“It [an African ritual mask] is not an aesthetic process; it's a form of magic that interposes itself between us and the hostile universe, a means of seizing power by imposing a form on our terrors as well as on our desires.”
--Pablo Picasso [as quoted in the February, 2006 Economist article in the previous blog]
So, I am suggesting that modern art and its premiere star, Picasso, are popular with liberals because they have that same set of fears that require magical help to be quelled. What kind of fear? A fear of being caught without an identity. A fear of being inauthentic. A fear of being the freak in the group, inferior to all others present because they are adjusted. Imogen Clark is afraid that her daughter's heroin addiction will reveal her own lack of adjustment, her inferiority, her inauthenticity. This is so unbearable that she curses her daughter and slaps her.
Intellectually and artistically, this is very akin to Woody Allen's comedy movies.
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--The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, ppg. 144-46, on line at:
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There are two problems with jumping to Allan Bloom to discuss Imogen Clark and her book, Saving Jessie. The minor problem is that Clark is an Australian and Bloom is talking about Americans and American comedy. My response to that is that the cultures and the philosophies of those country's liberals are similar enough to survive that complaint.
The other complaint is that it is nearly ridiculous to compare Imogen Clark's bad performance as an angry mother of an addict to a Woody Allen comedy. Imogen is not a ditzy, scatterbrained young woman who says funny things and gets into ironic yet humorous situations in her book Saving Jessie.
Indeed. But what I mean to do is to compare Imogen Clark to the central character in Woody Allen's first and best tragedy, his 1978 masterpiece Interiors. The philosophy and approach is the same, but Allen brilliantly decides to let everything go wrong and work for dramatic character development instead of laughs. And the center character, the interior designer, Eve, played by Geraldine Page, has a great deal in common with Imogen. Eve is a perfectionist who is enraged if things go wrong or don't match into the elegant feng shui that she imagines. She has three children, the youngest of which is most like her and follows her example (just like Imogen and her daughter Jessie). Eve and her children are uneasy about being found to be inauthentic. Diane Keaton plays daughter Renata, Kristen Griffith plays daughter Fly, and Mary Beth Hurt plays daughter Joey. Ex-husband Arthur is played by E. G. Marshall and Arthur's second wife is played by Maureen Stapleton, the counterpoint of this situation tragedy. Stapleton's character is realistic and frank; she is something like Juliet's nurse or Brutus' wife or Coriolanus' mother in various Shakespeare plays. Imogen's daughter, Jessie, appears to know no woman of this sort as she travels down the path to addiction.
Here is a review of Interiors from Amazon.com:
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A Film That Deserves A Place
in Every Art Collection
By Grady Harp (Top 10 Reviewer)
Revisiting INTERIORS written and directed by Woody Allen in 1978 it becomes apparent that this is one of the most important American films made. In this time of video art and digital manipulation of images, both in real time and in fixed entities, INTERIORS exemplifies the finest in what film can achieve. Without manipulation of scenery, without (gratefully) a senses-assaulting musical score, without GIMMICKRY - here is a film of brilliant writing, stunningly and beautifully subtle sets and costumes, and acting of the first degree. The angst so present in our society's family relationships is gently observed and explored and the results are a paean of understated simplicity and pain. It is difficult to single out any of the outstanding cast as 'best' and that is yet another proof of ensemble acting and directing at a zenith. Yes, it is unimaginable to leave behind the characters created by Geraldine Page, H.G. Marshall, Diane Keaton, and Maureen Stapleton, but again this is an indicator of how well and cohesive the experience provided by this movie is.
I have never been a Woody Allen fan: I find his comedies overwrought, self-absorbed, and frustratingly tedious. Seeing INTERIORS on a DVD, in the quiet of home, has altered my respect for this man. A dazzlingly brilliant, thoughtful, elegy of a film.