Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Age of Anxiety at Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Not all the paintings at this exhibit are great art, but they are displayed thematically and properly explained. (Though the text is white on green, and on navel-level... Very convenient for reading. Not.). And there is Grant's 'American Gothic', 'Daughters of Revolution' and Hopper's 'Gas'.

What was perhaps missing, to my mind, was something from the rich array of photos depicting the gloomy American 1930s; Dorothy Lange, Margaret Bourke-White and their likes.

Still, it was a good exhibit and it moves on to London in a month so I'm glad I caught it in time.

Friday, December 30, 2016

More Fool Me - Stephen Fry

Writing books is one thing, certainly toilsome enough. 
Editing them - the famous 'killing your darlings' - is another. Almost as crucial as the writing, if this Fry mémoir is anything to go by.

Stephen Fry has a looong career of comedy, writing, speech-writing (for Labour!), TV-hosting and lobbying (gay cause) behind him. He is hilarious, most of the time, and he is also a fair enough comedian.
He knows half of London (the glitterati half) and is as lavish with namedropping anecdotes as he is with self-deprecation. He speaks openly and candidly of his former cocaine addiction.

In short, this book has absolutely everything it takes to make a side-splitting page-turner - except the editing.
As it is, there are gems in there, but they are buried in a jungle of words, rather than standing out as precious flowers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Edge of Tomorrow - D. Liman 2014

Tom Cruise stars in this curious mix of comedy, war action and science fiction.
It starts out as 'Saving Private Ryan', in an updated version of D Day à la 'Groundhog Day'.
It evolves into a more conventional action movie, but - and this is even more curious than the mix of genres - it actually works pretty well, especially for the first hour.

Female lead Emily Blunt. She jumps between categories faster than I change my t-shirts. And she is always brilliant.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

Seemingly simple in structure and language, yet complex and multifaceted is Ishiguro's latest novel, as per usual grappling with his recurring theme of memory lost and found.

Set in post-Roman England, blending realistic features with mythic beasts and characters, it presents an elderly couple setting out on a quest, worthy of any old-fashioned dungeons & dragons roleplaying game. Their quest leads them to team up with a heroic warrior and a dragon-bitten youth (roleplaying, I tell you!) each on a quest of their own, of course. 
Their journey into the English countryside parallels that of their journey into their own memories forcing them to take a stand on issues of love, guilt and revenge.

Not only the theme is Ishiguro's usual business; his poetic and thoroughly elaborate yet simple style is also easily recognizable. 

Though this may not be one of his masterpieces, it remains an excellent read!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy holidays

Carl Larsson 'Nu Är Det Jul Igen' 1907

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rogue One - G. Edwards 2016

Except that it was about a half-hour too long (probably to make up for the special-effects budget) and that there were about 200 times more male roles than female, this was pretty OK on the whole, I thought.

Though I will have you know that as far as blockbuster escapism goes, I very much preferred 'Fantastic Beasts'.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cee-Lo's Magic Moment - Cee-Lo Green

Based on the album-cover, you'd think this album dates back from the 1980s, but that's only Green justifying his 'Est. 1980s' tastes. This holiday album is only four years old, and since this year's Christmas records have been one sorry lot indeed, my time is shared between Cee-Lo's bombastic and Mary J. Blige's more nostalgic covers

Though these 'Magic Moments' are not as funky as his latest album, they are still a lot more fun than Pentatonix 'That's Christmas To Me' or the second quirky but identical 'She & Him Christmas'.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scruples - Judith Krantz

After a period of rather gloomy reads (seriously considering dropping 'Crime and Punishment' though I'm only halfway through) I decided it was time for something more frivolous.

And Judith Krantz's debut novel is pretty much as frivolous it gets! 

Like everyone else in my generation, I devoured this in the 80s, the advantage being that my young age did in no way prevent me from grasping the finer aspects of Krantz's writing, because, well, there aren't really any. 
But then, not all books need to be highbrow literature.

Krantz does not give herself out to be something she isn't; this is entertainment and nothing else. As such, it has - surprisingly! - aged gracefully. 
It is less sentimental than her subsequent bestsellers, 'Princess Daisy' and 'Mistral's Daughter'
It is also very educational in its own field, since she had the intelligence to do what many beginners do; write about what they know. Krantz was a fashion journalist and generously shared everyting she knew about the industry (possibly embellishing some of it as she went; writer's prerogative).

Though teenager anymore, I still enjoyed this a great deal! 
And though it is no Nobel Prize material, nor is it any sillier than a Patricia Cornwell or a Dan Brown.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Man Up - B. Palmer 2015

Pretty much your average romcom, though British, so with main characters looking almost like normal people (especially ever-brilliant Simon Pegg) and set in London, looking more appealing than ever. Oh, London..!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

For all intents and purposes, Austen's début novel is very much 'Pride and Prejudice' from a different viewpoint, more precisely that of Jane Bennet, Elizabeth's older, more sensible, sister. 
In 'Sense and Sensibility' the secondary characters differ somewhat (the mother and junior at Barton Cottage being, for instance, much less cumbersome than the Bennets!) yet all the essentials - the two sisters, the coming of age, the marriage plot, the social context, the withering sarcasms - are very similar.

Still, I found 'Sense and Sensibility' less of a hoot this time than when I last read it. 
That might be down to Austen's style of writing not yet having reached its 'Pride and Prejudice'-heights, or it might just be that at this time of year, I'm having rather a hard time focusing on anything at all, even predestined love matches.

Great novel, at any rate, of course.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Starboy - The Weeknd

I'd be completely at a loss to explain to you why it is that I grew immediately tired of Drake, whereas I'm very much into The Weeknd - similar in soft-talking smoothness, which was what I held against 'Views' - but there it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Woman - Justice

Although I very much enjoyed previous opuses '♰' and 'Audio, Video, Disco' I have no stomach for falsetto voices (unless they belong to Prince, and - I might add - appear on records his royal badness himself had approved for release...) (but on the other hand, Kafka had asked for all his manuscripts to be destroyed...).

The upshot (of my distaste for falsettos, in case you had got lost in the parenthesis jungle) is that I don't take the same joy in this album. Most of it is OK, yet I had come to expect better.
High expectations will ruin almost anything for you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

XXIV Magic - Bruno Mars

Some is funky, some is groovy, most is very listenable!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rembrandt Intime at Musée Jacquemart André, Paris 8th arrdt

Most of what lacked at the Oscar Wilde exhibition was present here : explicit, readable signs, an informative audioguide and brilliant artworks. Victim of its own success, the crowd was the only setback.

Should you have a taste for 18th and 19th century art and decoration, the rest of the Musée Jacquemart André is also well worth a visit.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Oscar Wilde Exhibition at Petit Palais, Paris

What I sort of expected, or at least hoped for :
- The inside story on Wilde's juicy private life, at least the (major) parts of it that were made public.
- Skilled analyses of his works, scarce though they may be.
- Explicit parallels between aforementioned private life and aforementioned works.
- A plethora of witty aphorisms, not just the most famous ones.

What I got :
- Signs written in white minuscule text on red or green background, in spooky half-light.
- Lighting that actually made it harder to read those signs, throwing shadows on them as we bent over, or creating annoying reflexes.
- Giant paintings in itty-bitty little rooms.
- Exhibits and signs without numbers or references, making it hard to see which sign commented on which exhibit.
 - And as for the content in itself; none of what I had hoped for. A rather superficial vision of Wilde's life and works, illustrated by various artworks.

Quite a disappointment, in short.

Friday, December 2, 2016

L'Affaire Dreyfus - Raymond Bachollet

Emile Zola's acclaimed 1898 open letter 'J'Accuse..!' was the turning point of the Dreyfus affair.
Captain Dreyfus had been convicted for treason and shipped of to French Guiana a couple of years previously. In 1898, evidence had begun to seep out that he had been falsely accused, and the French Army was frantically scrambling to cover up its numerous blunders and heinous allegations. 

In the course of time, Dreyfus was exonerated, though the affair remains an impressive miscarriage of justice and its innumerable oversights (to put it mildly) make it a major blot in French political history.

This thin booklet focuses on images pertaining to the business; mostly satirical cartoons and newspaper covers. Through these, Bachollet exhibits the particulars of the case in a brief, accessible style.

Two things remain with me :

1. The striking impact an image can have. Somehow, the brain absorbs images emotionally, without intellectualizing at all. Efficient, but hazardous, as means of communication, therefore.

2. What a shamelessly anti-Semitic society turn-of-the-century France was! What a piece of cake it must have been for Hitler to convince people Jews were the source of all evil.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Joanne - Lady Gaga

Though I may not have been terribly impressed with Gaga on stage, I nevertheless spent a good couple of weeks doing my running to 'Artpop'. I am a sucker for bombastic pop music!
(Which is the reason I love Adam Lambert with undying passion, despite how scarce he has made himself.)

'Joanne' is not in any way bombastic. Quite the contrary, it is an incursion into basic rock music (yes! rock music!) with the occasional jazzy tune. It is tasteful, unobtrusive, unexcessive and a whole load of other adjectives that I had never thought I would attribute to Lady Gaga.

Whether it will remain in my ipod for as long as my favourite 'Born This Way' is still an open question.