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Paintings and Prostitutes

Add a new blogger about art and film:Lloyd Fonvielle ‘s mardecortesbaja . Full of paintings and screenshots, it is a visually appealing blog with insights into film and art. (I stumbled upon this blog through some of his newsgroup postings). Here’s his take on Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut: (warning, some small nudity)

The child in the film is very important, though it’s wonderful and courageous that Kubrick makes no overt appeal to this aspect of things. The closest he comes is when the child asks for a dog for Christmas. “He could be a watch-dog,” she argues. She feels the threat to the home that is happening, but her terror is beyond articulation.

Marriage, existential marriage with a perpetual Other, thus becomes an avenue for the survival of identity — the larger identity that can be sustained because it is not rooted in the chaos of personality, but in an idea, of fidelity, and in the flesh of a child that somehow shares the identity of the Other.

It is one way of addressing Nietzsche’s notion that the ability to make and keep a promise is the only thing that makes us human. But it has to be a transcendent promise, unto death — like the sacrifice of life for a cause, the sacrifice of sexual freedom, of autonomous identity, for a child. Nietzsche would argue, of course, that such servitude is the only freedom there is, such as it is.

Kubrick doesn’t draw any simple moral from his tale. Kidman won’t say “forever”, since “no single night, much less a single life, can be the whole truth about anything”. Like Nietzsche, Kubrick looks at the actual forces at play, describes the stakes unflinchingly, and leaves us to our terror at it all — though perhaps a little better equipped to play the game.

Kidman’s last line may be deeper than it seems. In fucking, the metaphor of blurred, surrendered identity is constantly reestablished, the consolation and the terror of it constantly renewed.

This blog has lots of posts/ruminations on silent films. See also his posts about Victorian painting, Bouguereau’s nudes and the use of prostitutes as models in painting.

In the painting above, Picasso goofs on the Delacroix painting at the head of this post, deconstructing it. It’s not just an aesthetic exercise. It seems to me that Picasso is appropriating the bourgeois male’s hatred and fear of the female and using it to dissect the female into lifeless, if vivid and lurid, component parts. It’s possible to see cubism in general as an attempt to render three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface. It’s also possible to see it as an attempt to reduce three-dimensional reality to a two-dimensional object, to make it superficial, and thus conformable to the sterile bourgeois psyche.

Study the two pictures and come to your own conclusions about Picasso’s aims. Consider the use of body doubles in movie sex scenes, where disassociated, anonymous parts of the naked female body are made to stand in for the whole woman. Consider the question of whether Delacroix’s willingness to confront fathomless sadness is not more courageous than Picasso’s hysterical attempt to master it, to bring its contents up to the surface and lay them out on a butcher’s table. It may lead you to conclude that one goal of modern artists ought to be restoring the image of the whole woman to art, whatever the psychic consequences for men.

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