Monday, 25 May 2009

Links, and a tree of stories

Links within links. Pugliese is a name I've always associated with Puglia, the deep south of Italy, the coast looking towards Greece, where Greek continued to be spoken in villages despite the rise and fall of the Roman empire. It seems to be a strange, mixed part of the Mediterranean, where east and west met, where different worlds, Byzantium, Egypt, Africa, Greece, the East, and their images, co-existed. & this came to mind while watching Tempo di Viaggio, a film about and by Andrey Tarkovsky.

Tarkovsky came to Italy in 1983, a few years after completing Stalker, to meet up with Tonino Guerra. Tonino Guerra has written the scripts for over 100 films, including most of Antonioni's films, films by Fellini, Theodoros Angelopoulos (including Ulysses' Gaze) and Tarkovsky's Nostalgia. Tempo di Viaggio follows Guerra and Tarkovsky, two authors looking for a character and that character's environment for the film that was to be Nostalgia. Tarkovsky talks about film, looks at Italy for scenes.

They visit Otranto. (The name might be familiar: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the first gothic novel.) Otranto is in Puglia and has a modest-looking cathedral, the entire floor of which is taken up by a single enormous mosaic, a most extraordinary mosaic of a tree whose branches seem to hold all the stories the artists could remember. Adam and Eve, of course, Abel and Cain, the 12 signs of the zodiac, Solomon and Sheba, Alexander Rex... even Rex Arturus – King Arthur.

There are a few short images of it in the film, but I found photos here on Paradoxplace, a site which claims to have over 6,000 photos of strange and interesting places, but particularly cathedrals and the sculptures and images in them, and a wealth of written detail too. & a lot of links. A real maze of a site.

Bari is just up the coast from Otranto, and that's where Tete and Silvia are currently teaching in the latest part of their Europe tour. Too bad I can't be there to dance to Pugliese in Puglia, but it's comforting to know that when I get to see the magical mosaic in Otranto, I'll also be able to spend an evening or two dancing tango.

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