Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of Wagner and Watchmen

Having seen criticism, implicit and less so, of Zack Snyder's use of Wagner's overture to act 3 of Die Walküre in Watchmen, I think it's necessary to point something out:

Alan Moore uses it in the book. True story.

In the end-of-chapter text for Chapter 1, "At midnight, all the agents...," Hollis Mason's Under The Hood (pp. 27-32) recites the origin story of that character – who became the first Nite Owl. That story involves the Walkürenritt, but in a sad, ironic context. I won't spoil the book, but I assure you that there is as much distance between the Watchmen use and Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now as there is between Moscow and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Snyder, then, had an opportunity to be clever and give hard-core Watchmen fans something about which they can smile. He, instead, chose to give a "homage" to Apocalypse Now and, in the process, adding an absent and contradictory meaning to Moore's already near-perfect book. From Hell is Moore's perfect book, but that's another post.

Tom Service is highly wrong about everything in that quoted passage, though. About Wagner. About the Valkyries. About Watchmen. He also seems dangerously impervious to irony. Indeed, thinking about this makes Snyder's choice even more perverse – it's funny to talk about a piece of music showing bloodlust when a theme of Watchmen is Dr. Manhattan's disconnection from humanity and emotion.

Onions all 'round.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

La Mort de Marat

The ever-wonderful Kate Beaton has a comic presenting her take on the death of Marat at the hands of the infamous Charlotte Corday. The payoff is, strangely enough, found about halfway through in the seventh panel. Suffice it to say her approach differs from that of Jacques-Louis David.

She also did one about the James Joyce – Nora Barnacle letters that, particularly the third panel, just about did me in this morning. Worth a look. While I like Kate Beaton's work, let me say that there are a lot of literate, intelligent webcomics out there. The current fixation with superheroes, viz. Watchmen-mania, might disincline some from partaking of the animated arts. There is more out there.

On a completely unrelated note, why did DG reissue the Jochum Meistersinger on the Originals marque? Seriously. While the Böhm 1968 performance on Orfeo is about as good as it gets, I have to say that I always thought the studio crown had been taken by Von Karajan's remarkably intelligent and sensitive EMI set from 1970. I understand UMG wants to get some revenue from amortized back-catalog recordings, but there are probably better recordings to squeeze. Also, I'm not sure that a thirty-or-forty-dollar set is the best way to make the best out of this economy, but maybe the UMG whizkids know something I don't.

Probably not, but you never know.