Tag Archives: Monica Vitti

Of Cabbages and Kings

My post of September 18 –with the quote about L’eclisse– sits on the page like a sour kind of parable.  The Fat Man is America, you see.  The lost 50 million lire is, according to your preference, a bundle of mortgage-backed securities or the $700B bailout.  But Paulson is no Antonioni, though no one else wants the director’s chair just now.  And not even in Bill Kristol’s sickest fantasies could Sarah Palin fill Monica Vitti’s toeless high heels.  The joke really is on us.  What’s left, then, but a slow shuffle down the street for a comfortless scotch or a glass of acqua minerale?

It sounds like a bad economist’s pun, but the problem, they say, is a lack of security – or, rather, having too much of the wrong sort of security.  But if we’re looking ahead to a long decline of empire, perhaps there’s a bright side to it all.  It may afford us leisure enough to take up old hobbies again. Time to start sketching flowers.  No drawing pad?  Here, use this scrap of napkin…  Flowers, at least, are nice to look at and tend not to have strong opinions on economic or political issues.  I can’t help but think of Montaigne in his cabbage garden.  He said so many of my favorite things.  One of them was this:

At a time when to do evil is so common, to do only what is useless is praiseworthy.

Which is nice encouragement, since it makes distraction heroic, and so many of the things I’m interested in doing right now fall into that ‘useless’ category.

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Doodles and Dollars

In Antonioni’s film L’eclisse, the luminous Monica Vitti visits the Rome stock exchange, where her fiancée, played by Alain Delon, works.  Delon points out a fat man who has just lost 50 million lire.  Intrigued, she follows the man.  He orders a drink at a bar, barely touches it, then goes to a café where he orders an acqua minerale, which he again barely touches.  He is writing something on a piece of paper, and leaves it on the table.  We imagine that it must be a set of furious, melancholy figures.  Vitti approaches the table, and sees that it is a drawing of a flower…

[T]he joke is nicely on us.  We had a stock idea of how the financial victim responds to catastrophe – collapse, despair, self-defenestration – and Antonioni confounded our expectations.  The character slips through our changing perceptions, like a boat moving through canal locks.  We begin in misplaced certainty and end in placeless mystery.

~ James Wood, How Fiction Works

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