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NormanLloyd@CANNES

Norman Lloyd’s talk in the Salle Buñuel was a lesson in theatre, film technique, Shakespeare, Renoir, Brecht, Chaplin, Welles, Hitchcock and Kazan, and how to keep your mind a steel trap well into your nineties. I don’t know if he eats nothing but blueberries but he must be doing something right.

In an age when aging (see Haneke’s Amour) is often told in tales of sad decline, this man stands out as an object lesson of hope for all. The session was one of the highlights of Cannes in 2012. Holding his audience spellbound, Lloyd, a 97 year-old veteran of acting, directing and production, took listeners through the best part of the pantheon of cinema (the first 60 years of it). What and who he didn’t know simply wasn’t worth pursuing.

         Lloyd,  stage and film actor

It wasn’t just that he knew so many of those who were crucial to the development of 20th century cinema, it was he knew what they knew and why they knew it – and above all he could tell us how and why he knew what they knew. He understood their brilliance with exacting modesty, placing himself in the role of pupil to all of them. Yet for all intents and purposes he was their equal in collaboration, a creative confidant in so many ways; he travelled through film history with them not because of them. Lloyd’s contribution to film is real, tangible and deep. When he recounted how Hitchcock – a decidedly unpolitical man – with three words to NBC, “I want him” dissolved the McCarthy blacklist era, the entire audience in the Salle was stilled. Lloyd’s part in McCarthy’s ruination was just one anecdote in many. Politically involved and motivated throughout his career, Lloyd was a close friend to Jean Renoir, Chaplin, Welles and Hitchcock. Lloyd was at the heart of theatre and cinema for nearly fifty years. One of the best moments of the night was his recollection of the lines of Bertolt Brecht: “Since the people are displeased by the government, the people must be replaced.”  The sharpness of wit, his breadth of cinematic knowledge was stunning.

Experiment, what experiment?

..handheld shaky cam, found footage, ultra-violence, meta-storylines, etc., all becoming part of the broad pop cultural landscape and assimilated into the commercial marketplace. This translates across all cultural lines – music, art, technology, etc. as the outsiders and untouchables of yesteryear are today’s TV spokesmen and tastemakers..

…experimental film seems to represent more fully the true potential and magic of cinema

…for brief moments in history, think the ‘beats’, the real ground-shakers, the true risk-takers, manage to do something that is life and culture affecting, their minds drafting the future…

The Price So Many Are Paying

With the global financial crisis deepening and spreading into communities (aided and abetted by years of political corruption) in recent months the number of workers in Italy who have taken their own lives has risen fast.

Below are some of their stories

See more of these printed in L’Espresso (in Italian) – 13th April 2012

13 April 2012. Sesto, Fiorentina, Firenze. Giuliano V., ex-manager, 42, died by throwing himself under a freight train. Four months before he had lost his position in the marble production sector in Garfagnana. Falling into a deep depression he had tried to create a new life and career without success.

12 April 2012. Treviso. Paolo Tonin, 53, agricultural businessman hanged himself in his business premises. According to his family, the suicide was as a direct result of the difficult economic climate his business had been plunged into.

9 April 2012. Valtiberina, Arezzo, 27, owner of a woodcutting business, killed himself in a forest by connecting a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car. Family and friends said he was overwhelmed by his debts. He had just received a tax bill for 50,000 euros.

5 April 2012. Savona. Vittorio Galasso, independent builder, 52,  hanged himself in the apartment he was renovating. According to friends, he could not go on facing little work and rising debts.  He left a wife and two children of 15 and 17 years.

3 April 2012. Roma. Mario Frasacco, businessman, 59. His aluminium products company failing, workers being laid off, Frasacco shot himself in his business premises. His body was found the morning after by his twenty year old son.

2 April 2012. Roma. Pasqualino Clotilde, artisan, 57, hanged himself in his framing shop. A note explained his reasons: “insurmountable economic problems.” The day before his wife had begun working in a cleaning company to help pay off family debts.

23 March 2012. Cepagatti, Pescara. E.F, businessman, 44 years, hanged himself because he was desperate over the economic situation of his window and door frame company.  His body was found by his company employees.

21 March 2012. Scorrano (Lecce). Antonio Maggio, craftsman, 29, hanged himself after losing his job on an excavation site. With the job he had been supporting his widowed mother. A few days before he lost his job, he received a payment notice for rubbish collection.

9 March 2012. Ginosa Marina (Taranto). Vincenzo Di Tinco, 60, shopkeeper, hanged himself after his bank refused him help. Proprietor of clothing company he was refused a 1,300 euro loan notwithstanding his 40 years in business.

9 March 2012. Noventa di Piave (Venezia). Carpenter, 60, took his own life because delay in receiving payments from clients. His body was found by a co-worker in their work premises.

26 February 2012. Firenze. Businessman, 64, found hanging in his premises, due to economic difficulties.

15 February 2012. Paternò (Catania). Owner, 57, of an  agricultural machinery company, hanged himself in his warehouse. His company had numerous debts.

3 January 2012. Milano. Giancarlo Chiodini, electrician, 64, shot himself in the head in his van parked in front of his work premises. Dedicated to his work, in recent times he had become obsessed by worry over promised contracts that did not materialise and delayed payments.

(translated by this writer)

Sammakon in Turku

I was in Finland last week, in the western city of Turku, facing down five days of clear blue skies and 30 degree sunshine, weather Londoners can only dream about. Turku is a friendly, gentle-paced city.

I found a bookshop not far from the hotel.

What caught my eye right away was a small John Fante hardcover in Finnish lying on an outside table, selling for 3 euros.

No dumping books in remainder shops, not in this corner of the bookworld anyway. There it was at a price anyone can afford – with the added value of being in translation. Sammakon is not an average bookshop, even if it could be mistaken for one at first glance.

There are two sammakko.com shops, the other in Helsinki. Sammakon’s owner publishes, sells and translates from English himself, especially his favorites – Bukowski, Fante, the beat poets and novelists. His first book was a translation of Charles Bukowski’s The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. And don’t they just. After coming across this minor miracle for the world of books in English, one that so intimately caught my eyes, all both of them, it was on the bus for the drive back to Helsinki, for a day and a half of restaurants and walks, before flying back to rainy, chilly London.

Andy Warhol (30 years ago, today)

Andy Warhol’s screen 16mm tests are now on at MOMA.

Warhol understood our need to stare, reflecting what tabloid newspapers have always been doing – only as Warhol under-hyped, the tabloids by default over-hype.

from Edie Sedgwick’s film test

Turning a ‘cool’ eye to the zeitgeist mood, Warhol caught the details of his (New York) times. He dealt with celebrity and near-celebrity uncritically, his own included. His instinct for finding meaning in what many thought was meaningless is as sharp now as it was then. Warhol invited us to evaluate and re-evaluate the banality of everything. His Diaries (1976-1986) are filled with commonplace responses to his celebrity-laden life, written as if his existence and the objects of his attention were banal – they were and weren’t. This is his entry for 30 years ago today.

Saturday, December 20, 1980

Vincent was having a party so cabbed there ($5). It turned out to be a really great party. I was taking pictures of this handsome kid I thought was a model and then I was embarrassed because it turned out to be John-John Kennedy. Fred brought him and Mary Richardson. And Chris Makos was there taking party pictures. And Debbie Harry gave me a present, and she said to open it up and I said no, that I’d wait till I got home, and I’m glad I did, because I just don’t know what it is. It’s this black thing. I wonder if it’s a cock ring, because it’s rubber with a stick on it, but it has this one piece that doesn’t make sense.

Monique’s getting ready to push her book, and she wants the cover of Interview, which actually might be fun.

Sunday, December 21, 1980

Jed’s decided to move out and I don’t want to talk about it. The apartment he bought on West 67th Street to work in, now he’s decided he’ll live in it, too.

Went to Church. Worked in the freezing cold at the office and I’m not going to send in the rent.



One Writer’s Swimality Check

In the drink fogly.

When I started my swimalog I thought at the the time I could document the mental processes, thought patterns throughout long(ish) swimming sessions, that’s what I planned anyway.

Q: So you haven’t been successful?

Not if you look at the number of blogs dedicated to swimming, no.

Q: Was it too hard for you?

The long swims were hard enough by themselves but then when I got swim-fit enough I found it wasn’t because it was hard to think and swim, just hard to remember afterwards what my mind was actually thinking while swimming, and the fact a lot of what I did think was banal – like lap 22, lap 23, lap 25, hang on it that was 24 or was it etc. When you cruise you lose track, when it’s hard you are absorbed in muscle fatigue and aches etc and when is this going to end. You might think of a phrase of music that repeats over and over and that goes on in the background of other thoughts or  sometimes even how hungry you are, or just how easy it seems, as you try to concentrate on reaching out your fingertips, keeping your kick to minimum but existent  – we’re talking freestyle here – as you just roll on to lap ends and turns and roll and turn and head on into the next lap and getting through it all. Some days are great, some not so great – banal, as you can see. There are many concerns that run through your mind as well, but the thoughts are fleeting and are lost by the swim’s end. One thing though, the harder it gets, the closer you get you get to the end, the more you are concerned with the physicality of it all – perhaps a precursor of final days concerns in any life.

Q: Okay that’s internally. What about externally – other people? Is it better some days than others?

Better when it rains and the pool empties. Way better.

Q: So you learned, one, that swimming highlights an anti-social side in you, and two, you were forced to give up on the original idea – pretty good progress.

Thanks. I branched out in the blog into other topics to keep myself and potential readers interested. And I’m not anti-social, though I accept swimming has a solitary side to it.  On a bad day I have managed the occasional rant about pool etiquette with someone who looking back may or may not have deserved it – there are two sides always to these sorts of disputes – but I’m well and truly over that. Swim and let swim is my motto now.

Q: So failing yourself and others you learned something of a better way of handling social relations and conventions. But on your main goal, in well over two years of lukewarm attempts, you failed miserably. You set out to observe and not having the stamina to maintain the observatory technique or even capacity to reinvent a charting of the banal progress of an ordinary  swimmer’s daily routine, you gave up. And made no friends.

Thanks. I made one or two friends, a few acquaintances as well. On the observation, you try it, see how far you get.

Q: I didn’t start this idea, you did. So what’s next?

Keep on keeping on. Maybe I will find a way to observe and recount a swimmer’s progress eventually. But in defence of my efforts, it’s a little like writing dialogue – slavish recounting of ‘everyday normal discourse’ rarely makes for good dramatic dialogue, or readable material – ditto for any blog on the mental processes while swimming.

oh dear.