Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I got issues with Stephen Sondheim

I'm finally back to reading "Finishing the Hat" (which is like taking a class in writing musicals, albeit taught by a crotchety professor) and am at the point where he's discussing "A Little Night Music." His initial idea was to use a play by Jean Anouilh ("L'Invitation au Chateau", which I'm not familiar with) but he got turned down. So he and his collaborators decided to use either Ingmar Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night" or Jean Renoir's "Rules of the Game"...and here is where the problem lies.

I think "Rules of the Game" is one of the best movies ever made. Period. It's in my top 5, along with "The 400 Blows", "Late Spring", "La Dolce Vita" and "Sunrise". Its mixture of comedy, farce, romance and tragedy is breathtaking, and the only American filmmaker to even begin to approach Renoir's abilities was Charlie Chaplin (the ending of "City Lights" rips me apart). And what does Sondheim have to say about this masterpiece? He shrugs it off as "heavy handed in its satirical commentary on the French social system." I nearly threw the book across the room.

Don't get me wrong -- "Smiles of a Summer Night" is an excellent film, but it's cold and brittle at its heart, not warm and loving (as the story demands and as Renoir's film most definitely is). I love Bergman's works and the sense of humanity in his characters, but all of them have an icy layer on them that keeps you one-step removed from full involvement. And...that said...I can see why Sondheim liked it more. He's a rather cold writer. Even "Sweeney Todd", his most overwrought work, has a clinical aspect to it that I found more disturbing than the subject matter (I saw it on Broadway in 1979, with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou). But don't diss Renoir. Period.

Stephen, get your head out of your ass. Okay?

Most of today was spent on artwork. I've got the urge to create something I can hang on my wall. And something to give me a break from writing. I'm finding my ideas are coming out third-rate and boring, even as filler between the stuff I like. So I worked up a few ideas for acrylics on canvas and may paint a couple of them over the weekend. Here are some --
This is about as stark as I've ever gone. I'm tempted to do it on heavy paper or board with India ink.
This one has a nice layered feel to it, with slices of hair and shadows to contrast with the large, flat areas of black, gray and white.
Color is good...and I like the emotion behind it, even if it does seem a bit evil.

I processed all of these through photoshop to try them out, first. I don't think I'll make the lines quite as ragged as they are, now...but you never know.

Now comes brain-dead time.

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