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.

The Pretender
November 09, 2011

Many characters made appearances during my efforts earlier this year to persuade the international community that the freedom fighters of Libya needed the world’s help.

Conspiracy Porn
November 09, 2011

The Prague Cemetery By Umberto Eco (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 445 pp., $27) Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born communist jihadist. The Mossad staged the attacks of September 11. Vince Foster was murdered on the orders of his lover, the notorious lesbian Hillary Clinton. The United States government is concealing the wreckage of an alien spacecraft that crashed in New Mexico in 1947. A secret society named the Priory of Sion protects the living descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. It is tempting to think that we are living in a golden age of conspiracy theories.

French Newspaper Firebombed
November 03, 2011

[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] A French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed yesterday after the publication made a joke about the Prophet Muhammad.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Truths, Mostly
October 26, 2011

It takes a lot of courage to call a film Happy, Happy, and the young Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky manages to justify it. Her first feature film fixes on the very idea of happiness: what it is or is thought to be, and what happens to it. Other directors of her generation have been likewise concerned, but with Ragnhild Tronvoll’s supple screenplay, Sewitsky puts a story before us that is both recognizable and sufficiently probing. Kaja and Eirik are a young couple who live in the countryside with their son.

The Internet Intellectual
October 12, 2011

Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live  By Jeff Jarvis  (Simon & Schuster, 263 pp., $26.99) In 1975, Malcolm Bradbury published The History Man, a piercing satire of the narcissistic pseudo-intellectualism of modern academia. The novel recounts a year in the life of the young radical sociologist Howard Kirk—“a theoretician of sociability”—who is working on a book called The Defeat of Privacy.