Living in London I’m surrounded by art and next weekend I’m off to the Tate Modern to see an exhibit by a friend I’ve met before (who’s also a close friend of a close friend). This weekend I went to see multimedia artist Yoko Ono’s To the Light exhibit at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. I believe it’s part of the London 2012 Olympic set of events. There are tons of non-athletic events around and leading up to the Olympics so it’s great to take advantage of it. The exhibit is quite odd and interesting. I saw one piece that was called “Apple” and it had a green apple on a glass/plastic rectangular prism. I kept wondering how you reproduce that when it’s from the 1960’s. I’m sure you have to use a different apple. Maybe it wasn’t real. My favourite part of her exhibit was the #SmilesFilm project, a large scale participatory project that records volunteers’ smiling photos (I took one) in a global anthology of portraits. You can try to go to the website and see mine there somewhere.
I think one of the coolest things I’ve done here is go to London Sundance Film and Music Festival. Apparently it was the first year that Robert Redford brought his Utah independent film festival to London to try it out. If it went well (and I think they will deem it a moderate success) they will repeat it in years to come. Someone gave me two tickets and though I couldn’t find anyone to use the second ticket I went on ahead and enjoyed myself. We only got a selection of films in London, if I understood which films they brought, but there were many good and interesting ones. I’ve been to play festivals and film festivals but never to a film festival that is this big and launches the careers of independent filmmakers like Sundance can. I’m a big fan of Robert Redford (and Paul Newman). I really like them both and see that he puts his money where his mouth and heart are. He really believes in helping to create opportunities for stories that should be told. I love that he has a Sundance institute/school that also helps filmmakers.
As part of my ticket package, I was invited to sit down for an evening conversation between Robert Redford and T Bone Burnett moderated by a London film person (I didn’t know him). If you don’t know Burnett he’s the film scorer for films like “Cold Mountain,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “O Brother Where Art Thou.” I was super excited to hear Robert Redford talk and hear a little about his thoughts on the festival and film and music in general. But what was really cool is that they interspersed the interview with music performances. The first performance is what surprised me—it was Glen Hansard, a performer of whom I had heard legends. He’s this busker (street performer) in Dublin who has original songs and was asked to be in a 2006 Irish independent film called Once. It also stars Markéta Irglová, another singer songwriter. Well, they both agreed to do the film and the entire film score is mostly his music and her music and some jointly co-written pieces. The film took 3 weeks to make and was shot on two handy-cams.
Unbelievably, one of Markéta and Glen’s songs, Falling Slowly, was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2007 Academy Awards. It caused a controversy because they discounted the song because the song may have been written before the movie was made (I think you’re supposed to write the song for the movie). A lot of people protested and the Academy let the song stay as a nominee. And Glen and Markéta won! The entire soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy as well! I was in Ireland in January of this year (2012) and I had hoped to see him on the streets but I didn’t. So I was super surprised to see him come out on stage and do two songs. What also amazed me is that T Bone Burnett said that Once is the best music film he’s ever seen. That’s a huge recommendation by a big film music guy. So I really wanted to see the film.
I finally saw it while flying to India, and it really was quite lovely. It seems like they are not acting and I get a bit confused. But it composed almost entirely of source music (music in the film that is coming from a source in the visual picture, like hearing music when someone turns on the radio or a group of people dancing to music at a dance). Even when it wasn’t source music, it was usually still originally source music that continued to play as they went on to other scenes in a montage to show the passage of time. And it really is amazing music, not because it makes you dance or groove, not because it’s a really good genre but simply because it is simple and heartfelt. It’s kind of a love story, kind of a music story, kind of a friendship story. But it’s short, so check it out. I recommend it. You can always turn it off if it’s not good. J