Sunday, September 17, 2006


A mess of pottage

From last week’s Guardian:
In a scene of Felliniesque surrealism, the actress Nicole Kidman was barred from filming inside an historic Roman apartment building at the weekend by angry residents who wanted a higher fee for their cooperation.

The 280 families living in 41 via Vespucci in the Testaccio area claimed they had not been forewarned that the actress would be filming an advertisement in their architecturally admired palazzo or condominium.

When word got out about Kidman's starring role, and it was revealed that the administrator of the building had agreed a fee of only €6,000 (£4,000), the tenants rebelled.

Preparations for the film were halted as residents streamed out of their apartments, descending from the building's eight staircases, to gather in the central courtyard and to argue with the startled film crew, led by an American director.

Blocking access to technicians setting up cameras, lights and miles of cable and threatening to halt production, tempers flared as one tenant described the fee as a "plate of lentils" - a term used to describe a paltry sum of money.
That last sentence is a little surreal in its own right what with all those dangling participles, but the really intriguing bit is the reference to the "plate of lentils", which isn’t mentioned in the Italian reports of the incident. Are we meant to believe that the phrase has such force in Italian that it causes tempers to flare? Or does the reporter find the idiom so picturesque that she shares it with us for the sake of local colour - à la Hemingway in For Whom The Bell Tolls - or perhaps for the sake of that ‘Felliniesque surrealism’ (La Repubblica, more plausibly, describes the scene as Italian neo-realism)?

Either way, she appears unaware that English has an identical expression of the same provenance and with the same meaning (though no doubt the wrong register here).

Is biblical imagery in our culture destined to go the way of classical allusion? There’s a generation on the rise for whom these t'ings dat yo' li'ble to read in de Bible -
Li'l David was small, but - oh my!
He fought big Goliath
Who lay down an' dieth ...

Oh Jonah, he lived in de whale -
Fo' he made his home in
Dat fish's abdomen ...

Li'l Moses was found in a stream.
He floated on water
Till Ol' Pharaoh's daughter,
She fished him, she said, from dat stream.
- are about as meaningful as:
Wa-doo - Zim bam boodle-oo,
Hoodle ah da wa da - Scatty wah. Yeah!

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?