Friday, July 12, 2013

The Mirth of Firth

Jane Austin
Sometimes something just strikes me as strange and in fact bizzaro
strange, to wit urban art and sculpture in our world today. Most urban art is selected one of two ways, a benefactor or sponsor (builder/developer) is requested or required to provide a piece of art for a public venue on or near their property. This is a mild form of extortion where the public benefits with art and sometimes a bit of class. The other is where a public entity, such as a parks commission, wishes to place an art piece for the benefit of the public. Sometimes as a memorial or sometimes just for fun (there’s a big range here). Often these opportunities are very successful and well, some just leave you scratching your head.

It took almost fifty years to decide that a monument was required (actually approved) to memorialize the men and women who fought in WWII. Forty years to celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and commensurate periods of time for other honorees to be properly remembered with a statue or plaque. Often we rush to celebrate and just throw something up then wonder what all the hub-bub was about. We build roadside markers to celebrate the first log cabin at a cross-roads, the first settler’s farm, the first bank (now gone) on a corner in town, and even where some religious refugees first stepped on terra-Americana way back when. We just love the pomp and the chance to put a politician’s name on a plaque (in bronze, forever) and maybe capitalize by fleecing a few tourists.

I am a helpless romantic, ask my wife. I get teary over almost anything with a good storyline and great acting. As a writer I respect fellow scribblers who can bring a touch of dampness to my eye by just mixing the right words and characters. Even some hardcore thrillers can do this (but not many), but the best can be found in Jane Austin. I would suggest that more movies have been produced from her books (dozens) than just about any writer during the last two-hundred years. She defined the dream of romance, the finding of success, and a husband. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Even now a tear comes.

But I digress. A great miniseries series pulled together by the BBC way back in 1995, brought Pride and Prejudice to life better than any other of the 10 movies and countess story adaptations made thus far. It also propelled a number of the actors to greater careers in British and American films and stage, and probably no more successfully than Colin Firth. His performances in any number of movies show his depth, style, good looks, and comic timing. From period pieces to modern dramas, the man (and his great head of hair and Academy Award) offers the audience someone they believe in and can trust and understand. But as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy he stole more than hearts and made more than a few men jealous. Dark, brooding, disheveled (the hair thing), brutish, honorable, horseman, good dresser, and marginal dancer, Mr. Firth pushes it all forward. I know, I know, where the devil am I going with all this?

Well it seems that someone in London has a thing for Mr. Darcy (Firth). One scene in the BBC production has Mr. Darcy-Firth (the Brits hyphenate everything), who after a hard ride from London, cools off in his estate’s fish pond at Pemberley. Rising like a British-god from the cool waters he accidentally meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the novel’s heroine, who is visiting the estate (i.e. tourist). Damn it’s still romantic even now during the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication. But someone has literally gone overboard.
Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy as Serpentine Monster
Sitting in the Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park is a 12 foot tall fiberglass replica of that famous moment in film. “Creepy,” “Loch Ness Monsterish,” “the swan’s like it,” and other such verdicts have made it the talk of London.

Urban sculpture has to do a lot of things. Make a moment of enlightenment (celebratory), create something beautiful (subjective), honor a hero or event (objective), or satisfy a planning requirement (financial). Some do it all and others fail, and some quite delightfully make you scratch your head (Mr. Firth and that great head of hair).

Stay Tuned . . . . . . . .

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