Monday, July 19, 2010

High and Low

Hmm, no, I don't seem to have been saying much here lately. I've been a bit busy. There's a couple of things I will just make a note of, though.

For one, on the 28th of June, we got to the British Museum for the "Fra Angelico to Leonardo" Italian Renaissance Drawings exhibition. (Well, there was a lot of stuff you'd otherwise have to get to the Uffizi in Florence to see.) This turned out to be a very technical sort of exhibition - there were explanations of the various techniques used, samples of paper and parchment one could actually touch, and comparisons of some of the drawings that were actually preparatory works for paintings with images of the finished paintings themselves. And for the first stretch, it maybe felt a bit too technical; the drawings from the early years of the Renaissance weren't bad, but they weren't exciting either, and were often formalistic copies of standard designs. And I'm still no fan of late medieval art, with all its stiff religiosity, even though looking at drawings rather than paintings saves one from the usual surfeit of gold halos.

But then, well, the exhibition kind of proved that art evolved for the better in the Renaissance, and after the path through had hit the Leonardos around the mid-point, well, I was sucked in. Stunning stuff, some of this, and all of it certainly never less than technically interesting.

And on 11th of July, we got to see Shrek Forever After at the Cambridge Arts. We previously saw the first couple of Shrek films, but we missed the third, so this was a fairly casual interest, but we enjoyed the movie; it had the usual density of reference to both fairy-tales and other sources (amazingly for an American series, the Shrek movies hadn't thrown in anything from the Wizard of Oz until this final episode, so far as I recall), the usual grossly over-qualified cast (I missed noticing the presence of the wonderful Jane Lynch until the final credits), and the usual torrent of good jokes. The 3-D, while effective enough, was pretty much an irrelevance here - a few hurtling broomstick-mounted witches are nothing compared to, say, Monsters vs. Aliens' games with scale - and the movie as a whole was nothing like as sophisticated as, say, The Incredibles. Whereas in that movie, the hero is aware from the first of the ambiguities in his discontent with family life, and the solution to the problem is a complex process which requires adaption by all the parties involved, Shrek is just an understandably put-upon-feeling husband, father, and citizen, who gets a chance to see what the bachelor life would be like, enjoys it for a short while, and then gets hit over the head with the Hollywood presumption in favour of domesticity. It's an unearned moral, mere moralising.

One shouldn't think too hard about the alternate history plot structuring, either. Technically, it creates a whole universe full of people with their own lives and troubles and hard-won triumphs, and then obliterates them with a kiss, in a casual act of cosmic genocide. Although it was the even more casual death of the Gingerbread Man that might actually worry more viewers. Also, I was probably too taken with Rumpelstiltskin's palace - a gilded Versailles-for-dark-lords - and his wigs - all wiped out by the plot's tide of narrative Tipex. Still, yeah, don't think too hard and it's certainly huge amounts of fun.

No comments: