Monday, March 14, 2011

Rembrandt's Lucretia

Rembrandt's Lucretia is at the National Gallery. The copy here doesn't do it justice; the contrast between the color on Lucretia and the darkness surrounding her isn't as evident, the candlelight effect of Rembrandt's lighting isn't apparent. Even the facial expression is missing something that can be seen in person.

Lucretia was a noblewoman of the Roman Kingdom who was raped by a relative of the king. After telling her husband what had happened to her, she took her own life. Rembrandt's paintings are often dark, but--for me--here that darkness represents the depth of time, how distant the history is: just this one story and a few others emerge from the Roman Kingdom (ca. 7-5th c. BC), and the rest is unknown. (And those few stories are impossible to confirm.)

But it's the facial expression that draws me. It's sadness, of course. But it's more than that; it's an apologetic sadness. As if to say, "It's too much. I'm sorry. It's just too much."

WWI Vet Dies: Reminds Me of a Mamet Joke

Faithful readers will recall several entries since November about a line in David Mamet's Heist that I [Roger Ebert] said was the funniest he had ever written. Gene Hackman is a thief who wants to retire. Danny DeVito wants him to do one more job, for the money. Hackman says he doesn't like money. DeVito replies: ''Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!''...

Many readers said they did not see anything funny about this line. I quoted Louis Armstrong: ''There are some folks that, if they don't know, you can't tell 'em.'' More protest. I quoted Gene Siskel: ''Comedy and eroticism are not debatable. Either it works for you or it doesn't.'' This also failed to satisfy many readers.

In desperation I sent the whole correspondence to David Mamet himself, and have received the following reply:

Thank you for your update on the Heist controversy. A lot of people didn't even think 'World War One' was funny. So it just shows to go you.