Blackpaint 269


Repulsion

Watching this great Polanski film the other day (starring Catherine Deneuve), I was staggered when a character started telling Deneuve the plot of a film she had just seen – starring Charlie Chaplin, in a tramp role!  “Repulsion”, for those who might not know, is set in the 60’s, around South Kensington.  Maybe they still showed Chaplin shorts at the old cartoon picture houses, along with Bugs Bunny and the Cockerel newsreels – I’m far too young to know.

Also in “Repulsion” – briefly, before Catherine slices him up with a cutthroat razor – is Patrick Wymark.  He strikes me as a perfect Francis Bacon character; thick neck, squat, erect body, sneering lips, braying voice, sweaty face, pushy, bullying, canine.  Surprisingly, the Deneuve character is not impressed.  He joins the rotting rabbit carcase and that of the previously murdered John Fraser in the stinking apartment, while Catherine is groped by the (imaginary) hands that emerge from the walls.  And a jazz score by Chico Hamilton.

Leonardo  

In one of the Saturday papers, Guardian or Telegraph, a drawing of a man’s head, newly discovered (loose) in a Leonardo sketchbook.  An Italian academic has claimed it as a Leonardo original – rashly, I think.  It looks more like a picture from a serial in the old Eagle Annual.  Something very modern about it; it’s not sculpted, in the way Leo’s other drawings are.  Italians seem prone to rushing in with these things – see previous Blackpaint entries (Blackpaint 111,212 and 215) on the Michelangelo Sermon on the Mount “discovery” .  Still, maybe I’m wrong and my hard-earned reputation will be destroyed.

Caravaggio

Looking again at the Uffizi catalogue and there are three Caravaggios listed:  Medusa, The Adolescent Bacchus and the Sacrifice of Isaac.  The last is quite startlingly brutal – Abraham is distracted by the angel as he is about to cut Isaac’s throat.  He holds the knife very convincingly and is forcing the yelling Isaac’s face down against a boulder by a hand round the back of his neck, the thumb mashing into his cheek.  Isaac is not looking submissive and reconciled to his fate – not one little bit.

Medusa, also apparently yelling, stares out in horror or shock from a lozenge of green.  Glistening snakes writhe round “her”  head – but it’s the face of a young man, surely.  The blood squirting from the neck gives the picture the air of a waxen guillotine victim at Tussauds.

The Bacchus picture shows a fleshy young boy, crowned with flowers and rouged, holding a big, shallow glass of wine over a bowl of rotting fruit.  The text refers to symbolism, but why?  Corruption, I suppose – but maybe Caravaggio just thought rotting fruit was more interesting.

El Greco

There is a large El Greco in Dulwich Picture Gallery at the moment – The Opening of the Fifth Seal, the Vision of St. John, which is so roughly finished and “modern” in its general aspect that it looks, to me at least, like a Kokoschka.  When you have checked out the El Greco, have a look at the Friends Open in the same gallery; one of mine is in there.

Sorry, old one – having to revamp this week’s, which I screwed up last night.

Blackpaint

25.04.11

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