Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 133: Anthropomorphically speaking...

There are favourite characters and “friends” that populate this Blog, just like the regulars in Tintin stories; in fact I think that Tintin maybe one of those “favourite characters”. Just in case you are unfamiliar with said fictitious character, Tintin - the creation of Belgian cartoonist/illustrator/writer, Hergé - is a sort of young, freelance kind of James Bond I guess, who is the protagonist of over twenty adventures, all with fantastic titles such as: The Crab with The Golden Claws, The Secret of The Unicorn, The Castafiore Emerald, Red Rackham’s Treasure and many more.

Hergé created a fantastic world for Tintin, that was a great part of my childhood, rivalled only by the enchanted and detailed domain of Rupert the Bear; originally a comic strip of the Daily Express newspaper (who first appeared on 8 November, 1920) a character created by Mary Tourtel.

Virtually all of the characters in the Rupert stories are anthropomorphic (animals with humanoid forms): Ruper is a bear, his best friend Bill is a badger, then there’s his elephant mate, Edward Trunk, Willie the mouse, Ping-Pong the Pekinese, Ming the dragon, Podgy Pig and one of two humans - Tiger Lily (a Chinese girl) and the Professor. What I loved about Rupert were the faraway, magical and exotic lands in which his adventures took place, taking him away from his quintessentially English home in Nutwood, but not that far; it were as though he’d stepped into the willow pattern world of a plate.

In the 1930’s, Alfred Bestall (once an illustrator for Punch magazine) took over the mantle of artist and storyteller of Rupert’s daily adventures and forged the familar style that I and thousands of other children became so enamoured with. The Ruper Annual was a much looked forward to Christmas present, with it’s pages and pages of finely detailed, exquisite, almost postage stamp illustrations. Today Rupert has been modified and computer-gamed for a new generation, as has Thomas the Tank Engine, but for me the originals were and always will be the best.

Just like Rupert, the world created for Thomas (this time an anthropomorphic steam engine) in the Railway Series by the Reverend W. Awdry is so delightful and fascinating beacuse of the detail that was created in every illustration, every picture every story. Originally created in 1913, it wasn’t until 1946 that Thomas, Gordon, James Bertie, Annie and Clarabel really got up a head of steam and whistled out of Vicarstown station.

But back to Tintin. Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Hergé, first brought the young Belgian reporter to life in a chidren’s supplement, also part of a daily newspaper. Perenially a favourite because of the distinctive style of illustration that seems to transcend fashion and time, the stories were always written with an undercurrent of political commentary. Hergé based much of the activity featured in The Blue Lotus (set in Shanghai) on activities that were taking place at the time - 1934-35 - in China: the blowing up of the South Manchurian Railway and incursions by the Japanese. This book was not alone in it’s commentary om issues of the day, all off the Tintin books trod much the same path. As slapstick as they might be, there was a message in the madness and devil-may-care expionage.

Regulars in the Tintin books are his pet dog (and faithful accomplice) the white fox terrier, Snowy, the irrascible and dipsomaniacal Captain Haddock (of Marlinspike Hall), the bumbling detectives that are Thomson and Thomson (The Thompson Twins) and the absent-minded, Professor Cuthbert Calculus.

Rupert, Tintin and Thomas arenot at all what I intended to write about today, I’ve got complety caught up and have been swept away in contemplation of the intricate world’s of each of these characters and their stories, world’s that have stood the test of time and lasted nearly a hundred years a-piece; testimony to the work, imagination and tenacity of their creators.

Day #133 Tip: Let your writing find its own course
I’ve completely forgotten what I set out to write about and I know not how and why I came to talk of what I’ve talked of, however, I trust that’s what I needed to write about today.

William Blake, that seminal figure (writer, poet, painter and printmaker) of the Romantic Movement said this: “Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius”. I’m not entirely sure what that has to do with today’s thoughts, other than the idea that we must let ourselves sometimes take the crooked path that our writing leads us on.”

I set out to write a film about a Parisian detective, sleuthing away in a north-west corner of French colonial Cambodia in 1948 and four drafts later it has turned many a-crooked turn and is now about an Australian cop in Kandahar in 2008. The story of how that came to pass is totally organic and not contrived, it was where I was led.

It is vitally important to know where we’re going in our plotting and structure but it is equally important to allow ourseleves the flexibility to be led down an alley too, if the impulse is there; this is Tintin’s stock-in-trade and has led him to succesful run to ground countless gangs of international drug smugglers and the like.

More adventures in screenwriting to come.

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