And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

3 November

1788
Frances (Fanny) Burney,
writer

‘However, we are all here in a most uneasy state. The King is better and worse so frequently, and changes so, daily, backwards and forwards, that everything is to be apprehended, if his nerves are not some way quieted. I dreadfully fear he is on the eve of some severe fever. The Queen is almost overpowered with some secret terror. I am affected beyond all expression in her presence, to see what struggles she makes to support serenity. To-day she gave up the conflict when I was alone with her, and burst into a violent fit of tears. It was very, very terrible to see! How did I wish her a Susan or a Fredy! To unburthen her loaded mind would be to relieve it from all but inevitable affliction. Oh, may Heaven in its mercy never, never drive me to that solitary anguish more! - I have tried what it would do; I speak from bitter recollection of past melancholy experience.

Sometimes she walks up and down the room without uttering a word, but shaking her head frequently, and in evident distress and irresolution. She is often closeted with Miss Goldsworthy, of whom, I believe, she makes inquiry how her brother has found the King, from time to time.

The Princes both came to Kew, in several visits to the King. The Duke of York has also been here, and his fond father could hardly bear the pleasure of thinking him anxious for his health. ‘So good,’ he says, ‘is Frederick!’

To-night, indeed, at tea-time, I felt a great shock, in hearing, from General Bude, that Dr. Heberden had been called in. It is true more assistance seemed much wanting, yet the King’s rooted aversion to physicians makes any newcomer tremendous. They said, too, it was merely for counsel, not that His Majesty was worse.

Ah, my dearest friends! I have no more fair running journal: I kept not now even a memorandum for some time, but I made them by recollection afterwards, and very fully, for not a circumstance could escape a memory that seems now to retain nothing but present events.

I will copy the sad period, however, for my Susan and Fredy will wish to know how it passed; and, though the very prospect of the task involuntarily dejects me, a thousand things are connected with it that must make all that can follow unintelligible without it.’

The eve of some fever

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1890
Lafcadio Hearn,
writer and teacher

‘To-day is the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor. It is a public holiday throughout Japan; and there will be no teaching this morning. But at eight o’clock all the students and instructors enter the great assembly hall of the Jinjo Chugakko to honour the anniversary of His Majesty’s august birth.

On the platform of the assembly hall a table, covered with dark silk, has been placed and upon this table the portraits of Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, stand side by side upright, framed in gold. The alcove above the platform has been decorated with flags and wreaths.

Presently the Governor enters, looking like a French general in his gold-embroidered uniform of office, and followed by the Mayor of the city, the Chief Military Officer, the Chief of Police, and all the officials of the provincial government. These take their places in silence to left and right of the platform. Then the school organ suddenly rolls out the slow, solemn, beautiful national anthem; and all present chant those ancient syllables, made sacred by the reverential love of a century of generations [. . .]

The anthem ceases. The Governor advances with a slow dignified step from the right side of the apartment to the centre of the open space before the platform and the portraits of Their Majesties, turns his face to them, and bows profoundly. Then he takes three steps forward toward the platform, and halts, and bows again. Then he takes three more steps forward, and bows still more profoundly. Then he retires, walking backward six steps, and bows once more. Then he returns to his place.

After this the teachers, by parties of six, perform the same beautiful ceremony. When all have saluted the portrait of His Imperial Majesty, the Governor ascends the platform and makes a few eloquent remarks to the students about their duty to their Emperor, to their country, and to their teachers. Then the anthem is sung again; and all disperse to amuse themselves for the rest of the day.’

Lafcadio Hearn in Japan

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1924
Edward Weston,
photographer

‘After experiencing the ever-recurrent condition of being “broke”, I have sold two prints: “Palma Cuernavaca”, and a nude; besides, I have four definite dates for sittings. Such prosperity is overwhelming! Tomorrow I dine at a luncheon in honor of the United States Ambassador to Mexico. God knows his name - I don’t - but duty calls. In preparation I trimmed the fringe from my trousers and borrowed a hat from Rafael. Now to buy a collar and I shall be ready for the fray.’

Lost behind my camera

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1944
Jerzy Feliks Urman,
child

‘[. . .] In town there was a poster confirming the shooting of ten people. If by the 4th of the month the bandits aren’t handed in they will shoot the next ten hostages to set an example. Marysia said the ten shot already were all Ukrainian. There were 2 Poles but the [Polish] Committee liberated them.’

Jerzyk’s tragic story

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1947
Cecil Beaton,
photographer

‘I was completely surprised at what was happening & it took me some time to recover my bafflement. Within a few minutes of our reunion, after these long & void periods, of months of depression & doubt, we were suddenly together in unexplained, unexpected and inevitable intimacy. It is only on such occasions that one realises how fantastic life can be. I was hardly able to bridge the gulf so quickly & unexpectedly. I had to throw my mind back to the times at Reddish House when in my wildest dreams I had invented scenes that were now taking place.’

As beautiful as her legend

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1994
Wim Wenders,
director

‘First day of shoot. At last. Because the shoot has been put back from spring to summer and now to autumn, I’ve been able to be with Michelangelo and the crew during the last week of preparations in Portofino, the location for the first episode, ‘La ragazza, il delitto’, but on the very eve of the shoot I have to be in Paris. The French edition of my book Once is coming out, and there’s an exhibition in the FNAC, press-conference and interviews, and the whole thing is due to end so late there’s no chance of getting back to Italy the same night.

There was a lovely, unexpected ending to the day when we were driven back to the hotel by Martine and Henri Cartier-Bresson. How attentive, kindly and alert the old gentleman was, always so careful not to appear ‘old’: he’d rather hold open a door himself than have it held for him.

Yesterday morning we went to see a demonstration of the latest HDTV-to-film transfer from Thomson’s, who are interested in working with Michelangelo and me. The images on screen, recorded digitally and then put on film, are really impressive, and only barely distinguishable from real film images. They might actually be the perfect language for Michelangelo to shoot his final episode, ‘Due telefaxi’. The electronic medium would match the atmosphere of the story. And wouldn’t it be appropriate, too, for Michelangelo to make the last part of his last film using the technology of the next century, seeing as he was one of the very first directors with a positive attitude to video, and was never shy of new technology? [. . .]

Today, then, the first day of the shoot, Donata and I got up bright and early, took the first plane from Paris to Milan, and drove to Portofino through mist and occasional rain, afraid the weather might make us late. But we arrive on time. The first clapboard is an hour later. The rain has delayed everything, and indeed it will dominate the day’s events.

First off, big excitement, not least among the producers: it appears that the moment he got on set, Michelangelo announced that everything is being changed around, so it’s not John Malkovich who’s going to come out the door and walk down into town, but Sophie Marceau. That means changing the bedroom, where we’re going to film later, from a ‘man’s room’ to a woman’s. ‘Here we go . . .’ you can see the producers thinking. But on closer inspection, the change makes sense. Michelangelo just hadn’t been in a position before to clear up our misunderstanding. It often seemed to me in our discussions that it was simply too much of an effort for him to make his intentions clear to us, and so occasionally he left us under some misapprehension, fully knowing that the moment of truth would dawn once we were filming. Also, Michelangelo has trouble differentiating between ‘he’ and ‘she’ when speaking, so we were often uncertain whether he was talking about the male or the female character in a story. [. . .]

Having this huge crew and these actors assembled here - all of us ready to give everything we have over the coming weeks - to make a film out of this shooting script and this schedule is Enrica’s personal triumph. And today, on the first day of the shoot, there she is standing in front of the monitors next to Michelangelo, beaming all over her face. Of course everyone is making a fuss of him, but we know that Erica was and is the driving force behind him. A great dream is becoming reality, for both of them. Now it is up to us to sustain the dream to the end, so there is no rude awakening.

In looking for my own niche, I keep in the background, and leave various initiatives and suggestions with Michelangelo’s helpers [. . .] I will have succeeded in my task if I find the right balance between staying out of it and, where absolutely necessary, taking a hand. And above all, I need to learn to keep my own ideas on how I would shoot a scene to myself, because they’re not helpful in this situation.[. . .]

I take a few stills photographs, with the Fuji 6x9, rather sheepishly. Donata dusts off her new Nikon F4 and takes some pictures of the shoot and the crew, in black and white. I’m sticking to colour.

It’s very late, and I feel totally exhausted. Being at a shoot without being in charge is much more taxing than I had imagined.

Over supper we laughed till we cried while Tonino regaled us with the story of how Fellini was the first person who managed to get food stains on his back while eating. Tonino demonstrated how Fellini broke a roll in half, and a piece of mortadella flew up in the air and landed between his shoulderblades. He kept imitating Fellini standing there, with the slice of meat sticking to his back, worrying about how cross Giulletta would be when she’d get to hear about his foolish adventure.’

Shooting with Antonioni

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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