Posts Tagged ‘The Ten Commandments’

And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Exodus 2:22

I was looking at the piece above early this morning. It’s been with me for a long time and I sometimes take it for granted and don’t take the time to engage with it. But this morning I looked at it longer than I had in some time, reconnecting with what it has meant to me. Maybe it was because it’s near that time of the year when I get to indulge a guilty pleasure with my annual viewing of The Ten Commandments, the campy biblical epic from Cecil B. DeMille that always runs on ABC during the week before Easter. Or maybe it’s that the pronunciation of the Hebrew word ger which means stranger sounds the same as the shortened version of my name that my family often used for me growing. I don’t really know but thought that it would be appropriate to share a post about it that has ran a couple of times during the many years this blog has been around.

I have been writing recently about some of the orphans, those paintings that make the rounds of the galleries and finally come back to me. The piece above is one of these orphans but it really isn’t. It’s mine alone, one of the rare pieces that I don’t think I would ever give up. Like many parents when looking at their children, I see much of myself in this painting.

Over the years I have periodically written about a group of paintings that were considered my Dark Work that were painted in the year or so after 9/11. The piece shown above is one of these paintings, painted sometime in early 2002. I very seldom consider a painting being for myself only but this one has always felt, from the very minute it was completed, as though it should stay with me.

It is titled  Stranger (In a Strange Land) which is derived from the title of Robert Heinlein’s famous sci-fi novel which in turn was derived from the words of Moses in Exodus 2:22, shown here at the top. The name Gershom is derived from the Hebrew words ger which means stranger or temporary resident and sham which means there. Together Gershom means a stranger there. It is defined now as either exile or sojourner.

The landscape in this piece has an eerie, alien feel to it under that ominous sky. When I look at it I am instantly reminded of the feeling of that sense of not belonging that I have often felt throughout my life, as though I was that stranger in that strange land. The rolling field rows in the foreground remind me just a bit of the Levite cloth that adorned Moses when he was discovered in the Nile as an infant, a symbol of origin and heritage that acts as a comforting element here, almost like a swaddling blanket for the stranger as he views the landscape before him.

As I said, it is one of those rare pieces that I feel is for me alone, that has only personal meaning, even though I am sure there are others who will recognize that same feeling in this. For me  this painting symbolizes so much that feeling of alienation that I have experienced for much of my life, that same feeling from which my other more optimistic and hopeful work sprung as a reaction to it. Perhaps this is where I saw myself as being and the more hopeful work was where I aspired to be.

Anyway, that’s enough for my five-cent psychology  lesson for today.  In short, this is a piece that I see as elemental to who I am and where I am going. This one stays put.

Here’s a little of the great (and I think underappreciated) Leon Russell from way back in 1971 singing, appropriately,  Stranger in a Stranger Land

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Once again, it’s the time of the year when the movie, The Ten Commandments, takes to the airwaves, an Easter tradition on ABC.  I’m pretty sure I mentioned in the past how much I enjoy this film on so many levels.  It has a great epic quality from the solemn narration by its director, Cecil B. DeMille, to the huge sets employed.

It also has a great deal of goofiness in the writing and acting, where I sometimes feel like I’m watching an SCTV skit and half expect Eugene Levy to stumble into the scene.  Pure kitsch.

When you throw in the fact that it’s such a great tale, it makes for a great night of viewing.

Here’s something that has very little to do with the movie except for the title.  It’s Desmond Dekker‘s early reggae hit, The Israelites.  When I hear this song I am immediately transformed to being a kid listening to this song in our kitchen on my Dad’s big old plastic AM radio that had its batteries held in place with a piece of wood in its open backside.

Anyway, enjoy…

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Michael CaineI saw a short piece on the news-magazine show CBS Sunday Morning that profiled actor Michael Caine.  I have always liked Caine and many of his movies, although I sometimes question some of his choices.  The interesting part was when they pointed out how many of his 60’s era movies have had modern remakes.  Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter and several more have all been subjected to an updated retelling.  All fell short of the originals.

Caine said he didn’t understand why a moviemaker would want to remake a successful, well made film.  To his mind it made more sense to find a movie that had flopped but had a good storyline and remake that.  His Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was such a case, having been a flop, with another name,  starring Marlon Brando.

This kind of reinforced what I had mentioned in my Saturday post about The Ten Commandments where I talked about how modern moviemakers remake a classic film with new people and the newest technology and deliver films with more realism but less entertainment value.  They can never recreate the chemistry required to make a film  work. They forget that movies are about people first.  All the greatest cinematic technology and attention to detail mean nothing if the viewer can’t make some type of connection with the characters.  This human element is somehow overlooked by modern moviemakers.  

Like painting, all the technical prowess in the world means nothing if people can’t feel attachment to the work. 

I just thought it was an interesting point to think over while I’m waiting for them to remake Casablanca.  I hear they’re going to cast Matthew McConaughey to take over Bogart’s Rick character.

Just kidding- I hope…

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the-ten-commandments-1956-movie-05Well, it’s the day before Easter which can only mean one thing:  the annual showing of The Ten Commandments, the 1956 epic film from Cecille B. DeMille.  

I always look forward to watching this movie not so much from any admiration of its quality as great cinema (though it is great moviemaking with its beautiful cinematography and color and the great musical score) but more so for the treasure trove of kitsch it bears.  I love the clumsy, stilted lines of dialogue.  The stylized overacting- Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri and John Derek’s Joshua are right out of the earliest, clumsiest silent films.  The boo-hiss quality of Yul Brynner’s Rameses.  And how can you not love Edward G. Robinson playing Dathan, snarling, “Where’s your Moses now?”  in that oft imitated voice straight out of Little Caesar.

But the star is Moses.  Love him or hate him, Charlton Heston was the perfect specimen for this or any epic movie.  Don’t get me started on Ben Hur. His physical stature, his deep voice and his ability to deliver the most wooden lines with complete commitment make his portrayal a complete pleasure to watch.  A tour de force.

Modern moviemakers always try to remake these epic type movies with full attention to every detail, trying to bring realism and authenticity to the story.  But while there may be realism there is no entertainment quality and they never measure up to the very films that some of these people mock.  This is is real entertainment.

So if you get a chance tonight, look in for a while (because it is a very lonnnng movie) and enjoy…

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