Thursday, April 01, 2010

Relative Esoterica

From Turpentine and Truth

I was watching Warner Brothers' not insignificantly flawed but immensely atmospheric The Two Mrs. Carrolls.

Sally Carroll (Barbara Stanwyck), having gushed into an upper-floor studio, freezes, instantly sick and horrified at the sight of Geoffrey, her artist spouse (Humphrey Bogart), assiduously and zealously going over a canvas with a turpentine-soaked rag.
Sally: Geoffrey, what are you doing?
Geoffrey: Something I should have done weeks ago – I'm sick of looking at it – it was phony.
Sally: Oh, Sweetheart, you shouldn't have done that – you might not think it's so good, but someone might have bought it.
Geoffrey: Well, I don't care what other people think – it's what I think.
Sally: But you thought it was good once.
Geoffrey: That's why I know I'm slipping.
Sally: You can't always paint masterpieces.
Geoffrey: Well, I can always try.
Barbara ... Babs ... Missy ... Sally – don't get me wrong – my sympathies are with you in the grand scheme of this little Warner Brothers drama. But your crazy, murderous, obnoxious, implacable husband is right, here: If you're an artist – heck, even if you're not an artist, but merely a person of integrity – you can't shove something out, to which you feel no sense of attachment or commitment, on the hope or assumption that no one will recognize its inauthenticity or feel its counterfeitness and that people will clamour to buy it, blinded by its slick, shiny veneer.

Sure, you know they may buy it, purchase it, with money. But ultimately, in another more important sense, they won't buy it – they'll become aware of its absence of credibility. You know that – as an artist, a human being – and you can't be associated with something that is simply "product," statement without substance. Even if you have no pretensions to producing masterpieces, you can't put out intentionally small, modest things – you can't release words – that are just puffs, hollow. You have to omit – or keep the turpentine handy.

Funny that a no-good bum but ego-maniacal character like Geoffrey Carroll could see this much.