Sunday, 11 November 2007

In awe of the tv artist

For those of us who deeply admire Stephen Poliakoff the BBC have laid out a banquet - not so much a taster menu as a complete blowout. Last week those seeking out rare television drama gems had to juggle whether to record the new adaptation of A Room With A View whilst getting a Poliakoff hit with the exquisite Joe's Palace or vice versa. If your DVD was up the spout you were quite possibly in tears. If you'd watched the reruns of the first two parts of Shooting the Past a couple of days before, I doubt you headed for the Forster.
I remember the impact Poliakoff's Shooting the Past had on its first showing in 1999 - the best evocation of how pictures tell stories that I can recount. A collection being so much more than the sum of its parts; that storytelling is one of the most important attributes of the human race; how the brain is exponentially superior in every way to a computer no matter how large the electronic database; that business schools may be money making machines for churning out mini mes but they do not develop the soul: all these concepts were set out for the viewer. When something is so near perfect, any minor irritant galls, and my ointment's flea was Emilia Fox playing the redheaded leather trousered Spig who lopes and stares to minor effect. Up against Lindsay Duncan, Timothy he can do no wrong Spall and Billie Whitelaw, she didn't stand a chance; eight years on she's still not really fit for purpose.

Next up was Joe's Palace, bringing together worlds so disparate you expect the dissonance to be greater than it is. Unlike some interpretations, I didn't believe that any of the people Joe met thought he was wise, brilliant or clever. He was a young, lonely, inexperienced soul, a quiet boy neither overly naive or worldly. He was easy to befriend, mildly exploited, but saw things as they really were. He was simply the least complicated of the people around him, a cipher with little personal baggage. Chippyness was reserved for all the remaining characters, their baggage slowly unpacked for the viewer.
Holocaust references can jar - like child abuse, its horror can be misused to create undeserved dramatic tension. In Joe's Palace the revelations of the source of the billions that had bought the 'palace' and its contents were portrayed with frightening originality. Jewish men in Berlin forced to crawl naked through the park whilst the women perched in trees chirruping like birds were extraordinary harbingers of ultimate degradation.

Last night we had Mark Kermode head to head with Poliakoff, who openly shared his absolutism; his vision, his script, his work. It's a rare artist that can command control. I could rabbit on about A Real Summer or the fact that I loved The Lost Prince and Gideon's Daughter. I don't care that all the pieces are set in luscious surroundings; there is more than enough cold reality available on every channel every day (and for some good reality stuff see The Street where you can have your Spall and eat it too). All I know is there is more brilliance to come.


Flowerpot said...

I absolutely agree Mopsa - I'm a great fan and Himself and I were utterly spellbound by Joe's Palace. But that got a lousy write up in one of the Sunday papers - who also dished Lion and Lambs which we saw yesterday. Enjoyed that too so I shall completely ignore AA Gill frmo now on!

Leigh Russell said...

Not a fan of AA Gill myself. I'm just blog hopping (aka avoiding household chores) and dropped by to see what sort of 'arts' you're involved in. You're welcome to return the visit, if you like, and tell me more. I suppose I'm a kind of artist, if you allow us writers to be artists?

Poliakoff is always worth watching - especially with the wonderful Maggie Smith - but I felt this was perhaps a little slow.

Mopsa said...

FPot - did you enjoy Capturing Mary too?

Hi Leigh pleased you found me - of course writers are artists! I didnt think Capturing Mary was slow, rather well paced. Part of why I like his work is that there are often no clear resolutions - just like life. I will be over to visit your site.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,
To use the word 'spellbound' in relation to Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary, indeed anything Poliakoff scribes, is utterly ludicrous. In recent years, I've liked to consider myself something of a writer, but then I've read my own words and thought otherwise. If Poliakoff's ramblings are worthy of a Poliakoff Week, a CBE and this other farcical critical acclaim, then I intend to keep on writing.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Mopsa, thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comments about my exciting news. I replied there, where I could see your comment.

Poliakoff is clearly giving rise to some controversial views..... I feel I'm rather sitting on the fence as there are aspects of his work I think are excellent - the atmosphere and sense of a whole world he creates. I think anonymous was rather harsh. Come on, then, anonymous, let's see you do better! Although it has to be said, you have composed some amazing poetry over the centuries. I guess at your age, you're entitled to be a bit cranky.

Anonymous said...

Ha, good one leigh!
It's not a case of 'doing better' than Poliakoff - I mean let's face it, he's the one laughing all the way to the bank (probably laughing about the mugs that love his work realising he writes drivel) - it's a case of my critisising bad work when it's merited.
By the way, you may have noticed I signed off 'Matt' in my last blog.

Mopsa said...

Matt - we simply disagree and I love it when art engenders fierce debate. If I thought we all had homogeneous views I'd slink off into some dark corner to sulk long and loud. I can see why some folks don't like SP's stuff - but I am just delighted that I can occasionally (very occasionally) see something of real quality on the box. I'll be watching The Street tomorrow for sure. (No, not Corrie which I never could stand).

Do you have a blog we can peek at?

Anonymous said...

Hi mopsa,
The Street. Now you really are taking things a little far, did you see last week's? Depressing, unimaginative and uninspiring - at best.
Seriously, with all this positive feedback for really poor work, I'm feeling so enthused about my own.

Mopsa said...

OK Matt, what's on TV(now or in recent past) that turns you all twinkly with praise?

Anonymous said...

Morning everyone!
Hi mopsa, re-runs of The Good Life are priceless.

paula said...

Morning Matt, Mopsa and all - enjoying this! Though I must say Matt, I'm in the Poliakoff camp. And the Good Life? Hilarious, yes, but a bit bored with it now.

Mopsa said...

Now I love the good life and The Good Life, and have been called many times by different friends a "good lifer", and that being the case, it's hard to see the stuff as fiction any more...for me it's now a fly on the wall docu-comedy. Sadly, I am not a Felicity Kendall. Gratefully, OH is not Richard Briers. I believe a Margot and Jerry type used to live here tho.
Come on Matt, give us something else to get our teeth into.

Anonymous said...

Watched Tom & Barbara a hundred times and still love every second 30 years later. Are we really likely to see the same from Poliakoff? Rhetorical.

Anonymous said...

the good life ? oh dear.

"To use the word 'spellbound' in relation to Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary, indeed anything Poliakoff scribes, is utterly ludicrous. "

from my point of view, to use any other word than "ludicrous" in connection with this post, would be criminal .