May 11, 2010

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There are many things that can be said about Kurosawa’s film, Ran, a manficient work of art, a loose reworking of King Lear, but I won’t say them. I don’t feel up to tackling such a big subject, a monumental film, just now. Instead, I will show my favorite sequence from the long movie, the portion in which Lady Kaede reveals herself as one incredible piece of work, a femme fatale like none other I know.

The three sons of the Great Lord are fighting over his domain now that he has abdicated and is senile. Jiro is ambitious, but a bit soft and hesitant – his loyal retainer, a gruff, no nonsense intriguer gives him a few pushes in the right direction.  (He gets the film’s last words too.)

During a capture of a castle that Jiro carries out with his brother, Taro, the retainer kills Taro, a threat to his master’s future dominance, with a gunshot. “A stray shot. The vagaries of war...” Deniability, that is. Lady K., the dead man’s husband is not deceived. When her brother-in-law takes possession of her dead husband’s castle, she humiliates Jiro by publicly insulting him. Later, when he is alone, she comes to apologize, offering the dead man’s helmet as a peace offering.

Lady Kaede’s machinations, and everyone else’s intrigue combine to bring about the complete destruction of the house of the Great Lord, and his three sons.  Jiro’s retainer, at the end, sees that he’s been outwitted.  Her severed neck creates a tremendous gushing fountain of blood.  The enemy is storming the castle keep.  He has the last word – “My lord, Jiro.  We are undone.  Prepare to die.  I will follow shortly!”

[Link to Lady K. getting hacked, but the aspect ratio is off.]

At the Metropolitan

May 1, 2010

Some images from my most recent visit, all taken in ambient light, so pardon the fuzziness.  Flashes are not allowed.  Some images are linked to others if you click them.

L) My kind of interior – dizzying, isn’t it?    R) Lombard tryptich – click for more info.

Back view of a Chinese  stele with multiple images of the Buddha.

Samurai daggers and sword, objects of incredible beauty and precision.  Click to enlarge.

From an altarpiece by Lorenzo Monaco, one of my favorite artists.  Note Abraham with the flaming sword, and Isaac, in the upper right.  Click for more info.

Those northern mannerists!  They’re weird, but I love them.    Oil on copper plate, for a piece of furniture.  Click for more info.

A favorite of mine, Antoine Lavoisier and his wife, Prima della rivoluzione by that propagandist for 1789, Jacques Louis David.  Carlyle had fun with him and his revolutionary fervor.  Antoine was not so lucky.  He, a liberal, was guillotined by the radicals – dare I call them terroristes? – just leave it at Jacobins.   His wife survived.  Madison Smartt Bell has written a nice capsule biography of him, his monumental contribution to the creation of modern chemistry, and his destruction in those chaotic times, Lavoisier in the Year One.

The imminence of the divine, by an artist in Verrochio’s worshop [full image], a teacher of Leonardo.  From here to 2001 is not such a stretch – click to see why.  And to the right, the floor, mundane, just for balance…

Heaven & Hell: Zen Tale

October 10, 2007


Based on a Zen mondo – an arrogant warrior is struck by enlightenment when he leasts expects it.

Watch it here.