KONG: SKULL ISLAND** Why? Why? Why? Oh Why?


THE CGI IS great. Or perhaps I should say, at least the CGI, led by veteran SFX veteran, Chris Brenczewski, is great. And a buff Tom Hiddleston tries hard (unconvincingly) to beef up his Bond credentials in this unnecessary, forgettable, often risible monster movie.

The fundamental problem with “Kong: Skull Island” is that though the director (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) assaults us with mega monsters, an ape the size of a ten story building, thunderous explosions and helicopters piloted by silly pilots who fly into certain death, he makes no attempt to build suspense, create interesting characters or even terrify us out of our wits. Perhaps, I am therefore concluded to suggest, all directors, or the producers who green-light monster productions like this, should be made to sit a written exam after studying the genius of Spielberg’s original “Jurassic Park.”

Now here’s a movie that fully shows up the awfulness of “Kong: Skull Island” when you remember all the magnificent touches it had that “Kong: Skull Island” is too lazy and too cynical to bother with. Remember the hold-your-breath tension when the two kids are in the kitchen hiding out from those toe-tapping velociraptors? No such tension here. Remember the multiple and very human relationships between the flawed adults and the kids…the greed (and wonderful cummupance) of the would-be thief? No such human-kind lives on this movie planet. Kong’s people are mainly gorilla food or very fast runners (with tight shirts), with a stock in trade bad guy (Samuel L. Jackson in full-bore cartoon role) and a pretty girl in a very tight top (Brie Larson really slumming it after “Room”). Remember Spielberg’s effort to lull our disbelief in the actual do-ability of recreating dinosaur DNA and the thoughtful sub-plot about not messing with nature? No such effort here. It’s a big ape living among big fantasy monsters. Take it or leave it.

So…it lacks tension, lacks scream out loud moments, lacks likable or evenly hisssssably nasty people and offers instead a storyline that shreds any semblance of logic…It lacks the pretence of making any sense. It seems that it’s also lacking a good return on the $325m it took to get it to our screens.

And all of that could have been avoided had director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (no past movies of any repute to mention) writers Dan Gillroy (“The Bourne Legacy”), Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”!), Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”) and John Gattins (“Flight”) and the ten producers, taken the simple “Follow these Jurassic Park Rules” exam before cameras rolled and Tom was made to make such a fool of himself in public

 

KONG:SKULL ISLAND. Dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. With: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman. Cinematogapher: Larry Fong (“Batman v Superman”). Production Designer: Stefan Dechant (his first movie as head of production design). Special Effects set coordinator: Chris Brenczewski (“Jurassaic World” “Avengers Assemble”)

 

CERTAIN WOMEN****Certainly worth viewing


HERE ARE THREE stories about four women. Their stories are only tenuously linked by the dull, empty monotony of the land and by relationships that, like the endless trains and trucks that rumble across the landscape, seem to go nowhere.

Director KELLY REICHARDT (who also wrote – adapted from a book of short stories by Maile Meloy – and edited the film) frames her scenes and layers her narrative with an artist’s precision. (On multiple occasions, we see her subjects half obscured by hazily reflecting glass, as if to suggest that our understanding of people is only one of snatches and glimpses). She (and as a result we, the viewers) regards the slow ebb and flow of the lives before her like a curious observer, one removed from the action…an anthropologist observing the mating rituals of small town America.

The first few frames of the movie neatly summarise its themes. We witness a massive train (one of many throughout the movie), a vast mechanical divider, slicing diagonally across the flat winter-hard landscape. Far way in the distance, are the snowy outlines of the Montana mountains, like the walls of silence that hem in the inhabitants. The scene shifts indoors. On either side of another wall, two lovers are dressing themselves in post coital silence.

These silences, or the inconsequential dialogues, are the emotional walls that divide partners and lovers. This may be Montana, but it’s really Carson McCullers’ territory where the heart is forever a lonely hunter.

The first of the three stories centres around Laura (the always compelling Laura Dern). She’s at the end of one relationship; and, despite her studied indifference, is being courted by Fuller (Jared Harris of “The Crown” and “Allied”), her client. He’s a sad, snivelling, needy, emotional wreck, whose life has been ruined by an uncompensated work-related accident and a shredded marriage. He lives in a fantasy world where his legal troubles can be put right and where she’ll succumb to his neediness. It’s a relationship. Of sorts. The lover and the indifferent beloved.


This same sort of unromantic, unrequited, one-way love maps out the relationship between an indifferent student lawyer, turned part time teacher, Elizabeth (Kristin Stewart, underplaying her role to the point of near invisibility) and a drop-by student (a tremendous Lily Gladstone, whose forlorn agony is the movie’s emotional touchstone). The student’s life – she’s a stable hand…not even given a name – seems to be one of unvarying sameness. There’s a numbing monotony to her daily routine; and you wonder whether part of her attraction to Elizabeth is that she represents a break in the routine…something to do, someone to talk with, a means of shifting the inevitability of life’s arc, a warm body to brake the snap of winter.

Even Gina (Michelle Williams) who is part of a (more typical) family unit: mother, father and daughter, lives in her own world of silence and apartness. The three of them share a house, a camping tent, an extended family. But they don’t share a life. For reasons that are really not relevant, Gina lives in her own world, excluded from the cosy relationship between her husband and daughter.

But, like Elizabeth and Laura and the student, she does as we all do: simply carry on.

The movie presents us with a slice, a moment, in the narratives of their lives. We are privy only to hints of the pasts of these four women. As to what lies in store for their future, director Reichardt’s depressing suggestion is simply, more of same. Like the trains and trucks that forever rumble through their towns, their lives will simply rumble on. Monotonously, unvaryingly, undisturbed by the catharsis of love.

This is an intelligent, heartfelt if distressing evocation of loneliness and anomie. But it’s also a bit dull. Reichardt’s distanced observation of her subjects feels cold. It’s intellectually engaging but emotionally un-involving. Some of the stories could have ended thirty minutes before they did…or two hours after.

Indeed, it’s one of those movies that’s better when you think about it than when you’re actually seeing it (probably the opposite to the ever loved “LaLa Land”)

 

CERTAIN WOMEN. Dir: Kelly Richard (“Night Moves”). Screenplay: Kelly Richards (based on the stories by Maile Meloy). With: Michelle Williams, Kristin Stewart, Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone. Cinematographer: Christopher Blauvelt (“Night Moves”)

 

LOGAN**** X-cellent


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“LOGAN’ IS THE final, tremendous, outing of the wonderful character created by Hugh Jackman seventeen years ago. Seventeen, would you believe? When we first met the wolverine, he was cage-fighting for money. It was a fitting symbol of the character he remained: a caged animal; a savage killer, driven by the demons of his mutant body, all barely held in check by the enduring humanity and basic decency of his ravaged soul.

What made that first outing of the X-Men such an engaging piece of pulp moviemaking was not only the superhuman heroics of its mutants, but the strong relationships that drove the stories: the father/son relationship between Logan and Professor Charles Xavier; his paternal relationship with Rogue etc. In “Logan”, this final fling, these same strong, surprisingly tender relationships – between Logan, Xavier and Laura, a (badass) ten year old girl – give the movie its heart and its impetus.

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When we again meet Logan and Xavier (Patrick Stewart), they’re holed out, like bums, in El Paso. Logan’s a limo driver; and a carer to a decrepit Charles Xavier. Xavier, now ninety, has to be helped to the loo and regularly fed a regimen of meds to keep his destructive mental abilities in check (He’s prone to generating earth-shattering, mind crippling storms). Logan himself is a shadow of what he used to be: he’s old, tired, aching and slowly dying of the adamantium that’s cemented to his skeleton.

When these X-Men movies succeed (many haven’t) and why “Logan” works so well, the people and the emotions feel real. This emotional credibility enables the audience to accept as ‘real’, the hokum of endangered mutants battling corporate enterprise. The quasi father/son family group of Logan and Xavier, is served by a strange, bandaged albino creature, Caliban (Stephen Merchant, in a marvelous, barely recognizable role), whose abilities warn them of the approach of danger. Into this tortured trio comes Laura, a hissingly vicious ten year old mutant, also with adamantium claws, who has managed to escape from the lab in which she was created, using Logan’s DNA. (Daphne Keen, an Anglo-Spanish actor, in her first movie role, is Laura. She has a tremendous screen presence, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of her)
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They must all find their way to safety, either South on a boat or North in a new Eden, and escape the thunderous, scorched-earth approach of Transigen -The Corporation – armed with a new and improved clone of wolverine. Many battles, and huge loss of life ensue. (There are always sub-texts to these movies; in “Logan”, our heroes must escape one place of safety, Mexico, for another place of safety, Canada. The real danger lies in the US. Hmm)

Director James Mangold (whose oeuvre is a mixed bag: the awful “Knight and Day” and the tremendous “Girl, Interrupted”, plus the laborious “The Wolverine”) and co-writers Scott Frank (“The Minority Report”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”) give Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart very meaty, almost theatrical, roles. Gone is the imperious, haughty arrogance of their youth. They’re now crumbling, all too mortal men battling to stay the inevitability of death (a first for movies of this sort?) But it’s by no means a somber, lugubrious film. Mangold’s flair for well-staged action set-pieces, and the breathless momentum of what is essentially a single long chase sequence, keeps the energy high and the adrenaline pumping.

I guess next we can look forward to “X-Men. The New Generation”. But that script, no doubt, is still “in the works”

LOGAN. Dir: James Mangold. With: Hugh Jackman, Partick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook (“Morgan”), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”). Cinematographer: John Mathieson (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E”), Production Designer: Francois Audouy (“The Wolverine”)

PATRIOTS DAY***Dumb Fun


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Peter Berg (“Deepwater Horizon”, “Lone Survivor”) does not fail to deliver. “Patriots Day”, another heart-stopping drama based on the very recent Boston marathon bombing, skillfully manages the delicate balance between the historical and the imagined, dramatized truth. Like his previous movie (“Deepwater…”), also with blue-collar everyman, Mark Wahlberg, “Patriots Day” plunges us into the bloody, chaotic, confusing, tense week during which two young jihadists bombed the marathon, and for days eluded their pursuers. Berg’s recreation of the marathon and those agonizing moments leading up to the explosions with the resulting, tangibly real, carnage is superb.

The story is mainly seen through the eyes of Tommy Saunders, a popular cop (Wahlberg, basically reprising his role from “Deepwater…”) who has been temporarily downgraded from a suit-wearing detective to a uniformed policeman on the beat. This is a nifty plot device: it allows the viewer, through our man of the people to be with the people when the bombs go off; but it also allows him to offer up the kind of street smart smarts that you’d expect a smart detective to have. And here we must pause to commend the Peter Berg/Mark Wahlberg reincarnation of the Wahlberg type. He’s a pre-Trump American patriot ideal: protectively strong (“Boston strong” as the movie suggests), but also uber sensitive; the new macho metrosexual type…the type who, having seen all the blood and shattered limbs, breaks down in tears (and needing the loving consolation of his devoted wife). It also gives his character the permission to mouth Berg’s shoe-horned sentiment about love winning the war against hate, yadda yadda (notice I said, pre-Trump). But, fear not, he’s also the relentless terminator, who won’t rest until the job is done.
Fortunately, the proceedings unfold through the eyes of multiple other parties (most of whom are ‘real’ people). So, in the timeless trope of disaster movies, we meet the many characters whose lives will be forever changed by the attack: the loving couple, the earnest young Chinese entrepreneur, the jolly father wheeling his infant toddler to be part of the buoyant crowd, the stolid local sheriff etc.

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We also see the story through the eyes of the two young bombers (Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze) and a wife. But this is a story about right v wrong, good v bad, American can-do spirit against the forces of evil. Even the FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) is mainly a good guy. So whereas all the -ordinary- folks we meet are all VERY good and decent, innocent people, the bombers are all-round bad guys. What would drive two young (almost all-American) guys, one a father, to execute so heinous a crime? That’s waaaay outside the philosophical purview of Berg’s story of love’s ultimate victory against hate.

“Patriots Day” is in the end therefore an uncomplicated, somewhat mindless, but viscerally exciting piece of movie making. The action feels real. The dialogue (Peter Berg plus about five others) feels believable. We feel for the (one dimensional) people. The fabulously orchestrated moments of tension (with Trent Reznor’s excellent soundtrack) feel nerve racking. And, having myself been in New York during 9-11, the spirit of community and solidarity feels spot on.

But it’s a populist piece that seeks no greater aim than the thrill of catharsis. The need to ask and answer those fundamental questions about human behavior, about what drives the savage heart (the role of art?) are not to be found here.

And these days, you won’t find them in the White House either

 

PATRIOTS DAY. Dir: Peter Berg. With: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K.Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon. Music: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; Cinematographer: Tobias A. Schliessler (“Lone Survivor”); Production design: Tom Duffield (“Hell or High Water”)

 

 

MOONLIGHT***** Stunning


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“MOONLIGHT’ IS AN extraordinary portrait of a world, personified by a -gay – Black man, Chiron. Chiron is trapped by his environment and forced into living up to the way he is defined by society, while harboring – under layers of silence and resentment – his real sense of self that, out of self-protection, he dare not reveal.

We are both, the movie suggests, how we’re perceived – how society defines you – as well as how we perceive ourselves.
The portrait is structured in three movements. In the first, we meet Chiron as a lonely kid (Alex Hibbert). He’s bullied and taunted by his peers and his drugged out mother, Paula (Naomi Harris in a raw, tremendous performance). In his world, with its specific code of (Black) masculinity – tough, fearless and straight – Chiron doesn’t fit in. He’s nicknamed “Little” (a reference to his size, his timidity and maybe the size of his penis). His mother calls him “faggot”, a name he doesn’t even understand. This is his perceived identity, the way he is defined: Little. Cowardly. Faggot.

Into this shattered existence rides his knight in shining armor and the neighborhood drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali – best know from “the House of Cards” – in a defining performance). He’s a swaggering, confident figure of Black masculinity who, along with his partner, Teresa (Janelle Monáe, now in “Hidden Figures”) protectively takes Chiron into his home (an oasis of peace) and becomes a father figure of sorts. He offers Chiron both sage advice (to forge his own path in the world) and the tenderness this abused kid so desperately needs. There’s a tremendous scene in which Juan teaches Chiron how to swim (or, symbolically, how to give in to others as well as how to stand on his own two feet). This moment of gentle, parenting love is, in their joint worlds of aggression, pain and pretense, almost shockingly ordinary…simply a father taking care of his son.

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This first movement ends with Chiron’s deepening sense of identity confusion. Is he a faggot (whatever that is; Juan tells him it’s “…a word used to make gay people feel bad”), and how is he to know? How can one, quasi, parent (Juan) who offers such gentle care be the source of such harm to his real parent, Paula? Where does the need to assert yourself and resist the definition of being “Little”, as he’s counseled by his only friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner) intersect with the advice to forge your own path? How do you emerge from how others define you to the definition you choose for yourself?

These questions find the beginnings of answers the time we meet Chiron again (now Ashton Sanders), several years later as a lanky adolescent. By then his isolation and silence have only increased. His mother’s addiction has further degenerated and the bullying taunts have only escalated. But with adolescence, his identity has shifted. The definition of “Little” can no longer contain his pent-up but repressed sense of self. Eventually, and only for a moment, Chiron, the real person, emerges in a moment of love and sexual catharsis with Kevin (now Jharrel Jerome). Two Black boys in love and making out under the cover of darkness. This catharsis is a violation of any acceptable Black man’s sense of self. But there is another, darker Chiron that also emerges: the one who, perhaps living up to his new nickname, “Black”, refuses to be intimidated by the class bully, who, in another catharsis, he beats the shit out of.

The final movement introduces us to the adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes)…who ‘remains’ in hiding, having become his nickname, “Black”. He’s bulked up, confident, in charge and has assumed the identity of his father figure, Juan. Like Juan, he’s also a dealer (…and so the cycle continues). But in the end, the essence of who you are… the loves and the longings that bind… are deeper than the constructs you present of yourself. And for all his -newly acquired- tough, Black, he-man bravado, Chiron finally seems to acknowledge that his still repressed but genuine love for Kevin (now André Holland) and, despite it all, his mother, truly define his real sense of connectedness and self.

Little. Black. Faggot. Gay man. Loving son. Drug dealer. Ex con. Black man. Lover. They’re all Chiron. In the moonlight, perhaps though all identities are not the same, they appear to be the same colour.

This is a movie that’s note perfect. Every performance- and they are unaided by the helpful prop of (say, “Fence’s”) sparkling, articulate dialogue – resonates with an honesty, a kind of contained fury. In their silences, their macho inarticulateness, the characters express whole worlds of hurt and pain. Here is Black angst, the African-American (or British or European) condition, forever self-servingly defined by their White societies, laid bare. In “Moonlight”, Director/writer Barry Jenkins manages to give voice to the unvoiced terrors, the longings, the agonies so often bypassed, dismissed or turned into a cartoon (yet another Black drug dealer living in a world of prostitutes and cons) by the larger society.

The brilliance of the movie is that he has managed to invest in a single and very tangibly human character, so much more than the outward story of how people connect with each other; more the cri de coeur of an entire race.

 

MOONLIGHT: Dir: Barry Jenkins. With Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Alex Hibbert, Naomi Harris, Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, Trevane Rhodes. Cinematographer: James Laxton. Composer: Nicholas Britell (“The Big Short”)

 

LION*** Not much of a roar


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“LION” IS A pleasant enough, reverential, inoffensive weepie. The acting (it’s almost exclusively Dev Patel’s movie) is credible, but certainly not Oscar-worthy; fortunately, though the story sometimes veers toward sentimentality, it retains just about enough bite to keep the gag reflex under control.

It’s another true story (this we know, as it uses the rapidly aging device of showing video of the real people as the credits roll). Saroo (Dev Patel) was the younger brother (played as a kid by charming newcomer, Sunny Pawar) of a dirt poor family, living happily, if in squalor, in the slums of Central India. One day, having begged him to, he is taken by the brother, Guddu, on a nocturnal search (for whatever they can find to add to the family’s meager fare). But Saroo wanders off, away from the brother’s line of sight and, having fallen asleep in a nearby parked train, awakens to find himself locked in, and hurtling toward he knows not where. He ends up 1600k away in a teeming, alien city (Calcutta) where they don’t even speak his dialect.

He’s five years old.

Saroo is eventually adopted (Nicole Kidman – as compelling as always – is Sue Brierley, the adoptive mum) and grows up, along with another, mentally challenged, adoptee, in beautiful, bustling Tasmania.

The emotional guts of the movie centres on Saroo’s sudden awakening to the life he once lived and a suffocating sense of loss. It drives him obsessively (trigger images of an un-tonsured, somewhat deranged looking Patel, staring blankly at a wall of maps) to find his estranged family.

The whole enterprise is so respectful, so focused on the easy linear obviousness of familial separation that, despite a few subtle hints here and there, it eschews all the issues that could have lifted the story above its anodyne setting. We’re told that the movie is dedicated to the 80,000+ kids in India who disappear every year, and there are suggestions of pedophilia and the unlawful sale of kids; but the movie veers away from this darker side. Saroo (Spoiler ahead) eventually returns to his home village after various vignettes of “emotional stress”; he’s now a well- fed Australian who no longer has the language with which to communicate with his still poor, Indian family. He’s a being from an alien world. But this ‘slight’ barrier is glossed over. The orgasm of tearful and tear-inducing reunification neutralizes all further creative investigation. Maybe the movie’s deep thought is that, in the end, “love is all you need”.  There are hints that the adoptive parents are decidedly weird (and Saroo’s head banging fellow adoptee may be accurate but remains an entirely unexplored world in this family). But, out of respect, this storyline goes nowhere. And the, initially cute, romance between Saroo and Lucy (an under-utilised Rooney Mara) is really no more than an aside, relevant only for matters of historical, not creative, veracity.

In an age of great, thoughtful, emotionally robust TV, “Lion” feels like a throwback. Despite, the A-caliber star power, it lacks the ‘size’ to feel like the major movie it longs to be; the production feels cut-rate (the cinematography by Greig Fraser -“Foxcatcher”- isn’t even particularly good); and it never aspires to the subtleties and nuance we now come to expect of the best of TV.

Less a lion, more a pussycat

 

LION. Dir: Garth Davis. With: Dev Patel. Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara. Screenplay: Luke Davis (a well regarded Australian poet) adapted from the book by the protagonist, Saroo Brierley.

 

HOCKNEY AT THE TATE*****


Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970-1 David Hockney born 1937 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1971 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01269

WHEN YOU STAND -in awe- in front on any of David Hockney’s magnificent paintings, that have morphed from abstract to naturalist over the sixty odd years covered by the Tate’s well curated retrospective, two, interrelated, aspects stand out. Every painting seems to be the end result of the artist’s triumph in problem solving…just how much information does the artist need to offer; how should the perspective be treated, in order to make the viewer complicit with his point of view?

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These seems to me to be two of the elements that make a Hockney, a Hockney. That contrast between the fussy chiaroscuro of one element, say a shag carpet, where you can almost feel the bristles under foot, or the almost photographic landscape that contrasts with the very ‘painterly’ patterned images of the pool, or that droop of flowers that seem to be the only living element in the room, with the almost casually drawn brushstroke indicating a furrow in the English countryside, or the patterned flatness of the swimming pool. His images deliver with precision just the right amount of visual information to communicate. The subtle balance of styles express a quality of very deliberate emotionless-ness. His blank figures are placed in the frame of the paintings like objects (had Hockney moved the man an inch to his right the mood of tranquility and harmony – seems like a cold if well-balanced relationship – would have been shattered). They create that very distinct Hockney world. It is a world of stillness and silence; one that’s not a frozen moment in time, where there’s a past and a future, like say the frozen turn of the girl with the pearl necklace, but one that’s outside of time itself.

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(Hockney is preoccupied with the role of time in art, from these moments of timelessness to some of his earlier art-faxes, when he faxed an entire exhibition from LA to Brazil whose idea revolved around the passage of time…and the problem/solution of how to show it…to the last room in the exhibition in which we see his -pad drawings in the process of being constructed in time)

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It’s as though these paintings are invitations to both ponder the meaning of time and to leave its flux… to lift away from time-bound ‘reality’ to enter into a world where all that matters is the relationship of the elements within the painting. It is the artist’s seductive siren call to draw us out of ourselves into his head…into, as it were, his frame of mind.

There’s no question that he constructs his works so that you’re guided, very deliberately in how to view the work. Every painting is part of a mission in helping viewers learn how to observe…freed from the distractions of ‘life’ and the destructions of time.

Let’s look at some of his work.
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This is one of his latest, and much heralded, massive paintings of the countryside near his home and studio. At first glance, it’s pretty clear that it’s an inviting country path…the light plays upon the leaves in such a way to suggest not only the time of day, but even the season and temperature. The artist has worked out how to communicate this in the most efficient manner (there’s no pretence of photographic realism here…the bold pop art brush strokes and primary colours  do just about enough). It’s very easy and tempting for an artist to be defeated, overwhelmed by the landscape before him so that all the viewer sees is the landscape. Hockney breaks the painting into six quadrants. He could have simply stretched a large canvas. But the solution to the problem facing him, and his choice, was to present the massive scene in smaller frames; and each frame has its own visual integrity.

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The artist’s invitation isn’t to ‘look at a pretty landscape’; it’s to stop and think about how we see things…how we observe the outside world and how our (Hockney) guided observation of this painting creates a kind of symbiosis with the artist’s own observing eye. John Berger in his famous series of essays, “Ways of Seeing” noted, “The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled”.

To Hockney, to see is to know. But to really “see”, you can’t be overwhelmed…you have to take control. Hockney takes control by breaking up his line of sight into relevant interacting quadrants.

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Take this one. Here the artist is suggesting multiple, almost cubist perspectives, distorting the perspective and dramatizing the colour contrasts, to ‘get the full picture’. It’s as though the visually garrulous artist wants to cram as much into the frame so that you can experience with him the excitement, the sensory overload, the chaotic jubilation he must have felt standing on that gallery.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

In one of his (not dissimilar) earlier, more abstract works, he arranged multiple elements across a deliberately blank looking canvas. Here’s a barely sketched, almost anecdotal image of a young man walking away from some sort of drawing of an Egyptian icon above which two green stalactites of paint hang down. Just what do they all mean? Are they symbols that we need to understand to ‘get the full picture’? Maybe. What we experience when we engage with this painting is an insight into the artist’s own interior monologue, his own scatter of thoughts and images. This is a painting that, to me, tries to pin down memory.

As indeed, they all are. Perhaps more so than many other artists, a retrospective of Hockney feels like an intrusion into a private diary…from his hot, horney homosexual portraits in LA to the later reimagined, modernized romanticism of his visually lyrical landscapes. Clement

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Greenberg wrote that painting was “ineluctably about painting”. With Hockney, you can’t separate the man from the painting…from the life lived in time, to the observation and introspection of that life outside of it.

And as we learn to observe through Hockney, we learn to observe ourselves