Once a poster boy for bourgeois bad taste, Bouguereau is starting to
look more and more radical — certainly more and more bizarre. 
The solidity of his angels here is uncanny.  The wings of angels
in art are often merely symbolic —
in this image they
seem like practical appendages, as necessary to flight as a bird's
wings.  They give these angels a monstrous quality, as though
they're the product of some unholy genetic experiment.  On the
other hand, it may be that the sight of real angels would produce the
same impression and that real angels, if photographed, would look exactly as
they do above.

For a lengthier meditation on the work of this extraordinary artist, go here:

Bouguereau and the Über-Photograph


Charlton Heston has died at the age of 84.  In life he never got
the appreciation he deserved — damned with faint praise as an actor of
limited range, damned in more direct terms for his right wing politics
and defense of gun rights.  As an artist, however, he was a
genuine hero.

It was Heston who lobbied Universal to give Orson Welles the job as director of Touch Of Evil
(above), at a time when no one else in Hollywood would give Welles the
time of day, and he single-handedly kept Sam Peckinpah on Major Dundee by offering to kick back his own salary into the production.

In movies, presence is sometimes more important than range — one might
argue that it's always more important than range — and presence
requires more than mere personality.  It requires its own kind of
craft and courage.  There was no other actor of his generation who
could have held his own in El Cid, and his “presence” helped make that film a masterpiece.  It also elevated The Planet Of the Apes from a B-picture to a pop classic.

I am personally grateful to him for Touch Of Evil
— mangled as it was by the studio it's still one of the great American
films, and it wouldn't exist without the artistic heroism of Charlton

And for those of you who can't get past his efforts on behalf of the NRA,
remember that he also stood with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March
On Washington — one of the few Hollywood celebrities with the guts to
take a public stand like that in 1963.


Here's link, via Boing Boing, to a collection of Mike Wallace interviews from the 50s, including one with Gloria Swanson:

The Mike Wallace Interview Archive

technique was to get as close to insolence with his guests, especially
his female guests, as possible without crossing the line into
rudeness.  The lack of respect he shows to Swanson is sickening
and she barely keeps her dignity intact.  Swanson observes that
“something has gone dreadfully wrong with the American man,” and
Wallace, puffing away on a cigarette throughout the program, proves her

There's also a
touching interview with Jean Seberg, age 19, just after the disaster of
her performance in Saint Joan, her first film, in which Seberg, too, struggles,
somewhat more successfully, to keep her dignity in the face of
Wallace's insinuating smugness.  “What will happen to your
career,” Wallace asks, “when it comes time for you to get married and
devote most of your time to your family?”  “I hope I'll marry a
man who lets me continue with my career,” says Seberg, looking slightly
bewildered by Wallace's attitude.

The two great
stars, speaking from different ends of their careers, manage to make
Wallace's cigarettes look like accurately-sized phallic symbols. 
What we're seeing in these interviews is the birth of modern
journalism, in which hacks try to elevate themselves by patronizing
their betters, treating their accomplishments as the same sort of
hollow flim-flam the hacks are practicing.

What we're also
seeing is further proof that modern feminism was a response not to an
over-powerful patriarchy, but to a patriarchy in full-on psychic
collapse.  Wallace comes off here as a truly pathetic figure.


Frustrated by reports that the Clinton campaign is arguing to Super Delegates in
private that Barack Obama “can’t win” in November — presumably because
he’s black — some Obama surrogates have countered with the argument,
also expressed privately but widely reported, that Senator Clinton can’t win in November
because she’s an asshole.

The attempt seems to be to associate Clinton with unpopular Republican
Presidents who are generally seen as assholes — like Richard Nixon and George
Bush.  Clinton supporters have been quick to point out that Bill
Clinton, still a popular figure in Democratic circles, was also an
asshole, but still managed to balance the budget and keep America safe.

Other Clinton backers expressed outrage over the Obama tactics.
“Hillary Clinton can’t help being an asshole,” said Governor Ed Rendell
of Pennsylvania, “anymore than Barack Obama can help being a
Negro. Criticizing a person on the basis of some inherent characteristic
demeans the public debate.”  In response to questioning, Rendell
said that “Negro” was not a term he normally used himself, “though it
does reflect the language of many voters in my state, who may not be
ready to vote for a person they see as an uppity jigaboo.  Naturally,” he added, “that attitude doesn’t reflect my personal views.”  Reporters said that Rendell winked repeatedly at the camera during these remarks, though an aide later explained that the
Governor had simply gotten something in his eye.

CNN political analyst David Gergen warned that the Obama argument could
backfire.  “Assholes make up a significant percentage of the
American electorate,” he said.  “Naturally, they’re attracted to a
candidate who is also an asshole and sensitive to attacks on that
candidate, whom they perceive as ‘like them’.  Barack Obama can’t
win the Presidency if he totally alienates the asshole vote, which
could determine the outcome in many swing states, like Florida.”

Obama’s only comment on the controversy — “American politics has no
place for assholes” — has struck many observers as ambiguous, at best.


In 1920, Roscoe Arbuckle became the first great comedian of the silent screen to make a full-on transition from shorts to feature films.  Chaplin had appeared in the feature comedy Tillie’s Punctured Romance as early as 1914, but under Mack Sennett’s direction and as a second lead. Chaplin wouldn’t release his own first feature until 1921. Buster Keaton starred in The Saphead in 1920 but he continued to make shorts after that until 1923, when his feature career began in earnest with Three Ages.

Arbuckle made nine feature films in the two years before scandal interrupted
his career, and never appeared in another. I believe that all but three
of them are lost, and the last two were never released in America, due
to the scandal. One of these, Leap Year, survives and is included on
the magnificent DVD set The Forgotten Films Of Fatty Arbuckle. It’s
absolutely fascinating.

In the earlier shorts offered in the collection we can see Arbuckle
transition slowly from the comic actor of the Sennett farces to the
full-blown silent clown of the Comiques. Chaplin and Keaton seemed to
have intuited almost from the moment they stepped in front of a camera
that the silent cinema was perfectly adapted to a fixed clown persona
— a character who could migrate from film to film yet still stay
essentially the same, with a way of moving, of being in space, that,
along with a few clothing props, singled him out as a distinct,
slightly hyper-real being, much like a circus clown or a figure from
the Commedia dell’ Arte.

Roscoe moved slowly from being a comic actor who did funny physical bits to
incarnating “Fatty”, the slapstick clown, and all along the journey he
was pulled back to the former mode. In the films he did with Mabel
Normand, character, especially as embodied in their relationship, took
precedence over slapstick — at least until the trademark Sennett
mayhem of the climax. In one of the Sennett films Roscoe directed, He
Did and He Didn’t
, he takes this mode even further, edging into the
realm of upper-class drawing-room comedy, with very sophisticated
lighting and photography.

Until I saw Leap Year I would have seen this mode as a detour in Arbuckle’s
development as a comedian — a detour on the road to the Comiques,
where Arbuckle takes his place with Keaton and Chaplin as a classic
slapstick clown. Leap Year, though, totally altered my sense of what
Arbuckle was about. It’s as far from the universe of the Comiques as
it’s possible to get.

It inhabits, in fact, the universe of P. G. Wodehouse, whose gentle,
kindly satires of the young and well-heeled beautiful people of his
time were immensely popular in 1920. Leap Year perfectly captures the
sweetly daft world of Wodehouse’s slightly nutty, vaguely dimwitted but
immensely lovable trust-fund kids of the jazz age.

The miracle of it is that Arbuckle, knockabout comedian extraordinaire,
funny slapstick fat guy, fits so perfectly into this world. He does it
by simply behaving as though he’s Cary Grant in a romantic comedy, Fred
Astaire in a romantic musical — and because he doesn’t doubt it for a
moment, neither do we.

Roscoe plays the feckless nephew of a rich man, presumably the heir to a vast
fortune. This could explain part of the reason he’s so irresistible to
the women in the film — but not all of it. He’s a genuinely romantic
leading man. His sweetness and his physical grace sell us on that. He
just dances through the role.

The film doesn’t allow for much slapstick, but Arbuckle finds ways of
slipping it in delightfully here and there — most notably in a scene in which he’s
trying to convince his would-be brides that he’s having fits. The fits
are little masterpieces of physical comedy, as fine as anything Chaplin
and Keaton were capable of at their best.

But the performance doesn’t depend on these things, and the film remains a
frothy drawing-room farce. The farce becomes strained at times,
particularly towards the end, and the froth congeals a bit, but the
overall effect is of lightness and joy. It reminded me a little of
Murnau’s The Finances Of the Archduke from 1924 — particularly in
its use of the sunny Catalina settings of the film’s middle section, in
which the landscape seems to conspire in the fun, as the Dalmatian
coast did in Murnau’s film..

Was this really the sort of film that the mad surreal clown of the Comiques
wanted to make? He certainly seems to be fully committed to the work
and having a hell of a good time. Were the other Arbuckle features
anything like this? If Arbuckle’s career had continued on its natural
course, and he’d taken greater command over his films as a director —
where on earth would he have ended up?

This film expanded my appreciation of Arbuckle’s range and genius and
altered my sense of the comic landscape of films in 1920. It’s easy to
think of Arbuckle as an actor whose journey towards becoming another
Chaplin, another Keaton, was tragically diverted. But maybe he would
have become something else entirely — something we can’t even imagine,
because he wasn’t able to show it to us.


Jules Bastien-Lepage died tragically young, in 1884, when he was in his late thirties.  He painted one masterpiece, Joan Listening To the Voices (above),
which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 
It's impossible to describe the effect of this large canvas, with its
complex and convincing illusion of space, which Joan seems about to step out of,
prompted forward by her visions.  It's an example of a
photo-realistic technique enlisted in the service of mystical drama.

Bastien-Lepage groped about a bit in his short career, with stylized
works of grandiose ambition that seem clumsy and pretentious and
modest genre paintings that seem trite, but his über-photographic style
could occasionally produce miracles, like this extraordinary portrait of Sarah Bernhardt,
which has the quality of a bas-relief:

No other evocation of Bernhardt, in literature, art or photography,
brings us as close as Bastien-Lepage's portrait does to the charisma of
the great artist.  Nadar's photographs of the young actress
humanize her, touch the heart — Bastien-Lepage's portrait records the
determined audacity of her genius.  She seems powerful and
vulnerable at the same time, part of the alchemy of a star.

The American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens did a remarkable
bas-relief portrait of Bastien-Lepage in bronze, which makes a fine
pendant to Bastien-Lepage's portrait of Bernhardt — both have a
tactile grace that takes the breath away, both summon their subjects into
our immediate presence, obliterating time and mortality:


Yesterday, Showtime screened a rough assembly of Orson Welles' legendary uncompleted film The Other Side Of the Wind,
which Peter Bogdanovich is restoring for the cable channel.  The
select group of critics in attendance were stunned to find that the
film bore no relation whatsoever to the brief excerpts from the film or
to the script pages
which have previously seen the light of day.

The film unveiled was in fact a shot-by-shot remake of Citizen Kane using sock-puppets in place of the original actors.  Citizen Kane
is considered Welles' masterpiece, and many have pronounced it the
greatest movie ever made — a stunning debut which Welles never managed
to live up to in the course of his subsequent career.

Bogdanovich explained the “very Wellesian” ruse involved — “He shot
fake footage and wrote a bogus script to keep his real plans a
secret.  'Everybody wants another Kane,' he told me, 'so I'm going to give it to them.  I'm going to shove it up their ass.'”

Bogdanovich believes that the sock-puppet Kane
will eventually be recognized as a greater work than the original —
“though it may take awhile.  Orson was always years ahead of his

Bogdanovich hopes that the restoration of the Kane
remake will be completed towards the end of this year and screened by
Showtime in 2009.  It will appear under the name Welles chose for
it shortly before his death — Kane You Believe It?