20 July 2015

Anne Fontaine’s ‘Gemma Bovery’

Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary, set in mid-19th century Normandy and a pillar of French literature, has been filmed on several occasions, for example by Claude Chabrol in 1991 and by Sophie Barthes in 2014, soon to be released in the UK. We are also going to have the opportunity to see Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery, a version at one remove from Flaubert’s and with a British twist. Posy Simmonds started her cartoon comic strips in the Guardian in the 1970s. They offered a satirical view of contemporary middle-class life, at least as lived by Guardian readers, and anticipated the sharper style of some of Grayson Perry’s pots and tapestries. In 1999 the Guardian ran Simmonds’ reworking of Flaubert as a graphic novel in which Emma Bovary becomes Gemma Bovery, half of an expatriate British couple living in present-day Normandy. It was later published in book form, with rather more text than would be found in a normal bande dessinée (see below, thanks to Amazon):

It is hardly a plot spoiler to say that Emma’s enthusiasm for adultery ends badly - if it hadn’t, the prosecution of Flaubert in 1857 for obscenity might not have failed. Gemma’s particular fate is retold in Simmond’s version through the eyes of the local baker (Boulanger with a small b …) and Flaubert admirer, Raymond Joubert. In the film he becomes Martin Joubert and is played by Fabrice Luchini, an actor whose expression conveys paragraphs. The intertwining of Joubert and Flaubert brings to mind Luchini in Philippe-le-Guay’s Alceste à bicyclette, where the literary presence was Molière and the setting the Ile de Ré. Gemma Arterton as Gemma Bovery is well-equipped to set male pulses racing and there are some comical scenes, for example when Martin teaches Gemma to knead dough. The attractive locations apart, Gemma Bovery is carried by Luchini and Arterton, the two leads overshadowing the rest of the cast, even Jason Flemyng as husband Charles/Charlie. Some of the other British characters seem to have been cast in the style of Woody Allen’s London films – all spoken English is now apparently a hybrid of Mockney and Estuarial.

I thought it was a better film than Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe in 2010, also with Arterton in the title role and based on a Simmonds graphic novel modernising Thomas Hardy’s Wessex novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Tamara Drewe was given 4* ratings by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian and Philip French in the Observer - perhaps not surprisingly - and elsewhere. It will be interesting to see the UK critics’ reactions to Gemma Bovery next month.

13 July 2015

Sculpture in Gloucestershire

This was also the title of a post here four years ago which covered an exhibition at Gallery Pangolin in Chalford and that year’s Fresh Air outdoor sculpture exhibition not far away in Quenington. History repeats itself, sometimes agreeably, because Pangolin are putting on their fourth one-man show of works by Terence Coventry, Sculpture and Works on paper, while Fresh Air 2015 has just finished.

Coventry was born in Birmingham in 1938 but has spent much of his life in Cornwall including a period working for Barbara Hepworth in St Ives. Some of his spare and dramatic pieces are made in Corten steel (COR-TEN) which weathers to a stable oxide surface, for example Corten Owl I (below left) and Corten Torso (below right):

Bronzes of various sizes at Pangolin include Man Releasing Bird II and Woman Releasing Bird (below, left and right): 

Another bronze, Boar II (below top) and the powder-coated steel, Monumental Steel Bull (below lower):

were at Gloucester Cathedral during Crucible2 last year, as were bronzes by Coventry, Monumental Gannet Head, and by Jon Buck, Midnite Movie Heads, both to be seen at Fresh Air 2015:

There were over 170 items at Quenington, so what follows is just a few of those which I liked, starting with a bronze by Carol Peace, Red Ribbon (below left), quite different from Edwina Bridgeman’s Cos After All (below right), constructed from recycled plastic crates:

I’m not sure garden sculpture is at its best when it attempts to compete for space in the border as a quasi-vegetable (top), but Dorcas Casey’s Mule Head (lower) was clearly there on its own terms:

as were Tom Hackett’s Shaggy Dog Stories (below left), funded by Arts Council England, and Paul Cox’s Rabbits (£3000 and £1390 each respectively): 

What would I like to have taken home to my own garden? Probably Wendy Lawrence’s ceramic Disc Form (below):

Terence Coventry, Sculpture and Works continues until 24 July. Fresh Air 2015 ended on 5 July but will be back in 2017, all being well.

I posted here about Fresh Air 2013.