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Showing posts from June, 2015

Eugene Delacroix, "The Death of Sardanapalus" (1827)

History is punctuated with moments of chaos and beauty. Seemingly antitheses by nature, in aesthetics there are myriads examples of how these two manage to converge in single works and enter a pleasing balance. Amongst them there is Tintoretto, a consummate devotee of violence and drama, whose bewildering depictions of many biblical episodes redefine the meaning of “chaos” as a synonym to sheer “epicness” or “monumentality.” Rarely does his pictorial crowdedness amount to an unrelenting sense of knottiness; as fastidious as is his exactitude on the minutiae, Tintoretto never failed to see the forest for the trees. Every single brushstroke and colour he applied onto the paintings was sure to be conducive to an immediate effect of harmony and order.
In the early 19th century France entered Eugene Delacroix, an exponent of what would come to be known as French Romanticism. Most of Delacroix’s renowned works of large-scale historical scenes were considered a scourge to the genteel nouveau …

Edouard Manet, Boy Blowing Bubbles (1867)

1867 was a fateful year for Édouard Manet in that his art, hitherto idyllic and placid, shifted drastically to the moods of poignancy and relentlessness. Two deaths signaled the change: his old friend and enduring champion, Charles Baudelaire, and the tragic emperor Maximilian I, who was executed by the Juaristas after a failed foreign initiative in the Mexico empire. The seminal work, Execution of Emperor Maximilian, would not see its completion until two years later, as Manet’s progress and insistence on a faithful portrayal were incessantly impeded by the inaccurate accounts of the event. The intervening period yielded a result that continued this preoccupation with grief: in the weeks followed Baudelaire’s death Manet summoned his godson, Leon Koella, to blow soap bubbles in his studio on the Rue Guyot.
The soap bubble, with its brittle form and enchanting presence, has been a popular subject of the vanitas, a genre that serves to remind of the futility and transience of earthly li…

Review: The Wrong Man (1956)

In Life’s feature on the bizarre case of Christopher Emmanuel “Manny” Balestrero, a bashful, honest, family-loving string bass player of the then snazzy Stork Club, who was arrested for crimes he never committed, Herbert Brean, the writer, supposes the inconceivable event possessing the “somnambulist quality of a bad dream.” Alfred Hitchcock, basing a film on the incident three years later, conferred on the “bad dream” a touch of Kafkaesque disquietude. Though jettisoning much of the suspenseful streak that characterises his style, Hitchcock introduces in The Wrong Man (1956) a new suspense that is induced by a palpable sense of emotional detachedness. For years to come this would ultimately evolve to a semi-documentary approach of impassive-observing that culminates in the menacing sobriety ofPsycho.
To enhance the desperation of a tangled, never-ending nightmare, Hitchcock pardonably distorts a few facts to give rise to the dramatic. In the film, Manny’s quest of proving his innocenc…

Review: It Happened One Night (1934)

Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) comes as a perfect antidote to the seemingly endless crises and depression of present age. It celebrates love and happiness at their incorruptible states; affirms the existence and possible prevalence of “pure-at-hearts” goodness, and restores hope to a world that has shown signs of incurable damages. Even when seeing the film now under a slightly different social context, its counter-Depression positivism can seem at times too implausible a pipe dream. Ellie’s (Claudette Colbert) utilitarian kindness towards the hunger-stricken mother and son is largely induced by and acted on the strength of Peter’s (Clark Gable) disposition to boastful jests- he flaunts the money and pretends to be a millionaire; she responds on cue and squeezes that money into the hand of the son. Ironies like this indicate a discrepancy between the privileged and the destitute that is only going to widen: charitable instincts come more easily for those who are impervious…