|I know it's mumbo-jumbo, but it's in this big old book!|
What's it about?
"The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it... is invincible." The Nazis are in Egypt, on the verge of finding the Ark of the Covenant. Only one man can stop them.
What's it got to do with libraries?
I don't get conceptual art. I side with the late lamented Robert Hughes in believing that modern art is radical and vital, but has been going downhill for about 100 years. For me, at the very bottom of this hill, next to Tracey Emin's dirty bed, is the 'video installation'. Meandering artworks with baffling names like (Trans)FORM-ation S-3 just don't do it for me. When I watch them I think: 'This isn't art. This is rubbish. I could do this.' So if Messrs Saatchi, Lowry or Gagosian ever gave me some gallery space, here's what I'd film in the hopes that they'd allow me to project it.
A fixed camera mounted on a library desk would record an archaeology professor reading all day long. Whenever this buttoned-up, tweedy and bespectacled prof moved from his books, a tasteful hand-drawn map of the library would appear, a slowly-moving red line showing his route to the water cooler. After eight hours of work, he'd pack a leather suitcase and leave. The camera would move along the desk, on which would sit a Wesson 'Bapty' revolver, a bullwhip, a dusty fedora, and a library catalogue card with 'the other 30%' written in a cursive hand.
My artwork would be called 70% of All Archaeology is Done in the Library, a line taken from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Professor Indiana Jones' first cinematic outing. It even sounds like the name of a video installation.
|Real archaeologists have hats, but no whips|
Some say that the Jones character was based on Robert John Braidwood. Others claim their own pet mid-century archaeologists active in exotic places as the maquette. In truth, a more significant influence on the script is the simple fact that a profession that spends its time in libraries, classrooms and muddy holes is an unlikely, and thus amusing, source for heroism. For the same reason, one reason why libraries work well in films is that in real life, paradoxically, nothing much ever happens in them. This is why most cinematic libraries bear very little resemblance to off-screen ones. They're not meant to. They appeal to day-dreams and the inverted worlds of the imagination.
|Real librarians are much more rock 'n' roll|
Is it any good?
Raiders of the Lost Ark is terrific entertainment. Its annual showing on Christmas television throughout the 1980s means that I have seen it more times than any other film. Very early on I decided that I wanted to be archaeologist when I grew up. Until about the age of nine, when I realized that real archaeologists have to spend 70% percent of their time in the library. Hang on...
Director: Steven Spielberg
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Editing: Michael Kahn
Cast includes Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott
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