Blackpaint 179


Antichrist

Having just finished reading Revelations and hence the New Testament for the umpteenth time, I’m in the mood to review the Lars Von Trier film which I saw on TV the other night.  hope you will excuse this excursion into film – there’s a bit of painterly reference.

First, the physicality of the leads.  Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg have strangely similar features –  those slot mouths and oxygen mask pouts, and the deep cut lines.  Dafoe has an extraordinary, swirling line across the cheek, like a Lanyon wave or a Bacon dissection.  Then the bodies; cut muscles, flat, sharp-edged back and shoulders, esp. Gainsbourg, plenty of pumping sex in the grass.  So, even without the genital assault and mutilation, the penis spurting blood instead of sperm, there are constant reminders of Bacon’s work.

I love the cod psychology: he is a controlling, if loving, fascist of a (male) therapist, piloting her through her grief and guilt at the loss of their infant son (he fell, picturesquely, in slow motion, to choral music, through snowflakes,  from his bedroom window – while they were energetically shagging in another room).  She is irrational, woman as uncontrollable life-force, antichrist, witch, at one with, at the mercy of, the natural forces that surround them in their backwoods retreat.  As a fox remarks to Dafoe, “Chaos reigns”. The foxes, and a deer with a foetus dangling from its rear end, appear at moments throughout.

She provokes him by bashing his penis with a stool(?) and then drilling through his leg and attaching a grindstone to it (leg, not penis) whilst he is unconscious; then, as is well publicised, she cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of scissors.  In the end, he strangles her and burns her body on a pagan funeral pyre – and here come the deer, the fox and then a troop of women, presumably representing the women massacred by men down through the ages, witch-hunts etc., marching past down through the forest.

And the dedication – OF COURSE it was dedicated to Tarkovsky.  Visually powerful – sorry, cliche –  but not Tarkovsky, because the imagery was too literal, no sense of mystery.  No poetry, I suppose.  As if a young film maker were trying to impress his hero with tricks.

Bathos is always a danger; for English viewers, talking foxes can recall Basil Brush.  I remember also the scene in Onibaba, where the woman with the devil mask fixed to her face, says, according to the subtitles: “Don’t scream! It is only me – your mother-in-law!”

Agnes Martin

Very apt, I think, to look at this painter after the mud, blood and mutilation above.  Ironically (or maybe intentionally?), her display of about a dozen paintings is in that inner gallery of the Tate Modern where the blood and body stuff of the Austrians was:  bandages, stretchers, splatters, mutilations… now all gone, and pristine canvases of uniform size, pastel ice cream stripes, misted over with white paint, metal frames stare blankly from  the wall.  I was surprised to find she was born in 1912 and was Canadian (although vast prairies, frozen North, mist, snow…).  There are 8 paintings with horizontal stripes, 2 with vertical grey stripes, 1 orange horizontal “zip” and several in very pale pink, yellow and blue.  I wanted to chuck slashes of black or blood red paint at them  and let it slide down; what is the point of purity, if not to be defiled?  Then  again, perhaps the point is that it provokes these reactions.  Probably not, though.

Rufus

Blackpaint

23.08. 10

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