Friday, March 05, 2010

Tony Blair: The Journey of his face - a review


What does this front cover tell us of Tony Blair's current state of mind and his memoirs The Journey (out September)? Arcatistes will be familiar with my appraisals of books by their cover alone: so let's examine the method and the message of this presentation.

Most striking is the light bleaching. I haven't seen anything quite like it since Beth Ditto's cover pic for Love magazine. Two white lamps are trained on the left-hand side of his face: one flat on, the other just off-central visage, casting shadows at the farthest reaches to our right, with illumination splashes on left cheek and mid-forehead. All this serves two purposes: to flood out most of his wrinkles and to deflect attention from the translucent bronze tanning or powder with shade brown and white contrasts.

Artfully, criss-cross lines are just discernible on the forehead while beard grain is non-existent. This succeeds in expressing a hint of the exigencies of past high office while reassuring us of a preserved boyishness, even at the age of 56, one still capable of being summoned up with discreet bronzing and lighting. To go further would be to risk Americanisation of the face. Uncapped teeth and greying hair are another concession to British ideas of authenticity (or another way of maintaining blue transatlantic water between Blighty grunge and American perfectionism). He's still a Brit even if he, like Thatch, is an honorary Yank.

Black open-necked shirt essays a smart-casual, Paul Smith-ish brand of 21st century cool statesmanship, in keeping with the not-quite smile: a smile or grin would incite public violence. So instead we get a Mona Lisa countenance: one that may suggest a certain conflict of feeling. This is a face sensitive to tone (and Tone). Notice how the corners of his mouth level off against the suggestion of a promised smile from the parted lips: it's the look of someone no longer certain of his reception. He looks you straight in the eye but he's wary. Not to be confused with contrition.

Much planning has gone into this pose of informal authenticity. His book promises much as a result, but will it deliver?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Andrew Lloyd Webber is writing it now: Tony Blair Superstar! To replace the imminent follow-up to Phantom which will bomb on arrival.

Xanthe Piledriver said...

Ol Botox Cheeks.

Anonymous said...

All this from the cover alone? You write essays on vacuums.

Anonymous said...

Vacua

Walsingham said...

The book like his cover will be a masterly exercise in subterfuge. Fucking catholics.

Dave Weeden said...

I remember when Blair was only leader of the Labour Party and I had doubts (but nowhere near as strong as my friend who called him the c-word, correctly with hindsight), and I thought then that one of his strengths was that he was good looking, but not that good looking. Not quite Hollywood character actor, but a lot more attractive than most pols (say, Brown, Major, Hague). But that look is odd. Why the passport photo type pic, why not Blair doing something? Riding in a helicopter or meeting the troops, or speaking to Parliament? And losing the lines and beard - weird. He's an elder statesman now (to his fans). All hopes of boyishness are gone.

Madame Arcati said...

Yes good points. The pic is telling us we've caught him mid-career and he has plans to go elsewhere - unusual in an ex-PM: the type usually descend into resentment or torpor after the climax. Blair however seeks a multi-orgasmic after-life. Do not rule out a TV career now he'll never be Euro president.

Anonymous said...

He's still the most gifted man in current British public life

Anonymous said...

Gifted ? cursed more like it. Forever and for many life times.

Anonymous said...

Don't be ridiculous. The man's head and shoulders above the rest.

Anonymous said...

" The man's head and shoulders above the rest."
That's not saying much.

Anonymous said...

Blair's greatest quality is his optimism. In a world of whingers, that's a winner.

Anonymous said...

look into his eyes. He's barking mad.