Jonathan Meades

I’ve worked with the writer and broadcaster Jonathan Meades for nearly 20 years and I always find the range of subjects covered by our collaboration quite staggering. We’ve made films on Mussolini’s architecture, fast food, jargon, Queen Victoria, the relationship between France and The USA, the football pools towns of Fife, herring and vodka, Brutalist buildings and Surrealism to name but a few.

Travelling and working with Jonathan has taught me so much about the world we live in. He would always say that if you look at something for long enough you were bound to see something interesting in it. When Jonathan looks at a landscape or a city or a building, even when it’s been dismissed as inconsequential, he really does see something different to the rest of us. That’s why his observations are always so unique.

Benbuilding – 2016

This is from a film ostensibly about the architecture of Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. Jonathan had made films previously about Hitler and Stalin’s architecture and this was the third in a 4-part series that would be complete with one on Franco’s Spain. Benbuilding didn’t just look at Mussolini’s architecture – Jonathan used it as an opportunity to pick apart what fascism actually meant.

Italian First World War Monument at Redipuglia and Monte Grappa – From Benbuilding (2016)

Concrete Poetry – 2014

An exasperating, exhilarating reminder of real arts broadcasting. All praise to director Francis Hanly for letting Meades have his sometimes perverse, tossing head. Financial Times

Any new Jonathan Meades series is a reason to cancel all other engagements, but this is a treat even by his standards. The Guardian

These might be his richest films yet. The New Statesman

This is from a two-part film about Brutalism titled ‘Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness’. Brutalism has undergone a re-appraisal in recent years after being roundly criticised during the architecturally insipid decades of the 1980’s and ’90’s and these two films I think are the definitive guide to the power of Brutalism. Jonathan looks at the origins of Brutalism in the history of ‘the sublime’ and the impact of Nazi bunker-building during the second world war – hence the ‘bunkers’ in the title. This clip is about probably the greatest piece of Brutalist architecture in the world – Le Corbusier’s ‘Unite D’Habitation’ in Marseilles.

Concrete Poetry – Le Corbusier’s masterpiece in Marseilles

Francobuilding – 2019

★★★★★ Superb documentary  

The Times

This is a sequence featuring the work of modernist Spanish architect Miguel Fisac taken from Francobuilding – the final film in a series on the architecture of Europe’s 20th century dictators.

St Peter The Martyr, Madrid – Miguel Fisac

Off Kilter – Aberdeen – 2009

A stunning film, I cannot remember when I have enjoyed a TV programme more.  The Guardian

While the rest of Britain basked in a heatwave, Aberdeen with it’s own very unique micro-climate was bathed in mist and fog when we filmed this. I loved the city, not just it’s unique architecture but the setting and the people. This was part of series called ‘Off Kilter’, Jonathan’s take on Scotland which included a survey of the football towns of Fife and the Isle of Lewis.

Meades on France – 2012

… a brilliant look at France from the man with the sharpest tongue in documentaries. The People

Anybody who’s ever seen Meades’ wonderful Abroad series will know that this is one travelogue not to be missed. The Independent

In this typically thoughtful, funny and beautifully shot new series, Meades considers his adopted homeland. The Guardian

…brilliant and fascinating and unlike any programme on France you’ve ever seen. The Times

Some people will find the programme playful, knowledgeable, articulate and refreshingly original, while others will switch off in seconds flat. There’s no middle ground. The Telegraph

Here’s probably my favourite title sequence of all the ones shot over the years for Jonathan’s films. The idea was to provide recognisably French images but send up the touristy travelogue stereotypes. I do remember Jonathan being on one side of a very busy road (the A10 I think near Bordeaux) and me and the camera on the other side. He couldn’t hear my instructions so I had to risk life and limb running back and forth across the road.

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