Archive for William Blake

The Sleeping Images of Things

Posted in FILM, literature, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2015 by dcairns

blake

In a charity shop I picked up, slightly randomly, The Poetic Image by Cecil Day-Lewis (Daniel’s dad; also a crime writer whose book The Beast Must Die was adapted by Chabrol). It’s a very interesting treatise on the forms and uses of imagery in poetry ancient and modern (or modern-ish — the book dates from 1947. A stamp on the inside front cover says it was presented to Lynn Watson os Shrewsbury High School as Modern Languages Prize in 1970.)

Among the food for thought is a very fine description of the creative process, which applies whatever kind of writing one is involved in, I should say. Perhaps a work of fiction may be more likely to be sparked not by a poetic image (a kind of engram, compressing together object, idea or emotion) but by some more abstract narrative notion. Rarely does it begin with a theme, I think. Here’s what Cec says ~

The poet, then, starts with an impression, a drop in the river of experience, crystallized perhaps into an image. Or, let us rather say, that is how the poet is apt to start nowadays; for there have been times, as we have noticed, when he at any rate seems to have begun with an abstract idea and set out to put it into verse. The modern method, insofar as it differs from the classical, is indicated in Goethe’s words,

It wasn’t on the whole my way, as a poet, to stride after the embodiment of something abstract. I received within myself impressions — impressions of a hundred sorts, sensuous, lively, lovely, many-hued — as an alert imaginative energy presented them.

This is the first stage. W.B. Yeats witnessed the second when, quoting Goethe’s ‘One must allow the images to form with all their associations before one criticizes,’ he went on to speak of the trance-like state in which ‘images pass rapidly before you,’ and said that it is necessary to ‘suspend will and intellect, to bring up from the subconscious anything you already possess a fragment of.’ That concentrated attention which watches over the birth of a poem from the moment when the first birth-pang is felt — a concentration will-less indeed, yet intense, and by its very passivity aiding the process which brings the whole poem out into the light — may fairly be called a suspension of the intellect. But it overlaps with the third stage, then the poet’s attention becomes more active (Malebranche called this attention ‘the prayer of the intellect’), and the work of criticism begins, the selection or rejection of associated images in conformity with the now emerging pattern of the poem. The creative process up to the emergence of formed images from the unconscious, is described by Dryden in his introduction to The Rival Ladies, where he speaks of the time when the play was only ‘a confused mass of thoughts, tumbling over one another in the dark: when the Fancy was yet in its first work, moving the sleeping images of things towards the light, there to be distinguished, and then either chosen or rejected by the Judgement.’

That Lucretian phrase, ‘moving the sleeping images of things towards the light,’ may be set beside this passage from E.S. Dallas —

Trains of thought are continually passing to and fro from the light into the dark, and back from the dark into the light. When the current of thought flows from within our ken to beyond our ken, it is gone, we forget it … After a time it comes back to us changed and grown, as if it were a new thought.

I do not know that out modern psychology, which he and Dryden so far anticipated, could have put the whole thing any better.

***

The best account of creativity I’ve ever read. Polanski has said that he mainly works on instinct, but applies his critical faculties to what his instincts suggest. Dali spoke of his paranoiac-critical method. It’s all about catching images thrown up more or less irrationally from parts of our brains we don’t control. and then attempting to fit them into a pattern which makes its own kind of sense.

Picture is by William Blake. Chosen for irrational reasons.

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Th*rt**nth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by dcairns

This week’s truly exciting episode of my unexplainably unproduced screenplay is the most British thing ever — we have a high speed pursuit featuring characters named after leads in PERFORMANCE and THE WICKER MAN, and an exciting rooftop chase, without which no British thriller, be it THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE or HELL IS A CITY, can be considered complete.

And I was pleased to morph a reference  from MARY POPPINS into a William Blake quote. Apart from the Disney JUNGLE BOOK bit I think it’s all as Brit as can be.

This was also the point where I discovered Howie’s true comedic function, which is not as romantic interest during the “boring, sub-Bill Forsyth bits,” but as someone to annoy Inspector Turner. And, thematically, as a sort of Everyman for Mr. If to oppose.

But what impresses me, if I do say so myself, is just how damned gripping it all is!

Now read on…

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Sheena watches TV news with Edward Woodward in her lap.

NEWSCASTER (O.S.)

The headlines today. A wild west-style schoolmarm has been tormented by scallops in Muirhouse. A nun has been fired out of a toilet. And Scotland’s oldest fireman has given birth to a stone desk.

Sheena boggles. The work of Mr. If is everywhere.

There is an innocent-sounding knock at the door.

INT. SHEENA’S HALL – NIGHT

Sheena comes through and approaches the door.

NEWSCASTER (OS)

Doctors are baffled by a giant leg found on a small man.

Sheena looks through the spy hole. Howie.

NEWSCASTER (OS)

And scientists at NASA have discovered what they are calling a “joke planet”.

Sheena considers.

Starts to walk away.

Then changes her mind and undoes the latch.

INT. SHEENA’S STAIRWELL – DAY

The man outside is not Howie. A black-gloved hand holds a photo of Howie up to the spy hole.

The door opens…

INT. HOSPITAL RECEPTION – NIGHT

Swing doors BASH open.

Doctor lectures Nurse while pushing Howie on a gurney.

DR. SPAIN

Brain damage, as medical science pretends to understand it, is simply injury to the meat radio entrusted with receiving the consciousness signal. A mechanical brain, correctly tuned to the ineffable transmission, would serve just as well as our fleshy transponders.

Howie looks somewhat mauled. In the gurney behind him, a stunned fox.

Turner runs alongside Howie.

HOWIE

A fox, inspector, can you believe it? In the reptile house. The last thing I would have expected in a reptile house. It’s a bloody mammal. A rodent or something. They don’t even keep them in the zoo. They’re too boring. Anyway, this one wasn’t, it was positively frisky. It was going for my throat when I managed to knock it unconscious with this…

He holds up his tattered and bloodstained hardback.

HOWIE

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. An ironic title for a hefty hardback.

They pass a smoke-blackened NUN in a tattered habit, walking with the aid of crutches.

HOWIE

Anyway, it’s not me you should be worried about, it’s your own people. There’s been some pretty weird shit going down at Sheena’s place.

They pass an incubator being wheeled by MEN in surgical scrubs. WAILING BABY sound. Inside the incubator – a trout.

TURNER

You mean Miss McQueen?

HOWIE

A lot of this nonsense seems to be focussed on her. Like she’s the epicentre or something.

They pass an OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET carrying a stone slab.

PROPHET

Epicentre! Epicentre!

He turns the slab to face them. The word COCK is carved on it. Then he raises his robe and shows them his wrinkly arse before scampering away, tittering like a big jerk.

HOWIE

Did she tell you she took the If File?

Turner’s face darkens ominously.

TURNER

Stay here and heal. I’m going to check on Miss McQueen.

He hurries off.

Howie cranes his neck after the departing cop.

HOWIE

Sheena…

He tries to dismount the moving gurney. The doctor shoving it won’t slow down and Howie’s bandages hamper him.

He falls.

The doctor disappears around a corner, ignoring him.

In a nearby room, dogs bark.

A tramp with flowers for hair shuffles past sadly.

DR.SPAIN (O.S.)

…and so, Nurse Sheep, what you call telepathy is merely a crossed wire, a case of one brain receiving a signal intended for another. We are all hooked up to the great universal mind, but some of us have bigger satellite dishes.

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Sheena flees into her flat and throws a dirty plate at the caped, top-hatted man pursuing her.

MR. IF

I am If! If I am! Am I if?

She grabs her gun and shoots If’s hat off.

The next two bullets hit him in the chest.

He staggers. Then rights himself.

He steps in front of the window. Daylight shines through the little round holes in his body.

MR. IF

Gosh durn it, I likes a wumman with spirit.

If holds out his hand to her.

MR. IF

Join me, and rule at my side in the domain of nothingness.

Sheena shoots him again.

MR. IF

You sadden me.

He produces a banana and begins to peel it.

Sheena backs away in alarm.

INT. TURNER’S CAR – DAY

Turner’s car SKIDS round a bend.

HOWIE (O.S.)

Step on it, man! You drive like a lemur. If lemurs could drive.

Howie sits up in the back of the car. Turner is startled, then irate.

TURNER

You’re supposed to be convalescing. Go and convalesce. I’m a policeman. You’re just some nob-end from the zoo.

HOWIE

I’m an interested party and you still drive like a twat. Where’s your blue flashing light?

TURNER

Some bastard’s nicked it and left me this egg timer instead.

They SCREECH round another bend and Howie falls over.

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – DAY

Sheena wakes up tied to a rocking chair by what looks like hair. She’s clad only in a grass skirt and a pair of coconut shells.

A rope hangman’s noose hangs from the ceiling above her.

If strides into view. Under his cape he wears Sheena’s clothes. He strokes Edward Woodward in a sinister, master-criminal-type way.

MR. IF

Is it safe?

Sheena struggles with her bonds.

SHEENA

What the f-?

MR. IF

Wigs, Miss McQueen, wigs! Nature’s baldness defamed, and now – a young minx restrained in their silky fronds! Ironic, is it not?

SHEENA

Let me go and give me back my cat, you mad bastard. And take my clothes off!

MR. IF

(gesturing at her near nudity)

I already have. And now, you will tell me where I can find what I seek, Miss McQueen – or should I say – HECTOR BABENCO?

He waves at her with Edward Woodward’s paw.

SHEENA

What the hell do you want, you great weirdo?

MR. IF

A touching display of innocence and nudity, but it will avail you nothing. I shall have my druthers or die trying, and so I reiterate: where? Answer swiftly or pay with your pussy!

He waves the cat at her.

INT. TURNER’S CAR – DAY

The car speeds on. Sand cascades through the egg-timer.

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – DAY

If moves gracefully towards the noose in the room’s centre, carrying Sheena’s cat.

SHEENA

Maybe if you’d tell me what it is you’re looking for –

If stuffs Edward Woodward through the noose and secures the rope around the animal’s waist. Then he picks up a carpet beater.

MR. IF

Where? Where? WHERE?

WHACK! He wallops the cat’s arse and sends it arcing round the room on its rope, yowling.

EXT. SHEENA’S FLAT – DAY

Turner and Howie arrive. Respectively bounding and hobbling from the car they find the Nurse from the hospital wearing a blindfold and an usherette’s tray full of oranges standing with her feet in a basin of water by the door.

TURNER

This is a bad sign.

He barges on.

Howie stares at the immobile Nurse.

HOWIE

Boo.

She gives a little theatrical jump. Howie hurries on.

INT. STAIRWELL – DAY

Turner dashes upstairs only to be faced with Sheena’s neighbour, Miss Hing. What she lacks in depth she makes up for in width.

Turner steps aside to let her by. She side-steps in the same direction to let him by. He steps the other way. She does too.

Howie appears behind Turner, snarls savagely, Miss Hing collapses against the railing in terror, and the two men hurry past.

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – DAY

Edward Woodward continues to orbit the room.

SHEENA

NO!

She frees an arm, and a coconut falls off, exposing a breast. She shrieks and covers herself. If prepares to wallop Edward Woodward again.

MR. IF

Your womanliness cannot save you now, Mr. Babenco. The file, please.

He swats Edward Woodward’s backside again.

SHEENA

The file? It was on the back of the sofa –

A hammering at the door.

MR. IF

(smarmy)

I like you, you’re a nice lady.

He looks at the sofa. Bare-backed. If is indignant.

MR. IF

Trifle with me and you’ll get your desserts!

INT. SHEENA’S HALLWAY – DAY

Turner shoulders the door open. They burst in.

A BLINDING FLASH

– and then the two men are staggering, dazed. Something has happened, but what?

The only sound is the TV news:

NEWSCASTER (OS)

A dentist in Queensferry has become a small sun. Spokesmen said they didn’t like it, it was a bad colour.

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – DAY

Too late. Sheena and If are gone.

Edward Woodward is wearing a sombrero, poncho and Zapata moustache. Meow.

Scrawled on the wall in red paint, the word cat.

Another moustache is pasted to the TV screen, decorating the newscaster.

A Polaroid camera sits atop the set.

NEWSCASTER (T.V.)

Two Scottish Members of Parliament have been dressed in plate armour and fellated by blacksmiths –

Turner switches off the TV, picks up the camera. An undeveloped snap depends from its undercarriage.

An image emerges. Howie and Turner, posing merrily with Sheena and If in the hall – thumbs up. Howie strumming a ukulele. Hawaiian flower garlands all round.

TURNER

Who took this? And why don’t I remember it?

Edward Woodward pads out the door, full of purpose. Howie and Turner look at each other, then follow.

INT. STAIRWELL – DAY

Edward Woodward stops and sits at the top floor landing. A ladder leads up to a hatch into the attic.

HOWIE

I don’t like heights.

Turner starts up the ladder.

TURNER

I’m not wild about them myself.

Howie follows a few steps, then freezes in fear.

EXT. ROOFTOP – DAY

Turner emerges from a skylight.

Mr. If stands on the summit of the roof, a large burlap sack slung over one shoulder.

A moan that could be Sheena’s.

INT. STAIRWELL – DAY

Howie slowly nears the top of the ladder, but finds it very difficult to transfer himself into the attic.

EXT. ROOF – DAY

Turner edges up the steep slant of the roof towards the pinnacle. If nonchalantly saunters away from him.

INT. ATTIC – DAY

Howie makes it into the attic space. A musty rocking horse in a dunce’s cap nods at him rhythmically. A cardboard sign hung round its neck advises STAND UP OR GIVE UP.

Through a skylight he sees blue sky. He closes his eyes and jumps up –

EXT. ROOF – DAY

Howie hauls himself through the hatch and immediately rolls down the roof. He opens his eyes and screams like a woman.

Turner, balancing on the tip of the roof, loses concentration and stumbles. He does the splits over the crest of the building.

If reaches the edge of infinity. Below him, the street.

Howie’s legs dangle over the drainpipe as he scrambles to get back onto a solid surface. With scrabbles back up the roof-slope.

Turner takes out a pair of handcuffs.

TURNER

Now. Now.

If turns, grins and throws his big sack over the side.

HOWIE

No!

The sack explodes on Turner’s car, caving in the roof. The sack is full of potatoes.

If strides towards Turner. A brief scuffle and Turner falls, his hands cuffed together. He rolls helplessly down the roof towards an imminent death.

TURNER

Oh bollocks.

Howie has just reached the tip of the roof and backs away fast as If bears down on him.

MR. IF

Take me home, Daddy!

Turner catches the gutter and dangles.

Howie backs into a chimney. He grabs a TV aerial and swings himself round so that the chimney is between him and If.

If points into the street.

A struggling Sheena, dressed for some reason in a decorator’s paint-stained dungarees, flippers and a giant foam stetson, is being shoved into a car by four Ballerinas.SwanLakeplays on the car stereo.

Turner manages to drag a knee up onto the gutter.

MR. IF

It’s a pleasure to take your acquaintance. You must be the human element everybody’s talking about. You know, on a bright blue day like this it almost seems a pity to be ending the world.

Howie blinks at him.

MR. IF

You’re absolutely right, Miss Streisand. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it. Hoppla!

WOOSH!

A chimney sweep’s brush ERUPTS from the chimney pot nearest Howie. He steps back in alarm and falls, bumping into Turner who has just climbed to his feet at the roof’s brink.

They teeter together.

MR. IF

A sweep is as mucky

As mucky can be,

And so I cry,

“Weep weep! Weep weep!”

The ballet dancer car putters off erratically.

Howie and Turner fall on their faces onto the roof tiles.

They gasp like landed fish for a moment, then look up.

If is gone. Only a yellow flag gesticulates in the wind.

HOWIE

Historically, the sign of quarantine. Plague!

INT. STAIRWELL – DAY

A red X is painted on Sheena’s front door. Turner and Howie descend. Howie grips the banister and moves very slowly. They meet Miss Hing, quite recovered.

MISS HING

Hello, loves. He had a message for you. He said he would see you in Bolivia.

They look blank.

MISS HING

No, that wasn’t it. Not Bolivia — oblivion. That’s the one.

To Be Continued…

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