Posts Tagged ‘Michael Haneke’

Blackpaint 612 – Murder, Suicide, Sex and Some Art

December 12, 2017

Modigliani, Tate Modern

Enormous exhibition, rammed to the gills when I went, a couple of weeks ago when it had just opened.  Best or most interesting ones are Nudo Dolente (1908), very rough, upward looking; the breastless nude girl on the reverse canvas in the first room; the Gaston Modot portrait with the long, thick neck (maybe because it’s the fabulous Modot, the mad-eyed hero of l’Age d’Or and the violent gamekeeper of Regle de Jour);

 

 

The portraits of Cendrars, Cocteau and Brancusi, on the reverse of the Cellist.

Blaise Cendrars

There is a corner of beautiful nudes at the end of the exhibition; these, I think, are marred a little by the come hither or demure expressions worn.

I was interested by the eyes – Modigliani has a habit of blacking or scratching out the pupil of one eye in many of the portraits; I was beginning to think he had problems with aligning the gaze, but then noticed several where the pupils were not effaced and were correctly aligned.  So that remains a puzzle.  I also have to say that the pictures of Jeanne Hebuterne (Modigliani’s lover, who killed herself after his death, by jumping, pregnant, from a window) don’t look at all like her photograph.

Caravaggio, Sebastian Schutze (Taschen)

Ploughing on through the Taschen book, I notice that there is a marked change in the flesh tones and dark backgrounds he used in several paintings done in Sicily in 1608/9; the Burial of St. Lucy, for example, and the Raising of Lazarus both have a dusty golden flesh tone and a warm brown background darkness, contrasting with the starker contrasts and whiter flesh of earlier and later paintings.  Maybe its to do with the light in Sicily; I’m sure the repros are not at fault, as Taschen is pretty reliable.

Happy End (Michael Haneke, 2017)

Saw this at the Ritzy in Brixton and was unable to make sense of the first 20-odd minutes, due, I thought, to some demented soul drumming on the wall of the cinema.  When I could stand it no more, I stormed out to complain and discovered it was flamenco dancing night in the studio upstairs.

I eventually (after the dancing ceased) managed to make sense of the story – mostly – but the difficulty might have been just as much a result of Haneke’s narrative style;  things happen and you find out what’s going on later.  Quite common now and OK, as long as the flamenco dancers keep away…

There are some other typical Haneke tropes; the lack of sentimentality, to put it mildly, and the sudden violence.  I was reminded of the sudden, shocking suicide in Hidden.  It also recalled Festen in places, notably the scene where the son turns up at the engagement dinner, with a reluctant group of African asylum seekers in tow.  Isabelle Huppert is her chilly “self” and Jean-Louis Trintignant is brilliant as a determined, wheelchair-bound, would-be suicide.  It’s a black comedy, apparently…

Walter Hopps, The Dream Colony – A Life in Art (Bloomsbury, 2017)

This cost me £30, which I thought was a lot for a book of 300-odd pages, but I’m so glad that I bought it.  Hopps was the founder of the Ferus Gallery in LA and later, a groundbreaking curator in museums and collections in California.  He was running a gallery, working nights in a mortuary, addicted to speed, living hand to mouth, nurturing wealthy collectors – simultaneously.  He drops into the narrative – it’s “as told” to Deborah Treisman of the New Yorker – surprising asides such as “My mother was dating an actor named Marion Morrison, later better known as John Wayne”, or “at the time I was living with Charles Mingus”…

The story of Ferus, Hopps’ relationship with the smooth Irving Blum and with the macho Ferus artists is also told in the film “The Cool School” and the book has some interesting contrasts with the film, notably in the area of Blum’s marriage to Hopps’ ex- wife, Shirley Neilson and Blum’s re-purchase of the Warhol soup can pictures.  And, of course, there are the  passages on the great Ed Kienholz and the tragic story of the collector Edwin Janss, who threw himself out of a 12th floor hospital window, following an incapacitating stroke.

So, sorry – suicide in Modigliani, Haneke and Hopps; not in Caravaggio, however; he killed Tomassoni in a brawl in Rome and then, maybe, wounded another in a brawl in Malta.

Two new pictures to end with:

Red Plume

 

Green Plume

Blackpaint 

12/12/17

 

 

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Blackpaint 382 – Corpses, Ribbons and Scrapers

February 21, 2013

Films that fall into two halves

“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” is definitely one ; the night on the steppe (what is the right word for that countryside?  it’s not moorland, but more than rolling farmland really) and the finding of the corpse in the morning, and the return to town – that felt like the end.  But no; there was the aimless, exhausted wandering about the town, cafe etc., followed by the post – mortem examination.  First time I saw the film, I was irritated by this “extension”; it felt added on.  This time, no – it completed the story, told you about the isolation and fundamental humanity of the main characters, detective, doctor, prosecutor.

The other films that spring to mind are the two versions of Henry V (Olivier and Branagh – and Shakespeare, of course); they should end on the battlefield, or immediately after.  All that courting stuff with Kate is a real anticlimax.  Can’t mess about too much with Shakespeare, though, I suppose.

The White Ribbon

Watched this for the second time, on TV this time; struck me that this is one of those “eve of WWI” films, the English counterparts being ” The Shooting Party” and “The Go-Between” (Losey, Pinter screenplay).  The latter is set well before WWI actually, in the aftermath of the Boer War, but it shares that characteristic of being bathed in a too- good- to- last, golden summer.  In both films, tragedy occurs as a portent of loss of innocence and greater tragedy to come – in the Go-Between, there is a hint of corruption (the belladonna, representing the Julie Christie character?).  When I was a teacher, some women colleagues wanted it to be avoided as an examination text, because of its perceived misogyny.

How do these compare to “White Ribbon”?  Contrast, rather than compare, really; instead of the hazy sunshine, we get sharp, crisp B&W, snowbound fields; the villagers live a life that is brutal, repressed, corrupt, penurious; there is incest, rape, violence, torture, fanaticism and creepy children (Village of the Damned, Turn of the Screw and all the others).  That is such an effective trick, simply to get a child to stare straight at the camera, perhaps with an “innocent” smile…  When the doctor cruelly and repeatedly insults the midwife who has been his mistress and housekeeper, I was reminded of that Nigel Kneale short story in the 1949 “Tomato Cain” collection: “They’re scared,Mr Bradlaugh”.  Finally, there are the doorway shots; like Bela Tarr, Haneke clearly loves a good shot through an open doorway; the Vermeer effect.

Scrapers

I’ve been doing small pictures on mounting board, using Liquitex acrylic paints, which are almost fluorescent colours.  I haven’t used a brush on any of them; instead, I use bits of straight-edged card and my fingers.  I call them scrapers for obvious reasons.  One shown below, and several others in previous blogs of last few weeks.  There’s a limit to the number of different effects you can get like this, though, and I think I might have reached it.

 

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Blackpaint

Screen door

21.02.13

Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

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Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

Blackpaint 156

June 21, 2010

Sally Mann

I was hoping to do Sally Mann today, but Photographer’s Gallery closed on Monday.  Pity, because it sounds as if it sort of follows on from a couple of themes I’ve looked at in the last few blogs.  She takes antique-looking B and W pictures of her kids in the woods and riversides of Virginia.  The ones I’ve seen in the Observer and online look pretty risky, in the sense that stuff like this, naked and semi-naked kids, has been raided before in London on a complaint from the public; it might have been Mann’s photographs then, too.

The photos I’ve seen are posed, beautiful but sinister in the way that B and W photos set in woodland seem to be; looking at the Observer, they bring to mind Haneke’s “White Ribbon”, “Wisconsin Death Trip”, those Balka photos of the pond in the Polish wood (see Blackpaint 20 and 21).  It’s not just me, either; to quote Sean O’Hagan in the Observer, there is “an image entitled “The Terrible Picture”, in which one of her young daughters appears to be hanging by the neck from a tree”.

I suppose you could say that one of the functions of an artist is to confront terrible things that are part of human experience and to present them back to us in some form which embodies a truth or truths.  Whether or not Mann does this, I’ll have to wait and see, but I would have thought it takes some –  nerve?- to do this using images of your own children.  Superstition alone would stop me.

 If this weren’t enough, the other series of her photos shows decaying corpses at a Body Farm run by the University of Tennessee.  O’ Hagan asks two questions: should the scientists have let her take these photographs, and should they then be displayed as art.  I think the first question is tougher than the second; if I was the director of the Body Farm, I think I’d want permission of the relatives before letting some artist loose, especially if any of the corpses are recognisable.

As to the second, it’s not a problem for me.  We don’t see dead bodies all that often in Western society, so there’s an intrinsic interest. It’s going to happen to all of us sooner or later – or would do, if the undertakers didn’t get to us first – so it doesn’t seem to me to be totally ghoulish, just slightly morbid curiosity.  OK, then, on a Chamber of Horrors,  True Detective level; but whether it’s art…. I’ll go and see tomorrow.

Blackpaint

21.06.10