Monday, 6 February 2012

Meades on France, and Let's Take Manhattan

I haven't caught up with the final installment of Jonathan Meades yet. But I managed to see the second part of his presentation on TV about France, entitled: "A Biased Anthology Of Parisian Peripheries" .

There was some brilliant exploration of the French style of architecture - neoclassical with gothic on top, and no sense that one could not mix styles. French colonialism also loomed large, with the backlash from French colonies being assassination of French officials, although two were passed off - unbelievably - as suicides. Believable only if you think someone can kill themselves by shooting themselves in the side of the head - twice!

There were also some very weird looking tower blocks, very distinctive and almost organic. Highlights included also included a taxi tour round the rich Parisian dwellings where it seems almost every dictator from Africa has a home from home, punctuated by the taxi driver mentioning they met President Obama, and a posed shot of the dictator with President Obama, of all people. This was repeated around five times, with the taxi driver chuckling. I suppose these State visits entail these kind of dictatorial photo-opportunities, but I can't say it says a lot about Obama's credibility as a moral leader, giving almost an endorsement of their regimes by doing so.

Here are some examples - quite incredible:
French colonialism loomed also in the way the French empire was transmitted. Unlike the British Empire, where the natives knew or were put in their place (as seen in Passage to India, for example) and class was rampant, the French Empire exported Frenchness. It was Fraternity, Equality, and the Liberty - to be French. So children in French colonial Africa and elsewhere would be learning minutiae about all the districts into which France was divided, something they would probably never need to know in their entire lives!

France also harboured Ayatollah Khomeini prior to his establishment of an extremist theocracy in Iran. Giscard-Estaing, who came across as extremely odious, let him stay in exile when all his advisors said it would end in tears. It did.

Meades also delivered a neat dig at multiculturalism - the British solution. It produces ghettos of people who don't see any need to integrate with their neighbours. France's solution is that all religions are equally fine as private pursuits, but not as public and divisive, which is why private displays of religion behind closed doors or mosques are left alone, but public displays are banned. It is the outcome of a French legacy of destructive wars of religion, where the French slaughtered each other in a frenzy over religious differences, and given that history, it is understandable.

There's a wonderful description of Meades in the Independent: "The last time I saw Jonathan Meades he was gate-crashing a party, already well refreshed. In fact, he turned up legless, but by the time he left he was miraculously sober, a curious inversion of the norm." Somehow that doesn't surprise me; it fits the peculiarly offbeat way in which he presents documentaries.

"We'll Take Manhattan" was a BBC 4 drama about photographer David Bailey and model Jean Shrimpton, starring Doctor Who's Karen Gillan with a posh English accent - with a different hairstyle and voice, and an English persona she was almost unrecognizable - a tribute to her acting skills.

The film focused on their trip to New York to do a photo shoot for Vogue Magazine. Excellent cast and production values made me wonder why this kind of drama is tucked away on BBC4 and not on perhaps BBC2. Aneurin Barnard was also very good as the brash young Bailey seeking to inject life into a photoshoot and not go for the conventional and stale conventions of the time. Helen McCrory as Lady Clare provided class conflict, and was sure she knew Bailey's stuff would fail, and wanted conventional shots; as it turned out, the vivid freshness of his photography meant she had to eat humble pie. Some stunning shots of the cast against the backdrop of New York too, with familiar buildings and bridges from the skyline. Evidently the film makers really sided with Lady Clare!

1 comment:

voiceforchildren said...


Could I ask that your Jersey readers PARTICIPATE?