A particularly elaborate doodle I found in one of my old notebooks. I can’t remember drawing this, but I can only assume I was very, very bored at the time.

A particularly elaborate doodle I found in one of my old notebooks. I can’t remember drawing this, but I can only assume I was very, very bored at the time.

POWER OF FOUR

Four photos taken on four different cameras! 

  • Nikon J1 with 10mm lens
  • Polaroid Super Shooter
  • Pentax Spotmatic F with 28mm lens
  • Nokia Lumia 520 phone camera

When I bought my printer it came with a questionable bonus feature: an attachment for printing designs directly onto CDs and DVDs. “Cool but useless”, I thought. Well, I’ve actually used it loads since then, and I’ve discovered a couple of things. Firstly: the world doesn’t need homemade discs. Secondly: a bit like an insect to a bulb, I’m easily fascinated by things. It turns out that I’m obsessed by the coolness of uselessness. I actually like things more because they serve no purpose.

In any case, I often stick the films I like onto custom DVDs these days, sometimes as gifts, and sometimes for the sake of making something. The one above is a design for Mein Liebster Feind (in English: My Best Fiend) a documentary about the German actor Klaus Kinski. It was made by his long-time collaborator Werner Herzog, a brilliant filmmaker, who has, in recent times embedded himself in American popular culture as a kind of arch Teutonic mastermind, popping up between late night talk show slots to direct Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant, voice a character in The Simpsons, and star as a baddie in a Tom Cruise action movie. Herzog is a bit of a celebrity these days, but as a younger man he buttered his bread with a stream of strange, compelling dramas and documentaries, all bizarre, and all spectacular. When I wrote previously about Herzog on this blog I talked about my enthusiasm for his documentaries in particular. They are always deeply reflective and brilliantly rich in ideas, but this one, a piece about a friend and collaborator, is unusually and intriguingly personal. 

Kinski suffered from what could be described politely as “anger issues”. That hardly explains it; his violent film-set rages and blistering, mortal arguments with Herzog were the stuff of legend, and enthusiasts have always sought to make a connection between the intensity of the pair’s relationship and the spectacle of the films they made together. It’s precisely this myth of Kinski the madman that Herzog sets out to debunk…ostensibly.

For sure, Herzog goes out of his way to tell stories about Kinski’s kindness and interviews actors who talk glowingly of his professionalism, asking us to remember him in a more generous light. And yet, Herzog is more responsible than anyone for the Kinski myth. He can barely hide his glee when he rolls out stories of Kinski smashing bathrooms and breaking doors, and his documentary does a neat job of bringing together all the juiciest footage of Kinski’s mad behaviour. It gives weight to the suspicion that both men actually rather enjoyed perpetuating the legend of their tempestuous relationship, perhaps to get attention, and perhaps, also, for their own amusement. 

Kinski’s career was so meshed with Herzog’s that any documentary about Kinski is, perhaps unintentionally, a documentary about Herzog too. There is a strong sense in Herzog’s recollections of a kind of battle for dominance whenever the pair worked together; an intense friction between two combative, uncompromising men each trying to leave their mark on the other. This film is Herzog’s tribute to Kinski, but perhaps it is also his way of having the final word on Kinski.

NB. Herzog enthusiasts will know about the Kinski spiral. In a moment of nerdishness I built my own version into my design for the disc graphic.

Some scribbles and doodles I found in my notebooks. 

PYRAMID DASH 2

In a previous post I mentioned Pyramid Dash, the labyrinthine board game project I’ve been working on. Above are a couple more of the things I’ve created for it.

Firstly, the game board. This is a serious, serious game, and the brain-hurting complexity of the playing area reflects this. 

Secondly, the characters. There are six of them, and they include an aging cat-burglar, an expert in ancient diseases, a barmy aristocrat and a brooding mafioso. I’ve included pictures of my original drawings as well as the character cards I’ve made based on these.

Alfred Hitchcock was one of cinema’s great talkers and self-publicists. Francois Truffaut interviewed him for twelve hours for the book Hitchcock, a thick, hefty volume made to match a huge personality whose career spanned six decades and fifty-three movies. I’ve enjoyed this book for years, and I often re-read parts of it, but I had no idea until recently that Truffaut and Hitchcock’s conversations had been preserved on tape (they can be streamed or downloaded here).

It’s amazing to listen to these two great intellects of cinema plowing through topic after topic in these twisting, turning discussions. With each filmmaker unable to speak the other’s language, the unsung hero of the piece is surely the translator Helen Scott. She is ever-present, flipping and flopping between French and English at an impressive pace to oil the discussions and keep the dialogue rolling. 

Notebook drawings from July and August.

London, earlier this year. The man in the distance was taking photos, like me.

London, earlier this year. The man in the distance was taking photos, like me.

PYRAMID DASH

Have you ever wished you could play a complicated, Egypt-themed board game incorporating elements of Cluedo / Trivial Pursuit / Snakes and Ladders / RPGs? … That’s good, because I’m making one right now.

Pyramid Dash is a project I’ve been working on with my friend Lucie for quite some time. The illustrations above are designs I’ve made for playing cards; each one represents a handy object which can be collected and used in the game. I should mention that the playing cards are but one facet of an elaborate gameplay involving an intricate, pyramid-shaped board and a range of playable characters with expansive back-stories and unique skills. Far too much, in other words, to explain in one blog post. More in the future…

Frightening: I produced this painting of an impossibly haughty looking Kenneth Williams a while ago as a birthday present for my friend Pete - I didn’t mean for it to be quite so … strange.

Frightening: I produced this painting of an impossibly haughty looking Kenneth Williams a while ago as a birthday present for my friend Pete - I didn’t mean for it to be quite so … strange.