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Ok, I have seen it now so I can moan as much as I like. Yay, let’s go!
Not only have I been to see Dorian Gray but I have also been to a sort of panel talk with the director Oliver Parker and the writer Toby Finlay. Oh, and double bonus; the guy who painted the portrait of Dorian Gray/Ben Barnes and the painting itself was there (I might explain here that this event took place at the National Portrait Gallery). It was so much fun! Although it was a bit fawning, like, of course all the Wilde-experts that were there and had seen the film gave their approval.
Afterwards we went up to Tottenham Court Rd to see the film and, unfortunately, that’s where the fun stops. Parker was saying (when being asked about the casting of Ben Barnes…’because in the book Dorian is blond with blue eyes’…yawn) that the biggest mistake you make with a film version of Dorian Gray is to actually show Dorian himself. Because no matter how it is done, he will never live up to the version you created in your head while reading it. Paradoxical but true, of course I judge this film partly based on how well it corresponds to my reading experience. But at the same time I don’t think interpolation is a bad thing. Exclude, flesh out and re-invent all you want as long as it is motivated and makes a good film.
See, I really don’t mind that Dorian isn’t an angelic fair-haired boy (I pictured him dark anyway). I don’t mind the invention of Lord Henry’s daughter, even if it is a little bit silly and unnecessary; at least it made a role for Rebecca Hall. Turning the painting into some devilish entity breathing horror was fine too, in fact all the gothic elements worked very well indeed. What I do mind is omitting vital scenes that would explain why these people behave as they do. Darling, darling Sybil never gets the chance to kill his love with bad acting (something I am sure Rachel Hurd-Wood would have pulled off terribly well). Instead they have sex and then Dorian dumps her. Basil never gets to confess his obsession with Dorian and his fear for this showing in the portrait. Instead they have sex and then Dorian kills him. And while there’s nothing wrong with an abundance of kinky sex per se, it shouldn’t be used only to cover up the complete lack of substance Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. I wish. The philosophy is not a part of Dorian Gray, it is Dorian Gray. And this is nothing but an intolerably flimsy film where everything feels rushed, underdeveloped and looks like it has been butchered in the editing with a chainsaw.
Like the ghost of a dear friend dead
Is Time long past.
A tone which is now forever fled,
A hope which is now forever past,
A love so sweet it could not last,
Was Time long past.
There were sweet dreams in the night
Of Time long past:
And, was it sadness or delight,
Each day a shadow onward cast
Which made us wish it yet might last–
That Time long past.
There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.
(Time Long Past by Percy Bysshe Shelley)
There is lot of moaning going on about this new film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Uhm, can’t everyone just chill out and wait for the film to actually be released instead of getting worked up about the trailer or the poster?
Like at the New Yorker, where they talk about Dorian Gray book-covers instead, so much more fun.
The cover of my edition, a very budget-friendly hardback copy, has gold-letters and a detail from this painting on it;
Tissot’s club portrait; La Balcon du Cercle de la Rue Royale is usually seen on books by or about Proust. The Circle of the Rue Royale was one of the many Paris clubs imitating the gentlemen clubs of London, were the social elite of the 19th century could gather and…well, by the look of it, do nothing much. One of those men, is Charles Haas whom Proust used as a model for Charles Swann in In Search of Lost Time.
I like the idea of this cover very much:
No title, no author, no picture of Dorian Gray. From Four Corners Books who does artistic interpretations of classics or something like that.
Or this illustrated Dorian Gray from Marvel;
I have been thinking a lot about Turner lately, partly because of the upcoming Tate exhibition Turner and the Masters and partly because I haven’t got much else to think about.
For years I found Turner boring. Yes, England’s maybe greatest painter; boring. Then, sometime last year, I learnt that Thomas Hardy was a great admirer of Turner and his writing was influenced by painting in general and by Turner in particular, saying of his watercolours, that each is a landscape plus a man’s soul. Now, I’m not a big Hardy-fan or anything but after that I tried to make an effort with Turner, because I wanted to find that soul.
I think my problem with Turner is Tate. I know, that sounds contradictory, but here’s my theory: Tate Britain hoards the biggest Turner collection in the world; 300 oil-paintings and 30.000 sketches and water-colours. They are all cleverly arranged around subjects, chronology and technique. In other words: Turner Heaven. The problem is that Turner is a genius who outdoes himself. It’s like Turner inflation in there. There’s so many of them, that great becomes good and good becomes boring.
Ancient Rome: Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus (1839)
For example, after being nailed to the floor in front of this, wishing you could just step inside and stay there forever (or just long enough to feel those sunbeams on your skin and hear the water silently lapping against the quay…please just for a little while) how can you possibly be immersed in 20 early-Turner variations of the Thames? Exactly; let’s run through that corridor, ugh, that Turner is so b-o-r-i-n-g.
No, my best Turner experiences have been outside of those Turner-rooms. When you come across his paintings in a context different from ‘look how great Turner is.’ When you don’t expect to see a Turner (which I never do, because they’re all in Tate) and it takes you by surprise. Like at the National Gallery’s latest exhibition of landscape paintings, Corot to Monet, where among millions of little Barbizon-type oil-sketches they have manage to squeeze in a Turner. Or a few floors up where a long row of Constable’s* are acting as sedatives when all of a sudden you’re confronted with this:
Odysseus deriding Polyhemus (1829)
Uhm, I’m not slating Tate or anything here, I love Tate. I’m just saying, you know, how I feel about this. There, I’m done.
*Here is a little anecdote, told by Tate: Before an exhibition opened at the Royal Academy, artists came in and made final adjustments to their paintings depending on what place they had been given in the hall and to varnish them, known as the Varnishing Days. These exhibitions were highly competitive and Turner made the most to outshine his rivals, sometimes bringing half-made paintings that he finished on the wall. Constable, once placed next to him, commented as he saw the last add-ons from Turner; ‘He has been here and fired a gun.’
Could you feel autumn arrive today? I felt it; fresh and strong south-western winds blowing straight in from the Atlantic. Fetching leaves from the trees and rushing them in a whirlwind onto the pavement as if the seasonal shift could not come soon enough. If I’m allowed to exaggerate a bit (ok, a lot) it was something like this:
Autumn Leaves by Tom Scott
Today I have, besides contemplating nature, bought my first Moleskin. I never understood how the most overpriced and insignificant-looking notebook ever could monopolize the entire notebook market on the sole premise that Picasso and Hemingway used it. But today I was desperate for one and as Waterstone’s notepad assortment consisted of 500 different Moleskin versions and one (1!) blank-paged, thick and bejewelled in pink rhinestones, I really didn’t have any choice.
I have to admit, this notebook is fantastic. It lies absolutely flat on the table, it doesn’t move, the pages are lovely ivory-coloured and the print strength of the lines is perfect (you know; not too strong, not too faint). And it loves being written in. Seriously, loves it.
It’s still black and boring but I thought I could jazz it up a little bit myself. I’m not talking overambitious scrapbooking embellishment here, but pasting a nice picture or something on to it so it’s as nice to look at as it is to write in.
Uhm…I’m starting to sound like that guy in Oracle Night. He gets on extremely well with his new notebook in the beginning and then within, or out of, this notebook, complexity á la Paul Auster unravels. I think blue notebooks have given me a headache ever since I read it. Good book though.