Sunday, March 11, 2012

Picasso's BULL

Modernism was an art form largely based on improvisation, experimentation and bravado. Pablo Picasso reigned as the undisputed god of modernity for most of the Twentieth Century. He excelled and is most noted as a painter but he also equaled and many times exceeded every practitioner of sculpture, ceramics and print of his era. His series of bull lithographs created in late 1945 are an astonishing example of the man’s genius. He titled the series of eleven drawings simply “Bull.” Each work extraordinary as individuals but as a group without peer.  The set of eleven profiles are all of essentially the same size and point of view but each is an amazing variation on the theme of the standing bull. The lithographs follow something of an arc beginning as representational pieces that evolve into more stylized and even decorative depictions. The works begin to become less defined taking on a more cubist look and more minimal in appearance until the final line drawing is by contrast the least complicated and a fine example of what would once have been described as primitive. The series “Bull” is a striking virtuoso performance and a pure pleasure.

“A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.”

Pablo Picasso

When I look at Picasso’s “Bull” I sometimes think: why eleven and not an even dozen? I can imagine Picasso saying “…eleven is enough; I have said what needs to be said.” With that I leave you to enjoy the work and bring to it what you will.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Woody Allen Recently

Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris has just earned a richly deserved Oscar for best original screenplay. As is typical of an Allen film it is intelligent, irreverent, funny and full of irony. He has a unique insight into the human psyche and condition and his films take us to a version of reality that is always illuminating and thoroughly entertaining. Allen, like his peer Clint Eastwood is among an elite school of director/actor that seem to get better with age and every new effort. Yes; I did just pair Woody Allen with Clint Eastwood.

“Midnight in Paris” has a lot in common with other of Allen’s most recent films in that it occurs in a European city and the worlds of art, letters and sophistication are prominate and central to the adventure. The other two late Allen projects that compliment  “Midnight”  are “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and “Match Point.” The Allen protagonists (usually portrayed by himself in earlier pieces) are always searching for some kind of idealized or romanticized state of existence. In “Midnight in Paris” his stand in Owen Wilson longs for the Paris of the Jazz Age. It seems that ever period of French History co-exists in simultaneous parallel planes and at midnight from the right vantage point it is possible to visit the Paris of your dreams. This creates an especially intense and engaging environment for dialogues with the greats of literature and the art world of the Nineteen Twenties. Like any intriguing “Time Travel Film” Allen’s “Midnight” is a treatise on our own times.

“Match Point” released in 2005 starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Scarlett Johansson is a slight nod to Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” and another brilliant work from Woody. Rhys-Meyers is a tennis player hoping to marry into the elite world of London money and power with a marriage of convenience to his boss’s daughter. When he finds himself actually falling for another woman; Johansson, he’s created for himself something of an additional problem. As the plot unfolds there are trips to the Tate Modern, fashionable London streets and he even walks past a Banksy graffiti wall piece.  In the midst of his nefarious plotting   Rhys-Meyers puts in a compelling performance and Allen is in great writing and directing form.

“Vicky Christina Barcelona” is one of Allen’s most original and unusual scripts. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall are cast as two American girls on sabbatical in Spain who fall for the same rogue of an artist play wonderfully by Javier Bardem. Vicky and Christina are very different in temperament, have different senses of adventure and Vicky, just as a minor complication is engaged to be married. To mix things up just a little more Penelope Cruz enters the fray as the ex-lover and true soul mate of Bardem’s character. Now; just for laughs it happens that Penelope has recently in a fit of passion attempted to kill Bardem. The film is loaded with art and art references, propelled by an amazing score featuring the best Spanish Guitar and tunes of any contemporary soundtrack. Another home run for Allen’s team of collaborators.

Woody has recently found Europe to be a very receptive market and actually cheaper to film in European cities than in his beloved New York. Working abroad is also enhancing his credentials as an international and versatile creator. His next film scheduled for release later this year is titled “Nero Fiddled.” It is located in Rome and will mark his return to acting. Woody Allen is always interesting, always funny and inventive and truly a master of the form.  Congratulations on your Oscar and continued success.