Posts Tagged ‘Salo’

Blackpaint 537- Rape in the High-Rise; OK because it’s the Seventies (sort of)?

March 21, 2016

High-Rise, Ben Wheatley (2015)

high-rise

Laing (Tom Hiddleston) at the high-rise supermarket

First, let’s play the tiresome game of influences and references (because it’s fun); the obvious one is Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” – Jeremy Irons recalled closely the fantastic Patrick Magee’s crippled writer in the Kubrick film, as well as the general air of impending violence and social breakdown.  The neglected, precocious child left to his own devices to roam the ravaged building is like the boy in John Boorman’s “Empire of the Sun”, based on Ballard’s own semi-autobiographical book.  For some reason, I think of “American Psycho”; there’s something about the excellent Hiddleston’s coldness and the general lack of affect – and for the non-stop smoking, the smokiest film ever, Fritz Lang’s “M”.

The constantly escalating anarchic violence recalled Claude Faraldo’s 1973 grunt fest, “Themroc”, in which Michel Piccoli turns his apartment into a cave and eats a policeman he has roasted on a spit, having had sex with his sister (Piccoli, not the policeman, to be clear).  Finally, there is Pasolini’s “Salo” (1975), just for the sexual violence, perpetrated in this film on the women, but in Pasolini’s, on boys too.  There is no discernible eating of faeces in “High-Rise” however.

I saw the film in the Brixton Ritzy.  Back in 1990, I saw “The Grifters” there; Anjelica Huston (or was it Annette Bening?) was subjected to a beating about the kidneys with oranges wrapped in a stocking.  A young woman jumped to her feet and turned to the audience, angrily denouncing it as “sexist shit” and us in the audience, as complicit for watching it.  I recalled this 26 years later, as I watched Elisabeth Moss, heavily pregnant, being dragged off to be raped by two men and shortly afterwards, Sienna Miller being dragged off by her ankle to be raped, but this time, only by one man.

To be fair, no actual rapes happen on screen – although Sienna Guillory arrives at the “party” on a horse and demands to know “which of you men are going to fuck me up the arse?” and having descended from the horse, crouches down on all fours with a champagne glass balanced on her back, to facilitate her request and to reward the obliger(s).  You also see the tops of female heads bobbing above the crutches of men, who are casually drinking and conversing whilst seated naked on the floor.  Sienna Miller, bearing the cuts and bruises of her rape, appears later, waiting on Hiddleston and Irons, serving them wine, in a subdued, Stepford Wives fashion.

And all this, with no gasps of outrage and even a few laughs from women in the audience.  Maybe the sexual violence was OK because 1. the film was set in the seventies; 2. it was “ironic” in tone; 3. Ballard is now in Penguin Modern Classics, so the rapes have to stay (I presume they WERE in the book?); 4. Arguably, it’s essential to the plot and the atmosphere;  5. The rapes mostly happen off screen and 6. the screenplay was written by a woman (Amy Jump).

Actually, the film is an attempt to make a film of “High-Rise” as it would have been if made in the 70’s; a pastiche, essentially, like “The Artist”.  Brilliant piece of filmmaking, nevertheless.

And was that a real head that Tom peeled?  It certainly looked real….

 

interregnum

Interregnum

Blackpaint

21.3.16

 

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Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11

 

Blackpaint 259

March 13, 2011

Steve Bell

I can’t help but notice the likeness of Bell’s William Hague to the Martians in the Classics Illustrated version of “War of the Worlds”.  The Martians in Wells’ story were eventually killed off by bacteria…

Turner

I know this is trivial, but I’m constantly amazed at what I miss in his paintings.  For instance, “The Deluge” and “After the Deluge”; at first – and second – glance, I would have said there was nothing in the first painting but rain, sun (or moon) as a central light source, rough, indistinct land and water.  I missed the Ark in the distance, the procession of animals winding towards it, the wrecked house or tent in the foreground and the prone human figure(s)!  In the second, I saw the central figure and the snake, of course – but not the skeletons of fish littering the right foreground, nor even, at first, the scores of heads, like an audience at a public reading (which, I suppose, is what they are).  And I always have difficulty finding the hare in “Rain, Steam and Speed”.

Salo

The horrible cruelty in this film makes it difficult to watch, but I was interested to hear, in the accompanying documentary by Mark Kermode, that Pasolini regarded it as a critique of modern capitalism and mass consumerism, despite the fact that it is set in Fascist Italy, and the torturers are fascist officials.  It is suggested that the constant eating of faeces is supposed to represent mass consumption of processed and fast food.  The sado-masochistic sex Pasolini regarded as representing the commodification of the body (and everything else) in capitalist society. Three historic periods in one then; de Sade’s original, Fascist Italy and modern – or 70’s – Italy.

I’m sure that Pasolini would have thought his film irrelevant now, though, given the improvements in public life that have taken place during the Berlusconi era.

John Martin

Nice to see this painter getting an exhibition to himself.  I remember that The Tate, back in the days when there was only one Tate, had a room of Martins, and Dadds and I think Fuselis, especially that one of the Dream with the moths; we used to call it the Nutter’s Room in those less enlightened times – affectionately, of course.  There was that huge black gorge on the rear wall – “Gordale Scar” by James Ward.  Now, I realise that with the exception, perhaps, of Richard Dadd, who murdered his father, they were all fairly normal for Victorian Britain.

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