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.
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.