Saturday 29 January 2011

Two great productions of the BBC around the Cambridge Spies ... First , "A question of attribution"


UK, 1991, 90 minutes, Colour.
James Fox, David Calder, Geoffrey Palmer, Prunella Scales, Jason Flemyng.
Directed by John Schlesinger.

A Question of Attribution is a second British spy drama, a collaboration between John Schlesinger and writer Alan Bennett who had previously made An Englishman Abroad, with Alan Bates and Coral Brown, a picture of Guy Burgess in Moscow.

This film is a portrait of Sir Anthony Blunt, his relationship with MI5, his role as the curator of the Queen's pictures - and it includes a fascinating sequence where Sir Anthony Blunt meets the Queen and they have a discussion about pictures and about forgeries and fakes.

The film is brief, is elegantly written by Bennett and provides an insight into the personality of Sir Anthony Blunt and his final emergence as the fourth man amongst the British spies in contact with Moscow. He is a man of the Establishment, a man lacking in moral stance, pragmatic but able to move in English society because of his cultural background and status. James Fox gives an excellent performance as Blunt. David Calder is also excellent as the investigator Chubb, a complete contrast in style and background from Blunt. However, in the interrogations, which are done in a very gentlemanly fashion, Chubb begins to learn a great deal about art.

Bennett uses a portrait by Titian, alleged to be by Titian, as the central core of the study of the British spy. Blunt is involved in the cleaning of the picture, which gradually reveals that there are four personalities in the picture and discussions as to whether the portraits are forgeries or not. The parallel between the forged painting and the cultivated spy are elaborated with interesting detail (including the discussion with the Queen).

Prunella Scales appears to great effect as the Queen in the discussion with Blunt.

The film was made in the early '90s after the break-up of the Soviet Union, whereas An Englishman Abroad was made earlier. However, they form companion pieces highlighting the nature of British attitudes towards espionage and also towards Russia and the changing of the Soviet Union and the Cold War in the early '90s.

Sir Anthony Blunt ( James Fox) goes to Buckingham Palace to study a painting by Titian ...

Suddenly, a corgi appears ...

Realising that the Queen is coming ... one of the assistants runs in panic ... and hides

Without being aware of what is going on, Sir Anthony Blunt continues developing his thoughts about the painting

The Queen enters the room

Without realising that The Queen is present and watching the situation, Sir Anthony Blunt demands impatiently to his "assistent", that is at the present moment hiding under the coach, his spyglass ...

Sir Anthony Blunt ... comes to the Awesome discovery that he actually is talking with the Queen ...

The queen is able to see cleary that someone is hiding under the coach ... but she remains impassible ... and imperturbable ... even if her corgi doesn't

The culminating moment of tension ... of "attribution" ....concerning the character of Sir Anthony Blunt ... as implicitelly "expressed" by the Queen ... is he a fake ? ... in other words a traitor ?

A Question of Attribution

Prunella Scales - The Queen Part 1

Prunella Scales - The Queen Part 2

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Roman Obsessions

The emotion that overwhelms you when you see the open dome of the Pantheon in Rome is difficult to describe ... certainly in these times os mass tourism have to visit Rome with information capable of giving you back the spirit of the origins of tourism ...of "The Grand Tour"... when aristocratic souls were able to discover these remains in natural landscapes and untouched atmospheres ...
Besides some images of Caspar van Willet and Huber Robert ... I offer you the very touching painting of the Great Goethe visiting the Colosseum ...These were the days for Romantics and "Milordi" ... Yours Jeeves.

Goethe and the Colosseum

Pope Sixtus IV was responsible for the creation of the Musei Capitolini's nucleus when in 1471 he donated to the Roman People some bronze statues that had previously been housed in the Lateran (the She-Wolf, the Spinarius, the Camillus and the colossal head of Constantine, with hand and globe).
The return to the city of some traces of Rome's past greatness was made even more important by their collocation on the Capitoline Hill, the centre of ancient Roman religious life and seat of the civilian magistrature from the Middle Ages onwards, after a period of long decline.

The sculptures had intitially been arranged on the external façade and courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The originary nucleus shortly became enriched by the subsequent acquisition of finds from excavations taking place in the city, all of which were closely linked to the history of ancient Rome.

During the middle of the 16th Century a number of important pieces of sculpture were set out on the Capitoline Hill (including the gilded bronze statue of Hercules from the Boarius Forum, the marble fragments of the acrolith of Constantine from the Basilica of Maxentium, the three relief panels showing the works of Marcus Aurelius, the so-called Capitoline Brutus, and important inscriptions (including the Capitoline Fasti, discovered in the Roman Forum).

The two colossal statues of the Tiber and the Nile, currently outside the Palazzo Senatorio, were moved at about the same time to Palazzo del Quirinale, while the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius was brought form the Lateran in 1538 on the wishes of Pope Paul III.
The overall layout of the collection was altered in the second half of the XVI century, when the museum acquired an important group of sculptures following Pope Pius V's decision to rid the Vatican of "pagan" images: notable works of art increased the collections thereby adding an aesthetic dimension to their hitherto generally historical nature.

With the building of the Palazzo Nuovo on the other side of the square it became possible from 1654 onwards to house in a more satisfactory manner the large collection of works that had been gathering in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, by utilising part of the new building.
The Capitoline Museum, however, was only opened to the public during the course of the following century, after the acquisition, by Pope Clement XII, of a collection of statues and portraits of Cardinal Albani. Pope Clement inaugurated the Museum in 1734.

A few decades later, in the middle of the XVIII century, Pope Benedict XIV (who was responsible for the addition of fragments of the Forma Urbis from the Age of Severus, the largest marble street-plan of ancient Rome) founded the Capitoline Picture Gallery, which saw the conflation of two important collections, the Sacchetti and the Pio.