Books and Arts

Last week MGM released a "special edition" extended version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western from 1966. The concluding chapter of the "Dollars trilogy" (following on the heels of Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More), it involves the hunt by three ruthless men (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef) for a hidden cache of gold coins in Civil War era Texas.

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Last week MGM released a "special edition" extended version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western from 1966. The concluding chapter of the "Dollars trilogy" (following on the heels of Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More), it involves the hunt by three ruthless men (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef) for a hidden cache of gold coins in Civil War era Texas.

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by Jeffrey Rosen

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Off Pitch

As the early-spring rush of video releases is abating, we will dig back a few weeks to take a look at another misconceived romantic comedy, the pointlessly titled Something's Gotta Give. (Anyone hoping, as I was, that this might be a sly reference to the most memorable line in the famous 1992 "Seinfeld" episode "The Contest" will be disappointed.) It's tempting to describe this Diane Keaton-Jack Nicholson vehicle about late-in-life love as a bad movie. But that would be giving it too much credit, because it's hardly a movie at all.

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SON FRÈRE (Strand) I’M NOT SCARED (Miramax) THE FRENCH DIRECTOR Patrice Chéreau is having a double career that, at least in shape and intent, is comparable to Ingmar Bergman’s, Chéreau, born in 1944, directs in the theater, both plays and operas, and in film. (He also directs in television and acts from time to time.) The only theater production of his that I have seen was one that was televised, The Ring of the Nibelungen, done for the Bayreuth Festival in 1980 and apparently inspired by the views in Bernard Shaw’s The Perfect Wagnerite.

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Modus Operandi

The curtains drawn, all rectangles are blue. Four morning pigeons wheel in the school glue. I hate the treacherous light of December. Cold. I eat pumpkin soup out of the blender. The central heating grumbles: “You, get out.” Right.

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THE EYE OF THE LYNX: GALILEO, HIS FRIENDS, AND THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN NATURAL HISTORY By David Freedberg(University of Chicago Press, 513pp., $30) IN 2003, THE PRESIDENT OF ITALY, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, paid official honor to a society whose four original members could scarcely have predicted that their intimate club would have become the 540-member national honorific society of a unified, secular Italian state, however well they knew that nature was full of unpredictable marvels.

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SINCE THE 1960S, WHEN Michael McClure imagined Billy the Kid humping Jean Harlow in The Beard and Barbara Garson had Lyndon Johnson whacking Jack Kennedy in MacBird, it has grown obvious that actual people, often still among us, have become the grist of American playwriting. In one recent week alone, a musical opened by Michael John LaChiusa called First Lady Suite, featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, and Mamie Eisenhower, along with a semi-fictional comedy by A.R. Gurney called Mrs. Farnsworth, about a Vassar woman who may or may not have been impregnated by George W.

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There are a million stories in the naked city, but there appears to be only one story in Washington, D.C. Have you ever read a book set in the capital that was not related to government? Whereas any romantic entanglement, murderous scheme, or cloying period piece may be set in New York City, a plot set in Washington is by and large one of official intrigue, albeit involving a pretty girl. When was the last time you read a romance set in the cafes of Dupont Circle, with no conspiracy in the background? Washington exists as a literary setting solely to establish a stock scene: politics.

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Chop Socky

  In an interview following the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Tim Roth ventured that "I honestly think you could take the same script but reshoot it with women and it would work. It would be the most controversial film ever. ... You could call it Reservoir Bitches." It took more than a decade, but with Kill Bill Volume 1 (out on video this week), Quentin Tarantino finally made his Reservoir Bitches. And while it's not the most controversial film ever (nor even of the past twelve months), that was clearly the director's aspiration.

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