Film Poster Artwork

The White Cloth gallery in Leeds had a “Mondo” poster exhibition a couple of months ago that I was fortunate enough to see (though apparently all of the copies of the posters sold out pretty much instantly so I was not able to buy any for myself.) These are basically posters created by contemporary artists for films, both classic and contemporary. I would have to say that my favourite artist was Olly Moss who curated the exhibition.

Separate to this, I stumbled across a website with a number of Polish versions of film posters that are all pretty unique, and that seem to come more from a place of how the artist interpreted the meaning or feeling of the film.

The styles of these posters are pretty drastically different, but because they both have the same goal, I thought that it might be interesting to share some of my favourite pieces of Mondo and Polish poster art together here.

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Jurassic Park – Olly Moss

Return of the Jedi - Olly Moss

Return of the Jedi – Olly Moss

Repo Man - Jay Shaw

Repo Man – Jay Shaw

There Will Be Blood - Olly Moss

There Will Be Blood – Olly Moss

Tootsie

Tootsie

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

Willow

Willow

I have to apologise for not being able to find out the names of the Polish artists. (Also, I don’t know why, but even though it is fairly childish I kind of love the Neverending Story poster!)

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BookCrossing

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BookCrossing Flyer

I recently came across a “BookCrossing Zone” and I thought I would take the chance to share all about it!

Basically this seems to be a fairly new idea, where people put labels in books and then leave them for free in places for people to find, take home and enjoy. You can then enter details on the website to say where you found it and that you have read it before you “release” it off into the wild again – creating a sort of free world library.

Places such as cafes or bars are able to sign up to become Official BookCrossing Zones for free, but the option is also open to you to simply leave one of these books on a park bench and see where they end up. The one catch that I can see is that unless you find someone else’s book that they have pre-labelled, you would have to pay for a pack of labels yourself if you wanted to do this from home, but the idea of releasing some of your favourite books for other people to enjoy is fairly tempting.

The BookCrossing Zone that I came across was in the new shopping centre that has just been built in Leeds where I live and I had to ask a couple of times before I was convinced that the books were just free. Now, I don’t want to be a corporate shill, but I was pretty impressed and walked away with Far from the Madding Crowd, though there were a fair few other books that I would have liked to take.

As I have said, I would like this to be the kind of idea that once they had raised a bit of money, they would send you labels for free as I think that it is pretty cool, but as it stands I am torn as to whether it is a clever way of making money while seeming to be instigating some kind of revolution or whether it genuinely is fine to lay down my innate cynicism. I suppose either way I got a free book out of it, and I would recommend checking to see whether there is a zone near you, or trying to convince that cool art space that you know to join in so you can take part!

http://www.bookcrossing.com

The ABCs of Death – Film Review

ImageThe ABCs of death is a collection of short films, created by twenty-six different directors. They were given the general concept of creating a film about death and then allowed total artistic freedom. Now, you may have seen the trailer, and think that you know what this film is going to be like, but I think that the trailer is slightly misleading and does not really reflect the film all that well. You may also be aware of its pretty poor reviews on sites such as IMDB and rottentomatoes, but I for one truly enjoyed the experience of watching this. It is like having your own short film festival, but compiled into one film for ease and with a singular theme. Having been to a couple of short film festivals before, I have to say that the hit to miss ratio is probably better with this film than from those experiences. You do have to be prepared that not all of them will be to your taste, and in fact some of them might put you off completely – there are some pretty controversial topics thrown in here – but to me, finding the odd uncomfortable section is to be expected with this kind of project. Just because you do not like one of the shorts, I think you shouldn’t judge the entire film or concept on that one director’s personal choice. It does mean that this is probably not for the easily offended or squeamish, but there are definitely more funny moments than “horrific” ones.

ImageDog Fight, directed by Marcel Sarmiento, was one of my favourites and as the name might suggest, this is essentially Raging Bull with a dog. You could say that using slow motion is a shortcut to “style,” but I think that in this film, coupled with indecipherable dialogue, it really works. The dog itself is the stand out actor for me, and there is one scene where it rolls its eyes to look at its master that really sticks out in my mind. I think that this is a very well shot piece, and the director throws in some almost humorous moments as an added twist.

Oxygen, directed by Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet is another heavily stylised piece, but this time, you have to work a bit harder at the beginning to fully understand what is happening. In the end, the plot is fairly straightforward, but it mixes metaphorical images with events to create a mood and the idea of what is happening without just showing it.

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I did enjoy a number of the comedic shorts as well, with Nuptials, by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Toilet, by Lee Hardcastle being personal highlights.

While I was definitely glad to have watched the whole film, I do think that if I watched it again, I would only re-watch the letters that I enjoyed as some of them definitely are misses. I found Ben Wheatley’s film disappointing for example, but I think that this is mainly because I was expecting so much after watching Sightseers and Kill List. This might just be me excusing him because I loved his other films so much, but I think that his is by no means the worst, it just doesn’t really expand on its story or characters as much as it could have done.

Because the directors were given total artistic freedom, it does mean that this film as a whole does not fit easily into one camp or another – if you are looking for a splatter fest or to find some deeper meaning to life, then that is not really what is on offer. It does also seem that most of the directors took the prompt “a film about death” and created something that either had an abundance of nudity or toilet-based humour, but I personally prefer that angle to the idea of them all trying to say something “important” about mortality. I might be biased here, in that I feel it is really hard to say something meaningful without it being pretentious drivel, so I would rather someone took a more obscure approach and essentially avoided trying to make any point at all. To my mind twenty-six films trying to evoke clichéd emotions or repeating things that have been said a thousand times before would have been awful, and I think that so long as you know what to expect when you go in, there is a lot to get from this film. You can sample twenty-six different directors’ work and you get to see experimentation and potential new talent. That is obviously not to say that I enjoyed all of these shorts as there are a large number of different styles and genres attempted, not all of which worked for me personally. This does mean, however, that there should be at least something for most people.

I also think that with regards to the more controversial films, you cannot have it both ways. You can’t say that this film is derivative and that none of the directors tried to properly explore death, or that they all just wanted to make films about sex, and at the same time, criticise some of the shorts as being too controversial. To my mind, it is exactly what you should expect from this kind of project, especially when the directors are given creative control, but I think that it is only when artists are given freedom to push at boundaries that they have the chance of stumbling upon something great. So even if one particular short did not work for me, it is still a brave decision to free the directors, and it is something that should be encouraged.

A Tragedy of Buffoons – Free from the 23rd April – 24th April

ImageMy short story collection – A Tragedy of Buffoons – is on a free promotion for two days!

It is a collection of humorous, absurdist, cynical stories, and I have put pretty much a year of my life into writing and editing it, so step right up and give it a try!

Like I say, it’s free, so that’s considerably less than the price of a cup of coffee!

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Art Vend! Art for the Masses!

The Write Space

Leeds based art collective, Woolgather have created an interesting and FUN way of integrating art into the everyday- Art Vend!

The vending machines provide a platform for around 30 artists throughout the UK to commission their work , all for the small fee of £1! Works by artists such as Bess Martin , winner of the second place Vantage Art Prize, will be creating 150 works each for the vending machines.

You can find the vending machines around Leeds venues such as the co-operatively run Wharf Chambers and the Corn Exchange. Woolgather also has its sights set on the new Trinity Shopping Centre, The Brudenell Social Club and Bramley Swimming Baths.

The Art Vend project runs parallel with the Woolgather objective of making art more accessible. The vending machines serve the dual purpose of promoting new artists whilst broadening audiences.The project aims to give people something different , something to…

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The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz – Book Review

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The Street of Crocodiles Book Cover

The Street of Crocodiles is an outstanding collection of stories. It is an autobiography told through the lens of nostalgia and childlike fantasy, and follows Shulz’s life through his childhood in a small, sleepy town in Poland where nothing much ever happens. This may seem like a fairly uninteresting setting for a book, but Shulz manages to inject his own air of poetry and magic into every sentence. When he describes a visit to his aunt and uncle, he tells of how, when he enters their living room, they are sat “as if in the shadow of their own destiny”. He goes on to describe his promiscuous aunt as having flesh “floating as it were outside the boundaries of her person, held only loosely in the fetters of individual form , and, despite those fetters, ready to multiply, to scatter, branch out, and divide into a family.” You can see from these two short excerpts the effortless way in which Shulz manages to transform reality, through his own unique perspective, into something wonderful and ethereal.

Of all the characters that Shulz portrays, his father is by far my favourite. While Bruno is still quite young, his father begins to lose his mind – locking himself in his room, and waging titanic war against his God. Shulz recreates scenes in which his father shakes with the “divine anger of saintly men” roaring in the language of thunder as the terrible Demiurge “press[es] his enormous face against the upper panes of the window”. Shulz explains how they often rent rooms of their house out, and how, sometimes, a tenant would leave without telling them and they would wander into a long forgotten room to find it empty. His father would disappear, sometimes for weeks on end into these mysterious recesses of the house, only to re-emerge weeks later, weak and hungry. While his father still has a shred of his former sanity, he is obviously terrified and angry at this slide in his own mental capacity, but once he has crossed this threshold, Shulz paints him as quiet and meek and, not to take away from his struggle, lovably eccentric. He imports dozens of rare bird eggs and hatches them, keeping the bright and colourful flock in the attic. Shulz tells of how his father begins to lose himself in the life of the birds, coming down to dinner and attempting to peck at his food. When their housekeeper eventually has to free the birds due to the enormous amounts of faeces covering the attic, he is panicked and tries to fly with them out of the window.

Bruno Shulz never completely loses himself to fantasy in this book, he merely drapes it over his life and surroundings to give everything a brighter appearance. This book isn’t Alice in Wonderland or Pan’s Labyrinth. It is always easy to forget that to an author from the past, he is not describing something, with the rose tinted spectacles of nostalgia, from a long lost era – this was his “present day” in all its mundanity and normalcy. I think it would be a great gift to be able to see the world in such a warm hearted and giving way as Shulz writes about his.

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Bruno Shulz

Bruno Shulz is, himself, a fascinating character. He was born in 1892 and taught art in a secondary school in Poland writing constantly for his own amusement, but it wasn’t until he was forty years of age, when he was introduced to a distinguished novelist, that he was able to see his works published. Less than ten years later he was confined to a ghetto as a Jewish citizen and in 1942 he was shot dead in the streets. He published a sum total of three works and was reportedly working on a fourth, though, sadly for the world of the literarily insatiable, this has been lost.

As well as his constant writing, Bruno Shulz also sketched. His drawings seem, to me, to fall under a darker, more Carrollian style of dream and fantasy, with the majority of the pictures being set against a backdrop of dark shadow with the central figures writhing on the floor or creeping from the edges of the page. To my mind, you can still sense a certain “languid air” in these pieces, but it often seems to be at the expense of another.

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Procession – Bruno Shulz

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The Enchanted City II (Revolution in City) – Bruno Shulz

The Street of Crocodiles is quite simply poetry in prose. I have never been one who was able to remember quotes from great writers, but I truly wish I was, because if so, I would try and memorise most of the sentences in this book. Besides for obvious reasons, it is a tragedy that this lyrical master was snatched away before he was able to produce any further work.

As an additional note, Jonathan Safran Foer lists Street of Crocodiles as his favourite book and has used it to create his own work “Tree of Codes.” Using a die-cut on every page he has extracted the story of one person’s “last day on earth.” I have not read this book myself, but I have to say that with Street of Crocodiles as its foundation, I am sorely tempted.