Art. lies & film

I am the sort of person who is often distracted by the art work in films and TV shows- sometimes trying to peer around corners and characters to get a better look. I saw Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer recently, and was mesmerised by the large abstract paintings in the atmospheric house by the sea.

If you haven’t seen Ghost Writer, this is a really well-written review in the New Yorker, that doesn’t give too much of the plot away.

I was unable to discover if these paintings are by an artist or if they were made by the art director specifically for the film, but I did learn that the stunning ocean views from the beach house in Massachusetts were in fact fabricated. The house, which I had taken to be an architecturally designed holiday house owned by someone rich and/or famous, was a set constructed for the film and the windows were merely green screens, with the views added in later. The location shoots were done in Germany and Denmark, as Polanski was avoiding the US due to a crime dating from 1977 where he was tried for the sexual assault of a minor. He entered into a plea bargain that meant he only had to undergo time in a psychiatric hospital, but he fled when it seemed he would be given further jail time. The law finally caught up with him in Zurich and he finished the film while under house arrest. The case has now been resolved. I feel a bit conflicted about seeing a film directed by a man convicted of statutory rape- although the girl/woman has said publicly that she has forgiven Polanski and had requested that the further charges be dropped, so perhaps I can forgive him too?

In films, production designers are responsible for the look of a film, in relation to its sets. They would be the ones to choose the art works, as well as books, furniture and other props on the set. I often find myself struggling to read the titles of books in the bookcase or on the coffee table in films and on TV – often an impossible task, which makes me feel sorry for the art director or props master who has so carefully selected all the props. I also get upset when they blow up things, especially vintage cars, Mixmasters and the like– it seems so wasteful. I look forward to the day they can do this entirely with tiny models or CGI. In fact maybe there could be a new job on the movie set- waste reduction supervisor.


About Tanya

Tanya, MA Art Curatorship, Melbourne Uni
This entry was posted in film, technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Art. lies & film

  1. lior opat says:

    Don’t feel conflicted about Polanski please. There’s so much more to that story. The ‘young girl’ who was a model, went to his house under the instructions of her mother to be photographed in bathers by Polanski. She was a very attractive and precocious young lady. I don’t think he actually raped her which is why she has ‘forgiven’ him. I’m not saying he wasn’t naive for acting on his impulses but I think this girl was more in control than she initially made out. My feeling is that is was consensual sex.
    You should check out the documentary about Polanski from a couple of years ago:
    Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
    More on Polanski though: Have you seen Knife in the Water? I still have to see it, but Chinatown is one of my favourite films.

    • thanks for that, Lior. The doco sounds good. I know there are many shades of grey & different sides to every story, but I still think there is a responsibility of a fully grown adult not to have sex- even if it’s consensual, with a 13 year old. I guess these issues are talked about a lot more now & there’s a greater degree of awareness of the potentially damaging effects of sexual assault.
      Chinatown is great, but I think it’s the only other of his films that I have seen.

  2. jmgil120 says:

    Corporate values and practices influence what I buy so I think an artist’s personal life might influence my decision to view his or her work especially if it’s an ongoing action that I find repugnant. If it’s something in the past or the artist is deceased I wouldn’t feel like I was aiding and abetting him or her so it wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But that’s good topic to raise.
    Sort of related to your post… there was an article in the New York Times recently on zero-waste fashion. Some designers are trying to come up with patterns that use all of the fabric so that the scraps don’t wind up in a landfill. Perhaps this trend will carry over to film production and less wasteful practices will be adopted.

  3. thanks for your considered response. I would like to think that Hollywood will start to do something about the waste in film making, but the budgets just seem to keep getting bigger and bigger.

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