Deep Culture

by wjw on August 10, 2010

It has to be said we had a deeply cultured and civilized weekend.

Saturday afternoon I went to the world premiere of a locally-made low-budget Western called The Righteous and the Wicked.  (This was not the civilized part.)  It featured a number of local actors, some of whom I know, and was made for a budget of $14,000, which included a lot of riding lessons and the rental of an entire Western town set for, I dunno, a few days.  (It’s also the only Western film to be named after a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)

The movie looked great.  The sound, which is usually the downfall of most low-budget films, was excellent.   My guess, however, is that the director couldn’t afford a lot of closeups.

A filmmaker can do an amazing amount for $14,000 these days.

Afterwards I joined Kathy and our friends Patricia, Nadine, and Nadine’s Mom for a terrific French meal at La Provence.    I had pate, rack of lamb, and shared a bottle of a very fine pinot noir.  We had to scuttle to the theater before dessert.

Kathy, Patricia, and I scuttled to a local production of Much Ado About Nothing, where I met a couple of my old professors: Dr. Witemeyer (in the cast) and Dr. McPherson (in the audience).  In the tiny little box of the Vortex, another old professor of mine, Dr. Jones, managed to bring off a fine version of the play.  The two leads, who strangely were not former professors of mine, just sparkled.

On Sunday we hosted five of Kathy’s friends for brunch, then sped to Albuquerque for the last day— actually the last ninety minutes— of an Impressionist exhibition at the local museum.  This was choice bits from the collection of the Davies sisters, rich Welsh noncomformist spinsters who displayed their excellent eye for art around the first part of the 20th Century.  The exhibition has been traveling around the country, and if you get a chance to see it, do.

It’s perhaps a bit misleading to call it an “Impressionist exhibition,” because it starts with Turner and ends with Fauvists and Augustus Johns, but the heart of the exhibition is French Impressionists, and it has to be said that they are well represented— the males, anyway, since a single painting by Berthe Morisot is made to represent all womankind.  No Mary Cassatt at all, oh well.  I guess she wasn’t being collected in the early 1900s.

A series of Turners opens the exhibitions— none of the huge canvases I’d seen elsewhere, featuring the blazing optical effects inspired by the eruption of Mt. Tambora, but some small watercolors and a couple medium-sized paintings, among them my favorite, The Storm, featuring a boat being inundated by waves and wild spray.  Turner’s optical effects are well displayed in this one.

Kathy’s favorite was a Monet of a Venetian scene.  I had passed by it earlier, looked at it from close range, and thought it nothing much: it was Kathy who pointed out that it was intended to be viewed from about thirty feet away.  From a distance, what look like a series of random brushstrokes blend together into a shimmering shining simulacrum of water.

How did Monet do that, I wonder?  Run back and forth from the canvas like a sprinter?

Another painting also featured water.  It happens to be Van Gogh’s last painting before he shot himself, a rather depressing landscape all blue with rain, which comes down in diagonal black slashes like cuts from a sword.  It’s not one of your really distinguished Van Goghs, but it may point to his state of mind in his final hours.

The exhibition was small enough to be well viewed in ninety minutes, but high-powered enough to merit the journey.

And what have I been doing with my sudden onload of culture?  Mostly playing Dragon Age. Which made me wonder— are there any video games with Impressionist-type graphics?  What would such a game be about, I wonder?  Water lilies, sunflowers, racing trains, lawn parties, Rouen cathedral, boats, weather, Tahitians, the ballet, and absinthe.

Hell, I’d play it.

Tori August 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I played Dragon Age. I had a blast with that one. Really enjoyed the story and all the stuff I could do on the side. Very much looking forward to the sequel, even if you don’t get to create your own main character.

The game that I can think of that has the closest to Impressionist-type graphics is Ico, or the similarly-styled Shadow of the Colossus. Both very excellent games, highly recommended. Then there’s Okami which is in the style of old Japanese calligraphy and paintings. And if you want to see some gorgeous cathedrals and boats, look no further than Assassin’s Creed 2. That game continued to offer up spectacular views of Renaissance Italy’s cities.

Foxessa August 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm

My goodness, all three of them are still living and doing theater in Albuquerque. Wow.

I thought Hugh had moved permanently to London.

Love, C.

Chris Knight August 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm

If you have access to an Xbox 360, BRAID is a very diverting little game, and the art style is not only heavily impressionistic, it incorporates impressionist styled paintings as a major gameplay element.

The story is itself kind of impressionistic, in as much as it is intended to be interpreted by the player and has several possible meanings.

admin August 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

All have retired from teaching. Hugh works for some New Mexico umbrella theater organization bringing plays to the masses. Dave McPherson has moved to Jemez Springs and devotes his time to trout fishing. David Jones directs a lot of local theater.

The sad news I heard was that Pat Smith died last week. The Alumni Chapel was packed for the memorial.

John Hardman played Dogberry, if you remember him (or even if you don’t). The years have only added to his comic gift. Usually I wince at Dogberrys, but not this time.

Foxessa August 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I even have a time-blurred and vague memory of Pat Smith. I’m sorry to hear the news of her passing.

Funny that, though. My experience re ‘theater’ in New Mexico has made me loathe it ever since and even now. I hate plays. Unless they are within a period movie or something, like Topsy Turvy (1999). This attitude is merely myself, and says nothing about the value and delights of the theater.

Love, C.

Foxessa August 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

I have seen either David or Hugh in many years. Both of them I saw here. David even showed up at a Ned gig the night of the same day I got the cover flat for my first novel. Haven’t seen or heard of either of them since those days though. Glad to hear they’re happy and productive, though it doesn’t surprise — it’s what one would expect of them!

Love, C.

ManDrillSergeant August 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Impressionism in gaming is mainly found in the indie scene today.
There is Love by Eskil Steenberg:
A miniature base building mmo.
And the Dear Esther remake by Robert Briscoe:
A free first person ghost story using the Source engine.

So the creators are still lone driven individuals with a monitor in front of them instead of a canvas.
And you still have to provide your own absinthe.

Sean Craven August 13, 2010 at 2:01 am

Hey, dude!

Here’s a thought on Monet — when I had a chance to see a show of his back in the eighties, I found something very interesting. I’m damned close to blind, and when I looked at his works with my glasses off? I could have been looking at the actual landscapes, or at least photographs. Never seen anything quite as convincing in art. My suspicion is that by the time he hit that stage of development he was painting exactly what he saw, which was pretty blurry.

admin August 14, 2010 at 4:52 am

Thanks to all the cool recs for Impressionist video games. I had no idea!

I’ve always thought I could do something really cool gamewise, with the art of Magritte.

DensityDuck August 17, 2010 at 7:42 pm

“…are there any video games with Impressionist-type graphics?”

Yes; all of them, if you do the proper drugs first. I’m told that Pac-Man on LSD is actually rather exciting, at least until the ghosts jump out of the screen and chase you around the room.

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