Skip to main content

Jan Steen, Woman At Her Toilet (1660)

It is about putting on the stocking like ripping off the flesh on the leg. The elastic material clings onto her leg, like pesterer that refuses to give up his pursuing, however much obstacles he has encountered along his difficult journey. Maybe a mosquito is happened to be entrapped in that stocking, and suddenly, when waking up from his momentary daze, he finds himself landed on this foreign terrain, which is populated with nothing special but occasional cracks and sparse bushes. The mosquito has no more the driving urge of bloodthirstiness left in him. He is no longer young, no, and his wings are wilting and losing its youthful spark. So he trudges on with much difficulty on this vast terrain, burning with this sole intent of his final pilgrimage: that to find a cosy place so he can lie down his wearied body. It is every elder’s ultimate desire to enter the Big Sleep, and to luxuriate in that sweet stupefaction, which is growing more and more intense every counting second, as he smiles a wan smile and sees line between land and sea gradually blur.

The little dog knows nothing about the aged mosquito as he sleeps soundly on the mistress’s bed. Maybe he possess within him some parts of the mistress’s psyche. Even likelier the little dog is the mistress, after one unaccountable and confusing transposition, but still retaining the features and habits of a fluffy creature. She enjoys surveying her poky room through the eyes of the little dog, which are placid and uncontaminated like the lake when the world is yet populated. She knows nothing beyond the four walls and she wants to see no other rooms beside hers. Contentment comes easy. The curtains are imbued with different shades of green which appeal to her, yet at the same time she is tickled by something so amusing that she unleashes an uncontrollable fit of laughter. What she discovers is a shadow, presumably an imprint of hers, which leaps in accordance with the ripples of the curtains. Silhouette. Every living thing is no more but a silhouette.

The chair stands like a lonely warden on a distant planet who waits daily and patiently for someone to take him home. He can still recall, faint though his memory has become, the day when he was pronounced his first death. Never once in his life would he dream of becoming the subject of some unnamed painter’s masterpiece. The painter stopped his heartbeat by rendering him a goblet of blinding yellow against the background of scarlet forest. From that day on whoever sees the abstruse painting talks of a heated contest between those two fires, both threatening to engulf the other, and neither is that easily subjugated by another’s imminent victory. Being revived years later, when, after countless futile attempts that attested to his failure of rekindling the painter’s exceptional artistry, the chair is again back to his familiar earthiness. Often he will comfort himself, his philosophical mind travels far out of the bounds of this shabby room.

And so an arch is appearing, sooner followed by a wall, all built by bricks materialising like drops of rain that leak from the roof. Henceforth the lady decides to sing, to sing a song with a melody that meanders like white smoke in a dark night. Positioning the last brick on its niche I can still hear her singing, thrumming like the drone of a drum, like a nameless creature prisoned in a room cordoned off by numerous labyrinthine corridors, forgotten by time and people. Distantly but distinctly I can still hear her sing.


Popular posts from this blog

Honore Daumier

“If you shut up truth and bury it under ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”- Émile Zola
Exited Honoré Victorin Daumier, 10 February 1879, in an impoverishment that many of his contemporaries, especially his foes, would have thought was his long overdue retribution- the painter was blind, heavily in debt, and later relegated to a pauper’s grave. His friends, upon visiting his resting place, would, I imagine, see it a chance to admonish their children: “Now that’s a lesson for you cheeky devils whose tongues rattle off things that should better stay unspoken.” But Daumier devoted his life in revealing those “unspoken things.” His lithography ink proved sharper than most writers’ pens. He vented his rage and stigmatised others’ infamy in his satirical and, oftentimes, side-splitting cartoons. The tone was relentlessly acerbic but only because Daumier was exposing truths that, in the time…

Review: Late Spring (1949)

As a storyteller, Yasujiro Ozu insists on an implausibly objective stance that refrains from direct commentary or criticism; his camera customarily assumes the role of a detached observer, to whom the characters in the film, staring or talking straight to the camera, occasionally address, with an intimacy akin to that between a host and his guest, a closeness that is underpinned by a mutual recognition of the psychological distance that separates the two. The audience, whose perspective, in this case, conflates the camera’s (the director’s), an invisible character’s in the film (to whom the other characters address) and their own, is thus situated amidst this spatial complexity which, as a rule, every work of art necessarily creates.
In Late Spring (1948), the camera serves in part as an underlying comment to the story, which is noted by its economy of details. A prolonged shot of a departing train, on which the father and daughter travel to the city for a one-day excursion, prefigures…

Review: Breathless (1960)

Jean Luc Godard’s first feature feels oddly like a swansong: in many respects the film seems a self-mockery of what it ostensibly celebrates – the new, the bold, the reckless; the 60s zeitgeist that resurrects the anguished ghosts of the 1920s, who, according to F. Scott Fitzgerald, grow up to “find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faith in man shaken.” For the children of the ‘60s, their wars are of a kind in which the opponents constantly change roles: sometimes they are the unmerciful authorities bent on making miserable lives out of their inferiors; in other times they are the society at large, weeding out in its insidious and devious way the errant law-breakers. They all seem to be donning the same masks, through which the warriors recognise themselves.
This fight with one’s inner demon necessarily evokes concerns of mortality and death - timeless concerns that acquire an added pungency in the 1960s: would a dangerous, unheeding spell of hedonism finally defy life’s incontrove…