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DVD Review: Marlow Meets

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British art historian and television presenter Tim Marlow’s latest show Marlow Meets features Michael Palin (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days), Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Life Is Sweet), singer Tony Bennett, fashion designer Paul Smith, and operatic soprano Renée Fleming.

The idea behind Marlow Meets is to show how visual art has informed and inspired other artists in their lives and careers. Marlow believes that creative people are drawn to art and has asked a diverse group of people to talk about specific pieces of art that have been important in their lives. He is best known for his British television series Tim Marlow On … which featured the art of Holbein, Caravaggio, Hockney, and many others.

[L-R: Marcus Gheeraerts (Palin) and Ronald Searle (Leigh)]

The disc has a total running time of 115 minutes. Each segment runs 23 minutes as Marlow and his guest stroll through their favorite gallery or art museum and discuss drawing, paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Episodes can be selected and viewed in any order. There are no extra features.

The episodes:

Michael Palin at the Tate Britain, London
Palin grew up with reproductions of Turner and other artists in his parents’ home. As they stand in front of Joseph Wright’s The Iron Forge at the Tate, Palin tells Marlow the story that he thinks is going on in the painting, relating it to the industrial steel town of Sheffield where he grew up. Another painting by Marcus Gheeraerts, his stunning portrait of Lady Harrington, reflects Palin’s love of history, “It’s only through paintings that we get a sense of who the people of history were.” Other favorite artists are J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler, Walter Sickert, and Francis Bacon.

Mike Leigh at the Cartoon Museum, London
Leigh shares his interest and enthusiasm for cartoons and caricature; their humor and social commentary. His favorites include Ronald Searle and his Punch and St. Trinian’s cartoons, which influenced him as a child, and informed how he treated characters later in his own films. Other artists viewed are Kenneth Bird, Rowland Emmett, Donald McGill, Pont, James Thurber, and Phil May.

[L-R: Rembrandt and Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Bennett)]

Tony Bennett at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Bennet feels he is always learning, even at the age of 82. He learns something new from his audience each night, and feels that painting is similar — each painting is a challenge and teaches him something new. Bennett loves the Great Masters, and believes that Rembrandt’s Self Portrait doesn’t just show who he is, but challenges the viewer to ask themselves who they are. He and Marlow also view masterpieces by Diego Velazquez, Édouard Manet, John Singer Sargent, Auguste Rodin, and an impressionistic work by the little-known artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.

Paul Smith at his studio, London
Smith has been collecting art for decades, and takes Marlow on a tour through pieces selected from his personal collection. His office is stacked to the rafters with pictures, books, magazines, and other inspirational objects. He loves a great variety of work, and some of his favorites include a sketch by David Godbold, figure painter James Lloyd, photographer Marc Quinn, painters Craigie Aitcheson and Conor Harrington, and an irreverent painting by Banksy, a spoof on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, with a vase full of dead blooms.

[L-R: Banksy (Smith) and Chuck Close (Fleming)]

Renée Fleming at the Neue Galerie and Chuck Close’s Studio, New York
Fleming views art as a respite from her busy life. Marlow poses that the textures and details in the art that she likes parallels her own love of music. She is drawn towards potraiture, and some of her favorites include the highly decorative and individual Gustav Klimt, and the tortured works of Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. They also visit the art studio of Chuck Close, where they view a large-scale tapestry portrait of Fleming that Close has had made of her. 

What really comes through in each segment of the series is how deeply art has moved each of the people Marlow has met. But you don’t have to be an artist to be touched and influenced by these great objects and images. As Tony Bennett says in his episode, “Art is nothing without feeling.” Marlow Meets is interesting and inspiring and a reminder that there is great art all around us.

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  • http://www.xicanista.net Xicanista

    Sounds interesting. I might check it out.