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Monday, September 16, 2013

Diamonds in the Rough by John von Daler


               In Bo #Widerberg's beautiful movie, "Adalen Riots" (a really bad translation by the way - I would have called it "Uprising in #Adalen". It's about a strike in Sweden in 1931.) - there is a scene where the young son of a factory worker visits the home of the owner. The owner's wife teaches him to pronounce Pierre-Auguste #Renoir one syllable at a time, slowly and with a great spinning of the R's.
               I have seen the movie a number of times for many reasons, among these the wish to relive the great series of scenes where the protagonist is about to make love to the dream of his life and is interrupted by a friend because a Louis Armstrong concert in Stockholm is being broadcast on the radio. They gather their little home-made jazz band together and one of them puts on the earphones of their only wireless radio and sings along with Satchmo so that the others can hear and play along on their wash-tubs, kitchen pots etc.
                This great love of culture in a provincial setting, in this case Satchmo and Renoir, I experienced in a little make-shift school barracks in Tulsa, Patrick Henry Elementary School, where our third-grade art teacher, Mrs. Culp, taught us all about the impressionist and post impressionist painters. We could not only pronounce their names in our Oklahoma French, but we could pair those names with their work, so that I many years later could point out at the Jeu de Paume in Paris the pictures and styles of various artists from C├ęzanne to Pissarro.
                This was above and beyond the call of duty and I have never forgotten her for the gift. My memory of her takes the form of  something like that super-sentimental picture of a school teacher by Norman Rockwell.
                I wonder what #Manet could have done with that? "The Luncheon on the Grass" might have become "The Picnic on the Prairie", although our school teacher probably had on too many clothes to suit Manet. Could he have translated America into his French sensibility? After all, Ravel and Debussy did it in music and Degas painted New Orleans. Widerberg made a movie about Joe Hill. You never know. But you should.

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