Posts Tagged ‘Fred and Ginger’

Blackpaint 695 – Exploding Toilets, Fred and Ginger, Simon and Garfunkel

December 24, 2021

I got a lovely comment the other day from reader Laurie, which has prompted me to do a bit more on films: couldn’t call what I do critique really, more like cursory idle chatter. As long-suffering readers will know, my thing is to take two (or more) films, paintings, artists, books, whatever and find comparisons and similarities between them, regardless of cultural differences, period, tone, language – or anything else. Tonight, I thought I’d start with toilets. Why? Because I want to seem “edgy” and unsentimental, before wallowing in the perfection of Astaire and Rogers.

Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)

I’d never seen it before in its entirety when it showed up on TV recently; the “worst toilet in Scotland” scene was familiar from clips, however. If there is anyone reading who hasn’t seen it, the character Renton, addicted like all his mates except the psychopathic Begbie, has the runs and is forced to use this utterly filthy, shit-encrusted, semi-flooded public toilet. And yes, he drops his pills – drugs, that is – into the bowl. And goes down after them, diving into the filth and miraculously emerging into a sort of cistern of clean water in which he locates his pills and swims back up into and through the filth, to emerge from the bowl, spitting out brown water.

Parasite (2020, Bong Joon Ho)

A week or so later, this South Korean film also turned up on TV. It was more familiar in that I’d seen it at the cinema a while back on its release. There ‘s a scene in it where the criminal family who have fraudulently installed themselves in a variety of jobs (housekeeper, tutor, chauffeur) in a rich couple’s ultra modern building, are force to return to their own slummy semi-basement in the midst of a colossal storm. The basement is flooded, the daughter climbs on to the raised toilet bowl (see below), lights a cigarette somehow – and a moment later, the toilet appears to explode, spraying lumps of ordure all over her and everything else.

Well, so this is disgusting but up to now the film has been, like Trainspotting, basically a comedy. Soon, however, it descends into horror (or maybe ascends -value judgement), when a series of bloody killings takes place at a garden party. And then I thought back to Trainspotting and realised there is a similar shock change of tone at one point. Nothing to do with Begbie’s outbursts, which are signalled very clearly: no, this is the death of the baby, which we have seen crawling about on the floor unheeded, in the midst of the cast of addicts who are shooting up all around it, The death is introduced by the screaming of the mother, which starts as an unidentified noise in the brain of the unconscious Renton, and slowly becomes recognisable as screaming.

So there we are, a cross-cultural and cross- temporal? historical? link – or links, actually, between Scotland and South Korea, between two centuries. Nothing if not inclusive here.

Fred and Ginger

OK, from the disgusting to the sublime. Reeling from the above, and my usual late night fare of serial killers on Quest Red etc., I went back to basics on YouTube, to feast on Fred and Ginger, having seen The Gay Divorcee and the Parkinson interview with Fred on Talking Pictures (also on YouTube). First, Parkinson: he showed a clip of Fred doing “Putting on the Ritz” from “Blue Skies” – stunning. The stick rapping, the timing,,, unbelievable. Actually, change that to brilliant, simply because it’s pretty much all unbelievable in the nearness to perfection of the routines and the execution. Count the number of times reporters, interviewees, everybody say “incredibly” in an average evening on TV, you’ll see what I mean.

This is what she’s taught me

This one is “Pick Yourself Up” from “Swing Time” (1936). The pair breeze through it as if for the first time. Note the way they stride towards us palms outward as if to say “here we are!”, then stop and break into tap. And the effortless way Fred swings her over the rail and passes over it himself; smooth and dangerous looking.

Fantastic Tap

This is Fred dancing with Eleanor Powell, to “Begin the Beguine”. Not as elegant as his set pieces with Ginger, perhaps, but this must be close to the best tap there is, from both of them.

That Beautiful Back

Back to “Swing time”, for the last dance with Ginger, introduced by Fred singing “Never Gonna Dance”, wistfully, because she’s going off to marry someone else. They start by simply pacing around together dolefully, then break into dance, she’s leaning that beautiful back into him, shoulders raised… and she breaks away. He moves towards her, grabs her arm, spins her around, she looks at him shocked. He mimes pleading with her and suddenly they are dancing again. The orchestra (superb, as in all their films) reprises the big numbers, “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Waltz in Swing Time” – they dance up the black staircase, he spins her again at speed – and she exits, leaving him to follow seconds later, slowly, looking crushed.

I could write all night about their routines, and Ginger’s warm, sceptical smile, eyes slightly veiled, at Fred’s breezy importuning -but I’ll be returning for sure. Just mention one other routine, which is obviously “Let’s Face the Music” from “Follow the Fleet”. Its the exit – their exits are always perfect. The orchestra has piled on the drama and just done that bit where they run up and down the scale, and the dancers, as they pass out of our sight, suddenly throw their heads back and high step in unison – a perfect Art Deco image.

Simon and Garfunkel, the concert in Central Park (1981)

Whilst on YouTube, check this out – its one of the best live concerts I’ve seen, up there with Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band in 1975 on the Old Grey Whistle Test (the one with Albert Lee on guitar). For me, the standout songs – we’re back to Simon and Garfunkel, by the way – are “America” (counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike); “Late in the Evening” (just watch the drummer, the brass section and most of all, the audience); and “American Tune” (based on that beautiful hymn from the Matthew Passion). Also Slip Sliding Away, The Boxer and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover; I’ve watched the whole thing four times and the standouts maybe ten.

My latest paintings to finish with – Scottish toilet or Fred and Ginger? You decide…

Mr. Whippy

Frogleg

Frogleg on the wall, with a friend

Blackpaint

Christmas Eve 2021

Blackpaint 429 – Four Cities; Paris, Rio, Hiroshima, Nagasaki

January 11, 2014

Toulouse- Lautrec

I have acquired Patrick O’Connor’s “Toulouse-Lautrec – The Nightlife of Paris” (Phaidon Books) which confirms me in my opinion that TL was every bit as good as Degas; a few pictures below to back that up:

Lautrec - the englishman

The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

lautrec5

Caudieux

rue des moulins

Rue des Moulins

I think the only real difference is the element of caricature in TL’s work, absent from Degas; maybe also the penchant for swirling, vibrant backgrounds as above, more reminiscent of Van Gogh than Degas.

Vitamin D2

Another Phaidon book, this one the latest in their Vitamin series of drawings.   My favourites:

Moshekwa Langa

moshekwa langa

A Turn in the South

and J Valentine Parker

J Parker Valentine

Untitled 2012

Langa’s highly colourful, Parker’s in that lovely, scrapey, rough, Diebenkorn-ish charcoal.  Nothing new, I know, but great.

Flying down to Rio

Fred and Ginger’s first film together, hard to get hold of as a DVD; my copy is Spanish and I have to watch it in English with Spanish subtitles.  The usual ridiculous plot, not enough dancing from F and G – but it’s worth getting hold of for the fantastic aerial sequence at the end.  Dozens of beautiful girls dancing, posing, stripping off (only to the swimsuits; this was 1933), on the wings of planes – to an orchestra conducted by Fred, playing in a hotel courtyard thousands of feet below.  I can’t watch any Fred and Ginger film without finding a foolish smile on my face at the end.

Command and Control, Eric Schlosser

Another Christmas present, this one containing some staggering facts.  here’s a sample:

The Little Boy atom bomb – the Hiroshima one – had a firing mechanism that included bags of gunpowder;

Nagasaki was an alternative target for the Fat Boy bomb – the first target was Kokura, but it was too cloudy to attack (only visual contact was good enough for the command structure) and the bomber went instead for Nagasaki, almost out of fuel;

No blueprints were kept for the Hiroshima bomb, so when the US government wanted to manufacture more, they had to reassemble the team and start more or less from scratch;

Most startling of all, Schlosser says that Bertrand Russell favoured a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR in the time before Russia acquired its own bomb.  I’m only a hundred-odd pages in, so no doubt there will be more “would you believe it?” stuff.

New Colours

New paints for Christmas, as requested, some decent earth colours; when I use them, however, I tend to bottle out and revert to whites and greys and paint the same pictures over and over again.  Got to make that break…

??????????

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

10.01.14

Blackpaint 374 – Review of the Year (Yawn)

December 31, 2012

The Blackpaint Annual Review 

Exhibitions – went to about 40; these are the most memorable:

Bronze at the Royal Academy

That statue of the dancer that languished on the seabed; Praxiteles?  Maybe…

Also, the Etruscan smiley god and de Kooning’s Clamdigger.

Migrations – Tate Britain

The fantastic Schwitters collage and Singer Sargent’s Ena and Betty.

Burtynsky at the Photographers’ Gallery

Shipbreaking at Chittagong and the ship apparently set in a sea of coal.

Kusama at Tate Modern

The boat covered in fabric penises and, of course, the darkened room with mirrors, reflecting pinpoints of coloured light, with shallow water around the walkways.  Everything was interesting.

London Art Fair at the Royal College of Art

The beautiful Keith Vaughans.

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Blinding colours, stars, flowerheads, flak streams – he really does yellow well, not an easy thing.

Films

Once upon a Time in Anatolia – that apple bouncing down the stream bed in the night.

The Master – Dodd mincing about singing “We’ll go no more a-roving” to a room full of fawning acolytes – and suddenly, they’re all naked – or was it just the women?

Anna Karenina – the horse race, exploding over and out of the stage set.  Many disagree, apparently, but I think Keira Knightley is a really good actress.  Lately, it seems to me that male critics feel they can praise only the following actresses: Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton and especially, Anna Chancellor.

DVDs and TV Films

Where to start?  Ken Russell, of course –Women in Love,  The Devils, The Music Lovers, Gothic.  The last three fantastically over the top; Oliver Read tearing himself from a crucifix to couple with a swooning Vanessa Redgrave; how beautiful Glenda Jackson was as Gudrun Brangwen.

Red Desert (Antonioni) – those colours in the industrial landscape.. Monica Vitti…

The Gospel According to St.Matthew (Pasolini) – I had it on at Easter; one after another, my atheist children came in, fell silent, watched it through to the end.

Tree of Life (Malick)  – America’s Tarkovsky.  Beautiful, and like Tarkovsky, utterly devoid of humour.  These chaps know they are important.

Melancholia (Von Trier) – The opening sequence, that white horse falling backwards, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both riveting.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia in the ballroom scene, prefiguring “Russian Ark”.

Swingtime – Fred and Ginger awesome in “Pick Yourself Up”, beauty and perfection in “Never Gonna Dance”.

The King of Marvin Gardens – Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, both staggeringly good.

Books

The Grass Arena by John Healy.  Unique, I think; boxer, fighter, drinker, criminal, rough sleeper, chess master, yoga practitioner, writer…

Ulysses, James Joyce.  6th time I think.  Still the most important work of fiction in English written in the 20th century; difficult to see how any fiction could supplant it.  Also really filthy, sexy and funny.  How could he have written like that when he did?

The Road and Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman.  Sort of fiction, but Grossman often strays into journalism; not a problem as he has stupendous stories to tell, about the war, the purges, the gulag…

And here’s my best painting this year – Happy New Year, to those for whom it is New Year.

005

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

31.12.12

Blackpaint 345 – Doc, Ray, Sigmar, Bela, Fred and Ginger

June 7, 2012

Two heroes gone this week –

Doc Watson

Listen to “Stack O’ Lee” and Alabama Bound”  on  “Ballads from Deep Gap”, with his son Merle accompanying him – country guitar playing beyond adequate description..

And…

Ray Bradbury

I’ve blogged about him before (see Blackpaints 41, 149, 170 ) and recently re-read seven of his short story books – I wrote down four, then counted them up; Silver Locusts, Small Assassin [Dark Carnival}, October Country, Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, Day it Rained Forever.  Easy to see his influence on Stephen King, which is a good thing – but then there’s the 1920s whimsical nostalgia; straw hats, striped blazers, bonnets, park bandstands, sarsaparilla, shades of Dick Van Dyke.  This can be wearing but it’s interspersed with real creepiness, malice and horror.  The Small Assassin for example, an intelligent, malign baby that murders its mother; the undertaker who abuses his clients in the mortuary and eventually gets his comeuppance; the Catacombs.  Best of all, I like “the Lake” from “The October Country” – an air of real melancholy.  I think it might be his earliest published story.

And back to art.

Sigmar Polke

Polke is an artist about whom I have written very little; the reason, I think, is that his work is so diverse, it’s difficult to get a handle on it.  If, for instance, you take four Polke pictures from Taschen’s “Contemporary Art” (1990), you find them completely different from each other.  “The Computer Moves In”, paint or ink sprayed on a photographic print (?) of someone seated at a computer station, on a pixelled background; “Camp 82”, a barbed-wire Auschwitz corridor between concrete fence posts and spot lights, under a baleful, dirty, grey/orange sky; and “Alice” – white outline drawing of Alice and the hookah-smoking caterpillar on his mushroom, on a background of white spots and green “football” wallpaper.  They are all from the early 80’s; “Socks”, from 1962, is a painting in varnish of three long brown socks laid out as if for display- it looks just like a Wayne Thiebaud.

The text makes great play of his light sense of irony and this lightness is maybe another thing that distinguishes him from other German artists of the period…

Picasso 

At the Tate Britain show of P’s influences on British artists, there were one or two startling, early Impressionist-style paintings that were impossible to recognise as Picassos.  The Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum apparently has another.  It is called “Woman at the Table Outside a Cafe”, from 1901.  A woman in a beautiful grey-green dress, in a cape and enormous white feather hat; red lips, challenging expression, slightly caricature-ish.  Apparently, she is an “old prostitute”, according to the catalogue.  The picture suggests Lautrec, or maybe Van Dongen (love that name).

Richard Pare

The sweeping “S” shape of the balustrade in the “Chekist Housing Scheme” stairwell, photographed in Moscow by Pare in 1999 and shown in the RA’s recent “Building the Revolution” show.  It’s exactly the sort of thing Fred and Ginger might have danced down in “Top Hat” or “Swing Time”. 

The Turin Horse

It’s all there; the relentless weather (wind this time), the pitch-dark, painterly interiors, the textures, the repetition, the dressing and undressing, the small actions performed in their entirety, no editing – the hot potatoes, eaten with burnt fingers, lips and mouths (cutlery not needed in Tarrland), the drinking of Palinka…  But then there is the beauty and sharpness of the images.  When the girl wrestles the well cover off, I was waiting for the Japanese girl to emerge…  The photographer is called Fred Keleman; he should get a mention – and of course, there is Vig, who writes and performs(?) the necessarily relentless accordion theme.  I don’t really care what it all means – it’s mesmerising.. but best in small doses.

Blackpaint

7/05/12