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Sprezzatura - Laura Wise

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April 15th, 2009


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11:39 am - Sprezzatura
"Sprezzatura. n. studied carelessness, especially in art or literature." -- Concise Oxford Dictionary

At the moment, or indeed ever, I can't manage sprezzatura -- hard to have it on a sneezy, headachy, cleaned-up-the-Dog-of-the-House's-vomit-at-6-am day, even without my natural handicaps of face-pulling and gawkiness -- but I so admire it in others.

The thing about the "studied" carelessness, it seems to me, is that the end result appears effortless. Maybe a bit louche, but effortless nonetheless.

Last night I spent some downtime in watching Double Wedding (1937), the seventh film collaboration of the great William Powell and Myrna Loy. Like a lot of later Powell/Loy, it more than dabbles in slapstick -- I don't think the ending melee in a trailer works at all -- and I'm not sure I would recommend it to any but Powell/Loy completists, but it has a few quiet moments as well.

One scene in particular struck me... Powell (a bohemian painter-director type, yes, really) and Loy (a hyper-organized fashion executive) are out for the day, sharing a lunch under the trees in some rural landscape. The banter between them is delicious (Ex. She insults him, calling him the most horrible man she's ever met; his response is a suave, "I try to excel at everything I attempt"), the sexual chemistry powerful, but Powell ends the conversation by saying that he's going to take a post-lunch nap -- "under that tree," he says with utter nonchalance. Loy doesn't roll her eyes, but she comes close... Sprezzatura *can* be irritating, I suppose.

Cut to the nap. Powell is bonelessly asleep, and we see Loy observing him. The Powell closeup is gorgeous -- he's in profile, his perfect white shirt loose at the neck (no tie), hair just coming disarranged; sprezzatura at rest.  Loy smiles, appreciating the sight as much as I do. (The fact that she then steals his car and trailer has no bearing on this moment of appreciation.) 

What's interesting to me is that, according to the TCM notes on the film and other sources, this is the film being made when Powell's fiancee Jean Harlow died. (He was so devastated by her death that filming had to be shut down for a week or so.) I wonder now if this scene was shot before or after his loss... if he could have conveyed such beautiful, louche grace even when suffering. That, I think, would be more than sprezzatura. I don't think there's a word for it.

May your day be full of beautiful, small carelessnesses which give you joy!

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:paratti
Date:April 15th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry about the SBD's wan't well and you had to clear it up.

((hugs))
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 15th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Fear not! The Dog of the House was ill because she ate bad stuff off the ground -- it's all her fault -- but she's better now. :-)

Hugs and a good middle of the week, Lesley!
[User Picture]
From:ladyforash
Date:April 15th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
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What a beautiful post! I've never seen the movie but now I've 'seen' that scene. Hugs!
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 15th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much -- it really IS a lovely scene. :-)

Good thoughts for your Wednesday, and hugs!
From:gwynnega
Date:April 15th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
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Now I want to see that movie...

::hugs::
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 15th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
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The film's actually sort of infuriating to watch -- it's extremely uneven in script and pacing. The good moments are really good, though. ;-)

Hugs and a good Wednesday!
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From:roguedemon
Date:April 15th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
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so sorry about the SBD. I have tried so hard to have studied carelessness, and I finally concluded that that it was just never ever going to happen. I'm just not the cool. So now I'm trying for elegant simplicity. Everyone needs a hobby.

((hugs))
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 15th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
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The Dog brings it on herself. [frowns at Dog, who does not care in the slightest]

I think you absolutely are perfect for 'elegant simplicity'! Yes!

As for me, I think it's going to have to be 'village eccentric.' ;-)

Hugs and good thoughts, Nell...
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 16th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
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Let's wipe the little carelessnesses away today and go for the lovely ones! :-)

Hugs hugs and an easy Thursday, Rainkatt.
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From:wildrider
Date:April 16th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
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I've never seen Double Wedding. I may have to remedy that...

I had to clean cat vomit this morning at 5:00. I feel your pain. So *hugs* anyway!

[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 16th, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
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Oh, I sympathize very much with your pet issues, all of them...

[hugs and stuff]
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From:stateless82
Date:April 16th, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
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I'm another who now has to see the movie. And while I'm at it, I'll add Libeled Lady. It's been awhile since I've seen that.

Spressatura is a very good word.
[User Picture]
From:stateless82
Date:April 16th, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
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ZZZZZ's not S's. Z's.

braindead.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:April 16th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
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Libeled Lady is a far superior movie, I have to say -- and it has the scene in the lake! Ah yes!

[happy sigh]

[sends hugs and sprezzatura and good thoughts]
[User Picture]
From:pinkdormouse
Date:April 16th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
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That's a wonderful word.

HUGS
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From:laurawise
Date:April 17th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
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It is a cool word, isn't it? :-)

Hugs and a good weekend!

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