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Category: at the movies

“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

 

“Let’s Face the Music and Dance”‏

"Hot Jazz" - Frank Kline

Hot Jazz (1940)

Frank Kline

_______

having watched a superb interpretation
of this classic Nat King Cole number on
“So You Think You Can Dance” recently,
a show I havent missed since it started,
I went looking for a performance of the
song I could sink my teeth into, and
Fred and Ginger, however wonderful,
could not give me the immediacy I was
intent on discovering, I needed words,
not action, “Let’s Face the Music and
Dance”
from the heart

though I’d heard of Diana Krall, I hadn’t
anywhere yet identified her, if ever I’d
even heard her

she took my breath away, knocked my
socks off, I want to go to Rio, where
she sang this song, just click

once I’d heard this piece on free Internet
video, I ran, didn’t just walk, albeit on the
comfort of my own sofa, to iTunes and
bought the whole show for what turned
out to be essentially a song, $4.99
Canadian, wow

turned out I could’ve got it for free as
well right there by running instead to
Google, had I not been so impetuous,
smitten

Live in Rio is a revelation, and I don’t
even like jazz, but I liked this show
enough to make me want to fly to Rio,
make my own Bossa Nova, maybe even
meet my own Ipaneman

though Diana Krall, incidentally lives
right here in Vancouver, she says

note, in passing, the connections to
Classical music, you’ll want to count
tenuti, for instance, and rubati,
accelerandi
and rallentandi, while
you’re at it

note also the Classical imperatives,
tonality, tempo, and repetition, which,
you’ll find, haven’t much changed in
the 21st Century, though rhythm is a
lot more fluid, flexible, now, not so
rigid

the group is a variation on the string
quartet, now comprising double bass,
guitar, percussion, and piano, with
voice thrown in

an orchestral back up makes us ready
for a concerto, where here we have a
set of independent pieces held
together, however solidly, by mere
mood

and, of course, Diana Krall’s vocal
and interpretive magic

listen, be smitten

Richard

 

“Tru”‏

"Truman Capote" - Gloria Vanderbilt

Truman Capote

Gloria Vanderbilt

____________

Truman Capote, a towering XXth-Century
figure, might be remembered much more
for his personality than his considerable
literary output, In Cold Blood remains
a turning point in the history of literature,
not to mention an extraordinary read

three major works have been produced
about Capote since at least 1992, when
Robert Morse won a Tony for Tru, my
favourite rendition, with a nod to the
superb Infamous, before even the
dire, Oscar-winning, Capote, however
deserving Philip Seymour Hoffman
might’ve been of his own award for his
brilliant work

watch Tru in coordinated instalments,
no fuss, no muss, only the suspicion
you’ve missed an irretrievable and
perhaps crucial nugget in the clip
change

chill, Tru, however apportioned here,
is seamless, and captivating, hilarious
and, all at once, profound, not to be
ever forgotten, much as I never have

Richard

 

“Julius Caesar”, a foretaste

"The Dead Caesar" -  Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Dead Caesar (c.1859)

Jean-Léon Gérôme

__________

a friend and I are undertaking our
umpteenth reading of a Shakespeare
play, “Julius Caesar” this time, which
I hadn’t read in an age

in this version, still unparalleled,
Brutus, James Mason, presents his
argument for the assassination of
Caesar
, “Hear me for my cause, and
be silent that you may hear…not that
I loved Caesar less but that I loved
Rome more”,
he proclaims

Mark Antony, in the incarnation of
Marlon Brando, responds, for the
ages

and therein lies the glory, incidentally,
of Shakespeare

just saying

Richard

“Blue Jasmine” – Woody Allen‏

"Lady in Blue" - Lin Fengmian

Lady in Blue

Lin Fengmian

________

watch also Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine“,
Cate Blanchett got an Oscar, A Streetcar
Named Desire
for the 21st Century, with
an Oscar performance to match

a moment of silence for Vivien Leigh,
extraordinary in her role, may she ever
rest in peace

Richard

“Whatever Works” – Woody Allen


"Clown with Flowers"- Marc Chagall

Clown with Flowers (1963)

Marc Chagall

______

after Existentialism, Camus, Sartre,
after “God Is Dead”, there was
Woody Allen, to let us know that,
you know, Whatever Works“, you
can either jump out ‘ a window or
make the best of it

I am, of course, Boris Yellnikov,
though my girl from Mississippi
hasn’t shown up yet

nor for that matter has my
psychic

maybe I should jump out ‘ a
window

what do you think

watch

Richard