Monday, March 24, 2014

The Great Beauty

Before I forget, for I will:

Really liked Paolo Sorrentino's film "The Great Beauty" ("La grande bellezza") for its leisurely beauty and heartfelt melancholy. Toni Servillo was superb as Jep Gambardella, who launched himself into Rome's elite circles on the wings of a brilliant first novel, sustained his altitude on seductive charm and cutting wit, but could not write another novel because he did not find the great beauty, even after years and years of half-hearted searching. Bringing in the Saint at the end, a nun who had devoted her life to serving the poor in Africa, did not feel cheesy, but provided proper foil to a wasted life. Yet who can say the life is wasted? For if beauty comes in fragile flashes, all we can do is to catch it while we can. The soundtrack was magnificent.

"7 Virgins" ("7 vírgenes"), directed by Alberto Rodríguez, was not a great film by any standarrds, but it was very watchable. Tano, played by an engaging Juan José Ballesta, was given 48-hour leave from the juvenile reform center to attend his brother's funeral. He lived those hours with the devil-may-care insouciance of a teenager raised in the blue-collar district of southern Spain. By the end of his leave, however, his world has crumbled around him. The title is a reference to a superstition that if you light two candles before a mirror, you will see your future in the mirror.

The Paul Gauguin show at the MoMA was very informative. The prints and transfer drawings revealed an artist who worked and reworked motifs across a wide range of media. I did not know before that Gauguin's mother's family came from Peru. In fact, the artist spent his earliest years in Lima. His father died during the voyage from Paris, and so his mother, wearing traditional costumes, was his all-in-all. That explains, in part, his obsession with the "primitive" women of French Polynesia. His use of the long format in painting was influenced by temple frieze, in particular, those of Borobudur. The colors of the paintings were very strong and sensual. No wonder Matisse fell under their influence.

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