How Martin Scorsese Pulls Off Hugo’s Nostalgia
January 31, 2012
With Hugo, Martin Scorsese reclaims some of Hollywood’s old power as the great unifier, uncomplicated and sophisticated at the same time. This hymn to the unfettered imagination—Scorsese’s first work in 3D—is terrific popular entertainment, a magnificent children’s adventure story, with heroes and villains so delicately drawn that even the melodramatic moments have a comic wit.
The Ass and the Meaning of Life
January 28, 2012
I adore Crazy Horse, Frederick Wiseman’s documentary about the Crazy Horse Saloon, the Parisian nude revue putting on a show called, appropriately, “Desirs.” Like many of Wiseman’s earlier films, this one uses shadows to illuminate its subject—in this instance, the intense anguish and the fantastical, melancholy, delicious illusions underlying carnal love.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Troubled Worlds
January 25, 2012
The Front Line Norwegian Wood Khodorkovsky It used to be said that, paradoxically, a war film, even if its intent was anti-war, unavoidably conveyed excitements that were attractive. This paradox has seemed in recent years to be dwindling. For prime instance, Clint Eastwood’s companion films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima were as bareboned and glory-free (yet appreciative) as possible. Generalizations are risky in this vast genre, but at least some relatively recent war films have tried to be unseductive. Such is The Front Line from South Korea.
The First Fine Careless Rapture
January 25, 2012
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907-1922 Edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon (Cambridge University Press, 431 pp., $40) Hemingway: A Life in Pictures By Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway (Firefly Books, 207 pp., $29.95) With a flourish of publicity and as much shameless hype as one of the oldest and most prestigious academic publishers in the world can get away with, the first of an estimated sixteen volumes of Ernest Hemingway’s correspondence has been released.
Edward J. Epstein Makes History...Again
January 25, 2012
I was reminded of this devastating analysis of the sloppy case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn when I read that his wife, Anne Sinclair, is taking over the French version of The Huffington Post. This factoid was reported in Mediabistro, an online publication founded almost a decade ago by Laurel Touby and whose financing was put together by the sagacious investor Bill Ackman and by less sagacious me.
TNR Film Classics: ‘The Age of Innocence’ (October 18, 1993)
January 13, 2012
The basic trouble with Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (Columbia) is Edith Wharton’s novel. Looking back fifty years in 1920, Wharton conceived a tale of love versus honor set in New York high society of that past era, and she embodied it in a full-dress novel. But her material would have served only as a short story, at most a novella, for Tolstoy or Chekhov. What helps to sustain Wharton’s more extended treatment is the attractive prose in which she wraps her narrative.
International Arms Dealing And Newt's Second Marriage
December 16, 2011
A fascinating story in today’s Washington Post details the story of how, in the mid-1990s, the FBI almost carried out a sting operation against Newt Gingrich based on the allegation that he would take a bribe from a major international arms dealer. The sting was called off because there was no evidence Gingrich had any knowledge of a possible deal (or any intent to make one), and Gingrich hasn’t been accused of anything.
The Blooming Foreigner
November 23, 2011
“Something Urgent I Have to Say to You”: The Life and Works of William Carlos WilliamsBy Herbert Leibowitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 496 pp., $40) William Carlos Williams, among the most aggressively American poets since Walt Whitman, was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883, to a Puerto Rican mother and an English father, neither of whom bothered to become American citizens after their transplantation from the Caribbean to the poisonous industrial marshes west of Manhattan.
Darkness and Kindness
November 23, 2011
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. 2: 1941-1956Edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge University Press, 791 pp., $50) In February 1950, David Greene, who was then a professor of English at New York University, asked a twenty-three-year-old protégé on a Fulbright year in Paris to track down Samuel Beckett. I should like to know a.) what he is doing now, for a living. b.) why has he, or has he, stopped writing. But none of this is terribly important except that I should like to find that he is a real person, living in the flesh.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Page Eight,’ a Small Screen Movie That’s Nonetheless About Large Issues
November 10, 2011
Page Eight gives every sign of being a momentous television event. It is a debut outing for “Masterpiece Contemporary” on PBS. Some of the color photography, by Martin Ruhe, is exquisite but sinister—there’s a bruised sky against college masonry in Cambridge that escapes the usual proviso that television cannot be “beautiful” without seeming picturesque. The subject matter turns on such large issues as security, intelligence, Intelligence, honor, and love. The cast is so daunting it makes you keep an open mind about which characters are not to be trusted.