Archive for fog

Apr
03

The constant Casanova

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Here we go again.

Here we go again.

If you think the tides are predictable, consider the movie industry and Venice.

Many and varied have been the films made here, from “The Wings of the Dove” to “Death in Venice” to “The Tourist” and on and on.  And those are just a few titles in English; plenty of other nations have sent their troupes here to act out among the canals.  Has anyone seen Nenu Naa RakshasiLes Enfants du Siecle?

But you can’t go wrong with Giacomo Casanova.  Sure, we’ve seen Effie Gray‘s life detailed — it’s finally coming out this week — and George Sand and Chopin (all so famous in their day), but these are not marquee names.  Casanova, though, is a product with no expiration date; his exploits, real or imagined, have made him film fodder no fewer than eleven times.  Sorry, make that twelve, counting the one they were shooting here a few days ago.

Amazon is getting into the streaming-films game (see: Netflix and Marco Polo), and this version of the madcap entrepreneur’s life will focus, I was told, on Casanova after he went into exile.  It was a movie-worthy life pretty much up to the end.  He was definitely not all show (or as they say here, “Beautiful vineyard but puny grapes”); here is something he wrote about his famous escape from prison which deserves to be read and remembered:

“Thus did God provide me with what I needed for an escape which was to be a wonder if not a miracle. I admit that I am proud of it; but my pride does not come from my having succeeded, for luck had a good deal to do with that; it comes from my having concluded that the thing could be done and having had the courage to undertake it.

Now back to me and our two days with the boats.

Dawn is a great time to be out filming.  Not much traffic, and plenty of atmosphere.

Dawn is a great time to be out filming. Not much traffic, and plenty of atmosphere.

Sunday  morning before dawn, at dawn, after dawn.  The task was for Alvise Rigo, a member of our boating organization, Arzana', to row Casanova's stunt double up and down a small stretch of the Grand Canal.  Happily, there was little wind and few waves and not a whole lot of current.  But it was chilly and damp, and sitting still for an hour or two couldn't have been very pleasant.  But like the man said as he removed the elephant droppings after the circus closed, "What?  And give up show business?"

Sunday morning before dawn, at dawn, after dawn. The task was for Alvise Rigo, a member of our boating organization, Arzana’, to row Casanova’s stunt double up and down a small stretch of the Grand Canal. Happily, there was little wind and few waves and not a whole lot of current. But it was chilly and damp, and sitting still for an hour or two couldn’t have been very pleasant. But like the man said as he removed the elephant droppings after the circus closed, “What? And give up show business?”

Making a movie, from what I have seen, is like writing “Remembrance of Things Past” on an endless series of postage stamps.  Enormous amounts of toil involving equipment, technicians, objects of every sort, humans of every pay grade, and uncounted hours of just loading and unloading things, setting them up and taking them down, are dedicated to putting even the tiniest fragments of story on film.

Last Sunday and Monday the filming was in high gear in Venice; at certain crucial moments Giacomo would need a boat, and Lino and I and several others were there with two vessels: a small mascareta that just sat there and looked boaty, and a gondola, a replica built several years ago of the type used in the 18th century, to aid his escape (or so it appeared).  No costumes or makeup for us this time, we were just the boat wranglers.

Which was fine with me.  Although I thoroughly enjoy getting paid, even just a few euros, for just standing around doing nothing, doing something is better in most ways.  So we had episodes of rowing, and pushing, and pulling, and lifting, and watching mobs of multilingual people doing stuff you are unable to comprehend in any useful way.

Here is something I discovered: When the director yells “Silenzio!!” just before “Action!” you can hear a baby hiccup in the hospital on the mainland.  You cannot believe how many noises there are in normal life until it’s imperative that you hear nothing.  That was the most entertaining thing of all: What is that tiny little humming behind that building at the end of the street?  How can shoes with rubber soles actually make a sound going over the bridge behind you?  The canal is blocked by a watch-boat at both ends to block traffic.  The waiting boats have to turn off their engines.  Total silence falls.

Then the church bells start to ring.

Finally they stop.  “Action!”  (Action.)  “Cut!”  (Lunch.)

Then we rowed the boats back home.  That was it.

Fred Astaire once stated that he only “did it for the dough and the old applause.”  For me, no need to rush on the applause.

Dawn was lovely, but they needed fog. Happily, they'd brought their own, pouring out of canisters and swept around by someone with a big wooden paddle. Being a fog designer must be a very specialized skill.

Dawn was lovely, but they needed fog. Happily, they’d brought their own, pouring out of canisters and swept around by someone with a big wooden paddle. Being a fog designer must be a very specialized skill.

Canisters at the ready, they wait for the next cue.  And by the way, the fake fog (or real smoke, or whatever it is) had a fairly unpleasant odor that made you think of a factory that had avoided inspections for quite a while.

Canisters at the ready, they wait for the next cue. And by the way, the fake fog (or real smoke, or whatever it is) had a fairly unpleasant odor that made you think of a factory that had avoided inspections for quite a while.

IMG_6746  casa

Moody.  Keep it going because the sun is coming up.

Moody. Keep it going because the sun is coming up.

IMG_6722  casa

In the intervals between fog banks, the sun continued to rise; at 7:05 or so, it hit the mosaics on the facade of the Salviati palace.

In the intervals between fog banks, the sun continued to rise, like it does; at 7:05 or so, the light hit the mosaics on the facade of the Palazzo Barbarigo.

Next stop was by Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio, where Alvise waited to be told where he had to meet the fog again.

Next stop was by Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, where Alvise waited to be told where he had to meet the fog again.

But wait -- the coat's not funky enough.  A pump canister sprayed some unpleasant color on the fabric -- perhaps he needed to look as if he'd slept under a bridge.  His wig certainly gave that impression.

But wait — the coat’s not funky enough. A pump canister sprayed some unpleasant color on the fabric — perhaps he needed to look as if he’d slept under a bridge. His wig certainly gave that impression.

Did I just mention the wig?  Evidently it was too neat, or clean, or something.  Can't have that, so on with another substance.

Did I just mention the wig? Evidently it was too neat, or clean, or something. Can’t have that, so on with another substance.

And more waiting....

And more waiting….

Fog!  That's his cue!

Fog!  That’s his cue!

Lino and I rowed the gondola over to our next location, behind Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo, where it was our turn to wait.  Just think: Somebody came rowing by that Lino knows. They exchanged variationson the "What are you doing here?" theme and the friend rowed on.

Lino and I rowed the gondola over to our next location, behind Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo, where it was our turn to wait.  Somebody came rowing by and just think — it was somebody that Lino knows. They exchanged variations on the “Working hard?” “Hardly working” theme  and the friend rowed on.

Monday morning we all met (and this isn't even "all" yet) at S. Francesco de la Vigna.  On such a glorious spring morning, what more could we need but....

Monday morning we all met (and this isn’t even “all” yet) at S. Francesco de la Vigna. On such a glorious spring morning, the only thing missing is….

Fog!  This time we've got heavy-duty blasters that look like dustbusters gone berserk.

Fog! This time we’ve got heavy-duty blasters that look like dustbusters gone berserk.

Yep, we're getting up to speed, koff koff.  Can anybody see the actors?  Are they even here?

Yep, we’re getting up to speed, koff koff. Can anybody see the actors? Are they even here?

Action!  Casanova races ahead of his faithful accomplice toward the waiting gondola.  It took approximately 20 seconds. They did this five times,

Action! Casanova races ahead of his faithful accomplice toward the waiting gondola. It took approximately 20 seconds. They did this five times,

The humble mascareta was being prepared for its big moment.  It was loaded with fishing nets, which the accomplice stopped to wildly rummage among on the way to the gondola.  But this will be the close-up shot of said rummaging, so we need to do as much titivating to the boat as they do to the actors.

The humble mascareta was being prepared for its big moment. It was loaded with fishing nets, which the accomplice stopped to wildly rummage among on the way to the gondola. But this will be the close-up shot of said rummaging, so we need to do as much titivating to the boat as they do to the actors.

There were so many people clustered  around the boat peering at it that I thought maybe it was about to give birth or something.

There were so many people clustered around the boat peering at it that I thought maybe it was about to give birth or something.

Yes, Mr. DeMille, it's ready for its closeup  now.

Yes, Mr. DeMille, it’s ready for its closeup now.

Preparing for the next fragment: Casanova in the boat (to which he has just raced, you recall).  But something is missing, you say?  Tehre is a boat in the distance prepared to correct that...

Preparing for the next fragment: Casanova in the boat (to which he has just raced, you recall). But something is missing, you say?  Ah, but there is a boat in the distance prepared to correct that…

FOG!!  It's going to be bearing down on us any minute.  This point is correct historically, may I mention, so kudos to the researcher.  There was loads of fog, which was a huge help to the fleeing hero.  Koff Koff.

FOG!! It’s going to be bearing down on us any minute. This point is correct historically, may I mention, so kudos to the researcher. There was loads of fog on the fateful day, which was a huge help to the fleeing hero. Koff koff.

And of course, the original Casanova didn't have much spare time to check his e-mail.

And of course, the original Casanova didn’t have much spare time to check his e-mail.

 

Categories : Events
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Feb
28

Spring sneaks forward

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Small tree but flourishing with blossoms.  I'm sure the tree doesn't know it's small.

A small tree but flowering with all its heart. I’m sure the tree doesn’t know it’s small.

Veteran readers are all too aware of my passion for watching for the First Signs of things — mostly from the natural world. Yes, confetti counts.

Venice has had a totally boring winter.  It hasn’t even really been winter.  The temperature may have gone just barely  below zero once or twice, but it would have been at night and I didn’t notice. We could practically have turned off the heat (thereby foiling the vampires of the gas company who suck whatever financial blood we manage to build up). But that would have encouraged mold and the smell of damp.

For the record, there was acqua alta a few times, but it wasn’t dramatically high, nor dramatically frequent.

I do feel sorry for everyone who has had to endure the apocalyptic winter which has struck much of the US and Europe  But for us here, it’s been some fog, some rain, some more rain, a little more fog, and that’s about it.

Therefore it was only a small surprise to discover that the demure little plum tree (Prunus domestica) near the Giardini decided it was time to bloom.  It’s pretty unusual to see blooms in late February, but there they were. Early?  Late?  Blossoms don’t tend to pay attention to that. There have been violets on the lawn at the Morosini Naval School for a week already.

I hope that March doesn’t play one of its amusing little meteorological tricks on the flowers and leaves.  Whatever this season could be called, it’s time for it to move on and make room for another season to have a chance.  Perhaps the plum blossoms are just one of nature’s ways of hinting that it’s time for winter to go home.

 

Categories : Nature
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Here’s what we’re getting today for a refreshing change of meteorological pace:  Rain.

It was raining yesterday, too, and it’s expected to continue for another two, or maybe three, days.

Changing perspective does nothing to alleviate the grimy appearance of the world.  Here, the view from the Giudecca shows the usual beautiful silhouette, but the color scheme is limited to about three colors, all too closely related to be allowed to marry.

Jan. 14: Changing perspective does nothing to alleviate the grimy appearance of the world. In Venice there are not 50 shades of grey.  There appear to be about three, all too closely related to be allowed to marry.

Well, you say, at least it’s not fog.  This is very true.  But the grey remains.  And the fog is expected to return.

I think that all the grey clouds in the northern hemisphere decided to come to Venice on holiday.  They got bored, hanging day and night over Oslo and Bydgoszcz and the Kaliningrad Oblast.  So here they are and they’re really enjoying their vacation.

an. 15. What can I say? If I say I wish we'd get snow or hail, it would sound like I want things to be worse. Maybe I just won't say anything.

Jan. 15. What can I say? If I say I wish we’d get snow or hail, it would sound like I want things to be worse. Maybe I just won’t say anything.

“Oh, we don’t want to do anything,” they all agreed; “We want to relax, look around, just chill for a while in the most beautiful city in the world that we’ve all heard so eternally much about. We’ll just hang out and be all grey and dismal while we’re at it.”  All these clouds either bought a one-way ticket because they have no definite plans to go home, or they drove here in a friend’s car and now they’ve lost track of the friend.  It happens.

But here’s something wonderful:  I heard the year’s first blackbird yesterday morning.  As you know, this is a pivotal moment for me. I won’t attempt a sonnet in praise of this avian avatar but I bring him forward as a sign that spring is still a possibility.

Obviously not Shelley's famous skylark, but for me the unmistakable outline and color of the blackbird does the same job for me.  Whether this bird's spirit is blithe maybe open to discussion, but I'm enchanted by whoever  created this image on the parapet by the Giardini.  Sing on!

Obviously not Shelley’s famous skylark, but for me the unmistakable outline and color of the blackbird does the same job for me. Whether this bird’s spirit is blithe maybe open to discussion, but I’m enchanted by whoever created this image on the parapet by the Giardini. Sing on!

Categories : Venetian-ness
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Jan
14

Is it sad? Or is it just meh?

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The last time I saw the sun shine was January 6.  It must have been a special gift from the Befana, one heck of a great stocking stuffer for the whole city. Here is what the morning of Epiphany looked like.  Dwell long and lovingly upon it, because evidently we’re not going to see its like again, if the week that followed is any indication.

"Glorious" is not a word I usually think of applying to via Garibaldi, but in this case the street applied it to itself and I just got to watch.

“Glorious” is not a word I usually think of applying to via Garibaldi, but in this case the street applied it to itself and I just got to watch.

Well, that was wonderful.  It was like falling in love; I wish it could have gone on forever.  But the next morning fog took over and hasn’t left yet –the weather has become as tedious as Sheridan Whiteside, a/k/a “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” but not as amusing.

Because fog, whatever its density, wears out its welcome very fast.  That’s just an expression; nobody welcomes fog.  Water in the form of acqua alta is one thing; it may come, but you know it won’t be long before it goes.  Water in the form of fog, when it’s not too heavy, is like an enormous sheet of grey gauze pulled across the face of the world, and you just have to put up with it until it’s gone, whenever that might be.

The fog was too thick to allow us to go rowing (not that we've never rowed in the fog). But it did provide some beading on the otherwise invisible spiderwebs on the bridge by Sant' Elena.

Jan. 7:  The fog was too thick to allow us to go rowing (not that we’ve never rowed in the fog). But it did string some beads on the otherwise invisible spiderwebs on the bridge by Sant’ Elena.

Fog can be dangerous, of course, but it is more commonly inconvenient — it compels the “GiraCitta'” round-the-city motoscafos to go up the Grand Canal instead of their usual routes.  But where big fog is brawny, the lesser forms of airborne condensation are as monotonous as the droning of the Indian tanpura.

In Italian, there is nebbia and foschia; fog and mist. In Venice people refer to caligo (kah-EE-go), which I’ve only heard used to describe medium- to heavyweight fog. Caligo derives from caligine, which means “haze” (I discover that Caligo is also a genus of butterfly, but let’s stick to the weather).  Technically, caligine is more like smog, which thankfully we don’t have here.

Call it what you will, it’s grey. Dingy grey, drab grey.

Fog lends itself to a particularly useful expression: “filar caligo” (fee-yar kah-EE-go) —  to spin fog. If you are worrying about something, worrying in a particularly elaborate way about something you can’t fix — obsessively, silently, baffled, anxious, and so on — you would say (or some exasperated friend might well say) that you were drio a filar caligo.  It’s the best expression I’ve ever heard for that particularly futile and gnawing kind of worry that drives everybody crazy.  Many people do not reveal that they are in that state of mind precisely because they recognize its futility. But that doesn’t mean they can stop, any more than you can make the fog stop. It just has to go away on its own, usually when the wind changes, or when the thing you dread either comes to pass, or evaporates.

Jan. 9: A morning view of the most beautiful city in the world, etc. etc. It's out there somewhere -- beautiful, undoubtedly.

Jan. 9: A morning view of the most beautiful city in the world, etc. etc. It’s out there somewhere — beautiful, undoubtedly.

Charles Aznavour wrote (with F. Dorin) a song entitled “Que C’est Triste Venise” (Com’e’ Triste Venezia, or “How Sad is Venice”).  That was 1964, and versions in Italian, English, Spanish, German and Catalan have come out since then.  http://youtu.be/aMQ6GyUs-fc

In my opinion, that gave another push to the general idea that Venice is sad.  Maybe it’s where the idea started. But while this song deals only with how sad the city is for the singer because his love is no longer with him, people seem to have concluded that the city itself is sad.  Fog helps, of course.  Cold and dark, even better.

I realize that if you are bereft of the love of your life because the relationship has ended, evidently against your will, and you had happy moments in Venice, of course you’re going to see your own sadness in the city.  It’s natural.  But somehow it seems that the received wisdom about Venice is that it has a particular affinity for melancholy.  It might go just fine with the fog (and cold and dark).  And I suppose Mr. Aznavour could have sung about how sad it is to be in Venice even if he’d been walking down via Garibaldi on Epiphany morning, when the world was coruscating with light, if all he had on his mind was his lapsed love affair.

But why should Venice have to be the world’s favorite sad city?  You could just as credibly sing “How sad is Paducah.”  “How sad is Agbogbloshie.”  “How sad is Sanary-sur-Mer.”  If you’ve lost your love, anywhere is going to feel like Venice in the fog.

There you’d be, wandering aimlessly around downtown Platte City, or wherever, repeating the song’s phrases which admittedly sound much better in French: “How sad is (fill in your town here), in the time of dead loves, how sad is (name here) when one doesn’t love anymore…And how one thinks of irony, in the moonlight, to try to forget what one didn’t say….Farewell, Bridge of Sighs (Susitna River Bridge, Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, Sixth Street Viaduct), Farewell, lost dreams.”

Jan. 12: It wasn't blue, it was grey.

Jan. 12: It wasn’t blue, it was grey.

So I’m going to risk saying something radical: Venice isn’t sad, and it doesn’t make people sad. Venice is just a city, like you and me and everybody who lives here and in Smederevo and Panther Burn and Poggibonsi, trying to figure out how to get from today to tomorrow without leaving too many dents and dings on the surface of life.

I’d like Mr. Aznavour to go find another city in which to remember his lost love. And I’d also like the fog to go somewhere else.  One of my wishes is going to be fulfilled, eventually.

Jan. 13: Wherever you look, you see fuzz.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  This weather doesn't make me remember my lost love(s), it makes me wish I had a fireplace and a mug of cocoa.

Jan. 13: Wherever you look, you see fuzz. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This weather doesn’t make me remember my lost love(s), it makes me wish I’d been better to my mother.

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Categories : Venetian-ness
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