Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Words and Pictures: A Fitting Return

I'm baaack! I've returned from Europe filled with some fabulous ideas about Italian cinema and Baroque art that's sure to creep into this blog every now and then. I'm sorry for the silence over the last six months. Between school, travel, and my own travel blog that I was upkeeping in Rome, I didn't have much time to focus on the art of film, though I certainly had plenty of time to focus in on art. Like I just wrote, don't be surprised when my blog takes a distinctive turn towards the Baroque. I'm now an avowed Bernini and Caravaggio enthusiast. Which is perhaps fitting since the art that usually appears in movies (and even artfully done movies) employ their then-original techniques of bold lighting, simplicity, and darkness to create an atmosphere of bold drama. (Sounds like film noir, no?)

But I also engaged in the contemporary art scene of Rome which kind of led me to this film that came out a few years ago, "Words and Pictures." I'm a huge NPR listener and I remember hearing adds for this movie about two years ago and never seeing it, so I've corrected that fault. I originally decided to watch it because I saw that the film was about an English teacher and an art teacher and, as a future member of the profession, I was just interested to see the take of the English teacher (played by Clive Owen) and the art teacher (played by Juliette Binoche). I was not disappointed.
The film is essentially a romance between a charismatic but troubled English teacher, Mr. Jack Marcus and the equally troubled Miss Desanto. But most of the film isn't focused on their romance. It's focused on the struggle of the teachers to engage their gifted students (I can definitely relate to that struggle) and the "battle" that Jack and Desanto rage against each other about which is a more powerful medium: words or pictures (hence the title). What a great concept for a film which is, in its essence movie pictures with words).And isn't that one of the most classic debates among film lovers: which is more powerful: the words crafted by the screenwriter or the the images created by the director.

One of the final scenes in the movie features the apex of the "battle" both romantically and philosophy between the two great teachers. They have a debate focusing on which of the two arts is more powerful. Desanto shows a series of paintings and speaks of the emotional power of images (more of these paintings in a bit) and Jack gets up and ultimately cedes that any artistic expression which can make us greater than ourselves and serves a higher purpose. In my own mind I was freaking out because recently my new Rome-inspired definition of  beauty is that very same thing: anything that lifts us up out of normality into something greater. It's what attracts me to art, music, literature, and film. And, without realizing it, it probably inspired me to write this blog.

But, this is a real Art of Film post, not merely some ramblings about art and beauty or a screenshot of a picture as some of my "latest" posts have been about. Because, this film obviously pays a lot of attention to both pictures and words. And pictures in this film are obviously created by Desanto, the tortured artist. In actuality, Desanto's pain is real, she is suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis that makes even the simplest tasks difficult and cause her major challenges in creating her art. Some of the most beautiful scenes are those in which she is trying to paint again-- not just the process but the emotional energy of painting in which she creates her art. You really see the emotional investment of her painting-- the pain and frustrations she feels but also her sense of discovery. Some of those scenes even reminded me of documentary footage of Jackson Pollock and how much his art was about the emotional process of creating it. There's an actual joy you feel when she finds the medium for creating her art in her studio with her "broom paintings." They're beautiful and raw and wonderfully convey the emotion.

Of course, all these scenes of creating art and all the art in the studio where this process occurs made me ask that classic question "who created this art?" And for once, it was very easy to answer. Because, the art imitated life. Because Juliette Binoche, besides being a wonderful artist, is an incredible painter as well and the art that appears in the film was painted by her. That includes, of course, the paintings we see her paint but also the ones we see in the studio. I just thought that was incredible and probably explained why Binoche was really able to convey those artistic frustrations of the wonderful Desanto because she actually experienced them herself.

In Words and Pictures, I found a film that not only expressed the emotional context of the art of film, but also exhibited beautiful, powerful contemporary art with a known, even well-known artist. I'm back, baby!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My new blogging escapade

Hello readers!
I'm sorry I've been quiet so long, but as I've mentioned in earlier posts, this semester, I'm studying abroad at the American University of Rome in ITALY!! It's been one of my life dreams to live in Rome and its being realized at this very moment as I sit in my new apartment off the Via Trastavere.
I can't really promise any posts in the next few months... at least, not on this blog. That's because I've started a new travelogue of my time in bella Roma... creatively titled... "when in... Rome." I've included the link below in the rare chance that you love my prosaic posts and have always wanted them to have a bit more international flair.
I've also included my friend's new blog. She is studying in Cape Town, South Africa and I'm sure (knowing Nicole), that she'll have some amazing stories to share. I've included the link to "South African Escapades" below as well for your reading pleasure.

So, beloved readers and followers, if you could please follow our travel-blogs, we would appreciate it so much! I promise (at least mine) won't disappoint!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Art in Film to look forward to in 2015!

Happy New Year readers!
I'm really looking forward to 2015, though I'm not exactly sure how much I will be blogging. In two weeks, I'm off to bella Roma to start my own Roman holiday! But 2015 is looking like a great year for the art of film. That is, I'm finding a lot of films that are centered around artists and works of art. Some, I'll be writing about, but I just wanted to do a brief overview of the films to get you interested.

Mr Turner (released December 19, 2014)
Starring Timothy Spall and Marion Bailey

This biopic looks mildly promising. My feelings on Mr. J.M.W. Turner have certainly risen since the time I began writing this blog. If you'll remember, when I first wrote about Turner's famous The Fighting Temeraire in the Bond flick Skyfall, I was rather lukewarm about Turner's work. But, since that time, I've actually written two more piece's about Turner. Turner's Reichenbach Falls was central in the BBC's Sherlock and the good old Temeraire appeared in the background of a Seinfeld episode.
Turner's bold, expressive canvases are now some of my favorite. To paraphrase the sentiment of one of the characters in the trailer, Turner's paintings capture the chaos and movement of actual moments. His work was innovative and impressive and it seems about time that his life and work was chronicled. While the trailer doesn't exactly promise the most exciting film, it certainly looks like a beautiful period film, which can always be a delight itself.

Big Eyes (released December 25, 2014)
Starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz
I wrote about the work of Margaret Keane in a recent post about one of Joan Crawford's favorite portraits of herself. But the Big Eyes story looks absolutely fascinating. And Director Tim Burton certainly looks like he captured his love for Keane's iconic kitsch pieces in the film. And the talent: my word. I'm a huge Waltz fan, but my admiration for Herr Christoph doesn't come close to my adoration of Amy Adams. Keane looks like a role she can certainly sink her teeth into and will certainly be one of the year's top biopics.

Effie Gray (released 2014)
Starring Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, and David Suchet
I found this film quite by chance and I can't wait to get a glimpse of it. It's a biopic about the titular Effie Gray who was married to two incredible artists: John Ruskin and John Everett Millais. Ruskin and Gray parted ways after he didn't consummate the marriage and she turned to his protege, the legendary Pre-Raphelite  Millais.
The film looks beautiful and very quickly moving, if not a little... artsy. Emma Thompson's performance looks incredibly strong as does Fanning's. In addition, I never knew anything about this incredible woman who was a muse to two absolutely fabulous artists.

Mortdecai (January 23, 2015)
Starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Olivia Munn

Out of the four films I've featured here, Mortdecai is certainly the most exuberant and most out of place. The Johnny Depp vehicle looks like a perfectly delightful romp and a throwback to the fun heist films of the 60s. Based on a series of novels, Mortdecai is focused on the titular British nobleman's attempt to retrieve a precious Goya painting with a Nazi history.

Woman in Gold (release date: April 3, 2015)
Starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds
I'll have to wait longest for Woman in Gold which is also, my most anticipated film of 2015. Starring Dame Helen and Ryan Reynolds, the film captures the story of a Holocaust survivor's attempt to regain ownership of a precious Gustav Klimt painting that belonged in her family prior to the war.
Last year, there was another story about a trove of Nazi art discovered in some derelict apartment. In the trailer, Helen Mirren looks completely at ease in role of a survivor attempting to gain back a beautiful painting of her beloved aunt. Of course, the titular woman in gold in the famous Portrait of Adele Bauer-Bloch I, one of the most famous portraits of all time, not to mention the most famous of all Klimt's work. This portrait is one of the most notable pieces in art history- it's almost as iconic as Starry Night or Mona Lisa. It's troubled history is one which deserves a film and the topic is one which people ought to know more about.

Pardon the brevity of the post, dear readers, but I just wanted to get these recommendations out there in case anyone was interested. As I said, all the films look very promising, so expect to hear more about them in the future.
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