I am not a huge fan of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo. They are rather too pleased with themselves and listening to them there is more of a banter – and not a very funny one – between them and less of an informed analysis of films. In France film criticism is taken far more seriously. The new wave of the fifties spearheaded by Jean Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer started as critics on Les Cahiers du Cinema knew their cinema.
However, my faith in British cinema critique was restored by Neil Brand. He pops up in the more cerebral Film Programme of Francine Stock on Radio 4 analysing film scores. He is an expert on all forms of film music and brilliantly will show how the mood of the film is depicted in the score, often playing a few bars himself. His programme on BBc 4 last night was more about the history of songs and recordings but to examine it in depth it needed he did cover films with footage of Al Jolson it the first talkie The Jazz Player. The great thing about Brand, unlike so many on television, is he puts the subject first and him second. Overweight and with a radio face, he lets his knowledge and enthusiasm do the talking. The programme last night covered the early history of recording from Edison and the first recorder of music to the gramophone, radios and microphones. He showed how crooners like Bing Crosby used the microphone physically as well as musically as part of their repertoire or Louis Armstrong dropped his music sheet but because of time constraints had to continue recording, improvised – thus creating a whole new style based on skat.
He was particularly interesting on Irving Berlin who learned his trade on the meltting pot of emigre New York. Surprisingly though there was less on Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Sadly there are only 3 programmes as this would make a 6 part series at very least. As it is , I am hooked every Friday at 9 pm.