Thursday, 14 January 2021

Eisenstein and the Russian Avant-garde - Film

Release date Spring 2021

Eisenstein and the Russian Avant-garde  - Eisenstein, Ivan the Terrible and overtones of the Renaissance

The main thesis of the film is the connection and influence of the Russian avant-garde on Eisenstein and his work. I believe this is a much neglected  theme of Eisenstein's work. It has been dealt with by Vacheslav Ivanov in his book The Aesthetics of Eisenstein and to some extent by Dassia N. Posner in her book The Directors Prism.  The film will explore the idea that Eisenstein was influenced by the experiments of the avant-garde both visually and in and those in literature and that these influences show up in his work over and over again. They are almost inescapable once you begin to think along these lines.

I am working on a sequence which will illustrate this point. Below are two photographs, A still from Ivan the Terrible and a photograph of one of Alexander Rodchenko's constructivist sculpture with Rodchenko standing in the background.  At first glance It may seem an implausible and superficial connection  i.e. that Eisenstein may have used such an image or had it mind when he shot this scene. However Eisenstein's own theories and practice make   supports such an idea. Eisenstein  in his texts often discusses how art progresses. In his view  there is a process where an image in a second painting for example of a given artist might  leap out of a previous painting in a ecstatic sequence of movement where paintings and objects stretch  out of one image on a given canvas into another in the painters next canvas giving the impression of movement and dynamism if  ones attention is focused on this process. He illustrates this in his famous article about Piranesi  and his two drawings the Dark Dungeon and the Dungeon.

As I began working on the film it struck me that this idea can be applied in many different ways in reference to Eisenstein and the Russian Avant-garde.  That is that this process not just appeared as a process within his films but we can perceive this process of Eisenstein borrowing from many sources including the avant-garde. It is not inconceivable that  we ourselves can make such connections in a process of reverse engineering. 

However before I go into this I should make a brief comment about overtones in Eisenstein's work and how he conceived of them in Cinema. It was not a new idea but what was new was how Eisenstein applied it to film.
An overtone is additional  aural or visual phenomena which are part of the dominant tone but reverberate through the dominant tone colliding and echoing and pulsating  within it and emanating from it creating an additional sensation of complex physiological and emotional responses in an audience.
As Eisenstein tells us; "all sorts of aberrations, distortions and other defects can appear in a film but  can conceivably  be rectified but at the same time they can also be taken into account and included compositionally  providing a whole range of compositional effects and possibilities in combinations which exploit their collective vibrations - which is nothing less than the filmed material itself. Essentially we can achieve, completely analogously to music, the visual overtonal complex of the shot.
"In this way behind the general indication of the shot, the psychological compendium of its vibrations as a whole, as a complex unity of the manifestations of all its stimuli, is present. This is the peculiar "feeling" of the shot produced by the shot as a whole".As we have seen, in the power of the very genetics of these methods, they must be accompanied  by an extraordinary physiological quality. As in that music which builds on works on a two fold use of overtones. Not the Classicism of Beethoven but the physiological quality of Debussy and Scriabin".

A further element which might be considered in the film is that Eisenstein wanted to show Ivan as a progressive figure following progressive reforms and illustrate the dilemmas this posed for him in medieval Russian society and the lengths he was prepared to go to to achieve his goal of founding a unified Russian state.  Again it was a dilemma  Rodchenko and the constructivists, futurists and avant-garde artists, were facing as they attempted a type of renaissance albeit wrapped up in the revolution. In the series of films about the avant-garde which I have called The Russian Avant-garde - Renaissance or Revolution, I allude to this specifically and it may be another example where an artist, in this case Eisenstein, refers to the past in order to point out something in his own time or visa versa.
Bearing this in mind it is worth mentioning that the theme of the  renaissance was very much at the forefront of Russian artists who were often at pains to show Russian history was not excluded from European history but somehow connected to it through the European Renaissance despite Russia having its own unique historical context. In fact many Italian architects came to Russia and built fortifications and churches, the bell tower of Ivan the Great was itself designed by an Italian Architect. There is even one theory that Leonardo da Vinci himself may have come to Russia and designed the Kremlin in Novgorod. Merezhkovsky, a contemporary of  Eisenstein wrote a book called Resurrection of  the Gods. Leonardo da Vinci (book 2 of the Christ and Antichrist trilogy . In this book Merezhkovsky links the development of Russian history to that of the Italian renaissance and hints at a shared history. The debate relates to the idea that Russian history developed outside European history and pursued a different path.   Merezhovsky brings the Renaissance closer to Russia than people might think.

In her book This Thing of Darkness about the film Ivan the Terrible Joan Neuberger looks to Machiavelli in a similar context  associating Ivan with a European equivalent in this case Machiavelli, (extensively referenced in  Merezhkovsky's novel) who she understands as advocating despots and rulers to pursue statecraft using any methods required including cruelty  of any kind to maintain power. It would seem Ivan fits the bill nicely and is up there with the Medici rulers and anyone else who engaged in cruel mass murder. However referencing Machiavelli as an exhortation to  rule by evil means and at all costs is fraught with difficulty as Neuberger points out in her book.  The idea comes from Machiavelli's well known work The Prince, an ambiguous and controversial work for all kinds of reasons both politically and textually. Most rulers of that time needed little instruction on the niceties of statecraft from a Florentine diplomat, however erudite and far sighted. The idea is too neat, a little too pat maybe. Both Eisenstein and Ivan are far too complex and multidimensional to be easily typecast. One of Neuberger's main concerns is Eisenstein's relationship with Stalin whose political ambitions and actions are refracted through the figure of Ivan in Eisenstein's film. Certainly this is true, however what is interesting is  how Neuberger in her book observes the links between Russia and the renaissance.  The reference, however oblique or unintentional, is worth noting and brings us back to the place of images and symbols in cinema and film.

The image of  Ivan contemplating an armillary sphere with its astronomical and cosmological references comes to mind in this instance. It is on the one hand a cliche of medieval wisdom and can be used as a mere stage prop in films and theatre. However Eisenstein uses it as a cinematic image, part of a cinematic lexicon, in fact it looks like an hieroglyph and it seems to me Eisenstein intends this. The shadow created on the wall of Ivan's hall is pure calligraphy projected cinematically and imbued with meaning.

                        Shadow of Tzar Ivan and armillary sphere

In this image Eisenstein draws us into his own contemporary world and Ivan's world as well. Here are examples of Eisenstein's methods coalesced into one image. Here he draws us into Ivan's  dreams for Russia, contemplating Russia's place in the the world and the  Cosmos , world history and the universe. It is both an image of humanism and science as well as an image of power though the chess image. The shadowy forms of Ivan and the armillary are mirrored and doubled to draw attention to these ideas which could not be expressed directly or openly. I do not used the word "openly" as if Eisenstein had to hide something from censors although he did but it is more that these ideas are not easily expressed however open and free the limits of expression. Eisenstein was expressing not just forbidden ideas but difficult ideas, ephemeral and intangible, ideas which are not easily grasped or defined. Even when we read Machiavelli today we are unsure of his meaning and what he is asking us to believe.  Much like Shakespeare in the Tempest,  he is  dealing with intangible thoughts and ideas, Eisenstein is linking his audience to the past. He is inviting us to make an intellectual judgement about a specific idea and to analyse it through his art. 

His image of the armillary sphere is truly an echo of Rodchenko's constructivist and avant-garde culture, whether intentional or not, which expresses the present and a future renaissance of mankind in the twentieth century with which the avant-garde artists considered immanent. By using the shadows in this sequence we can see  a clear example of his idea of overtones as a way of expressing ideas which might be opaque and defy a front on explanation. where the original  dominant image contains an overtone of numerous connotations and secondary images which lead the audiences thought to make there own connections and then Eisenstein "doubles" the impact by creating an image of an  "overtone". The shadow is an overtone of the original "real" image which then in itself is another image independent and autonomous but relating at the same time to the "original" (the shadows are full of overtones and secondary images. Here Eisenstein is playing with images and revealing his techniques openly and deliberately. The shadow overtones are a copy of the original overtones. A shadow is a literal overtone by its very essence. Eisenstein is trying to tell us something more. He is not just talking about Ivan he is talking about cinema and its revelatory character in a new renaissance.  It seems to me that Eisenstein is saying -  this is an image of Ivan's ambitions - it is also an image of how overtones work in art and cinema. 
For instance, Rodchenko's sculpture with its  image of Rodchenko faintly in the background like a ghostly after thought, an overtone of the author, and the linking of them to present artistic and cultural images would have been readily recognisable to a Russian audience with its constructivist overtones and it is perfectly reasonable that they would have made the connection with the avant-garde even if only subconsciously and is also reasonable to speculate that Eisenstein deliberately drew from such images which the avant-garde had supplied. The audience would not need to be told what Eisenstein had in mind, it is there before them and around them . Such themes and ideas I am sure would have been current in the cultural milieu which was early twentieth century Russia.

It is here that Eisenstein associates Russian history with the renaissance. There was an attempt to arrange a marriage between Ivan and Elizabeth the first which is well known and is referred to in the film. Shakespeare, the  renaissance and the link with European history collage and emanate from one image, which without words, without explanation, we  identify and  understand the connotations and links. Moreover Eisenstein has touched on these elements elsewhere in other films. The overtones reverberate through his film Que Viva Mexico which features images of Mayan astronomical and cosmological significance and Egyptian cosmology,(frequently referenced in the architecture of St Petersburg), and which  reminds us of  Eisenstein's interest in anthropology and ethnology.

Eisenstein shows us the ability of an image or symbol to go beyond its own meaning and by making such images collide and combine, to  create new possibilities for "meaning", the understanding of history and our place in it. Ivan the Terrible is not just about an historical figure it is about history itself; how we should regard it, access it and contemplate it, not as a simplistic narrative of cause and effect or of great  historical figures but the interplay of events and epochs which are full of their own overtones and underlying "hidden" laws. These "laws"  can  be further revealed or at any rate explored through the understanding of overtones. The idea of "pictures" as a representation of the world and a bearer of meaning was very much a part of Eisenstein's epoch and can be seen in the philosophy of Wittgenstein and moreover in the theatrical ideas of Meyerhold in particular his experiments in biomechanics. 

In what does this apparent "hiddenness" consist? This is what occupied Eisenstein in his theories about cinema and aesthetics. It is the path from irrationalism to rationalism and the intimate relationship between the two states. This path or journey will be explored in a further blogpost.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Eisenstein and the Russian Avant-garde

The Old Believers Bell Tower in Moscow
The Old Believers Bell Tower - Moscow

Editing is going OK on the film "Eisenstein and the Russian Avant-garde". There has been a definite shift in the way I am working and editing. With this film, Instead of trying to work through things logically I am letting the work take me along with it and seeing where it goes. This is having much more positive results. I have established a basic framework which, a base outline so to speak can now be embellished and developed and this is working well. I have stopped worrying too much about the logical narrative and just going where the images and ideas take me. I can then reconnect this new material back to the main body of the film, not necessarily in the order I expected. However, the main thing is the material is growing and developing in a way which will enrich the film in its entirety. This is an  unexpected move for me and a new approach one could say to my film making. I am beginning to break out of some of the rigid patterns which I had set for myself earlier. This I think will feed into other film projects some of which have stalled. Must also finish some of the writing projects/book I have started. The  book about The Fairground Booth is more or less finished it just needs editing and redacting etc. Eisenstein film has taught me a lot about film making it has released me and confirmed for me many things.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Mixing Genres

One of the good things about making a documentary film or an arts documentary film now is that you have the freedom provided by all the previous films that have been made which provide one with a myriad of styles and examples which you can draw on - not so much to copy but to use as inspiration or guidance and for dispensing with any boundaries. This does not mean a free form film but encourages a fluidity between genres , a mixing of styles which can work. So that the difference between The Fairground Booth and a feature film or a documentary or an avant-garde film will be blurred.
Bearing this in mind, The Fairground Booth is proceeding in production and editing almost simultaneously and with editing and writing working in tandem. One or two posts have been completed and put up on the special site that is dedicated to The Fairground Booth project and is almost turning into a self sufficient blog. The latest blog post can be accessed here and refers to the role of neoplatonism in Blok's work and in The Fairground Booth in particular. A whole section will be included in the book which will accompany the film and will be included as part of the Russian Theatre Film Series.  

 I have had some difficulties with a section of the book which deals with a comparison of The Fairground Booth with one of Shakespeare's plays and which I will write about a little later. It comes as a result of reading Hoffman's "Princess Brambilla" and some of Alexander Tairov's comments about his production of the play in the early 1920s. Hoffman had a big influence on Russian theatre and the Russian Avant-garde as a whole.  

Sunday, 15 April 2018

David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde screening in Moscow

I forgot to give an update on the screening of David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde which took place on the 7th April 2018 at the Museum of Chuseyev in Moscow as part of the Sogetsu Ikebana exhibition marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the school by Sofu Teshigahara. There was a mad scramble to get the translation and subtitles in Russian finished before the screening. The text is quite philosophical and technical in places so that held up the translation a bit.  Most of it I was able to complete myself up to a point but then it all had to be checked and corrected and then put up over the original film. We managed to get something pretty much decent ready in time with one or two problems here and there but no one seemed to notice. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Biomechanics - Film released

The film Biomechanics is the latest in the series The Russian Theatre Film series. This film is a slight deviation from the documentary style films of Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-gardeStanislavsky and the Russian Theatre and Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. It is a film without text, consisting only of the movements of the material which was shot for Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde.
Here  it has been extended and reworked to make a full 30 minute sequence of most of the experiments we worked on in a studio in Moscow with William Pease and Oksana Petrova performing the movements. The film itself is something of an experiment as were the performances  whereby we tried to find the essence of Meyerhold’s experiments in particular their graphic content.
As I have stated before this is not an instructional video about how to do biomechanics, it is not a reconstruction of Meyerhold’s acting techniques and a means for actors training. The film is more of an exploration to see what we could make of Biomechanics using the knowledge we had and improvising on some of the themes which Meyerhold’s experiments provided. It is in this spirit that the film is presented.
The whole film can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Japan Philosophical Landscapes - Release

Have been working constantly on the old film Japan Philosophical Landscapes film. Have made a new version in a different format and finally I managed to get an edited version which works. Certainly it is good enough to put up on Amazon Video Direct which I think is the perfect platform for this film. I never thought it would work on DVD. However I have since revised that opinion and I might release a DVD version as well. The Amazon video direct spot is perfect as it can be viewed as part of the Amazon Prime service which doesn't entail buying the film although the film earns money for the amount of hours it is viewed.  I have completed the closed captions. In many ways I have changed my attitude towards the film. I took it much too seriously and therefore feared criticism. Now I have an easier relationship to it and do not think of it as a real heavy laden piece of work but something much of an experiment - looser and adapted for the internet, concentrating more on the story rather  than the preciseness of the images. Some things have worked well, better than I expected. The film fits within the overall project Japan Philosophical landscapes which includes the film Tokyo Journey and David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde as well as the book Journey to Ogasawara. The film can be downloaded here: Japan Philosophical Landscapes

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Michael Craig - Books

Journey to Ogasawara

In September 2005 we traveled from Moscow to Japan to make a film about the Russian futurist, poet and artist, David Burliuk, also known as the Father of Russian Futurism. The film was one of a six part series about the Russian Avant-garde. The visit involved a journey to Ogasawara for several days. This book is an account of our voyage to this island in the Pacific Ocean.

Purchase on Amazon

Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde

Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde complements the series of six films made by Michael Craig and Copernicus Films about the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. Fully illustrated including stills from most of the films, it is not only an account or explanation but also an introduction or to be more specific an "encounter" with this exciting phenomenon. The title reflects an active relationship: firstly through the experience of living in Moscow for many years, plus a direct encounter with the buildings, the architecture and the very territory in which much of the avant-garde arose and to some extent still exists.

Purchase on Amazon

The Russian Theatre Film Series

The Russian Theatre Film Series is an account of this arts documentary series with all its pitfalls, successes, limitations and achievements. The three films which have so far been completed are "Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde", "Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre" and "Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre". This book is part of the overall project - The Russian Theatre Film Series and is a milestone and a marker in this developing project. It is also a commentary on what it means to make an independent arts documentary film series in a foreign country namely Russia.

Purchase on Amazon

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tokyo Journey and Closed Captions on Amazon Video Direct

The short film Tokyo Journey is now available for download on Amazon Video Direct. View the clip here. Download it here. In due course a DVD will be available as well. Before it could become available on Amazon Video Direct it was necessary to provide Closed Captioning even though there is no dialogue in the film.

Closed captions is something that defeated me in getting my films ready and published on Amazon Video Direct. I use an Amazon company called Create Space to market my films on DVD and the Internet. Now DVDs are becoming more difficult to sell on the internet and downloaded films are becoming more important. In 2016 all my films (all eight of them) were migrated to The Amazon Direct Video Service so that they could only be downloaded and sold directly through Amazon. The criteria for publishing is quite specific and somewhat strict. One of the criteria are closed captions for the those whose hearing is impaired or are deaf. Closed captions are like sub titles. 

Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a televisionvideo screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information. Both are typically used as a transcription of the audio portion of a program as it occurs (either verbatim or in edited form), sometimes including descriptions of non-speech elements.

This can be quite tricky but there is a way of doing it which can minimise the pain. Most non linear video editing programmed have a closed captioning facility. Go into the closed captioning facility and add the captions according to where the dialogue or text is located in the film. Once you have finished you render your film to which ever format you want and then save and export a srt. file which stored the textual data which can be used and matched by amazon when it is upload to your dashboard on Amazon Video Direct.

The editing programme I use is Vegas Video Pro. The process is as follows. Find the point in the timeline you wish to insert text into. Click on Insert and then command and the menu comes up. In the command box chose 608CC1. Then type your text in the comment box and press OK. Then repeat for all the other text you wish to insert as a closed caption. Rememeber also to change the Timecode format to Time and Frames.

To export the srt. film click on tools, scripting and chose export closed captioning for Youtube option

The process is different for Adobe Premier and other programmes but the priciples are similar.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Russian Theatre Film Series - New book publication

This post first appeared on my blog but it is worth repeating to reach a different audience here. This book is the third by Michael Craig. The first being Journey to Ogasawara which was an account of the making of the film David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde and Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde.It’s difficult to find an appropriate description of the book "The Russian Theatre Film Series". Essentially it is an account of an arts documentary series with all its pitfalls, successes, limitations and achievements. The three films which have so far been completed are "Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde", "Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre" and "Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre". This book is part of the overall project - The Russian Theatre Film Series and is a milestone and a marker in this developing project

Also it is a commentary on what it means to make an independent arts documentary film series in a foreign country namely Russia. Not so much from the technical point of view although there is plenty of technical aspects covered but more from the point of view of a kind of interior process. It is an expedition into the phenomenology of film-making, what obstacles have to be overcome, both physical and technically but more importantly some of the lived experience of film-making. For some people making independent films is a way of life in the same way that for others theatre is a way of life or acting is a way of life or painting or whatever is a way of life. You can't live without it or outside it. The fact that you have to spend a year or two of your life on each film means that it is a life decision. So it has an existential element and this quality of film-making is explored in the book. How the series came about, what were the thought processes involved in the development of the series, which influenced the series overall - who helped who didn't, why things went wrong and why they went right. The book is a staging post on the way to further developments clearing the ground before moving forward to the next phase - a book about The Fairground Booth plus a film on this subject.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Publication of "Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde"

Finally we can announce the publication of the book Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde which is now available on Amazon for purchase or download. Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde complements the series of six films made by Michael Craig and Copernicus Films about the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. It is not only an account or explanation but also an introduction or to be more specific an "encounter" with this exciting phenomenon. The title reflects an active relationship: firstly through the experience of living in Moscow for many years, plus a direct encounter with the buildings, the architecture and the very territory in which much of the avant-garde arose and to some extent still exists. Encounter suggests something more casual, unexpected and unstructured but also a sense of living in the avant-garde and being part of it. After all it was the intention of the Russian Avant-garde to connect with the real lived world and to ‘take art out of the galleries and onto the streets and squares of Moscow'

As always when a large project gets finished there is the inevitable feeling of disappointment and wanting to fill that vacuum with another book or project or a film. There is plenty to do and plenty to be getting on with and really I should not rest on my laurels. However it will take a bit of time to change gears and shift into another project.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Copernicus Films, Michael Craig and The Fairground Booth

Since Copernicus Films finished Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre development has been going ahead on the next part of the Russian Theatre Documentary Film series. A script for a new documentary about Blok and Meyerhold's The Fairground Booth is in a process of writing and rewriting. As well as this film work is taking place with regard to a film version of the play itself. The set design has been ascertained and is being painstakingly designed. This is a big question and will require a great deal of attention but at least the process is underway. The next big question will be the costumes - the design and the over all look as well as how to find the actors who will play the various roles. its a long process and cannot be rushed. There are various other ancillary elements to this series which are also being developed in parallel to the project and hopefully will make up a significant component of The Russian Theatre documentary Film Series but all the work being done in this are is in its early stages. Therefore it seems premature to make any announcements. 
Its worth saying that this series will be made up of five films (possibly more with time - discussions are ongoing with interested parties). The films will include Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-gardeStanislavsky and the Russian TheatreVakhtangov and the Russian Theatre (all three of which have been completed and released) plus Meyerhold, Blok and The Fairground Booth(documentary)  and The Fairground Booth (film). announcements will be made as each stage of the project progresses. For fuller and more regular updates check Michael Craig's blog or here for more specific updates and related information.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vakhtangov Study Day – Rose Bruford College

Vakhtangov Study Day at the  Rose Bruford College – Film. Hosted by The Stanislavski Centre.

Guest Speaker Andrei Maleav Babel with the participation of  Graham Dixon 
The Vakhtangov Study day which took place in 2014 took place at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and performance organised by The Stanislavski Centre with guest speaker Andrei Malaev-Babel, and Graham Dixon. The film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre was also premiered at the event.
Books by Andrei Maleav-Babel about Vakhtangov:
BabelThe Vahktangov Sourcebook is a rich and extensive source of information and analysis of the central principles of Vakhtangov’s  work and compiles new translations of his key writings on the art of theatre, making it the primary source of first hand material on this master of theatre in the English speaking world. For more information click on this link or click on the thumbnail.

downloadRanging from Moscow to Israel, from Fantastic Realism to Vakhtangov’s futuristic projection, the theatre of the ‘Eternal Mask’, Yevgeny Vakhtangov: A Critical Portrait:
For more information click on this link or click on the thumbnail.
  • considers his input as one of the original teachers of Stanislavsky’s system, and the complex relationship shared by the two men;
  • reflects on his directorship of the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre and the Habima (which was later to become Israel’s National Theatre) as well as the Vakhtangov Studio, the institution he established;
  • examines in detail his three final directorial masterpieces, Erick XIVThe Dybbukand Princess Turandot.
 Graham Dixon and the Michael Chekhov Studio London:
Man Image.tif i Copy Copy CopyThe Chekhov Studio. Graham Dixon  started the Michael Chekhov Studio in 2003 as a means to give actors and directors living in London an opportunity to access and explore Michael Chekhov’s unique approach to the art of acting. Click on the thumbnail or the link above for more information about his work.

The Stanislavski Centre.
stanislavski-portraitThe Stanislavski Centre . The Stanislavski Centre at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance is a unique initiative within the UK to create a home for both academic research and practice/performance events based upon the work of Konstantin Stanislavski. The Centre, which is located within the college’s Learning Resources Centre, houses a core collection of books and other printed material (mostly in the Russian language), a photographic archive of more than 200 images and a small collection of material on video and DVD.

Michael Craig,  Copernicus Films.
Vakhtangov 2Michael Craig and Copernicus Films completed a film about Vakhtangov “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre” which was also premiered at the Vakhtangov Study day. Vakhtangov eventually became one of the foremost directors of the Russian theatre in the early twentieth century until his early death in 1922 at the age of 39. Talented and enigmatic, his great achievement was the the synthesis of Stanislavsky’s theories of acting and realism and Meyerhold’s studied theatrically. This film by Michael Craig is the third in the series about Russian theatre in the early 20th century. Click here for more information about this film.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Tokyo Journey - New film release

The new film about Tokyo is finally released from Michael Craig and Copernicus Films:

 A short film about Tokyo and its unseen character. I don’t really know how to explain but if you spend a long time in Tokyo you start to feel the hidden world which lies beneath the electric and neon fa├žade. Traces of a dream world or forgotten world which belies the ultra modern appearance of Tokyo and which seems to be a continuance of some other parallel world existing in the past but in some way eternal and forever present. Noh dramas give a whiff of this other world and how it can creep up on you. Usually the waki, an itinerant monk, old man or traveler meets a local person whom he questions about the the history of the area. As the conversation continues the waki draws out the shite’s story it gradually becomes clear that the shite is the ghost of a historical figure who is still clinging to this world either through desire for revenge or anger,or a desire for love. The ghost often asks the waki to pray for them to be released so they can be reborn in the Amida Buddha’s western paradise. The swirling neon dream world of Tokyo with its episodic visual context opposed to the spatial coordinates that we are normally used to in most cities, disrupt the senses which feast on the abundance of light which subvert structure and the visual plane.

The Cityscape of Tokyo is a text-scape a kind of anti landscape. The city, a symbol which stands for something but also has its own intrinsic meaning- an hieroglyph We live in the age of light and nowhere is light, luminosity, a feature of the urban landscape as it is in Tokyo – it flows around and through the city like a liquid radiance.

The Quintessential city of light and its neon landscape casts a luminous dome across the night sky turning dark night into a phosphorescent panorama. This urban phenomena of the night  reminds us of the ancients of Japan who feared the darkness and longed for the dawn, for the comfort of clear light, for the sun goddess Amaterasu to remain.The film which is in post production will form a journey through the streets and known regions of Tokyo revealing anomalies which occur at boundaries which separate the apparent from the real and the interface between the sentient world and a hidden non sentient world. Its a phenomenon which occurs everywhere in Japanese literature. Murakami in Kafka on the Shore explains that the Tale of the Genji is filled with living spirits which could sometimes travel through space often unbeknownst to themselves.

 The world of the grotesque is the darkness inside us, what could be called our subconscious which was obvious to people and gave a focus for their fears. Until the invention of electric light the world was in darkness, the physical darkness and the darkness of our souls were mixed together with no boundary between them. In their past living spirits of literature such as Ueda Akinari who wrote “Tales of Darkness and Moonlight” living spirits were both a grotesque phenomenon and a natural condition of the human heart and people of that time were unable to conceive of these two things as being separate. However the darkness in the outside world has vanished but the darkness in our heart remains just as before. It remains sunken in our subconscious and as Murakami points out that estrangement can create a deep contradiction or confusion inside us.