Monday, October 25, 2010

Old & New Art Around Town: FIAC 2010, Chartres Cathedral

Last weekend, I took a trip to Chartres, a small town in the Eure-et-Loire region of France just southwest of Paris, to see the famous gothic cathedral there (anyone who's ever studied art history will be very familiar with it and its 176 stained glass windows!). Though it was freezing and there wasn't much to do in the town itself other than eat and drink (which we took full advantage of), the cathedral was absolutely breathtaking: probably the most beautiful I'd ever seen in my life. I'm not so sure I would recommend honeymooning in Chartres, but it's definitely worth visiting for a day or two to see the cathedral if you have an interest in art history (or religion, for that matter). Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the stained glass museum, where we learned how stained glass is made and viewed some contemporary works that utilized the "archaic" medium.

the cathedral at Chartres

one of the famed "rosette" windows

modern stained glass

On a modern/urban note, this weekend the FIAC (Foire International d'Art Contemporain) took place in Paris at two locations: the Grand Palais and the Cour Carrée du Louvre. The fair showcased the "crown jewels" of contemporary art galleries hailing from Paris, London, Madrid, Milan, Brussels, New York, Los Angeles and other large cities. Some of the pieces were conceptually interesting, some shocking, some downright weird-- and of course some looked as though they could've been made by my 6-year-old niece. There was a man made of noodles, a compressed square of roadkill, a bicycle made of salt crystals-- such is art nowadays. Nonetheless, the Grand Palais provided a stunning and slightly ironic backdrop to the roadkill and noodle men, while the people watching was nothing short of extraordinary: almost everyone there looked as though they had just stepped out of the Sartorialist. Amongst the chic/dapper crowd, a few pieces that caught my eye:

the aforementioned bicycle


this piece is deeper than it looks.. on the opposite wall there was a framed sketch of a woman on a bed with the text "You made me feel like nothing." The coolest part is that the fluorescent signs reflected onto the glass over the drawing so it looked like they were part of the picture.

a mushroom!

one of the more normal pieces

the Grand Palais

Looking forward to the Basquiat exhibit at the Musée d'Art Moderne and the "Brune/Blonde" exhibit at the Cinémathèque Française!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Les Amours Imaginaires: Xavier Dolan, boy genius

I've just come out of the equally inspiring, mind-blowing and utterly depressing filmic experience that was Les Amours Imaginaires (English/American title: Heartbeats), the 2nd feature-length film project of Xavier Dolan, 21-year-old French-canadian director/actor/writer/prodigy. Why depressing? Oh, just because Dolan wrote his first screenplay at the ripe old age of 17. He put the film (J'ai tué ma mère, 2008) into production two years later, and was subsequently recognized with an 8-minute standing ovation at the 2009 Cannes film festival and nominated for best foreign film both at the Oscars and the Césars. Though I haven't seen Dolan's debut film, I'm really looking forward to it if Les Amours Imaginaires is anything to go by. Putting his own unique twist on the tongue-in-cheek Nouvelle Vague-inspired concepts of jump-cuts, black comedy and brash primary-colored landscapes, Dolan paints a gorgeously refined (if nearly impossible to understand without subtitles, even for the French, à cause de l'accent quebecois), hilarious portrait of a twisted love triangle-- that of Francis and Marie, two best friends who fall for the same unattainable golden god, Nicolas. Dolan himself, adorable in Montreal-hipster attire (including but not limited to bleached oversized denim jackets, bright pink skinny jeans and skeleton-painted fingerless gloves) and the James Dean-esque haircut that every young lad below 14th street seems to be sporting nowadays, plays Francis, while Monia Chokri, in attire that floats somewhere in the region between 50's housewife and Audrey Hepburn, plays his best friend, Marie. Then there is the gorgeous Niels Schneider as Nicolas, the object of their affection, who seems to seduce everything that moves. Don't discount the beginning of the film as pretentious or "faux-indie"-- yes, Tarantino did use that song in Kill Bill; yes, Gus Van Sant already coined the "frozen snapshot" style of shooting sex scenes in My Own Private Idaho,yes, we've already seen the 2-guys-one-girl-ambiguous-sexuality-waking-up-in-bed-together-jealousy-etc scenario in Bertolucci's The Dreamers-- just keep watching and you may fall in love; or better yet just come out of the theater with a new knowledge of Quebecois slang... (par exemple, "Le shmoke cache le marde!"). That having been said, the self-admittedly "hysteria-worshipping" Dolan completes the package with a killer soundtrack, stunning cinematography and a gripping and ultimately hilarious plotline (oh, and a guest appearance by the one and only Louis Garrel!) Dolan's next project, Laurence Anyways, about a transsexual, is slated for 2012. And he's only 21... bon courage!

Monia Chokri (apparently one of Dolan's best friends in real life) as Marie

Xavier Dolan as Francis (I wasn't lying about the clothes...)

hmmm where have I seen this image before?

the director/actor/writer at work

and the trailer, of course: