Almost as good as a Dickens’ Cider.

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A Google image search of Palma Vecchio soon reveals to the uninitiated the Venetian painter’s preoccupation: many of his works are of golden-haired women, solid of build, broad-shouldered and pale, air of the coquette, negligent dressers.  Time and again his work shows this figure with slight variations in posture or dress, sometimes baring a nipple, sometimes two, often a hand touching – not covering – the breast.  The neck and gentle slope down to the breasts occupy the centre of many of the paintings.  One in particular is striking: “A Portrait of the Young Bride as Flora,” depicting Vecchio’s broad archetype, blonde head turned to expose light to the right side of her head and throat and falling across her chest, beneath which there hangs in a white chemise a breast, like a moon from behind a cloud, from which all the light radiates.  In her right hand Flora, Roman fertility goddess, holds a small bouquet of coloured clover and leaves, and her left hand is holding a green mantle, whether to cover her nakedness or reveal more is not certain.  Her eyes are opened but not widely and her lips curve slightly upward above an unassuming chin, her right ear is exposed.  She is an open figure: ear, eyes, neck, breast: she is willing and waiting, a portrait of anticipation.

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Notes on a Montage

For the cinephile a montage is more than a quick-jab sequence of boxing and triumphant stair climbing, more than the sugared sobbing shots that come when the love interest is revealed to be (gasp) already married.  The occasional movie watcher might be forgiven for thinking this was their only purpose: condensing long periods of time into a score of seconds; few are the popular films that employ the technique for other reasons.  But this wasn’t always the case.  In cinema’s infancy in the first half of the twentieth century some of the larger studios (and this may still be the case today) such as MGM and Warner Bros employed montage specialists whose job it was to compose montage sequences from strips of film supplied them by the film makers.  Hollywood’s use of the technique was largely literal – the images followed one from another and were intended simply to show that time had passed.  Soviet Russia, however, had a more sophisticated and refined method: contrasting images unrelated to the film were often juxtaposed to create cinematic metaphors, images could be linked with each other through association.  Sergei Eisenstein even argued that montage is inherently dialectic, and invoked the imprimatur of Marx and Hegel.

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The title of the story in which he appears gives away Doctor Carl O’Connor’s worst-kept secret, that he is self-medicating with one of the world’s most traditional anaesthetics: alcohol.  ‘Doctor Sot,’ by Irish writer Kevin Barry, follows the physician as he buys his “naggins,” volunteers for a health outreach programme, meets some “new-age travellers” and crashes his car.  Somewhere among all of this Doctor Sot runs his surgery, is moved by the beauty of a strange young woman, and has a rushed lunch with is wife.  This is a busy story that reads like an episode of Heartbeat but is not without irony, tenderness, and genuine sadness.

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Clara’s day begins poorly: leaving it to the last minute, she misses the garbage truck, and knows that the garbage will rot while she holidays overseas for a few weeks.  That’s what Clara does: careless and disorganized, she leaves everything until it is almost too late to do it.  It is no surprise, then, that she has to spend her last two days driving around the streets of her home in south Dublin completing her preparations before she leaves to visit her son in San Francisco.  What is a surprise however, given her passive temperament, is that by the end of the day she will have cut an old woman’s throat and left her to bleed to death.

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