It is always interesting to surmise what was happening in the world when you were a very small child. This intriguing black and white film from 1947, Hue and Cry has some of the answers. It is set in the feral landscapes of bombed out London. However, the spirit and humour of the kids captures some of the trauma of the recent blitz but much more the youngsters resilience. The following clip shows a little of what I mean.
I found this DvD in one of my local charity shops and was intrigued by the fact that the plot revolves around a children’s comic called The Trump. The blurb on the reverse also mentioned that it was the first of the famous Ealing Comedies and there were fascinating shots of post-war London’s exterior locations. In fact as I watched the film it in some parts reminded me of seeing the recent gang wars of Sondheim’s West Side Story as filmed by Spielberg. Indeed some of the visual tropes or tricks were similar too. This second clip gives details about the locations of the film and how they look today.
Passing beyond the psychogeography of “Hue and Cry” I also thought there was a sort of undertext. The working class children with their naïve and energetic enthusiasm overcome the sharks and spivs in their criminal activities. Very much the product of those heroic times when the Atlee government brought so much to recovery. There was something democratic if somewhat frenetic here which vividly contrasts with life here today. The hectic has become frenetic in a Governent of the Posh Boys and what used to be known in Lambeth as Wide Boys.
To finish on a more upbeat note; this film has amusing glimpses of life in the old Covent Garden Market. It is worth watching for that alone. However, the acting of Lambeth born Harry Fowler, Jack Warner and especially Alastair Sim is superb. Talking of markets let me conclude with these lines from Charlotte Mew’s Saturday Market.
Leon Brenner is an energetic and creative Philosopher and Lacanian Psychoanalyst who lives and works in Berlin. Last week he gave a Zoom talk on the subject of The Dermic Drive in Autism in which he followed this, his schema:-
Counter to the ways it is conceived through both cognitive and identitarian approaches, autism might be productively thought of as a unique subjective structure that sits alongside the classical Freudian structures of psychosis, neurosis, and perversion. Earlier psychoanalytic thinkers have linked autism and the onset of autism to the supposed experience of early disturbances in ‘skin function’. In this talk Dr Leon Brenner will expand this notion of ‘skin function’, exploring its relation to and confection in language. Conceiving the skin as a potential modality of the Freudian drive (Trieb) – the dermic drive – Dr Leon Brenner will seek to unpack how the different relations to and with the Other such a drive would instantiate allow fresh insights into our understandings of autism.
Here is what R,D.Hinshelwood has to say in clarification in his book, A Dictonary of Kleinian Thought-Among the previous psychoanalysts studying this subject three in particular drew my attention. Esther Bick whose work included infant observation, the relation between skin sensations and feeling contained, the creation of the experience of the body as an internal space. Bick worked with Donald Meltzer and together they arrived at the concept of Adhesive identification: The possible failure to develop such an integrating primary object (space) appears to be confirmed in work with autistic children (Meltzer et al., 1975) [see AUTISM]. Bick and Meltzer (Meltzer, 1975, 1986) collaborated in describing the ways in which autistic children develop without a sense of internal or external space. Their relationship with objects appears to be a ‘sticking on to’ the object, a mechanism called adhesive identification.
2 Hinshelwood also explains the manner in which mimicry replaces the normal development of internal psychic space-
projective identification cannot be properly employed because of an absent sense of internal space (see INTERNAL REALITY). Meltzer (Meltzer et al., 1975) took up these ideas and found them important in research into a child-analytic technique with autistic children. Meltzer described a child who
tended to draw pictures of houses, in which there was a house on this side of the paper, and there was a house on the other side of the paper and when you held it up to the light, you saw that the doors were superimposed, you know, a kind of house where you open the front door and step out the back door at the same time. (Meltzer, 1975, p. 300)
In the course of this collaboration, Bick and Meltzer began to recognize a pattern in these ‘second-skin’ formations (see SKIN]. Bick typically called it an act of mimicry. However, what they began to realize was that the mimicry represented the experience, and phantasy, of sticking to an object as opposed to projecting into it [see 13. PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION]. A lapse in developing a sense of internal spaces leads to a tendency to relate to objects in a two dimensional way, without depth [see AUTISM]:
The following are some thoughts in no particular order which I had during this engaging seminar:-
This evocative song has been in the background since contemplating this whole issue with it’s phrase “wake up to reality”. Sung here by Frank Sinatra https://youtu.be/C1AHec7sfZ8
There is a particularly interesting chapter in Betty Joseph’s collection “Psychic Equilibrium and Psychic Change” on the analysis of a patient with a rubber fetish in which she discusses the use of projective identification of excitement, oral sadism and how she was able to contain, explain and resolve these issues within the analytic sessions.
It would seem that the elastic and adhesive properties of relationships can be expressed vividly by means of cartoon characters. In particular it is possible to think of matters like “bouncing back” being “caught on the rebound” as well as “sticking together through thick and thin” as well as someone “sticking to another like glue” somewhat unpleasantly or uncomfortably.
As someone has commented on You Tube underneath the above, “Wonderful , soulful, expression of Imperial Russia from many aspects just before the Black Curtain of the war that aesthetically affects us into our era!” There are even colour photographs of that strange era in Russia before the Revolution that show the huge contrasts in wealth and also the peaceful landscape which is evoked like a distant Edwardian Summer. Serov died in 1911 having left behind masterpieces of portraiture including his own famous self-portrait. His style was realistic and is still much beloved by the Russian people.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Serov
I have just discovered this film which looks good too-
You know how this is: if I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch of the slow autumn at my window, if I touch near the fire the impalpable ash or the wrinkled body of the log, everything carries me to you, as if everything that exists, aromas, light, metals, were little boats that sail toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Well, now, if little by little you stop loving me I shall stop loving you little by little.
If suddenly you forget me do not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you.”
This poem contains some moving imagery which reminds me of ice and fire. Glowing embers and decay which are capable of re-igniting. Images which are intangible and sadly to me at least it conveys ambivalence. He is dependent upon being loved and his memory depends upon this too. There is a deep fragility here which makes the poem more beautiful. There is also the strong possibility of exile under discussion. The ash appears to rise like a prayer towards Heaven like little sailing boats of childhood dreams.
The emergence of this wrecked Beaufighter after more than 75 years struck me as interesting for a variety of reasons. Rather as memories emerge from traumatic periods in the past. It seems to me that much of the current political debate over Brexit and other matters is connected with unresolved conflicts from the past. Also there is the contrast or juxtaposition between the terrible last moments in the cockpit, as the engines failed, and the discovery of the wreck by the arrival of the dog bounding across the sands so many years later.
Thinking of the variety of persons lost from Leslie Howard, the Film-star in 1943, Antoine St Expupery in July 1944 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_de_Saint-Exup%C3%A9ry) and the disappearance of Jazz Band leader Glenn Miller in December 1944, I came across this famous poem by W.B.Yeats.
An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate Those that I guard I do not love; My country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before. Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public man, nor cheering crowds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death.
This great poem exposes what sometimes is forgotten – the treatment of the Irish in the shady forgotten history of British imperialism. Kiltartan by the way is not far from Galway.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
So writes T.S. Eliot in Burnt Norton, the first of the Four Quartets. It makes one wonder what memories can be recalled of this particular Rose Garden. A slightly strange venue to choose surely? Maybe the door ought not to have been opened? Most will recall the unfortunate and strange meeting that heralded the unfortunate Coalition Indeed, it was another Special Adviser, Julia Goldsworthy who was to finally conclude, “Many Liberal Democrat activists would have found the Rose Garden love-in between David Cameron and Nick Clegg “sick-inducing”. Perhaps it was to give a green tinge to distract from 260 miles or more of carbon emissions.
It is not just the receding hairline of Cummings that brings G and S’s Mikado character of Nanki-Poo to mind. This histrionic and grumpy individual needs a trickster or Jungian alter ego. Remember it is Nanki-Poo who sings-
The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la, Breathe promise of merry sunshine — As we merrily dance and we sing, Tra la, We welcome the hope that they bring, Tra la, Of a summer of roses and wine, Of a summer of roses and wine. And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring. Tra la la la la, Tra la la la la, The flowers that bloom in the spring.
This indeed is the Topsy-Turvy World where the Rose Garden becomes the stage for attic antics. Incidentally, Topsy-Turvy is an excellent film directed by the redoubtable Mike Leigh about the making of the Mikado.
The Mikado is relevant here too in more serious ways- it is about a fiercely autocratic society. There is the haughty nobleman, Pooh-Bah.There is making the punishment fit the crime. In Leigh’s film there is drug addiction- there is social distancing and the overwhelming distance brtween performance and the dark and stark reality. In both there is meiosis, a drastic understatement of the situation. Which brings us back to today’s performance attempting to come up smelling of roses.
Arte is a brilliant source of great programmes on various topics, many of which are cultural or historical, in French and in German. Here is one in French in which it is possible to hear the absurd inequalities of the English class system spoken in French. This naturally has the effect of being somewhat amusing. The voyeuristic pleasure which the lower orders are supposed to derive from the spectacle is supposed to distract from other concerns- like properly funded public services.
The French and German subtitles are useful too, Here is another view of one aspect of English education by a great teacher, novelist and poet.
The Oxford Voice by D.H. Lawrence
When you hear it languishing
and hooing and cooing, and sidling through the front teeth,
the Oxford voice
or worse still
the would-be Oxford voice
you don’t even laugh any more, you can’t.
For every blooming bird is an Oxford cuckoo nowadays,
you can’t sit on a bus nor in the tube
but it breathes gently and languishingly in the back of
And oh, so seductively superior, so seductively
We wouldn’t insist on it for a moment
but we are
you admit we are
A more gentle and highly amusing perspective on a smaller scale perhaps is the radio series Plum House. It is a Comedy about the eccentric and inept staff at Plum House, former country home of minor 18th-century poet George Pudding. Written by Ben Cottam and Paul Mckenna. It may be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07hk30x
How might we read such a photograph? It has a surreal quality about it that we might associate it with Magritte. The artist, musician and his instrument appear in a classical composition like the three graces. They are starkly outlined against the white Paris sky in front of the descending staircase. The two men seem isolated in their solitude and their is a feeling of expectation and a gentlemanly respect for the instrument whose feminine shape seems implied.
There is a humane quality which suffuses Doisneau’s work- a magical charm. The photograph makes a nice comparison with the famous HMV poster. It is impossible to say weather the subject is more enchanted by the splendid device or the music emerging from the cumbersome, jolly gramophone. Probably he is entranced by both. His posture and beret adds to the general levity of the scene.
Doisneau photographed many great artists and this photograph captures the master, Picasso in his characteristic striped jersey with his penetrating gaze. The photographer makes a marvellous joke with the distorted fingers of bread rolls. It seems likely that this was contrived between them. A morphic distortion and also an interesting game with perspective too.
It is a time when political matters appear to be quite falling apart as the boring pedantic Johnson scrabbles his way to power. The badly led opposition seems occupied in necessary self-immolation.Consequently, everyone needs some relief from the current tedium and the dear old Radio Times proves useful as it suggests highly interesting programmes in odd recherche places.
New angles on post-war Germany and Austria
proved to be one such opportunity and last night’s programme compared by the heyzerik but delightful Anne McElvoy with Florian Huber, Sophie Hardach, Adam Scovell and Tom Smith have produced a very interesting programme. If you have time, you will find it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sjx
“Laszlo Nemes’ sumptuously photographed drama is set in 1913 in Budapest, where the existential anxieties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are embodied in the slender form of Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young woman with a dark past.
She bears the name of the city’s most stylish hat store, Leiter’s: her parents died there in a fire when she was two, and Irisz was raised elsewhere but now returns, looking for work, and answers.
Instead she finds secrets, a wall of silence, and dark rumours about a murderous brother she never knew she had.
Full of dark portents of the continental carnage to come, Sunset is Kafkaesque, melodramatic, enthralling.”
This is not an easy film to understand and it certainly is not in the usual genre of an historical film. Much is about the contrast between the superficial elegance and the arduous and dangerous conflicts beneath this attractive outward view. However, it has to be said that I very much enjoyed the visual presentation of the surface; the milliner’s store with its stupendous colourful hats and the horse drawn carriages. History crept in when a news-vendor announces that the Austro-Hungarian empire is to launch another battleship- jogging the memory that this primarily land locked empire held a port at Trieste. As I have yet to visit Budapest, although I have visited both Vienna and Bratislava, this area intrigues me. This point in time too is the subject to much of the concerns of the novels of Joseph Roth and the magnificent films of that other brilliant Hungarian director, from a previous generation, stván Szabó. Also, for good measure, the Empress Sisi arrives from Vienna in a somewhat grumpy personification. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduchess_Elisabeth_Marie_of_Austria
In thinking about this film, I remembered that the famous psychoanalyist, Melanie Klein was living in Budapest at this time. She received her psychoanalytic education with Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest during World War I. She specialized in his advice in child analysis and became one of the first in this field. I mention this because much of the film really deals with states of mind like confusion, exclusion and certain feminist attitudes. It is interesting to see what the film is saying about issues in the contemporary world and in its concentration upon one individual’s perceptions and their attempts to understand relationships with siblings, we seem to be in territory where Klein’s work is uniquely valuable. Here is her photograph wearing an elegant hat.