Tuesday’s Overlooked A/V: What is Creativity?

Sculpture by David Batchelor at the McManus

Rabbit, rabbit! First of May and sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cucu! If you’re out protesting in the streets, I hope you’re enjoying a fine day. My film today is a bit of an odd choice, truly in the spirit of the “overlooked” like no other I’ve written on.

I *think* it’s called What is Creativity? At least that’s how I’ve remembered it all these years. I suspect it was an hour or less long, as it was shown to me in junior high art class in 6th and again in 7th grade. The only ‘name’ in it was John Astin, but it doesn’t appear on his list of films in IMDB. The three things I remember from it are seemingly indelibly fixed on my memory — however, given my proclivity for ‘adjusting’ quotations to suit me and never quite getting them right (a habit I gave to Ro in Owl Stretching) I’m sure I may have adjusted them somewhat. But they’re so vivid! And as it was on creativity, I was sold from the start.

So, what I do recall of this elusive film: there’s an animated sequence that covers the history of the world through art. The “dark ages” literally blackness until the ‘Renaissance’ comes along with a light [insert medievalist eye roll]. There’s an exchange between Michaelangelo and someone else: “What are you doing?” “I’m painting a ceiling. What are you doing?” “I’m painting a floor.”

There’s another part that’s a parable told with ping-pong balls almost Jonathan Livingston Seagull-ish, with one non-conformist ball who decides to try to bounce as high as he can, with an inconclusive ending, “Some say he never came down…”

My favourite bit was the part with John Astin, who played an artist who wasn’t doing very well then suddenly had an inspiration to put together mannequin parts and gears and whatnot in a kinetic sculpture. He debuts it to a crowd of critics and suddenly he’s dressed as a gunslinger as the potshots come in. He shoots back in vain until at last there’s one positive voice in the noise: “I like it!” He leans forward, encouraging the comment, until he hears, “I mean the materials alone must be worth something!” Bang! And he goes down.

So, am I the only person who remembers this?

As always, find the complete round-up of neglected works over at Todd’s.

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