Thursday, 17 September 2009


"Art? God fucking spare me."

Better known for playing spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, Jock actor, Peter Capaldi, almost spoils this otherwise excellent documentary on the history of Scottish portraiture.

"Just fucking shut the fuck up."

He was all over it like the pox; it was as though his contract stipulated that for every minute of Scottish pictures there had to be two minutes of Capaldi's cadaverous iffy scholarship, as though the paintings would not hold an audience and the programme depended upon Capaldi's air of Tucker-like menace.

"Who was it done your media training, Myra fucking Hindley?"

or as the Beeb puts it

""Peter Capaldi explores the story of Scotland's art. He had a talent for drawing and a love for art that took him to art school in Glasgow, but soon after graduating he became an actor. Capaldi spends time with the paintings and the artists that have made Scottish art special. He sketches some of the most important Scottish portraits, and by focusing on the tradition of portraiture that goes back 500 years, Capaldi shows how Scotland's art has reflected the changing face of the nation."

Living in Scotland, best part of England, is like inhabiting the mind of a publicity-crazed Z-list celebrity. Everyday it's another form of querulous self-obsession: How am I Scottish? Whaduzitmean to be Scottish? What is Scotland's place in the world? Are we a big small nation ? Or are we too big to be small, too small to be big? Have we actually shaped the entire modern world ? Why are we always pissed, beating our wives and dropping down in the filthy streets from obesity heart attacks? Isn't Sean Connery the greatest actor of all time, the Proclaimers bigger than the Beatles, Lulu the Maria Callas of rock'n'roll?

Capaldi and his producers offer more of the same, Scottish art, particularly it's portraiture, the cruelly unrecognised rival to the world's greatest paintings. It is nothing of the sort but by God it's not bad.

Like most things Jock, Capaldi's programme comes with irritants but the pictures and their settings are fabulous and although the editing lingers overlong on Capaldi and his own indifferent sketching, he is nevertheless both annoying and refreshing as an arts presenter.

And at ninety minutes it is too long for Capaldi's self referential delivery and too short to accommodate the breadth of history he attempts - a brief, impassioned denunciation of the Highland Clearances and their later Victorian aristocratic colonisation, a bitter reproach to Scott's invention of the shortbread-and-tartan mythology, yet not a word of Culloden.

A quirky, idiosyncratic bit of programming, flawed and unskilled in places, unlike the Beeb's Baroque series earlier in the year but as we say in Scotland, a man's a man for a' that and the juxtaposition of a TV satire villain with the considerable Scottish artisitic heritage makes interesting TV. It is definitely worth a close look; which is clearly what Mr Capaldi, below, thinks of himself.

"Painters? Fucking pansies. I shit on them."

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Mrs B said...

I was going to watch this but I couldn’t face yet another mouthy “in your face” presenter as well as the other half saying “why the fuck doesn’t he shut up and let us see the bloody painting.“ (I’ll try and see it on iPlayer though - I like the portraits). The BBC series on the pre-Raphaelites was very good. I was once fortunate to be in the Tate and was able to view ‘Ophelia’ close up, completely alone for about ten minutes. It was magical.

call me ishmael said...

The other half is half-way right on this, Mrs B, Capaldi is mouth personified but on balance it is well worth watching, for the paintings and the patchy bits of Scottish history.

That business of being alone with a great painting is amazing, that's why the rich buy them and lock them away privately, I guess.

Caractacus said...

A while back, I had to live for a few months in Cockburn Street, Edinburgh - a stone's throw from the National Gallery of Scotland. I went there a few times and have to say they had a excellent collection of works by Scottish painters. I can't remember them all, but the painter Wilkie comes to mind as one of the best.

I don't know the actor Capaldi that well as I no longer have a television but I do remember him in the film, 'Local Hero'. I think one of the reasons I stopped having a television was because the BBC started getting celebrities to front their arts programmes. I found it depressing.

mongoose said...

A professional Scotsman. Yeck. They're even worse than plastic paddies. And can he not buy a shirt that's the right size?

Elby the Beserk said...

We dumped the telly a couple of years back; spent years without it when the kids were young - they do no NEED tv.

Anyhows - last few docos I watched were ghastly - fucking recreations going on all the time, and the viewer treated as a total idiot.

Don't miss it, at all

Met his brother once, and had a good chat with him.

call me ishmael said...

I am sure, mr elby, that if I reported an encounter with Beelzebub himself you would have shared a pint with him at some point. It must be all the free time you enjoy, not watching the telly.

I have been without one in the past and enjoyed that and may well do it again, often it just sits there, in its own room, sulking. I must say though that I have enjoyed it a lot more since BBC 3 and 4 permitted it a bit of artistic license.

The Scots galleries are well endowed mr caractacus, I was amazed to learn that Dali's Jesus on the Cross of St John is in Glasgow's Kelvingrove. I am away tae bonny England tomorrow and hope to see it en route, and much else.

Elby the Beserk said...

Never met that Dylan, though. Capaldi. Same night got to talk to Dave Mason, and shook the hand of that nice Mr. Marley. Bloke me and the ex lived with up in Whitby was a journo for what was meant to be the UK's Rolling Stone. Wasn't, but he got a tickets for the Wailers at the Lyceum. And for the after show party, so got to shake Bob's hand.

Just a few years ago, was in a groovy new restaurant down the road from where I used to live in Bristol, with the ex. Got in there, music to loud for these over 50s to hear each other speak.

Asked waitress - please turn it down. Sort of ignored me. After a couple of minutes, went up to her, and said "PLEASE turn it down".

She looked at me, and said - but it's Bob Marley. Yes, I said, I know, I've met him

That shut her up. She turned it down and apologised when we left.

Right cunt, me, when I need to be :-)

Never met that Dylan tho'. Shook Bob Weir's hand, and had a quick chat; failed to recognise - as I have told before - Steve Winwood when talking to him.

And him me.

That's really about it.

call me ishmael said...

Never really met anyone famous, myself, only stanislav, the young polish plumber, and he doesn't count.