Measured Extravagance

09 February 2002 - 12:17 a.m.

Slammed with work, so much that I'll be spending tomorrow's sixty-degree goodness chez cube instead of on my deck, but I did clear out of there tonight in time to see Abel Gance's 1936 "biopic" about Beethoven at the film school down the street. It was more pic than bio: some of the sound and camera-work was very intriguing indeed, which compensated handsomely for the contrived and overwrought dialogue. As it was, I really couldn't hate the guy behind for sniggering through a good part of the screening, and when I overheard him say, "You know, I was kind of hoping Jooliet and Teresa [sic] were going to kill themselves after all," I was more than a little inclined to agree.

Still, Harry Baur's acting was very impressive and Annie Ducaux very beautiful - although I couldn't help but think that Judy Davis did blissing-out-to-music much better in Impromptu. Or is that my late twentieth-century sensibility getting in my way once again? I kept wondering about that during most of the film, actually - was I squirming because it was bad, it was dated, or because I just don't relate to Art and Romance?

And yet I do respond to other varieties of artificial over-the-topness: Handelian opera, drag queens, torch songs, Iron Chef, and the extravagantly lovelorn epigrams of Henry VIII's courtiers, to name just a few:

Nature that gave the bee so feat a grace
To find honey of so wondrous fashion
Hath taught the spider out of the same place
To fetch poison, by strange alteration.
Though this be strange, it is a stranger case
With one kiss, by secret operation,
Both of these at once in those your lips to find,
In change whereof I leave my heart behind.
    - Thomas Wyatt

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