After using up available optimism on praising Ed Snowden, I found myself with not much extra optimism on world (“global”) affairs… Post “Arab spring” (what was that???) the ongoing catastrophes of the Middle East, Syria, Israel/Palestine, General “Sisi”, and now Ukraine/Russia, I don’t have the required wisdom to cast my thoughts upon these troubled waters. I used to think of myself as a person of the “left,” until I see old acquaintances still bearing that banner enthusing over Castro, Chavez, Putin… (do they think Russia is some kind of socialist state??) It’s not that I am not on the left any more, it’s that the left seems to have moved to outflank the right – they moved away from me, not me from them. So it goes.

Latest journeys took me back to China-Mongolia, which seems to be my new route. We have family there, Mairi and I, cousins in Beijing (shades of the Louvish connections pre-World War I… Too long a story, now novelised in the latest unpublished opus – THE DREAM OF AGES… any serious publishers out there?? Hallooo..! No, didn’t think so… On we go. Our honorary daughter in Ulaanbaatar, now with baby, Mongolian futures, unexpected connections… Fate works in mysterious ways… Two Mongolian film projects now in the pipeline… Far away and extremely close… Must try to make some sense of this, if not in reality, then in fiction.

Film students sometimes ask me what they should be doing, but I think they know well enough. They should be turning their questions into art. Of course a film school primarily takes money to teach students the professional skills of how to do this, as well as train them for what everybody calls the “market”. I.e., jobs in film. I don’t know anything about this, since I never had a “job” in films, apart from some assistant editing back in the day, and my primal task as a military cameraman in my army service in the State of Israel, about 45 years ago! Mon dieu! I must be creeping up on Methuselah… all those ancient crimes… I haven’t even had a “job” in writing, since I wrote what I felt I should write, although the movie books were – had to be – commissioned works, so I suppose that was a job of sorts. The only book I wrote to outside specifications was a silly little thing called “Coffee with Groucho,” which was part of a series of very short books that were designed to be sold in Barnes and Nobles coffee shops. (I think the whole enterprise tanked after a while.) I can’t bring myself to tell you what I got paid for this, a task of three weeks’ duration… it was a bit like lawyers’ fees… outrageous. But I spent it all on a good deed. The disastrous film project mentioned somewhere on this site as “Mad Dogs” cost me two years of life and netted me a sum total of £2,000 (two thousand) of which I think I lent 1,500 back into the production. Big bucks.

So, students beware! You are being taught by beggars! The bottom line I think of my mendicant advice about “what sort of film should I make?” is: Films that are ABOUT SOMETHING. It all comes down to that. The world is full about films that are about nothing at all. These are films made for the “market.” Zombies versus robots. They turn up ten times a week in your local multiplex. Mostly with Keanu Reeves or Brad Pitt. (I never blame actors, if they can bullshit for twenty million dollars good luck to `em. Maybe they can put that dough to good use.) I have seen Hollywood and I have dabbled in it’s history. It was capable of producing wonderful films, and often it did, within the “market.” (If you want my best shot at analysing this it’s probably in my Mae West biography, a case history of talent chasing the system, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.) But the movies of the world are about far more than that. I try to show a few samples of what cinema is capable of in the London Film School screenings. From Imamura back to Stroheim forward to Andrzej Wajda, to Fellini, Visconti, Clouzot, on to Kurosawa, back to Abel Gance, fast forward to China’s Jia Zhangke. The non-globalized globe. Everywhere there are different voices, attitudes, directions, styles, but a similar determination to make the medium sing.

Pause rant here. Maybe more later. Recover jetlag. Sink back into incoherent mumbling…
Walerian Borowczyk – “Goto Island of Love”, 1968. Now there’s a distinctive voice and image… Make sense of it if you dare…
And by the way, don’t neglect Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory,” if you want perfection in story. Yes, it can be done.