emotions, and Rocky is a powerful tool at that.
Rocky is a film about finding your place, your value, your meaning. The climactic fight against Apollo Creed represents the bludgeoning gauntlet of life. Each round will challenge the fighter to bow out under its relentless onslaught. Rocky sets himself the goal of simply going the distance, staying on his feet - having this goal of survival can be enough to get you through.
But when the final bell rings, and although Rocky indeed loses the fight via a split decision, his indisputable victory is one of the most poignant in any story I can think of. He has survived the battle, he did not give in, and his famous success is recognised in cheers and theme music. But at that climactic point, the film does something extraordinary - and wonderful. Rocky does not see the crowd cheering, nor heed anyone in the ring, all he cares about is the woman he loves - he cries out desperately for her as though she is lost. She runs to the ring, and the camera closes tight, shutting out the entire world, the chaos and the fury of the crowd. The telephoto close-up crop creates an intimate space within the roaring finale of the boxing arena and the film itself. The final shot is not of Rocky standing tall receiving adulation and recognising his achievement in the grand accolades of the audience. The final shot is of a man finding meaning in an entirely self-defined way - he knows what is important, and that is the connection and sense of destination and home, lost in an embrace, on the shoulder of his love. The bruises are dark, but the eyes are closed, and the relief is powerful. It is a relief not just from the ordeal of the fight, but from being lost in life.
UPDATE* The video is now live on Youtube, please like and share!
My current project is artwork and a music video for the release of the track 'Murphy's Law' by a great new band called James King and the Regals, whom I also shot recently:
The song describes a tussle with pessimism, personified in the figure of Mr Murphy - named after the inventor of the famous more formulated version of sod's law. I recall that the real Murphy himself was a test pilot, whose catchphrase was "If anything can go wrong it will go wrong". A wise axiom for a man who flew around on glorified bombs.
Nevertheless, for the rest of us this view is a perspective which can have a more negative meaning. My reaction to the song was that it embodied both negativity in the shadow figure of Murphy, as well as positivity, actually represented by the artist creatively reflecting on his experience of pessimism, thus asserting some kind of resistance if not mastery to such a gloomy thought process.
This was my thinking when coming up with the creative for the video. In order to embody this opposition of positive and negative, I felt I wanted to contrast images of life with death: exuberant colour with dark monochrome setups; lavish rushes of light with deep black; the denuded skeleton or skull against beautiful and lavishly dressed and styled female forms; movement against stasis; and other technical contrasts such as crisp cinematic definition footage shot on Arri against degraded handycam video.
This is the artwork I created for the digital release, based on composited stills from the video:
Perhaps the concepts which I just described are visible in the juxtaposition of almost Victorian cameo portrait of the model (talented singer Emma Lauran) against the skull from my anatomical skeleton, whom I have named Yorick, along with fluorescent video distortion against clean monochrome lettering.
At any rate, it went down well with the band.
Below is short clip from the video which was cut to trail the digital release. I enjoy punchy editing contrasted with slower sections, but this bit is from the end of the song where it's mostly the former. If you follow my Instagram stories, you probably noticed the featuring 'power zooms' which I've grown to love over the last few months. The other model in the video is the fantastic Liv Turnbull, and you can see some shots I took of her here.
The full music video will be out soon. If you like what you see or would like to comment, do get in touch or follow me on Vimeo
So after an 18 month break I have decided to start filing blog posts again. In this hiatus, I realised I have been building up quite a bank of topics, meditations, and anecdotes to write about, so if you follow my visual / audio work, watch this space for some long overdue literary output. I know a lot of you used to read my blog articles regularly, so I apologise for the pause. But sometimes a holiday is as good as a change.
Over the last year I've been working a lot on portrait and music photography, and have been focussing my film work on music videos - namely two videos for God Damn (One Little Indian Records) - songs called 'Ghost' and 'Sing This'; a video for 'Losing My Mind' by Metropolis Records artist LOOP; and I'm about to release my latest work for a great track called 'Murphy's Law' by James King and the Regals, a fantastically talented new artist set to make a big splash on the indie music scene. So I figure this latest project is the good place to (re)start...
If you are in York in November, come and see my debut film 'Primitive' at the Aesthetica Film Festival. most recent screening since the Lincoln Center, NYC, I am really pleased with the film's reception on the festival circuit.
This film festival is run by the arts magazine Aesthetica. It's a fantastic event, and has been granted the status of BAFTA recognition, so it's a real privilege to be part of the line-up. Screenings will take place 5-8th November 2015.
Here's the trailer, to whet the appetite...
Kicking off my creative work for 2015 with the promo for 'Dreamers' by OFEI. This film was shot before Christmas in Metropolis Recording Studios - a big thank you to everyone there for all their support! I had spent a lot of time re-watching the pioneering work in the golden age of the music video - the early 90s. Faith No More, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Seal, as well as a bunch of James Bond intros... They deeply inspired this video. And the result is it looks nothing like any of them to anybody except myself, perhaps...