by Gerald Locklin
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Divan Japonais, 1893
The Artist of the Advertisement,
The poster, the color lithograph,
The Artist of the Entertainment,
Of the Entertainer,
Of the dancer Jane Avril;
The flat-chested, thin-armed chanteuse,
Yvette Guilbert; the critical
Of drink, sex, music, gambling,
Pleasure, Gaiety, Desire.
Paris was the Other,
Of Victorian England.
Only the Artist,
As so often is the case,
Was at the Party but not of it,
The Historian of the Orgy,
The (like Voltaire) Philosopher.
But the Parisians understood
God all too well,
His supreme talent for Narration,
Plotting, Achilles’ Heels, Retaliation,
Rising and Falling Actions,
The Economy of the Cosmic Melodrama:
Around the corner lurked
The Infernal Century.
* * *
Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portrait of Arthur Atherley as an Etonian, c. 1791
What an arrogant and odious Pretty Boy—in a way the Blue Boy
Really wasn’t. Soft-brimmed hat in one bare hand, one suede
Glove in the be-gloved other, longcoat over vest,
Maroon on white, with girlish curls to frame
A prematurely predatory countenance—
No wonder “city boys”—day students—scholarship recipients
Like Forster and Orwell came to despise all Etons.
But Marion Davies easily discerned a value in
The image and the execution, and perhaps it gave her added pleasure
That she and Hearst bought and sold aristocratic fops
To adorn their Santa Monica Beach House:
Refuge of the cinematic Brits.
Citizen Kane is a great film—the fourth time I watched it I could finally
See why: the fascination of Welles inventing a non-verbal language,
That of Film, for this most Modern and American of Arts,
The inflections of the lighting, camera angles, editing,
The coloration or the absence of it,
The musical accompaniment or silencing of it.
And Hearst would soon teach Welles,
What Hearst and his “whore” had always known: That money matters
And that it matters nowhere more than Hollywood.