Friday, July 25, 2014


In the early days, Zelda was glad enough to use Scott Fitzgerald's name to promote her stories; his editor handled a slightly cut version of Save Me the Waltz. His friends loyally attended Zelda's art shows and bought her paintings.
Zelda was always on the verge of an independent identity she never embraced. In 1929, a ballet company in Naples invited her to join it as a soloist: she turned down the job and shortly afterwards became a professional invalid. 
In a vivid section of Save Me the Waltz, the heroine does go to Naples, not just as a soloist, but as the prima ballerina in Swan Lake. She is lonely and adrift. When her snooty daughter visits, she is embarrassed by her relative poverty. Naples sickens the child; both the girl and the dancing mother are relieved when she returns to her father. 
Shortly thereafter, as if in punishment, an infected foot ensures that the heroine will never dance again. Instead of living out this dark dream, even finding within it a possible happy ending, Zelda cracked up.
The Naples invitation makes nonsense of the condescending assumption that Zelda's dancing was a pathetic symptom, not a vocation, but her refusal to follow through was, I think, the turning point of her life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Catherine and Alexander, wealthy and sophisticated, drive to Naples 
to dispose of a deceased uncle's villa. There's a coolness in their relationship and aspects of Naples add to the strain. 
She remembers a poet who loved her and died in the war; although 
she didn't love him, the memory underscores romance's absence from her life now. 
She tours the museums of Naples and Pompeii, immersing herself in the Neapolitan fascination with the dead and noticing how many women are pregnant; he idles on Capri, flirting with women but drawing back from adultery. With her, he's sarcastic; with him, she's critical. They talk of divorce. Will this foreign couple find insight and direction in Italy? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Mrs Erlynne (Helen Hunt), at the conclusion of yet another affair and financially exhausted, leaves New York ostensibly to exploit Robert (Mark Umbers) and Meg Windermere (Scarlett Johansson), a young but high-profile couple of the 1930s, at their fashionable vacation scene on the Amalfi Coast. 
The witty, romantic comedy is inspired by Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's fan, and the spark of the film is Tom Wilkinson's performance, skilfully directed by Mike Barker in the visually sumptuous setting of Ravello.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


In this detail of Calvert Richard Jones 1846 calotype, "The House of Sallust", in which the grainy sepia patinas of the photograph perhaps suggest that the swirling volcanic ashes that buried Pompeii so many years ago have still not quite yet come to rest, a languidly frock-coated English gentleman leans somnambulantly against a slice of excavated masonry, as if waiting for night to fall and the haphazard contents of a painting by De Chirico to materialize around him with all hazy, sudden velocity of dream logic. Yet here we only see, fixed in time by photographic paper, the atrium at the front of the house leading to the columned garden court beyond, and then Vesuvius itself, pale and almost indistinct, looming ominously in the background ...