Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wholly Mole

For a museum about the Art of Vision, - Turin's Museo del cinema, housed in the 19th century Mole Antonelliana, is a strangely difficult place to see, at least from the outside. You can see from it, in fact, the panorama from the top is breathtaking, but you can't really see it - or at least, it defies capturing on camera. You only get pieces of it on a photo, for it is sandwiched between apartments blocks, and despite its height, it peeps between terracotta roofs, unless you're equipped with sky hooks the only way to get the whole thing in your shot is to distort it by foreshortening that impressive dome, or cutting off the spire, or the bottom floors, losing the sense of proportions.  
Once, inside, you don't immediately get the full picture, either. There's a fair bit of queuing involved, since everyone wants to go up in the panoramic elevator.  It's a bit dim, on the ground floor. The first thing you see is the plastic-swathed coffee shop, named Cabiria, like the movie. The tables are lit from within, and go from lilac to red to green; there are screens set into them so you won't be bored as you munch on your piadina.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Toby's hour

It just stood there, a shadow on the pathway. As still as a sentinel, so still, and for so long, that it almost seemed unreal, as if time had stopped. 
We stopped too. 
It seemed impossible to just march past such watchful stillness, and the path through the woods, which had until then seemed nothing more than a track between a dozen trees, joining one stretch of river-walk to another, seemed to grow into a dark forest, where the wild things are.
Plus, it might bite.
But then some cyclists buzzed by, and it stumbled out of the way of their slicing wheels, and became a dog again, and rather sorry for himself.
Herself. I stood corrected. I wasn't convinced; it looked like a boy to me, but my assertion that it was a Belgian shepherd was conceded, so I decided to yield the point.
The dog was not scared, not thin, not particularly lost looking. We just walked by.
"It probably got out of its garden, you know, ran away. Belgian Shepherds are terrible for that," I said, remembering when Sam killed the ducks. That was twenty years ago, but I still remember what they did to Sam afterwards. "Or maybe it's been abandoned. Poor thing."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fruit Flies: Cavour

Cavour is a  baby Alp that has strayed from the pack, it sticks out of the muddy, field-rich plain like a stone fallen from heaven. No, 'that' Cavour wasn't born here, you know, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour one of the Fathers of the unification of Italy (150 years ago this year) came into the world in Turin, under French rule at the time, and just took the title out of the family collection; his country house isn't here either, that's over somewhere near Cuneo.
But the village celebrates him handsomely anyway, at the Town Hall, with lots of flags and flowers, and some ant-foul-fowl netting that's suggestive of some pigeon-related drama in the past.
ooo - Nice bust, even if it's all a bit tenuous.
There's nothing vague about the Rocca, though. The pretty village nestles under it, on the plain, like a kitten curled up next to the mother cat.
From the main piazza, full of flowers and pinky-yellow houses, you can walk right up the mountain,  before long you're looking down on the church tower if you've got the stamina.
Or just drive up. Much better.
There used to be a castle at the top, and before that, I don't know, some sort of Celtic settlement. 
There are ruins, the usual religious statue in a pergola. The pergola has an inscription along the lines of 'delle alpi inviolabili delle ridenti pianure, le ossa ed i ricordi di sua sabauda fierezza". Sabauda fierezza is a fancy name for Savoy pride. There's also a restaurant tucked into the cliffside, and on the grassy knoll, benches - and the view.
Every country is a patchwork of ways of life, but you're never more so aware of it, than up here. The wild and the tamed, stone and soil, peak and pasture pushing against each other, like two tides.
It's all about apples, Cavour. There's a festival in November, the Tuttomele, in which they celebrate ... everything apple, and make a fuss of their twin city in Argentina, Las Varillas. Lots of Piemontesi went to Argentina, mostly just before and after WWII. Hardly any came back.
Apples! Apart from the obvious cakes and pasties, they make liqueur from it, and bars of apple chocolate, and, from September to July, little cakes and round chocs with rum and almonds, called Cavours. We bought the absolutely last ones made before the shop closed for the summer holidays.
The other thing to do, on Cavour's rock, is to watch the flying. There's so much to see, from the submarine clouds,
to the butterflies basking on the rocks,
and silver planes sliding across the silhouetted mountains,,
... and daredevil deltas, racing around the peak with a cheery wave, so close that it feels like you could hand them a sandwich, as they splutter past the hilltop, and off into the blue. Cheese and apple, maybe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The point

Punta della dogana is the tip of the city. Well, one of many tips, maybe, but it feels like an especially pointy bit of Venice, a little blank triangle of solid ground in a world where sky and lagoon manage to squash the city into a fat squiggle at most, a man-made crack between them.
 This triangle belongs to the city's Accademia delle Belle Arti, ensconced in the rooms and courtyards of the old Hospital for the Incurables (let's hope it's nothing catching). Full of goodies is understatement of the year, but this here is the one piece that everyone, all our fellow canal-and calle wandering gawpers, too cheap to pay entry fees, like best.
It is a sudden rush of perfection, a delight of white at the end of a long walk, the pristine figure, curved, young and alert, Boy with Frog, by LA artist, Charles Ray .
This is the point of art, surely. Refreshment perfected.
Another young man is standing around. He is twenty years old; about as pale as the boy, but wearing more clothes. Shiny shoes, the classic black pants and pale blue shirt of Security Guards everywhere. Meeting his gaze, those chilly eyes, the colour of the horizon, and the word Kapo springs to mind.
Two ladies sidle up to the statue; they are saying things to each other in Spanish about cheeks. You can just tell.
The Kapo hustles them away roughly, harsh. Don't touch, he growls. There's no sign saying you can't handle the trim gluteus, if anything, it seems to invite a palm and a giggle. Nobody seems that interested in the boy's face, or the frog he holds. The Kapo is stern. The women walk away, a little crushed.
Seconds later another pair of ladies arrive. They are tourists from somewhere more exotic, but their hands also can't help reaching for the bum. Touching butts is lucky everywhere, it seems.
I suddenly wonder if it's shame that makes his eyes so hard. Perhaps he feels shooing tourists away from an acrylic posterior is beneath him.
A girl comes out of the Academy; his boss, it seems. She asks him what he's doing out there, she says something about not being paid to just watch one piece of art, that he's needed inside. He looks at her like she's soap and lampshades already.
We move off down the quay towards the lounging gondoliers, as the other tourists do. There's no luck to be had here.
The boy with the frog stands with his face pointed out to sea, but his gaze is fixed on his prisoner, helpless, upside-down. And the guard looks on.