Saturday, 13 April 2019

British Film Institute salty classics.

This film celebrates the life and work of one of Cornwall's best-loved artists, Alfred Wallis (1855-1942). We're invited to look afresh at his paintings in light of the land and seascapes that inspired him. Reminiscences by friends and relatives are the focus rather than appraisal of his work by an authoritative art critic - aptly enough for an artist who worked outside the 'establishment'.

Another film with a close up look at how the community in which the players hail from directly influences their being is this classic 60s TV programmes looking at the folk group, The Watersons.

"These are the Watersons, a very important part of the revival of traditional British music. They live in Hull." A British road movie of sorts, this rich and vital film follows the group on the folk club circuit, at home and in studios. It's rewarding on several levels - whether your main interest is Hull, the folk revival or documentary filmmaking - and repays repeated viewings. Seminal and superb.

Though not entirely above romanticism (Humberside isn't quite Yorkshire's answer to the Mississippi Delta), nor occasional swipes at 'pop' folk (B. Dylan included), the film, and the group, are admirably clear-eyed about English folk music: not a 'living form', only its 'still warm ashes'. Heading his own small production company, director Derrick Knight was a significant and underrated filmmaker who played a part in modernising British documentary's style. Though not pure 'direct cinema' (it has a narrator), this film is influenced by innovative French and American techniques: shooting on location with a lightweight easily moveable 16mm camera, avoiding artificial lighting and capturing sound in synch with picture. His company also crossed the boundaries between film and TV - by independently producing films broadcast on the box it was well ahead of its time. This one was shown on BBC2 on 21 May 1966, at 8:50pm

You can see the full selection of BFI films and clips on the Arts here:

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