Saturday, December 30, 2006

David vs Goliath?

A really cringeworthy campaign. But I couldn't stop laughing.

Image: From agencyfaqs

It says, perhaps, everything that needs to be said about advertising.

Location Production Footage: The Last Temptation of Christ

The film was released in 1988 and probably the bulky video camera had just appeared on the scene. But even that doesn't explain why a great director like Scorsese seems so clumsy with the camera and sets up some cringingly juvenile shots.

The actual film is a class apart. The movies I love most are movies about redemption and 'The Last Temptation Of Christ' is the acme of this genre. More on that soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oddballs and Geniuses

Joe Queenan, the wonderfully opinionated cultural critic, is writing the 'A to Z of Classical Music' in the Guardian. I wouldn't resist the temptation to filch some interesting bits and paste it here. I was more interested in the life stories than in the nuances of composition. So here's the part about Mozart and Debussy. Those interested in Mahler, Glenn Gould, Faure and others should log on to the music section of Guardian. Nothing you haven't heard before, but presented to you with gratuitous dollops of merciless opinions.

See David Oistrakh perform the Clair de Lune. I may be musically illiterate and tone deaf but I can't help feeling moved.


Arguably bringing more sheer beauty into the world than anyone who ever lived, Mozart was rewarded by the fates with a preposterously unhappy life. His childhood was sabotaged by his musician father, who pimped him out as a juvenile circus act; his aristocratic employers showered their wealth and praise on butchers and charlatans; he married badly; he was constantly in debt; he had bum kidneys. He was short, his hands were stubby, and, oh yes, his face was marred by smallpox. He died at age 35, and no one knows where he is buried. Anyone who believes that life is fair should try being born in Afghanistan or study the life of Mozart or just go straight to hell.

D is for ... Debussy, Claude

The ugliest man to ever write beautiful music, Debussy was an anti-social misanthrope who even the French found unpleasant. Arrogant, shunning human company, emotionally scarred by being short, fat and afflicted by an irregularly surfaced forehead, and regularly pitching camp with women given to recreational suicide attempts, Debussy was the last composer to write music that was both fiercely cerebral and unabashedly emotional (Ravel, though a charmer, was basically a bargain-basement Debussy). After Debussy, classical music would continue to be thought-provoking, but it would never again be sublime.

Debussy is the first truly modern composer, the first to repudiate the concept of music as literature, to focus purely on the emotions triggered by specific sounds. He hated Beethoven, loathed Mozart, ridiculed Brahms and thought Wagner was weighing down western civilization. He liked Satie, who posed no threat.Ironically, Debussy's anger, personal unhappiness and penchant for hooking up with women likely to shoot themselves if not watched carefully cannot be found in his music, which is uncompromisingly beautiful; no composer's work was ever more disconnected from his personality than Debussy's.

Officially, Debussy is referred to as an Impressionist because he lived at the same time as Monet, Pissaro and Sisley, but the term is a misnomer, like calling the Clash proletarians; Impressionist painting, it too a reaction against the obsessive story-telling qualities of the art that precedes it, prides itself on having almost no intellectual content, while Debussy's music, sometimes lush, sometimes melancholy, sometimes playful, is immensely cerebral. Debussy is more like Cézanne, the father of modern art, who painted canvases purged of all sentiment (no parasols, no rippling flags, no Sunday picnics, and definitely no puppies) that nevertheless managed to be radiant and inspiring.

Debussy's body of work is smaller than that of many other composers, but almost all of it is of the very first order. Only Chopin and Schumann surpass him as a composer for the piano; La Mer is arguably the most successful tone poem of them all; and Pelléas and Mélisande is an opera that is literally like no other, the anti-Carmen, in that it forced the singers to stop hamming it up and actually try singing for a change. Just as Matisse's work is about color, Debussy's work is about sound. With one or two exceptions, Debussy makes all living composers sound pitiful, particularly the academic mafiosi that regularly win Pulitzer prizes in America. Someone once said that the saddest thing about Debussy's music was that it initially seemed like a glorious sunrise when in fact it was a bittersweet sunset. This is correct; when Debussy died, classical music began to die with him.
Credit: Joe Queenan/Guardian

All Time Favourite Books

  • Dracula (Bram Stoker)
  • Sophie's Choice (William Styron)
  • Portnoy's Complaint (Philip Roth)
  • Rabbit at Rest (John Updike)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M Cain)
  • A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Herzog (Saul Bellow)
  • Ham on Rye (Charles Bukowski)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
  • The Secret History (Donna Tartt)