Gem Fire Air
Illusions Of Love: Jeremy Irons & Andrea Bocelli
February 12, 2007
This article celebrates the completion of the first year of GemFireAir. Given all the odds and circumstances, I am both thrilled and humbled that we have made it to this mark.
What I originally thought would be a small group of interested individuals has turned into an international Affaire de Coeur — so fitting to be celebrating it near Valentines Day and during February, the Month of The Heart.
My gratitude and love go out to all of you around the world who come here regularly to see what we’re up to.
Illusions Of Love: Jeremy Irons And Andrea Bocelli
What is love if not the state of being transported to the ultimate expression of our godlike nature. Of feeling as if we are full of ourselves and closer to the experience of knowing bliss, rapture, and ecstasy. It is here that our experience takes on the extra dimension of pleasure, where we see the world through captivated eyes and hear it through enchanted ears, where all looks and sounds expand the very magnitude of our being — a world that is ours to own.
Far be it from me to burst anyone’s illusory bubble, including my own, but so few of us believe that such a world is available to us personally, and therefore we seek it within the sphere of beauty inspired by another’s imagination — in the nebulous creations on the screen, in the written word of books, works of photography, music, and art.
There are two such persons among those I turn to for such inspiration — actor Jeremy Irons and singer Andrea Bocelli. They are my muses, albeit of the male gender. Both have a beautiful repertoire of work. Both inspire me — from the very first moment I saw Jeremy perform and heard Andrea sing. They have a transcendental quality that speaks to the heart and the soul.
Andrea has a voice that draws at the universal core of people. When he sings, his audience glows, their eyes shine bright, like the stars of the night. Everyone breathes together and willingly allows themselves to be transported into a world of fantasy.
He is classically trained and is well known as being the fourth voice invited to sing in concert with the famous “Three Tenors”, José Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti. Bocelli sings equally well, Verdi, Puccini, and Massenet, sacred arias, and in his CD albums ‘romanza’, and ‘amore’, love songs in the language of love.
Andrea touchingly has a familial story that rests in his birthplace of Italy and in his relationship with his father. On his CD ‘Sogno’ (Dream) the selections of love songs span the realm of the imaginary to the real. Lyrics in the title song, ‘Sogno’, speak to the dreamer of love as Andrea sings, “This is where I will wait for you, stealing imaginary kisses as time goes by —Dream”.
Bocelli then moves into the immense sea of expanded awareness in which lovers know each other merely by their presence with ‘Immenso’. The last song of Sogno, ‘A Mio Padre’ is written by Bocelli where he sends his father a very personal message, “I want to make it on my own.”
His recent DVD, “Under The Desert Sky”, is especially poignant. In a desert community of the southwest near Las Vegas, Nevada, the backdrop of Italian architecture creates the ethereal feeling of Italy transported into the heart of the desert. Add Andrea’s incredible voice to the Italian and Spanish-sung love songs, and you feel like you are in heaven. Then he sings Elvis’s, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and the audience sinks into the lush sounds of his voice with a collective sigh.
Our experience of Love can be limiting as well as limitless within many scenarios, the most frequent being when we meet that person who triggers such a glorious response within us; and subsequently experience the disappointment on the down line when we feel the restrictions put into place by the myriad interruptions produced out of our psyche and a mind which has a tendency to grasp onto pleasure, not wanting to let go of it, not able to ride out the ebb of its wave.
One thing about Love is that we think of it as being a well-laid out plan, like a pre-patterned template that will happen to us. We fall in-Love and live happily ever after according to the well-ordered mythical version. I often wonder who it was that created the myth in the first place—who created the source of so much drive in the hearts of humanity to achieve such an ideal as this, and where did it get distorted into such pain that we shy away from committing ourselves to it.
The ideal of love encompasses the Christian template of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of mankind, adding mankind’s own religiously induced restrictions on the subject. And let us not forget that if we love, we believe and look for a reciprocating experience, one that most people never get to experience and which becomes the jading factor. Then there is the universal mix-up of love and sex, not to say that the two are not meant to go together, but to implicate the fact that there are any number of scenarios in which these two elements combine with the confusion of mistaken identity between the sexes.
Which brings me to the romantic notions of men and women in love &/or lust, and actor Jeremy Irons. If there is one actor who epitomizes the many facets of love onscreen, Jeremy Irons does. Throughout his screen career, he typically fills romantic roles, none of which are simple or straightforward.
Trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, it is not a surprise that he would win a Tony Award for his 1984 Broadway performance opposite Glenn Close in The Real Thing, a play about male/female relationships. In 1990, he added an Oscar to his accolades for his role as Claus von Bulow in Reversal Of Fortune.
Jeremy brings a mercurial quality to his characters, which always keeps me on the edge of wanting to know all that his subject is about. Just when I think I have the character down, he adds another aspect, which although seems to run counter to all that has been laid down before, is simply another layer of the character’s personality. There is everything complex about his acting that goes very deep into a well-honed repertoire to extract every skill available.
Recently I did a Jeremy Irons video-thon and began with Brideshead Revisited, a BBC Masterpiece Theatre 1981 production that ran weekly for about three months on American TV. In it we are given a glimpse of the male bonding process via the English aristocracy in the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel by the same name. Jeremy plays the role of Charles Ryder from his time as a young university student to the mature man during WWI. His character develops as a successful artist throughout the timeline, yet he is thwarted in establishing any lasting love life. Casting Irons in this role is what catapulted him onto the American screen to begin a most successful acting career.
Of the many roles he is cast in, most include the portrayal of lust and love, with either one likely to show up first. In the movie Damage, he portrays a happily married executive in English Parliament, opposite actress Jeanette Binoche. It is a story of a man meeting his Fate, the ever intriguing karmic love affair that in the end has the scorpion’s sting to it.
Knowing that, don’t let yourself be put off, because what happens in between is sheer compelling sex exhibited in the most well-presented scenes you will ever see. Both characters are swept into the inferno of lust where nary a word is spoken in their first sexual encounter as she slips off the edge of the bed onto her knees with her arms outstretched in a mudra of sacrifice to his purely lustful possession. He tells her, “I can’t seem to see past you.” and, “I’ve never had feelings like this before.”
In the numerous sex scenes in Damage, he is totally run by his obsession with her, and throughout the movie, maneuvers back and forth from this sexual conflagration to his family and burgeoning political career. Irons is the master of displaying subtle facial and vocal nuances. It is no wonder that he thinks sex symbols are "pretty mindless objects." But, quoting him, "If I am to be anybody's, I think probably I would prefer to be the thinking woman's because it's always better to think about it."
He has a speaking voice to match the power of Andrea Bocelli’s singing voice. Even that it resounds with a British accent, his voice is wonderfully lyrical and seductive. His natural charm is so unaffected that even when he plays the villainous role, such as the one of a seducer of his young stepdaughter in Lolita, the audience is also seduced to see the wounded male at his most vulnerable. In this role we get to see how his unhealed childhood love-wound named Annabelle turns up one fateful day in the future, in the person of Lolita. It only takes a glance at her and he is hooked into the past.
Of Lolita, Iron’s character says,
“She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing 4’10” in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Delores on the dotted line. But in my arms, she was always Lolita. Light of my life, fire of my loin, my sin, my soul — Lolita!”
Regardless of the lecherous nature with which our culture views such a man, Irons never fails to inform us of the fact that it is not in his character’s makeup to go about seducing young girls. It is this one particular girl who catapults him back into his own past and who subconsciously reminds him of his one first love, the one he has tragically lost.
Irons is also famous for the voice of Scar in The Lion King. In one of his most recent roles, he plays the Earl of Leicester in the BBC production for HBO, Elizabeth I, opposite actress Helen Mirren as Elizabeth. He won both an Emmy award and the Golden Globe for this supporting role. The relationship between Elizabeth and Leicester is legendary, stormy, and filled with unfulfilled sexual desire.
In his movie M Butterfly, I found Irons at his most daunting self in the role of a French Diplomat assigned to Beijuing in 1964 at a time where the French were facing the defeat of their occupation of Indochina and during the American invasion of Viet Nam. It is a story that symbolizes the ultimate differences between the western world and oriental culture of China, a movie that touches upon main perceptual problems whose existence we as westerners still cannot understand today.
Irons is poignantly tender as he delivers exquisite first kisses to an oriental opera singer. He is introduced by her to the opera in the tragic figure of Puccini’s, Madame Butterfly, and instantly finds himself wrapped up in her cocoon of sumptuous silks and oriental intrigue. The relationship unfolds in the world of love, lust, danger, and mystery.
Inherent in the script is the fascination western men have for the submissive oriental woman. She calls him an “adventurous imperialist’ and the “white devil’. It is fascinating to watch Madame Butterfly come alive in the modern world of the 60’s and be named M Butterfly beneath the mastery of Jeremy Irons.
As an actor, Jeremy Irons is hauntingly fragile in the vulnerability he is willing to bring to his characters. In his intimacy with his characters, we are not denied the depths and layers of emotions that move through his eyes and features. He can convey intense sexual passion in one moment and shift to a childlike wonderment in the next, something that very few actors can bring to the theatre and screen, not only today but also throughout the history of acting.
In the end of course, there may never be one answer to the quest that all of us seek — that of finding True Love. Perhaps there is such a large and overpowering answer that we cannot comprehend the experience of it except in small doses. Perhaps also, when we know the experience of loving ourselves, know the essence of our cosmic creation, then we may actually Know True Love and be able to touch others with it.
It is with great love that I reprint the words of Andaf Soueif to feed the desire of the body as well as the longing of the soul.
al-Imam Jalal al-Din al-Sayuti, Cairo, 1495 AD
The Map of Love, Andaf Soueif
“In the act of love there is decreed for every part a portion of pleasure: so the eyes are for the pleasure of looking, and the nostrils are to smell sweet perfume. The pleasure of the lips lies in kissing, and the tongue in sipping and sucking and licking. The teeth find their pleasure in biting, and the penis in penetration. The hands love to feel and explore. The lower half of the body is for touching and caressing and the upper half is for holding and embracing – and as for the ears, their pleasure is in listening to the words and sounds of love.”
The Map of Love, by Andaf Soueif
1 January 1902 (journal entry)
‘Hubb’ is love, ‘ishq’ is love that entwines two people together, ‘shaghaf’ is love that nests in the chambers of the heart, ‘hayam’ is love that wanders the earth, ‘teeh’ is love in which you lose yourself, ‘walah’ is love that carries sorrow within it, ‘sabbah’ is love that exudes from your pores, ‘hawa’ is love that shares its name with ‘air’ and with ‘falling’, ‘gharam’ is love that is willing to pay the price.
Con Molto Amore,
Labels: Affaire de Coeur, Andrea Bocelli, Damage, GemFireAir, Heart, Jeremy Irons, Love, M Butterfly, Under The Desert Sky, Valentines Day