Friday, October 23, 2009

Wed October 21
First day of shoot without MB. Went really well. Shot at Martin’s, first days of film’s characters when Shelley shows up and chats with William Godwin. We are lucky and the SUN appears! after many days of cold cold freddo cold! People here previously say this is as cold as it gets, but I don’t quite believe them. Even so, the government refuses to allow people to put on heat until November 1st so my studio—40 feet high—has been colder than outside. I need space heaters, maybe two. Many people are getting ill. Not I yet, but I am fighting with garlic and water and ginger and honey.

Some other (more) lovely coincidences: met up with friend from 20 years ago at Monday music concert at the Villa Aurelia, a splendid chandeliered room with 5/6 musicians playing modern music from Feldman and Glass through contemporary Italian composers—even one woman—Irma Ravinale. Who is she? Must look her up. I liked it. Too crowded but meeting my friend was fortuitous—my question: are you an American? She lives in Trastevere nearby, has for 15 years and we are headed for an English movie on Friday night. It will be a large change after the dearth of movie-going in face of last month’s constant movie-making.

Yesterday we visited the gallery at the Villa Borghese. You need an appointment. It was fantastic: a glorious bedecked villa (winding turret-like staircase like the villa Aurelia—no elevators in these ‘country homes’), filled with Caravaggio and Bacon show, plus their ‘regular’ Raphaels and Bernini. Truly glorious—the Caravaggios are dark darkest Vermeers—his concern with light, his ability to mold it, paint cloth as white streak, his humanity in gesture flesh emotion unparalleled. I see in my mind’s eye Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes, the surprise in her mouth, the strength of her arm, a honeyed light against the dark; the Magdalane so beautiful and wistful, solitary with a great swath of canvas above in two colors: ochre/grey ; the whited Jesus taken down from the cross in Caravaggio’s last months—so strange it seemed the painting had been too cleaned, but no the Raphael of the same subject matter (in another room)—layered with a mob of folks in green and red and black also surround a whited Christ figure, blood drained. Magnificent!

Too the Bernini-we have been seeing them all over Rome but here you get the chronology, the sweep of his ambition and precociousness. Elena the young art historian was with us and gave us the backstory and pointers. Here an awkward Shepard with sheep from when B was still a teenager. Then an Aeneas fleeing Troy—more large scale, still Hellenistic: a figure carrying another. Still mannerist. Then, 2 years later he does the Rape of Persephone and it is glorious sculpture. In marble, he shows the flesh bending underneath the hand; he shows the fold in the drapery where the fabric was folded, as if just bought— before it is washed —how fabric retains the fold from being on the shelf! It is intense and impossible. You do not believe it is marble. You want to touch it and I am not even talking about the balance and amazement of the figures in action. Three years later he does Apollo and Daphne, where Dapne is becoming a laurel tree. Bernini here lets the process show—where the toes are clinging to the tree becoming simply stone. He takes us from rough marble through bark through flesh through flesh returning to roots (of marble). Then a David where marble is made into a rope and here the face, not of the gods, is human, determined modern. Inexpressible the power of these works. The shock and skill and passion. Bernini is showing off but his talent is nearly inhuman; Caravaggio on the other hand is all human; the Raphael ideal. Such a stretch of elegant immense and deep and true feelings. One is dazzled walking above the ground

Then as we walk out Queen Noor is visiting (wife of Hussein, Jordan’s king). Lots of paparazzi. Light is late afternoon, long shadows, rich with oncoming sunset. We wander through the park, discover the lake where I hope to shoot, alight with ducks and rowboats (perfect for Shelley and his women) and walk on home.

Today we went to the French institute—beautiful villa unpainted so its bones showed. Lovely Versaille-like formal garden and view, its back to the Borghese gardens, its front to the city with a long promenade. I thought of Incognito, the novel which gail scott gave me this summer and wondered if it were still like that—difficult cold, bad food et al. but we didn’t get a chance to really meet anyone. They wanted to lecture us and we left walking back through the city---stopping at a store S had seen and buying yes buying finally a pair of shoes! Very cheered at dinner.

More to come: tonight Marty performs for us. The first piece was interesting for its structure. It was for a program in which Beethoven proceeded and Messian followed, so Marty took that as a structure—moving his piece from one to the other. I thought what an interesting type of bridge ( I wrote bride). The second piece put a poet to music, long vowels beautiful.

To end: I am sick. Late last night my body capitulated. So broad all day and garlic and sleep now.
sogni dell'ora. (version of sweet dreams; literally "dreams of gold")

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