Monday, 6 December 2010

Going for the slow burn

One of the cinema highlights we can look forward to next year is Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. The director notoriously leaves a long hiatus beween films - 20 years in the case of Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). Compared with that, the five-year gap to his last film, The New World, is nothing.

Another director I love who we haven't heard much of in a while is Vincent Ward. The New Zealander made his name in 1988 with The Navigator and followed it up five years later with the epic Map of the Human Heart but then lost his way with mythical What Dreams May Come (1998), starring Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra; I trust we'll hear from Ward again. Basque director Julio Medem is another major talent who's recently reemerged, with the small-scale Room in Rome, which has gone straight to video in the UK.

In difficult times for film funding, it won't come as a surprise if we see more of these lapses in the future, however. (I've written before about Hal Hartley and Whit Stillman.) Some authors are famous for it in the book world: Thomas Pynchon made his debut in 1963 with V. but, perhaps understandably, hit a 17-year silence following Gravity's Rainbow prior to Vineland (1990). Recently he's been downright prolific and the psychedelic prose of his latest, Inherent Vice (coming three years after Against the Day, 2006), makes a damn fine read.

The biggest novel of 2010 - Freedom - came nine years after its predecessor, The Corrections. The same gap followed author Jonathan Franzen's previous work, Strong Motion (1992).

Some of my favourite musicians are famous for having long breaks between albums; take The Blue Nile, who left a five-year gap between beautiful debut A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984) and the equally lush Hats, before waiting a further seven years for the disappointing Peace at Last (1996). Their fourth album, High, was released in 2004, so it's about time for a follow-up.

Even less in a hurry to get back in the studio is the formidable Scritti Politti (Green Gartside). Here are the years of release of his last three albums: 1988, 1999 and 2006. Importantly, every time he does deliver, it's worth the wait. Don't rush back.

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