P&J Column for 18.11.13

The Hidden Depths of ‘The Bear and The Hare’ – laid bare!

J. FERGUS LAMONT, Arts critic and author of ‘‘Show me the Monkeys’ – My Summer as a Guide at the Grassic Gibbon Centre’

Regular readers will be aware that my opinion of the chattering gogglebox known as television is so low as to be positively subterranean.   But, amongst the audio-visual effluvium, one occasionally stumbles across a true delight.  Last night’s chance encounter with a short piece by the experimental film-maker John Lewis provided just such an epiphany.

I’m ashamed to say that I have not immersed myself in any of his previous work, and I understand that he produces but one short film a year, but his latest thought-provoking pasquinade captivated me from start to finish.  Most readers will have missed this oscar-worthy masterpiece, which received little, if any, promotion, but I can assure you it is the most coruscating satire of our aspirational consumer culture that I have ever witnessed. And I include in that the Singing Kettle’s blistering ‘Magic Wishing Well’.

Mr Lewis uses hand-drawn animated animals to coolly lampoon the excesses of commercialism, much as Disney did in their polemic against overfishing, ‘Finding Nemo’. The film opens with a bear and a hare enjoying a leisurely perambulation through a woodland idyll.  But there are already cracks in the relationship as the energetic, hard-working hare rides atop his lethargic ursine companion, symbolising our society’s elevation of the value of industry over contemplation.  Indeed, the sedentary bear finds the constant activity of the hare overwhelming and retires to his cave, much as John and Yoko retired to their hotel bed in 1969, seeking only ‘Peace’. The hare then enlists some equally industrious and acquisitive forest dwellers to help show the indolent bear the error of his ways. Their labours result in a garishly decorated tree (nature, despoiled by consumerism) and the Orwellian horror of perpetual daylight, and with the help of a cruelly placed alarm clock, the bear is roused from his slumber to “see the light”.

With a clear nod to the oeuvre of the Cohen Brothers, the piece ends abruptly, inviting the viewer to draw their own conclusion, but only one conclusion is possible  – that, as Marx predicted, capitalism contains within it the seeds of its own destruction – movingly conveyed by the fact that the bear has been forced to emerge from hibernation in December rather than March. The cold conditions and lack of food will, of course, cause him to die a slow and bitter death.

I wept.

Entertainment news with showbiz insider Shelley Shingles (Miss Fetteresso 1993)

It’s always a shame when one of my showbiz pals gets a hard time in the press.  Last week it was celebrity bookie and fashion innovator John McCririck’s turn to get his name and reputation dragged through the mud.  But I bet it made a fine change from him getting dragged through a hedge backwards!

Poor John was raging that he lost his age discrimination case against Channel 4 Racing.  He reckons they only got rid of him because he was old.  Sadly for him, the panel unanimously agreed that the average viewer found “repulsive”.  Who knew you could get the sack off the TV for that? Piers Morgan must be bricking it.

I would never slag off a broadcaster who’s talents were so amply displayed on such shows as Big Brother and Wife Swap, but he did kind of let himself down when he claimed it was all a conspiracy run by mysterious suits and skirts!  Talk about sour grapes, LOL!  His Big Brother appearance was a revelation though, especially when he wandered about in nothing but his massive keks – OMG what a sight!  I hadn’t seen that much ghostly-white gooseflesh since I went skinny-dipping at the Falls of Feugh with Charlie Allan!

Of course, me and John go way back.  We first rubbed shoulders down at Perth races in 1989.  He was trackside, shouting the odds (LOL!) and I was there in my capacity as spokes-model for one of the North-East’s premier brands.  I have to say that with his cigar, deerstalker hat and sideburns he looked ridiculous, and I was embarrassed to be near him, as the face of Grampian Country Foods in my oven-ready chicken costume!  Our paths did cross eventually though and I’ll never forget what he said to me. “How on earth do you go to the toilet in that thing?”  Wise words from a true gent.

‘Cava’ Kenny Cordiner, the football pundit who kicks off in the tunnel.

It was an international weekend in the football, so I got the chance to catch up with some of that minority sports on the telly.  There was a lot of noise gotten up about the Indian batsman, Sachin Tendulkar. He has thrown in the trowel, anddecided to hang up his wicket after his 200th test.  200 tests?  That is unbelievable.  I passed my test on the 6th atempt, which, according to my calcifications makes me 33 times better than this Tendulkar character.  And I don’t even play croquet!