Man’s Search for Happiness

Man’s Search For Happiness (1964). 13 min., sound, color. USA: Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

They don’t make them like this anymore. I came across this when I was a Mormon missionary, circa 2000.  It was dubbed onto an old VHS I found in a ward meetinghouse library in Reynoldsburg, OH.  I’ve never been able to find it again, but I recently was reminded of this movie and thought to check for it on online, and found it in seconds.  Weird to realize that in 2000 there was no such thing as finding or streaming a video online; now you can find almost anything.

The church remade this movie in the 80s and I think they still distribute that version, but it fails to match the weirdness and mystery that you will see here.  I love the surrealist/proto-psychedelic moments. To a 21st century father, the scenes of the birth and the babies in the hospital feel almost dystopic, but I guess that’s just how they did things back in the 1950s and 1960s in America.  There’s many other priceless moments, such as the awkwardness and bad acting of the old moustached guy as he is welcomed into the afterlife by his various kindred dead.

Plus, as weird as it all is, I think it’s also true.  I sometimes have a desire to be both ironic and sincere at the same time.  At no time is that feeling more relevant than as I watch this film.

Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray

Brooklyn Museum: Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier)

Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier)

from The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (La Vie de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ)

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 11 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (28.9 x 15.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.137

Last night my father-in-law took us down to the BYU Museum of Art for the final night of an exhibition of paintings by James Tissot.  I was unfamiliar with Tissot and did not know what to expect other than a reference to religious art, but I’m always willing to go to museums and galleries and look at art, so I gladly went.  We descended to a downstairs gallery filled with over one hundred small, meticulous watercolors that took the viewer through the life of Christ, from Annunciation to Resurrection.  They were all from Tissot’s massive undertaking The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum.  There was a particularly reverent, church-like atmosphere to the gallery; Tissot was so interested in depicting events directly from scripture that looking at each painting and reading the captions became almost like reading the scriptural accounts.  As I embark on teaching a church primary class on the New Testament to 10-11 year old boys this year, it was a nice way to overview these sacred events.

Tissot was apparently a society painter in London and then Paris, until at some point while painting in a church he had a mystical, revelatory experience in which he saw Christ in vision. As a result he became a reformed Catholic and he devoted his artistic work to painting the life of Christ and the events of the New Testament.  He traveled extensively in the Middle East to study  and sketch the cities, landscapes, and people.  His goal was to make more culturally, geographically, and scripturally accurate representations of the subject of Jesus Christ than many artists had undertaken up to that point.  He described his artistic process as something that bordered on revelation, but nevertheless each picture is studied and meticulous, with incredible attention to craft and detail.  The painting above is just one of over 350 images of the New Testament that Tissot rendered, and I particularly liked it.  These paintings are all held by the Brooklyn Museum, and digital images and information can be found in their archives.

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This post commences a new feature here, the Froz-T-Freez Art Gallery, in which I will simply post pieces of art I like.  In some instances, as in this post, I will also take the opportunity to speak ignorantly about art or whatever else I want for a paragraph or two.