I used to work as a porter in the conference section of a Gatwick hotel. It was on the second floor, and when everyone went home at 5 or 6pm, the entire floor was deserted and silent. My late shift finished at about 10pm, and my last job was to lock the conference rooms and switch the lights out for the whole floor. Where were the master light switches? They were right at the end of a corridor, into the concrete stairwell and into a claustrophobic cupboard, where after pulling down all the massive switches, you had to walk back along the pitch black corridor, past all the locked doors (I'm sure I locked them all, I'm sure I did...). Try as I might to think of nice things, The Shining always popped into my head, especially the twin girls and the woman in the bath. It was a long corridor, but I couldn't run, because that would make imagination real.
I first became aware of Yves Chaland when 'Le Testament de Godefroid de Bouillon' appeared in Heavy Metal magazine in 1987 and I was swept away by his mastery of the clear line and the quirky but adventurous plot, not to mention the fact that Lombard bore more than a passing resemblance to Tintin! On my recent Paris trip I purchased volume 1 of the Chaland collection, and soon learning the books had been translated, I found volume 2.
The second collection contains two stories, 'Holiday in Budapest', set during the Hungarian revolution, and 'F.52', which takes place aboard an atomic super-plane on its way from Paris to Melbourne. Chaland's artwork is beautiful and he really loves to play with the reader, you just don't know where the story is going to turn next. The first strip mixes tight comedy with some quite black moments, including the suicide of an AVO officer, but a little bit of sex also creeps into the stories in a subtle way - just right. 'F.52' is the stronger tale, and is really quite remarkable. It echoes Hergé's idea that he wanted to do a Tintin story set entirely in an airport. Chaland goes a step further and places the action entirely on an aeroplane. Many authors might make the spy strand of this story the main element, but Chaland keeps this just about bubbling away in the background, turning our main attention to the mix up of two little girls and a particularly scary couple who seem to live in a demented world of their own. The scene where the father releases the ramp and the golden sun streams onto him is fantastic.
Yves Chaland's artwork looks as though it was created in the 1950s as it exudes the look of an idealised version of that time period in style and atmosphere, with more than a passing nod to La Nouvelle Vague. Actually they were created in the 1980s, and Chaland himself died in a car crash at the age of only 33 in 1990.
It was a hugely enjoyable experience which caused laughter of the silly (sometimes groaning) type practically all the way through. The three main performers were very good, especially Toby Sedgwick who was basically cast as the minor player, but his physical acting and facial expressions were excellent, and his harmonica spot whilst attached to five French revolutionaries was gut-achingly funny. The slapstick aspect of the two main performers (Alessi and Keaton) was not as polished, and perhaps reflected the fact they've been doing it so long and the technique had taken over, but this was an advantage as far as comic timing went, which was pinpoint. A lot of their performance relied on the affection we all had for Eric and Ernie and it worked well. The special guest (there is a mystery guest at every performance) was revealed to be Neil Morrisey, who, just like the guests on Morecambe and Wise, was there to feed the comedy of the main act.
Very nice meal before hand, by the way, at Alduomo.
Read it by clicking here.
I've been meaning to update my little photo-through-time Flash animation on the about me page for some time now, and have done it at last. Now you can press buttons, and I have scooped as many years as I could. So, visit my biog page, or click here to see it on its own.
Older films bear the language of cinema more bluntly than most modern films, and I love this aspect. The visual language of the film carries much more of the storytelling, it's more apparent and this is translatable to comic strips. Today the grammar of movie making is more intuitive, even subliminal, whereas in the earlier days it was thought about more obviously and therefore - in most cases - more carefully. Silent films in particular were forced to show rather than tell, resulting in some wonderful storytelling. It's not absent today, but is much more hidden, and quite often I think it is forgotten. My article on 'A Woman of Paris' goes into some of my admiration for this side of film story.
So, if you want to buy yourself a copy, get over to www.rainboworchid.co.uk and visit my online shop!
This is the first holiday I've been on where I've noticed almost everyone had some form of digital camera constantly attached to their eyeballs. Indeed, I wondered if some people even looked at the sights with their naked eyes at all! There seemed to be this sort of 'recording frenzy' going on. Quite amusing really.