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Posts from the ‘Grant Gee’ Category

Let England Shake – Prepping for Snape Maltings

CD Cover for PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake

The Guardian has posted the previously announced video piece of their writer Stuart Jeffries in conversation with filmmaker Grant Gee.  At 4:33 it’s a mere snippet and doesn’t provide much foreshadowing of Grant Gee’s new film Patience (After Sebald), which premieres in two days.

There’s better reading in The Guardian‘s interview with Patti Smith, who will play a concert this coming Saturday night

where she will improvise work based on WG Sebald’s poem After Nature. She has spent the morning reading him, and “listening to Polly Harvey’s new song – she has this new song, The Words That Maketh Murder – what a great song. It just makes me happy to exist. Whenever anyone does something of worth, including myself, it just makes me happy to be alive. So I listened to that song all morning, totally happy.”

Patti Smith. Photograph: Richard Pak for the Guardian

Even better, skip all the journalism and watch the music video of PJ Harvey singing the song mentioned by Patti Smith, The Words that Maketh Murder, from her recent CD Let England Shake.

The Guardian Talks with Grant Gee About his Sebald Film

The Guardian has just put up a podcast which includes a conversation between their Stuart Jeffries and filmmaker Grant Gee.

Then we move to the Suffolk coast for a seaside walk with Grant Gee, a filmmaker who has tackled WG Sebald’s most famous work, The Rings of Saturn, in a film which is to be premiered next week in Aldeburgh. He tells Stuart Jeffries about the challenges of finding a visual language to match Sebald’s prose, and honouring the achievements of a writer who would have hated nothing more than having a blue plaque erected in his name.

The two take a walk along the Suffolk coast and talk about Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald), which premieres January 28.  If you want to listen only to this segment of the podcast, use the progress bar to skip directly to 27:00, where the nine-minute conversation begins.  At the end of the podcast, the host mentions that a film of the conversation will be posted in a week or so.

Artevents has put up an expanded description of the film, along with five film stills by Grant Gee (three are shown here).

Grant Gee’s All-Access Pass to Hell

[Thom Yorke, still from Meeting People Is Easy]

In 1997, filmmaker and music video director Grant Gee seemed to have obtained one of the most coveted tickets available – an all-access pass to follow the rock band Radiohead on their world tour immediately after the huge overnight success of their CD OK Computer.  Over the course of the succeeding months, the tour descended into the hell of fame, fans, and media – and Gee never stopped filming.  Meeting People Is Easy (1998) is a rockumentary only in the sense that it’s nominal subject is a rock band.  What Gee focuses on are the chasms and the disconnects between the great triumvirate of pop music: the fans, the media, and the musicians.  What almost gets lost in this three-way scrum is the music.

As Radiohead’s tour extended from weeks into months, the blur of concerts, cities, buses, highways, airports, press conferences, and photo shoots took its toll on the musicians, especially Thom Yorke, their lead singer and muse.  Gee translates the emotional gut of every scene into a gritty texture using available light and techniques like flare, grain, focus, layering of images, and splashes of pure color.  As the unity of the band disintegrates around him, Yorke’s only moments of solace seem to come when he sings for the sound check in concert halls that are completely empty except for the busy roadies, who pay no attention.  By the end of the  film, Yorke’s notoriously plastic face looks as if it has been put through the wringer from pressure and disappointment as he comes to realize that Radiohead’s cult status has all but swallowed up their music.  In one telling scene, an insouciant Yorke simply holds the microphone out toward the crowd, which is more than happy to sing Radiohead’s song themselves.  All the band really needs to do is show up.   As we watch Yorke in particular struggle with the fallout from fame and with the never-ending media circus, it’s impossible not to think back to D.A. Pennebaker’s compelling film profile of a young (but wise beyond his years) Bob Dylan (Dont Look Back, 1967), in which Dylan uses no small amount of arrogance and absurdity to combat the stupidity of the press and the overzealousness of the fans.  By the end of Meeting People Is Easy, it’s not clear that Yorke or the rest of the band have similar resources.  As Gee says in an interview, the members of Radiohead were probably too nice for the “brutal” world of pop music.  Surprisingly, the entire Meeting People Is Easy can be found on YouTube.

Gee’s other major film Joy Division (2007) is a documentary of the short-lived band Joy Division, a band that emerged in 1978 from the punk scene of economically-depressed post-industrial Manchester and which produced only two full-length albums.  Lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide before the second album was released, bringing an abrupt end to the band (although the remaining members reorganized as New Order and went on to have a lengthy career under that name).   Joy Division is a more traditional documentary blend of highly engaging talking heads and historic footage of the band, interspersed with period images of Manchester.  But one of the elements that make both Meeting People Is Easy and Joy Division stand out is Gee’s uncanny ability to find powerful visual vocabularies that are suitable to each band’s music.  Here’s the trailer for Joy Division.

W.G. Sebald doesn’t seem like the logical successor to Ian Curtis and Thom Yorke, yet he is.  As I wrote earlier, Gee’s next film, which will premiere on January 28, 2011, is Patience (After Sebald).  If you watch Gee’s two previous films I think you’ll get a sense of why Sebald might have attracted his attention.

Friday 28 January
Patience (After Sebald) – World Premiere
Written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Grant Gee, Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered essay film on landscape, art, history, life and loss.  It offers a unique exploration of the life, work and influence of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001) via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking The Rings of Saturn. Visually and aurally innovative, Patience features contributions from Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner.

Sebald, Snape Maltings, and Smith (as in Patti)

Located in the beautifully-named town of Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Music is planning a weekend of film, music, conversation, and walks devoted to W.G. Sebald from January 28-30, 2011 called After Sebald – Place and Re-Enchantment: A Weekend Exploration.  Aldeburgh Music is a permanent performance center that has emerged out of the Aldeburgh Festival established in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and Eric Crozier.  (In his recent book The Rest Is Silence, music critic Alex Ross made a brief but strong connection between Sebald and Britten.)  Below are some of the details of the weekend, which I’ve extracted from the organization’s website.  Additional details can be found at Aldeburgh Music’s website under the individual events.  Here’s the link to the main page.

Friday 28 January
Patience (After Sebald) – World Premiere
Written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Grant Gee, Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered essay film on landscape, art, history, life and loss.  It offers a unique exploration of the life, work and influence of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001) via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking The Rings of Saturn. Visually and aurally innovative, Patience features contributions from Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner.  After the screening, Grant Gee will be in conversation with prize-winning writer on place, Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places).

Saturday 29 January
Towards Re-Enchantment – Symposium
A day-long enquiry into the landscapes of Suffolk, the spirit of place and its various meanings, taking Sebald as its foundation. Presentations, discussions
and readings with Robert Macfarlane and other leading writers.

Saturday 29 January
Max: A Tribute by Patti Smith
Internationally renowned for her visionary creativity and commitment, the iconic musician, poet, writer and cultural activist Patti Smith needs no
introduction. In an exclusive concert created for this weekend, she will respond to Sebald’s book-length poem After Nature in an intimate evening of song and spoken word performance.

Sunday 30 January
Orford Ness Walk

This singular landscape has inspired many artists, including Sebald, whose visit, recorded in The Rings of Saturn, captures perfectly its unsettling presence and buried past. Take advantage of a very rare opportunity to explore this haunting location in the heart of winter.

Tickets. Weekend tickets (best tickets, excluding Walk and Lunch) are available at £55. Only Weekend tickets will be available from Wednesday 1 September; booking for individual events opens Monday 18 October.

More on Grant Gee’s film:

Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) is part of a new series of commissions from a group called artevents as part of their project The Re-Enchantment:

The Re-Enchantment is the first national project exploring culture and the rural through original artistic commissions. This ambitious project seeks to interrogate the various meanings of ‘place’ in the twenty first century.  At a time when globalisation, the implications of extreme environmental change and the multiple alienations of modern society all threaten our sense of belonging, the importance of ‘place’ to the enhancement of identity and creative possibility in life and art cannot be underestimated. The Re-Enchantment aims to deliver an imaginative response through art, live performance, film and writing to one of the most pressing issues facing the contemporary world.

Note: On Saturday September 11, Gee will talk about his film with writer and critic Chris Darke and apparently will show clips at The British Library, as part of a one-day program Landscaping: Artists, Maps and Britain.