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Sunday, 28 May 2006

Art and Movies

I've been a big mess of stress lately, so I took a break by catching a movie and some art.

The movie I saw is Marie Antoinette. My French is not good enough for most French films and nothing is shown with English subtitles, so I end up seeing english-language movies in VO (that is - undubbed, but with French subtitles). Alas, I go to the place with some fo the greatest films in the world and I can't watch them. So I watched this American movie instead.

The costumes were apparently accurate. The sets look exactly like Versailles. Those are the good points of the movie. All of the good points. Oh, there was one kind of nice bit where they were playing period music over a montage and it ended in a scene where there was ensemble "actually" playing the tune. I like those kinds of transitions. But, to be geeky, the strings were panned to the elft, which is fine as that's where they were visually. To the right was an invisible harpsichord. I heard it, but I couldn't see it. Perhaps Versailles is haunted by ghostly harpsichords. This was the high point of musical editing. The rest was waaaay more sloppy. The movie didn't even have a score. It had no musical theme whatsoever. Usually shitty movies can be held together by a repeating musical theme (think Laura), but this gave us nothing. I think one of the period pieces came back once or twice, but mostly it was pop tunes, all of which faded out in exactly the same way when they were finished.

So in the first part of the movie, all the outdoor shots were of spring time ("isn't it ever winter at Versailles?" I thought to myself.) Then, in the middle, all of the outdoor scenes are high summer. Near the end it's autumn. Sort of. It's never winter. Wow, what a compelling metaphor! How artfully done! Perhaps in the next scene there will be the 731294679126346th montage of nobles drinking, gambling and eating cake while a silly pop song plays!

Kristin Dunst had an emotional range than ran from indigestion to constipated. She spent the whole movie looking as if she had over-indulged on cheese. The dialog? boring. (There was actually a section near the end where somebody was complaining that The Marriage of Figaro was too long. The Marriage of Figaro is good, unlike some movies I can name.) the plot? what plot? The historical time period and whatnot? You never see a single peasant until the end and you don't even see their faces. They're some inexplicably unhappy mob. In Dangerous Liaisons, the folks at least talk to servants. This movie doesn't even get that much class consciousness. Bah. (You know aside from the constant CAKE EATING. hey, hey, get it? get it? a nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat!)

it sucked. I wanted to leave, but I didn't because I was eagerly awaiting seeing everyone get beheaded. But, no, it ends before then.

art

There's a bunch of modern art installations at Jardin du Luxembourg. My favorite kind of art is this kind: casual, free to the public, small doses. I like the integration of fine art into every day surroundings rather than a temple-like museum. So Nicole and I went to see some of the art, especially the display in the Orangery. It was all kind of perplexing and captivating in the way that I think art should be. A lot of it was (male) fascination with the female body and especially female sexual response. (Something that's fine in small doses.) Almost all of the art in general was fascinated by corporeality. There were scenes of death. Images of pregnancy. Strange images of ruined flesh forms, which hinted at a destroyed humanity. Almost all of it seemed to be coming to terms with what it means to have a body and what it means to be human. How does our physicalness and ultimately our frailty form us?

I can't think of a musical equivalent. It may be that the medium is the message in that visual arts are more able to represent such images and ask such questions where music is necessarily about time. Or it may that composers have not asked the same questions. I don't know how to make music that contains those ideas, but I'll be thinking about it.

Anyway, I feel much better and kind of inspired after looking at some art. The moral of this story is to avoid American films about France.

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