Tuesday, January 15, 2008

David Byers-Brown, Part 2

Back in 1974, I was a big film buff and every year bought a British film industry almanac. Richard William's Nasruddin, or The Thief Who Never Gave Up (I don't remember which) was announced as coming out the next year at least two years running. I didn't like the drawings on the ads, but the idea of an Islamic minature design animated movie created a strange exotic yearning in me. It was something to do with illustrations based on minature designs for The Arabian Nights I had, that seemed to have a completely alternate way of seeing the world. My mother gave me a copy of a book by Idres Shah featuring tales about Nasruddin-,an Islamic folklore character, for Christmas around then. This was illustrated by Richard Williams in a funky outline style I thought looked low effort and didn't like, like a bad rip off of a cartoonist I admired called Arnold Roth. I thought the stories were lame and unfunny as well. In an unconnected way, I also subscribed to Sight and Sound-the magazine of the british film institute, and this had a perplexing article in the early seventies where Richard Williams talked about trying to save the expertise of these old Hollywood animators who's knowledge and skills was about to die out. There was a picture of some guy named Art Babbit who looked a right old unsympathetic bastard, whom Dick had got over to London. I didn't really understand it.
I forgot all about Richard Williams and animation by the age of 18 in 1978, but I became obsessed about the deeper reality of the world. By a route through reading in and around Jung, Castenada, Gurdieff and J.G.Bennet , I rediscovered an un-illustrated Idres Shah. Idres Shah was a Pakistani or Afghani -born British journalist who developed a huge line and much 1970's celebrity by writing on Sufism-the mystical tradition in Islam. His stories and writings aren't that good, but the collections of sayings and folktales from Sufic tradition he published blew me away. I must have read some of them every day for about 5 years, they struck me as so important. The stuff he presented seemed to represent the most accurate and sophisticated psychology I'd ever come across, which kept bring you back to believing that the claims of a deeper and higher level of being they contained must be true. At the back of my mind was the uninteresting memory that this was the writer who was associated with that Richard Williams animator guy and his non-appearing film.
In 1984, I wasn't aiming to get a job specifically at his studio, I was desperate to get a job at any animation studio- they were the only one that offered me a job. Uncannily, a few years before, there was a BBC documentary about Dick and his unfinished film which featured a scene where he was berating Vince Woodcock, then a young assistant, on his imperfect inbetweening of the witch's basket. Being by then quite mystically inclined (perhaps insane), I was very struck by a sensation of the dropping of distance between myself and the television screen as I watched this- I suddenly seemed to be in that far off room with them, in a very direct way unlike the suspension of disbelief that normally goes with TV watching. I could feel the chill from the thick brick walls of the London studio, and Dick's voice seemed to be next to my ear, although I was in Scotland. I momentarily was convinced that I would work there for him, was connected to him, that I already knew these people. But it quickly faded.

1 comment:

Matt J said...

hmmmmmmmmmmm, spooky. . .
do tell more. . .