The rush through the great red dragon

Hannibal Season 3, Ep 8 The Great Red Dragon,. Francis Dolarhyde watching his handiwork (Click image for source)

One more episode of the season gone, thankfully with a new story line. I really can’t say enough how glad i am to see the back of Verger and the pigs. Talk about all too many images i wish i hadn’t seen and could forget…

But at least i stuck with it for consistency sake and it also allows to sift through the process, the weekly business of the show and actually pick out the changes inserted with the new story line.

The music is more diverse or slightly more complex than it has been recently where sole percussion was predominant. It makes for a slightly less constrictive sound universe which is good, particularly with the reduced dialogue. But it does keep us firmly in the same atmosphere. It’s got more colours but it doesn’t sound fresh or different as far as i’m concerned. But it is one of the aspects i like most, it appeals to my ears and i wouldn’t want anything else to replace it.

I am getting a bit tired of the greys through… It seems to always be late autumn and winter in this show, always twilight. In the first images i really felt like saying: ‘really just a bit more light, i can’t even see his face or tell his expressions really well’. I really think they went a shade too dark. Dolarhyde is supposed to be in a public environment, in daylight. I wouldn’t change the lighting at his house, but i think a bit of contrast between the two would have been beneficial. This way it just dragged the grey into my eyes and the uniformity of the colour pallete started bothering me. Of course not helped by the fact that we no longer have Hannibal’s colourful suits to break the monotony. He’s now stuck in a grey onesie, Dolarhyde wears, if anything πŸ˜‰ variations of greys and kakis and nobody else really brings any colour into the place. With Hannibal out of the picture temporarily and Bedelia Β (but also Margot) gone it was dark and grey. Or more like aged photography kind of faded to be fair or more true to the actual colour palette. The thing about it though is that the beauty of the image has always disturbed me given the content of the story… And it is only interesting for so long; too often, this season particularly, i have been bored with everything and looked at it almost as one looks at a design and decoration magazine. And Bedelia was such a splendid decoration πŸ™‚ As was Margot to be fair and her fabulous clothes!

Sorry, i still don’t care a jot about Alana. I liked her more with longer hair and less conservative clothing. Other than giving Hannibal a knife to free himself i still don’t see the point of her in this series and that knife could have been brought along by anybody else. Including Hannibal’s long lost relative who i thought made for a much more compelling female character. Both her and Chilton seem to have fallen into the mundane and boring, maybe Hannibal free really did make them up their game before? The dialogue was certainly nothing to write home about and i just zoomed out and looked at the decoration in the room instead.

The double entendre jokes were a bit more icky than sexy this time, the last time i laughed i think is still with Bedelia and her oysters πŸ™‚ The last bit of writing that i liked or thought finally clever again was actually in Digestivo where in a separation of sorts Will say to Hannibal he would no longer think of him, he would not consider where he was, he would simply banish him from his thoughts. Weird though it sounds that gave me satisfaction, as i felt i had a bit of Will from the beginnings back, who was trying to fight back and trying to extricate himself from the dark morass Hannibal had dragged him into. All the more poignant then when Jack came to find Hannibal and it turns out the latter didn’t flee but states he is right there, ready to be taken in and that they will always know where he is πŸ™‚ In the spirit of the show i thought that was a clever response to Will’s declaration. And it did close the circle in a way as Will had been pursuing Hannibal all the way to Florence and now when he was ready to let go, Hannibal refuses to do so. Finally that bit of writing felt like it came back to the interesting dynamics in season 2 without the pretentious snorkly dialogue it had fallen into lately.

Anyway, i felt that was not a bad way to end that part of the season.

Where we pick up with the usuals is not that great. As already mentioned i don’t find the switch between Alana and Chilton interesting or effective, we’ll see what happens. I don’t understand how Hannibal would get to publish in professional journals while he has been declared insane and so escaped the death sentence or life sentence (thus sitting in this psychiatric institution). Too far fetched and so is the idea of Chilton’s book about a new killer.. not likely to happen during active investigations i would think.

Speaking of which, i don’t like Jack as much as i used to. However, this is not a massive surprise as, if they keep close to the novel in that respect, i am going to like him even less going forward. Having said that i can see why Will goes with Jack as there is a much more chemistry there with him than in his household. Unwanted, disturbing and uncomfortable, the connection is there, whereas i’m afraid the happy marriage story they spun around Will was totally unconvincing. There was more care between Will and his dogs than Will and his wife… I didn’t see in her reaction any concern about somebody you love and know will suffer. Even if it is the right thing to do, it felt almost like a neighbour was talking and not a wife. Looks like they just didn’t spend enough time on those scenes or managed to build any rapport. Maybe there will be more but this was very disappointing. In the book there is much more of a sense of struggle, of importance in his current life.

Will/Dancy is as good as ever and i was happy to see doubt about going back to what his head does, even if we know it is inevitable. At least it didn’t feel like the pull of a drug anymore. For my own i am sure temporary comfort, i am happy Will is not playing with the dark side for now. Not talking here about his reconstructions, but about how he came to justify and rationalise murder and instigate it even.

Generally, after a few episodes which had been increasingly hard on my stomach and my nerves this was light relief. Digestivo was much worse than the ending of season 2 and i was very close to dropping it as it turned very true horror and once again confirmed that when the series goes true to genre i just can’t stand it.

But ep.8. was a bit deceptively light, i suspect mainly because they had to go through a lot of restating all relationships given the time span. They still managed to ruin another dish for me and this time they took on hot chocolate. When i saw milk flowing i knew it was too good to be true and sure enough, soon the blood started dripping, ew. The irony of plastic spoons was not lost on me but i hate them for ruining melted chocolate for me 😦 It made me nearly vomit every time Chilton licked his spoon. At least i can ignore Alana to the point where i can almost blink out her complaint about drinking a piece of somebody in her beer… yuk! And there goes my hope of being free of any culinary tortures for 1 episode… At least there was no sausage in sight, thank G-d for small mercies! The reference to those in the last episode was not even funny.

And then we had all the ‘fun’ of Will’s reconstruction of Dolarhyde’s murder, including blood gushing all over the house, etc. (I didn’t much blink, which tells the sad story of how a gruesome series such as this dulls even the most acute instincts 😦 Β )

Accompanied once again by censorship of human form when it is non-violent and non-crime related.. siiiiighhhh. No, let me say that again SIIIIIIGH!!!! I still have to put down my thoughts about censorship and how it seems to work these days, including in this show where it is a bit on and off, probably according to the time the censors have to dedicate to an individual episode. I just don’t get it and i never will.

But, usual business aside i was eagerly anticipating the new content and the start of the new story line. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out they had actually given it all away in the trailer and in the few images of the episode made available publicly before the show was aired. Add to that the interview content and there was almost nothing left, bar a small scene. They built it up so much that i really thought the trailer would only be a tiny preview of what the episode would actually contain and not only this episode but the also next ones.

I understand that they are trying to keep the show alive, find it a new home, a new format etc, but i can’t help but feel frustrated when in their process of marketing they screw the viewing pleasure/interest for me. I almost felt like shouting ‘hey! i am still watching!’. The issue arises mostly because this is not a plot strong show, at least not this season. The show is for me almost 70% visuals, and this includes character interaction which is very visually driven and 30% dialogues, plot etc. With the Red Dragon story, the plot isn’t even an issue since once one has read the book there is little unknown about the ‘plot’ element. Since the musical universe is also sort of familiar, the strongest element of novelty are the images. Ok, it is partially my fault as well for watching the trailers, looking at the images, reading the interviews. Still, it remains unusual for so much of the actual scenes in the episode to be given away. It created false expectations for me as i was hoping to see more of how these things tied together but all we got in the end were those shreds.

I have no issue with the balance of split of plots, i never expected anything else and they made it plenty clear that the show would still mainly be about Hannibal & Will and the Red Dragon story line would just be integrated in the overall story. But really, if the time they spend developing that story line amounts to 10 min an episode as it was in this first one the total on offer will be far less than any of the feature films which have addressed it before, quite contrary to what has been discussed. Just sayin’…. I really hope there will be more in future episodes, especially of the back-story we were promised.

I was so pleasantly surprised by what i saw in the trailer and excited about it that i was really craving more.

However, based on what episode 8 showed i am not joining the pity party quite yet πŸ™‚ Β Before you call me a cold-hearted b***h, hear me out πŸ˜‰ A TV series has an obligation to tell a story, to draw us in, to capture our imagination. The series, the stuff on screen… NOT the interviews of cast and producers/directors, not the books and other material they are based upon. We should not be told what it is about and how to feel about it in interviews, we should actually feel it when we watch it.

Now, forget for a moment about the book and the back-story… because you haven’t seen anything of the back-story yet!

What have we seen? We’ve seen murders, of families no less, with horrible handiwork and strange obsessions (mirrors and body parts…). We know the killer’s name and how the press has called him. And we have met the killer.

We see him as an intense, physically very strong man with image issues. Image issues that seem to be concentrated more around his face and a perceived deformity (much greater than the actual visible one). We get a strong sense of obsession and isolation. He appears to be always alone, doesn’t interact with anyone. He’s extremely neat and buttoned up, tight and almost uncomfortable in a skin that feels too tight. It looks as if he is trying to contain very forcefully with order the chaos within. And there seems to be something within as we glimpse when we see him alone in his house, liberated from clothes and human constraints. There is a sense of achievement or striving for something that he idealises and a defeat as soon as he looks into the mirror and the image he sees tells him a different story of reality.

Of the previously un-seen images i liked the broken mirror aspect more, which – as we clearly see in his almost desperately frustrated eyes – still doesn’t manage to hide the faults he sees within himself.

I really liked some choices they made here, not sure if intentional or not. In the scene where we probably see the only vulnerable moment in this episode we watch him dressed in a very soft, open necked sweater and trying to pronounce sounds. It gives a much softer appearance than the buttoned up darker shirt and even the shorts he exercises in. Whereas in the other instances there is a sense of power and aggression there, it is lacking here. For me it was maybe the tiny glimpse that there is more weakness there than the acts we are told about and shown might indicate. But we are simultaneously shown how deep the aggression and the violence runs when, frustrated with his inability to speak as he wishes, he violently attacks himself. It’s startling and unsettling and you are suddenly reminded of who this person is, that he is everything but ‘normal’.

Of course the image is only enhanced by the tattoo and the strange teeth he buys and as we later find out also uses. But up until we see his internal struggle we could very well assume that it is just a crazy idea, some aspiration triggered externally. As we the viewers can ‘see’ nothing wrong with him at first glance, quite the contrary. It’s not until that moment that we understand he’s not just aspiring to become super-human in some fanatical delusion triggered by a painting, but trying to mend and change something he perceives as broken, damaged.

And while we clearly feel the sense of conflict, i would say at this stage it is more frightening than anything else. He’s obviously not achieving what he desires, in spite of tattoo and teeth; the killings are obviously not making him feel more complete and he seems to be getting more imbalanced and frustrated. Essentially i get the sense of somebody who is increasingly loosing control – not gaining some – which makes him very very dangerous. It’s clear that the mockery he sees in the papers will only escalate him.

He’s close to unhinged, not to be pitied, but to be feared.

I am not sure the scene with the film is not too early. As you may have guessed from the title it felt very rushed to me in this episode. He practically goes from the Times mag to a full body tattoo in the blink of an eye, teeth get thrown in, films get thrown in, broken mirrors, etc. It’s all a bit jumbled at times, but mostly a bit rushed. For background and empathy i think it needs to slow down some.

Unless i completely missed it, i don’t think we were told about the filming and we see him there, in home-cinema mode pretty much in the buff and we get a sense of even greater frustration, but i didn’t get a clear sense of what he was watching and certainly not about why he was unhappy with it. Β I also find the discussion about this in interviews confusing. The book on one hand is pretty clear, Dolarhyde is not horrified by what he sees, he is frustrated and unsatisfied with his own performance, essentially it is not good enough, it is not majestic as he expected it to be. I am not sure where the series wanted to go with the scene. It certainly went from disturbed to disturbing as he entangled himself in the bits of film with his head almost transforming into a camera itself. Visually quite a stunning metaphor for what is going on inside him and we do end up wondering which was scarier or more nightmarish, the images on the film or the ones in his head. Or would he like them to have only happened in his head? Mr A seems to indicate in interviews that Dolarhyde is disturbed Β by the images of himself he discovers and almost doesn’t recognise… I am not sure based on the moment this happened in the series that i am entirely convinced by that alternative idea…

While we are at the visuals i really like the environment they have created in the Dolarhyde household, or shall we call it cave? It’s filled with all kinds of clutter, feels certainly older than the rest of buildings we see from the inside and is certainly as un-glamorous as it gets, a nice contrast to the offices in the psychiatric hospital. Will’s house is successfully somewhere in the middle, spelling normality in subtle messages. (As i’ve already said, I swear it makes me feel sometimes i am watching a design show rather than a crime/horror series πŸ˜‰ )

Maybe that is why the silences didn’t bother or surprise me as much. Much has been made of Dolarhyde not speaking but it didn’t feel strange at all. And really, bar Alana and Chilton who are utter chatterboxes the rest of the characters in the show are not great talkers. And both Will and H are almost more successful in communicating non-verbally. The dialogues lately have not been as exciting i felt or as clever, but in some cases fewer words were said to greater impact. But especially with Dancy and beyond the shadow of a doubt with Armitage one only needs the visuals and the background music Β to set the scene and then let their faces and bodies do the talking. So the silences i didn’t think were that unusual. But they were appropriate and very effective. Which is why again it felt almost as if the director was trying to rush through them at times for fear we’d get bored. Not at all! As what was communicated in those scenes was infinitely more meaningful than in the rest.

I know the exercise scenes – if we can call them that- have been much discussed, but i’m happy to say they didn’t feel gratuitous. For my part i have to say i wish the censorship would not be at work and they would have been able to film them as described in the book. But they even had to stick the man in uncomfortably tight pants to keep anything from showing too overtly Β – all tucked in, ouch! Shrugs… as my gran used to say: ‘the naughty thoughts are in the minds of the viewers, not in the story told’ on screen. The censors i bet have a pretty active imagination.

For my part i was more impressed with the details given by the technical crew about the filming of the scene at night, after the crimes had been committed. As the Germans say ‘Hut ab!’ for dedication and also the detail in that scene, i really really hope the fake blood was the sugar syrup type thing usually used for stage as at least that wouldn’t have tasted as awful. i think doing that in the freezing night took guts and determination. Hopefully he didn’t freeze the tips of his ears off πŸ˜‰

So, the episode itself was a bit hit and miss for me and i am holding them to the promise of giving us much more not just this teaser. Well done Mr A for transforming into something so utterly different from yourself from the tips of your lashes to the tips of your toes. I almost feel like i need a massage after watching you wound so tightly…

Off to watch that film /camera scene again to try and make up my mind about what Fuller wanted to say there… And then to watch ep 9.. unspoiled! (no interviews, no trailers, no photos, no more of Mr A’s ramblings, nada, nothing!)

PS I had a good giggle at Hannibal having to use cheap plastic spoons to eat that disgusting goo… revenge is.. sweet? πŸ˜‰ Except i would have gone much further and would have taken away his fancy charcoal pencil and given him crayola instead, in orange and yellow! and lined paper.. see how you get on with that Mr H πŸ˜€

Of people and products

PopThorin wondering why the forest of plastic trees surrounding him is dancing and singing πŸ˜‰

Note – click on photos to enlarge

This will be an exercise in writing disciple as much as a post of various thoughts about the recent London Film and Comicon. Was there a question about the difficult part of blogging in the introspection challenge? Another thing still on my to-do list… I’m finding it really hard at the moment to battle tiredness and weariness from working 8-10h in front of a computer in order to turn it on again and sit in front of it again and do some more writing. When often i just want to let my brain cells chill and read or watch TV (not do housework! ;-)). But this is the way things i really want to say remain unsaid so hopefully i’ll get through this today.

‘Cons’….. strange events to be sure. I don’t think they can be put in any particular box and although there are many things about them that make me uncomfortable or sceptical there are also many things about them that make people very happy. I guess one has to attend one to experience it for oneself and decide if it is your cup of tea or not. Like any such Con this one also contained panels for interviews/discussions, photo/signature opportunities and stands with products on sale. For the (extortionate) high level of ticket we paid i expected many more panels but the proportion was only about 10% of the total, with 60% of the photo/signature activities and the rest trading. It ultimately makes sense as it is a business. The Comicon in San Diego is a bigger scale event, but still it is geared towards sales, just less small trader sales and more big studios/channels sales of specific films/series. However that format results in many more panels which is more interesting for somebody more interested in the details than in buying merchandise.

But i had no idea what the format locally would be in London, so it was a trial and you live and learn πŸ™‚

Several things were not quite perfect, like the organisers introducing a new, higher level ticket about a month or so before the event and then putting events in the schedule only available at that level or at an additional cost to the previous top level. As you may easily guess we decided not to pay even more…

There were no maps of the venue to pick up and none given to the high level ticket holders either. There were some on display in some corners, but you had to get to those first. Luckily i have a decent orientation sense.

The cueing system, when applicable was unclear and inconsistent; in some cases we were let through earlier and in some we had to cue. The sound system in the panel space had not been tested properly with the result that announcements about the upper floors came through on the loudspeakers at full volume while some guests were trying to talk to the audience. Guest was not pleased when it happened for the 3rd time…


Well, there were loads and loads and we diligently and in a very organised fashion i might add walked past every single stand in the place. This took several hours and made for very achy feet and sweaty person πŸ˜‰ Ah did i mention it was really hot and the air-con didn’t really do the job? But at least i wasn’t stuck with a wig and a complicated costumer like some others πŸ˜‰

Against my initial intention to reign spending in i did buy a couple of small things and collected a few business cards πŸ™‚ But nothing substantial. Interestingly enough although Funko dolls seem all the rage, my Popthorin was unique and i didn’t see another one like him! I also searched all Lego stands but alas, no Thorin either 😦 I did see the newest dwarf collection (minus Thorin) and i have to saw the likeness is amazing and they are very detailed and very very cute! Still on my shopping/wishlist for the near future πŸ™‚

Of all the swords and chains and t-shirts and stuff, there was this one idea Β i liked a lot:

wear your favourite book around your neck ;-)

wear your favourite book around your neck πŸ˜‰

Little pendants, barely 2cm long, made like books with the original covers πŸ™‚ Cute, isn’t it?

There is another thing i bought but it shall be revealed at a later date.

There were the autograph sellers of course, i can tell you the going rate for himself is Β£25 for a small one and Β£45 for a A4A size one πŸ˜‰ The funniest thing of all was on stand where i could see pictures of the guy behind the stall with all these celebrities handing all around the stall. And i wondered what the point would be and why would anyone buy a photo of that man with some famous X or Y?? Until it actually dawned on me he was displaying them as proof he had actually been close to the X or Y and had gotten their signature… riiiiiight. Of no interest to me whatsoever. Unless they would be really old photos of film-stars or singers from the 40’s or such or even older, i have little interest in buying a person’s signature on a photo had nothing to do with me. And i certainly would not buy them from people who are in the business of getting stacks signed for the purpose of profit. I am not opposed to signatures/autographs, i have a selected few, less than the fingers of my hand (except classical music CDs ;-)) but those are in context, i remember the circumstances, the event, the chat that preceded them and some have my name of the person was kind enough to ask for it. They are ‘mine’ πŸ™‚ ie signed for me, even if i was one in hundreds πŸ˜‰ And i know why i was there and why i wanted that particular thing – essentially tickets or CD/DVDs only – signed. Before this weekend i didn’t have a single signed photo of anybody. Because really the ticket for the event, even crushed in my handbag, or the actual CD or DVD, preferably of something i’ve seen live, is just so much more meaningful because it comes with many memories attached. Β So,…


There were so many, the place was packed and it was hard to move and hard to breathe..

Game of Thrones people everywhere..

Game of Thrones people everywhere..

There were quite a few costumes and i’ve seen quite a few intricate ones, GoT themes long dresses seem to be favourites with the ladies and David Tennant’s Doctor is still very popular with the gents πŸ˜‰ (i guess the fact that the costume is comfortable and not complicated adds to that, but i have to say they did put a lot of effort in the right shoes and the right hair-do and that isn’t easy ;-)) I even went on a quest in my own wardrobe myself and dug out the yet unworn Dr Who t shirt i bought many years ago πŸ™‚ Forgot to take a pic, but it is essentially a black T, with a profile Schattenriss of DT’s head at the front, only filled out with an image of the universe (stars and all that) and a tiny black Tardis flying across it with Rose popping out of it and the words ‘Bad wolf’ scripted in small next to it. Essentially you’d have to really really know your Doctors to recognise it, which is what i liked about it. Still i never wore it before this weekend, when even wearing it i felt distinctively ‘under dressed’ πŸ˜‰

And annoyed, because i only made the effort as Saturday was due to start very early at 10am with a Dr Who panel, for which we dragged ourselves out of bed only to be kept waiting.. and waiting and.. waiting… only to be told after some 30 mins that the guests had probably gotten stuck in the crowd and never made it. Humph! Not sure what happened but it wasn’t nice. Anyway, water under the bridge (especially since David was not among the guests πŸ˜‰ ).

GoT panel - Finn Jones, Carice van Houten, Daniel Portman, Keisha Castle-Hughes

GoT panel – Finn Jones, Carice van Houten, Daniel Portman, Keisha Castle-Hughes – Daniel is talking about the hardships of doing a brothel scene

There were a few entertaining panels. The GoT actors raved about the beautiful locations they were lucky to film in and Portman, Scottish πŸ˜‰ turned out to have a very dry humour πŸ™‚ I watch the series, but am not the biggest fan so didn’t particularly care if Jon Snow was really really dead or not quite yet. Carice giving birth for hours in a dark damp cave to the shadow baby via an inflatable tummy was more fascinating :-p

Speaking of guests, what made me uncomfortable at times was the ‘meat market’ aspect of some things. At least it felt to me like people become very much a product; which in a strict business sense of course they are, but for me it creates difficulties and emotional barriers in the interaction. It is straight forward to buy something from a stand, but how do you deal with the person put on sale in a way that still makes it humanly relevant?

Hayley Atwell or Marvel's Agent Carter, a really funny lady

Hayley Atwell or Marvel’s Agent Carter, a really funny lady

We didn’t intend to join the photo or autograph cues, however there is a certain freedom at such events to elbow one another and whisper ‘hey, look, that’s what’s his name from that movie’ πŸ˜‰ Β And it did turn out the one thing we had in our tickets were some vouchers for autographs and photos. Not enough as it turns out for 2 of each as we were told because individual signatures/photos turned out to be more expensive than the 1 voucher but enough so that we decided it would be unwise to have it as a total loss. We couldn’t bring ourselves to cue for photos. But, while searching for stairs to avoid the cramped and steaming hot lifts to get from one level to another i stumbled upon an open, aired area and suddenly had in front of me a table with people sat for signing and there was one of my Musketeers πŸ˜€ Sorry to say Tom Burke/Athos must have been out for lunch, but this one sat at his desk so i walked over to at least give the GoT cue at the next table some competition πŸ˜‰ (gotta support in house productions too πŸ™‚ ):

The Musketeers with D'Artagnan/ Luke Pasqualino in the foreground. I liked this photo best.

The Musketeers with D’Artagnan/ Luke Pasqualino in the foreground. I liked this photo best because it had all 4 in it.

We chatted a bit about leather costumes in hot summers and nice horses. He thought my name was beautiful ‘ggg’ and i wished for more seasons of the series πŸ˜‰ And i can confirm he’s got the most chocolatey sparkly eyes and looks even younger in person than on screen. Really nice fella.

Since we still had more vouchers to use we perused the list and decided to intentionally pick one πŸ˜€ to do the next day. And i can’t believe i’m saying this, i actually cued for 45!!!!! mins for a signature. Well, i nearly left every 10 min because i was tired and fed up and just don’t have the patience anymore. But just when i was about to say ‘that’s it, you stay here and i’m walking and looking for a place to sit’ i turned toward the exit/entrance/lift and there he came slowly walking along. It seems people didn’t realise he was coming that way as nobody reacted and few people were turned that way so i looked at him and smiled and he looked back and smiled at me all the way. Guess it was worth the wait πŸ˜‰

Again, i picked a less standard photo, ie not standard for autographs, most in the stacks on offer are against plain backdrops with significant white/grey spaces on the sides so that the actual signature can be more visible. But i just picked the photos i liked best and this one seemed like a lovely portrait:

yes, it is Iain Glen, portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones

yes, it is Iain Glen, portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones

Yet another Scottish actor, i seem to like quite a few of those. I still wonder what drives really busy actors to spend entire days at cons but he certainly seems calm and serene in spite of the masses. He’d been there from about 10 am, had done 2 photo sessions as well and signed the rest of the day, hundreds and hundreds. If i had to take a wild guess he was easily one of the most popular actors there, judging by the never ending cue.

Iain Glen, busy signing and smiling

Iain Glen, busy signing and smiling

Because it was so busy they said no personalised signatures Β (few people stuck to it as i realised afterwards) so i stuck to saying i was hoping to see him on stage in London again and he said he hoped so too, soon. But, that smile before he sat down to ‘work’ was worth a hundred signatures πŸ˜‰

Ah, on a funny note, immediately after as we went in search for a place to sit down we started googling his other films and this photo came up instantly:

Iain Glen in Mountains of the Moon, photo from official site here :

IKR πŸ˜€ He’s also aged really well.

Ultimately, because i wasn’t a particular fan of any of the films with panels, the ones i ended up enjoying most were the ones i knew least about, and those were the comics related panels.It has been ages since i’ve read comics but i loved them when i was a kid, Pif and Rahan in French (especially the latter), Donald Duck &co, Winnetou, etc. I must still have a couple of the books at home…

We were quite privileged to have some of Marvel’s UK top artists in attendance and they participated in a variety of individual as well as group panels talking not only about their work for Marvel but also about their other activities, one of which is storyboarding for series and films. We had artists who have storyboarded for several series of Dr Who , including the 11th doctor last one (Matt) and the 2nd series of the 12th doctor (Capaldi) – Mike Collins, Game of Thrones – Β William Simpson, Β Back to the Future, Star Trek – several versions and much more. They shared not only funny stories from behind the scenes, but also insights into working on set with the director, the actors, the CGI artists, the designers, etc. There was a lot of fascinating discussion about translating movement, spacial organisation into drawings, about learning to draw through the lens of a camera, respecting ‘the line’, about being a crucial trial space for expensive shots and about the excitement of seeing the scene on screen as you have drawn it out πŸ™‚

It was great to then have the same people talk about their work on comics for Marvel, the connections to the heroes on the big screen and the gap between where the comic book universe has evolved to and where it is on the big screen. And luckily they also had their own presentation stands in the exhibition where you could admire some of their actual storyboards for the series as well as original work, inspired by the same characters or completely separate comic universe. If i had walls to fill and money to throw at it, i could have bought some very original stuff. But i have kept in mind for future purchases the artist names, the drawings were stunning and very cool as well πŸ™‚

And i’ve plugged in yet another piece of the puzzle that is the film making process πŸ™‚

I was completely exhausted after those 3 long days and not entirely satisfied, not sure i’d repeat this particular experience. But i’ve learned a few new things, had a few entertaining moments and although this may not be exactly my thing i can see why they are popular as i have seen many many happy people walking away with photos and signatures and all sorts of fan-product. The stuff i took away myself is nice too πŸ˜‰

Hello old friend – and i don’t mean Puccini ;-)

Please click on the link above to view the video, otherwise it is embedded into the ClassicFM article linked below (it’s a promo video but apparently not available everywhere, etc and i can’t embed it here as Vevo and WP seem to hate each other)

Talk about coincidences, this is what dropped into my Inbox this morning πŸ™‚ I knew the CD was coming, it is somewhere in my pre-order list at amazon, but i’d pre-ordered it and then forgot about it. I do have everything he has recorded to date, not all DVDs, but all CDs as it is the audio aspect that interests me more that some productions.

ClassicFM has done a funny little article about it hereΒ πŸ˜‰ Feel free to have a look and don’t throw tomatoes at the photos, i knew, some kid in the office has been at photoshop again and he ain’t very good about it! As you can easily tell by comparison with the live figure in the video πŸ˜€ No idea why they do this stuff and create bad wax replicas in photos, but there you go, money only goes so far with the classical music business and the money goes to the recording process and little is left to pay really good photographers…

I know these videos are made for a purpose, to sell. But i have no issue with that, particularly as it is a tiny market compared to pop music and singers, if lucky, only make about 1 Eur per CD sold. These days it is more to capture a voice for future generations, to get to sing stuff you may not get a chance to do on stage, to collaborate with certain musicians, etc. And these recordings are very expensive to make, pay the orchestra, the conductor, the venue. It used to take several weeks in the past but these days people hardly have the funds to stretch recordings like these for more than 1 week. So it is intense, very hard work, sometimes 6h+ in the studio/hall a day. And that is a lot for singers who under normal circumstances when they performed sing for about 3-5h a night every 3 days on average.

Anyway, enough boring background about the making of πŸ˜‰ This video is a promo about the upcoming CD which contains only Puccini arias. Funny enough Puccini is not my favourite composer at all, BUT the man had a knack for brilliant stage drama and the music can rival the best of movie scored from today. And he picked interesting stories to tell.

I am sure anyone will recognise some arias on this video, the Tosca bits and the Vincero πŸ˜‰ (from Turandot, about an princess who kills all the potential suitors who can’t solve the riddles she sets them πŸ˜‰ this one is set to defeat her however, duh! πŸ˜‰ ) I do like Tosca a lot and not just the well known bits but the duets and the interactions and he is by far my favourite painter, Mario Cavaradossi. I can’t begin to describe the sweetness of his vocal lines when the talks to his lover, the famous singing diva, Floria Tosca. Check this out, from a live performance and listen out for the chuckles, smooching sounds and all that πŸ˜‰

It is one of my favourite roles of his, among other things because i was there when he sang it for the first time, in London with Tony Pappano (same conductor as on the upcoming CD) a bit over 7 years ago πŸ™‚ Another very fond memory of those nights (went to see it 3 times πŸ˜‰ ) is the way the hall went dead silent when he sang his last year just before he knew he was going to die, saying good bye to his memories of her and to life in general and hearing the sighs and sobs of people around me, men and women alike. In fact people were so utterly moved, nobody dared to clap at the end of the aria and that is, as far as i know unheard of. Because you see, in opera, arias are there to impress with vocal proves, with high notes and it can be so exciting to hear you forget what the singer sang about and cheer him for what he is able to accomplish with his voice. Β Now imagine somebody who puts his all into it and all he gets is…. silence πŸ™‚ We actually had to tell him what people were experiencing after the show, as he thought something had gone wrong for the usual reaction not to happen. As he says in the video, Pappano knew him better maybe than he knew himself as an artist at the time and gave him this role to own, at a time when nobody in an opera house as big as the ROH would have considered to pick him for something as challenging and high profile. And boy was it special πŸ™‚ I remember wanting to come back again and again and again (i wasn’t living in London at the time) until a ‘certain someone’ said: ‘don’t, it’s enough, i’ll do this again’.

And i have seen it quite a few more times and hope to see it some more πŸ™‚

His Mario i’ll never get bored with. But there is another role on the CD and of Puccini that i particularly like, he mentions him in the video as well, the story of the bandit, saved by a strong woman πŸ™‚ Puccini adored his leading ladies and his operas are mostly showcases for sopranos. But i like this story because it was written at the beginning of the century when stories of strong women were not necessarily a staple on stage and it is nice that for once the hero is not the tenor πŸ™‚ This aria, which happens towards the end of the opera is therefore special, because it captures a moment of utter vulnerability. He has been captured, his bandit days are over and he is prepared to die hanging and asks them to not tell her about his death but pretend he has gotten away and if living a life of freedom (And then she comes and convinces them to let him go as she believes he is reformed and she can save him; the opera actually has a happy ending, which is unusual!).

So there it is, video from a live performance this time, Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano (let her believe me free and far away from here..):

Looking forward to the CD now, not only because of the nice memories it has brought back, but because this is the most thrilling, powerful, rich, raw and emotional voice i have ever heard live on an opera stage πŸ™‚ Mille grazie Jonas πŸ™‚

Ageing beautifully

β€˜Retirement is a bit like dying. You know you’re going to die, but you don’t stop what you are doing because of that,’ says Edward Watson. Photograph: Nadav Kander for the Observer

Last year i thought a lot of ageing and what it means and what it does to my body, this year it is not at all an issue or rather i have a different view about it and age per se is no longer a priority or even something i think about; strange how something that seems a hurdle can end up being very liberating when crossed πŸ™‚

But i’m not a ballet dancer! In their case age and how the body changes with it is a much more vital issue. But it seems it can be liberating too, according to this fascinating article in the Guardian.

Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson rehearse Other Stories at the Royal Opera House in London. Photograph: Nadav Kander for the Observer

Whelan/Watson: Other StoriesΒ Β will be i’m hoping one of the highlights of my year, i’m looking forward to seeing them dance next Sunday (details in the link included in the title of the works).Β  Wendy Whelan, one of America’s greatest ballerinas, ex NY City Ballet, is joining our own Ed Watson for a unique ballet project and it will be an incredible privilege to see them dance together.

β€˜I started dancing at three, but it was only when I reached 12 that they found I had curvature of the spine,’ says Wendy Whelan. Photograph: Nadav Kander for the Observer

But there is another reason i’ve been meaning to talk again about Watson. Not only has he changed my view of ballet dancers but he is still an inspiration every time i see him dance. He makes me forget it is dancing, makes me forget steps and such things and all i see is a character, a person, an expression of feelings and emotions. He is the best actor dancer i have ever seen live and i am always glad to read or hear he still plans to go on for a few more years as i know i’ll feel bereft of a lot of beauty when he will no longer be on stage. But thankfully that is still many years away πŸ™‚

And although this is old news by now i have to say massive Congratulations for the MBE the Royal Ballet principal dancer has been awarded in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.Β The recognition is so well deserved and for me he is the perfect expression of why dancing is so much more than technique.

Edward Watson in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake for Sampling The Myth, The Royal Ballet Β© ROH/ Alice Pennefather

I know this is not a substantive post πŸ™‚ But i wanted to celebrate one of the artists i find incredibly inspiring and remember thus one of the reasons why i like living in London. It’s been a week of harsh realities and you come to question if it is all worth it and if living here isn’t just simply crazy…

But Ed Watson is one of the pleasures life in London brings with it and i really wanted to remember the positives πŸ™‚ So here he is, one more photo (more to be found in the gallery for the Guardian article and the ROH news article linked above for your enjoyment).

Edward Watson Photograph: Nadav Kander for the Observer

Thanks Ed for being the dancer that you are, can’t wait for Sunday πŸ™‚