Monday, 5 March 2012

The Artist

Confronted with the sight of my CD collection, anyone would think it was amassed by a sixty-year-old man who went through a jazz fusion phase sometime in the early '70s rather than a chap in his early thirties who was born long after much of this kind of music was created. I think the most recent album in my collection is from 2003. Appropriately, it is a jazz album and, even more appropriately, it is by one of my all time favourite musicians: the great Gary Boyle, a guitarist who was once in Isotope, probably my favourite band. A 1970s band.

It's not that I don't like anything modern or see any merit in contemporary culture. Conversely, I enjoy it. I am glad that we live in an era where everything is a mixture of elements of everything that has gone before. This, I feel, shows that today's musician, writer, or artist has an appreciation of the history of their craft. Nor is this post-modern culture a barrier to invention: people are forging ahead in all kinds of directions - with new technology, too - rather than imitating the past.

This brings me neatly on to something new but with its roots firmly in the past: "The Artist", a film that my partner and I saw on Saturday. Neither of us is the kind of person to give in to hype. I don't care how many Oscars a film has won. In fact, I generally don't - or didn't - care for film. I have only recently started to see the value in sitting down for two hours and watching something; for years, I didn't have the patience. My DVD collection takes up about half a shelf and much of this isn't even film.

"The Artist" was interesting because of the way modern production techniques were used to create the effect of a silent film from the 1920s and an early "talkie" from the 1930s. It was made in the 2010s but in black and white throughout; a half-French, half-American production with a main character who resembled Django Reinhardt and a set that was pure LA film noir; a non-Hollywoodesque movie that was inescapably in and of Hollywood, through and through. In two hours, there were two pieces of dialogue.

The public loved it. The age of the people in the screening we attended ranged from early teens to early 70s and all were spellbound for the entire duration. The only noise was laughter. No one talked; nary a whisper between youngsters was audible. This wasn't an art house cinema, either, but a multiplex attached to a bowling alley and chain restaurant.

I would venture that the success of The Artist demonstrates you can produce anything you want and it has the chance to capture the hearts and minds of anyone and everyone, and if you believe in what you are doing, it is worth taking the risk. If someone had mentioned to me a while ago that people who are not silent film enthusiasts would flock to a film about the silent-to-talkie era, itself almost silent throughout, I would have doubted it. I would also have doubted that any Hollywood producers would collaborate with European film-makers to create it. But that is what happened.

My detective novel is set in the present day but the influences are Raymond Chandler, David Peace, James Ellroy, The Sweeney, black and white photos from the 1960s, overexposed family snaps from the 1980s and true crime cases from the 1970s. Detective stories have been done before and they will continue. My story mixes together all these elements and plays them out in a city in 2012, because I am also influenced by the life I live. It is driven along because I believe in it and I believe that people will want to read it. I love adding to it every day and I am looking forward to completing it and, more than anything, knowing that people are reading it.

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