Antonioni/Fellini/Visconti & other trios to operate on…

Antonioni/Fellini/Visconti & other trios to operate on? I could have added Rosselini but no. Three.

These guys are important Italian directors of the XXth Century. They knew each other, worked for each other, and they have different styles.

Let’s explore Wikipedia… ungingerly, broadly, roughly :

  1. Antonioni : His films have been described as “enigmatic and intricate mood pieces” that feature elusive plots, striking visuals, and a preoccupation with modern landscapes.
  2. Fellini : Fellini’s films are a unique combination of memory, dreams, fantasy and desire. The adjectives “Fellinian” and “Felliniesque” are “synonymous with any kind of extravagant, fanciful, even baroque image in the cinema and in art in general”.
  3. Visconti : wildly decadent, brocaded period melodramas, often so theatrical as to be operatic. “…neorealist tone of common man stories with a sense of avant-garde exploration of interpersonal relations”.

 

When I was in my 20s, I adored Antonioni, “best known for his “trilogy on modernity and its discontents” — L’Avventura(1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962) – as well as the English-language films Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975)”. It was mysterious, enigmatic, and his way to show “incommunicability” were talking to my own disillusions, I suppose.

In my 30-40s, I loved Visconti, his way of growing from neo-realism to big perfect complex movies like The Leopard.

Now in my 50s I explore Fellini in an awe. It’s much more decadent, complex, I have to… dig!

 

If you choose these three, wiki them first, then find your own ways to explore (and to compare). Buy used books (it’s cheaper), read, watch movies, ask and debate in forums, find pages like “Where to begin with”. It can keep you busy for months!

 

TOOL

It could be a structure for thinkers/explorers.

How many interesting trios you could explore? In the movies : De Palma/Coppola/Scorcese (again… Italians!?)? In literature : Steinbeck/Hemingway/Faulkner? Proust/Céline/Duras? In music : Ravel/Debussy/Roussel? Politics? Photography (I choose Sternfeld/Eggleston/Shore)? Poetry?

Do we have to choose people from the same time? The same country? The same Art? I think so, it’s probably more fecund. Or else you have to find common structures already, like Basquiat/Shostakovich/Fellini. Hmmm more complicated, n’est-ce pas?

How to explore your trio? Interviews? Finding links? Combine them in Google? One by one, or all at the same time? Influences? Difficulties? End of career?

I copy paste an extract of “A New Guide to Italian Cinema” after the pictures. Have fun! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Luchino Visconti

In 1960, Visconti made the emigration drama Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960), a film that combined the neorealist tone of common man stories with a sense of avant garde exploration of interpersonal relations. Visconti updates the story of Sicilian fishermen from La terra trema/The Earth Trembles (1948) to a tale of contemporary Lucanian immigrants alienated by industrial Milan in a film that has become a canonical example of Italian art cinema.

Visconti’s next film, Il Gattopardo/The Leopard (1963), is an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896–57) about a Sicilian Prince who must relinquish power and status after Italian unification. In The Leopard, Visconti shows the dissolution of the aristocracy with sympathy and under- standing for the aesthetic and intellectual qualities that he, as an aristocrat himself, so deeply appreciated. The Prince’s demise is a metaphor for the decline of the aris- tocracy. Death images pervade the film as the Prince stoically witnesses the end of an era. The Prince, played by Burt Lancaster, summarizes the views of the fading aris- tocracy when he dismisses fears of revolution with his belief that the rising middle class is actually interested in becoming part of the system. The Prince offers a perfect definition of the fatalistic concept of trasformismo originally coined by one of the first prime ministers of unified Italy, Depretis, that the more things may change the more they actually remain the same. The film ends with a grand ball for the announcement that the Prince’s nephew (Alain Delon) will marry Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), the beautiful and rich daughter of the nouveau riche social climber Don Calogero. The ball sequences show Visconti’s extreme attention to historical detail and minutely lavish reconstruction of nineteenth-century artifacts. These scenes were reproduced with extravagance and self-indulgence in a complete departure from the neorealist style, and evidence Visconti’s ability to give cinematography the same sort of high artistic power usually identified with painting or opera.

Visconti’s La caduta degli dei-Gotterdammerung/The Damned (1969) with its Italian title referring to a Richard Wagner opera, chronicles the rise of Nazism in Germany through a study of the moral perversity of the Essenbeck clan, modeled after the Krupp family of armaments manufacturers. Visconti connects Nazism and sexual perversion, a point explicitly conveyed through a recreation of the night of the long knives when Hitler’s SS purged the Nazi movement of its SA rivals. Visconti’s Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice (1970) is based on the Thomas Mann short novel about a middle-aged man who remains in Venice during the cholera outbreak that will claim his life in order to ogle a Polish boy at the Lido beach. Death in Venice deals with the decadence of an individual, Whereas Visconti’s next films deal’s with the decadence of an entire family, Gruppo di famiglia in un interno/Conversation Piece (1974) and of an era, L’innocente/The Innocent (1976). Conversation Piece depicts the life of an Italian family in contemporary society and creates a rather bleak view of modern life, plagued by lack of communication, drug addiction, and political terrorism. Visconti’s last film, The Innocent, is an adaptation of a story by Gabriele D’Annunzio in which a nobleman kills his wife’s illegitimate newborn before committing suicide in a study of fin-du-siecle aristocratic society bound to self-destruction.

Federico Fellini

Fellini went from being Aldo Fabrizi’s gagman and a screenwriter on Rossellini’s neorealist film Open City (1945) to become an art cinema director. With its glamor kitsch and emphasis on contemporary consumerism, Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960) is a sociological portrait of 1960s economic boom Italy. The film is divided into episodes that offer a journey through Roman society from the world of the jaded celebrity journalist Marcello, to the decadence of the Roman aristocracy and the banality of late night prostitution. La dolce vita caused scandal due to its striptease sequence, which heightened its box office appeal. In this vein the film is party to the erotic genre of the period, such as the Brigitte Bardot films directed by Roger Vadim in France or Alessandro Blasetti’s Europa di notte/Europe by Night (1959) box office hit, which offered a glimpse into the world of European striptease par- lors. La dolce vita is also remembered for the manner in which the stars Marcello Mastroianni and Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg communicated a sense of Italian fashion to a world audience. The film contributed ot the English language through the reference to the scandal photographer Paparazzo whose name refers to celebrity photographers to the present day.

Fellini followed La dolce vita with one of his most autobiographical films, 81⁄2 (1963). Fellini had previously made six feature length films and had contributed “half ” segments to three others, so he considered 81⁄2 as his eighth-and-a-half film. The protagonist is a film director who can no longer decide what films to make, a crisis connected to his problematic relationships with three different women: his wife, his mistress, and an angelic fantasy figure played by Claudia Cardinale. The story jumps rapidly from present to past, from reality to dream and fantasy as Fellini addresses the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and its effects on adolescents, the absurdity of the world of film production, and the par- adox of living between reality and illusion. The film ends where it began; with a parade of characters performing at the director’s whims.

Similar themes are present in Fellini’s Giulietta degli spiriti/Juliet of the Spirits (1965), a film that puts the themes of middle-class alienation from Rossellini’s Europa ’51 and Antonioni’s L’Avventura into the style of spaghetti nightmare hor- ror films. Giulietta is a middle-aged married woman faced with her husband’s extramarital affair. She undergoes a series of traumatic experiences: spiritual séances, encounters with phony oriental prophets, outings with her oversexed, stunningly beautiful neighbor, and haunting by her inner ghosts. These latter include an overpowering mother figure, a beloved, rebellious grandfather, archaic figures, and Catholic martyr nightmares. Eventually, Giulietta chases away her ghosts to face the outside world.2 Though Giulietta arrives at a certain sense of wisdom, there is a fatalistic realization that little will change for her.

Toby Dammit (1967) is Fellini’s short film based upon Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Never Bet the Devil Your Head, which appeared in the multi-director effort Spirits of the Dead. Fellini’s contribution is a parody of many of the currents in film in the 1960s: horror, pornography, westerns, and art cinema. Fellini had already parodied the Italian film industry’s reliance on the maggiorata fisica actresses such as Anita Ekberg and the Hercules series peplums starring American strongman Steve Reeves in La dolce vita. In Toby Dammit, Terrence Stamp plays a dipsomaniac English actor suffering from visions of the Devil as a little blond girl chasing a large white ball. Toby has been cast as Jesus in the first Catholic western in which the Savior returns to the desolate, violent plains of the American west with a plot reminiscent of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, The Grand Inquisitor. Fellini takes aim at the world of film theory influential in the mid-1960s in the sequence when the producers’ representative, Father Spagna (many so-called spaghetti westerns were filmed in Spain), introduces Toby to the directors who explain the theoreti- cal basis for their film project as Fellini’s camera scans his artificially re-created Roman streets. Fellini parodies film theory when the directors offer a quick syn- opsis of the theoretical grounding of their film: Roland Barthes’s textual analysis, Georg Lukac’s Marxist social determinism, the Hollywood montage style of Fred Zinneman—the director of the Gary Cooper western High Noon (1952). Toby finally performs the nihilistic soliloquy “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” from MacBeth at Fellini’s surrealistic re-creation of an Italian film award banquet.3

Fellini extended his parodies of popular genres to the peplum with Satirycon (1969), a disturbing, dreamlike vision of the fragmentary classical tale by classical author Petronius, which Fellini turns into a cautionary tale about the decline of ancient Roman society with the expressionistic style of a horror film. Clowns (1970) is a semi-documentary that discusses the disappearance of the clown as an entertainment phenomenon. With Roma (1971), Fellini repeated the autobio- graphical themes he had explored in 81/2 with an episodic film about the Italian capital that contrasts Fellini’s memories of the city when he first arrived in the Fascist period with his impressions as a middle-aged director. For Fellini, Rome is not just a city, but a second home, a mother, a depository of ancient mysteries and current decadence, of filth, life, death, and renewal. After an enigmatic cameo of Anna Magnani, the film ends with an apocalyptic and ironic sequence about a new horde of scooter riding barbarians returning as if to sack Rome one more time.

 

Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni began as a critic in the Italian professional cinema of the 1940s and made neorealist style documentaries in the late 1940s including Nettezze Urbane/N.U. (1948), a faithful account of a day in the life of city garbage collectors. Antonioni brought the documentary long-shot camera style to his early feature films Story of a Love Affair (1950) and his docudrama about troubled youth in Europe I vinti/The Vanquished (1952). He gained international acclaim with L’Avventura (1959), the story of a group of wealthy vacationers who cannot find one of their party, Anna.4 L’Avventura was censored in several countries and its projection suspended for six months in Milan for “obscenity” because of scenes of actresses undressing in front of the camera. In the film the only information that spectators have about Anna before her mysterious disappearance is that she is involved romantically with Sandro, and hers is the first female body seen undress- ing on screen. Otherwise she remains an enigmatic character whose disappearance offers an unanswerable philosophical parable regarding existence. The film became

104 GUIDE TO ITALIAN CINEMA

emblematic of art cinema for the manner in which Antonioni challenged the stylistic and narrative conventions of commercial cinema. His extended long shots and narrative without closure were in opposition to the Hollywood model.

Other Antonioni films include La Notte/The Night (1960), the story of a novel- ist suffering from writer’s block who is also dissatisfied in his marriage. Antonioni expertly employs the setting of an all night party against the anonymous backdrop of industrial Milan as a metaphor for the estrangement between the film’s protag- onists. L’Eclissi/The Eclipse (1961) examines themes of alienation and separation from the natural world, a theme continued in Deserto rosso/Red Desert (1964). Antonioni has a reputation for being more sensitive to women’s issues than Visconti or Fellini. His trilogy of solitude, however, and especially L’Avventura and The Eclipse, reveals an equally male-dominated handling of the female image. Yet Antonioni also made films that questioned the essence of reality with Blow-Up (1966) set in the London of the swinging 1960s, which features a cameo of rock guitarist Jimmy Page playing with rock group the Yardbirds. The film is a murder mystery in which the existence of a chance photograph of the murder scene by a callow English fashion photographer begs questions about the perception of real- ity. Antonioni continued to experiment with new narrative approaches with his film on youth rebellion in the Sam Shepard scripted Zabrieskie Point (1970) and the Peter Wollen scripted Professione: Reporter/The Passenger (1975) starring Jack Nicholson in an enigmatic story about a man who assumes the identity of another, filmed in a style that was the height of the long-shot art cinema style to reach commercial theaters. Antonioni has remained sporadically active in later years with the historical film Il mistero di Oberwald/The Oberwald Mystery (1980) as well as Identificazione di una donna/Identification of a Woman (1982) and Beyond the Clouds/Al di là delle nuvole (1995).

Zeen Chin, Malaysian Illustrator

Zeen Chin, Malaysian Illustrator, has his own universe, right? Great pastellish colors, great use of them, obsession with masks, baby-like creatures and monsters, and a curious sense of intimacy…

It stopped me on Pinterest. Here are some. Many more at :

https://www.artstation.com/zeen

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Fruitful Constraints in creativity & the wall of “I don’t know this”

I wrote an article about Fruitful Constraints & Creativity in 2017. Here it is :

It’s an old tool many artists know : many constraints are fruitful. Mainly because a constraint is a problem calling for a solution, therefore you have to move, to be creative.

All jobs and activities have constraints : budget, environment, other people, time, space, your skills, your tools.

If it’s too loose, though, you feel a freedom, which can be messy. You can not catch anything. Stuck. You maybe need to tight something up, to find “your” freedom within a new frame.

Brian Eno invented the Oblique Strategies (mainly for musicians) as a card game. You pick a card and you have to obey (sometimes it’s terrible!). Some directors are well known to tell the actors to follow precisely something (the dialogs, or the places they have to move on the set, etc) before shooting. Some digital artists sometimes go out in a park with a pencil and a notebook. A photographer can go outside with the limit of 20 pictures taken, not much. And G. Perec wrote an entire book without the letter “e”.

Constraints are fruitful. You probably have many disposable levers for these. A poet can obey : write something in alexandrine; without any letter “p”, in less than 5 minutes. You may have to present a project in ONE minute only, and… with no words. What are your levers?

You can pull a lever to Zero, it’s the Total Constraint. For example, you’re a photographer and you go out without any camera. Just your eye. You’ll feel the need, you’ll feel your brain simmering. As you can only watch and… think, you’ll maybe have bursts of ideas (instead of taking pictures). Take notes!

Of course it’s an example of “Amor Fati”, being content with what happens to you, even if it seems bad. Embracing fate : every constraint, if you can’t avoid it, should (and will have to) be danced with.

 

Today I’d like to extend this. If “constraints in Arts” is a well known concept, what about life, or culture?

Obviously, it’s linked to the idea of “Comfort Zone”. Let’s take movies, or music…

If one listens to the music they love, good to them. But how do we discover other musics, in fields we’re not used to dig? We have to think, make efforts, find a way and a place, informations. Then we begin, and our brain is surrounded with constraints : we don’t necessarily feel pleasure, there are things we don’t get, and our lazy head pushes us to stop.

It’s the same for painters we don’t like, movies we usually avoid, etc.

Out of our comfort zone, we have to make efforts, we must use an amount of curiosity, we must find or draw maps. In fact, we build, we extend, we grow.

The wall of “I don’t know this” can be an obstacle. Do we skip over, making efforts and feeling the fecund constraints of the undiscovered, or do we go back to the mellowness of what we already love?

Is the real new fruitful for us? How?

If exploring is sometimes unpleasant, is it worthy to fight the unpleasantness (OK : displeasure) and why? You have to invent new tools to think? You could find pearls and emeralds and gold?

What haven’t I explored until now?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Trent Parke

What did they lose?

Brian de Palma, Dario Argento, Mike Oldfield are the first names which come to my mind when I think about artists who “lost it”.

There’s a recent documentary about Brian de Palma, where he smiles, admitting that many directors (himself, or Hitchcock) have a decay after a certain age. The end of their career approaches and the films aren’t this great anymore…

It’s so human, after all. Less steam… maybe? This seems complicated. What did they lose, after all? Let’s see :

  1. Less steam. The will to express vanishes with time. Youth gave the will and power to work.
  2. Less money. For some arts (like making movies), you need money, producers.
  3. Less ideas. Admitting there is a tank of ideas in one’s head…
  4. Disillusions and “so what”ness.
  5. The public changes. Young artists appear and make the other ones old.
  6. Bad choices. Like trying things (and failing) out of a domain (which is understandable, right?). See how Mike Oldfield stopped inventing his music after Amarok.
  7. Less success.
  8. Auto-sabotage (Orson Welles?).

All these weaved in a bad messy braid…

Who else?

Some rare guys though, seem to constantly be reborn, they have like… different careers. Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, Steven Spielberg?

More : what do we lose?

What is worse? To lose one’s wallet of enthusiasm, or to work senselessly like a headless hen?

Sorry for my English. Thanks for reading!

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Safer paths?

There’s been an interesting post on the marvelous Facebook of Humans of New York (which you should follow, it’s… humanist).

One guy was in NYC, in his mid-30, struggling to be an actor with no or little success, living paycheck to paycheck. The people’s answers under the post were interesting, picking paths for him (from “go on you’ll make it” to “wisdom says you should let go now”).

I chose an answer from a reasonable person, who chose a family life. Drawing a three branched tree :

  1. People with a more safe and secure life, as a choice, staying anonymous.
  2. People with dreams and passion, wishing for success (in entertainment).
  3. People “mourning unfulfilled dreams” within an ordinary life : they were too afraid to try and dare.

With a conclusion : “Not all dreams work out” and people fall down. But also the maybeness of dreams become true – with the eternal behind-law which says approximatively “When the Gods want to punish you they fulfill your dreams”.

Of course, the actor was necklacing castings, with very little success. It looked like  lottery and gamble…

It becomes a game : What’s worse, to have an ordinary life complaining you should have been an artist, or to struggle for decades until nothing happens? What if you succeed, and it’s boring? What if my book is at least edited and no one buys it? Are there stages in these paths? What if you succeed and then fall into oblivion? What if you decide to move and act at mid-life? Or the contrary, disappear after success?

Oh oh, my three-branched tree became a tree!

Thanks for reading!

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Hopper / Antonioni / Chekhov : Effects of Reality

Roland Barthes explained the “Effect of Reality” as a way to establish literary texts as realistic.

He said that some descriptions, in novels, have no other reason than to make us feel it’s a real place.

“…in one of his novels Flaubert describes the room of his main character and mentions a pyramid of boxes and cases standing under a barometer. These kinds of details are called notations by Barthes; he contrasts them with the main outline of the story, which he labels predictive, probably because on this level we can make certain predictions about the development of the story.”

F. R. Ankersmit

 

  1. We find this “tool” in some Antonioni’s movies, L’Avventura or L’Eclisse for example. A scene lasts a little to much. The camera shows something (a gaze, a street) without “real” reason. No other reason than this : suddenly you “feel” as if you touched reality, getting out of the-dream-of-watching-a-movie.
  2. We find this “tool” in Hopper’s paintings. For me, it’s his main talent, asset. We watch : some people are here, just “being” – they wait or think, who knows? These paintings stop you, wondering what these people do, if they’re bored…
  3. We find this “tool” in Chekhov’s short stories. His descriptions are not here just to “paint the scenery”, but (and very shortly/effectively) make us feel something. So much that I remember plenty of places of these books!

Of course, it’s used in many other art pieces and form.

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I think this is linked to our idea of boredom. In Antonioni we often watch someone doing nothing – breathing, watching something, thinking. It breaks the usual “flow of events” we often see in movies. Or we see a conversation leading to nowhere. Blank seconds. We see people dealing with boredom. And maybe we are hurt, of surprised, or… bored a bit. And it’s an effect of reality, right?

Sometimes it’s just “a place shown”, like in Hopper‘s work. The light on a wall suddenly makes you “feel” the place. You can almost hear the little wind, or the street, the sea. It’s as if your brain suddenly touched the reality he wanted you to feel.

 

What will we do with this? Why and how does it work? Why is it… good? What about photography? One purpose of it could be to “make us touch” reality, instead of amazing us? What do you think?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Works that create an irrepressible need to express yourself

Works that create an irrepressible need to express yourself

Take music, for example, you can study it in many ways : historically, genres, energy, impact on society, lyrics, etc…

There’s a book I love (Francis Wolff, Pourquoi la Musique ?) which studies the impact of music on human kind. What music does to us.

Any work of Art can be studied that way, a book, a sonata, a painting or a poem.

What does it do?

  1. Emotion
  2. Remembrance
  3. A need to dance
  4. A need to know more about the artist
  5. A need to get more of her/him!
  6. Relief
  7. Calm down
  8. Focus
  9. Meditation
  10. Understandings of the things of life
  11. Knowledge
  12. Beauty sparks

 

Etc…

Some artists are so… peculiar that they can trigger this : “An irrepressible need to express yourself”.

Why? How? How does it work?

I read it about Proust, and I agree : it’s because his huge Lost Time group of books, besides being a fantastic work of literature, is also a big, constant river of ideas, of “tropisms”, little movements of the mind. It touches little parts of your brain you know very well but, well, nobody talked about it to you before. Therefore you have the constant impression that this guy knows you very, very well. It can become a drug (and it is !).

This puts you into a movement. You need to move, to work, to write, to tell. Your well set big trunks of ideas, in your head, begin to move. Things get alive. They want to get out.

Also, there’s the risk of mimicking the artist who triggered it. Get over it. Don’t care : the flow is here, ready to do its flow thing.

Work, work, work. And thank the person who, in the past, had the talent to open your desire to express.

Who are the person who did this to you?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Proust crée chez son lecteur un besoin irrépressible de s’exprimer.

Joseba Eskubi, Spanish painter

Joseba Eskubi is a Spanish artist, who creates “soft, amorphic and organic forms”.

You’ll find the “Bacon thing” in his work, or find it a bit weird, but you’ll feel your brain searching, turning around with the idea of “what-is-it” boiling. His colors skills are great.

It stopped me. What do YOU think?

2019

 

Coffee & Music : Cycles

ONE

A few centuries ago, you had no coffee in bed in the morning – and I seriously wonder how were people doing without it!

A long time ago some guys in Africa realized it was cool to get these little red seeds, then burn them a little before making this cool black beverage. Coffeeeee…

It came to Italy, then France, then England, you know the rest…

I heard about the three waves of coffee :

  1. Black coffee : cheap, sold and consumed everywhere.
  2. Starbucks culture, making coffee a candy mess with caramel, chocolate, cream…
  3. A need to come back to simple black coffee with a knowledge of origins, ethics, taste subtleties : specialty coffee.

TWO

Before the invention of recording, the music you had is the music you or people played.

It’s been a climbing :

  • Came vinyl, then LPs. From mono came stereo, waow!
  • Hi-Fi has been the word, for a few decades : the goal was to get a better sound.
  • Compact Disc came : better dynamics, no clicks and pop, no pre-echo…

Then a fall :

  • MP3 and other “compressed” sound, a music disaster.
  • Then “the return of the vinyl”, which is like this :

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What I expect today, like for coffee, is a… public sudden understanding that the quality of recorded music IS important. The tools already exist, with Blu-ray audios, or portable players which can play FLAC and other uncompressed music.

THREE

So the structure is easy, it’s a three parts process :

  1. Discovery, then mass market (a cup of black coffee homemade / a good CD)
  2. Decadence, quality collapse (Starbucks horror / vinyl, mp3 or YouTube)
  3. Rebirth with high-end products for everybody (a cup of good black coffee / high definition music)

Where to apply this triplebranch? Politics? Economy? Fashion? Literatures?

Thanks for reading!

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Hurt & Beguiled (by a masterpiece)

The Godfather movies (Coppola) or 8 1/2 (Fellini), Proust or Faulkner, Brückner’s 9th or Puccini, some Picasso or Manet’s paintings, some photographs, a poem…

There are many things we can feel in front of Art, from grief to enthusiasm, by way of curiosity or puzzlement.

(I had to check dictionaries to find the differences between puzzled, confused, or bewildered – it led me to… “beguiled”, which helps me here…)

A good movie or music makes you happy or entertains you. It triggers emotions. Good!

But some masterpieces hurt you, because they install in you a whole living pack of energies. Ideas, but also a big need to achieve something, to move, to act. You are… beguiled!

Suddenly you stand up and you have to do something. You got an understanding, a rush. You have a urgent need to know more about the author, or the piece of work which just floored you. It hurts!

You want to tell everybody about it, then you’re more hurt, because many people you know wouldn’t understand any of it, probably. Then you dream to lecture them, to explain!

It’s an enrichment, but also a great source of energy, which can supply you ideas and needs of informations or creativity – for months.

It happened to me, with many Chekhov’s texts, David Lean’s movies, Manet’s paintings, Eggleston’s pictures, with Visconti’s The Leopard, with Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander, with Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, etc…

This pattern is one of the sources of this blog.

What do you think? What are yours?

Thanks for reading!

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Is the form imposed by… itself?

I asked a writer about the interesting “forms” of his books. One looks like two different territories separated by an event. The other is weaved with “devices” which acts like small intermissions or surprising dreams reports.

I’m interested by forms in literature, from style to tricks with narration or punctuation (who said Faulkner?), and I stay amazed by the american ways of using storytelling (like in Siri Hustvedt’s essays, which mix her personal life with ideas and concepts).

The writer told me that he doesn’t “think” about the form : it comes in the moment, it imposes itself.

That made me think about this photographer, who said :

“A photographer solves a picture, more than composes one.”

Stephen Shore

As if there was just ONE way to take the picture, in a given place.

That’s my tool today : is the form of a piece of work imposed by itself? As the artist, here, of course, only decides : what does that mean? Where do you know this? In other arts? How does this work?

Thanks for reading!

asx-tv-stephen-shore-behind-mythology-2013.htmlPhoto : Stephen Shore

Movies : an in between modernity mess

There’s a funny dissonance I love to feel in movies : it’s when the modernity of a scenario, of dialogs, of directing is seen into what seems an “old form”.

It’s obvious – and very disturbing – when you watch Seven Samurai (1954) or Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). The sound is old, and it’s black and white vintage, but everything sweats modernity.

It’s as if it was “not OK”, not fitting, and one wonders how the audience could watch that at the time. You feel this with all Welles movies, but also Fellini’s.

But in the beginning of the sixties, you find movies which are between two worlds : Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962), Huston’s Night of the Iguana (1964), Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), but also Lilith (1964) or Breathless (1960), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), The Misfits (1961), L’Eclisse (1962)…

All of them are black and white movies, and you begin to watch them accordingly (“Oh a good vintage classic movie!”). And you are FLOORED by the complexity or modernity of these…

Well, this article is about this “in between” mess. The structure seems to be : “looks like an old form, but modernity explodes into it”.

Where do you find that? In literature? Photography? Poetry?

What if you searched, out of Netflix, “Best films of the Sixties”, and watch them all, just for the pleasure of discovering forms, authors, resonances, happiness? Out of the flow…

Have a nice day!

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“Two Birds”, and other “long-range laconic details”

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I took this picture, then, back home, I opened it on my Macintosh and discovered the two birds, which came as a little miracle. I thought the picture was good (roofs/landscape, the light, the funny road), but it became cool because of these two guys, right?

One could call this “small impressive things”. Borgès called it “long-range laconic details”…

We have in France an idiom for this, le je-ne-sais-quoi (“the I-don’t-know-what”), the little thing that can make something magic, and also can spoil everything. One philosopher even wrote a book about this “almost nothing” (V. Jankelevitch, Le je-ne-sais-quoi et le presque rien).

No doubt he was fond of music, which is almost a wizardry on this topic (thinking about unexpected (or hidden) dissonances or modulations).

It can blossom in many discreet things, purposed mistakes or strange seeds.

This is important in Arts, where perfection is often boring.

“Beautiful books are written in a kind of foreign language”, says Proust.

In a poem, a single word can be strangely placed (or repeated, like in Gertrud Stein’s, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”) and a sensation appears :

“Now listen! I’m no fool. I know that in daily life we don’t go around saying ‘is a … is a … is a …’ Yes, I’m no fool; but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years.”.

It can be a single phrase in a whole song. The example of J. Denver :

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country roads

Seems a simple song about nostalgia, but hidden in the song you find “Driving down the road I get a feeling/That I should have been home yesterday”, which colors it differently, right?

“Everything that goes wrong… goes right” is one cool secret.

Details, games of subtleties, purposed mistakes, flakes of gold, unexpected elements, all are “je-ne-sais-quoi”s which put the audience into a state I love.

Thanks for reading!

AUSTRALIA. Sydney. Hunter st, city centre. 2002
Trente Parke
  1. Strangeization Tool & Eyebrow Criteria
  2. Intentional Maladjustments & Braiding Assessments
  3. Wes Anderson, Edouard Manet and modernity
  4. The “Brushstroke Pattern” & Progress in Arts : Offering Awareness

“Great” photography & Pompier painters, part 2/2

It’s the same pattern for photographers.

First, this little thing. The world of Internet is full of “gorgeous” photos, like this sunset and this glass ball. But you won’t find anything like this in the world of good photographers.

 

Open a book of masters of color photography (Shore, Eggleston, Herzog, Leiter…). This is NOT what they do. The gorgeousness is elsewhere than in the result of pushing cursors (very colored, very sharp, big bokeh, etc).

It can puzzle you, or make you feel the mood of a place, or anything.

I know that it becomes the philosophical problem of “Beauty”, but in this article I extract the comparison.

On the left is a Venus, she’s perfect, like in porcelain, on the sea, doing an arty movement with her hand, and little angels are gazouilling around. It’s pompier, mythical, boring. On the right is Olympia, she’s a whore, she watches you (you’re the client). Both come from the same time.

 

Now take a “splendid” pool (with a big logo on the bottom, which is a sign of bad sign), and then Stephen Shore’s pool. Which one is a good picture?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

“Great” photography & Pompier painters, part 1/2

Ce qui est trop parfait met Dieu en colère
“What is too perfect makes God angry”

 

Academic Art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. In the 19th Century, the French called it “l’art pompier”, especially historical or allegorical ones. It derives from the helmets with horse-hair tails, worn at the time by French firemen, which are similar to the Attic helmet often worn in such works by allegorical personifications, classical warriors, or Napoleonic cavalry. It also suggests pompeux (“pompous”).

Pompier art was seen by those who used the term as the epitome of the values of the bourgeoisie, and as insincere and overblown.

(Thank you, Wikipedia)

These painters (like Gérôme or Bouguereau) had a splendid technique, but they stayed in History, in this Pompier catégory : boring and perfectly made.

 

Now I admit there’s a guilty pleasure watching these guys’s works. But this is NOT what you want to study for months, right? Which I did with Manet…

There’s a pattern here : an annoying dance between “It’s splendidly made” and “It’s nowhere inventing here”, no emotion, just technique…

If we agree with the core of Arts (“What’s new here?”) – and that there’s nothing new here – we can watch this pattern/structure in other places, like photography. This will be the part 2!

Thanks for reading!

Intentional Maladjustments & Braiding Assessments

Here are a few pictures where I put the cursor incorrectly. Maladjustments.

Too much grain from too big ISO. Unfocusing. Underexposing. Motion blur from opening too long. Overexposing…

Et tout ça intentionnellement ! Of course, most of the time, it’s intentional…

AndI wanted first to write an article from it, something like :

In what other fields do we (or could we) invent intentional maladjustments? Poetry? Teaching? Architecture? Why? What does it bring?

 

I think it’s one of the core of this blog. My state of mind does this all the time. I watch a bunch of pictures, and it’s automatically weaving : I braid assessments, from the simple (I like it/I don’t) grow branches of analysis : How is it made? What does the photographer want? And in the hole pack, where’s the structure/pattern?

And a few more, probably, but I stop here because it’s three. A braid – in French, c’est une tresse…

The structure I show here is : intentional maladjustments.

The guy who invented penicillin shows another structure : serendipity, or fortunate discovery – which is very amusing to explore, leading to one of the most pleasant quote I ever found (from Pasteur) :

Chance favors the prepared mind

 

I finish with this question : how do you use this “mental gymnastics” process (the game of finding structures)? Why is it useful? When could it be useless, or even harmful?

In front of Art (example : “The Unhinger” : Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (1863) is a MESS), do you just plunge into it, finding beauty, or do you immediately want to read about it or meet the artist, to understand what he wants (in him/for you)?

Have a nice day!

 

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The traditional version of this story describes the discovery as a serendipitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St Mary’s Hospital in London, Fleming noticed a Petri dish containing Staphylococci that had been mistakenly left open was contaminated by blue-green mould from an open window, which formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould released a substance that repressed the growth and caused lysing of the bacteria.

Wrong Way Up and… the game of “finding structures”