Discussion

Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 3


The final part of February’s Film Talk, I looked at emotions at the train station and the homes that both Vic and Joe live in.

The next is confined to train stations. Vic (Alan Bates) walking and off his steam from the argument and his drunkenness. Whilst Joe’s (Jon Voight) is running after Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) who has just conned him. In terms of emotions they are very different. Vic’s are more internalised on screen, he is very still and tired. Whilst Joe’s is very external which we see in a combination of reality in colour and his desire in black and white, along with a flashback, a lot of emotion is on the screen. (Stills below)

Lastly the accommodation that Vic and Joe move into, Vic moves into two homes with Ingrid (June Ritchie), once at home and we presume in a flat at the end after looking around a shared house together Whilst Joe has reluctantly moved into Ratso’s condemned flat. (Stills below)

In both films we don’t see the much if any of the glamour of the 1960’s. Instead we have a more realistic representation of life from the early 1960’s with a couple who marry out of obligation before trying to make a go of married life post miscarriage. At the end of the 1960’s we have a young man whose dreams of being a hustler are dashed by the modern perceptions before learning what is more important in life taking the form of Ratso’s friendship.

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Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 2


After showing a portion of A Kind of Loving (1962) I moved onto Midnight Cowboy (1969)that was John Schlesinger‘s last film of the decade. It was the first X rated film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and another two, Best Director and best-adapted screenplay.

On the surface it doesn’t share the same themes of the earlier film if anything it’s a more personal piece by Schlesinger a successful homosexual director bringing these themes to the film. It follows Joe Buck (Jon Voight) a young Texan who decides to move to New York to try his luck in his own words as a Hustler, believing his authentic cowboy image is going to attract all the women. Unaware of the images true connotations. It’s not until he gets there and is befriended by Ratso Dustin Hoffman does he slowly begin to realize what is happening. The dream of success on the streets is shattered much like that of the sexual and cultural revolution of the 1960’s. I noticed that financially he’s always paying out and not earning in return for his “work”, things slowly get worse for him. Midnight Cowboy can be seen as the culmination of the 1960’s the pill has long been in use, allowing for more promiscuity and sexual freedom. We are seeing the results over in the States. I’d like to share a few scenes from both films back to back to show the similarities between them.

The first is the Father son chat about the future – A Kind of Loving, and Joe properly meeting Ratso – Midnight Cowboy. (Stills below)

Both Vic and Joe have ideas of what their dreams are, Vic is not so sure about how he is to achieve them, even when his dad has allowed him the freedom to pursue them. Where as Joe is more optimistic

The second we find our characters on coaches; Vic and Ingrid (June Ritchie) on the Coach – A Kind of Loving and Joe on the Coach to New York – Midnight Cowboy (Stills below)

All are starting out on new directions, the honey moon couple who as we see are de-flowered twice in a few minutes, once on the coach as they take the flowers from the button holes, and sexually. Whilst Joe is going to live out his American dream.

The third we see both Vic and Joe in arguments, Again we see Mrs. Rothwell (Thora Hird), Ingrid’s Mum giving Vic her honest opinion. And Ratso telling Joe how it is regarding his Cowboy image. (stills below)

The dreamers are being attacked.

The final two comparisons I will look at emotions at the train station and the homes that both Vic and Joe live in, which will be in the final part 3

 


Film Talk – The 1960’s Dream – Part 1


The second in my ongoing series if Film Talks I’m running at the Rothley Community Library. I decided to discuss two films this time A Kind of Loving (1962) and Midnight Cowboy (1969) both directed by John Schlesinger. Below are the notes from the night.

Tonight I’ll be taking a look at one of last months recommendations – A Kind of Loving (1962), which I noticed was directed by John Schlesinger who went onto make Midnight Cowboy (1969). I’ll start by sharing what makes a Kitchen sink drama or has otherwise been known as a British New Wave or Social Realism. Before moving onto look at A Kind of Loving and drawing comparisons with Midnight Cowboy.

So what is a Kitchen Sink Drama? I think you have to look at Britain socially first, in order to inform these films. I turned to The Social Structure of Modern Britain – E.A. Johns (1965); which is dated by today’s standards, but nonetheless allowed me to see how society was perceived at the time of writing. I first focused on the family,

…the view currently held by many eminent writers is that the family has been stripped of the functions which are essential to its cohesion, and that parents have abnegated their responsibilities in favour of the government-run organs of the Welfare state.

Pg. 25

These essential functions of the family are :

  • Provision of a home
  • Production and rearing of children
  • Stable satisfaction of sex need

R.M. MacIver – Macmillan 1957

Johns continued on the family by quoting W.J.H Sprott who argued that

“…The family, under Western cultural conditions has shrunk functionally” and that the social services are basically “anti-family” in that they cater almost exclusively for the individual rather than the family as a whole. This view is supported up to a point by M.Penelope Hall when she quotes the article on Social Policy and the Family…This document remarks that the family has until recently, been given only a minor place in social policy, “and over-all effect has been to lower status of the family in the national life”. Day nurseries and school meals, for example encourage a mother to go to work, but do not encourage her to create a home for her children

Pg.25-6

There’s an improvement in opportunities for young mothers wanting to be independent, which would have a knock on effect. Whilst also looking at increased leisure time available in modern Britain.

“…the increasing adoption of the 5-day working week and introduction of labour-saving devices in the home both mean that families have more leisure time. The characteristically democratic structure of most modern families mean that husbands and wives spend more of this time together.

Pg. 27

I also looked at the position of women in the 60’s, first looking at the jobs they have

Married women stats

25-34 years – 2/3 are employed

35-44 years – ¾ are employed

45-54 – 2/3 are employed.

Types of work include

  • distribution – insurance – banking – catering – laundries (industry jobs)
  • Hairdressing – domestic service – nursing (tertiary jobs)
  • Clerks – typists – shop assistance (“white-blouse brigade”)

These statistics only account for married women in employment. What about when the married couple moves away from the family home into the newly built housing estates?

Another factor…is that when families make the sudden transition from an old-established neighbourhood with a strong social life to a virgin housing estate, they may experience a good deal of loneliness, at least initially. The wives, in particular. may miss the gossip and chatter of the streets, and see a substitute in the companionship of the office or factory

Pg. 37

Lastly looking at marriage and divorce, which was made more accessible, however divorce was only granted under certain conditions. This passage still carries some weight today regarding the failure of marriages.

I think the most significant element, however, is the egalitarianism which characterizes the relationship between married partners today, by contrast with the patriarchal authoritarianism which was accepted as the normal pattern in the nineteenth century…The marriage a girl enters today has far more stresses than her grandmother’s. A partnership needs much more forbearance than the situation which the wife just used to accept the idea of doing what she was told.

Pg. 46

It does however acknowledge that number of younger couples getting married, and why. The most obvious is the reason why our main characters Vic and Ingrid in A Kind of Loving.

In 1960, nearly 62,000 extra-maritally conceived children were born to women married for less than 8 months (usually 5 or 6). Translated into proportion of all marriages this means that one in five brides was pregnant, and it is well established that the shot-gun marriage is more likely to break down.

Pg. 47

Johns doesn’t mention the introduction pill was made available with slowly increased access to it.

At first it was only prescribed to married women – most older women who had already had children and wanted no more…In the past most women had to married at an early age, being expected to give up their job and become a full-time housewife and mother wile their husband went out to work. If a woman wanted to follow a career she had to give up thoughts of marriage. Now, married could, if they chose, plan a career, and rigid gender based division of roles began to change. It was the beginning of both a social and sexual revolution, and there was much talk of the ‘permissive society’ and ‘free love’

Life in the 1960s – Mike Brown Pg. 9

So we have some social context around the Kitchen Sink Drama we know that they are focused on working class issues. If you’ve ever seen one you’ll notice they are mostly in Northern locations complete with the rich accents. They are devoid of special effects, the gloss that you get over in Hollywood or Europe lets take a closer look at the key directors of the movement. The subjects they covered were.

Now lets take a quick look at the key directors of the movement.

Tony Richardson who made Look Back in Anger (1959) mentioned during our discussion last month, it starred Richard Burton as a middle class student with grudges towards the working class.

Lindsay Anderson gave us This Sporting Life (1963) starring Richard Harris about an angry young rugby player who resists the fame and fortune that is coming his away.

Karel Reisz made possibly one of the more popular titles Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) with Albert Finney about a factory worker who gets a married woman pregnant.

Then we have John Schlesinger who began his career as an actor in his early twenties before making his directorial debut with a 30-minute documentary about Waterloo station – Terminus. A year later he made his feature film debut with A Kind of Loving, which saw him work with producer Joseph Janni for the first of 6 films together. It’s also the first starring role for Alan Bates.

The film follows a young man Vic (Alan Bates) who falls for Ingrid (June Ritchie), which starts off like a school romance, the passing of notes, the boys fighting, and the social dances. That’s all until Ingrid falls pregnant after they both loose their virginity. This is when the dream of a carefree romance starts to fall away opening them up to married life. In the first few weeks of marriage they are living at her home with her mother played by Thora Hird. Who makes life difficult for them under her roof. It’s her way or the highway, and they can’t really afford to leave just yet. The classic mother-in-law type brings reality crashing down for them. She’s hardly in the film but makes a strong impression on Vic who until recently was free to come and go as he pleased, now assuming the role of the husband. I’d like to show you the portion of the film (stills below) when the school romance fades away as they become adults.

In part two coming I draw comparisons with John Schlesinger’s last film of the decade – Midnight Cowboy.


Film Talk – George Bailey’s Nightmare


On 16th January I presented my first film talk, the first in a series of community based talks about film, looking into films in more detail than before. The first was looking at It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) sharing my insights of the film with the general public. Below you can read the notes from the night.

Tonight I’d like to explore the darker side of It’s a Wonderful Life, (1946), Frank Capras Christmas classic that at the time of release got a mixed to luke-warm response from both critics and general public. His first film post WWII, it was also the flagship film for his new production company, Liberty films which he formed with fellow directors and comrades during the war George Stevens, and William Wyler. Both very different directors; Stevens known for his comedies, especially for the Tracy and Hepburn film; Woman of the Year (1942); where the famous affair began. Whereas Wyler had been making a range of films, a few with Bette Davis who he had affairs with. It wasn’t until he released Mrs Miniver (1942) about a middle class British family coping with war on the home front did his career begin to change for the better.

Turning back to Capra, he was a Sicilian immigrant who came to America in 1903 aged six with his family. He would later to move to Hollywood where he would direct a string of very successful comedies during the depression. Moving forward to just before It’s a Wonderful life was released in late 1946, he has spent the last the duration of the World War two, posted in Washington, holding the rank of Major, in command of the U.S. Film core, coordinating projects at home and out on the front line. Most notable colleagues under his command included John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, who made propaganda films for both public and military consumption.

With exception to John Ford, he was the most successful of the fellow directors, having directed a number of successful comedies, earning himself 3 Best Director Oscars during the 1930’s alone. The films speak for themselves

It Happened One Night (1934) was the first film and comedy to winning the “Big 5” Best Actor, Actress, Writing, Director and Film. The film follows a journalist who will stop at nothing to get an exclusive story of a runaway socialite before her big wedding.

Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936) won best director, second in a row, and his third nomination. A musician inherits a vast fortune, spending the rest of the film fighting off city slickers who will do anything for it.

You Can’t Take it With You (1938) won Best director and film for his studio Columbia. A rich Families son falls for a daughter from an eccentric family, who in turn lay in the way of the family business’s plans.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) most notable for the 12-minute filibuster by James Stewart picked up Best Original Screenplay. A naïve boy ranger’s leader is made governor of his state, when in Washington he finds corruption, not the high ideals who believes in.

All of these films came before Pearl Harbor in December 1942 when he would finish his on-going projects before enlisting. On returning to civilian life, his industry had changed beyond recognition, as much as they wanted him. He wrote in the New York Times about

‘Breaking Hollywood’s “Pattern of Sameness”…This war he wrote had caused American filmmakers to see movies that studios had been turning out “through their eyes” and to recoil from the “machine-like treatment” that, he contended, made most pictures look and sound the same. “Many of the men… producers, directors, scriptwriters returned from service with a firm resolve to remedy this,” he said; the production companies there were now forming would give each of them “freedom and liberty” to pursue “his own individual ideas on subject matter and material”

Five Came Back – Mark Harris – Pg. 419-20

What is this “Pattern of Sameness” that he was reacting to in his article? The article was setting out his opening of an independent studio – Liberty Studios that would produce films unhindered by the moguls. Something that more and more directors were beginning to do. Maybe this “Sameness” was a type of film he was not used to, or produced a negative response in him. Were these the films his contemporaries and even partners in his new venture were all making?

“…his fellow filmmakers, including his two new partners, were becoming more outspoken advocates for increased candour and frankness in Hollywood movies and a more adult approach to storytelling, he flinched at anything that smacked of controversy. Over the past several years he had become so enthralled by the use of film as propaganda that in peacetime he was finding it hard to think of movies in any other way. “ There are just two things that are important,” he told the Los Angeles Times in March. “One is to strengthen the individuals belief in himself, and the other, even more important right now, is to combat a modern trend towards atheism.”

Five Came Back – Mark Harris – Pg. 419-20

His fellow filmmakers were striving for more realism in their work, one response for wanting realism, a stylized realism is Film noir.

“The term “film noir” itself was coined by the French, always astute critics and avid fans of American culture from Alexis de Tocqueville through Charles Baudelaire to the young turks at Cahiers du cinema. It began to appear in French film criticism almost immediately after the conclusion of World War Two. Under Nazi Occupation the French had been deprived of American movies for almost five years; and when they finally began to watch them in late 1945, they noticed a darkening not only of mood but of the subject matter.”

Film Noir – Alain Silver & James Ursini – Pg 10

A new kind of American cinema was flooding into French cinemas.

I’d like to show the nightmare, or alternate reality sequence from the film now. However before I do, I’d like to share what I found in the sequence that fits into what makes a film noir a film noir. There a few themes and visual cues that can be attributed to the genre, each applied to different varieties within the genre, showing how flexible it is.

The Haunted Past –

“Noir protagonists are seldom creatures of the light. They are often escaping some past burdens, sometimes a traumatic incident from their past (as in Detour or Touch of Evil) o sometimes a crime committed out of passion (as in Out of the Past, Criss Cross and Double Indemnity). Occasionally they are simply fleeing their own demons created by ambiguous events buried in their past, as in In a Lonely Place.”

Film Noir – Alain Silver & James Ursini – Pg 15

For George he tries for the majority if the film to escape his hometown – Bedford Falls, which has always pulled him back at the last-minute. His father’s death, marriage to Mary, the Depression, His hearing that stopped him fighting during World War II, until finally he might be leaving to serve a jail sentence for bankruptcy.

The Fatalistic Nightmare – “The noir world revolves around causality. Events are linked like an unbreakable chain and lead inevitably to a heavily foreshadowed conclusion. It is a deterministic universe in which psychology…chance…and even structures of society…can ultimately override whatever good intentions and high hopes the main characters have.”

Film Noir – Alain Silver & James Ursini – Pg 15

You could say that George has been living a nightmare, until he enters into a world created by his desire to not exist.

These are only types of Noir narrative that apply to the film. The look of Noir has been applied to the alternate reality where George enters his Noir Nightmare, the look of the town, now named Pottersville, where we find all the business in town have sold out, part of Potters empire, populated with bars and clubs, another town to drown your sorrows, forget who you are and where you have come from, until reality will ultimately come for payment.

The lighting – Chiaroscuro Lighting. Low-key lighting, in the style of Rembrandt or Caravaggio, marks most noirs of the classic period. Shade and light play against each other not only in night exteriors but also in dimmed interiors shielded from daylight by curtains or Venetian blinds. Hard, unfiltered side light and rim outline and reveal only a portion of the face to create a dramatic tension all its own. Cinematographers such as, John F Seitz and John Alton took his style to the highest level in films like Out of the Past, Double Indemnity and T-Men. Their black and white photography with its high contrasts, stark day exteriors and realistic night work became the standard of the noir style.

Film Noir – Alain Silver & James Ursini – Pg 16

If we look at Out of the Past (1947) which follows a private investigator (Robert Mitchum) who has tried to escape his life, living in a small town as a mechanic, before his old life catches up with him in the form of Kirk Douglas. Here you can see the deep shadow that leaves the characters in almost darkness at times.

Whilst in Double Indemnity (1944) another prime example of the genre we can see how the lights are directed against the blinds, which act more like bars of a jail cell rather than an indicator of the time of day, Light and shadow are used to take us into a dark underworld that is lurking around the corner ready to consume you.

I’m going to play the nightmare sequence now (stills below), afterwards I’ll share some of my observations.

Capra essentially redressed and relight of Bedford Falls? I feel that Capra was reluctant to really delve into the genre he was resisting. He does however replicate the lighting, which is heavily stylised through the exterior scenes and those in the old Granville house, where he had previously (in his living life) threw stones at with Mary. However here it seems more stones have been thrown here, as it’s beyond a ghost house.

  Looking at George reaction to the world around him as he begins to realise that this is not his world, the consequences of his not existing has on the world.

I also noticed that it’s the third time that he has jumped/fallen into the water, the first being to save his younger brother Harry’s life, the second as he literally and emotionally falls for Mary, his wife to be.

Whilst the third and final fall, is an accidental heroic act that replicates the first time that was for Harry, this time for a stranger, the angel – second-class, Clarence.

 

 

 


Painting the Town… Update (27/11/16)


I can’t remember the last time I spent some real time with this work which I’ve been working loosely with since the summer. Today I’ve spent some good time in the studio playing with my lights and projector, directing them onto the white models I made in the summer. I’ve finally been able to do what I set out to all those months ago. It was rather satisfying to see these ideas take form, if they worked or didn’t was another thing, to actually follow through on a thought that had been there for a long time means I’m happier for it.

So it was all about colour to begin win, wanting to shine block colour, taking the phrase almost literally – painting the town red – with light. I found that the red was coming out more pink, turning to less obvious colours such as green and blue, before finishing with orange. Photographically the results aren’t the best. I found myself returning to earlier work, which is not where I want to be heading, I need to move away from the literal yet atmospheric.

Moving onto another idea I had was to project video onto these essentially blank canvases which meant getting the projector out and finding clips of Westerns I have, seeing what work. Not really choosing anything in particular I went for the rollerskating scene from Heaven’s Gate (1980) which pushed me to consider how to really use the projector and the model, which with every consecutive scene grew ans grew. With this scene it was more about how can I cove the whole or the majority of the model.

It was nice to see how the image consumed the model, becoming an outdoor cinema, projecting its image against a saloon. The image come up well on the model, it will ultimately vary depending on the model being projected onto. I moved onto a scene from The Searchers (1956) which was more of the same. I went to another scene from the film, this time bringing another model, meaning that the projector had to move back to accommodate them both.

What happened here was that the images took on a status of being bigger, yet still very much part of the same world. When I saw the landscape against the more urban models, this is something I wanted to explore, the background being part of these models in the foreground. Pushing it further with the final gunfight in True Grit (1969) which had wide open spaces to take advantage of.

This particular scene worked more so because of the action, the cinematic presentation of the scene, these gigantic god-like being behind the models. I also moved all four of the models in front of the projector, experimenting with layout, creating shadows, which ultimately don’t really matter as the image is still caught on the models in front, the light becomes sculptural. I carried the god-like status through to the next scene – the family massacre in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) which I was very pleased with, partly down to the close-ups.

For the last set-up I positioned the models into a more conventional street set-up, with a gunfight from A Few Dollars More (1965) which drew me to my final thoughts of the day, linking nicely to the original inspiration of the Marquis in Melton – Street violence, or that of gunfights in the genre. I’d like to see how more models and more gunfight scenes work with this set-up. I still want to see how the cowboy figures work in terms of shadows they produce.

So as you can see I have been very busy and had lots of fun, immersed in the Western. To me this piece is about the violence that is created/depicted in the genre, this is where I maybe leading this piece going forward.


The Magnificent Seven (2016) trailer thoughts


I’ve kept pretty quiet so far when it came to the remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016) which I will be doing until I sit down and see it for myself. Looking at the trailer, they tone of the film is pretty light on dialogue and heavier on actions. The casting looks OK too.

Of course the real test is if it will stand up to the original 1960 film Steve McQueen not the sequels. Very little has been given away so far apart from the making of the seven lead by Denzel Washington which is a good strong choice and will really spice things up. I’ll be looking out for it around its release of 23rd September in the UK. I am wary when it comes to remakes that are of classics that have not been considered for decades this maybe an exception.

Let me know what you think.

 


The Revenant – looks very familiar


It’s not just me who has seen the teaser trailer today for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s and director Alejandro González Iñárritu who scooped up best picture and director at the Oscars last year for Birdman earlier this year. I’ve been aware of The Revenant (2015) for a few months, the plot outlines stinks of a blatant remake with a different name and a twist on an earlier Richard Harris and John Huston film Man of the Wilderness (1971) which is in a very different tone at least to the trailer, It does however visually look the same to the older neo-Western that is an incredible film that relies more on action and acting than dialogue which is kept to a minimum.

It’s to early to tell really from this teaser trailer, there is a bear in both and they are left to survive in earlier America with Native American’s, I’m not too sure there’s going to be a boat being wheeled around this time somehow. The only other question is, will this be DiCaprio’s year at the awards?


Subtitles…?


First off I didn’t know that Studio Ghibili had one more film up their sleeves in the form of The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013) which visually reminds me loosely of My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), thats not the point of why I’m posting tonight. Wanting to add to Mark Kermode’s video on the issue of subtitles, which I myself have gotten used to. It takes time to adjust to foreign language film. The nearest I got before was probably a few scenes where the baddies were talking amongst themselves. I’ve touched on the theme a few times already this years. Most recently with The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976) which was poor subtitled, constantly reminding me I was listening to Sioux, not another language. Also Yurusarezaru mono/Unforgiven (2013) was had its share of subtitle issues, having white text in the snow, bit of no brainer really.

Still Kermode’s post was about the original foreign film versus dubbed version. Thankfully I’ve only really seen the Studio Ghibli’s which have been treated rather well, some under the supervision of Walt Disney Studio’s. In the past even the English language versions have been criticised by Hayao Miyazaki has criticised them (probably the earlier ones). Personally I have seen various versions of these films, sometimes wishing for the original, getting used to the speed that the dialogue is delivered. I maybe re-watching a few again in the original Japanese of Film4 next month, wanting to experience the original language. Its like seeing work in a gallery, when you see it in the flesh, its the best feeling ever, to experience it’s aura, how it was intended to be seen. Of course subtitles aren’t for everyone, kids need the dubbed versions to even engage with the film or they are lost, thankfully more recently the dubbing is done with care.

I know that spaghetti westerns were rife of dubbing, but that i feel is part of the fabric. Italian made, a homage to an English language genre, which is dubbed for an international English speaking audience. I’m used to this, seeing it as part of the fabric, films made quick with international casts, there was no time to get the language right, match it up later in the recording studio. Makes sense when they turned out so many.

Another plus to subtitles is that the audience can and has to be more engaged if they really care about it. You really take a chance to half-watch a foreign film and still understand it. Something I feel I did with City of God (2006) recently, still enjoying the film that had so much to offer beyond the Portuguese language. And that is the sign of true lover of film, someone who can get beyond the language barrier and see and enjoy the plot. Having a film in its original language you are really accepting it experiencing it as the film-makers intended.

 


Paying Artists Campaign


Ever since I graduated from art school I knew I would be in for long haul of a journey to make a career out of being artist. Something that I wouldn’t want any other way. I have a part-time job that allows me to make work and exhibit all over the country. I’ve had a few successes, my first small commissions, making friends with people from all over the world, thanks in part to places like this blog and social media.

However there is a downside, I would like to be able to make this my job in the future, to be able to say I support myself by the work I make and exhibit, which comes down to being paid for where I go. At the end of the day I am have bills to pay like any other person making their way in the world. Not crazy sums like the established big names such as the YBA’s. I know I have to work for free to get myself known, the exposure. There may come a time when I have to say enough is enough, you need to pay me for making/exhibiting my work.

What needs to happen is a change in legislation and finding that makes is possible to pay all artist in publicly funded spaces. This will allow for diversity and creativity remain, and increase. I don’t want to get to that point and say I was once an artist. I am proud to say I am an artist, long may it continue. Please support the Paying Artists campaign sign up today and spread the word, ensure that creative remains as vibrant and open to all.

Paying Artists


The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King


The Inconvenient IndianI’ve just finished Thomas King’s  The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaI can’t help of the opening narration by Spencer Tracy in How the West Was Won (1962) which speaks of how the land that became the United States was won, tamed and made. It touches on the Native culture of America, which I have learnt more about in this loose account of North American Aboriginals. I read it over the course of 3 months or so in my lunch-breaks at work. Every time without fail I came away shocked at the treatment of these people who once were free to live and worship as they please. Since the first Europeans landed, they have pushed, killed, lied and evicted the Native American.

My view of the Native was originally sympathetic, wanting to understand more about their depiction on film, who are only an obstacle for the whites who tore through. My last western saw a tribe being swooned by Randolph Scott in Santa Fe (1951) who took their leader for a ride on the Iron Horse who then concluded was trapped by the rails and was no real worry. I guess that was a consideration, besides the fact that the laying off thousands of miles of tracks brought hunters who killed off the buffalo which was the life blood for some tribes.

The Inconvenient Indian is a light look at how both Native Americans in both Canada and the U.S. have been treated politically. With hundreds of treaties signed (land grabs) which allowed the growth of the countries. Whilst in the last century each tribe has been fighting for recognition, and lost land.

There are a few successes, such as the casino’s which they still had to fight for. They are slowly emphasis on slowly gaining lost lands, like in Alaska. Buying land when they can, at the expense of the whites not able to use it more profitably. It seems that two very different cultures are living on the same land, two very different driving forces, one profit and the other being touch with the land.

If you want to take a first look at the Native Americans, this is a nice easy step into that world. The content is heavy at time, balanced out by King’s delivery, a mix of sarcasm and wit, he’s developed a thick skin to the things that have gone on for his people. I can’t leave this without thanking Marilyn over at Serendipity for making me aware of such a fantastic read that kept me both gripped, shocked and engaged.

Lastly I want to respond to this book, with so much going on, I need to put it to one side for a while, focus on Pericles and see what theme and ideas are there. There is so much there I would be crazy to ignore it.