Monday, May 08, 2006

Taking the Monet?

We're still watching "The Impressionists" on the BBC but I'm finding the emotional intensity rather wearing - it continues in the "very dramatic" TV mini-series vein as indicated in my review last week. My dearly beloved informed me, as we watched last night's episode, that he'd read an AA Gill review which suggested he was less than impressed. This morning I've been looking for that review and others on the Internet this morning and have a few links for your perusal which are worth reading:

  • "Take the Monet" Andrew Billen 'New Statesman' Monday 6th May (Alternatively, you can also listen to this one after downloading it). There's a certain amount of heavy irony in this piece!
  • Caitlin Moran in the "Timesonline" on 29th April had rather less to say with the following being her entire review (coming right at the bottom after her very long review of "Lost")

Finally The Impressionists — a lush BBC three-parter not on Mike Yarwood, Rory Bremner and Janet Brown, but Manet, Monet, Renoir and Bazille. Essentially this does for the Impressionists what Mamma Mia! did for Abba — a plot is constructed by stringing together the painters’ greatest canvases into some kind of narrative, aided by dialogue that appears to have been applied to the paper with a 6in masonry brush. Still, it all looks beautiful, and Renoir’s a bit of a dish, so just watch it with a bottle of absinthe and the sound turned down.

  • this one (Patricia Nichol, Timesonline 30 April 2006) will probably only really satisfy Richard Armitage fans - being long on Richard Armitage (who plays young Monet) and short on the "lushly orchestrated and illustrated narrative" with the programme being characterised as "chocolate-boxy, but, in its post-Antiques Roadshow slot, will probably teach far more people something about art history than a BBC4 documentary would".
So, overall, I think "he who must not be bored while I sketch" got it about right when he summed it up as follows (but he may have been influenced by the inestimable Mr Gill whose review I couldn't find).

This programme is presenting the Impressionist movement to the masses - boiled down, the "headlines only and headlights on" version. Maybe in the hope that if they like the stories and the very quick glimpses of the paintings, they might go off to the galleries and actually take a good long look at the paintings - and then come back and be ready for the South Bank Show version - because we're still waiting for the BBC to show any sort of inclination to do a serious programme on the Impressionists which actually focuses on the painting rather than the "Drama" with a capital D.

PS In last night's episode, the focus was on Degas - who couldn't see what he was doing (his wonderful pastels of women bathing were shown for about 5 seconds - but they then lingered longer on the ones of women in a brothel). Monet painted "Impression: Sunrise" in 30 minutes, the face of wife Camille just after she died and held an exhibition with the other "Impressionists" before resubmitting to the salon and getting hung high up where nobody could see his painting. He also met the future Mrs M who moved her husband and family in with him. And Julian Glover as Monet in old age was permanently lit in naples yellow light.

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