Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Panic on the Streets of Warsaw

CATS is coming to Warsaw. Actually it turns out that it came there already last January, but it's coming again, and that's cause for panic. Of course Phantom, the movie of the musical of the movie of the play of the book, is coming soon as well, good cause for panic on the streets of Lublin, Chyzne, and Gdynia...

I'm reminded of two things. One was part of a long (in fact endless), tiresome, yet complex jeremiad by an eccentric and cantankerous megalomaniac and hypochondriac Russian aunt-in-law of mine (she teaches English in Moscow) when I was married, about the (in some ways undeniable) awfulness of life in post-Communist Russia. On the occasion I have in mind, in the midst of slagging film acting in general and Marlene Dietrich in particular while eating grapes in the kitchen of her dacha in August 2001, she threw in the observation that "in Soviet times they didn't let us watch many Western films, but as a result what we got to see was creme de la creme, Orson Welles and Fellini..." so as a result the cognoscenti didn't need to sort through all the dross, dreck and shlock that came out of Hollywood and the West. As someone who has spent at least nine hundred hours of my thirty-one years rummaging through crap books, films, and records to find the gems, first in thrift shops and then eventually in my own apartment, I suppose I can sympathize. But at the time I was too annoyed with the dismissal of Dietrich, a wonderful performer who, along with Michel Piccoli, Gerard Depardieu, Wilfrid Sheed, and Alberto Moravia, shares my birthday, to pay much attention to other parts of the lecture. In retrospect I can entertain the prospect of there having been something to that bit about creme de la creme, even for a devotee of B-movies like myself. Like most of her table talk it was of course 1) a careless oversimplification and 2) an affirmation of the Grand Inquisitor principle that people (even intelligenty like herself) need someone to sort out their salvation (if only culturally; she was and presumably is a rabid atheist) for them. (As the continuing popularity of Putin shows, the principle dies hard in Russia, indeed, may never die.) But the deluge of dreck is quite something.

The other thing I'm reminded of is a conversation with someone in studio art class in tenth grade. We always listened to music while making art and that day it happened to be Phantom. I was in the midst of the first of several phases of Oscar Wilde worship and muttered something about how Lloyd Webber was "vulgar... he's a craftsman, not an artist." The artists gathered round me, including my friend Deep, Marcus Miller, a senior who had been one of the mechanicals with me in Midsumer Night's Dream, and our instructor, the wonderful Percy Martin, were none of them particularly impressed with my withering disdain for craft. It was Marcus who wisely reposted, "This is better than being an artist. With an artist you don't have the drum machine!" to the delight and acclaim of all.


At 3:01 PM, Blogger jimeye said...

The artist and the artisan. Ever read Narcissus and Goldmund?


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