Transcription of full review in Sight & Sound
In a body of work made about and in collaboration with artists, James Scott hinted at the British New Wave that never was
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY:
THE ART FILMS OF JAMES SCOTT
James Scott; UK 1966-84; BFI Region 0 DVD; Certificate 15; 263 minutes; 137:1. Features: audio interviews with the director; booklet with production documents and essays by William Fowler, John Wyver, James Scott and Richard White.
Reviewed by Henry K. Miller in Sight & Sound, BFI October issue
In his 1992 essay ‘L’éternel retour’, Peter Wollen wrote that there was no British equivalent of the nouvelle vague in the late 1950s and 1960s; the British Pop artists and critics who were fascinated by American mass culture never put their fascination on screen, so that “Godard’s films were the best possible substitutes for their missing English counterparts”. Fragments of that missing New Wave remain, however, and James Scott’s films about the leading Pop artists David Hockey, R.B. Kitaj, and Richard Hamilton are shining examples. Far from being straightforward documentaries, they were made in collaboration with the artists and amount to artworks in their own right; Scott had been a student at the Slade during Pop art’s heyday.
Love’s Presentation (1966) follows Hockney as he prepares illustrations for a book of love poems by C.P. Cavafy, a major influence. Still in his twenties, Hockney was a Swinging London celebrity, recently included in David Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups alongside Jean Shrimpton and Michael Caine. To get away from these associations, Scott’s film, which Hockney narrates, focuses on the craft of etching and aquatinting, which he performs in his Notting Hill flat, washing off the acid in the shower and poisoning himself with the fumes. At the end of the film, Hockney reads one of the poems over the finished images, which culminate in two men sharing a bed, contentedly looking out at the reader – a passage which the film’s distributor, the British Council, censored.
By contrast, R.B. Kitaj (1967) forgoes craft for ideas, expounding in an interview, with confusing results, through one of Kitaj’s images, a modified page for a 1930s issue of Life magazine featuring potted biographies of the modernist masters – Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian – stands out as both a prime instant of early postmodernism and a neatly self-reflexive moment.
Richard Hamilton (1969) is a masterpiece, simultaneously distilling, embodying and analyzing the Pop aesthetic of which Hamilton was a major progenitor. Reyner Banham defined Pop art as “unique works of hand-made fine art deriving their iconography and composition from mass-produced pop products such as cornflakes packs and US cars”; Scott’s film juxtaposes the two, intercutting Hamilton’s hand-made images with the adverts, pin-ups, and skylines that inspired it. In one sequence Scott breaks down a scene from Douglas Sirk;s noir Shockproof (1949) – a source for Hamilton’s Interor I and Interior II (1964) – to illustrate how for the European Pop artists much of the meaning of Hollywood films lay in the décor, not the plot. It was filmed in 1967, not coincidentally the year Godard abandoned commercial cinema, just as Pop was at the point of exhaustion.
‘Richard Hamilton is a masterpiece, simultaneously distilling, embodying and analyzing the Pop aesthetic’
The main feature, Every Picture Tells a Story (1984), made for Channel 4, is a collaboration with an artist of an altogether more intimate kind: his father, the painter William Scott. Largely a conventional biopic, with occasional flash-cuts to his future works and brief clips from interviews functioning as a voiceover, the film is an unusually sensitive portrait of the elder Scott’s childhood and adolescence in Scotland and Northern Ireland, particularly affecting in its depiction of William’s relationship with his own father, a sign-painter whose encouragement of his son stems in part from his frustration with his circumstances – a frustration more than shared by the boy’s mother.
The business of sign-painting provides a surprising echo (or foreshadowing) of the Pop films, but in general Every Picture Tells a Story evokes a less image-saturated time and place. Whereas Kitaj could discover modernists in a mass-circulation magazine, William Scott owed his exposure to what were revolutionary pictures and ideas to the happenstance that a young RCA graduate, Kathleen Bridle (played by Natasha Richardson, making her debut), was living in Enniskillen and gave him lessons. At the films end, as his younger self arrives in the London of 1931, “the most important spot in the whole world”, the septuagenarian Scott recalls that even the Royal Academy of Arts was “untouched” by modernism “and all the other isms”. It is a great loss to British cinema that this first entry in a planned trilogy did not have the sequels it deserved.
The titles comes from a conversation with Kathleen – “They are painted to be looked at, not talked about,” a proposition that Scott’s art films have all tested. Chance, History, Art... (1980) and The Great Ice Cream Robbery (1971), a double-screen film (one screen on each DVD) made with and about Claes Oldenberg, rather confirm it; but the extras relating to the latter open on to another side of Scott’s very varied career, revealing that during post-production he was already working with the Berwick Street Collective on The Nightcleaners (1975), described by Claire Johnston as “the most important political film ever to have been made in this country”. It would make a fine follow-up to this exemplary package.
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The new DVD/Blu-ray collection of James Scott's films, Every Picture Tells a Story (1984), Love's Presentation (1966), R.B. Kitaj (1967), Richard Hamilton (1969), The Great Ice Cream Robbery (1970), and Chance, History, Art... (1980).
"The four films concentrating on particular artists have a great deal to offer."
"Scott describes his films about living artists as collaborations."
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James Scott's new DVD/Blu-ray release, Every Picture Tells a Story, in the BFI Shop Top 10!
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This new release features Scott's 1984 feature film, Every Picture Tells a Story (featuring Natasha Richardson as William's teacher), as well as his films on artists: Love's Presentation 1966 (David Hockney), R.B. Kitaj 1967, Richard Hamilton 1969, The Great Ice Cream Robbery 1970 (Claes Oldenburg and Hannah Wilke), and Chance, History, Art... 1980 (a look back at surrealism through contemporary artists).
James Scott presents Every Picture Tells a Story (1984) and Richard Hamilton (1969) in conjunction with the BFI release of a new Blu-Ray/DVD collection of Scott's work. The multi-disc survey contains new HD digital scans of Scott's feature-length film, Every Picture Tells a Story, as well as his films on artists (1966-1980).
For more information and to purchase tickets: click here !
To pre-order the DVD collection at a reduced price: click here !
We are pleased to announce the new Blu-Ray/DVD release of Every Picture Tells a Story (1984), along with the complete set of James' films on artists: Love's Presentation 1966 (David Hockney), R.B. Kitaj 1967, Richard Hamilton 1969, The Great Ice Cream Robbery 1970 (Claes Oldenburg and Hannah Wilke), and Chance, History, Art... 1980 (a look back at surrealism through contemporary artists).
Copies of the DVD will be available for purchase at the celebratory BFI screening (August 16th), and the official public release date of the set will be August 28, 2017.
Purchase online here !
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 20:40
Every Picture Tells a Story (1983)
Richard Hamilton (1969)
BFI Southbank Theater
Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX, UK
+44 20 3879 9555
We are pleased to announce an exciting upcoming screening at the BFI Southbank Theater in London. On August 16th, the BFI will present Every Picture Tells a Story (1984) and Richard Hamilton (1969), followed by a Q&A with James Scott. The screening celebrates the new Blu-Ray/DVD release of Every Picture Tells a Story, along with the complete set of James' films on artists. This set will include a two-disc version of The Great Ice Cream Robbery (on Claes Oldenburg’s visit to London in 1970). The Great Ice Cream Robbery can now be played side-by-side as a dual-projection with separate soundtracks. This conforms to how it was originally presented. Copies of the DVD will be available for purchase at the screening, and the official public release date of the set will be August 28, 2017.
Purchase tickets here !
We are pleased to announce an exciting upcoming screening at the BFI Southbank Theater in London. On August 16th, the BFI will host a screening of Every Picture Tells a Story and Richard Hamilton, followed by a Q&A with James Scott. The screening celebrates a new release of Every Picture Tells a Story on Blu-Ray/DVD. The Blu-Ray/DVD will also included a newly remastered series of James' films on artists.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2017
Every Picture Tells a Story (1983)
Richard Hamilton (1969)
BFI Southbank Theater
Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX, UK
+44 20 3879 9555
In January and February 2017, James traveled to attend and give talks at three screenings. The first took place at the Lancaster Museum of Art in Lancaster, California. James introduced his film, Love's Presentation, and participated in a Q&A after the film.
In February, James travelled to Kunstmuseum Woldsburf in Wolfsburg, Germany to present his film Richard Hamilton. You can watch his introduction and Q&A with curator Daniel Kothenshulte in the video below.
James' last stop was at Eton College, where he presented his film Every Picture Tells A Story, which was screened in conjunction with an exhibition of William Scott's work.
The show explores the work of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud between the postwar period and the late twentieth century in London. The exhibition includes works by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, William Coldstream, R. B Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego and Euan Uglow.
James Scott's 1967 film, R.B. Kitaj, will be screening as part of the exhibition. The film, made in close collaboration with Kitaj, showcases his literary and political sensibilities and provides insight into a complex creative mind.
On February 16th, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg will be screening James Scott's 1969 film Richard Hamilton in the culminating event of their film series and exhibition, This Was Tomorrow - Pop Art in Great Britain. James will be in attendance and will participate in a conversation with curator and film critic Daniel Kothenschulte after the screening.
James Scott, Richard Hamilton (1969) with
Jack Hazan, A Bigger Splash (1973)
Followed by a Q&A with Daniel Kothenshulte
Thursday, February 16th, 2017 - 8:00 pm
The following weekend, James will be attending the Eton College screening of his film Every Picture Tells a Story, a dramatic feature based on William Scott's early life in Scotland and Ireland. The film stars Natasha Richardson in her first film role playing William Scott's teacher. Alex Norton plays William Scott's father and Phyllis Logan plays his mother.
James Scott, Every Picture Tells a Story (1983)
Followed by an audience Q&A
Friday, February 24th, 2017 - 6:00 pm
For more information, visit the Eton College website or contact Charlotte Villiers at firstname.lastname@example.org / 01753 370603
Every Picture Tells a Story will be screening on January 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture, Windsor.
The feature length film is directed by James Scott, Oscar winning son of William Scott, and stars Natasha Richardson in her first film role with Alex Norton and Phyllis Logan. It was written by award winning writer Shane Connaughton (My Left Foot). The film is based on William Scott's early life in Scotland and Ireland.
"Strong on feeling...stands as one of the great films about childhood"
- Stills, 1984
The screening is part of an exhibition of William Scott's work, Form - Colour - Space, which opened at Verey Gallery, Eton College on November 10th, 2016. The exhibition explores William Scott's still life practice and includes paintings, drawings and prints, as well as a number of the simple kitchen objects he used to explore form, colour and space.
For tickets and more information, visit the Eton College website or contact Charlotte Villiers:
email@example.com / 01753 370603
For directions to the Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture, please visit their website.
On January 15th from 2 - 3 pm Lancaster MOAH will be screening James Scott's 1966 film Love’s Presentation in conjunction with their current exhibition, British Invasion.
The film is the first in a series on contemporary artists from the late sixties and early seventies. Love’s Presentation follows the work of fellow exhibiting artist, David Hockney, as he creates his famous ‘Cavafy’ etchings.
British Invasion, on view through January 22nd, explores the work of British artists living in California. The exhibition includes recent work by James Scott and David Hockney.
You can read the Huffington Post write up on British Invasion here.
Please join us on Thursday, December 15th for a screening of Love's Presentation and Richard Hamilton at Night Gallery in Los Angeles. There will be a Q&A after the screening.
Love’s Presentation (1966) is the first of many in a series of films on contemporary artists by James in the late sixties and early seventies. The film captures the creation of David Hockney’s famous ‘Cavafy' etchings with a commentary improvised to the film by Hockney himself.
Richard Hamilton (1969), made in a true collaboration with the artist over a two year period, traces the forerunner of Pop Art's incorporation of mass media into his work.
2276 E 16th St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Thursday, December 15th
Doors at 7:00pm / Screening at 7:30
Please join us for the opening reception of the Lancaster Museum of Art and History's upcoming exhibition British Invasion on Saturday, November 19, 2016 from 4 - 6 p.m. The group exhibition celebrates the work of British artists living in California and includes seven recent paintings by James Scott.
Opening on November 8th, Bryanston Today brings together art and design work from former and current pupils of Bryanston School. James Scott, an alumni of the school, will have two recent paintings on view at the Mall Galleries on Bryanston's campus.
The show will be on view from November 8 - 13th. For full hours and visitor information, please visit Bryanston School's website.
This summer James Scott traveled to the Fermanagh County Museum at Enniskillen Castle to celebrate the opening of an exhibition of William Scott's paintings.
William Scott: The Early Years is part of an inaugural show marking the re-opening of the museum and historic castle after a major redevelopment. Below is a short video of the reception, where James and his brother Robert were joined by the community to celebrate the opening. To read a full press release from the Impartial Reporter, please visit this link.
William Scott: The Early Years will be on view through 2016.
Information about Enniskillen Castle, including hours and visitor information can be found at http://www.enniskillencastle.co.uk/
On Saturday, October 1st Beyond Baroque Literary and Arts Center in Venice (681 Venice Blvd) is hosting a closing reception for James Scott's New Work show. The reception starts at 3pm and the screening of RB Kitaj and A Shocking Accident will be at 4pm.
New Work will continue through November.
Based on the Graham Greene short story, the film A Shocking Accident, 25 min (1982), tells the strange story of an English schoolboy growing up. The boy is played by Rupert Everett. The film won the 1983 Oscar for Best Short film.
RB Kitaj (1967) (18 min) is the second artist documentary made by James which tracks the artist as he discusses his attitude on art and talks about his work. Kitaj’s literary and political sensibilities shine through and the film provides some interesting insight into a complex creative mind.
For more information on Beyond Baroque, please visit their website: http://www.beyondbaroque.org/
Please join us for the opening of James Scott's upcoming solo show, James Scott: New Work, at the Mike Kelley Art Gallery at Beyond Baroque Literary and Arts Center in Venice (681 Venice Blvd). The reception will be held on Saturday September 10, from 3-7 pm.
The evening will also include a 5 pm screening of James' film on David Hockney, Love's Presentation (1966). The documentary follows Hockney at work on a series of etchings illustrating CP Cavafy poems, with improvised commentary by David himself.
James Scott’s new series of paintings and drawings speak to a practice in which simple configurations of line and shape allude to life’s complexities, occupying the space where form and metaphor become contiguous. Scott has chosen to display brand new works alongside works from the past couple years. The inherent comparative study illuminates the artist’s continued interest in material experimentation and the emergence of a visual language that is all his own.
For more information on the show, please visit the Mike Kelley Gallery website or Beyond Baroque's homepage.