Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Evanston: a good Turner, a bad FAUST, and another Laphroaig

        J.M.W. Turner is my favorite painter, just as Bach is my favorite composer.  Shakespeare is not my favorite writer, though I think him the greatest and perhaps the most alone man of all, the only of our species truly without peer.
        Turner was an original, commercially successful in his own time, an Impressionist fifty years before the French and approaching Abstractionism a century before the world.  To see his paintings at the Tate in London is to be struck dumb with astonishment.
        You can find many favorable reviews of the current film about his life, MR. TURNER, which itself is astonishing because it maintains interest without much of a plot or action and is often as beautiful as its subject’s paintings.  Full credit to director Mike Leigh.  My favorite review is by an art rather than a movie critic.
        We went and saw the film last Friday.  I don’t often go out to see movies, preferring to wait and watch at home; but this is one that benefits from a wide screen.
        Timothy Spall’s depiction of Turner is far from effete.  His Turner is a snuffling, grunting animal of a man, totally dedicated to his art, who causes disruption and pain to many, but not all, around him.
        Timothy Spall is one of those faces you have seen dozens of times in secondary roles without ever knowing his name.   In an unlikely leading role his acting is superb.
        Knowing Turner’s paintings before watching the movie is helpful, for one of its pleasures is seeing Mike Leigh make what might have been the original inspirations for many of them come to life.
        A beautiful, clever, sometimes unpleasant film that I’ll watch again when it comes to television.


        I am working my way through another bad translation of Goethe’s FAUST.  And work it is.  I’ll battle through to the end, hopefully and gratefully finishing on the train rides to and from my medical appointment this afternoon; but it hasn’t been fun.  
        I have never come across a good English translation of FAUST, and am beginning to believe there isn’t one.  I think my current ordeal was translated by someone with the last name of Luke; but the long translator’s preface is unsigned.  Perhaps out of embarrassment.
        I don’t know if this one is true to Goethe.  I do know that it is not good poetry.  
        My favorite line so far is a stage direction:  Faust enter with the poodle.
        Read Marlow’s DOCTOR FAUSTUS instead.


        In my ongoing public service of tasting all versions of Laphroaig that cost less than $100, I came across a new one, Select, and bought a bottle for $59.  
        Select is a blend of several Laphroaig variants given a final aging in American Oak barrels.  One reviewer likens it to a ‘greatest hits’ collection, and continues that it doesn’t work.  I agree.  Select is all right, but I won’t buy it again.
       10 Year Rules.