Saturday, August 02, 2008

Three Good Things

I've had a culturally very pleasing week. On Monday, Tinseltroos and I went to The Empire cinema in Leicester Square to see WALL-E, the latest film from Pixar. The last Pixar movie I'd seen was The Incredibles which hadn't excited me much. Up to that point I'd seen every film from the studio as a matter of faith the moment it opened in the cinema and I hadn't missed one since Toy Story. So I'd had a few years off, Cars and Ratatouille came and went and I have yet to see either. I felt rather differently about WALL-E. I'd been careful not to spoil myself too much but I had seen a teaser trailer and a few stills, both of which convinced me I had to see the film. The beauty of the imagery quite took my breath away and I found the notion of a story the romantic leads of which cannot talk beguiling. So I was pretty excited to be seeing the film. On the other hand I didn't want to fall into the trap of having unreasonable expectations either so I'd consciously tried to temper my enthusiasm. I needn't have worried, the film is a master piece. The story is a clever fairy tale with all the allegory that implies, managing to be both intelligent but not cynical as I find many animated films to be these days. The characters were a delight and credit must be given not only to the animators but also to Ben Burtt who crafted the audio. Though they don't talk, WALL-E and EVE can make sound and you can rely on the man who created R2-D2's vocal performance in the Star Wars films to come up with goods. There is real emotion even without dialogue. The film was, of course, absolutely stunning to look at. Th level of detail in everything, the design and the lighting set a new standard for animation and every frame was a delight to behold. The last film I cried in was Mulholland Drive which I finally saw about three years ago, I don't mind admitting there was a tear in my eye at the end of WALL-E.

On Thursday night I went to my first Prom concert of 2008 with my buddy Hegl.It was a semi staged production of L'incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi. The music was performed by a small period orchestra, the same one I saw accompany Purcell's The Faerie Queen a couple of years ago I fancy. The music and singing was first rate throughout and you could quite see why Nero fell for the charms of Poppea: it was a very sexy production. Although I knew the rough plot before I went I made sure to buy one of the librettos that The BBC makes available for such productions so that none of the subtlety was lost. I was really glad I did this as it revealed the more subtle ebbing and flowing of the plot and the relationships between the characters. The show was three hours not including the interval so it was gone eleven when we stepped out back into the London streets having spent three hours transported back to the Roman Empire via seventeenth century Venice.

Today I acted upon a recommendation I'd been given to see the Vilhelm Hamershøi show at the Royal Academy. I was almost completely unaware of his work before visiting but I am very glad I went. The pictures, painted toward the end of the nineteenth century feel like a mixture of Vermeer and Edward Hopper, with a distinctly Whistler edge to the colour. The paintings are often of empty rooms or if there is a figure he or she often has their back to us and is seemingly lost in their own thoughts. The muted hues and enigmatic characters led many of today's patrons to grumble about the pictures being "miserable". I think they missed the point; they aren't sombre, but they are quiet paintings, ones that revel in silent contemplation and as such I found them very moving. The sense of atmosphere and stillness is not something often associated with modernish painting and it was all the more refreshing for that.

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Blogger Churlita said...

It sounds like you've been busy while I was gone. I want to see Wall-E too.

4:14 am  

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