- - Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oil painters

“The two wall panels depicting war and peace that [Pablo] Picasso painted in the communist-inspired Chapel de la Guerre et la Paix in Vallauris, France, are far too large to travel. This is less of a loss than one might think. Wildly acclaimed in 1952, half a century later their simplistic sentimentality looks decidedly dated. …

“Theoretically, the most important loan to the show, MoMA’s ‘The Charnel House’ (1944-1945), is a sequel to ‘Guernica’ in that it also portrays the mindless massacre of innocent people. Perhaps because the subject lacked the anguish and stimulus of a specific incident, ‘The Charnel House’ fails to overwhelm. No wonder Picasso left it unfinished.

“Unfortunately for students of agitprop, his only other major example of this genre, ‘Massacre in Korea’ (January 1951), is conspicuously absent. Just as well; the painting’s crude imagery might have demonstrated that if Picasso’s psyche was not engaged, the message could work against him.”

John Richardson, writing on “How Political Was Picasso?” on Nov. 25 at the New York Review of Books

Old food

“Airplane food has been a punch line for so long that it’s almost shocking to remember that it used to be a striking symbol of class. It was the meal with the flavor of a remade world, a globe suddenly shrunken, an awe-inspiring update of the glorious days of ocean liners and transcontinental railroad dining cars, all big wines and beefsteaks, but, magically, thousands of feet in the air.

“It’s a history that seems to ring hollow, though, when you’re cramped in coach, eating your packet of sorry peanuts and considering whether it’s worth the eight bucks for a cardboardy chicken wrap. …

“Well, nostalgia aside, it turns out that airplane dining has a long history of high suckitude. This is not to say that airlines haven’t in the past paid more culinary attention to what they offer — in fact, at one point, certain airlines once threatened to sue others for unfairly competing by offering food that was too good — but an enlightening essay called ‘Is It Really Better to Travel Than to Arrive?’ by historian Guillaume de Syon shows how the history of midair dining was never really a pretty one.”

Francis Lam, writing on “Why airplane dining has always been awful” on Nov. 11 at Salon

Old films

“When people think, or talk, about ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ the 1967 period-piece gangster drama that revolutionized American movies, it’s almost always in terms of everything the film did that was bold and audacious and new … yet every time I watch ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ … what strikes me as unique about it, and what I cherish about it, is that all that newness is nestled within a Hollywood framework that is just so rigorous, so finely and meticulously structured, so (there’s no other word for it) … old-fashioned.

“Fantastic as the movie is, it’s not the kind of ripped-from-an-artist’s-guts personal-cinema game-changer that, say, ‘Mean Streets’ or ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ were. Its pace and design and structure are downright classical. The special magic of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is that, as revolutionary as it undeniably was, it was also, in its very form and aesthetic, the last great movie of the studio system. It had one foot in each era. And that’s the quality that Arthur Penn, the brilliant and daring craftsman of a director who died [recently] at 88, brought to it. He came out of the studio system, and he had that rigorous, orderly way of making movies imprinted on his DNA.”

Owen Gleiberman, writing on “Arthur Penn: The old-wave-meets-new-wave magic he brought to ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’” on Sept. 30 at Entertainment Weekly

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