Monday, September 10, 2007

movies and shakers

An air of exhaustion hangs over my little shed by the sea. Too much
excitement for one weekend, or for one girl. Regrets have I none.

As well as doing two full-on children's events* at Wordplay
( Shetland's annual book festival), my past four evenings have been
spent hurling food down my neck in time to leg it across Lerwick in
time to watch special screenings of several films curated for
Screenplay ( Shetland's first film festival) by Mark Kermode. Mark's
next venture almost as soon as he lands back on Blighty is to fly
out to the US and interview Neil Young of the nasal voice and less-
than-cheerful-subject matter songwise.

Yeah. That Neil Young. Anyway, watching Mark's choice of films and
hearing the directors and editors of said films come up on stage
after the screenings to talk to him about their work was utterly
fabulous. Although I was dragging myself back over the hills to
Scalloway at ungodly times of night under the red and unblinking eyes
of the windmills, it was well worth it. Even the films I didn't like
were worth staying up to watch. Much in the same way as writers and
books are demystified by seeing authors at book festivals, so too
were the films and their auteurs. Ken Russell was programmed to
appear, but was taken ill shortly before the film festival began. His
editor Michael Bradsell came, though, and talked long into the night
about what it was like to be involved with making such screen
classics as 'The Devils' and 'Women in Love'. Both shown in their
restored, uncut, director's cut version.

I won't bang on and on about what that was like except to say that
the banned orgy scene in 'The Devils' faded into near risibility
beside some of today's tamer episodes of that godawful live-action
television series which I refuse to name. Mhmmm. That one. Actually,
come to think of it, Ken Russell actually appeared on said godawful
etcetera. Make your own connections there.

Also saw Ian Rankin-inspired 'Reichenbach Falls' ( weird seeing Ian's
beloved Edinburgh used as a backdrop when I'm in Shetland. Did not
feel even remotely homesick) which was a neat bit of entertainment
made on two quid, three buttons and a paperclip. Heard the director
and producer discuss how one goes about putting together seventy-five
minutes of film on an impossibly tight budget. Also saw 'The Flying
Scotsman'; the true story of the young clinically depressed cyclist
who cobbled together a racing bike made out of old washing machine
parts and went on to break world records with his Frankenstein creation.

Also heard some astonishing poetry written in response to the work of
several craftspersons. In some cases these collaborations were true
marriages of heart and mind - a poem about a selkie, with all that
implicit elemental erotic imagery coupled with the lush softness of
a hand-felted piece cut to resemble seagrasses. To call this a scarf
and the words a poem, is to miss the point, I think. Then there was
a bookbinder who bound a brutal and brilliant work about war into the
form of a ziggurat which unfolded, accordion-like to reveal series of
black and white pared-down images illustrating the escalating menace
in the poet's words.

Then had my socks blown off by singer-songwriter Lise Sinclair's
launch of her cd 'Ivver entrancin' wis'. And it was. As was I.
Utterly entranced by not only Lise's voice, but the songs for voice
and cello and harp which she had composed and sung in response to a
selection of poems, old and new. Collaboration across the disciplines
appears to be key. As one who has worked for her whole life on her
own, I find the notion of working closely across the artforms to be
pretty revolutionary. Obviously, I don't get out much, or even enough.

Then there was the crack in the green room. Or should that be
'craic'? What is the Shetland equivalent? I think those were some of
the best conversations I've ever had in my entire working life. Damn.
It was so good you could've bottled the spirit and sold it as a
Distiller's Cut. Normally, the green room is the last place you'd
want to be before an event, except when you're performing, there's
nowhere else to go. Whooooo. I've been in some hideous ones -
watching famous authors getting hammered on bathtubs of champagne,
famous authors turning up with their own homeland security, famous
authors air-kissing anyone they think they can use, famous authors
demanding drugs, famous authors being famously prick-like...yeah,
well, you can imagine how gruesome that can be. Compare and contrast
the green room at Shetland where a tableful of persons with literary
pulling-power were discussing their favourite soups and how we could
all give up the daily grind down the word-mine and initiate
Shetland's inaugural Soup Festival.

My ribs hurt from laughing so much. My throat sounds like I've been
chewing gravel. The bags under my eyes have got bags...and I confess,
I haven't touched the fiddle or the pins all weekend.

Tong peas is what I say.

* By full-on I mean Little Red Riding Hood ( the Shetland version
would sound something like Peerie Rid ) taking a shark to her Granny,
who lives in a concrete hut (with some resemblance to a public
toilet) a long way away along the beach. The beach and the hooded one
were mine, but the rest came from my audience of loudly inventive
persons of small stature.

The other part of full-on was a small excursion into live dragon-
birth complete with grunts and heavings. Hey ho. All in a day's work.
Nnnnrgh, uh, uh, uh, nnnnnrghhhh....pop, waaaaaahhhhhhhhh.

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