On Martin Luther King Day I went to MOMA. I’ve haunted that place since childhood and have always felt rejuvenated by its buzz. The video, Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema, follows the long, illustrious career of Dante Ferretti, the Italian production designer of sets and costumes. You’ve seen his work unless you just arrived from Mars. He’s worked with Pasolini, Fellini, Scorsese, Coppola and garnered slews of awards. He’s claustrophobic. He thinks it’s because of U. S. bombs hitting his house when he was about three. His mother searched among the rubble for days until she found him. In the garden/sculpture court stand two of Ferretti’s Archimboldo figures. They’re named after Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th century Italian painter who painted weird portraits that consisted of fruits, vegetables, flowers.
Do you get installations? Me neither. As long as I don’t have to fund them or explain them, I can enjoy the experience for about ten minutes. Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves weaves traditional Chinese myths with a contemporary tragedy. It’s shown on nine double sided screens suspended from the ceiling of MOMA’s Marron Atrium. The spectators and yours truly sprawled on cushions and couches on the floor below. It would make a great pajama party.
Since I write crime procedurals, I’m always interested in new crime fiction. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are kicking up their heels playing Louisiana detectives in HBO’s True Detective. McConaughey plays the big cliche´– the loner who speaks the harsh truth, no family i.e. dead child, lives for his work and never, never smiles. Harrelson plays the old Southern boy who keeps a smiley face lid on everything. You know what? It works. These two actors are character actors and they are great together. Also, the script is witty. It helps that it’s set in Louisiana, reinforcing our northern suspicion that deeply southern states have lower standards of morality than we do. (Forget about bridge gate. HE didn’t know anything about it.)
“Seize the hilltops!” These words, encouraging settlers’ land grabs, were yelled by the late Ariel Sharon after the signing of the Oslo accords. As I listened to Joe Biden making one of his high school speeches larding praise on Arik, King of Israel, I wondered about the lack of coverage of the Palestinians’ reaction to the death of the Monster. Was he partially responsible for the massacre of civilians at Qibya in 1953, then at Sabra and Shatila in 1982? We’ll never know from American media.
I accompanied a gardener friend to the Arsenal in Central Park. It’s a brick building that predates the park and was built between 1847 and 1851. Originally, the Arsenal was an arms and ammunition storehouse for the New York State Militia. We attended a discussion about Russell Page’s The Education of a Gardener. Fascinating to enter a world about which I know nothing and to listen to people who dedicate their lives to preserving the Earth’s earth and the complexities that involves.
American Hustle is playing in a mall like movie house on 42nd Street, one block east of Port Authority. Was the movie house built during the Guliani cleanup? Was it supposed to make tourists feel more at home with its bland motel architecture and friendly funereal lighting? To me, it says forever New Jersey.
American Hustle centers around a 1970’s scam and sting. The F. B. I. works with a known felon to bring down corrupt officials. The wonderful actors wear deliciously tacky clothes and jewelry. Who can forget that clunky medallion gleaming on Bradley Cooper’s chest? Hair – hair – hair is a major player. For the gents: Comb overs, pompadours, tight curls; for the ladies: lots of it, curly, frizzy, wavy.
Proof that God has a sense of humor: I kept expecting Governor Chris Christie to make a cameo appearance (a la Alfred Hitchcock). After all, the Port Authority was only a block away and the American Hustle script could have been written by the Honorable Christie or by one of his fired aides.
W. H. Auden (1907-1973) moved to NYC, broke up with his boy friend, his mother died and WW II had begun. This is when he wrote For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.
“The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
Rene´ Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian surreal artist whose mother killed herself. When her body was found, her dress was draped across her face. This image is repeated in several of Magritte’s works. MOMA has mounted a large exhibit of his works from 1926 to 1938. Going to an exhibit at MOMA on a Saturday afternoon means you love crowds. I’m glad I went because there was so much to see. Lovers with faces draped in cloth, the pipe that isn’t a pipe. Isn’t Magritte an illustrator rather than an artist?