Sunday, December 14, 2014

Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 38, Blaise Cendrars

Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 38, Blaise Cendrars

Fascinating article on the art and philosophy of the French-Swiss modernist poet and novelist Blaise Cendrars.  How to live la vie artistique (with knobs on)!

Monday, December 08, 2014

TV drama that outstays its welcome - and one that hasn't

Five weeks ago I gave a cautious welcome to two promising-looking drama series on the BBC, the American-based Intruders and the French-based The Missing.  Both, I'm afraid, outstayed their welcome.  Intruders got more and more ridiculous and John Simm's accent more and more irritating.  I stayed for five episodes then deleted it from my planner.  Likewise Missing, far too long and far too elaborated.  Truth to tell, I no longer care who, why or how the brat was abducted.  Eight episodes is at least two too many to maintain interest in Nesbitt's amazing dancing haircut (time passing is marked by unflattering hairdos - the women suffer worse than the men) and the adventures of the touring French paedophile.  Ken Stott enlightened matters for a while but...

The problem is length, which ultimately kills all but the very best American dramas (the early seasons of 24 were an obvious exception, and all bar the last season of The Wire).  There just isn't that much story to eke out.  How many cinema movies manage to keep your attention for even three hours?

As if to prove the theorem, along comes Gwyneth Hughes' Remember Me, a distinctive three-part supernatural chiller for dark December Sunday nights.

I use the word 'distinctive' advisedly.  The serial has a distinctive tone, dark and oblique.  All the characters have intriguing backstories which are drip-fed to us rather than being withheld implausibly long.  The settings are fresh - an unnamed, dismal Pennine hill town and the weirdly baroque architecture of out-of-season Scarborough.  And the shocks are delivered cinema-style.  The ghost is hard and dangerous and extremely unsettling.  I also like the fact that the Asian characters are thoroughly rounded real people, the misbehaving kids especially.  The acting is excellent - Michael Palin playing ten years older than he actually is was a real coup - largely because they don't have time to get bored or fiddle with their characters.  This puts me in mind of the other besetting problem of US TV drama - the actor gets a producer credit to keep them onboard and then insists on 'developing' their character.  It ultimately killed off CSI and Claire Danes has done terrible things to her character Carrie in Homeland.  Someone kill her off, please.  And while you're at it, nail down the lid on Brody's coffin!  I have tried with Season 4, the supposed re-boot, but I can't bear it.