Yo pienso si me muriese…

Pala Pesaro detail
Titian’s Pala Pesaro – detail

(This is the a first glance of a future writing project, that was born after the comments of this postI have written it in Spanish and my friend Tanja has been so kind to translate it, exception made of the poem.)

Yo pienso si me muriese / Y con mis males finase / Desear / Tan grande amor feneciese / Que todo el mundo quedase / Sin amar / Mas esto considerando / Mi tarde morir es luego / Tanto bueno / Que debo, razón usando / Gloria sentir en el fuego / donde peno. (López de Estúñiga – Cobla)

Methinks should I die / And together with my pains ended / My desire / Such a great love would die /That the whole world would remain / Loveless/ Therefore, considering this / It’s a good thing to live still / And I should, according to reason / Feel blessed in the fire / Where I suffer

“Are you finally going to tell me who he is?” – Jacopo Pesaro pointed to one of the figures depicted in the altarpiece. After months of work, the painting was finally finished, the work officially handed over to the Franciscans after a brief ceremony and a blessing. Usually the master would not bother to deliver the work in person, but this morning he made an exception. The church was almost empty, with only a couple of lay sisters sitting on one of the benches, telling their beads while waiting for the confessor.

“Yes, I think I will” – Tiziano Vecelio turned to look at the interlocutor’s face, Bishop Jacopo Pesaro. It was he who paid for the piece, well and on time, as usual, and was within his rights. He acknowledged, with a hint of pride, that he managed to capture the man’s face on canvas to perfection: proud, arrogant … and very rich. He looked back at the painting, at the figure that aroused so much curiosity in its patron, a soldier carrying the victorious banner of the Borgias, and recalled that night, months ago. It was raining the way it only can in Venice, soaking to the bone; haste to return home after taking care of some urgent matters, he almost bumped into a man waiting outside his door. He was tall, covered with a black hooded cape and judging by the amount of water dripping from the folds of it, he had been waiting for a long time. The man moved, and he could see the hilt of the sword hanging from his belt; his servant was about to push him aside rudely, but the painter stopped him with a hand gesture, he recognized the weapon the moment the stranger said hoarsely. – “She’s dead. For bearing him another child … damn him! Damn him! May he be damned a thousand times! “. Tiziano interrupted the man and lead him inside the house. 

“So? I have been asking you ever since the first sketches … Who is he? “– The resounding voice of Pesaro echoed in the deserted church, bringing the painter back to reality.

“Now I can tell you, Monsignor. He returned to his homeland, Venice was not a safe place for him; there had been a price on his head. “

– “By whom? The Doge? “

– “No. The Duke of Ferrara “

Jacopo Pesaro turned suddenly, surprised. Tiziano continued. 

“I met him years ago, and then saw him again a few months ago. He is an Englishman.”

– “And what gives an Englishman the right to carry the banner of the Borgias?” – Bishop Pesaro was not a common cleric; the blood in his veins was much more of a warrior than a religious man, and more than just proud, he was loyal. It was Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, who gave him a squadron of galleys with which he defeated the Turks. When “the Catalan” died he was among the few who did not renounce him and even commissioned Tiziano to do a portrait of the two together.

 – “Believe me, Monsignor, with every right. Come with me, I’ll tell you all about it after a good meal. Although I think you might be staying even after dinner, it’s a long story. “

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F.R.R.A. (Fandom Related Recreational Activities)

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A FRRA crossover: image editing and fantasy casting. Click for original source of The Globe pic

It is known that one of the collateral effects of fandoms is the explosion of creativity. Suddenly, from who knows where (ehem!) a spark lightens and the result is a previously unexpected need of writing, video editing and photoshop playing. Then you meet other members of the fandom, you realise that you are not as crazy as you thought (or rather, that if this is madness, there’s a method in it) and more recreational activities develop. A number of them can be united in a general category: the Virtual Artist Agency. The main games can be the following:

  • Great Expectations. It is played when the object of admiRAtion is about to finish his current works and he makes vague hints to future probable engagements, that unleashes a deep study of the Internet Movie Database and specifically of those projects labelled as “On production” and without a definitive cast. A very brilliant and professional example is this post of the Anglophile Channel. Needless to state that an over use of this game may lead to a high degree of frustration for fandoms unrelated with Cumberbatch – Fassbender – Hiddleston (in alphabetical order).
  • Agenda management. This includes also the sub-game “spot the date”. When the projects of the object of our fandom are official, the Virtual Agent has to organise them… It is not an easy task to plan our fandom object’s agenda,  most of all if different time zones are involved: an interview in London followed by a black carpet in New York and then go back to the theatre in London jumping just one show, for instance. The most conscious players have a complete list of daily and weekly overseas flights, destination airports and time of transfer between them and the city. For lazy players (ehem… Barsine raises shily her hand) there’s an easy version, the “spot the date”: you just have to guess the release date of a given work.

But, my absolutely ever favourite game is the…

  • Fantasy casting. This game has two versions, Basic and Extreme. Needless to say that I prefer the extreme one, but let’s start with the Basic. It is a less frustrating game than Great Expectations and implies also FRRA crossover. For instance, watching my last purchase in DT Henry IV part one I wondered how wonderful will Richard Armitage look in the Globe’s stage. As FRRA activities are like, I guess, a bulimic crisis, I opened hastily photoshop, took the below tweet, a picture of The Crucible rehearsals and… i giochi sono fatti.

  • Nevertheless, the main characteristic of Fantasy casting is that it is funnier if played in company. It develops soon into what Linnett has brilliantly named “Two Martinis Casting”: one person suggest an actor for a character, the other another one and in less than four e-mails you’ve built the most unbelievable cast never seen. I remember that I’ve made one myself with Linnet but I can’t find the post (sono una rincoglionita), but this is another good example, after a gif I posted in tumblr The Extreme version of the fantasy casting implies a complete absence of logic, for instance, you can hire actors or actresses already dead in the prime of their youth. It is probable that this version of the game finishes in another FRRA crossover, under the form of a fanfic.

Ten steps above

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Richard Armitage as John Porter – Strike Back “Zimbabwe”

In a previous post I wrote about the awkward way I was watching “Strike Back” chapters, starting from the last two of the series, Afghanistan. I’ve watched already the previous four, this time in chronological order and, I can’t help having a sour sweet sensation in my mouth (figuratively speaking, of course). No doubt about which is one of the components of the sweet part, you just have to watch the above screencap. The sour one has to do with the same awkward sensation I had watching Spooks 8: Richard is several steps above those scripts.

I have updated my list of RA TV works to watch, and, as I scroll the “done” roles, in my opinion only John Stranding, John Thornton and Claude Monet can look Richard straight in the eyes (Peter MacDuff also, but if you put all his scenes in Macbeth togehter we are talking of no more than a ten minutes’ performance).

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Fortunately not everything is lost in Strike Back; there are some scenes in which Richard offers us his best acting skills. In the “Irak” chapter his scenes with Katie together in the cells and during the torture, in the “Zimbabwe” one the heartbreaking webcam conversation with his daughter, and in “Afghanistan” the final scene with Collinson.

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Wallpaper made with screencaps of the “Irak” chapter
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John talks with his daughter…
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… and cries

I have read in several interviews that Richard prepares consciously every single role, and that even writes a sort of biographies of the character. I guess he wrote a big deal about John Porter; as I watched the last chapters first, I thought that in the previous ones I would have learned more about the years of hell after being discharged from the army, beyond an absurd haircut (I guess that together with Javier Bardem Richard has the record of awful haircuts on screen) and a dirty jumpsuit. Instead there are just hints, family troubles, an obsession with what happened in Irak. Fortunately Richard did his homework well and we can understand what John Porter suffered when he tells Collinson:

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Everyone blaming me, the regiment, the families… seven years… […] This will come out. Disgrace to the uniform. Criminal trial. Wrath of the victims’ families. The sick feeling in your stomach when you realise that your own family have lost all respect for you.

Richard delivers these lines almost without moving a muscle in his face, rendering Porter’s feelings through his eyes and soft tone of his voice, that cracks a little when referring to the family.

After Collinson’s reply, his anger rises and, driven by wrath and hate, almost chokes him with his arm.

Wrath

After the fury, Porter just wants to know why happened that night, pleading for an answer.

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On hearing Collinson, the wrath and the plea fades into a mix of feelings: contempt, disgust, but also pity.

pity contempt

That is one of those scenes that can be watched twenty times over, discovering every time something new. It would be unfair not to mention Andrew Lincoln, it takes two to make scenes like this work.

And now? What will be my next subject in RA studies? I think that, for the moment, I will wait very very anxiously for John Proctor. I’m sure Richard has succeeded in  the difficult task of watching him straight in the eyes.

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Johns at home

The McKenzie enigma (it’s your turn, Mr. McTavish)

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I am extremely glad not to have read Outlander books for a reason: I don’t know what to expect when I watch the series. Especially, I don’t know what to expect of my favourite character, Dougal McKenzie.

Dougal is, what I call, a white character with infinite shades of grey. I feel attracted also by the purely evil characters, but the white-greyish ones are absolutely those more appealing. When they appear within the lines of the book you’re reading or in the film or tv movie you’re watching, to quote over-quoted line of Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re gonna get. 

Dougal McKenzie is a leader, it is clear since the first frame: respected by his men, intelligent, decision-maker. But, despite all his qualities, he’s not the laird, but his elder brother who, in Claire’s words, lives borrowed years, as he suffers a very serious sickness. Nevertheless, Colum (I knew I saw Gary Lewis elsewhere… he was Billy Elliot’s father!!!!), like Dougal, is also a leader, and the clash within the brothers is evident to the cunning Claire since she arrives (or rather, returns) to their castle.

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Dougal listens carefully to his brother

During those first days in their castle Dougal clashes not only with his brother, but also with Claire. He’s trapped between two feelings: he knows, as Black Jack Randall does, that Claire is lying regarding her sudden appearance in his lands, but, on the other hand, he feels attracted to her.

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In a first moment the leader overcomes the man: Dougal thinks that Claire is an English spy and gives orders to his men not to leave her alone for a moment, and, when Colum decides not to let her go back to Inverness (most probably on Dougal’s advice) she perceives him as a jailer.

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Deep thinking under that majestical brow

As I mentioned in my previous post on this series, if chapter six is the one of Captain Randall’s “revelation”, chapter four is the one of Dougal’s. He has to swear fidelity to the lair, his brother. And, once more, there’s a fierce battle inside his heart: he is sure that he could be a better lair than his brother, even a better father, but the blood, the family ties and his honour forbids him to oppose his brother in a direct way. That ceremony is not a sweet draught at all for Dougal, and he drinks hard, trying to forget or at least, to make that ceremony hurt a little bit less.

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a sour draught
The oath is a soar draught for Dougal

Right after the oath, Dougal finds some men trying to rape Claire when she is escaping from the castle. Of course, the laird’s brother cannot admit a clan’s guest to be molested and Dougal rightfully kicks their asses off. But once they go this time is the man, weakened by the alcohol, who overcome the leader, and when she wants to go away, he grasps her. Dougal is not attacking her as those men wanted to do, he just surrenders to Claire, embraces her, bending his head, hiding himself behind her, and saying, with all his body I just can’t stand it.

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Dougal surrenders

But after she refuses him he lets her go. He could force her if he wanted to but that’s not the way he would want a woman that not only desires, but that after the hunt of the following he also admires. One of his men is seriously hurt by the wild boar. In a heartbreaking scene, Dougal cuddles with tenderness the dying man in his arms, while Claire, who has seen during the war many men die and knows how to ease their passing, asks the wounded, Geordie, to describe his home.

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After Geordie’s death they return to the castle, defeated and frustrated. Dougal gives vent to his frustration playing with the other men of the clan, including his nephew Jamie, a hard-blows-allowed version of grass hockey. During that game, with the excuse of hitting the ball, Dougal has the chance to shake a little Jamie, who is his nephew, but also an obstacle.

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The day after Dougal feels the need of thanking Claire for what she did for Geordie, and makes her the proposal, or rather, a veiled order, to accompany him and other kinsmen to a tax collecting tour in the clan’s lands.

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During the course of that trip Claire sees Dougal first like a mobster cashing bribes, to realise afterwards that the money was needed to gather an army to fight the English during the Jacobite rebellion. Afterwards, the unplesant meeting with Captain Randall takes place and when finally Dougal and Claire manage to leave he makes her a proposal: according to the laws she can’t be summoned again by Randall the following day if she’s not longer an English subject, but Scottish, and the only way of becoming such is marrying one. When Claire asks Dougal if she would have to marry him, Dougal says a sentence that has passed already to the story of tv:

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Well, I must admit, that the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me, but it’s not myself whom I’ve nominated for the position

And here is where the McKenzie enigma reaches its peak. Most probably Claire would have accepted him in the end (although it would have taken her a little longer… silly lass) but instead Dougal proposes his nephew. And, moreover, in the “wedding chapter” Dougal insists on a sometimes apparently reluctant Jamie to accept the deal. Why? Not having read the books, I can only guess… Loyalty to the family.. to protect not only Claire but also Jamie? I hope to have the answer to the many questions raised by the Mc Kenzie enigma next April.

After all this talk about the character, what about the performance? I have defined Mr. McTavish’s work with these adjectives in a comment to the previous post:

 Majestical. Posed. Elegant. Efficient. Credible.

And also, incredibly attractive. I wouldn’t mind Mr. McTavish grinding my corn. Metaphorically, of course…

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… or not?

PS… Thank you!

The Eagle of the Ninth

Mark Strong looking a bit too much Al Pacino
Mark Strong as Guern in “The Eagle”

They looked back when they have gone a few paces, and saw him standing as they had left him, already dimmed with mist, and outlined against the drifting mist beyond. A half-naked, wild-haired tribesman, with a savage dog against his knee; but the wide, well-drilled movement of his arm as he raised it in greeting and farewell was all Rome. It was the parade-ground and the clipped voice of trumpets, the iron discipline and the pride. In that instant Marcus seemed to see, not the barbarian hunter, but the young centurion, proud in his first command, before ever the shadow of the doomed legion fell on him. It was to that centurion that he saluted in reply

Rosemary Sutcliff – The Eagle of the Ninth

I will write just a very quick note about my reading of “The Eagle of the Ninth”: it is a very good book and I cannot but ask myself why the movie based on it had so little to do with the original story. In the book, as Servetus commented in my post regarding the film, all those things that look absurd and difficult to understand in the movie are clear, starting with the relationship between Marcus and Esca. Their relationship has been absurdely twisted for the sake of I have not understood very well what. The story makes much more sense as written by Rosemary Sutcliff, who was a superb writer. One more consideration: in 1954 this was considered “children’s literature”.

Less than six degrees

DTRichard Armitage inspired me the main male character of a fan fic (I wrote it last May). This character lives in Bedford Square. I have realised today reading Digital Theatre newsletter that their offices are located in Bedford Square. Digital Theatre will broadcast The Crucible, and the leading role in that play, John Proctor is played by Richard Armitage.

PS. In May I didn’t even know the existence of Digital Theatre.