Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Bigger Splash - now

It is rather odd returning to the film of A BIGGER SPLASH now, some almost 40 years later. It is the early '70s in aspic really as Jack Hazan's film explores (or invents?) the world of painter David Hockney and his coterie in Notting Hill, London. The film came out on dvd a while ago, and is now on blu-ray, and it was also screened yesterday on an arts channel here. This could really be seen as the first "structured reality" film, a concept we are familiar with now from those usually trashy tv shows. 

There is a fascinating interview with Hazan at the link below,
where he outlines how he made the film and elaboratoes on how Hockney had no real idea of what was going on, as Hazan turned up with his camera and filmed a bit here and there for a while, over a period of over 3 years, so he and his camera became part of the extended Hockney group, which also comprised textile designer and Hockney muse Celia Birtwell, her ex-husband fashion designer Ossie Clark, Hockney's assist Mo McDermott and others, as well as artist Peter Schlesinger whose relationship with Hockney was ending at the time.
That poster
Hazan it seems took all this material and got them to act out other scenes and assembled a story, which stunned and amazed Hockney when he saw the final result - he had no idea he was being photographed in the shower or other intimate moments. In fact Hockney tried to get the film stopped and was not seen for several weeks after it appeared and did quite well on the London indie scene - we went to see it a few times, as did anyone interested in Hockey and his work and lifestyle as the first 'out' gay celebrity.  

Boys in pools - iconographic at the time!
I have written about Hockney several times here (see Hockney label), and mentioned the film already - it is now a part of the Hockney legend and those '70s beautiful people.  It is a fascinating view now that Hockney has matured into his seventies and is now the grand old man of British art, hob-nobbing with royalty, his recent sell-out popular and well-received shows highlighting his return to the North of England and all those new large paintings of trees - as per my posts here. In the '60s of course he was the painter of California and boys in pools, and then we liked his Paris pictures too in the '70s and his further experiements with photo-collages and photo copiers and lately iPad art. 

The film A BIGGER SPLASH though remains a fascinating time capsule. It is a snapshot of Hockney's London life in the early '70s and focuses on the creative impulse. It ends with him in 1973 telling a new friend he is going to get rid of all the Peter stuff - Hazan then cuts back to a fashion show in 1971 as we follow David, Peter and pals around their Notting Hill enclave, there is a manufactured drama too about him going missing in New York.
A key movie then about an artist at work, and an early 'gay interest' title - there weren't many others around then, apart from Fassbinder's. Hazan's film could be titled "David and his friends"... Rather sad too really, as we look back to that carefree era - Mo died of Aids in the '80s and Ossie was killed by one of his lovers. Nice though to see the David of that era again with the blond hair and the signature glasses and the candy coloured clothes .... it brings it all back, including seeing him in a bar in Notting Hill in 1966, when I was a mere 20.  Peter Schlesinger brought out his own book of photographs of that era a few years ago "A Chequered Past" and that of course is fascinating too. 
You really have to know and like Hockney and his back catalogue to get the most out of Hazan's "documentary" though, non-art devotees could find it pretentious and boring, as these people sit around in their rarified bubble, visiting each other, bringing flowers (lots of Hockney's trademark tulips) as poor Mo witters on about how Hockney's failing relationship is affecting them all and the mysterious enigmatic Peter (who presumably had his own agenda and must have co-operated with Hazan fully) comes and goes on his bicycle, dances in his underwear, walks around naked (in a supposed dream of Hockney's!), does a sex scene and poses by that pool (Tony Richardson's actually in the South of France). 

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