Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Intellectually Pleasing Movie

I saw the 2003 French-Portuguese movie "Un film Parlé (A Talking Picture)" directed by Manoel de Oliveira who was 95 years old. I saw two movies directed by him before. Those were "The Letter" (based on the novel "The Princess of Cleves") and "The Principle of Uncertainty" (see my essays of July 7, 2001, and June 14, 2003), and I liked both of them.

In "Un film Parlé" a history professor, Rosa Maria (acted by Leonor Silveira), goes on a cruise to meet her husband, an airline pilot, in India, together with her little daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) through the Mediterranean Sea. In the port cities where their ship makes a stop, they visit historical places, and the mother gives lectures to her daughter. On the ship, Captain John Walesa (John Malkovich) has a dinner with famous women from Marseilles (Catherine Deneuve), Naples (Stefania Sandrelli) and Athens (Irene Papas), and they carry on a conversation about civilization, politics and philosophy in four languages.

Finally a dreadful episode comes, but the scene of disaster is shown only indirectly. It is wonderful that the film was planned before the "September 11" terrorist attack foreseeing the situations of the present world. Rosa Maria's lecture, deepened by Maria Joana's naïve questions, and the conversation among Captain and the three women seem to represent the director's thought about civilization and the future of the world that these should be peacefully kept by seeking coexistence of different cultures. I found this film intellectually very pleasing.

The Japanese title of the movie is "Towa no Katarai," meaning an eternal conversation. It is more elegant than the original title. It was also a pleasure to me that the film showed an old castle, Castel dell'Ovo (the Castle of Egg), in Naples, which I sketched last year (see the sketch).

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Munch's "The Scream" Stolen

On August 23 the media reported that armed robbers stole a version of Edvard Munch's masterpiece, "The Scream," from Munch Museum in Oslo together with a version of another key work, "Madonna". The robbery happened in daytime with close to 80 people milling around in the galleries. I was quite surprised at this piece of news, because I wrote the story of research on "The Scream" on this blog page only a few days ago.

In 1994, another and perhaps better-known version of "The Scream" disappeared from the National Gallery, also in Oslo. It was recovered undamaged three months later and remains in that gallery. Art experts are reported to have said that given the fame of both "The Scream" and "Madonna," it would be nearly impossible to sell them to a collector and that the thieves would demand some form of ransom as happened in 1994 (New York Times). I heartily wish that the two works stolen this time also be retrieved safely.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Museum of Art in Small City

The garden of the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama

Early this month I visited my relatives in Toyama Prefecture, which is located in the Middle District of Japan facing the Japan Sea. On that occasion I went to Toyama City and visited the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama. The exhibition entitled "A Beautiful Journey ... of Life" was being held there. It was a small but wonderful exhibition with about 70 works produced by about 60 artists and brought from different museums in Japan. The artists included Paul Cezanne, Harue Koga, Saburo Miyamoto, Claude Monet, and Pierre Auguste Renoir. The works were displayed under six themes such as "Beginning and Bonds," "Love and Passion," "Dreams and Universe," etc.

The Museum has a video corner, where one can personally choose and watch a title one likes. There I chose a video about Paul Klee. Its early part was about the environments of his birth and growing up. I became drowsy ...

After a while I found that on the video monitor there was nothing going on. The video came to the end during my long nap! Then I went to the cafe of the Museum, and had a cup of coffee. From the windows of the cafe a wide garden full of green trees were seen. It was a quiet afternoon in an unexpectedly good museum in a small city. — Thus I enjoyed "a beautiful journey ... of my summer life" this year. —

Note added later: My works mentioned in comments on this essay can be browsed: sketches in Austria and the watercolor "Ashiya Catholic Church".

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Smile-Provoking Exhibitions

I saw two small exhibitions being held in Osaka. One was the private exhibition of the young photographer Mumu Matsumura. It was entitled "My Greece." Her photographs showed the beautiful scenery of an island in Greece, with one or more cute cats in many of them. The works suggested that the people there lived such a natural and amiable life as that of those animals in a slow flow of time.

The other was the exhibition "The Presents from the Artists." In this exhibition small works specially made for families and friends by ten artists, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Alexander Calder, Tsuguharu Foujita, Toshio Arimoto, and Katsura Funakoshi, were shown together with some representative art works of theirs. Some works were toys for their own children, and looked like to emanate artists' love for them. — Both the exhibitions were smile provoking and gave me a happy feeling. —

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Broadcasting in Japan on the Olympic Games

Japanese athletes have been doing well in judo, team gymnastics, breaststroke swimming, etc. in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Because of the time difference between Greece and Japan, we can watch live broadcasting of the Games mostly around the midnight. Many sports funs in this country are possibly spending daytime in a drowsy mood these weeks.

I notice however that the broadcasting of the Games by the public broadcasting company NHK is too nationalistic these days. They should more often show the scenes of good play by athletes from other countries. The Olympic Charter [1] says, "The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries."
  1. Full text is available as a PDF file from the web page: International Olympic Committee - Organization - Missions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Arts and Impressive Experience

Those who once looked at the painting "the Scream" by Edvard Munch would not forget its scene of a man screaming with both hands on his ears under the blood-red sky. A group of researchers at Texas State University studied the origin of the twilight experience that inspired Munch to draw that sky.[1] Surveying an art historian's book, scientific reports and newspapers, they found that the unusual twilight glows had been the after effect of the Krakatoa eruption on August 27, 1883.

An impressive experience seems often to help making good art works. When I was a junior high school student, I began to wear spectacles for shortsightedness, and was surprised to know how much light and fine details the world was filled with. The watercolor painting I draw at that time won a golden prize.

These years my wife and I have joined group travels abroad. I have been much impressed by the beautiful scenery of other countries, and able to make better sketches than I draw in our own country.
  1. D. W. Olson, R. L. Doescher and M. S. Olson, "The Blood-Red Sky of the Scream" APS News, Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 8 (2004); the complete version in Sky & Telescope (February 2004).

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Scientists and Artists Are the Same ...

An interview report published in the Asahi-Shimbun [1] told the following story:

Three years ago the painter Fumiko Hori, almost 83 years old at that time, bought a microscope of such a type as used by scientists, i.e., a differential diffraction microscope, and eagerly observed plankton, etc. Wishing to record at least a little bit of her strong impression about elaborate forms and devices for propagation, she made the work "Living things in the microscopic world." She says, "Scientists and artists are the same in that they know the surprise and pleasure of finding something in this wonderful world."

We are apt to see differences between scientists and artists. The above words of Hori, however, give us a new standpoint of viewing similarity between the workers of the two disparate fields.
  1. [1] Column "Are you doing science?" Asahi-Shimbun, Evening ed. (Osaka, June 19, 2004).