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Apparently it is World Book Day. There's been a meme going round in honor of that; here it is.

The book I am currently reading: today's will be below.
The books I am currently writing: this currently untitled collection of book reviews; the book on shoujo and josei anime and manga with Thrud and the household, tentatively titled Shoujo Revolution; Altarwise by Owl-Light, the three-quarters-done novel which is kind of what you get if you put some Dylan Thomas poems and Machiavelli's play Mandragora in a blender with bits of Final Fantasy VII, except not.
The book I love most: there is no most. There are too many. And anyway it would only change.
The last book I received as a gift: the pocket edition of Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia.
The last book I gave as a gift: Joanna Russ's To Write Like A Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction.
The nearest book on my desk: I have no desk. The hearthrow-shelf books are tied as to what's closest to me-- I think the principal contenders are The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt, John Banville's The Infinities, C.J. Cherryh's Rimrunners, and John Bellairs' The Curse of the Blue Figurine.

Nightwatching is one of Peter Greenaway's films; this is the published script. Unusually for a film script, it has no images except that of the painting it's centered around, a painting probably Rembrandt's most famous and certainly one of his most confusing.

Greenaway in recent years has developed something of an obsession with artists, history, and conspiracy. One of the books I read very early for this project was his Rosa, which is one of ten opera libretti he wrote in the nineties about the deaths of composers. The composers were fictional, but he seems to have moved on to real paintings and painters, as for the last few years he's been doing a video installation series called Nine Classical Paintings Revisited, of which this is the first.

The best way I can describe this is that it's a film that attempts to make a context by which one can read the painting as a murder mystery. It's a depiction of the time in Rembrandt's life surrounding the act of painting the picture, a turbulent and grief-ridden time including the death of his wife, and it builds a portrait of the members of the Amsterdam militia as a set of profiteers and swindlers who set up a killing for money and then can't make Rembrandt stop painting about it (because, by that point, what does he care). Greenaway says in the preface that he's stuck to verifiable facts wherever possible but that the shaping of them is his own, that this is meant to be a conspiracy theory as with those about the Kennedy assassination and at the same time a plausible overturning of an artwork, as with the anti-monarchical theories around Velasquez's Las Meninas.

Being a film script intended as an actual shooting guide, it doesn't have much in the way of character interpretation: one sees these people from the outside. But it's got a lot of set-dressing and a lot of color, physical description, and this serves well, especially because all the paintings that are meant to be referenced in the film shots are tagged for you, which would not happen watching the actual cinema. I want to see it. I don't believe a word of it, but it's a good movie to read, and it catches something about seventeenth-century Holland, a time which could contrast an incredible roistering bawdiness with the gentle delicacy of Vermeer's light.

And it's a clever story, a well-balanced story, with a man at the heart of it who's sympathetic despite himself because of a believably clutching grief. I'd like to see this film. Unlike Rosa, which was intended to be in the medium it presents itself in, this is the translation of one art into another art (into a third, if you take the painting as the original), and therefore, while moving, probably better seen than read. See it, I'd say, and then use the script to footnote. I suspect I've got it the wrong way around, though I don't think it should hurt the movie, when I get there.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Useful link on an unrelated subject to this post: Brainstorming post for Wiscon panels on Islam, Islamophobia, and the intersection of the two with SF/F following Elizabeth Moon's extremely, distressingly wrong post of earlier today. More context included there. I also recommend [personal profile] nihilistic_kid's take on it.

This review is of a book I read on September thirteenth. Rosa was a present from [personal profile] sovay.

Peter Greenaway has been for many years one of my favorite film directors and probably was my favorite outright until I encountered the work of Ulrike Ottinger. This preference was formed primarily on extremely repeated viewings of Prospero's Books and The Pillow Book and secondarily on two views of The Draughtsmen's Contract; I've never managed to see any of his others. Both The Pillow Book and Prospero's Books are intricate, ornate, visually lush literary adaptations, brilliantly acted, impressively layered and fetishizing the word and text to a degree almost incomprehensible until you've seen it. The Draughtsman's Contract is less obviously this way but still a profoundly literary movie, a vicious little Augustan melodrama that is dripping with invisible citations. Text and music, text and image, text on body, the body as text: I honestly don't think Greenaway sees any difference between those. He is far too disciplined to be a Surrealist and far too impressionist to be anything else. His weakness is, sometimes, obscurity, and something most people seem to register as cruelty that causes a lot of people to find his films very disturbing, though apparently I am not built for it to bother me.

This is the novel he wrote about the staging of an imaginary opera, to be seen, in the reader's mind, as a film. )


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