First impressions of “The Impressionists”

Richard Armitage as Claude Monet in "The Impressionists" (2006)
Richard Armitage as Claude Monet in “The Impressionists” (2006)

Can I make a cheap joke and say that I’m impressed?

Mr. Chameleon has done it again (I guess that I should use “had done” given that my proverbial quickness has driven me to this series “only” after eight years of being broadcasted) and here we have in the first chapter of the series a young, determined and absurdely painfully absolutely beautiful Claude Monet. Before talking of my favourite scene in chapter one think for a moment about this… Manet, Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Renoir in a bar. A gathering of talent equal just to the one we can see in Rafaello’s “School of Athens” (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bramante, Raffaello, Sangallo)

The School of Athens - Rafaello - Vatican Museums
The School of Athens – Rafaello – Vatican Museums – my pic

My favourite scene is the “animated exchange of views” between young Monet and his master, Charles Gleyre, in front of a male model who has big feet. Gleyre accuses Monet of being to faithful to Nature and draw the guy as what he is (a bigfoot, apparently). Monet says these lines, which are simply an example of masterful writing and acting by Richard.

… we will all draw him differently. And his (pointing to Renoir) feet will be different, just as we all are different and the world is different, in every moment, of every day“. “Style is what matters“, replies the master – “style, style, style…“. Monet interrupts him, almost shouting: “I want reality!“. “Reality has no place in my studio!” – answers Gleyre. And here we have the superb lines that Monet throws in the face of his already former master, as a tombstone: “I’ve just seen the future. And do you know something? You’re not in it

I've seen the future... and you're not in it
I’ve seen the future… and you’re not in it

My DVD recorder is still panting and recovering from the effort of repeated and continuated RW of this scene. Powerful. Total. Masterful. The way Richard’s voice slightly cracks at the beginning of the discussion when he says “for me Nature is an end itself” until he raises, losing his patience but never his temper, moving only his left hand as if handling a sword with it, stabbing with his revolutionary ideas Gleyre’s conservatism and stiffness, declaring him something past an old with that last line pronounced smoothly until the last, almost imperceptible, smirk.

the last stab... made with a smirk
the last stab… made with a smirk

I find these small gestures of Richard’s acting irresistible. As for instance  in “The Crucible” promo video, when he shouts “we will burn together” that parkinsonian trembling in his hands which implies a total and complete symbiosis with his character. Give that scene to another actor and most probably that hand would be still.

Still of "The Crucible"
Still of “The Crucible”

9 thoughts on “First impressions of “The Impressionists”

  1. I’ve always thought Monet is his most underrated role. Well written, superbly acted and he uses his face and body in a way completely different to his more popular hero characters. Joie de vivre alone makes him mesmerising to watch.
    Great observation about Proctor – it’s one of those moments when he’s not acting but being the character.

    1. Yes, I’ve been gladly surprised with “The Impressionists” even watching just one chapter. As you say his smile, hear his unique laughter, together with the beauty of the photography and the paintings make this series to deserve to be classified in the category “great to be alive”.

      His hands in that Proctor moment draw my attention immediately

      1. Those hands are wonderfully expressive. Remember how they communicated all Thornton’s feelings for Margaret until the final scene. And they immediately catch your eye in those few moments we saw between Proctor and Elizabeth…

    1. Between 34 and 35, I guess. But in the first chapter he plays Monet in his very first creative years, I assume he will look older in the other two chapters.
      Indeed, full of hand porn. 😉

      1. Mmmm. Hand porn is my favorite kind. Hard to believe Mr. A. was 34 in that show. He looks like he’s in his 20s. I think he needed to grow into his face. Or maybe I just like an older man 🙂

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