If Worship Be the Right Name: Samuel Clemens

One day at Riverdale-on-Hudson, Mrs. Clemens and I were mourning for our lost little ones. Not that they were dead, but lost to us all the same. Gone out of our lives forever—as little children. They were still with us, but they were become women, and they walked with us upon our own level. There was a wide gulf, a gulf as wide as the horizons, between these children and those.  We were always having vague dream-glimpses of them as they had used to be in the long-vanished years—glimpses of them playing and romping, with short frocks on, and spindle legs, and hair-tails down their backs—and always they were far and dim, and we could not hear their shouts and their laughter. How we longed to gather them to our arms! but they were only dainty and darling spectres, and they faded away and vanished, and left us desolate.

That day I put into verse, as well as I could, the feeling that was haunting us. The verses were not for publication, and were never published, but I will insert them here as being qualified to throw light upon my worship of school girls—if worship be the right name, and I know it is. -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, April 1908

(Photographer Unknown) – Frances Nunnally and Clemens, London, July 1907

I am always delighted to discover rare tidbits of human interest that relate to little girls. The most notable British case is Charles Dodgson known to most by the pen name Lewis Carroll who was a skilled photographer of children and enjoyed their company. Only a few years ago I learned there was also an American writer of great stature who also had a strong affinity for little girls which manifested itself in an unusual way in the last years of his life: Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), a prolific writer of novels and essays under the pen name Mark Twain. A pseudonym is used to create a kind of alter ego—to distinguish the man from the character of his work. This period in his life in which he became obsessed with school girls is a personal one and, for the sake of convention, I will refer to him as Clemens but when referring to those written works consistent with his other persona, I will call the author Mark Twain.

This interesting epiphany about Clemens’ association with young girls was best fleshed out in a book called Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence 1905–1910 (1991) edited by John Cooley. Cooley was then a professor of English at Western Michigan University. The editor’s first knowledge of the Aquarium Club came from his second cousin, Marjorie Breckenridge, who still had in her possession the letters Clemens had sent her. Fascinated with his cousin’s teenage friendship with Mark Twain, he set out to find out more—scouring the various institutions that housed his papers. The book endeavored to contain nearly every known written communication between Clemens and the young women who constituted his Aquarium Club. Undoubtedly, many of the letters have been lost. Because of its peculiar nature, this aspect of his life has been largely excluded from biographies.

(Photographer Unknown) – Louise Paine and Clemens in the angelfish headquarters, the billiard room, Stormfield, Summer 1908

When the book was written, only seven letters from angelfish survived of the eighty-seven letters Clemens wrote to them during this period. Since Clemens was a diligent saver of letters, it is assumed that his daughter Clara, who strongly disapproved of the Aquarium Club, disposed of many of them after her return from Europe in September 1908.

For example, Hamlin Hill’s important biography of Clemens’ last decade, Mark Twain: God’s Fool (1973), reveals many aspects of Clemens’ last years that strongly contrast with the image of him perpetuated by his daughter Clara and his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine. Until then, it was generally believed that Clemens remained the “king” of American humor—a devoted family man and playful public cynic, passing gracefully into retirement and old age. Only more recent biographies gave clues to the breakdown of his family life after 1904, upon the death of his wife Olivia which followed that of his eldest daughter, Susy. His relationship with his surviving daughters, Clara and Jean, became so strained that neither spent much time with their father during his last years. Clemens’ overwhelming vanity and unpredictable rage made him extremely difficult to live with. Quite routinely, after prolonged visits, Clara would place herself in a rest home to regain her emotional strength.

The impulse to be humorous choked a man whose sense of rage at the world in which he lived grew and grew to mammoth proportions. -Hamlin Hill. Mark Twain: God’s Fool, 1973.

(Photographer Unknown) – Irene Gerken and Clemens, Bermuda, Winter 1908

These girls and young women were no doubt reminders of the happy years when his own daughters were younger, and of his girlfriends from that happiest of times, his own adolescence.

His earliest sweetheart was Laura Hawkins. Clemens recalled her as a blond, blue-eyed “charmer” who wore white summer frocks, plaited her hair into two long tails, and lived across the street from the Clemenses in Hannibal. She was also the inspiration for Twain’s Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer and other stories. In the fall of 1908 Laura contacted him and was invited to come visit.

About next Tuesday or Wednesday a Missouri sweetheart of mine, is coming here from Missouri to visit me—the very best sweetheart I ever had. It was 68 years ago. She was 5 years old and I the same. I had an apple, & fell in love with her and gave her the core. She figures in “Tom Sawyer” as “Becky Thatcher” -Samuel Clemens in a letter to Margaret Blackmer, October 1908.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Quick and Clemens, Tuxedo Park, August 1907 (1)

Another important sweetheart was Laura Wright. She was fourteen when she met Clemens, an age of some significance appearing frequently in his stories. Years later his rules of the Aquarium Club stipulated that only school-age girls were eligible for active membership. In 1906, Clemens dictated a remarkably detailed passage for his autobiography concerning his brief romance with Wright, one summer forty-eight years earlier while she was sailing on a freighter with her parents from St. Louis to New Orleans.

I found that I remembered her quite vividly and that she possessed a lively interest for me notwithstanding the prodigious interval of time that had spread its vacancy between her and me. She wasn’t yet fifteen when I knew her.

Clemens stated that he was never more than “four inches from that girl’s elbow” during their waking hours over the next three days.

That comely child, that charming child, was Laura M. Wright, and I could see her with perfect distinctness in the unfaded bloom of her youth, with her plaited tails dangling from her young head and her white summer frock puffing about in the wind of that ancient Mississippi time. … I never saw her afterward. -Samuel Clemens, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Charles Neider ed., 1959.

Wright’s parents did not approve of her continued association with Clemens who was the pilot of another ship. He wrote to her many times, but the letters were intercepted and disposed of. He did not hear from her until the publication of these passages 48 years later. She wrote to him to ask for money which he sent her, thrilled at the prospect of being her hero. He was quite dismayed by her change of circumstances, having a modest career as a teacher.

When I knew that child her father was an honored judge … What had that girl done, what crime had she committed that she must be punished with poverty and drudgery in her old age? … It shook me to the foundations. The plaited tails fell away; the peachy young face vanished; the fluffy short frock along with it; and in the place of that care-free little girl of forty-eight years ago, I imagined the world-worn and trouble-worn widow of sixty-two -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, August 1906.

(Photographer Unknown) – Margaret Blackmer and Clemens in the cart; Maude, the donkey, with her groom Reginald, Bermuda, March 1908

Clemens’ fond recollections were not just from his own adolescence, but from the joy of spending time with his little daughters. And during the period of their childhood, Susy, Clara and Jean Clemens more than filled his need for contact with teenage girls. He teased and played with them and frequently created stories for their entertainment. His desire to relive these wonderful moments was made more acute by the death of his eldest, Susy, in 1896, the death of his wife, Olivia, and the lack of grandchildren. Two manuscripts devoted to his family, “A Family Sketch” and “The Children’s Record” (Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley) reveal how much pleasure his young daughters gave him.

For Clemens, childhood was the most important time—the central experience of life. Although boyhood portraits figured prominently in Mark Twain’s best-known and greatest works, in later years the author turned his attention to the adolescent female.

Clemens’ repeated concern for the innocence of his angelfish suggests that he believed young women became spoiled or perhaps corrupted upon entering the age of sexual activity. In both his fictional and his autobiographical writing, Clemens returns with some frequency to the idea of the “platonic sweetheart,” in which a somewhat older and more experienced male both longs for and wishes to protect his school-age sweetheart. This paradigm is most clearly expressed in the short story “My Platonic Sweetheart” (1898), which purports to be a report of Twain’s recurring dreams in which he is always seventeen and his love is an innocent maid of fifteen. Although he kisses her and they walk “arms-about-waists”, he insists that it “was not the love of sweethearts, for there was no fire in it.” Nor was it the mere affection of brother and sister, but something “finer than either, and more exquisite, more profoundly contenting” (Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories, 1922).

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Sturgis (?) with Clemens, Bermuda, Winter 1908

Clemens worked out his concept of young female innocence in greatest detail in his Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1895). Clemens remarked that Joan of Arc was written out of love, not for money, and that his heroine reminded him of his daughter Susy and believed it to be his best work. He was something of an authority on Joan—citing eleven books on the topic in his preface. Other revealing though minor portraits of young women appear during Clemens’ last decade of writing: “The Death Disk” (1901), “Eve’s Diary” (1905), “A Horse’s Tale” (1906) and an essay, “Marjorie Fleming, Wonder Child” (1909). There is a note of pessimism in his interpretation of the Saint Joan story: that an innate and powerful goodness cannot survive long in the real world, certainly invoked by his memories of Susy.

It is known that about three hundred letters were written and received by Clemens and the schoolgirls as well as personal notes indicating the extent to which the girls occupied his thoughts during the last five years of his life. In 1908, the Aquarium Club was at its height and Clemens sent several letters a week to the angelfish and received an equal number in reply and became his “chief occupation and delight”. Despite the author’s usual inventiveness in his writing, this correspondence was much more formulaic in his attempt to plead for letters and visits from his young friends. Nonetheless, amongst the gushing sentimentality, one can find small gems of wit, wisdom, and humor we would normally associate with Mark Twain at his best.

In grandchildren I am the richest man that lives today: for I select my grandchildren, whereas all other grandfathers have to take them as they come, good, bad or indifferent.  Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, April 1908.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey and Clemens on the front steps, Stormfield, Summer 1908

The spark for the Aquarium Club came from Clemens’ correspondence with a girl named Gertrude Natkin whom he met during his travels. Then one “golden day” in the winter of 1907, a fourteen-year-old English girl and her mother came to visit. Since then, Dorothy Butes and Clemens maintained a correspondence and he considered her his first angelfish. Only later did he begin “collecting” and corresponding with schoolgirls in earnest: Butes was followed by Carlotta Welles and Frances Nunnally, girls he met while on a ship for England. On the return voyage he also met Dorothy Quick. The first half of 1908 is when Clemens formulated his plan to establish his aquarium to be comprised of a school of girls of bright and lively temperament. The club really began to take shape during Clemens’ two winter trips to Bermuda, adding Margaret Blackmer, Irene Gerken, Dorothy Sturgis, Hellen Martin, and Helen Allen. Clemens notes that most readers will understand that, like all collectors, we believe our fad to be more rational than any of the others.

… As for me, I collect pets: young girls—girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent—dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears. My collection consists of gems of the first water. -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, February 1908.

Each of the girls received a pin as a memento of their friendship.

Heather Morgan – Angel-fish pin given by Mark Twain to Louise Paine (Mark Twain Library, Redding, CT)

In June 1908, Clemens moved into a new home in Redding, Connecticut aptly naming it ‘Innocence at Home’ to commemorate his latest fascination. This villa was able to accommodate the angelfish during their numerous visits. New acquisitions at this point were Marjorie Breckenridge, Dorothy Harvey, and Louise Paine. Clemens’ daughter Clara disliked the name of the villa and its associations and had it changed to Stormfield—a name apropos to a period of discord in Clemens’ domestic life and the eventual decline of the Aquarium Club to come.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey, Clemens and Louise Paine in the “Fish-Market”, Stormfield, Summer 1908

Clemens’s own awareness of his destructive pessimism, of his great rage at the swindle of life, must have driven him all the harder to construct about himself a small court of happiness, innocence, and youthfulness, which he set against the ever painful reality of his life. Thus, his indulgence in stories and tales involving young female characters and his collection of young angelfish serve as a surprising antistrophe to the strophe of his rage and despair. -John Cooley, Mark Twain’s Aquarium, 1973.

Although Clemens’ last years were often dominated by loneliness, illness, and depression, his angelfish letters are nearly always optimistic, loving, and playful; they reveal the depths of his loneliness and the size of his need for attention and affection.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey and Clemens, Stormfield, Summer 1908

It is interesting to examine this work in the context of his other writings of the period: his autobiography, The Mysterious Stranger, and in his late stories, essays and letters. The contrast between this and his angelfish correspondence helps us appreciate the conflict between his natural inclination for youthfulness, playfulness and affection against his growing fatalism and cynical rage.

Clemens’ writing during his last decade does not include young female characters and reveals his preoccupation with predestination and a corruption seemingly inevitable in adulthood. In one of the most bleak yet most important works of his last years, The Mysterious Stranger, Twain has his cosmic representative, a young cousin to Satan named Philip Traum, reveal that human and earthly reality are purely an illusion. Despairing as this seems, he concluded that the great, unbeatable weapon of the human race is laughter. In another work, What is Man?, the old man declares that nothing is able to shake humanity of its fundamental cheerfulness, not even the most bleak facts of existence.

For Clemens, there seemed an eternal dichotomy between evil and good, darkness and light. As Albert Stone expresses it, Clemens sought to maintain a “desperately delicate balance between despising mankind and loving certain individuals, between intellectual assertion of a meaningless universe and intuitive awareness of love’s reality” (Albert Stone, The Innocent Eye: Childhood in Mark Twain’s Imagination, 1961).

A core issue in this counterpoint between light and dark is Clemens’ ambivalence about sex and sexuality and as Mark Twain, he generally avoided dealing with the subject. A set of writings published posthumously bears this out. Letters from the Earth (1909) concerns morality, the hypocrisy of religion and racism. It takes the form of a personal report to Satan, informing him of the numerous foibles of Earth’s human denizens. Clara Clemens initially objected to its publication in March 1939 but finally conceded that “Mark Twain belonged to the world”. The letters were first collected, edited and published by Bernard DeVoto. Twain writes the following startling revelation expounding on humans’ obsession with sex, despite the well-known presence of Biblical admonitions.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in woman’s construction is this: There shall be no limit put upon your intercourse with the other sex sexually, at any time of life.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in man’s construction is this: During your entire life you shall be under inflexible limits and restrictions, sexually.

During twenty-three days in every month (in absence of pregnancy) from the time a woman is seven years old till she dies of old age, she is ready for action, and competent. As competent as the candlestick is to receive the candle. Competent every day, competent every night. Also she wants that candle—yearns for it, longs for it, hankers after it, as commanded by the law of God in her heart. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter VIII, 1909

(Photographer Unknown) – Helen Allen and Clemens, Bermuda, 1908

Not all the letters have a cynical tone. Twain speaks eloquently about the beauty of the “sweeter sex” and that of the nakedness of an uncorrupted human body.

The pleasant labor of populating the world went on from age to age, and with prime efficiency; for in those happy days the sexes were still competent for the Supreme Art when by rights they ought to have been dead eight hundred years. The sweeter sex, the dearer sex, the lovelier sex was manifestly at its very best, then, for it was even able to attract gods. Real gods. They came down out of heaven and had wonderful times with those hot young blossoms. The Bible tells about it. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter IV, 1909.

The convention miscalled modesty has no standard, and cannot have one, because it is opposed to nature and reason, and is therefore an artificiality and subject to anybody’s whim, anybody’s diseased caprice. And so, in India the refined lady covers her face and breasts and leaves her legs naked from the hips down, while the refined European lady covers her legs and exposes her face and her breasts. In lands inhabited by the innocent savage the refined European lady soon gets used to full-grown native stark-nakedness, and ceases to be offended by it. A highly cultivated French count and countess—unrelated to each other—who were marooned in their nightclothes, by shipwreck, upon an uninhabited island in the eighteenth century, were soon naked. Also ashamed—for a week. After that their nakedness did not trouble them, and they soon ceased to think about it. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter III, 1909.

This last passage expresses effectively a key philosophy of Pigtails in Paint. Also of interest is a book written by one of the angelfish, Dorothy Quick, Enchantment: A Little Girl’s Friendship with Mark Twain, 1961.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Quick and Clemens, Tuxedo Park, August 1907 (2)

*Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations are part of a collection of Mark Twain Papers housed at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cesare Lapini

And now to my first Italian sculptor! Cesare Lapini was a Florentine artist born in 1848 and died in 1890, at the age of 42. His favorite subject was the female of all ages, and his little girls are especially charming. The first piece is called Impara l’arte e mettila da parte, an old Italian aphorism that translates to something like “Learn an art and put it aside”, except with a nifty rhyme. The point of it is you never know when some little thing you learned might come in handy later. So this little girl is learning to knit, something a lot of girls her age learned in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Cesare Lapini - Impara l'arte e mettila da parte (1893)

Cesare Lapini – Impara l’arte e mettila da parte (1893)

This next one, Volere e Potere, is a variation on the same theme. It seems Lapini liked rhyming titles. This is another old saying and it means basically, “Be willing and you’ll be able.” Or to put it the way most English speakers would recognize it, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It appears she is either learning to sew or trying to tie a knot.

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (1)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (1)

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (2)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (2)

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (3)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (3)

The last featured piece is a young adolescent couple. The boy tries to steal a kiss but the bashful girl is not having it, even as she does this with a sheepish smile. It’s called Il Primo Bacio which means “The First Kiss” and is my favorite of this collection.

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (1)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (1)

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (2)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (2)

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (3)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (3)

Hippolyte Moreau

And we’re back in Gaul with François Moreau, better known as Hippolyte, one of three sculptor brothers who were the sons of another sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Moreau. I’m guessing that Jean-Baptiste really wanted his kids to follow in the old man’s footsteps! Well they certainly did. Although Hippolyte, the middle brother, was somewhat overshadowed by the baby of the family, Auguste, he did some wonderful stuff in his own right.

Hippolyte was born in Dijon in 1834, a full ten years after his older brother Mathuri, and Auguste would come along about two years after Hippolyte. He exhibited his work at the Salon throughout the late 1800s up until 1914. His sculptures even won awards at both the Exposition Universelle of 1878 and the Exposition Universelle of 1900. His most reknowned piece is a statue of French scientist Alexis Clairaut at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris, the Paris Town Hall. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1927. The majority of his works are now housed at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon.

Hippolyte’s pieces, like his younger brother’s, have often been rendered as objets d’art and that’s the case with all but one of the examples shown here. Our first piece is Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. You know who that is don’t you? A certain little girl with a red cape who is off to see her grandma with a basket of goodies, that’s who!

Hippolyte Moreau - Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (1)

Hippolyte Moreau – Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (1)

Hippolyte Moreau - Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (2)

Hippolyte Moreau – Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (2)

Hippolyte Moreau - Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (3)

Hippolyte Moreau – Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (3)

And speaking of little girls with baskets…

Hippolyte Moreau - Girl with Basket (1)

Hippolyte Moreau – Girl with Basket (1)

Hippolyte Moreau - Girl with Basket (2)

Hippolyte Moreau – Girl with Basket (2)

Hippolyte Moreau - Girl with Basket (3)

Hippolyte Moreau – Girl with Basket (3)

Hippolyte Moreau - Girl with Basket (4)

Hippolyte Moreau – Girl with Basket (4)

Here’s a sweet little lady with a tiny guitar.

Hippolyte Moreau - Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (1)

Hippolyte Moreau – Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (1)

Hippolyte Moreau - Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (2)

Hippolyte Moreau – Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (2)

Hippolyte Moreau - Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (3)

Hippolyte Moreau – Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (3)

Hippolyte Moreau - Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (4)

Hippolyte Moreau – Fillette musicienne (Fillette à la guitare) (4)

One of Moreau’s favorite subjects was the child couple as represented by the last three pieces.

Hippolyte Moreau - (Title Unknown) (1)

Hippolyte Moreau – (Title Unknown) (1)

Hippolyte Moreau - (Title Unknown) (2)

Hippolyte Moreau – (Title Unknown) (2)

Hippolyte Moreau - (Title Unknown) (3)

Hippolyte Moreau – (Title Unknown) (3)

Hippolyte Moreau - (Title Unknown) (4)

Hippolyte Moreau – (Title Unknown) (4)

Hippolyte Moreau - (Title Unknown) (5)

Hippolyte Moreau – (Title Unknown) (5)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux chérubins (1)

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux chérubins (1)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux chérubins (2)

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux chérubins (2)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux chérubins (3)

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux chérubins (3)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux chérubins (4)

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux chérubins (4)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux chérubins (5)

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux chérubins (5)

Hippolyte Moreau - Deux jeunes enfants avec couronne et guirlande de fleurs

Hippolyte Moreau – Deux jeunes enfants avec couronne et guirlande de fleurs

Spanish Cousins: Carlos Saura

In order for Pip to get screen shots for his film posts, I have had to dig up a number of films for him. In the case of Carlos Saura (b. 1932), director of Cría cuervos, there was some interesting biographical information. Not only was he an avid photographer before deciding to become a filmmaker, but he seemed to be specially compelled by his child subjects. Most probably because of his own childhood experiences, Saura speculated that it was de rigueur for Spanish boys to get their first education about girls and the erotic world via their female cousins. In fact, two films—La Prima Angélica (My Cousin Angelica, 1973) and Pajarico (Little Bird, 1997)—dealt specifically with the childhood romance between cousins. Some mention should also be made of Ana y los Lobos (Ana and the Wolves, 1972) because even though the girls in that film perform the bland role of dutiful children, there are interesting clues about family dynamics which inform many other Saura films.

Lobos is about a young woman, Ana (Geraldine Chaplin), hired by a family to serve as governess for three little girls—Natalia (Nuria Lage), Carlota (Maria José Puerta) and Victoria (Sara Gil). Three brothers and their mother live on the estate and over time, Ana learns that each of these four characters have terrible neuroses which she takes in stride with both curiosity and amusement. The men react badly to this and, in the end, punish and murder her. The girls are in the background during the entire film, but do not stand out as characters, performing their roles as well-behaved stereotypical little girls. There is one distressing incident when the girls find their dolly buried in mud and her hair cut by one of the brothers. As the drama plays out, there is always this tension in the back of one’s mind about how the girls will develop and be treated when they grow up.

Carlos Saura - Ana y los Lobos (1972)

Carlos Saura – Ana y los Lobos (1972)

Angélica seems an autobiographical account of Saura’s own late childhood. The lead character, Luis, is interring his mother’s bones in the family crypt, staying with his aunt, with whom he spent some memorable summers. During the visit, he recalls incidents from his first summer there almost forty years earlier. The flow of the story is confusing at first until one realizes that the same actor (José Luis López Vázquez) is playing Luis and the young Luisito and you have to pick up clues from the scene to keep it straight. An additional ambiguity is that his beloved cousin Angélica (Lina Canalejas) has a little girl Angélica (Maria Clara Fernandez de Loaysa, who also played her mother as a little girl in flashbacks). The elder Angélica seems always to be wearing a kind of proper uniform during reminiscences. The presence of an older adult actor playing a child makes him appear like a developmentally-delayed adult. It is disconcerting at times when he leers with fascination at Angélica as in one scene where the family thinks nothing of undressing and dressing the young girl within eyeshot of her cousin.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (1)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (1)

There is a lot of fun interplay shown in the film between Luis and both Angélicas. In one scene, he is dressed in a Roman uniform and told to stand like a statue while Angélica makes faces at him, seeing if she can get him to crack up.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (2)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (2)

The younger Angélica is curious about Luis’ old relationship with her mother, asking a lot of questions about it and seeing if she stacks up to her mother.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (3)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (3)

A strong friendship is rekindled with Angélica and her family and Luis forms a pretty strong one-on-one bond with the daughter. One day, he takes her to where her mother etched their names on a tombstone.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (4)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (4)

The young Angélica jokes about how the boys take no interest in her because she is not well-developed, supposedly unlike her mother at the same tender age of 9.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (5)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (5)

Luis then flashes to a time when the elder Angélica showed him her first bra, with him begging her to show him again.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (6)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (6)

Although Luis seems to be enjoying his visit, a lot of bad memories of the war are associated with it as well. He decides that he has had enough self-indulgence and decides it is time to leave. The younger Angélica is outside riding a bike and Luis asks if he can try it before departing. He pedals with her riding along and we get one final flashback of him having done the same thing with her mother. Apparently, it was part of a scheme to runaway together, but the youngsters’ plans are foiled when they encounter a patrol who brings them home where they are then punished for their folly—never to be together again.

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (7)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (7)

Carlos Saura - La Prima Angélica (1973) (8)

Carlos Saura – La Prima Angélica (1973) (8)

Saura’s view of life seemed quite pessimistic in the 1970s with characters expressing all manner of dysfunction with only one precious memory of romance. Even in Lobos, the matriarch makes mention of the scandal of a family member falling in love with his cousin. Over the years, the director must have mellowed as he attempted a more modern version of this family romance in Pajarico. The three brothers seem to be modeled after those from Lobos, but in nobler forms. This time the girl is called Fuensanta (Dafne Fernández) and the boy, Manuel (Alejandro Martinez), is played by a 10-year-old. There are a number of similarities to Angélica with Manuel being “abandoned” by his parents for the summer and needing to stay with his extended family in Murcia. The film is divided into three chapters, each dedicated to one of the uncles. The first is Juan, who picks up Manuel. His namesake in Lobos was a womanizer with dark erotic fantasies, but this one is an artist and appreciates women in an aesthetic way. He makes his living running a tailor shop and a number of women work there. Manuel has three girl cousins but we see very little of the other two, Amalia (Rebeca Fernández) and Sofia (Andrea Granero) . Fuensanta makes a big entrance at the shop wearing a fancy dress. This worm’s-eye view is the result of her being picked up and placed immediately on the counter by her father.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (1)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (1)

Juan takes Manuel and Fuensanta to draw and learn the finer points of color and composition. Later, he shows them some art books and expresses some envy at the skills of past artists—the way they were able to add mystery to their work.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (2)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (2)

Fuensanta playfully coaxes Manuel onto the roof where they bond and share some secrets.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (3)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (3)

Fuensanta’s first big secret introduces us to the second uncle, Fernando. His namesake in Lobos is quite disturbed by his homosexual proclivities and devoted himself to meditation and penance in a whitewashed cave. He was the one who cut the dolly’s hair and buried her. This Fernando is seen making love with his boyfriend, Tony, in the cellar of a pastry shop where he works. The children are bemused by this spectacle.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (4)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (4)

Fernando is an artist too and plays the cello beautifully. Unfortunately, his lover has fallen in love with a woman and is planning marriage. In a state of despondency, Fernando has a heart attack and is sent to the hospital. The third uncle is Emilio and, like his counterpart (named José in Lobos), is the de facto head of the household even though the decrepit grandfather still lives. He is a scientist, an optometrist of sorts who practices the rare craft of iridology. The children wander into his office and explore a bit before coming upon him. He explains that the iris tells a story about each person and asks Fuensanta to sit in front of a machine so he can examine her iris.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (5)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (5)

He finds a mysterious pattern in one region he cannot explain. It is meant to hint at Fuensanta’s telepathic abilities. For example, the grandfather is only partially lucid and so sometimes makes strange-sounding requests. Whenever this happens, she quickly explains that he is simply asking for orange juice or wishes to have the blinds closed. Mistaking Manuel for his favorite son, Antonito, and knowing he will die soon, grandfather decides to reveal a secret he has never told anyone before.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (6)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (6)

Apparently, one of the secrets Fuensanta shared with Manuel was her telepathy. The rest of the family only learn of it when grandfather inexplicably disappears and only Fuensanta knows how to find him. He is discovered in a park and he says he got lost while trying to get to the sea. Emilio promises to take him there and there is a final idyllic scene with grandfather sitting in a chair staring into the sea while everyone else frolics on the beach. The instant he passes away, Fuensanta senses it immediately and turns around to look back at him.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (7)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (7)

Manuel might have had more time with his uncles and cousins except for the funeral compelling his parents to return and then take him home. Looking one last time at Fuensanta, Manuel realizes he will never see her again as she is now.

Carlos Saura - Pajarico (1997) (8)

Carlos Saura – Pajarico (1997) (8)

Drawn and Quoted: Edouard Boubat + Ezra Miller

While going through and categorizing the old posts (which is finished, incidentally) I came across projects I had started but never completed.  One of them was Drawn and Quoted, which had exactly one post dedicated to it before the original Pigtails was strangled by the censors.  I am excited to be resurrecting this series now, and we will begin with an insightful quote from young actor Ezra Miller taken from a Cannes interview.  The quote is in reference to the film Moonrise Kingdom, which is, of course, about young love.

“That thing of when you have a crush on someone that tears you apart—that is love. We shouldn’t invalidate that just because we’re little. We’re all told that’s not real, your first kiss wasn’t that kiss with your third cousin when you were four. It was when you were fifteen and kissed that high school boy. And that’s false. We’re scared of childhood sexuality, because it really brings out the raw, essential nature of sexuality, which we’re so far removed from in our culture that it just scares us and makes us feel bad, when instead you should think about the purity of child sexuality, because you don’t have it and I don’t have it, because we live in a porn society.” – Ezra Miller

Edouard Boubat - Enfants de dos face vitrine, Paris (1948)

Edouard Boubat – Enfants de dos face vitrine, Paris (1948)

The image is from the portfolio of noted French photographer Edouard Boubat.  The casual placement of the girl’s hand on the boy’s bottom would likely be seen as blatantly sexual were these two adults.  Instead, the easy familiarity and open affection the children have with each other is endearing.  Boubat photographed the little couple again, walking in the street; it seems they never relinquished their close hold on each other.

L’œuvre d’Edouard Boubat (Official Site)

The Dance of Life and Love: Glen Keane’s ‘Duet’

I will be posting a comics story soon by the brilliant Charles Vess, but in the meantime I really had to share this.  It’s a short animated piece that brought me to tears the first time I saw it, and I knew it was perfect for Pigtails.  The piece is by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane, who helped animate and design some of the most iconic Disney characters of all time–from Ariel to Aladdin to Pocahontas to Tarzan, his artistic touch is unmistakable.  He retired from Disney a couple of years ago, having put in a respectable thirty seven years at the company, but he is still working on animation.  This short film, called Duet, was designed for Google’s Spotlight Stories series, and you can read more about it here, as well as see some stills from the film.  I don’t want to say too much about the film itself; just watch and enjoy it!

Glen Keane - Duet (2014)

Glen Keane – Duet (2014)

Glen Keane – Duet (2014)

Arnold Böcklin

Arnold Böcklin was a Symbolist painter, which means I pretty much love him by default.  Did I mention Symbolism was my favorite art movement?  Probably a dozen times by now, but anyway . . .  Although I categorize everything in Jugend as illustration, this is actually a black and white reproduction of Böcklin’s painting The Honeymoon (retitled Spring) so this is a young married couple–very young, actually, considering the boy doesn’t have any facial hair yet.

arnold-bc3b6cklin-frc3bchling

Arnold Böcklin – Frühling – Jugend No. 21 (1896)

Arnold Böcklin – The Honeymoon (1890)

Arnold Böcklin – The Honeymoon (1890)

Arnold Böcklin – The Complete Works

Wikipedia: Arnold Böcklin