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Showing posts with label Salvador Dalí. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvador Dalí. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Just as if the present penetrated the future, leaving behind a trace of anxiety¹

This is a Festival preview of Miss Dalí (2018) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2018 (25 October to 1 November)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

14 October

This is a Festival preview of Miss Dalí (2018) (for Cambridge Film Festival 2018)

The #CamFF synopsis, duration and other details for the film can be found here,
and it screens on Saturday 27 October [in Screen 1 at Festival Central] at 2.00 p.m.,
and also on Monday 29 October at 11.00 a.m. [in Screen 3 at Festival Central]

Salvador Dalí is not a trustworthy source of information about himself. From his adolescence he set out consciously to become a myth, and he continued to work at being Dalí even after he had achieved his goal. A vital stage in the process was his The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, written in French and published in English translation, for American consumption, in 1942, when he was thirty-eight.

Ian Gibson ~ The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí² [Introduction, opening sentences]

When, to a voice-over (from which the words that are used as a title to this preview have been quoted¹), the film opens with a slide-show of unpeopled bays, cliffs, the sea and waves, it has a disembodied quality to it that speaks, inter alia, of lives beyond these vistas : perhaps they seem hyper-real in their intensity, as if in canvases of Salvador Dalí, where we might wonder what time soft watches would tell ?

Alice sighed wearily. 'I think you might do something better with the time,' she said, 'than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.'

'If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, 'you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him.'³

The twentieth century was hardly the first time when big personalities were operating in the sphere of the creative media (since it had given us such towering egos as Benvenuto Cellini, Christopher Marlowe, Caravaggio, Samuel Johnson, Niccolò Pagannini, Richard Wagner, August Strindberg, Richard Strauss, etc., etc.), but how art was to develop then not only allowed, but also almost required, the person of the artist to be an important part of the art-work and its values : to be an artist called Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Andy Warhol, to name but three, made it de rigueur to venerate at The Shrine of The Personality Cult (or, rather, have others make votive offerings to approach one and / or on one's behalf).

In telling the story of Edie Sedgwick, Factory Girl (2006) may not, in search of a good premise for a film, be accurate with all of its claims about Warhol – which is not to say that he did not use / exploit people, but that it misrepresents what one can nowadays easily check :

Part of Ana María’s motivation, in 1949, in publishing Salvador Dalí vist per la seva germana was to correct assertions that would otherwise pass for truth. Imagine being Salvador Dalí's sister, and having happily posed for hours for your evidently highly talented brother, then, as his art developed (and Dalí, having learn to draw and paint figuratively, initially thought himself first an Impressionist, then a Cubist), finding that one has more in common with one’s father’s increasing sense of frustration with him - that is what Miss Dalí asks us to entertain.

Yet all the indications are that, although Ana María’s book also appeared in Spanish (and was translated into French), it has never appeared in an English-language edition, and Ian Gibson's seemingly unchallenged biography The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí (quoted above) only gives a few pages to it. (Gibson spends longer on considering the various and inconsistent accounts by Dalí and Buñuel of how the screenplay for Un chien andalou (1929)⁴ came to be written.) Perhaps Ventura Pons' film will change that... ?

He loved to sign thousands of blank sheets for lithographs ~ Ana María

Whatever the exact status may be now of Mr Allen or his reputation, his Midnight in Paris (2011) was unjustly fêted, and To Rome with Love (2012), the following year, no more justly neglected, though both treat of visiting the past, and of regret : Midnight's literal vehicle takes Gil (Owen Wilson) back to such remarkable times, with remarkable people, as Miss Dalí treats of. Yet – except excused as Gil's fantasy wish-fulfilment that sees a disaffected Inez (Rachel McAdams) and him in Paris (i.e. if it is in his dream, what does it matter ?) – too many ways in which these writers and artists they have been visualized and / or portrayed in Allen's film grates not a little, such as the portrayal of Luis Buñuel or Dalí himself, as well as how, anachronistically, some of the men are dressed so informally⁵.

Director and co-writer Ventura Pons has already shown himself too savvy, with the multiple facets of how scenes play and re-play in El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015) [which screened during #CameraCatalonia in the following year], to be pegged solely to the view-point of Dalí’s sister Anna Maria [Ana María], who (later in life, and played by Siân Phillips) is the 'Miss Dalí' of the title. Which is to say that, although the ostensible work of the film is to tell it as she saw it (via the medium of her reminiscences when her friend Maggie visits, whom she knows from when she was at the University of Cambridge), it is not its purpose simply to endorse or validate Ana María Dalí’s account or perspective :

It's a good story, written by a cunning and brilliant man… - to distract curious fools ~ Maggie

It is Maggie (Claire Bloom) who is shown, as if in a very understanding confessional, to be validating how Ana María feels, and endorsing why she might have resentments that she does not feel able to forgive, for her sake - rather than for our benefit as such. As the film goes on to show us, it was the outrage of Ana María and her remaining family at Salvador's biased autobiography for his own selective purposes, The Secret Life (1942), that was sufficient reason for her to publish her riposte in Salvador Dalí vist per la seva germana (1949).

In other filmic terms, we might think how Mike Leigh, in Mr. Turner (2014), confounds the art-establishment tradition of nobilizing Turner as aristocratic (rather than demotic). In Miss Dalí, by contrast, we see Dalí becoming more haughty, as he cultivates strangeness, and cannot, as his family does not easily overlook distancing himself from his Catalan roots, and courting the Fascists against his Republican education...

When I die, I will be totally cured ~ Salvador Dalí

At root, Ventura Pons' film embodies a sister's abiding love and admiration for the brother with whom she had shared her early years :

But he is still Dalí. One of the greatest figures in twentieth-century painting. The art was greater than the man.

End-notes :

¹ As had been suspected, these words have been taken from Ana María Dalí’s writing, in Chapter IX of Salvador Dalí vist per la seva germana, where we read – in the French translation : Comme la proue coupe l’eau, le présent pénêtre dans l’avenir, en laissant une trace d’inquiétude.

Ana María Dalí ~ Salvador Dalí : vu par sa sœur, p. 99. Arthaud, France, 1961.

² Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1997.

³ This exchange, at The Mad Hatter's Tea-Party, is likewise quoted in the #UCFF preview for Jean-François i el sentit de la vida (Jean-François and The Meaning of Life) (2018) : ça va ici aussi !

⁴ When this image comes onto the screen, during footage from Un chien andalou (1929) that the film shows, some might want to turn away, for a few seconds, at this point…

⁵ In fact, one would far rather not be in Gil's company at all, but in that of the truly fantastical Drako Zarharzar (@DrakoZarharzar) in Toby Amies' highly effective personal portrait, The Man Whose Mind Exploded (2012), of a man who knew people such as Salvador Dalí, because he modelled for him.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What is Catalan cinema ?

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

9 June (updated 20 August)

What is Catalan cinema ?

[Now, in 2017, with its own sequel : What more is Catalan cinema ?]

Update : click here to go to outlines of three Catalan films
at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 and links to reviews

In advance of the 34th Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF via @camfilmfest), and also of a screening at London’s ICA (@ICA) on 27 June of El bosc (The Forest) (2012) (a film that had its UK premiere when shown at last year’s Festival¹ as did three other Catalan films), here is a little look at where films like this come from geographically, temperamentally, and emotionally…

Some may know that Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, is the capital city of Catalonia though it’s really, in Catalan, Catalunya but forget Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) for giving you any more than an architectural montage to emulate that of Manhattan (1979) (or be a precursor to Woody Allen’s love-smitten depiction of Paris at Midnight from 2011…)²

But it probably may help little more to think of the inevitable Gaudí, let alone Juan Gris’ connections or with the Catalan form of Gris’ adopted name and a birth-right to Barcelona Joan Miró. Maurice Ravel (French, but with a Basque-Spanish heritage of a birthplace in territory somewhat distant from Catalunya, but likewise where France adjoins Spain), may give us some feel of Spanishness at times, but perhaps the quirky figure who provides a way in to this cinematic tradition is Salvador Dalí.

This blog-posting began with five ‘S’ key-words, and Dalí truly, as the phrase has it, ticks the boxes for all of them and, with the infamous collaboration with Luis Buñuel in Un Chien Andalou (1928) (not forgetting L'âge d'or (1930)), is rooted in cinema. Dalí may have moved away from what Buñuel became a celebrated master of, but his showmanship and theatricality resembles aspects of film familiar, say, from the great Italian directors, and it is hard to believe that he has not been an inspiration in his home region.

Overview of Cambridge Film Festival's 'Catalan strand' in 2012 and 2013

Looking personally to the 2014 Festival (#CamFF), there is full confidence in Ramon Lamarca that he will have found and curated some powerful and challenging films, no doubt examining the nature of reality, or of the little-appreciated conflict that is The Spanish Civil War (Guerra Civil Española). As well as ending the life of poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, and providing the substance of Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, it not only tore Spain apart (with the help of General Franco’s allies in Germany and Italy), but has laid down a seam that underlies the history of Spain in our postmodern era, and which film-makers in Catalunya have been especially open to explore :

Directors such as Ken Loach, working with screenwriter Jim Allen in Land and Freedom (1995), have brought a British perspective on seeking to fight pro-fascist Nationalist forces, but Jesús Garay’s Eyes on the Sky (Mirant al Cel) (2008) delves less into the politics and the pointlessness of brother against brother, but rather, and very movingly, into the ‘visceralness’ of what it means to tick down to something that changes individual lives for ever : although Garay is from Santander, not Catalunya, again this is in the very North of Spain.

Set in the civil war like his film, but from the point of view of a landowner with pro-fascist leanings (or, probably more accurately, inherited anti-communist feelings ?), The Forest (El bosc) (2012), through its embodiment of place and with its vivid special effects, evokes another world, another dimension, from the perspective of which professed love and care can be examined, and in and through which a transformational and redemptive influence can operate. Similarly, in a way in the post-war period, and with packed Festival screenings, Black Bread (Pa negre) (2010) hits us right at its close with a boy’s realization of what his true position in life has been.

On another level, and in Venice, we again have finding the truth in The Redemption of The Fish (La redempció dels peixos) (2013), as Marc (Miquel Quer) tracks down his past, and is seduced and misled by the shapes, shadows and reflections of La Serenissima : so many of these films revolve historical and familial disputes and allegiances in a rich and productive way. In V.O.S. (2009), we have that theme translated into the playful and malleable notion of relation and relationships, in and out of making a film that crosses the barrier between ‘life’ and ‘film’ in a way as inventive and thought-provoking as Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). And, but one might need to read further with the links below to reviews on this blog, The Night Elvis Died (La Nit Que Va Morir L’Elvis) (2010) teases apart the layers of reality (not least with its quiet homage to Paris, Texas (1984))…

Here (out of the eleven films shown in 2012 and 2013 - UK denotes UK premiere) are links to this blog’s reviews of most of the films (with @THEAGENTAPSLEY's tag-lines, and additional key-words) :

2012 Black Bread (Pa Negre) (2010)

A naturalistic, but haunted, story of a child’s perspective on betrayal, sex and anger

Civil war Childhood Respect Reprisal Poverty Loyalty

2013 (UK) Eyes on the Sky (Mirant al Cel) (2008)

Movingly mixing documentary, acting, and faux-documentary to dig into past pain

Bombs Barcelona Dante Time Heights History

2012 The Body in the Woods (Un Cos Al Bosc) (1996)

An unfolding with turns, twists and unprincipled practices

Sexual orientation Investigation Murder Disguise Corruption Desire

2013 (UK) The Forest (El bosc) (2012)

An account of a civil war through how the hated better-off classes fared

Magical realism Twisted love Collectivization Other worlds Symbolism Unreal feast

2012 The Night Elvis Died (La Nit Que Va Morir L’Elvis) (2010)

Finding the truth, when it is well hidden, by intuition and insight

Mental-health stigma Friendship Corruption Blood Unreality Amnesia

2013 (UK) The Redemption of the Fish (La redempció dels peixos) (2013)

Connectedness and disconnection, reality and illusion, in Venice

Contact Closeness Deceit Truth Reflection Ripple

2012 V.O.S. (2009)

A film within a film or is one as real as the other ?

Acting Film-making Real time Couples Attraction Meta-textuality

2012 Warsaw Bridge (1990)

The whirl / ennui of yet another publishing event, and what it leads to

Connections Publishing Society Glamour Politics Water


¹ It had two screenings, at the second of which the film’s director, Óscar Aibar, was in attendance and answered questions.

² For one thing, Penélope Cruz (easily the best part of the film, and whose deserving an Academy Award (for María Elena) was undeniable) and her now husband Javier Bardem (by no means the worst), although Spanish, are not from what (since 1978) has been an Autonomous Community or ’nationality’ within Spain.

For another, according to the trivia of Wikipedia’s web-page for VCB, Allen had funding for a film to be shot in Spain, and so adapted a script that he had written years before, which was set in San Francisco : judge for oneself what Catalan (or even properly Spanish) feel one has from the film and, more importantly, whether the character of Juan Antonio (Bardem) resembles a convenient stereotype of Mediterranean mores (to drive the plot in a rather Jamesian, ingénues-abroad way)…

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Dalí's soft watches, slipping through your CPU

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

Christmas Eve

Software is instructions for computers, tells us sagely so that we can safely rip up that dictionary thing

There would never have been computer hardware without software, but it's nice to imagine that there was a time when the machinery was jokingly first called 'hard', as if straight from the toolshop, and someone parried by calling the programs that were being run 'soft'.

I like to think that that is what happened, but I know that finding out The Truth, at this remove, is impossible anyway, so who are you to doubt me on the basis of some Internet version of it ? (Unless Richard P. Feynman, or Enrico Fermi, wrote about it in his diary.)

And where those famous watches came into it, I do not know, although one can more easily track when they first made an appearance, slung over a branch...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Pasta made from durum wheat

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

5 May

Perhaps we have become accustomed to this assertion

I don't doubt its truth, but - except through familiarity with the fact that pasta-packets usually make it - I have no notion what it means (and so wonder whether that might be true of most of us), any more than if it stated, with just as much specificity*, made from wheat grown in Co. Durham (or in Dumbartonshire).

Unrelatedly, a woman from The Czech Republic** gave my parents what my mother called 'a peck on the cheek' - not spotting that it could have been descrbed as a Czech on the peak, if they had been on an eminence.

And what about the word surreal (or even surrealist)? I do have to agree with what was mentioned in passing yesterday in that day's issue of The Guardian***:

'I feel the word "surreal" has been totally overused as a fancy word for weird'

For, having read a fellow writer's piece about surrealism in films, which was pegged almost entirely (for factual basis) on the well-known collaboration that was Hitchcock / Dalí (and with scant, if any, mention of the other collaboration, Buñuel / Dalí****, or of the former's significant career as a director), I despaired at what the author went on to identify as evidence of surrealism in more modern (but mainstream) cinematic works.

That said, there seems to be as little chance of stopping misuse of this word***** - so carefully employed to be in opposition to the boring or bourgeois - as of its beleaguered friends random, manic, psychotic, and (surely not for want of anything better to say) like.


* A word that - I am led to believe that - T. S. Eliot, if he did not revel in it, used more than others did.

** My mother and father both resolutely, because instinctively, used the name Czechoslovakia in telling more about this woman.

*** g2, p. 8.

**** If Dalí is to be believed, that should be Dalí / Buñuel, but, it any case, they gave us, of course, A Dog and a Toilet (amongst other things).

***** Except, of course, by seeking to impose a totalitarian regime (one with a competent secret police!).

Monday, 9 April 2012

Casual Chess

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

Easter Monday

This is what Marcel Duchamp advocated, when he appeared to have withdrawn from making art in the early decades of last century - see, for example, the chess-sex that both Man Ray and he designed.

The heretical idea was that chess only came into existence when two players happened to be somewhere simultaneously and found themselves sitting on opposite sides of a board and playing.

However, it was one that came to be discredited when the Surrealists (which usually means their undisputed spokesman in André Breton) - and those who succeeded them - emphasized the place of Desire (where would Salvador Dalí be without it?).

Thus: I seek a game, so I summon another to me to play against me* - or we have a standing arrangement to play on such-and-such a day of a week at such-and-such o'clock.

Flirting does not enter into it, nor does Arousal**.



* And so the expectant, largely deserted cityscapes of Girgio de Chirico. (And yet his Hector and Andromache (1917) is full of so much more passion.)

** Thus we have the bare-breasted, dreamy women on the canvases of Paul Delvaux. (But the Le Galet of his compatriot René Magritte, in a Vache period, is far more erotic.)