Monday, July 2, 2007

Doncaster, England

Friends: I'd been engrossed in the National Museum of Film, Television, Radio and Photography for about 45 minutes when a security guard approached me and asked,"Is your bike the one with the load on it? I moved it from against the building over to the railing. With the events of the past two days we have to be careful about such things. I just didn't want you to think it had been nicked."

With its great popularity and peripheral theme of extolling Western culture, the 20-year old, seven-story museum in Bradford in the heart of the country could make an inviting, tho not likely, terrorist target. The country is on high alert after the events at Glasgow's airport. Of much bigger concern is the Tour de France, which ranks right up there with the Olympics and the World Cup and the Oscars as far as international attention goes. Saturday's prologue will be in the heart of London and Sunday's first stage will leave London and head towards Dover and the Chunnel. Security ought to be overwhelming for those two days.

The guard interrupted me just as I had finished watching a most moving and powerful 15-minute compilation of "Iconic Moments" that had been televised over the past 50 plus years. Among them were the collapse of the World Trade Towers, the explosion of the Challenger, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation, the moon landing, Princess Diana's wedding and funeral, England's 1966 World Cup victory. They were just one of many offerings on the floor "TV Heaven." The floor's most popular attraction was an archive of over 1000 of television's most significant programs ranging from Monty Python to Michael Moore and many of the BBC's acclaimed documentaries that one could request to view in one's own private screening area. Or one could just wander about watching random clips being shown on a multitude of screens. There was the woman answering the question, "Which king was married to Eleanor," that made her the first million pound winner in 1999 on the English version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." There was the first English commercial and much, much more.

The exhibits devoted to film were far less comprehensive luckily or else I would have wanted to spend a week or two at the place. But there were some very worthwhile things on offer. There was a special exhibit devoted to Indian cinema. It was largely posters from its earliest days to the present, but there was also an 18-minute program of clips from 16 seminal films starting with Awaara from 1951 up to Being Cyrus and Page 3 from 2005 with Lagaan and Mother India and of course an offering from Satyajit Ray in between. There were a handful of the opulent song and dance numbers that have been the hallmark of Indian cinema since its first talkie, Almara in 1931 with seven such numbers. A handful of small children watching couldn't help but dance along with them.

In the adjoining movie theater was a special exhibit to Roy Alon from neighboring Yorkshire. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he is the world's most prolific stuntman. He had more than 1,000 credits. There were photos of some of his stunts from the Indiana Jones films and Superman and Pink Panther and James Bond. The museum has an IMAX Theater and an exhibit devoted to it, including a window into the projectionist's booth. IMAX was invented by a group of Canadian film-makers and debuted at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka. The seven kilowatt lamp in the projector emits a beam of light so powerful Neal Armstrong could have seen it from the moon.

Another film exhibit was devoted to David Puttman, British producer whose first great success was "Chariots of Fire" in 1981 winning the Oscar for best picture and two other Oscars. There was a photo of my drying beach at St. Andrews with a flock of runners accompanying the exhibit. Puttman went on to produce The Killing Fields, The Mission and Midnight Express. He was knighted in 1995.

Along with terrorism, the big story in England is the weather. Its been raining incessantly. I'm in a region now with excessive flooding, making the camping a little more challenging. There was a 43 car pile-up on a highway a day ago. Some of the superhighways that are are recessed have filled with water making them more desirable for vehicles with hulls than with wheels. But the terrain has flattened and I'm fast closing in on London.

Later, George

No comments: