Friday, December 25, 2009

Caravaggio's Remains are Exhumed in Italy

Not a very "Christmasy" post tonight, but since I'm not in a holiday mood, I stumbled upon this article about the exhumation of Caravaggio's bones to study and try to find out how he really died. Was he poisoned, or did he die of natural causes? I have been thinking of the real Caravaggio since I resurrected my review below. I read a bio of Caravaggio once, and came away even more puzzled by his life and how little we know, and how much is left to the biographers imagination. Why are we so interested? Yes he was a great artist, still in high standing in art historical terms (for the amateur that I am). But I think it is because he led a rather turbulent life, a sordid life we think, and even after all this time we are attracted by the "gossip" of that life. We are always puzzled and intrigued how someone of genius led such an untidy life. It was an interesting life.

A quote from the article:
Caravaggio pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted.

But it was his wild lifestyle that has captured just as many imaginations as his art the years.

He was famed for starting brawls, often ended up in jail, and even killed a man.

He was allegedly on his way to Rome to seek a pardon when he died.

If you haven't seen Jarman's film, or know about the real Caravaggio, spoiler below....

The man he killed was Rannuncio Tommasoni, played by Sean Bean in Jarman's film.

Below is the link to the entire article

Did I mention that after the study his remains will go on display in Rome's Borghese gallery?  

Monday, December 21, 2009

Caravaggio - A Film and an Actor

Saw on another blog (DVD Rentals) the British Film Institute's Top 100 DVD's and one of the 100 is Derek Jarman's 1986 film Caravaggio.  I wrote a short review of the film a while back for a different purpose and I reprint it here with some edits.  Maybe worth another read?

Sean Bean working with Derek Jarman

Though known for working with directors that specialize in action films and thrillers, Sean Bean has also done his share of work seen in art house cinemas. He seems to enjoy working with directors with a singular vision. Let’s look at one director and one film as an example- Derek Jarman’s, “Caravaggio".

Derek Jarman’s film uses the barest outlines of the real life of artist Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio (1573 - 1610) as a frame for his most mainstream film. Jarman is making a larger statement about the life of the artist in society.

Audiences that have only seen Sean Bean in Hollywood movies may be surprised that as Ranuccio, he plays the lover of both Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) and his model, Lena (Tilda Swinton). For Sean Bean this was his first theatrical film and he thrives with Jarman’s semi-improvisational style, and community of actors, artists, amateurs, and crew committed to one man’s vision. The powerful impact of the young and smoldering Sean Bean when Caravaggio first sees him is unforgettable.

Film critics, both when the film was released in 1986, and recently with the release of the DVD, agree on Bean’s performance:

In Jarman's Caravaggio, actor Terry discovers Ranuccio Tommasoni (played by Sean Bean with beefy, rugged, dangerous charm) at a prizefight. Newsweek, 1986.

Bean runs away with the film, a smoldering presence that oozes sexuality and pops off the screen (I loved the final sequence with Carvaggio and Ranuccio), 2008

In Caravaggio, a young Sean Bean demonstrated not only considerable acting talent, but also a charismatic screen presence working with experimental director Derek Jarman. They were to work again in another controversial Jarman film,  War Requiem.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spain's Generation of '27

For anyone in Madrid or going to Spain this winter, there is an interesting exhibit in Madrid about the artistic movement both in literature (poetry) and art known as the Generacion del 27 (because of the year 1927).  Some well known names internationally in this movement like Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali. 

Link to more info - La Generacion del 27 Exhibit

(Thanks to Yuglo)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Miss Rolf

I love mysteries.  I especially love mystery novels or TV series, or movies, that are multi layered and explore the complexity of human psychology.  That’s why I prefer English and European mystery novels because they rely more on the detective’s “little grey cells” as Agatha Christie’s Poirot would say, than on muscles and weapons.   I’m lucky that US Public Television and other cable channels have for several years now shown some great mystery and police series from other parts of the world.

One of my favorite, both the books and the TV series is Henning Mankell’s Wallander.  I won’t write about the books today, but I hope to at a future time.  No, today I’m going to write about the TV Wallander’s I’ve seen and about my favorite, Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard.

I miss Rolf.   His Kurt Wallander was so imperfectly human.  There he was, with, that blond head of hair looking like he never bothered to pass a comb through it,  clothes he seemed to have selected in the dark, and what seemed like a constant hangover.   This Wallander was out of shape and indulged his love of food and alcohol almost defiantly.  Like many of us in middle age he had to deal with divorce, a difficult elderly parent, and a daughter trying to find herself.  When pursuing the murdered he suffered all sorts of injuries and bruises and most episodes ended with him swathed in bandages.  Did I mention the injuries were due more to Wallander’s clumsiness than to any attack by the nemesis?   Kurt also loved the ladies, but he often chose the wrong ones, or said the wrong things.  Yet, there was something about Kurt/Rolf that made him strangely and charmingly attractive.   I was happy to see Rolf Lassgard continue forever as Wallander, but for reasons unknown to me he stopped in 2007.

Maybe it was because Henning Mankell changed the focus of the novels from Kurt to his daughter Linda Wallander, now a  police detective as well.  Nepotism notwithstanding Linda Wallander works in the same police station and precinct as her gruff yet caring father. So what to do with the TV Wallander?  Enter a new actor, Krister Henriksson.

For me Krister Henriksson is not my Wallander.  Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Henriksson is a wonderful actor.   The new series is very well made and suspenseful  and true to the novels.  But Krister is not Rolf.  He’s almost a politically correct Wallander.  Every hair in place, well dressed, in shape, suave and quite a ladies’ man.    He does fail romantically once in a while, but mostly women are attracted to him as the great detective he is.  Not my Wallander at all.  He barely breaks a sweat at the end of the episode, not bandages here.  He and daughter Linda have their arguments, but he resolves them in a cool and calm and fatherly way.   What happened to the so very human Wallander of before?  I’m still watching the series, a very good series, but to me this is almost an accidental Wallander, they could call him by another name, because I see him as a totally different character now.

Thankfully UK television and US Public TV came to the rescue with a third Wallander.  Kenneth Branagh is a blend of Rolf Lassgard and Krister Henriksson in his Wallander – scruffy, angst ridden,  stressed-but  in shape and in control.  I was glad to see the return of the elderly  father and the headstrong daughter,  and the pain of a man trying to deal with both while dealing with a murderer on the loose.  I also enjoyed the return of the Wallander that’s clumsy yet charming with women.   I liked Branagh’s Wallander and look forward to seeing more of him soon.

So Mr. Lassgard if you are out there, know that I miss your version of this famous literary detective and hope to see you as Wallander again one day soon.  

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why a Blog?

I've wanted to be a writer since my childhood when I wrote children stories in notebooks I still have. They are in a box in one of my closets and have traveled and moved with me from country to country and home to home. I tried, though probably not very hard, since I'm easily discouraged, to become a published writer as I grew up and entered the adult work world. A couple of times I came close, but never close enough to see my words on a printed page. Life and earning a living took me in a very different direction, and after a while I never tried again.

How marvelous then that the new world of the Blog has made it possible for those of us who want to write to do so at will. So why my own Blog now? Maybe because I am at an age when if I don't do it now, I'll never do it. Is it vanity or ego? Yes, there is some of that. I do have other outlets for some of my writing, but not one that is free ranging because it targets no readers, though I hope for some. I am way overextended in my personal and home life, and I have commitments to other things and others as well. Why then take on this other time consuming task? Because I hope it flexes some mental muscles I rarely flex, and because writing for myself, a diary or journal, has always relaxed me. (Yes, I have diaries and journals also in boxes in my closet). Why make it a public journal of sorts? Because I now can, and because of that vanity and ego thing again.

So what will I write about? Anything and everything that strikes my fancy I hope: movies, books, television, art,weather? A warning though, I'm not into personal confessions or controversy, though I probably will write about my life when writing about the amusements or burdens of life.

I'll close my first post here and hope I have an idea for the next. Thanks for reading if you do.
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