Blackpaint 272


Bela Tarr

A top shot, from a bridge maybe, of travellers disembarking with suitcases from a ferry and boarding an old dockside train; it’s twilight, puddles, cobbles, steam…  Yes, they’re still coming – how many is that?  A mournful, haunting accordion plays a slow melody, over and over.  We watch the back of a man’s head as HE watches through steamed-up glass…  Later, a violent incident happens away at the top of the screen, in the darkness, on the quay – something, or someone hits the water…  A violent argument takes place between the man and the proprietress of a grocery, in the shop itself.  As they scream and tussle,  a man emerges from the freezer room at the back with a giant fish on his shoulder, slaps it on a slab and starts to chop it up.  The fight ends, the two antagonists leave – and the camera lingers on the man chopping.  He chops the fish 47 times before the scene changes…  We watch, through the window of a shabby room, with another smoking man, cable cars going to and from a factory or colliery, across a smoke -stained landscape, many times.  Mournful music plays.  Outside a dingy neon-fronted bar, ferocious rain teems down and ferocious scavenging dogs scour the mud…

These are moments – all in black and white. and beautifully shot and recorded – from the fims of Bela Tarr, my current obsession.  More to follow.

Violence in paintings

Since last blog, or maybe the one before, I have come across a number of old paintings depicting violent incidents in surprising ways – or perhaps with surprising subjects.  I was writing about Caravaggio’s “Abraham and Isaac” in the Uffizi, how brutally realistic is the violence, even though the angel prevents the “sacrifice” before Abraham can use his knife.  In the Domenichino version of the same scene, the angel, flying across the picture, brushing against Abraham’s shoulder, and grabbing the knife in his hand.  It actually looks as if Abraham is doing a judo throw on him – a poorly executed Kata-Guruma.  Everyone, including the ram, looks skyward piously- Abraham mildly startled, though.

Bernardino Luini tackled “The Executioner presents John the Baptist’s head to Herod” around 1530.  The headsman holds it by the hair, as if scrutinising it for nits, while Salome, looking very like a Leonardo saint, turns her gently smiling face away with lowered eyes, too modest, it appears, to accept the gift (Herod not in my version – must be a detail).  Even John looks demure and thoughtful – politely, he refrains from bleeding, though there is  a basin, which Salome caresses.

Rosso Fiorentino – “Moses and the Daughters of Jethro”.  From 1523,  a near naked young Moses gets stuck in to the seven shepherds who are being mean to Jethro’s daughters.  In an amazing Mannerist triangular pile of flesh, he is putting a shoulder hold on one, while two more are already laid out on the ground.  Behind him, another shepherd appears to be hurling a bludgeon at a mildly alarmed daughter in the background, clad in a blue gown, revealing the right breast.  Luckily, it looks as if it will miss her – the bludgeon, I mean.

Domenichino is in the Prado; the other two are both in the Uffizi.  More violence next time.

Gregory Woods

Attended the launch reading of his new poetry book, “An Ordinary Dog” in Honor Oak last evening; brilliantly structured, very funny, moving, full of classical references and pretty explicit in several verses.  It reminded me of the best of Thom Gunn’s work.  On sale from next month and I did the painting on the cover – which, of course, has no bearing on my opinion of the work.

Blackpaint

08.05.11

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