Family values

by Chris Bertram on December 3, 2004

Via Lance Knobel , this astonishing story from the Financial Times:

US distributors of the film Merchant of Venice, which premiered in London this week, have asked the director to cut out a background fresco by a Venetian old master so it is fit for American television viewers…
According to [director Michael] Radford, there was “a very curious request which said ‘Could you please paint-box out the wallpaper?’. I said wallpaper, what wallpaper? This is the 16th century, people didn’t have wall-paper.”
When he examined the scenes, he realised the letter was referring to frescoes by Paolo Veronese, the acclaimed Venetian 16th-century artist, which, when examined closely, showed a naked cupid.
“A billion dollars worth of Veronese great master’s frescoes they want paint-boxed out because of this cupid’s willy. It is absolutely absurd,” he said.

{ 51 comments }

1

Michael 12.03.04 at 9:36 am

No change there, then – a decade or so ago a trailer intended for American cinemas had to be re-edited because it had the temerity to show a revealing portion of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling for a second or two.

Similarly, I don’t believe A Room with a View, whose bathing scene is one of the best examples of obviously non-sexual nudity I can think of (and was duly rated PG or equivalent practically everywhere else in the Western world) was ever formally passed by the Motion Picture Association of America – it ended up being shown unrated, presumably suffering the same financial penalties re distribution and advertising as any other commercial release that doesn’t play by the MPAA’s rules.

2

Michael 12.03.04 at 9:46 am

Incidentally, I attended the world premiere of the unexpurgated version of Ken Russell’s The Devils last week – and it will be very interesting to see if Warner Bros try to release it in the US in the current climate given its explosive combination of frontal nudity (male and female), religious hysteria and political commentary, specifically on the dangers of breaking down the barriers separating church and state.

The only version that’s ever formally been released in the US was apparently butchered – the editor was at the screening and said that Warner Bros execs originally told him to remove literally every frame featuring a nipple. He didn’t go quite that far, but by all accounts the US cut still verges on incomprehensibility.

3

Matthew2 12.03.04 at 10:01 am

I didn’t understand until I realised that in the US most people never see this type of pre-19th century art full of (gasp) naked graces and (shock) cupids!

4

rob 12.03.04 at 10:27 am

Don’t the big Metropolitan Art Museums in the States have reasonably large collections of figurative art? I’m not an art historian, but I can’t think of any post-Renaissance period of art that didn’t do lots of nudes. So presumably, there are lots of nudes just brazenly on public display all over the US, which no-one stops children seeing: no one censors them, so what’s the problem with a cupid on a wall in the background of a film? Madness.

5

Vance Maverick 12.03.04 at 11:03 am

Rob, yes they do, but most people don’t go to museums, and most people do watch television.

Tangentially, I don’t think old-master titties and willies are actually more virtuous than live or downmarket ones. But that’s another argument.

6

Michael 12.03.04 at 11:08 am

Tangentially, I don’t think old-master titties and willies are actually more virtuous than live or downmarket ones. But that’s another argument.

…and one raised by the great Jerome K.Jerome, who in a letter to the Times in response to a woman complaining about nude paintings on the wall of an art gallery, pointed out that her complaint should be addressed not to the Times but to the Almighty himself, for having the effrontery to create such an indecent object in the first place.

(I’m paraphrasing from memory, but that was the general gist. I forget the date, but late nineteenth century seems plausible).

7

Doug 12.03.04 at 11:11 am

Vance, please make it, as there aren’t any good arguments happening here.

West Europeans feel superior to the US. Dog bites man. Sun rises. Expected also to set later on today. (Except in near-polar areas where, oh what’s the point.)

8

Michael 12.03.04 at 11:27 am

West Europeans feel superior to the US.

I don’t see anyone attacking the US per se – merely a small number of people in positions of influence within the American media.

I could come up with plenty of equally absurd European examples, though it’s broadly true to say that the European media doesn’t have the same issues with non-sexual nudity.

9

Chris Bertram 12.03.04 at 11:40 am

And my source for this story was … Lance Knobel.

And Lance’s nationality is ….?

Give it a rest Doug!

10

rob 12.03.04 at 12:16 pm

Doug,

come on, this isn’t ‘Western Europeans feel superior to the Us’, this is ‘Western Europeans are, in this matter, superior to the US’. It’s ridiculous, and you know it.

11

rea 12.03.04 at 12:44 pm

“I don’t think old-master titties and willies are actually more virtuous than live or downmarket ones. But that’s another argument.”

Perhaps fortunately, the U. S. Supreme Court doesn’t agree with you . . .

12

jet 12.03.04 at 12:59 pm

But we’re doing it for the *children*.

Those ratings are for younger viewers, so while maybe misguided, some parents who wants their kids to grow up and be a lawyer, marry their true love, and raise a happy family, might want to protect their children from their own hormones by limiting the amount of sexually stimulating visuals so that they don’t start their family alone at the age of 16.

Of course any parent attacking the problem on that front is a fool and obviously doesn’t watch enough day time tv to realize that particular boat sailed 20 years ago. Give it up already.

As for me and mine, we are shocked, yes shocked, at the complete lack of reguard for our needs and wants. Forget the children, I want more and titties.

13

Michael 12.03.04 at 12:59 pm

Does anyone else remember Private Eye’s demonstration of how to decode the message “THE DAILY MAIL IS PISS-POOR” contained in the Book of Revelation?

14

Michael 12.03.04 at 1:03 pm

Apologies for that last comment – I’ve just cut and pasted it where it was originally supposed to go, so feel free to delete it.

Tabbed browsing is a wonderful thing generally, but not when you have two comments windows open simultaneously and use the wrong one by mistake!

15

paul lawson 12.03.04 at 1:17 pm

Mr Merrill [afe 2 July] doesn’t like football, the Tour de France or the Olympic Games, but is amused by bicycle stealing elks. And is ‘dog bites man’ about West Europeans finding the red state US hegemony risible. Don’t confine that to West Europe, Doug.

Mencken, Merrill. “No one ever went broke underestimating…etc.” As proved this November.

No one in a glass house should throw a stone, but it is probable that the elk does not believe in ‘creationism’ and whatever else is ‘touch screen’ in Diebold land.

Get used to it, Mr Merrill, you have nearly four more years of being a laughing stock.

That’s politics.

16

Michael 12.03.04 at 1:33 pm

Those ratings are for younger viewers, so while maybe misguided, some parents who wants their kids to grow up and be a lawyer, marry their true love, and raise a happy family, might want to protect their children from their own hormones by limiting the amount of sexually stimulating visuals so that they don’t start their family alone at the age of 16.

That’s the whole point of giving A Room with a View and similar titles a PG – it suggests it’s broadly OK, but there might be something in there which parents disapprove of. Researching further, they’ll discover that the main point of contention is brief and wholly non-sexualised male frontal nudity, whereupon it’s up to them to decide whether this is going to corrupt their children.

People have been known to mock websites like Screen-It, but I have a lot of time for them, especially now that I’m a parent myself. Not least because by providing detailed information about what parents might object to, this means that censorship for the rest of us is far less justifiable.

17

derek 12.03.04 at 1:41 pm

I think the director should honor the distributors’ request to erase the offending bits, but not their request to pretend no such bits were in the original. Let him pixellate Cupid’s tackle like the faces of car-thieves in reality cop shows, and the distributors’ moral panic will be fully addressed.

As for the embarrassment of having everyone know they did it, they shouldn’t feel embarrassed; are they ashamed of their own morals?

18

derek 12.03.04 at 1:44 pm

I think the director should honor the distributors’ request to erase the offending bits, but not their request to pretend no such bits were in the original. Let him pixellate Cupid’s tackle like the faces of car-thieves in reality cop shows, and the distributors’ moral panic will be fully addressed.

As for the embarrassment of having everyone know they did it, they shouldn’t feel embarrassed; are they ashamed of their own morals?

19

jonathan 12.03.04 at 2:01 pm

Meanwhile, over at the Times, Michael Powell has stepped into the fray.

20

Antoni Jaume 12.03.04 at 2:21 pm

It reminds me about the blowing of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by Taliban authorities.

DSW

21

Nic 12.03.04 at 2:33 pm

Where’s the Spirit of Justice?

22

Michael 12.03.04 at 2:36 pm

I know it’s not the same one, but as soon as I saw the name ‘Michael Powell’, this passage from the great British director’s memoirs popped into my head:

The goatherd was one of my inspirations, like introducing a Coca-Cola machine into Heaven. The script called for a boy with some animals, who had to answer David Niven’s question when he thinks he’s in heaven: ‘Where do I report?’

I made the boy a naked boy, playing on a reed pipe a little tune composed by Allan Gray, while his goats cropped the sparse marram grass on the sand dunes. It looked charming, like a scene from Theocritus. David kneels down and talks to the child, and gradually begins to realise that he is not dead, that he’s alive, and has been washed ashore near to the very same place where June (Kim Hunter) has been posted…

(…)

But my charming Theocritean idyll was not appreciated by our American partners. The magic of the scene escaped them. They could only see sexual implications in the association of a grown man with a naked boy and rushed to protect their public. They cut the scene out in America, although there were important plot points. (…) It has always riled me. And my friend and greatest fan, Martin Scorsese, agrees, and has been heard to splutter when a print of A Matter of Life and Death is shown on television: “It doesn’t have the scene with the naked boy in it! It’s that damn cut version again!”

(Michael Powell, ‘A Life in Movies’, pages 542-543 of my Methuen paperback edition)

For those not familiar with the film (called Stairway to Heaven in the US), it came out in 1946. Plus ça change

23

bob mcmanus 12.03.04 at 2:49 pm

ARC

“Tangentially, I don’t think old-master titties and willies are actually more virtuous than live or downmarket ones. But that’s another argument.”
…vince maverick

There is a non-trivial (and not so tangential) question as to why Veronese showed the willy. To simply say that Europeans are or were more comfortable with non-sexual nudity is to oversimplify a very complex subject. One can imagine the reaction to Henry the Eighth or Elisabeth Regina disrobing while holding court. I suspect old masters and Victorians were engaging in a light licentiousness, that I heartily approve and share.

I speak as one heartbroken over reading in the paper this morning that Mike Nichols cut Natalie Portman’s nude scene from Closer.

24

Vance Maverick 12.03.04 at 2:50 pm

I agree that this story is absurd. However, as Michael says, people who worry about exposure to pornography should also worry about exposure to the classical Western use of nakedness (“the nude”). There’s no bright line between them.

I encountered this point in John Berger. But I was reminded of it recently on seeing the Venus of Urbino of Titian. If you don’t see this at least partly in the way you would a pinup, I think you’re missing the point. (And I think it’s a great painting.)

Does anyone know which Veronese appears in the film?

25

Uncle Kvetch 12.03.04 at 2:54 pm

There’s a very telling sentence near the end of the Michael Powell op-ed in today’s NY Times:

Berating citizens who believe in values and reasonable limits is insulting and polarizing and distracts from the legitimate issues of this policy debate.

Seems to me that the obvious response is:

“Suggesting that citizens who disagree with you about government regulation of ‘indecency’ are utterly devoid of ‘values’ is even more insulting and polarizing.”

Gonna be a looooonnnng four years…

26

Vance Maverick 12.03.04 at 2:54 pm

Antoni, they didn’t blow the Buddhas, they blew them up. The obscenity was figurative, not literal.

27

Thomas 12.03.04 at 3:01 pm

The funnier bit from the FT story is this:

“Funding was delayed until about a week before shooting was finished, in part because banks required a document to be circulated and signed among 17 groups of lawyers certifying that the writer – William Shakespeare – and his descendants had no lien on the picture.”

It’s related to the bit cited above. This is all about lawyers and CYA. Heaven forbid one rely on commonsense: Shakespeare is in the public domain, and the FCC isn’t concerned about 16th century frescoes. But someone insisted on demonstrating his cleverness and thus revealed his foolishness.

28

peggy 12.03.04 at 3:10 pm

In a suburb near Boston, a householder had the effrontery to place a cast of Michelangelo’s David in their front yard where children could see it. Indignant letters flooded into the town newspaper and eventually the statue was removed.

29

peggy 12.03.04 at 3:11 pm

In a suburb near Boston, a householder had the effrontery to place a cast of Michelangelo’s David in their front yard where children could see it. Indignant letters flooded into the town newspaper and eventually the statue was removed.

30

Michael 12.03.04 at 3:17 pm

However, as Michael says, people who worry about exposure to pornography should also worry about exposure to the classical Western use of nakedness (“the nude”). There’s no bright line between them.

I think there can be, provided you recognise the context – a Titian is clearly qualitatively different from a centrefold, if only because of the artistry involved.

But to illustrate what happens if the context is removed or blurred, London Underground banned posters for Louis Malle’s Les Amants in 1958 and, much more recently, Ken Russell’s Gothic in 1986 because, although each quoted explicitly from well-known works of art (Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ and Fuseli’s ‘The Nightmare’ respectively), LU’s argument was that if you weren’t aware of the source, your reaction might be very different.

I seem to recall that something similar happened with the row over Tierney Gearon’s nude photos of her children. She was happy to exhibit them in a gallery – a public, but not too public space – but not at all happy when they were splurged all over the press once the story broke. Even more offensively, while most papers cropped the images, one or two tabloids ran them complete with black bars hiding the children’s genitals – which had the effect of sexualising the image in a way that Gearon can’t possibly have intended. Whether or not she was right to exhibit giant blow-up photos of her kids in public in the first place is a moot point (I certainly wouldn’t do it to my own children), but she was certainly right to be miffed about the decontextualising that took place afterwards.

31

Doug 12.03.04 at 3:43 pm

Thank goodness things got interesting, and all it took was a little excessive snark. Chris B and/or Lance K, are you really geniunely surprised that philistines are making decisions about movie backgrounds on a CYA basis? Surprised that there are philistines among the decision-makers in that business? Surprised that they are making ignorant decisions?

I thought all three were head-smackingly obvious, which is why I rolled my eyes here in the comments.

(By the way, for anyone who wants to chime in on the inherently superior European way of doing things, I can only suggest prolonged exposure to Bavarian television.)

Paul L, I’m not sure where you got the value judgements from my July afoe post. I like soccer, the Tour de Lance, er, France, and the Olympics, but happened to think that the conjunction of the three was likely to prove a distraction from political issues. Does anyone remember any important European political issues from this summer? Me neither.

On the other hand, I am indeed amused by bicycle-stealing elk, amd much more by falling moose, and disappearing handball teams. Europe is a funny place, which should count as progress somewhere.

Also Paul L, I’m just not sure that someone writing from Australia really wants to start a pissing match about relative national contributions to world culture. Call me crazy.

Rob, I’m not defending the action. I’m saying that this sort of thing is so utterly commonplace that surprise about it could only be feigned, and thus intended to mock. Maybe Chris and/or Lance really were surprised. I learn something new every day.

32

Backword Dave 12.03.04 at 3:56 pm

Nobody has yet mentioned the irony that while parents may be concerned over the appearance of a naked cupid on a fresco in the background, those same parents are quite sanquine about the anti-semitism in the play.

There are more important things than paintings of willies to protect kids from or at least have serious discussions about.

33

Vance Maverick 12.03.04 at 4:17 pm

Michael, you seem to be saying that a provocative poster is less provocative if it alludes to a high-class work of art. I don’t think this makes much sense.

Check out this interesting page of excerpts on the Venus of Urbino — starting with Mark Twain.

34

Dan Hardie 12.03.04 at 4:48 pm

Oh for Christ’s sake, I can’t believe Dave Weeden is suggesting we might have to ‘protect kids from’ the anti-Semitism of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. ‘Serious discussions’- fine, but anyone who watches Shakespeare is going to have them afterwards anyway. ‘Protect the kids’ from Shakespeare: is this is some sort of attempt to prove that he can compete with his favourite hate-figure David Blunkett both for authoritarianism and blindness?

Censor anti-Semitic literature and you’ve got rid of ‘Oliver Twist’, large chunks of T.S. Eliot, ‘Life on the Mississippi’ (I’m reading it at the moment: nasty passage about ‘Hebrews’ and their exploitative ways), Ezra Pound (not a great loss IMO but I know some will disagree), ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, bits of Kipling, chunks of Dostoyevsky (also, according to what he told Turgenev, a paedophile, who certainly wrote about child rape in ‘The Devils’)… this isn’t an exhaustive list. The RSC have revived ‘The Jew of Malta’, which Der Sturmer might have thought a bit strong in parts, and the result was a fascinating play and no notable rise in British anti-Semitism. Newsflash: not all great writers of the past had the ethics of twenty-first century liberals. Get over it.

It’s like these fools who banned ‘Huckleberry Finn’ from schools and libraries for its frequent use of the word ‘nigger’: any child thus prevented from reading that novel thereby missed out on one of the great novels about childhood, and, as it happens, on one of the great attacks on racism. ‘Othello’ is also, among other things, a great attack on the evil of fearing a man for his colour. (‘E’en now, that black ram/Is tupping your white ewe’, if I remember correctly.) Shakespeare can’t, alas, be said to attack anti-semitism in ‘Merchant of Venice’, but he also can’t be said to endorse it, and anybody who reads or sees the play will come away with a broadened understanding of what racial hatred does to the hated and the hater. What we see in Shylock is a hideous picture of how persecution can brutalise the persecuted, and how even justified revenge is a nasty thing to behold. The gentiles in his play are mainly pretty contemptible too, as you’ll know if you’ve read it.

35

Michael 12.03.04 at 4:48 pm

Michael, you seem to be saying that a provocative poster is less provocative if it alludes to a high-class work of art. I don’t think this makes much sense.

It makes perfect sense to me. Only a couple of days ago, Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal appeared on the front page of at least one British broadsheet newspaper. Since I immediately recognised it as the Duchamp, I knew that the attached article would be about modern art, not about sanitation, and never considered for a second that I was supposed to “read” the image as merely that of a urinal.

(In fact, it’s just occurred to me that a picture of a different urinal might have achieved something closer to Duchamp’s original intentions – because that particular one has so definitively become an objet d’art, its original shock value has completely dissipated)

So that’s one example of a provocative image that’s become much less so as a result of its cultural associations – and so it is with the Underground posters, provided you recognise the allusion. To the uninitiated the Gothic poster is merely an image of a misshapen dwarf about to commit an unspeakable act upon the body of a sleeping woman. But to anyone familiar with the source, it triggers off associations with the culture that produced not only Fuseli but also Byron, Shelley, Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, the subjects of the film – and this information overload serves to dissipate any shock value that the image might otherwise possess, so it becomes less provocative.

But this only works if you’re familiar with the source and its historical and cultural background. Ken Russell obviously was, as would have been much of his target audience. But ordinary Tube travellers who had no intention of seeing the film and who knew nothing about minor nineteenth-century British artists would have read something quite different – which is why I can accept London Underground’s argument in favour of banning the poster.

But on the other hand, is there really anyone out there who doesn’t know that naked cherubs are a common feature in the history of Western art? The Gothic poster was at least sexually suggestive – but who seriously thinks the same is true of the Veronese painting? (I might change my mind if I saw the actual image, but I somehow doubt it – and Michael Radford’s reaction suggests that his surprise was genuine).

36

Tracy 12.03.04 at 5:18 pm

Wasn’t most old masters’ art featuring nude women basically pornography commissioned by really rich men? And presumably some gay or bi rich men would have gotten some pleasure from male nudes. The basic motive power may well have been that behind Playboy.

Certainly the tradition of hanging a curtain in front of paintings of nudes (as can be seen in the background of one of Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode prints) implies that they were not regarded as completely asexual.

If you are going to ban shots of human nakedness, distinguishing between modern stuff and old masters seems to be rather inconsistent to me. (Distingushing between sexual represntations and non-sexual,e.g. the nakedness in Schlinder’s List, would be more consistent).

Of course I don’t pretend to understand at all why censors find a joyously consensual vanilla love scene between a happily married couple a cause for more restrictions than a violent murder.

37

Michael 12.03.04 at 5:30 pm

Of course I don’t pretend to understand at all why censors find a joyously consensual vanilla love scene between a happily married couple a cause for more restrictions than a violent murder.

In the case of the late James Ferman, who controlled British film censorship between 1975 and 1998, he didn’t – he was constantly trying to relax restrictions on consensual sex (even if unsimulated), at least partly because he wanted to persuade his fellow European censors to get tougher on violence.

Unfortunately, he kept running up against the police, Customs and the Home Office – and rumour has it that his departure, although billed as “retirement”, wasn’t entirely voluntary, since his decision to pass a number of films that were unarguably hardcore porn (i.e. there was no possibility of mounting a defence on aesthetic or contextual grounds, as had been the case with other censorship milestones such as Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses or explicit but authentic sex education videos) shortly after the Blair government was first elected in 1997 was followed by his relatively sudden departure from office.

Ironically, only three years later the British Board of Film Classification was forced to relax its guidelines on consensual sex after losing a judicial review, thus achieving by fiat the situation Ferman was trying to reach voluntarily.

38

George 12.03.04 at 5:46 pm

This seems an especially silly installment of a very old debate, one that won’t be solved in this comment thread. But I’d just like to point out that plenty of sexually explicit movies do get released in the puritanical US. Recent examples: The Dreamers and Y Tu Mama Tambien. But those films showed only in a few big-city theaters, and neither will ever end up on broadcast TV. So the problem here seems to be either (a) the filmmakers need to get a new US distributor, or (b) they are unwilling to live with the trade-offs. If you want to go mass-market, you have to live with mass-market taste.

39

Jim E 12.03.04 at 7:31 pm

Give it a rest Doug!

No, it’s you who need the rest, Chris. There isn’t any point about this puerile post save the one Doug explained.

Thanks for reminding me why Crooked Timber isn’t worth logging onto anymore.

40

Walt Pohl 12.03.04 at 7:36 pm

There’s something I’m not clear on. Is “paint-boxing out” something a digital effect, or does it mean literally painting over the frescos?

41

Backword Dave 12.03.04 at 7:52 pm

Dan, I’m not arguing that kids should be ‘protected’ from Shakespeare, I’m sorry if it came across like that.

I greatly enjoyed “The Merchant of Venice” at school, but then we discussed and acted it out. I don’t think it’s suitable for young children (say under 10 or 12), not that they’d want to see it, really.

My point was of a general “there’s a tree, but this is the wood” sort. I don’t believe in censorship, just that the victory for Antonio at the end is far more objectionable to me than something in the background which you clearly have to be looking for. So the people getting upset are doing so for the wrong reason and missing the ‘elephant in the room’ or whatever the phrase is.

42

vernaculo 12.03.04 at 8:35 pm

dan hardie- You forgot to mention The Acts of The Apostles in the New Testament whose latter half is essentially the virulently anti-Semitic tale of Saul/Paul of Tarsus and his adventures in Mediterraneum.

As far as the bowdlerizing of images goes, there’s a similar smugness in most of the reactions here. Those silly Puritans. The way people were deriding fundamentalists two years ago.
Those Puritans run the world now, bubba. They have an empire, and it’s expanding on human lives.
They run the world at least as much as shareholders can be said to “run” a corporation. They may be nuts, they may be dull-witted, they may be hypocritical and vicious and easily misled but as a bloc of political power they have your, and your childrens’, fate in their hands.
Of course their argument would be that dull-witted doesn’t count when you’re possessed by the Spirit.
My own bent would be to trace the origin of this anti-sexual nonsense.
It seems to be a viral expression of social control, a self-replicating mechanism and, because sexual identity is so central to most of us, powerfully coercive.
Sexual guilt is established before there are sexual feelings. Children grow into it. It’s not about sex, it’s about harnessing the next generation to the institutions that already exist. Bowing to sexual prudery is obeisance, worship, a sign of belonging. It’s about social control, and it works very well.
Not particularly laughable if you ask me, considering how much real power it generates.

43

Michael 12.03.04 at 8:40 pm

There’s something I’m not clear on. Is “paint-boxing out” something a digital effect, or does it mean literally painting over the frescos?

In this case, the former – given that the alternative would be to reassemble the cast, reconstruct the set (sans contentious painting) and reshoot the scene!

Mind you, this was indeed done back in 1945, when the visibility of Margaret Lockwood’s cleavage in The Wicked Lady proved too much for the film’s US distributor, and potential American receipts from what was the biggest domestic hit of the year (still the tenth biggest hit in British screen history if measured by seat occupation as opposed to cash revenues) were such that it was deemed worth some major reshoots.

44

cloquet 12.03.04 at 11:08 pm

There’s some exciting stuff, nudity-wise, on public TV. Much more graphic than a frescoe.

45

Jackmormon 12.04.04 at 12:20 am

Michael wrote…one example of a provocative image that’s become much less so as a result of its cultural associations – and so it is with the Underground posters, provided you recognise the allusion.

I don’t think it’s necessary to recognize the allusion or the painting to be insulated from the shock value. The painting technique itself (or the old-fashioned urinal) will probably be enough to make your average viewer think: “Oh, that’s art.” Benjamin’s concept of old technology’s aura, and all that.

A lot of the images from older paintings would cross across quite differently to the average viewer if they were represented in high-definition digital prints.

The US person who wanted the fresco whited out didn’t recognize it as a painting. I think that’s the more interesting detail here. The letter-writer understood the naked boy as an element in film rather than as a painting, and judged the image by cinematographic rather than painterly standards.

Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.

46

cloquet 12.04.04 at 3:03 am

It must be the penis. Frontal female nudity is common in Hollywood pictures, but not so male frontal nudity. The only time I remember seeing a penis was in the movie “The Piano.”

47

paul lawson 12.05.04 at 2:36 am

More Mencken, Merrill,(from the antipodean glass house) courtesy of the excellent James Wolcott.

“The average theologian…disseminates his blather, not innocently, like a philosopher, but maliciously, like a politician. In a well-organized world he would be on the stone-pile, but in the world as it exists we are asked to listen to him, not only politely, but even reverently, with our mouths open.”

Substitute political scientist,seer, for theologian, or thin skinned, ‘septic’ abroad, if you will.

On soccer, we agree. Though one notes only US women can play to any standard.

On the Tour De Lance: hhmmm, the Marion Jones of cycling?

On the Olympics, do a per capita, congratulate New Zealand, and emigrate. Zudders are very civilized, as well as athletic, and their environ is remarkably beautiful.

On movies: decades ago, one wrote a piece about Culver City lighting plans A, B & C, in reference to Americans abroad finding the reality of Europe alarmingly contra to what they had ‘learned’ on domestic television. The experienced German was not like the ‘reel’ German. Orange alert.

Glad you ‘picked’ on Peter Faiman for his ‘Crocodile Dundee’. He also helmed the Olympic Games opening ceremony in 2000. (And succeeded me for the Australian Labor Party campaign launch, in turn to be succeeded by Baz Luhrmann.)

So I have grounds for agreeing with you about ZDF Mainz

On snark: first refuge etc. But try to revive TMFTML.

On the substantive point: 52% of you are a laughing stock. For four more years.
Live with it. Especially abroad. We have no choice, but to laugh. (Albeit pissing ourselves about your imperious incompetence.) And must attempt to circumvent.

Good luck with your drug company and copyright hegemonics.

And if anyone wants reference to the antipodean glass house less dated than Doug’s 1986 citation,Quiggin is excellent for general trends, and crikey.com.au is a daily tonic.

We are every bit as silly as Doug’s lot, but our collective noun would not be “an arrogance of…”

Crtics of the USA ‘lurk’ everywhere, Doug, in the free world. “First we take Brentwood, then…Eatsward roll the wagons. Liberate the blue cities.” Orange alert.

Nominate the ‘Elk’ for 2008. S/he could hardly be worse.

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Doug 12.05.04 at 1:34 pm

“Though one notes only US women can play to any standard.” — Paul L.

Duly noted. Quarter finals in men’s World Cup 2002. Not sufficient. (Since 2000, the US men’s team is 6-1-1 against arch-rival Mexico. Also clearly not sufficient.)

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paul lawson 12.05.04 at 11:15 pm

Doug, entirely sufficient. I watched a number of their matches and recall that they went poignantly close to going further.
The US soccer team is up to standard.

It is the national government and the exercise of its assumed imperium that is not.

As a diversion, until 2008, may I commend Australian Rules football to you.

There is a team in Berlin, called, of course, ‘The Crocodiles’. They assert that they recently beat Poland.

The on field ‘sledging’ (Australian for ‘trash talk’) would have been fascinating.

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Doug 12.06.04 at 3:06 pm

Thanks, Paul. For reasons that are unlikely to become clear again at the moment, Aussie rules was my high school fencing team’s second sport. Great fun even, or perhaps especially, when I broke my nose in a sideline play.

FWIW, people from Berlin often assert to have recently beaten Poland. The result doesn’t always stick, and I find it’s best to wait a while.

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Doug 12.06.04 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Paul. For reasons that are unlikely to become clear again at the moment, Aussie rules was my high school fencing team’s second sport. Great fun even, or perhaps especially, when I broke my nose in a sideline play.

FWIW, people from Berlin often assert to have recently beaten Poland. The result doesn’t always stick, and I find it’s best to wait a while.

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