Scalloped Potatoes, Carla Temple & Comfort FoodFriday, October 24, 2008
I can recall so many moments in my life when someone has told me, "Get to the point, Alex!" or "Get to it. What is it that you want to say." The beauty of a personal blog is that nobody can tell me to get to the point and I can meander in whatever direction I want. This one is going to be a meandering one.
Last night we had the granddaughters for dinner. We then watched a film with John Taw, Goodnight Mr. Tom and then the girls stayed on for a sleepover. This is always most pleasant even though I am relegated to Hilary's old bedroom. My female cat Plata finds Rosemary, two little girls and Rosemary's male cat, Toby, much too much company for one bed so she accompanies me for the evening. As I tried to sleep I remembered that Rosemary had served her famous (in our family) scalloped potatoes and Rebecca had commented, "Isn't it nice to have comfort food?"
Before Rosemary had arrived that afternoon with the girls I had turned on the TV to channel 46 to get some of 2001: A Space Odyssey which was advertised on the Turner Classics Channel. It is one of those mysteries and often annoying changes of contemporary life that TCM will modify its programming without notice and without explanation. What was on was the 1968 film The Shoes of the Fisherman with Anthony Quinn, Oskar Werner, John Gielgud (the dying and dead pope), Leo McKern, David Jannsen, Laurence Olivier (as head of the Soviet Union speaking an impecable Thames/Russian accent) and the surprising joy of seeing Vittorio De Sica as a wise Italian cardinal.
The reviews of this film based on Morris West's 1963 novel by the same name were not good. I had read the novel and at the time, except for some rare exception most popes had always been Italian. West's novel, in which a Russian is made pope, shocked those of us who went to church and even those who didn't. I had not yet read (I read it in 1965) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man so I was unaware that Oskar Werner's role as a possibly schismatic young intellectual priest may have been based on Chardin's life. I enjoyed the book right after my mother had read it and passed it on. I had never bothered to see the film.
I was fascinated. Director Michael Anderson had good access to the Vatican and the scenes with all the pomp of the conclave and the cardinals that were sequestered to pick a new pope is superb. More than anything I became aware that the film was like Rosemary's scalloped potatoes. The pomp and tradition of the Catholic Church with all the mystery of Holy Mass (in Latin), the lore and history of Christian art in architecture, sculpture, literarture and painting has been a rich part of the stuff in my brain that I find delight in. The vacuum left by my rejection of it all has left me hungry for something that the recent restoration of the Guggenheim or the building of another Frank Gehry museum in some obscure part of the world will not satisfy. No matter how pleased I may feel about understanding and appreciating the contemporary art of the German artist Gerhard Richter, it does not fill my neuronic stomach for long.
Perhaps I am like my friend John Lekich who glories in the enjoyment of good films from the past and who reads the books that he knows (almost in advance, perhaps by some sort of literary scent and taste buds) will please him. I need comfort food. This afternoon I saw the 1973 baseball film Bang the Drum Slowly with Michael Moriarity and a tobbacco chewing Robert De Niro. It didn't take me long to agree with John Lekich that this is the best of all the baseball films ever made.
Why is my photograph of body builder Carla Temple (taken in 1985) illustrating this blog? The connection could be slim. I read today a review by Kathering Monk in the Vancouver Sun of Jonathan Demme's film Rachel Getting Married in which Monk writes:
Shot in high-definition digital video with little or no apparent artificial light...
This statement explains how the possible gritty look of Rachel Getting Married may approach and or resemble all those style less and uniform images found in Flickr, Myspace, etc. There will be even fewer films with classic Hollywood lighting of the 30s and 40s. In our approaching depression they want to please us, placate us with ugly reality.
Carla Temple's photograph reflects a time when magazines (films, too?) searched for visual excellence as well as a literary one. I remember art director Chris Dahl's instructions on the taking of this photograph ( Vancouver Magazine, October 1985), "Make her photo heroic."
We have had a Polish pope, a German pope and no baseball film to supplant Banging the Drum Softly. What's left? - Rosemary's scalloped potatoes and perhaps an invitation to John Lekich to share some more comfort food.
Addendum: David Jannsen's performances in the TV series The Fugitive (1963- 1967) were extremly popular in Mexico. Mexicans liked his "dark good looks". Episode 12 was called the Glass Tightrope. The whole series was dubbed into Spanish and re-named En La Cuerda Floja which means on a loose rope. I will never understand how the concept of a tightrope translates as a loose rope in Spanish. Richard Tuggle's 1984 film with Clint Eastwood, Tightrope was called En La Cuerda Floja in Spanish.