She was twenty-five and I was fourteen. She was a virgin and I was not. She was my high-school teacher of chemistry, the one teacher in any school who ever gave me a failing grade. Her name was Eleanor Brophy, and she had a touch of Irish accent and a lot of Irish softness. The only time I saw her angry was when one of the boys in the class mocked something I said at the blackboard, where I was fumbling an answer, and she turned on him. My work got worse and worse through the year. I had taken chemistry because I was still obeying a willed ambition to be a doctor.
In 1945 I thought I was a novelist. For ten years, until 1941, I had thought I was a theater man, a member of a repertory company for life, working as one contributor to the production of great plays. That had collapsed. Then for a couple of years I had worked at various magazine jobs to support myself while I wrote novels. Luck with my second novel had allowed me to quit magazine work and to concentrate on writing--novels, mostly. I was hoping to make a long circle back to the theater in some way.
VOLVER (Sony Pictures Classics) IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (Typecast Releasing with HBO) It happens to almost every successful director, and it has certainly happened to Pedro Almodóvar: he has entered the Age of the Larynx. In this age, sheer talk--the interview--becomes as much a part of a director's life as anything other than directing itself. Almodóvar interviews flood the press, especially just before a new film appears. He is more supple and funny than most directors can be, but even he can indulge in interview lingo. (From a recent one: "What always attracts me, and it's almost a physical need,
Old Joy (Kino International) The Beat movement in literature is said to have begun in 1952 with Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes. No such specific date that I know is cited for the movement’s spread to films. (Underground film is something else.) The first Beat picture that I can remember didn’t come until almost forty years later, with Richard Linklater’s Slacker in 1991. Since then there has been a fairly steady stream. I’d dub them Listless Films, even though that term is easy to misunderstand. The people in these films, mostly in their twenties, are not dull or lazy.
TSOTSI (Miramax) THE FILM SNOB’S DICTIONARY (Broadway Books) AN OLD MYTH TELLS OF A bird that had to press its breast against a thorn in order to sing, which it then did beautifully. Political troubles have served as that thorn for some writers, and the end of those troubles has, along with its benefits, deprived them of their singing. George Konrád, the Hungarian author of major novels about the travails of life under totalitarianism, has dwindled as a novelist since democracy reached Hungary.
FATELESS (THINKfilm) CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREAT MOVIEMAKERS OF HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE AT THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (Knopf) MANY OF US HAVE reservations about the Holocaust as a subject for enacted films. Claude Lanzmann, who made the monumental documentary Shoah, said, "Fiction [about the Holocaust] is a transgression. I deeply believe that there are some things that cannot and should not be represented." Still, even if we too think that we believe this, when a Holocaust film is manifestly serious--one can almost say consecrated--it is hard to resist.
By now the filmgoing world knows that Steven Spielberg has three selves. First is the self most frequently summoned, the maker of superlative entertainments (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). His second self applies his talent seriously to serious subjects (Schindler's List, Amistad). The third self produces hybrids, films that use both of the other two selves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan). Spielberg's new film, Munich, was made by the third self.
Ang Lee continues to astonish. In 1995, when his best-known film was Eat Drink Man Woman, set in his native Taiwan, the producers of Sense and Sensibility tapped him to direct their picture: an act of perception, of courage, for which all of us owe them thanks. Lee proceeded—incredibly—to make the best of the Jane Austen films.
First time tragedy, second time farce. Fifth time? Judging from Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge, by then you know what you're doing. The Japanese director has essentially been recycling the same eerie ghost story since 2000, first in two installments made for Japan's video market (entitled Ju-On and Ju-On 2), then in two theatrical-release remakes (Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2), and now in a Hollywood-produced English-language version, The Grudge, just released on video.
The Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs begins with a Buddhist epigram, though not a particularly memorable one (something about "Continuous Hell" being the worst of the eight hells).