I spent a couple of days with D_______ in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is about 200 kilometers from Antwerp.

Books are my thing these days and my first stop was Kok antiquarian books, where I found Axel’s Castle by Edmund Wilson; a German non-fiction book on popular literature called Trivialliteratur (1981) by Peter Domagalski; Robert Darnton’s excellent The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (1982), a Dutch book titled Verboden boeken (1989) (Eng: Forbidden Books).

I got to see Oldboy, the second fim I saw by Korean director Park Chan-wook in his vengeance trilogy (I still have to catch Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Just as a couple of months ago, I was very much impressed. It’s a film by a man who is locked away in a private prison for fifteen years without knowing why. When he is released he is contacted by the man who imprisoned him and the quest on why he was imprisoned begins. The film is sufficiently bizar and rather poetical (“when a man laugs, the world laughs with him, when a man cries, he cries alone”). Park’s films are unlike anything I’ve seen in European or American cinema over the last years, combining the spirit of European countercultural cinema of the 1960s and 1970s (a critique of Asian post-industrial society) with the transgressions of 1990s Japanese cinema (think Audition and Tetsuo). Chance would have it that a novel by Sylvia Plath (I’m reading The Bell Jar at the moment) is featured in the film (by a character who appropriately later commits suicide). Over at Wikipedia the film is described as Sophoclean tragedy because it has incest as plot element.

The Frans Hals museum:

The Monk and the Nun (1591) – Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem

This particular painting is an illustration on how the clergy has been satirized in the history of art and literature in a genre that today would be called somewhat irrevently ‘nunsploitation‘, but which can be traced to the 17th century epistolary novel Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1669) and in the visual arts to the work above.

Image sourced here. (follow link for a nice compilation on the naked breast in art)

We went to the Frans Hals museum where I saw a couple of paintings by Goltzius, Van Heemskercke and Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem which were to my liking. Though Hals has been attributed as being a precursor to impressionism because of the hasty brushwork of his latter period — and a generally acclaimed artist — I wasn’t much impressed with Hals’s work, which mainly consisted of portraits of the elite of Haarlem. In the museum shop I found the amazing photorealistic paintings by Pieter Claesz.

Vanitasstilleven met nautilusbeker en pomander aan een gouden ketting (1636) – Pieter Claesz

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