The Montreal Gazette does not usually share the same opinions as I do, but one of their editorial leaders for today - "Long Live Farine Five Roses!" - is right up my alley (or should I say narrow urban transit route?).
As the editorial writer says: "It's easy to dismiss the passing of industrial symbols as no great loss. They are neither great art nor great architecture. But they are humble monuments to the working world of thousands ... they deserve a place in our hearts, if not on our skyline."
The FARINE FIVE ROSES sign - a giant, neon-lit series of letters in red retro style - pictured here - has stood over the Bonaventure Expressway for 60 years and is in some ways as iconic for Montrealers as the HOLLYWOOD of LA; sadly, the company that owns and illuminates the sign has sold the trademark to another company, and so, to save money, and avoid advertising a competitor's brand, has switched off the power, rendering the great tall words dark in the night. As the Gazette suggests, Smuckers can still improve by re-lighting the historic sign.
The same sort of thing happened in Budapest, a visual-historical voiding, where the important, and retro-classic BUDAVOX sign was finally torn down. That sign was the title inspiration for my first collection (DC Books, 1999) - the sign can be seen on the cover. BUDAVOX was several stories high, and very beautiful, of its modernist period. Budapest closed many of its cinemas, or tore down a lot of its Deco and Modern neon signs at the turn of the millennium, to renew its city; such changes are often later profoundly regretted.
There are a few scenes in Miami Vice (one on the Argentina-Paraguay border) and again in Cuba, where Mann zooms in on, or features in the background, signs (one is a huge eye, the other the name of an Art Deco hotel) that herald the semiotic, ironic and iconic value of such signs, such letters. As the poet W.C. Williams, and the painter Charles Demuth, had it: "I saw the figure 5 / in gold" - one of the most beautiful phrases - and paintings - in 20th century modern art.