News & Updates

More on the Great Micheál Mac Liammóir

February 6, 2018

Micheál Mac Liammóir, one of the great stage actors of the 20th century, entirely unknown in this country (the U.S.). Here in his stage play, The Importance of Being Oscar, filmed in 1964.
From lights up to final curtain, as close as one can ever get to meeting Wilde himself, that is my impression. Even were that not so, I am convinced that it might be, such is this actor’s persuasive ability.
So skilled, so subtle in every facet of his enactment of character, with a pure, resonant voice of great beauty, expressing the intelligence and wit that few even in the Victorian age could match, and details of the character created in the movement of the body, down to the graceful moments of the actor’s fingers.
No special effects, no music, no action, sparse props, because none is needed. There is so much worthwhile in this film that any performer might learn a good deal from even 5 minutes with it.

Ugliness and Art

February 4, 2018

One has to remember that you can and should reject a work of intentional ugliness, misery and profanity offered by someone claiming to be an artist. That is the furthest thing from Art there is, like the North Pole from the South.

Rather, look for revelation of discovered Beauty and Truth. They await your discovery just, in fact, beyond the shadows and dirt of the everyday. But you have to posit that they are there to be discovered and then search diligently despite appearances. When discovered, WOW!

The Utter Emptiness of Verbatim Theatre

February 1, 2018

I’m reading about what appears to be a minor trend in the UK, called “verbatim theatre.”

The premise:

By giving actors only the actual words of real people, verbatim theatre is the closest that theatre can get to objective truth – no dramatic licence required.”

This utter flatulence comes from the same mindset that employs the term” narrative” — the nihilist. “Authenticity guaranteed” is like saying Taco Bell is real Mexican food. Rather than having to craft a plot, create character, write engaging imaginative scripts that demonstrate the development of ideas from premise to conclusion, the “playwright” here becomes a curator of found phrases. How easy! Anyone can do it! These people are so far off the mark, it’s not funny. It is more deconstruction — which is the destruction of that which makes writing worthwhile and turns it into the mere shaping of that which is not worthwhile.

“Theatre will never entirely rid itself of ‘opinion’ or ‘agenda’. And why would it want to?”

“Relevance” — a concept which has no place in the arts, least of all to Theater — makes a political soapbox of the stage. Just like Clifford Odets. the Communist for whom the stage was a platform for his invidious ideals. Read some of his scripts and see just how perverse his writing was.

“…in the majority of cases it’s the playwright’s truth that is being reflected: truth filtered through their imagination, metaphor and craft.”

The fundamental misunderstanding of the post-modernists is precisely this: that there is no Truth. “Co-equal narratives” and “authenticity” are the lies that these misguided pseudologists employ to replace the Truth and Beauty they, unlike the great artists of the Western tradition, have never been able to discover. Their starting point, to the contrary, is: emptiness and meaninglessness of everything outside of themselves. But man is small — if we rest on man, we rest on virtually nothing. This is their catastrophe: the postulate that leads them nowhere.

There are far higher ideals in the Theater than the mere regurgitation of one’s mundane personal experience. Verbatim indeed.

Read it for yourself here:

‘Authenticity guaranteed’: Robin Belfield on why verbatim theatre is so important right now

Marius (1931) and Character Acting

January 19, 2018

A clip from Marius (1931, dir. Alexander Korda), which, even if you don’t understand French, demonstrates the inestimable portrayal of character that radiates from the core ideas of the character’s (fictional) consciousness, not from external, laid-upon quirks. The language is almost like window dressing — one knows immediately the context and the meaning from the ideas expressed through the body.
In this clip, we see Marius (Pierre DeFresnay) tending bar, jealous. Fanny (Orane DeMazis), devoted since childhood, to the love of Marius. but seeing he is obsessed with the romance of going to sea, toys innocently with Panisse (Charpin), a widower, who wishes to marry her.
Whoever definitively averred that one can’t act ideas had no idea what he was talking about. What is acting, but the portrayal of ideas in human form?

Everyman Redux

January 16, 2018

Reading Wilde again. LIke standing in the open country in spring next to a burbling brook and breathing fresh air.

Just now saw a casting notice for a play about “tolerance.” Gosh, we are back in medieval times with the Everyman morality plays. Yawn. How tiresome!

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”

Post Post-Modern!

January 12, 2018

For the post-modernist, there is no Truth. This, in fact, constitutes their One Great Truth, from which all their ideals, such as they are, derive.
Without the Objective in mind, anything goes. And we see proof of the failure of post-modernism in its products: music that isn’t musical, literature that isn’t literate, art that isn’t aesthetic, theater that isn’t theatrical.
Wherever it worms its way into the consciousness, it wreaks its havoc by means of its myriad resentments and destructive intent.
But look instead to the aesthetic products of the Enlightenment and we are witness to the extraordinary aesthetic soul-nourishing discoveries that remain with us centuries later.
Rid of the post-modern, everything in the arts improves. We’ve all got a lot to look forward to!

A Toast to 2018!

December 31, 2017

I’ll submit this as my last post of 2017:
“It is not merely that artists, directors, musicians and others connected with the arts are in flight from beauty. There is a desire to spoil beauty, in acts of aesthetic iconoclasm. Wherever beauty lies in wait for us, the desire to pre-empt its appeal can intervene, ensuring that its still small voice will not be heard behind the scenes of desecration. For beauty makes a claim on us: it is a call to renounce our narcissism and look with reverence on the world.” — from Roger Scruton’s, “Beauty: A Very Short Introduction”
A toast to 2018 and what awaits!

Korda’s Marius (1931): A Brief Note

December 23, 2017

Watching Raimu and Charvin in Korda’s, Marius (1931), the first film in the “Marseille Trilogy.” Especially the ultimate love scene, where Fanny encourages Marius to leave her for the sea, his passionate fancy, despite her decades-long love and impending marriage, she likely with child, facing abandonment. An act of feminine selflessness. (In this awful politically correct age, I am sure many women who read this will still know exactly what I mean!)
And I began to think, somewhat despairingly, that human beings of that age were more fully human than we are of this one. We taste only the surface of life; they knew something more. For surely it takes an experienced personality — that of a varied, profound life in the face of death, or, at any rate, an aesthetic genius — to act in the fullest sense of the archetypal. Here is one scene of the film, from which you might glimpse what I mean.

Fitzcarraldo, Realism and the Heroic

December 19, 2017

Watching Werner Herzog’s, “Fitzcarraldo,” operatic and heroic in a Teutonic sense, in which Klaus Kinski’s character leads a motley crew and an Amazonian tribe to hack out of the jungle a channel over which they haul a ship over a mountain. Shooting the movie was as heroic!
What struck me was this dialog, inasmuch as it might be considered an unintentional comment on realism (my bugbear). I am not surprised to know that Herzog, who despises cinema verité, wrote the script.
Of his experience with the river, the ship captain says to Fitzcarraldo, “My eyesight isn’t so good, but I cannot be fooled. The jungle plays tricks on your senses. It’s full of lies, demons, illusions. I have learned to tell the difference between reality and hallucinations.”

Virtue and the Arts

November 29, 2017

Whereas in civilized living among enlightened individuals, deception indicates knowing falsehood, and thus an unstated admission of intrinsic wrongness; in the arts, it is a virtue.

But only if the artist’s intention — the meaning of his work — is constructive. In other words, the ideas must be right if the seeming falsehood of their presentation is to be made honorable and true.

Works which deceive for propagandistic purposes are mendacious in a destructive way: destructive of our ability to appreciate Beauty, and thus to enrich our lives. We see in this country a vast body of such work in all the arts. I’m reminded of my life in China in the 1980s, when overwhelming political forces and their adherents hogtied the arts. (The iron curtain countries as well.) We in this country experience something similar, although we don’t suffer the deprivation of liberty or property those dissidents endured.

But the tide has turned. I see enough young people (and some my age, too) looking for something better. How about the last 500 years of Western aesthetic tradition for inspiration?

Deception — intentional unreality — in the forum intended for it, in the right spirit, is paradoxically the vehicle for truth. So, we reorient in the direction in which we need to go once again.