četvrtak, 24. listopada 2013.

Jonathan Meades - Off-kilter (2009)

Najbolji, prilično otkačeni, tv-dokumentarci o "temama iz kulture". Noćna mora Kennetha Clarka.



Very occasionally (very, very occasionally nowadays) a TV personality of true originality emerges. Jonathan Meades' work for British TV over the past 10 years, most recently 'Abroad Again', 'Magnetic North' and now the superb 'Off-Kilter', show him to be just that. I can't think of a British cultural film series that has extended the boundaries of polemical writing and film production so imaginatively... and has also provided so much entertainment to boot.
They are densely-layered, seemingly eclectic (though always with a coherently structured polemic), erudite, intensely cultured (architecture and food, with their attendant histories, form the backbone of Meades' televisual essays), opinionated, iconoclastic and refreshingly irreverent works; but as well as being very intelligent they are also, most importantly, very, very funny.
Obscure facts jostle side-by-side with linguistic inventiveness. His prose is at times tongue-in-cheek (Meades mixes the invented word with slang and the language of intellectualism to great and often comic effect) and is also at times genuinely moving (not a bad feat given the dry delivery), and flights of satire abound. Imaginative visuals are always complimented too by an interesting soundtrack.
The screen persona of Jonathan Meades is as central to the films as the buildings, landscapes and histories he describes. He seems an unlikely icon - the paunchy, dead-pan, heavily jowled, middle-aged man in trademark black suit and Reactolite glasses (perhaps best described as Reservoir Dogs meets Droopy), but he plays the outsider peering under the surface of modern culture wonderfully. His skewed view of his subject is reflected in his detached expression and unwavering dress-code; he is the alien showing us our world from a knew angle.
'Off-kilter' is a series of films presenting, avowedly and unashamedly, a foreigners' view of modern Scotland; or, more modestly, certain aspects of it. It is aptly timed to coincide with the Scottish governments promotion of The Homecoming and its plans for a referendum on independence from the UK, and I would recommend its iconoclastic take as essential viewing for any Scot or diaspora Scot interested in Scotland and its culture. Meades style doesn't always inspire optimism and could sometimes here be interpreted as Sassenach sniggering, but, though it is true that some of the old clichés of Scottish life are wheeled out (heart disease, alcoholism, deep-fried Mars Bars etc.) the uplifting is presented along with the depressing; Meades has a sense of compassion for the society which underlies the cultural facade that he seeks to peer behind; but then, why should the truth about modern Scotland be swept under the carpet as politicians, and the ruling cliques of Scotland (and the UK) would have? Real societies are always far more interesting than the phoney ones promoted in tourist brochures and cosy, twee TV documentaries.
If you get to see only one of the series make it episode three which is loosely based around Scottish football teams; not the Old Firm but those more obscure ones that are listed in the British football pools; it's pure genius. As a TV humourist and social commentator there is no one to rival Jonathan Meades at present. travis_iii (United Kingdom) - www.imdb.com/title/tt1510038/reviews


Stowe Garden

 Letchworth Garden City

Father To The Man

Remember The Future


Double Dutch

 Salisbury Cathedral

Brighton Pavillion

Cragside House

Absentee Landlord

Right Is Wrong

Brick and Mortars

In Search of Bohemia

The Joy of Essex

Pevsner Revisted

Victoria Died in 1901

Joe Building: The Stalin Memorial Lecture

 Jerry Building. Unholy Relics of Nazi Germany

Nag Nag Nag

On France

Magnetic North

Case of the Disappearing Architect 

On The Brandwagon 


Edinburgh Castle  

Iain Sinclair and Jonathan Meades in Conversation, Oxford Brookes

 Jonathan Turner Meades (born 21 January 1947) is a British writer on food, architecture, and culture, as well as an author and broadcaster. He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.

He is well known to British television audiences for his series about architecture Abroad in Britain and its sequels Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades, Even Further Abroad With Jonathan Meades, Abroad Again in Britain and Abroad Again. These innovative, "slightly bonkers" documentaries look at neglected forms of British architecture such as caravan parks and golf courses, and at the place that famous buildings hold in the British popular imagination. Meades's television work also includes two separate one-off documentaries about the architectural legacy of both the Third Reich, Jerry Building, and Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, Joe Building.
Meades also wrote and presented a documentary called Surreal Film (2001) for BBC Two (although the onscreen title was "tvSSFBM EHKL", the words encoded in appropriately surreal fashion), which sought to expound on surrealism in a manner that fitted the subject. Perhaps inevitably, given Meades' approach and his choice of topic, some found it bewildering and often psychedelic. However, it was nevertheless distinctive and humorous in a field often populated only by de rigueur and comme il faut offerings.
Jonathan Meades : Abroad Again in Britain was shown on BBC Two in May 2007. It is a sequel to his 1990s series exploring British architecture. The film examines Salisbury Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Cragside, Brighton Pavilion and Portsmouth Dockyard. It uses his familiar style of jaunty camera angles often showing him from behind, going down escalators, sitting on walls or even not at all as he is walking away from the camera. He talks directly to the camera and often his speeches are split up from different angles or positions. There are times of silence or with only music where shots of the building he is talking about are shown. Equally he often uses scathing remarks to criticise other buildings such as an occasion when he refers to the Millennium Dome as a "Museum of Toxic Waste".
In 2008 a two-part documentary, Magnetic North, was screened by BBC Four. In the programme, Meades celebrates the culture of Northern Europe, and wonders why the North suffers in the English popular imagination compared to the South. Meades travelled through the slag heaps of northern France, Belgian cities and to the redlight district of Hamburg, musing on the architecture, food and art of the places in which he finds himself.[11] The programme features the expected stylistic flourishes and quirks of presentation now associated with him. It was subsequently re-edited into four half-hour episodes and shown on BBC Two. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, James Walton praised the programme as "Sparkling, thought-provoking, constantly challenging the accepted view, Meades seemed at times inspired, at others deranged. The only thing he never was, thank heaven, was obvious."
A 9-DVD box set collecting his various Abroad... series was due for release in April 2008 but was then reduced to a 3-Disc "Best of..." due to licensing problems and the expense of the music used in the programmes.
In 2009, Meades toured Scotland in a three part BBC Scotland series Off Kilter. He visited the Granite City (Aberdeen), the Isle of Rust (Lewis and Harris) and a number of less-renowned Scottish footballing towns, guided by his "Scotnav". Meades contributes to the United Kingdom edition of The Huffington Post.
In 2012, BBC4 screened Jonathan Meades on France, a series in which Meades visits what he calls his "second country". The first episode ("Fragments of an Arbitrary Encyclopaedia") focuses on the Lorraine region which is evoked through a miscellany of words starting with the letter V. The aim is to "explain why, although close to its eastern border, it has become the symbolic, or even mystical, heart of France and a stronghold of a romantic nationalism that is also expressed by such diverse means as typography, music, engineering, exquisite urbanism and, above all, a sensitivity to Germany's proximity." The second episode was entitled "A Biased Anthology of Parisian Peripheries" and focuses on Frenchness and its major traits. "Just a Few Debts France Owes to America" is the title of the third episode. Meades's book 'Museum Without Walls' was published on the Unbound crowd-funding site, in both print and e-book editions.-wikipedia

As a writer and broadcaster about the arts, Jonathan Meades is essentially a nightmare that is happening to the spinning cadaver of Kenneth Clark. Though the great late pundit was much more of a democrat than he is commonly reputed to be in retrospect, he nevertheless embodied the idea that taste and knowledge were the preserves of gentlemen. Meades knows which fork to pick up, but he is deeply the other thing: an educated upstart who not only doesn’t know his place, but knows far more than his allotted share about all the other places. In his TV series of 2007 he at last, after several previous efforts heading in the same direction, arrived at a tour of recent English building styles that matched his vivid commentary with an appropriately disciplined visual bravura. The splendidly unsettling results owed a lot to Sir John Betjeman’s quondam ambulatory style, but superseded it as a Volkswagen Beetle dragster with a chrome-plated V8 engine in the back supersedes the original. The tradition that started with Betjeman and Piper’s Shell guides can now be said to have reached a culmination in the personality of Meades. The latest and most subversive exemplar of a useful broadcasting tradition, he still startles me most in his journalism, which is best approached through his collection Peter Knows What Dick Likes (Paladin, 1989). The pieces selected here prove his gift for reaching sideways out of aesthetics and bringing in the sociology and the politics as well, with no care for who gets offended. (I myself continue to be deeply miffed by his piece about Blade Runner: doesn’t he realise that my own dress sense spent twenty years in debt to Deckard? Or perhaps he does.) Meades is a superb political commentator even on an historical scale. Nobody has written better about the mystical proclivities of the top Nazis, and a TV show of his that connected Himmler’s sinister mystical vision with King Arthur’s Camelot is still in my mind when I wake sweating in the night. To induce such discomfort is part of the Meades mission. Clearly it is a mental area in which he lives every day. The wonder is that it doesn’t scramble the powers of composition behind a prose style so pugnaciously cultivated, so unpredictably informative, and, enviably often, so extremely funny. - www.clivejames.com/jonathan-meades


Joe, Jerry and Bomber Blair by Owen Hatherley

I'm interviewing writer and broadcaster Jonathan Meades in the Paramount Members Club Restaurant, 32 floors up London's Centre Point. Richard Seifert's inscrutable and looming 1960s skyscraper was chosen by Meades specifically because of the amazing 360 degree panoramic views of London it offers. (He acknowledges that Vertigo 42, at the top of the NatWest Tower, might afford slightly more elevated views of the capital but states that he can't be doing with the scores of "city boy berks drinking cheap champagne like it's ale" who litter its deck.) Despite having several titles (mainly fiction) already under his belt he has chosen to crowd fund his new book Museum Without Walls via the Unbound publishers, set up by the QI entrepreneur John Mitchinson for this very purpose.
It is curious that the sum total of his essays (and some TV scripts) on all of the places he has visited as part of his career as a broadcaster and writer on architecture have not been collected together in one place before. It becomes curiouser and curiouser to consider that no mainstream publisher would want to release such an enticing anthology but regardless, his fans have stepped into the breach and the book is out now. Later tonight he is holding a private party for his funders who (for a modest contribution) have their name printed inside the hardback edition, and get to meet the man himself.
If my two hour chat with him is anything to go by they'll get more than their money's worth. Meades is by far and away the most interesting person I've interviewed (with perhaps the noble exception of Alan Moore). I was discombobulated before meeting him… and perhaps not without good reason. (People who are usually extremely supportive of me and angst-dispelling in their reassurances, cautioned me against even meeting him, with one person even exclaiming excitedly: "Don't talk to him about anything he knows about! He'll make you look like a twat! Stick to stuff he knows nothing about and you might be ok!" Except he used a much stronger word than "twat".)
And to be fair, his TV persona - painstakingly crafted since the broadcast of The Victorian Houseby Channel 4 in 1986, but hammered immutably in place by the BBC series Abroad With Jonathan Meades in 1990 - is quite forbidding in terms of intellect and icy charisma.
In reality however, he is several degrees more user friendly and much funnier. He exerts this pull over certain people (the staff of the Quietus included) because he is a unique and insightful character who inhabits a completely individual, self-created aesthetic universe, where nothing has been left to chance and everything is seen though a bizarre prism of its maker's design.
He has a knack for turning the quotidian, the tiresome, the seemingly hackneyed, the played out stuff of urban and suburban Britain (and Europe) - the stuff that's been under our noses for as long as we can remember - into alchemical gold. He offers us a philosopher's stone of sorts in persuading us to see this dreary stuff as if we're looking at it for the first time; as well as also having a knack for finding the truly bizarre and glorious stuff that's hidden in plain sight.
Meades, the slowest strolling human being I've ever met, even manages to be a flâneur at 380 feet above Tottenham Court Road, pointing out buildings and an amazing sunset to me as we head at snail's pace from our table towards the lifts. Behind the sunglasses and hang dog expression obviously lurks no small amount of wonder, which he keeps hidden laconically from view.

We talk to the writer about his forthcoming postcards box set Pidgin Snaps. Photographs courtesy of Jonathan Meades

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