Artists and Towers
August 24, 2011
In the 1970s I knew a young artist who painted cityscapes and talked about creating a series of New York City views in which the towers of the World Trade Center, then only a year or so old, would appear in every composition. My friend’s idea, which he discussed in a playful and speculative spirit, was to develop a modern urban counterpart to Hokusai’s One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Sometimes the towers would be the focal point; sometimes they would be seen from a curious and unexpected vantage point; sometimes they would be no more than a speck in the distance.
The New-Wave classic 'Band of Outsiders' turns 50
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Horizontally Speaking
July 28, 2011
The Names of Love Music Box Films LATELY I WAS BRIEFLY in a rehab home and had a specific afternoon time slot when I could watch television. I spent some time watching late-afternoon soap operas and found them interesting. Not the stories: I hardly remember any bits of them. What interested me overall was the acting. Of course the acting cannot be completely separated from the scripts: both are business created in board rooms and ad-agency offices.
The Importance of Being Earnest
July 28, 2011
The Pale King By David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown, 548 pp., $27.99) Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will By David Foster Wallace (Columbia University Press, 252 pp., $19.95) Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace By David Lipsky (Broadway Books, 320 pp., $16.99) I. Today we think of the 1920s as a golden age of American fiction. But to Edmund Wilson, looking back in 1944, the most striking thing about this modern generation, which he did more than any critic to foster, was its failure to reach full development.
The Libelous Truth
July 13, 2011
Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America By Alan Ackerman (Yale University Press, 361 pp., $35) Mary McCarthy preferred the old-fashioned way. You might not know this from her three divorces and the anatomical precision of her bedroom scenes, but she had a strong streak of cultural conservatism. She rejected feminism and lamented the disappearance of Latin from the schoolhouse. The modern fascination with technology annoyed her.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Deepenings
July 13, 2011
Rapt Lorber Films El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Alive Mind A Little Help Freestyle The style is what holds us. Rapt is about the kidnapping of a French tycoon in Paris, and no sooner have we felt a tinge of disappointment—what, another ransom film?—than we feel curiosity about what will happen. The people are quickly credible, but it is the electric style that convinces us of the maker’s intelligence. How could this writer-director, Lucas Belvaux, not know that he was entering familiar territory? He must have had a reason. He has.
Writers should be excused their obsessions, and they should even be pardoned for writing too much about those obsessions. But Tina Brown, the editor of Newsweek, has decided to make her article on “Diana at 50” the cover story of her magazine. The piece ponders what Diana would have been doing with her life had she not died in Paris. It is almost impossible to do justice to the sheer awfulness of this story.
This is no time for gloating, neither for Americans nor for Europeans. For both sides are in deep economic trouble, only in different ways. The U.S. runs the worst deficit (as share of GDP) since World War II, and yet Keynesianism to the max won’t budge the unemployment rate—pace Professors Krugman and Stiglitz. What does fall is the dollar and the price of real estate, a double-whammy if ever there was one. The euro, meanwhile, may be rising, at least against the greenback, but the common currency, now ten years old, is about as stable as was Confederate script back in the Civil War.
‘Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century’: A New Show That Proves Craft Is no Assurance of Quality
June 22, 2011
Walking through “Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century,” at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, I was always conscious of the iron fist beneath the velvet glove. Although this panoramic view of the decorative arts in eighteenth-century France has its share of sleek and seductive surfaces, by the time I left the galleries I felt as if I had been mugged by the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of design shows. The level of craftsmanship is so daunting that it frequently registers as a form of aggression.
The ‘Indignants’: Can They Save the European Left?
June 09, 2011
Last week, the main square of Barcelona was the epicenter of a vital insurgency. On the lawns of the Placa Catalunya, thousands of Europeans—most of them young—orated, ate free food, tried on free used clothing, and took advantage of free child care and yoga classes. An excellent jazz quintet played protest songs for activists and onlookers alike.