Sunday, October 29, 2006

Film: La Reine Margot.

A beautiful and stunning film about Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de'Medici and wife of the King of Navarre, Henri de Bourbon. Isabelle Adjani stars alongside Jean-Hugues Anglade and Vincent Perez. The film is based on the book by Alexandre Dumas, and while it isn't necessarily historically accurate, it is a delight and a terror. Margot's love affair with La Môle begins only days before the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, and they find themselves endangered by both their love and their stations in life. Adjani is almost too beautiful to stand, as usual; Perez is too, this time around (unlike what I thought of him in Indochine). But truly, I enjoyed this film for its unarguably French style--Dumas was a master, I am now discovering.

The romantic and historical blend enticingly, and I'm fascinated by what happened in France after this. Henri de Bourbon became King of France when Margot's brother, Henri III, died. The line of Bourbon kings were pretty much adored by the French, ruling from 1589 until the French Revolution in 1792, and even again briefly afterwards. It was a tradition to cut out the heart of a Bourbon king upon his death, and place it in a special coffer. Not until Louis XV did this stop, and most likely only then because he ended his reign known as le Bien-Hai, the Well-Hated.

La Reine Margot
directed by Patrice Chéreau, 1994

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Excerpt: The Book of the Courtesans.

Although it is clear that the courtesan would need to have carnal knowledge, what has not always been so evident is the profound nature of what she knew. The realm of sexual pleasure is also the realm of the psyche. To love or be loved, to touch, feel pleasure, passion, ecstasy, to surrender and release engages every human faculty, not sensual adroitness alone but intelligence of every kind. As well as being willing to give pleasure, a good lover must be sensitive and aware, registering what kind of touch, for instance, on which part of the body arouses desire, knowing which mood calls for a robust approach, which moment requiresgentleness, able to laugh or tease while at the same time probing both the mind and body of the loved one for gateways to greater feeling.

The desire to give pleasure is, however, not the only motive. The deepest ardor of the lover is the desire to know the beloved: to test, feel, see, taste, smell, witness every response, every shade of sensation. In this sense, it is right that Venus as well as courtesans should so often be depicted with mirrors. In recognizing even the subtlest desires of the beloved or in answering these desires with a delicate precision, the lover is providing a mirror for what the beloved feels. The beloved feels known, even ravished, by this intense reflection. And, in turn, the one who is loved feels an echoing need to know, because being a lover as well as the beloved, the desire is to please by knowledge, even know all that can be known at once.

The urge to consume knowledge can be consuming in itself. Though in an afternoon of lovemaking desire may arc and come to fruition, the desire to know is inexhaustible. The wish is for an impossible thoroughness, a complete union between the knower and the known. Yet as Tullia D'Aragona, an Italian courtesan born at the beginning of the sixteenth century, has written, "...Because it is not possible for human bodies to be physically merged into one another, the lover can never achieve this longing."

--Susan Griffin (2001)

Today on Wikipedia

I learned that Scarlett Johansson will be playing Mary Boleyn in a 2007 film called The Other Boleyn Girl. The film is based on a novel by Phillipa Gregory, which has received some rahter negative reviews. Natalie Portman will play Anne, the more famous of the two sisters.

Mary is barely known now, though she was the mistress of Henry VIII, who had her sister executed in 1536.