Naturally Dyed Yarn

Natural Colors

News and Blog

Posted 7/8/2016 6:41pm by Eugene Wyatt.


Lydia Davis, Art of Fiction No. 227

This interview began in Oslo, in September 2013, as a public conversation between Lydia Davis and her translator Johanne Fronth-Nygren at the Norwegian-American Literary Festival. 

I certainly wouldn’t do that deliberately—ever, ever, ever. When I translate Proust, I am trying to be Proust in English. If I compare the earlier translation of Swann’s Way by Scott Moncrieff, with all his flourishes, to the way I translated it, yes, mine is plainer. But so is Proust. Scott Moncrieff’s is more redundant, more embellished. What I’m trying to do is get out of the way and let Proust’s own style come through in English. If people notice this— that Proust is cleaner and clearer in my translation—it is not because of my own style, but because I’m being more faithful to his style than the previous translator was. For example, Proust writes “the entrance to the Underworld.” That’s the plain French, and that’s how I translate it. Scott Moncrieff writes “the Jaws of Hell,” so he introduces a metaphor that isn’t in Proust. 

There is, however, something that I have less control over. More and more I think that each of us, as a writer, has a preferred vocabulary. So even though I’m trying to stay very close to Proust’s own syntax, my word choice may reflect my own preferences. If Proust says entrée, you can say entrance but you can also say way into—the way into the underworld. That wouldn’t be out of the question as a choice. In that sense, your own style does show up.

Posted 7/5/2016 6:16am by Eugene Wyatt.

Also appearing in All About Eve is the ditsy movie star from Hollywood Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe), introduced by Addison De Witt (George Sanders) as "a graduate of the Copacabana school of dramatic art." This is but one of the hundreds of unforgettable lines penned by writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz...

Rotten Tomatoes

Posted 7/4/2016 4:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Davis was a character, an icon with grand style, so even her excesses are realistic.

The Great Movies 2002, Roger Ebert, P. 28.

And in All About Eve she was excessive and so very realistic. 

Posted 6/27/2016 9:41pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Viola is an ancient Latin name which appears as early as 40 BC in the writings of the Roman poet Virgil. It was the equivalent of the contemporary Greek name ion and both names were originally applied to what are now three separate groups of plants. The true violets were, to the Romans, Viola purpurea and to the Greeks, ion melan.

Pansies, Violas & Violettas 1990 Rodney Fuller, P. 15.

Posted 6/27/2016 6:47pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In I’m No Angel (1933) Mae West, confronted by a batch of men from her past, says, “All right, I’m the sweetheart of Sigma Chi. So what?”

The New Yorker, May 2, 2016; Sex And Sexier, David Denby.

Posted 6/27/2016 6:27am by Eugene Wyatt.

In Baby Face, Lily...nabs the bank founder’s grandson (George Brent), and attains jewelry, furs, Paris, a maid, and a chauffeured car. When he gets in trouble at his company, she refuses to sell her jewels to save him. Stanwyck, her blond hair ironed flat, sets her lower lip in defiance, and says, “I can’t do it. I’ve got to think of myself. I’ve gone through a lot to get those things.” In the end, however, Lily redeems herself, keeps her man, and emerges if not rich then, at least, happy.

That’s the original conclusion of “Baby Face,” which appears in the restored version of the film. But, in 1933, after censors banned the movie in several big cities, Warner Bros., which produced it, did some quick reshooting and forced a punitive ending on Lily, in which she loses everything. At the same time, the studio left the movie’s general aura of corruption—sex for favors and much else—intact. The picture hovers between a celebration of a woman’s will and a dirty joke. Are the attitudes in “Baby Face” realistic or merely cynical? Perhaps they’re both.

The New Yorker, May 2, 2016; Sex And Sexier, David Denby.

Posted 6/24/2016 8:42am by Eugene Wyatt.

Films can, and most of them do, reduce all the deprivations and coercions, desires and hopes of social and individual experience, to the simple formula of needing love. ...

The convenient Hollywood explanation for alienation—for failure to integrate in the economy, for hostility to authority and society—is, then, lack of love and acceptance. You’re bland and happy when you’re loved, and if you’re unhappy, it’s not really your fault, you just haven’t been loved. This is the language of the jukebox, and when Freud is reduced to this level, psychoanalysis becomes the language of idiocy.

I Lost It At The Movies 1954 Pauline Kael The Glamour Of Delinquency, P. 44.

Posted 6/21/2016 4:16pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Roger Ebert, The Great Movies III (2010), says in a review of The Godfather II (1974), P. 171:

No false romanticism conceals the necessity of using murder to do business. Such events as Vito’s (Robert DeNiro plays the young Don in the 1920's who is in turn played by Marlon Brando in the 1950's in The Godfather I) murder of the minor-league New York godfather have their barbarism somewhat softened as Coppola adopts Vito’s point of view and follows him as he climbs rooftops to ambush the man and successfully escapes. It is a built-in reality that we tend to identify with a film’s POV. 

Posted 6/15/2016 9:58am by Eugene Wyatt.

But first Pauline Kael to set the scene:

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)—Chaplin as a Parisian bank clerk—a dapper Bluebeard—in a comedy with attempted Shavian ironies. This private entrepreneur who charms rich widows and murders them for their money feels guiltless, and contrasts what he does with what governments do in war. “Numbers sanctify,” he says. Chaplin is more talented at carrying out his pantomime bits than in the talky, anti-war passages, which are meant to be complexly unsettling and come across as dubious and even rather lamebrained. There are also static sentimental interludes about Verdoux’s devotion to his virtuous wife (Mady Correll). The casting is not all it might be, with the glorious exception of Martha Raye as Annabella, who is so full of low-comedy life that, despite all Verdoux’s calculations, and one attempt after another, he fails to kill her. With Isobel Elsom, Marilyn Nash, William Frawley, Virginia Brissac, Robert Lewis, Fritz Leiber, and a glimpse of Edna Purviance. Produced, written, and directed by Chaplin, with Robert Florey and Wheeler Dryden as his assistant directors. United Artists. b & w.

5001 Nights At The Movies, A guide from A to Z (1982) Pauline Kael, P. 494.


The wife and child are shut away in a home which is at once a shrine and a jail; and there, immobilized, and cut off from the truth, they virtually cease to exist as living objects of love; they become an ever more rigid dream. For when the worst and the best in the personality are thus segregated, and the worst is thus utilized in the nominal service of the best, it is inevitably the good which is exploited; the evil, which thinks of itself as faithful slave, is treacherous master; and evil, being active and knowledgeable, grows; and good, rendered motionless and denied knowledge, withers.

P. 252.

Good and evil are inextricable, Verdoux insists. But his fatal mistake was in trying to keep them apart. If the film is regarded as a metaphor for the personality, and through that metaphor, as a metaphor for the personality as the family as business as war as civilization as murder, then this is certain: if the man and wife had honored their marriage with more than their child, the murders would never have been committed, the paralysis would never have imposed itself or would have been dissolved, and the wife and child would never have been shut into that exquisite tabernacle of a closed garden, but all three would have lived as one in that poverty for which the wife was forlorn, in the intactness of soul and the irresponsibility of that anarchic and immortal lily of the field, the tramp, the most humane and most nearly complete among the religious figures our time has evolved; whom for once in his life Chaplin set aside, to give his century its truest portrait of the upright citizen.

Agee On Film: Criticism And Comment On The Movies 1942-1948 James Agee, P. 257.

Because Agee was too close to the war (1947) he didn't say (perhaps because of personal convictions or he was too timid of the censors or of his higher-ups at The Nation, etc.) what the direct-speaking and courageous Chaplin as Monsieur Verdoux said on his way to the guillotine, (and I paraphrase) 'I only killed a few but war, as a business, has killed millions.'

As talky as the film was (Chaplin was first and foremost a silent star) Monsieur Verdoux remains superb.

Posted 6/13/2016 7:37pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Last Tango In Paris (1972) ... in this film, Bernardo Bertolucci used sex to express the characters’ drives. Marlon Brando, as the aging American, Paul, is working out his aggression on the young bourgeois French girl, Jeanne (Maria Schneider), and the physical menace of sexuality that is emotionally charged is such a departure from everything that audiences had come to expect at the movies that the film created a sensation.

5001 Nights At The Movies, A guide from A to Z (1982) Pauline Kael P. 410.

The script (which Bertolucci wrote with Franco Arcalli) is in French and English; it centers on a man’s attempt to separate sex from everything else. When his wife commits suicide, Paul, an American living in Paris, tries to get away from his life. He goes to look at an empty flat and meets Jeanne, who is also looking at it. They have sex in an empty room, without knowing anything about each other—not even first names. He rents the flat, and for three days they meet there. She wants to know who he is, but he insists that sex is all that matters. We see both of them (as they don’t see each other) in their normal lives—Paul back at the flophouse-hotel his wife owned, Jeanne with her mother, the widow of a colonel, and with her adoring fiancé (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a TV director, who is relentlessly shooting a sixteen-millimeter film about her, a film that is to end in a week with their wedding.

The Age Of Movies (2011) Pauline Kael P. 332

When they meet in the outside world, Jeanne sees Paul as a washed-up middle-aged man—a man who runs a flophouse.

The Age Of Movies (2011) Pauline Kael P. 333

It’s a bold and imaginative work—a great work. When Brando improvises within Bertolucci’s structure, his full art is realized; his performance is intuitive, rapt, princely. 

5001 Nights At The Movies, A guide from A to Z (1982) Pauline Kael P. 410.

Bertolucci builds a structure that supports improvisation. Everything is prepared, but everything is subject to change, and the whole film is alive with a sense of discovery. Bertolucci builds the characters “on what the actors are in themselves. I never ask them to interpret something preëxistent, except for dialogue—and even that changes a lot.” For Bertolucci, the actors “make the characters.” And Brando knows how to improvise: it isn’t just Brando improvising, it’s Brando improvising as Paul. This is certainly similar to what Mailer was trying to do as the gangster and the cop and the movie director, but when (Norman) Mailer improvises (in his films: Wild 90 and Beyond The Law), he expresses only a bit of himself. When Brando improvises within Bertolucci’s structure, his full art is realized. His performance is not like Mailer’s acting but like Mailer’s best writing: intuitive, rapt, princely. On the screen, Brando is our genius as Mailer is our genius in literature.

The Age Of Movies (2011) Pauline Kael P. 335

Working with Brando, Bertolucci achieves realism with the terror of actual experience still alive on the screen. With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Massimo Girotti, Catherine Allegret, and Maria Michi. Script by Bertolucci and the editor, Franco Arcalli; cinematography by Vittorio Storaro; music by Gato Barbieri; production design by Ferdinando Scarfiotti; produced by Alberto Grimaldi. 

5001 Nights At The Movies, A guide from A to Z (1982) Pauline Kael P. 410.