There’s an established way, in literature and in pictures, as epitomized in Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, of portraying artistic passion as an inescapable, self-destructing, unstoppable, amoral urge to create.

Two films I’ve recently seen conform to this pattern. La Belle Noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991) tells the story of a painter. It’s three hours fifty-eight minutes of painting. A naked model, for your information, who must surely hold the record of more time nude in a single scene. Not that the film’s great —but it conveys the passion, the need, the insanity.

A little more morbid but equally effective is Philip Kaufman’s Quills (2000), which freely portrays the Marquis de Sade at the mental asylum he was secluded in sometime in his life, privileged as an inmate as long as he’s allowed to write, until that comes to an end.


PUZZLE (2018), directed by Marc Turtletaub. Not the typical tale of a woman realizing her potential, but rather a subtle, and remarkably not moving, portrayal of the different natural ways, good or bad, useful or harmful, in which ordinary men and ordinary women see the world around and interact with it.

You can also take the symbolic path and see here the story of Adam and Eve, retold, with the divine retribution being that of I’ll make it harder for you male to understand female, and for you female to understand male.

The Last Sunset

THE FILM — Superb. Probably the best western I’ve ever seen. A perfectly linked succession of non-trivial tropes very creatively enacted over a powerful Freudian symbolism worth of a Zizek review. No wonder that Lauren Bacall was offered the role of Belle Breckinridge but found the subject matter to be rather offensive (imdb).

A LINK — Between this dialogue, that takes place in front of a Mexican church,

STRIBLING (Rock Hudson): Lots of hopes, lots of prayers must’ve started here.

BELLE (Dorothy Malone): Or ended. Babies being christened, women burying their dead.

STRIBLING: Sometimes men, too.


STRIBLING: I lost my wife and two daughters in an Osage war party.

BELLE: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m afraid I was only thinking of myself. To me, it’s always seemed like the women who keep on living. Men kill or get killed. And women bury them. We’re professional survivors.

and what Mircea Eliade (The Sacred and the Profane) has to say about the mythical justification of cannibalism in those societies where it’s actually practiced, based on a religious vision of life:

For the vegetable world to continue, man must kill and be killed; in addition, he must assume sexuality to its extreme limit —the orgy. An Abyssinian song declares this: “She who has not yet engendered, let her engender; he who has not yet killed, let him kill!” This is a way of saying that the two sexes are doomed to assume their destiny”

SO, THE TWO SEXES — Masculinity at its best both in the roles played (masterfully) by Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson: protectiveness, straightforwardness, sportsmanship, trueness to one’s word, courage, sense of duty, absence of malice, and strength; with some of their inevitable counterparts as well, like ingenuity, pig-headedness, roughness, and helplessness when the danger comes not frankly. Masculinity at its worst in the roles of Mr Breckenridge and of course the hired treacherous cowboys. Feminity at its worst in the role of Belle-Mrs Breckenridge, and feminity at its best in that of her daughter Missy-Melissa,

BREN: Of course you can. And one of these days, a boy’ll come along…

MELISSA: I don’t want a boy. I want you.

BREN: You want someone who’ll fill your heart with warmth and sunlight. You want a young man, not me. All I can do is throw a cloud over you.

MELISSA: I’m not afraid of clouds. I’m not afraid of anything.

that is, determination, fearlessness, love and caring, long-term thinking, independence of character.

And the joy of life, male or female.