New Places Within
May 03, 2004

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.

French Interiors
September 09, 2002

Possibly excepting the Germans, French film-makers have always been the ones most intent on using the medium impossibly—to address ideas as ideas, through an art that is otherwise designed. Hundreds of films around the world have carried intellectual weight and worth, but usually those films are dramas or comedies whose characters happen to be intellectually fraught.

Palace and Garden
July 08, 2002

Maria Stuart may not seem like the perfect project for Ingmar Bergman's biannual exploration of classical texts. Written in 1800, some years after Schiller had completed The Robbers and Don Carlos, it is a typical product of Sturm und Drang--more workable perhaps as an opera libretto than as a dramatic text. Maria Stuart has a lot of strong scenes, particularly the confrontation between the two rival queens and the Machiavellian plotting of the treacherous courtiers.

World of Our Father
June 26, 1995

God: A Biography By Jack Miles (Knopf, 446 pp., $27.50) The Postmodern Bible By The Bible and Culture Collective (Yale University Press, 416 pp., $35) Jack Miles is a learned and original critic. In an age in which such belletristic skills are commonly regarded as irrelevant or even harmful to the true business of criticism, he knows what it is to be a writer. Unusually gifted critics will sometimes choose to write peculiar books, and this is what Miles has done. A reviewer can hardly help being preoccupied with its oddity, but before yielding to that temptation he ought to say that God: A Bio

The Oldest Dead White European Males
May 25, 1992

I. The species known as DWEM, which has only recently been isolated and identified, is already the focus of intense controversy. As usually happens to newly discovered species, it is even being broken down into subspecies; I am informed that a professor at a local university has recently offered a course in DWAM, that is, in Dead White American Males, with readings presumably in such writers as Thoreau, Emerson, and Mark Twain. I propose to discuss only the European type, and, in particular, its first appearance on the face of the planet. My specimens are certainly dead. In fact, they have bee

Heroes and Echoes
July 04, 1988

Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example by Adrian Poole Everyone assumes that they know what tragedy means; the problem comes in trying to define it. One thing is certain: it is a uniquely Western phenomenon.

The Vanity of "Vanity Fair"
March 21, 1983

Once upon a time—between September 1913 and February 1936—there was Vanity Fair. A quarter of a century after it folded, Cleveland Amory called it “America’s most memorable magazine,” and only a curmudgeon would quarrel with that accolade. It inspired an unusual fondness in both its contributors and its readers when it was alive, and amazingly its reputation still inspires much the same fondness in those who have never turned its pages. It is understandable that Condé Nast Publications Inc., the firm descended from the original publisher, should have been tempted to revive it.

The Tapes as Theater
June 01, 1974

With only a ravaged script of the original performance at our disposal, it is. premature to offer any sound literary assessment of the new find immensely popular drama of Watergate, Tapes. It is safe to say, however, that the work, treating a theme of political intrigue in modified Elizabethan fashion, and brilliantly improvised by an all-male cast, is extraordinary in scope, power and originality.

Faulkner: End of a Road
December 07, 1959

The Mansion By William Faulkner (Random House, $4.75)   The Snopeses have always been there. No sooner did Faulkner come upon his central subject—how the corruption of the homeland, staining its best sons, left them without standards or defense—than Snopesism followed inexorably. Almost anyone can detect the Snopeses, but describing them is very hard. The usual reference to “amorality,” while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive and by itself does not allow us to place them, as they should be placed, in a historical moment.

Comic-Strip Dictator
July 07, 1947

Bend Sinister By Vladimir Nabokov Henry Holt and Company; $2.75. The story of the free man under the totalitarian state is still the classic tragedy of our age, and in Bend Sinister it is given striking and original treatment, at once impressive, powerful and oddly exasperating. This second novel in English by Vladimir Nabokov, an American citizen of Russian birth, a sardonic tale of an intellectual who scorned his nation's tyrant, has an eerie, nightmare quality and savage humor.