Art & Design in The British Film # 14: John Howell

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with John Howell.

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Fame Is The Spur was Honor Blackman’s first screen appearance.

John Howells started his long cinematic career in the 1930’s. After the second world war he practised as an Art Director up until the early 1970’s. when he switched to sound engineering and dubbing until the early 1990’s.1

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Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. See the first comment below. []

“The Register” Readers respond to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs

For those of you living outside the UK who might not have heard this dismal story, a hapless functionary at the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) sent 2 CDs containing the personal details of all families in the United Kingdom claiming child benefit to a firm of accountants who were contracted to audit the accounts of HMRC.

On the 20th of November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to a Minister of Finance) announced that the 2 CDs had gone missing.
This is thought to affect approximately 25 million individuals and 7.5 million families in the UK. The discs which have gone missing include such personal details as:
* Name
* Date of birth
* National insurance number (Social Security Number)
* Bank details, where relevant

Obviously, this incredible lapse of security generated a vast amount of news coverage here in the UK, and a huge outpouring of spin, flannel and bullshit from our government. As the days went by since this fiasco was unveiled, there has been a growing sense of public disbelief in the sheer ineptitude and massively stupid behaviour of the ministry. Continue reading

Hans Bacher’s Coming Up 502’s and 404’s

I’m getting nothing but server errors and page not founds when trying to connect to Hans Bacher’s swathe of blogs.

Has he had another of his famous hissy fits with Blogger? Will he bounce back with yet another cleverly named blog? I hope so. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

Meanwhile, this gives me the perfect excuse to use one of Apelad‘s witty illustrations from his Flickr set on Server Errors.

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File Not Found 404

Luc Desmarchelier’s Personal Work

I must be a bit slow. After months of almost daily visits to see Luc Desmarchelier’s blog Ushuaia, and admiring the beautiful concept artwork he created for Dreamworks’ feature films, I discover I had not noticed a link in the sidebar to a blog called Harmattan.
If I remember rightly, that’s the name of a very hot wind that sweeps across North Africa and drives people a bit nuts, like the Mistral in France, which has been allowed as a mitigating factor in a murderous crime passionel.)

Luc describes the purpose of the site: “This site features artwork created for my own pleasure aside from my regular activities in commercial art.”

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So now that’s two visits I have to make, and I will have twice the pleasure in seeing a double helping of Luc’s work.

Here’s the link to Harmattan!

Abstract Animation by Dennis H. Miller

Looking at Miller’s animations at his website (Flash alert!) I can’t help but get the feeling that I have stumbled upon a series of televised chats between members of an alien civilisation. There are signs of a very advanced intelligence on show, but however hard I look, I cannot for the life of me extract any meaning from what is on show.

These films can be very beautiful, but my need for narrative is such that I’m frustrated not to find an iota of metaphor, or a whiff of story, and I end up feeling empty. Maybe I’m just shallow.

As usual, clicking on the small images will display larger versions.

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Sun King, 2005

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Into The Grid 1995

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Flowing Grace 2005

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Moving Target 1995

This last film was satisfying for its sculptural qualities and its restrained colour and lighting.

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Ammonite 2005

You can buy Dennis Miller’s work online, too.

Autumn Through The Letterbox

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been collecting images from my hard drive and cropping them to exactly 770 x 140 pixels. The reason for this is it’s the size of the header image on the portal style blog I set up for the students I teach at Ravensbourne College.

I’ve started with a seasonal theme –

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Autumn in Rudgwick Green, Sussex

Please click the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.

The students are encouraged to post their own images up to the blog, but it’s been a couple of weeks now since it was set up, and nobody has yet mailed in a picture. Perhaps this is because they are still in the pre-production phase of their final year films, and don’t consider their work to be ‘polished’ enough just yet.

Meanwhile, I’ve been having fun playing around with composing pictures in this elongated letterbox format. It’s certainly a challenge to work outside the normal 4:3 or 16:9 ratios.

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Autumn on Colley Hill, Surrey

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Autumn on Redhill Common, Surrey

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Autumn on Reigate Hill, Surrey

And just to show that Surrey is not entirely covered in bosky hills, here’s a picture of a local landmark that to my eyes at least, is an astounding masterpiece of landscape design.

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Junction 7 of the M25, Merstham, Surrey

You can only see the top three decks in this picture, but the top deck is 210 feet above the bottom grade, as road buffs like to call it. A magnificent structure that fits snugly into a 770 x 140 format.

The Surreal Films of Koichiro Tsujikawa

Koichiro Tsujikawa is genius director of short films. All of his works feature a strangely twisted view of reality that is dreamily seductive, and at the same time mind bendingly weird.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan!

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Music video for Cornelius – Like a Rolling Stone
(Click on the thumbnail image to enlarge)

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Music video for Cornelius – Like a Rolling Stone

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Music video for Cornelius – Like a Rolling Stone

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Music video for Cornelius – Like a Rolling Stone

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Space Shower TV Station ID

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Panasonic’s Promo for 2004 Olympics

Here’s the link to his website that contains a few Quicktime movies (.mov)
And a YouTube roundup of some of his supremely bizarre films.

Art & Design in The British Film # 13: Hein Heckroth

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Hein Heckroth (1901 – 1970)

“Film is the folklore of the 20th century.”

He says of his experiments in the theatre that he has used every trick and every machine that he could lay hands on and has come to the conclusion that ‘all the machinery and all the money in the world will not help to make a good production if you have nothing to say-no idea’.

Heckroth is a man full of things to say and things worth listening to and it was welcome news to many that after working on costumes for ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ and ‘Black Narcissus’ Micky Powell was making use of his talents as a designer for his ballet film ‘Red Shoes’.

All the images of Heckroth’s work were from his production sketches for The Red Shoes, 1948 (Trailer here)

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Hein’s designs for The Red Shoes (1948) are preserved in MOMA, New York and at the BFI in London.

Personal note: I had the privilege, early on in my career, of working with one of the sketch artists of The Red Shoes, Ivor Beddoes

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