Posts Tagged ‘Polanski’

Blackpaint 335 – Redheads and Lurking Virgins

April 4, 2012

Deep End

Saw this on TV the other night for first time since 1970 or thereabouts; made by Jerzy Skolimowsky, set in a public baths in the East End.  Although all the actors were English (except, perhaps, Burt Kwouk in a dodgy “Chinese” hat, selling hot dogs), it sounded dubbed at times – I got the impression it was a foreigner’s view of London, same feeling with Polanski’s “Repulsion”, to an extent, but that had Catherine Deneuve as star – this had Jane Asher, who was rather good as a beautiful, hard-edged stripper/baths attendant.  Interesting that, apart from Michael Caine, who was much older, nobody to do working class cockney accents, until Ray Winstone in “Scum”, and maybe Phil Daniels and co in “Quadrophenia” – but that was much later, 79 I think.

The colours were the thing, really; green of the baths, red of Asher’s hair, white uniforms and ceilings and snow, orange, blue… the scarred and peeling walls sometimes recalling those beautiful Armenian and Azerbaijani arthouse films – “Colour of Pomegranates”, for example.  The bits I remembered from 1970 were the Tube journey with the life-size nude-ish cutout of Asher and the shock ending; won’t spoil it, in case it comes out on DVD.

Titian, The Flight into Egypt

Chanced on this new exhibition at the National Gallery today – had no idea it was opening (free).  It consists of the above painting, on loan from the Hermitage in St.Petersburg, referring to it as “Titian’s first masterpiece”, as well as a number of other Titians, Giorgiones, Durers and others that are deemed to have fed into it in some way.  The other Titians include “Noli me Tangere” and the one I wrote about before, calling it the “Flight into Egypt”, which is actually the Virgin and Child with a Shepherd, or some such title.  Confusingly, there is also a “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” on display.

The Hermitage painting is large; a small procession of Joseph, Mary and the child on an ass, led by an adolescent girl through a wooded Italianate countryside, in which a deer, a fox, a hawk, some sheep and a cow appear.  The Titian colours are there; the Virgin’s dress appears to be pink silk or velvet. and Joseph’s cloak a lustrous yellow.  Only the colours suggest Titian to me; I would not have thought of him first, perhaps because of the girl leading the ass, whose square build is unlike any Titian I have seen.  The girl for me is the main focus of the picture.

Homage to a Poet by Giorgione

The Durer drawings are stunning, of course, as are the pair of wolves by someone else, forget who; but the real attraction for me is the beautiful, strange painting by Giorgione, entitled “Homage to a Poet”.  It shows a Christ-like poet with a laurel crown, seated on a rocky outcrop, while devotees bring him tokens, animals wander about (as in the Titian) and a small, shadowy Virgin figure(?) lurks halfway up the opposite bluff.  It’s all very static; the figures stand out somehow, as if collaged on, an effect I remember from Douanier Rousseau pictures at Bilbao a year or two ago.  The shrubbery, dark at the front, lightening at the back, is sharply defined – just beautiful, and strange.  The wall notes point out Giorgione’s regard for the work of Schongauer – maybe that combination of German cold clarity with the warm colours of Venice is the secret.  Anyway, he’s my latest favourite Renaissance painter.

An old Blackpaint – at least three months old

4.o4.12

Blackpaint 269

April 25, 2011

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