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Category: at the movies

“Cairo Time”

street-in-cairo.jpg!Large

     “Street In Cairo (1873)  

             Konstantin Makovsky

                         ____________

many years ago, when I was in my 
skittish twenties, and the world had 
opened up to me as I’d started work 
at an international airline, I opted 
to go to Tunisia, less harried than 
Morocco, I thought, and probably
less expensive 

a friend had asked to come along,
who worked for the same company 

Judy was my age, honey blond, lithe,
curvaceous, voluptuous, though
ever entirely unassuming, we made  
a lovely pair

but soon the locals had our number,
understood that I was merely her
friend, no challenger for her 
affections, somehow

from our seaside hotel in nearby
Hammamet, a coastal resort, we set 
out our first day for the nearby capital, 
Tunis, a dusty town, I remember, a 
cowtown, or a camel town, north of 
the Sahara Desert, with shoddy 
buildings and not much else, I was 
young

we found ourselves on the Boulevard 
Habib Bourguiba, the name of the first
President of the Republic of Tunisia,
not paved then, or with what we used  
to call soft shoulders, when the 
pavement doesn’t reach the sidewalks, 
where we looked for a restaurant or a 
coffee house to get our bearings 

inside a nondescript place we found
for lack of anything else, we sat down,
had a coffee, looked around

it didn’t take long for us to realize that
Judy was the only girl in the place, so
we finished our fare and took off

when all the men in the place followed

we found a cab to take us back to the 
hotel and didn’t return to Tunis apart  
from accompanied 

but that’s another story

it’s seemed so hard for me to explain
this to people who haven’t experienced 
this discomfort cause this kind of
indignity is so foreign to us, offensive
and hard to imagine

but a film I just saw about Cairo, 
Cairo Time“, gives a good impression 
of the differences in our cultures

were it only for this insight, I wouldn’t
suggest this movie, but because it is
a wonderful travelogue through this
remarkable city, with views of bazaars,
pyramids in the distance, and all of it 
in splendid cinemascope and colour, 
the film is a marvel 

Patricia Clarkson, an actress I greatly
admire, plays the role Katharine 
Hepburn played in Summertime“, 
one of my all-time favourite movies,
of a woman alone in a city, needing
to trust in the kindness of strangers 

Clarkson‘s kind stranger is no slouch 
either

watch

Richard

“When You Come” – Daniel Goodwin

800px-Accolade_by_Edmund_Blair_Leighton.jpg

            “The Accolade (1901) 

           Edmund Blair Leighton

                     ___________

When You Come

When you come to greet me, shyly, 
wearing nothing but your love for me
I will come to meet you halfway
like a falcon returning to your wrist.

And when you raise your arm,
trembling ever so slightly,
I will alight and let you pull
the velvet shroud over my eyes. 

 Daniel Goodwin

                  —————–

courtly love, an idea of love that took 
shape in the 12th Century in what would
become France eventually, though its 
development soon touched all the 
countries, or kingdoms then, of Europe,
became the primary subject of poetry
and literature especially through the 
influence  of Eleanor of Acquitaine
without a doubt the most powerful
woman in Europe during her reign as 
Queen of France after her marriage to 
Louis Vll, which was annulled after a 
time for her having not borne Louis  
any sons, then with Henry, Duke of 
Normandy, who then became Henry ll
of England, with whom she had 
Richard l, the Lionheart, as well as the 
later King John – the wonderful film, 
The Lion in Winter” with Katherine
Hepburn as Eleanor is a brilliant 
account of her later life with Henry 
and their fractious sons, featuring 
as well Peter O’Toole as Henry, and a
young Anthony Hopkins as Richard

her patronage of the arts in general 
then, from her position of power, 
allowed, much as it would today any
potentate, the dissemination of 
courtly love as a cultural ideal that
ultimately led to some of the greatest 
works of our Western cultures, notably
Dante‘s The Divine Comedy“, where 
Dante courts chastely the married 
Beatrice, who becomes indeed even 
an intermediary for him during his 
passage through Paradise

the idea, through the interpolation of
the Catholic Church, was that courtly 
love should be pure, unconsummated,
a noble admiration and reverence of 
an object of adulation within the strict 
constraints of an impossible physical 
conjunction, the model being, of course, 
the emulation of the worship of the 
Virgin Mary

Cervantes‘ Don Quixote is a later 
example of this same disposition,
though by this time, 1605 to 1615,
the practice of courtly love had 
been sullied by too many evidently 
corrupt practitioners, and a more 
cynical therefore culture, so that 
Don Quixote despite his blameless
pursuit of Dulcinea, his unwitting
muse, is made out to be a fool 
given the context of his more 
contentious times, albeit a benign, 
and somewhat heroic, fool

but my very favourite such story is
that of Edmond Rostand‘s “Cyrano
de Bergerac“, whose long nose 
makes him disparage his own 
chances of ever achieving the love 
of his beloved, Roxane

José Ferrer got an Oscar for his 
superb performance of Cyrano in 
1950, but my ideal remains that of
Gérard Dépardieu, a complete 
wonder, in 1990, both very much, 
however, worth your time

all this as a preface to the poem 
above, When You Come, which 
seems to me of that tradition,
despite having been written in 
2014 according to its inclusion 
then in the Literary Review of 
Canada, perhaps because of the 
introduction of the falcon, not at 
all a contemporary image, but 
fraught with the impression of a
love that is all devotion instead 
of conquest, a kind of love that
in my particular circumstances 
I’ve come to reach for rather 
than anything less refined

true love, in other words, can  
never not love, as I’ve said earlier 

Richard

“Medea” – Euripides

medea-1898-jpglarge

       Medea (1898) 

       Alphonse Mucha

          ____________

catching up on my Greek tragedies 
for a course I’m following online, I
happened upon this marvel

Medea, by Euripides, was written 
in 431 BCE, the next significant 
playwright in world history was
Shakespeare, the Dark Ages had
been “Dark” indeed, it took a 
Renaissance, in fact a new 
flowering of Greek and Roman
arts and institutions to get us 
moving forward again, you’ll 
notice how much of Euripides 
there is in Shakespearenot to 
mention in the French Classicists, 
Racine and Corneille

none of these, incidentally, have 
yet been equalled, never mind 
surpassed, except by maybe 
Anton Checkov, the superb 
Russian playwright

Zoe Caldwell won the 1982 Tony 
Award for best actress for her
incarnation of Medea, she was 
up against Katharine Hepburn 
and Geraldine Pageno less, 
among other distinguished 
luminaries, this is, in other 
words, no ordinary performance, 
watch her turn a mere script, 
however incandescent, into 
set of spoken arias worthy of 
the most celebrated divas

everyone else in the play is also
strong, excellent, impeccable

note the application of the three 
unities, of time, place, and action,
there is no set change, everything 
takes place within 24 hours,
according to the dictates of the 
very plot, the action surrounds 
the expulsion from Corinth of 
Medea and her two, and Jason’s, 
sons, the restrictions of the form 
put the tension, the drama, utterly 
in the hands of the poet, the 
success of the work depends not
on stunts, special effects, but on
words, poetry

Aristotle says in his Poetics“, 
section I, part VI, “The Spectacle has, indeed, an
emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts,
it is the least artistic, and connected least with the
art of poetry. … Besides, the production of
spectacular effects depends more on the art
of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.”  

the three unities have no room,
therefore, for Spectacle“, their 
product must be reflections of 
the poet’s humanity, heart, 
straight through, if s/he can, 
to ours

Richard

on art, its purpose

poet-with-flower-2008-jpgblog

                                Poet With Flower (2008)

                                          Stefan Caltia

                                                 _____

wherefore art, I’ve long and often wondered,
with only a wink to Juliet’s Romeo, for my
question dug deeper, why, indeed, itself art

we build our souls on the stories we’ve 
heard, the impressions we’ve received
from voices that spoke directly to our 
senses, painters with paint, musicians
with music, writers with words, poets 
with poems

it started with fairy tales, which told of
right and wrong, good and bad, courage,
kindness, responsibility, and dire 
consequences for discord

Biblical stories also took up a lot of my own
childhood, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Moses
and the Ten Commandments, this last 
reinforced by Cecil B. DeMille’s epic

but soon enough it was Oliver TwistLittle
Nell, and by an inescapable authorial leap, 
since these were all by an irresistible 
Charles Dickens for a guy my age, Sydney
Carton, who valiantly stands in for his
friend, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine, a 
quantum, even existential, leap from 
Peter Pan and Mary Poppins 

though I had the good fortune to learn to 
read and write music as a boy, play music, 
learn about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, 
it didn’t take anyone else much more than
their enthusiasm to see what the Beatles
were similarly doing, the Rolling Stones, 
the Supremes, they were not only singing, 
but making history, shaping it, and us, we 
followed the questions they rose, their 
responses, the effects upon ourselves
for nothing is considered until it’s 
mentioned, spoken, made clear, and they
were those prophets

the same goes for art, we see as we see
cause Monet, Picasso, Warhol showed 
us how to see, what to look at

and of course poets, Shakespeare, 
RostandDanteGoethe, to inform, each,
their individual language, and culture

I have been Philip CareyScarlett O’Hara, 
Blanche DuboisGary Cooper in High
Noon“, both Martha and George in 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf“, lately 
I’ve been even Hank Williams

as Babette would say, a French doll who 
gets abducted in Raggedy Ann and Andy:
A Musical Misadventure“, an animated 
movie from the Seventies, – oo aahrr yoo 

Richard

psst: all of them have been me too,
      incidentally

“Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”

hank-williams-1

                        Hank Williams

                              _______

halfway through The Last Picture Show
recently, a celebrated movie from the early 
Seventies I was watching, about the early
Fifties, I was sidetracked by the Hank  
Williams soundtrack till I was out and out 
stopped by its fervent Cold, Cold Heart 

I put the film on pause 

another love before my time, I warbled,
made your heart sad and blue, and so 
my heart is paying now, I wallowed, for 
things didn’t do, in anger unkind words
were said, I rued, that made the teardrops 
start, why can’t I free, your doubtful mind, 
I fretted, and melt your cold, cold heart 

but I wanted to hear Hank Williams do
it too, live if I could, and lo and behold 
got it

but listed as an option among other 
options nearby was also a longer  
feature purporting to be a 
representation of a concert he 
never  gave the night, December 31, 
1952, he died, the movie is called,
not inappropriately, Hank Williams:
The Show He Never Gave

the actor who plays Williams steps
right into his shoes, he’ll break your 
heart, you’ll need a lot of Kleenex

one of he best film biographies I’ve 
ever seen 

watch it

Hank Williams died of a heart attack
on the night of December 31, 1952

he was 29

may he rest in everlasting peace

Richard

“Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” – Alfredo Catalani‏

diva-ii.jpg!Large.jpg

     “Diva II 
 
         Erte
 
       __
 
a fellow bloggerwho’s been inspiring
me with an array of diverse composers,
some obscure to me, others personally
transformational, unearthed a piece of 
music recently, on that composer’s
very birthday, that resounds in my 
spirit still, through, for me, its signal 
interpretationas though it were very 
yesterday
 
it was 1981, a French filmDiva“, had
taken the world by storm, precursor 
to Bladerunner“, the cultural 
phenomenon, made the following year 
 
like in Bladerunner“, the music was 
haunting
 
the antihero had stolen not only 
the dress of the sublime soprano  
he worshipped, but had also taped
surreptitiously one of her concerts,
something absolutely forbidden
 
corporations were avid to get a copy
of the tape, and the chase ensues 
throughout the streets of Paris, 
The French Connection“, but on 
Gallic drugs
 
the air is from Catalani‘s La Wally“,
a fraught opera, with the heroine 
eventually, and her beloved, dying,
separately however, in the same 
avalanche, which he’d set off by 
calling out, unaware of the sonic 
consequences, her name 
 
don’t ask
 
but at a moment of great despair, in 
those very treacherous mountains,
after her father has thrown her out 
of the house for wanting one of his 
very enemies, the wrong man, she
sings an air that will break your 
heart, Ebben? Ne andrò lontana“,  
 
sings it in the movie, you’ll 
quiver, thrill, at her clarity, her
purity, she’s a goddess, you’ll
see why Jules wanted her dress
 
but listen to Angela Gheorghiu,
as well, bring it up again a few 
years later, live in Prague, from 
her very Là fra la neve bianca“,  
There somewhere in the white 
snow“, I melted, after which I 
became burnt toast, if you’ll
pardon those clashing, however
forcefully compelling, metaphors  
 
nor would I ‘ve minded either her 
dress

 
Richard
 
psst: thanks, Kurt

a rumination on rain‏

spring-rain.jpg!Blog

                                                 Spring Rain 
 
                                        Erte (Romain de Tirtoff)
 
                                                    _________
 
 
since last November the days have 
been short, and have not hastened 
since winter to be longer, not 
helped either by the most recent 
time change, more than anything 
a biannual irritant  
 
nor has the rain stopped, apart from 
a few clement days, its persistent,
often pounding, onslaught
 
that’s me, above, expressing my 
displeasure
 
 
as usual, in distress, I turned to art 
to see, or hear, what others might 
have to say about my current 
dilemma, my chagrin du jour, if you 
like, in this instance, the Erte on rain 
took the sting out of the raindrops
 
others had inspired, a Gauguin,
unexpectedly grey, but haunting,
a Monet, of course, equally sombre, 
who painted in all weathers
 
Constable, uncharacteristically 
angry, was looking a lot like 
Turner, but more direct, accessible,
less oracular, more matter-of-fact, 
sensible, reading only the weather 
in the weather
 
Winston Churchill, of all people, 
gives us, incidentally, something 
in between
 
 
especially to my sense of poetry 
among the artworks I perused, 
someone I’ll have to further, for his 
tender homage to perhaps other 
colours than orange, explore
 
to me unknown, does a similar thing
in, essentially, a monochrome, with 
a fine mist standing in for ethereality
 
Miró is ever up to his old tricks, 
find it  
 
but Erte catches best of all my desire
for irony, sardonicism, self-criticism
 
in music I couldn’t think of anything 
other than Beethoven’s Der Sturm
to temper the weather, despite the 
fact that rain hadn’t been ever his 
inspiration, the title came from his 
publisher to increase sales, 
Beethoven wrote pure music, 
abstract, never specifically literally 
to describe, what is called program
music, his descriptions, his 
evocations, came unadulterated,
untransliterated, from the heart 
 
 
in literature nothing beats Somerset 
Maugham’s short story, Rain“, 
masterpiece of intrigue as well as 
literary prowess, searing substance 
married to superb style
 
the book was duly made into film,
and several times, with Gloria 
Swanson in 1928, Joan Crawford 
in 1932, and Rita Hayworth in 1953
none of these slouches
 
 
the clouds have now coincidentally
dispersed, the metaphorical ones, 
not so surprisingly, have been 
meanwhile displaced by my retreat 
into art, a recourse I’ve found to be 
always dependable, and, yet again, 
in this otherwise grim environment,
diverting and trustworthily inspiring
 
 
I wish you consequently, also, for 
similar reasons, art, a salve along 
life’s often obstreperous journey 
 
 
Richard
 

“Suite Française” (2014)

 "Madonna and Child Pentaptych" - Luca di Tommè Madonna and Child Pentaptych

Luca di Tommè

__________

Suite française“, had it not been for
its musical associations, would’ve
been called a “quintette”

a suite is, of course, a series of five
dance movements, a sarabande, a
minuet, a gigue, for instance, most
commonly with reference to Bach’s
Baroque masterpieces

which is to say that without its dance
implications, a suite would’ve been
called simply a sonata with five
movements, or a duet, trio, quartet,
and so forth, depending on the
participating instruments

in fiction, a sequence of five books
equals a quintet, see Durrell’s
Avignon Quintet“, for instance

in art, five panels are called a
pentaptych, see above

five books had been intended for her
Suite française“, but in 1942 their
author, Irène Némirovsky, was arrested
for being Jewish, and died later at
Auschwitz, she’d completed only two
of her intended manuscripts, a tragic
account of day-to-day life during the
Second World War

these texts were only discovered by her
daughters in 1998, who then had them
published in 2002, in just one volume
called Suite française

the superb movie came out last year

it’s a whiff of another era, a
recollection of things past

also a timely consideration of the
flawed foundations of any occupation,
I thought

Richard

psst: incidentally, in French, capital
letters are eschewed – gesundheit –
after the first initial, therefore
the French title, Suite française“,
sports a lower case f

the film, Suite Française uses
the English construction

 

“King John” – Shakespeare‏

"The King" - Max Beckmann

The King ( 1934 – 1937)

Max Beckmann

_________

King John, 1166 to 1216, was the brother
of Richard the First, “the Lionheart”, and
of Geoffrey, both sons, as well as John,
of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry the
Second

you might remember them all from the
classic The Lion in Winter from the
Sixties

in Shakespeare’s story, John has become
king, both Geoffrey and Richard have
already perished, but Geoffrey has left an
heir, Arthur, Constance’s son, and since
Geoffrey had been the eldest, his own son,
it is contested, should be the rightful heir
to the English throne

John is not in agreement, nor is Eleanor,
his mom, but Constance is backed by the
Duke of Austria and the King of France,
who will go to war to unseat John

meanwhile Arthur is too young to be
anything but ineffectual, innocent

they all meet before Angiers, a town
now in France, but ruled then by
England, where a delightful
confrontation occurs at its gates,
the town representative will let in
the King of England but only when
he knows who, of either, He is

war is however averted when a
marriage is suggested between the
two courts, a niece of John, Blanche
of Castille, will marry the Dauphin,
Louis, son of Philip of France,
joining, however improbably, the
two sparring factions

but thereby Arthur’s claim is lost,
and Constance is fully aware of
the inevitable, and treacherous,
consequences

a legate from the Pope, Cardinal
Pandolf, also steps into the fray,
to stir the political pot, pompously,
predictably, punctiliously and
perniciously, not to mention,
perfidiously, in the end, of course

the language is Shakespeare’s, to
be sure, therefore unavoidably
wrought, but with garlands of
irrepressible poetry that is ever
utterly, and irresistibly, enchanting

“I am not mad:”, says Constance to
Pandolf, who’s accused her of being
in such a state

“Lady, you utter madness, and not sorrow.”

Constance replies

“I am not mad: this hair I pull is mine
My name is Constance; I was Geoffrey’s wife;
Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost:
I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!
For then, ’tis like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!
Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
And thou shalt be canonized, cardinal;
For being not mad but sensible of grief,
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be deliver’d of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself:
If I were mad, I should forget my son,
Or madly think a babe of clouts were he:
I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity.”

act lll, scene lV

has there ever been such a telling
evocation of agony

Stratford’s version is superb, extraordinary,
unforgettable, don’t miss it, just click

Richard

“King Lear” – William Shakespeare

 "Study for King Lear" - Joshua Reynolds

Study for King Lear (1760)

Joshua Reynolds

________

though it has its weaknesses, I have
never seen a better version of “King
Lear”
than this one, also, to my mind,
Shakespeare’s best play

watch

Lear has always been a difficult
character to portray, a King becomes a
vagrant, a Jesus figure, “a man / more
sinned against than sinning”,
and the
most difficult part an actor must render,
I’ve found, is that of social status

and here we have both extremes, a not
easy transition, nor have I seen but once
a Lear I could believe in

James Earl Jones in New York’s Central
Park
is Lear from the word go, but the
rest of the cast betrays him, they all
mostly merely phone in their roles

in this alternate production, the reverse
is true, Lear, though in many moments
mighty, is never really a King, nor truly,
I think, a Jesus, though his final breaths
are nothing short of holy

Cordelia speaks her lines well, but
doesn’t breathe them

every other performer is magnificent,
with a special mention for the truly
human Fool, not merely a caricature
here, but a wise man

also Kent, the vitriolic sisters, Edgar
and his ignominious brother Edmund,
even the several messengers, all of
whom intently and forcefully to a one
live out their roles

the direction is thrillingly manifest in
the solid and detailed work of the cast,
note, for instance, Regan’s laugh, an
inspired directorial touch, when Lear
declares his intention to bequeath
his land according to which of the
daughter’s “doth love Us most”,
relaying in an instant, and at the very
start, her fundamental, and thereafter,
of course, unswerving, unfilial scorn

I’ve never seen that note played
elsewhere so incisively

mostly, however, it’s the poetry of
Shakespeare, which bristles throughout,
like buds in spring in a garden, which ‘ll
especially delight, and have you marvel

watch

Richard