is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that
something that is interesting is interesting them" Gertrude
| A Foreign Sound | Nonesuch 79823-2 | 2004
month or two into owning this disk, I tend to skip "Feelings"
and "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," but I like just
about everything else, especially the versions of Eden Ahbez's "Nature
Boy," Kurt Cobain's "Come as You Are," Irving Berlin's
"Blue Skies," Arto Lindsay (et al)'s "Detached,"
Rodgers and Hart's "Manhattan," Cole Porter's "Love for
Sale," and Irving Burgie's "Jamaica Farewell." The purest
instance of Veloso's estrangement of anglophone song? The moment in
David Byrne's "(Nothing but) Flowers" where, thrown by the
voicing of "w" and retreating to a deceptive eye-rhyme, he
sings: "if this is paradise / I wish I had a loan mau-wer."
24: Season One | 20th Century
Fox | 6 DVDs | BBC Episode
Guide (contains spoilers) | Fox site
Bingle nails" Babel "to the wall" at the soon-to-be hooded
(in the PhD, not the Abu Ghraib, sense of the word) Konvolut
M. Billboard interpellation at The
Well-Nourished Moon. Cahiers
de Corey kicks in a conversion narrative. Silliman
reviews Anne Waldman's In the Room of Never Grieve.
Of her work at Naropa, he writes: "Anne Waldman makes James Brown
seem slothful & Charles Bernstein positively indolent. Shes
not only paid her dues, but yours, mine & that of more than a few
other people as well." A chance encounter between Equanimity
Accompli at St. Mark's Book Shop leads to chat of slumping blog
stats, Smithson, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E,
all capped by a Stephen Wright sighting. Hotel
Point channels Friedlander channeling Poe. Piranesi, Goncharova,
Akhmatova, Bloomsday, Canadian politics, and more at the prolific wood
s lot. Snippets from an interview with Jessica Grim at Vanishing
Points of Resemblance. And lipstick-tracing Mikarrhea's
moved: update links accordingly.
on Jarmusch's Coffee and
Cigarettes: "The film is immanent in the way that much of Robert
Creeleys poetry is pay attention to what is in front of
you here." Equanimity
cracks open a carton full of new Burning
Deck books. Cahiers
de Corey comes to the "crazy high speed chase through thousands
of years of Chinese history" that are Cantos
Accompli channels Hazlitt circa 1839 on the loss of authorial aura:"The
poet, as of old, is not now, from rarity, regarded as a mystery, a wizard,
a something whose privacy is not to be profaned by being encroached
upon; every effort is made to throw down this partition wall, to rend
asunder the veil of genius; and instead of being kept at a studious
and awful distance, he must be brought near, must be shown as a *lion*,
must be had out to dinner, or to an AT HOME; we must procure his autograph,
get him to write his name in an *album*, and, if possible, come into
personal contact with him, so as to mix him up with our daily impressions
and admiring egotism." And special thanks to Mikarrhea
for the kind words about this site.
Tree files an Orono report. "The Governor catches bullets
in his mechanical teeth" at Cahiers
de Corey. The indulger is undone at Mikarrhea.
calls for more "rage that seroconverts to joy in the bloodstream."
reads Michael Magee's MS: "Goofy
thematic fugue-like development. Ronald Johnson in science of perception
mode if he had gone through the poetics of Jackass.... Riff-based paratactic
sequencing with active morphing." And Pantaloons
dips into Anne Tardos's The Dik-dik's Solitude:
"Clack mopery. Documenta flop-flop." "Of course,
doing nothing means thinking, a kind of catatonia": Magee, Friedlander,
Poe, Clouseau, Caledonia, and Rich Little at Hotel
leads with thoughts on Jack Hirschman, Third Worldism, and "what
it would take to put together a genuinely global coalition of wage slaves,
the only sort of labor movement that could ever avoid being sliced &
diced at will by the divide-&-conquer machinations of capital,"
then segues into "how great Lorenzo Thomas is." "As to
my 'thoughts on revolutionary poetry," he concludes, "when
its well written, I like it just fine." Konvolut
M on gigs by Mission of Burma and Refrigerator; also, film notes
on The Stepford Wives ("I was hoping
for a more saturated, hyper-something visual style, esp. from Frank
Oz, but this was pretty tame") and The Five
Obstructions ("I was hoping for a cinematic Eunoia,
and it's considerably less than that").
M learns five things on a visit to Santa Monica Pier. While
decides between five white girls. Far along the Guermantes Way,
finds himself immersed in Proustian temporality. The Cahiers
de Corey test the "dangers and pleasures of Circe's island"
while working through Cantos 31-41: "I have eaten the flame"
(Canto 39). Equanimity
savors the "admirable combination of severity and affection"
to be found in Benjamin Friedlander's Simulcast.
prints out a summer's worth of reading that includes Coolidge, Armantrout,
Williams, and Olson.
Literary Supplement 5278 | 28 May 2004
Brooks reviews François Cusset's French
Theory: Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & cie et les mutations de la
vie intellectuelle aux États-Unis: the book "is full
of insights and far-reaching interpretations. It is written both with
a kind of French intellectual snobbism (possibly an ineradicable part
of one's birthright as a French intellectual) and much sympathy for
the bizarre forms of American cultural life. Although he probably exaggerates
the impact of French theory in America, he seems to me largely right
in his understanding of the kinds of differences it has made. He makes
many a mistake of detail, in dates and names and such, but this doesn't
alter the value of the whole. Above all, he write from a deep and distressed
appreciation of how thoroughly French intellectual life has abandoned
the generous and exciting reach of the 1960s and 70show it has
fallen back into the anti-'May '68' patterns prescribed by such as Jean-Luc
Ferry and Bernard-Henri Lévy, into a 'new humanism' which is
often moralistic rather than thoughtful" (5).
Darryl Pinckney reviews William J. Maxwell's edition of Claude McKay's
Complete Poems: "Maxwell has edited
this comprehensive volume superbly, hunting down every last poem [there
are 323 all told], and although Complete Poems
may not enhance McKay's reputation as a poet, the work is certainly
an addition to his biography in that the poems...record the changes
in his thinking and ideological allegiances over the years" (10).
Jules Smith reviews the Zukofksy
- Williams correspondence edited by Barry Ahearn and Zukofsky's
study of Guillaume Apollinaire edited by Serge Gavronsky as part
of the Wesleyan Centennial Edition of Zukofsky's complete critical writings.
Smith argues that "both books suggest some modification to Zukofsky's
image as reticent and austere. In this, the centenary year of his birth,
he emerges in both letters and criticism as a more humorous, even flamboyant
figure, but also more single-minded in the pursuit of career-success.
At least within the tight circle of his friends and family, Zukofksy
was witty, highly sociable and in his publishing projects highly collaborative"
(11). Marjorie Perloff reviews
the Duncan-Levertov correspondence, finding theirs to be a "world
of poetry as vocationpoetry as vision, special knowledge and epiphany"
(all suspect terms for the critic). Mistakenly naming Mitch Goodman
as one of the Chicago Seven, Perloff views with suspicion the anti-Vietnam
War convictions of the poets, asking "why these once apolitical
poetswhose correspondence has virtually nothing to say about the
Cold War and the revelations of genocide coming from the Soviet Unionsuddenly
become activated in response to Vietnam" (13). Noting the famous
break between Duncan and Levertov on precisely the issue of poetry's
responsibilities in a time of war, Perloff argues that "they could
only blame each other for what were, in the end, their own shortcomings"
dead!' I called out cheerfully" (Bloggedy
Blog Blog). Unpleasant
Event echoes "Let Them Eat Jellybeans." Silliman
declares "Lubaschism is post-avant in tone, neo-classical in spirit."
marvels at "how un-antique John Cage's music sounds."
Which reminds me of the film Lipstick,
where the failed experimental musician, and soon-to-be rapist, tells
Margaux Hemingway of being snubbed by "Sean Gage."
Gerritt Lansing, Michael Magee, Ange Mlinko, and Carol Snow are shown
to their rooms at Hotel
de Corey tells of two new Barrow Street publications. Festival
photos from Carrboro at Never
Mind the Beasts. To which Nice
Guy Syndrome supplies some captions. Fait
Accompli crushes blogs. Mosses
from an Old Manse welcomes the DVD of Visconti's The
Leopard. And I'm glad to learn from p-ramblings
that Deborah Meadows, whose Tinfish
chapbook I much admired, now has a full-lenth volume from Green
| Summer 2004 | 56pp | $3.95 | online edition
not yet updated
Palattella reviews Kenneth Fearing's Selected
Poems, now out from the Library of America: "the stagnation
and devastation at the core of Fearing's best hard-boiled rhapsodies,
where many people experience the barrenness of failure while a few enjoy
the emptiness of success" (46).
Brian Lennon responds very intelligently to Sven Birkerts's
lament for criticism in the last issue.
"My point," writes Lennon, is "that there is no time
for reading in most nonacademic American lives. I don't mean being
able to get through a book in a week; I mean being able to get through
a book in a day, or parts of three or four or five books in a day, if
you need to. More important, I mean acquiring a feel for current debates
in philosophy, political theory (across the spectrum), economics, and
the physical and other social science, as well as the arts and art criticismand
in at least one or two other major national or regional contexts...in
addition to one's own" (31). Later, recalling the four years during
which he regularly wrote reviews: "Did anyone really read the review
then? Did even my own editor read it? Did the marketing reps who blurbed
the reviews (and misspelled my name underneath) read them? Did only rival
book reviewers (whoever they might have been) read them? In the end, book
reviewing didn't seem part of anything I could really call 'work,' in
either sense of the private and cumulative or the public and collaborative.
Book reviewing was another monologue in the the literary life, no different
from writing the books themselves, but with far less prestige. It was
time that I withdrew from my life, without any chance of ever getting
it backthe way that you do get it back, in a way, when someone talks
back to you, even a little" (33).
Max Winter admires Jeff Clark's Music
and Suicide, calling it more "worldly" and "courageous"
than The Little Door Slides Back: "The
'I' in these poems is less a pronoun than a vehicle for an unmitigated
nakedness that his debut did not possess; the new poems act as simple,
near-lyrical statements without apology" (52).
Andrew Ross writes of China's transition from the world's factory
to the world's outsourced office: "Its Labor Ministry recently launched
a drive to train an additional one million workers in occupations it labels
'gray-collar.' This is a broad category, covering everything from fashion
designers to software engineers, from ad writers to numerical-control
technicians. Some of these occupations are the sweet ones favored by every
large city looking to promote its 'creative sector'after all, the
presence of artists and arts industries boosts real-estate prices and
attracts fancy investments. The less glamorous ones are even more essential
if China, courtesy of its foreign investors, is going to be able to sustain
its long march up the value chain. While not exactly on the scale of building
the Three Gorges Dam, this sizable HR effort is a sobering addition to
the list of favors that governments usually offer to the beneficiaries
of so-called free trade: virtually free land, oodles of tax exemptions,
and a soft guarantee that labor laws (on paper, some of the best in the
world) will never be enforced" (36).
And Sarah Kerr adds to the stack of reviews I've lately seen of
Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract
Me. According to Kerr, Kael's "groundbreaking celebration
of beautiful throwaway moments in otherwise negligible works has been
assimilated to the point of cliché" and "the milieu that
lent urgency to Sontag's earliest writing" is gone. Citing Seligman's
remark that Kael's "sentences get their nervous agitation not from
self-doubt, of which she had none, but from impatience, the arguer's impatience
with those who don't get it," Kerr closes by counseling "aspiring
young critics" to "spend a little less energy on impatience
with those who fail to get it" (20).
Johnny Guitar | Dir. Nicholas Ray, 1954 | DVD, 110
min | IMDb link
The Day After Tomorrow | Dir. Roland Emmerich,
2004 | Theatrical release, 124 min| IMDb link
The Hole: 2000 seen by... | Orig. title Dong
| Dir. by Tsai Ming-liang | DVD 95 min | IMDb link
Hole is even more contemplative than Vive
l'Amour, the only one of Tsai's films to have a local release.
Dialogue is minimal (as is contact between the characters). There are
no exteriors; most compositions are in middle shot and the camera is
generally fixed. The takes are long and underscored by the near-constant
sound of cascading water. Still, The Hole
has an absurdist, gross-out undercurrent. The plague, which a French
scientist names Taiwan fever, is carried by cockroaches and infects
humans with roachlike behavior scuttling around on all fours,
hiding from the light. As this soggy armageddon suggests the peripheral
scenes from a cheap horror flick, The Hole's
deadpan object comedyfeaturing an umbrella and a green plastic
basin among other thingshas intimations of Jacques Tati"
writing in the Village Voice in March of 1999).
25 May -
Sex and the City | Season 6, Part 1 (episodes
1-12) | DVD | IMDb link
off the sluggish fifth demi-season, these punchily-constructed episodes
are a colorful, funny, flauntingly brand-driven, escapist return to
Roger D. Hodge | "Weekly Review" | Harper's on-line |
people have celebrations, too."
| Dir. by Wolfgang Petersen, 2004 | Theatrical release 163min | IMDb link
ludicrous score, the tie-dye and halter-top moments in Bob Ringwood's
costuming, the decision to deliver already-stilted lines with British
(and Australian) accents, and Brad Pitt's largely uncomprehending performance
are all still not amusing enough to push Troy
solidly into the "so bad it's good" categoryit is in
fact just plainly and slowly terrible. But not everything about the
film is equally lame: it's interesting to see the thousand ships, for
instance, and Eric Bana as Hector, the wraith-faced Peter O'Toole as
Priam, and Orlando Bloom as a prettier-than-Helen Paris all acquit themselves
well enough. Sean Bean's take on Odysseus is pretty much invalidated
by the worst "ahaI've got it" moment I've seen lately
(maybe in my life), but he does seem in the vicinity of a good performance
now and again. And Brian Cox's Agamemnon is played with gusto, if not
nuance. The real problem is the script, which begins by destroying the
temporal frame of the tale and ends in absurdity with the slaying of
Agamemnon by an erstwhile virgin priestess of Apollo whose love for
her captor Achilles the film doesn't even attempt to explain (apparently
Pitt the irresistible is extra-diegetic reason enough). The one consolation
is that some future incarnation of Mystery Science Theater 3000
will have plenty to work with!
Sontag | "Regarding the Torture of Others" | New York Times
Magazine | 23 May 2004 | link
to on-line version (registration required) | link
to Guardian version (slightly different; no registration required)
and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis who resisted their
American liberators. And shock and the awful are what these photographs
announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of
criminal behavior in open defiance and contempt of international humanitarian
conventions. Soldiers now pose, thumbs up, before the atrocities they
commit, and send off the pictures to their buddies and family. Should
we be entirely surprised? Ours is a society in which secrets of private
life that, formerly, you would have given nearly anything to conceal
you now clamor to be invited on a television show to reveal. What is
illustrated by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness
as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality. The notion that
'apologies' or professions of 'disgust' and 'abhorrence' by the president
and the secretary of defense are a sufficient response to the systematic
torture of prisoners revealed at Abu Ghraib is an insult to one's historical
and moral sense. The torture of prisoners is not an aberration. It is
a direct consequence of the with-us-or-against-us ideology of world
struggle with which the Bush administration has sought to change, charge
radically, the international stance of the United States and to recast
many domestic institutions and prerogatives. The Bush administration
has committed the country to a pseudo-religious doctrine of war, endless
warfor 'the war on terror' is nothing less than that. What has
happened in the new, international carceral empire run by the United
States military goes beyond even the notorious procedures in France's
Devil's Island and Soviet Russia's Gulag system, which in the case of
the French penal island had, first, both trials and sentences, and in
the case of the Russian prison empire a charge of some kind and a sentence
for a specific number of years. Endless war is taken to justify endless
incarcerationswithout charges, without the release of prisoners'
names or any access to family members and lawyers, without trials, without
sentences. Those held in the extra-legal American penal empire are 'detainees';
'prisoners,' a newly obsolete word, might suggest that they have the
rights accorded by international law and the laws of all civilized countries.
This "Global War on Terror" (GWOT)into which both the
justifiable invasion of Afghanistan and the unwinnable folly in Iraq
have been folded by Pentagon decreeinevitably leads to the dehumanizing
of anyone declared by the Bush administration to be a possible terrorist:
a definition that is not up for debate and is usually made in secret"
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert
S. McNamara | Dir. Errol Morris, 2003 | 107min DVD | IMDb link
| Below, photograph of Tokyo street after 1945 firebombing that killed
100,000 people. An "efficiency report" authored by McNamara
led to the strategy.
Scott Sherman | "The Rebirth of the NYRB" | The Nation
| 7 June 2004 | 16-21 | online
argues that the editors of the New York Review of BooksRobert
Silvers and Barbara Epstein, both of whom have been at the journal since
its founding by Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Jason Epstein
in 1963have "met the challenges of the post-9/11 era in a
way that most other leading American publications did not..." (21).
"What blew the dust off The
New York Review? In no sense, really, has the paper returned to
its New Left sensibility of the late 1960s: Chomsky, Hayden, and Willis
have not been reinstated; young lions like The Baffler's Tom
Frank and The Village Voice's Rick Perlstein have not been invited
to contribute; Eric Foner, Bruce Cumings, Richard Rorty, Chalmers Johnson,
Stephen Holmes, Anatol Lieven, Elaine Showalter and Carol Brightman
continue to publish much of their finest work not in The New York
Review of Books but in the more radical, eccentric and sprightly
pages of the London Review of Books. In short, the Review's
liberal (and establishment) soul remains intact. What has changed significantly,
in the age of Bush, is the Review's style of rhetoric and degree
of political focus and commitment" (17).
Les Demoiselles Ont Eu 25 Ans
| Dir. Agnes Varda, 1993 | 63min | IMDb link
to Rochefort twenty-five years after the town was occupied and transformed
by Jacques Demy's movie crew. A charming first draft of a portrait she'll
complete with her 1995 L'univers
de Jacques Demy.
| Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1954 | VHS, MCA 1984 | 112min | IMDb link
the point of seeing new things in it, but familiarity does nothing to
diminish this taut, wry, and subtly malicious masterpiece.
Early May Scattered Impressions
(dir. Basil Dearden, 1961); Thelma
& Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991); Les
Triplettes de Belleville (dir. Sylvain Chomet, 2003); The
Graduate (dir. Mike Nichols, 1961); Life
of Brian (dir. Terry Jones, 1979); Le Voyage
à Reykjavik (dir. Alexandre Delay & Emmanuel Hocquard,
1997); Lipstick (dir.
Lamont Johnson, 1976) and Cléo
de 5 à 7 (dir. Agnes Varda, 1961). In the air:
a fair amount of opera, plus Caetano Veloso's A Foreign
Sound. At a first listen the latter reminds me too much of the
soporific late-career Fred Astaire record, Steppin'
Out (Verve 1952), but the phrasing in the live version of "Nature
Boy" (performed on Charlie Rose on May 11th) got to me & I expect
several other tracks will as well. Staring at, like everyone
else: the digital images
depicting U.S. treatment of Iraqi prisoners held at Abu Ghraib. Luc Sante's
in the Times got nearer to what we're looking at than most commentators
were able to, and the Well-Nourished
Moon got at the contradictions of "living in this leafy comfort
as afforded by constant damage elsewhere." Looking at,
distractedly, in crowded rooms: the Whitney Biennial, where I liked
work by Cecily Brown, Chloe Piene, Mary Kelly, Terence Kohand perhaps
most (and least) of all, Jim O'Rourke's sound installation in the men's
Roger D. Hodge | "Weekly Review" | Harper's | link
Sherman Alexie | "Without Reservations...an Urban Indians Comic,
Poetic, and Highly Irreverent Look at the World" | Performance at
the Maine Center for the Arts
that Alexie had material to burn came during the Q&A that followed
his carefully structured hour-long stand-up routine: only two questions
could be asked, so ample and hilarious were his answers.
Smoke Signals | Dir. Chris Eyre, 1998 | DVD
88min | IMDb link
Persona | Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966 | DVD
83min | IMDb link
Sociology is a Martial Art (La Sociology est un sport
de combat) | Dir. Pierre Carles, 2001 | VHS 146min | IMDb link
Pierre Carles presents an admirable portrait of Bourdieu in the last
year or so of his lifevigorous, self-deprecating, gamely attempting,
in one impossible situation after another, to explain his thinking about
art, social determination, neo-liberalism, masculine domination, and
a host of other phenomena. I approached the film nervously, unsure how
it might affect the decade or more I've spent reading and valuing Bourdieu's
work, but I walked away impressed both with the film and its subject.
Pola X | Dir. Leos Carax, 1999 | Dir. of Photography
Eric Gautier | DVD 134min | IMDb link
adaptation of Melville's Pierre, or the Ambiguities.
"The movie itself is chaotic. Some characters aren't identified,
and others abruptly disappear then unexpectedly return. The acting,
although intense, only fitfully rises to the mythic level the director
is aiming for. Mr. Carax is much better at creating pungent atmospheres
than at structuring scenes. But Pola X still
has its share of dazzling and disturbing images: besides the industrial
landscape, a bride on a pedestal being fitted for a gown, lovers grappling
in an ominous semi-darkness, a woman streaking through the night on
a motorcycle that suddenly crashes" (Stephen Holden writing for
the NYT, link
Roger D. Hodge | "Weekly Review" | Harpers | link
Gilberto Perez | "Self-Illuminated" | Rev. of Godard:
A Portrait of the Artist at 70 by Colin MacCabe | London Review
of Books | 1 April 2004 | 3-6 | link
look of available light, which Godard developed in his films with [Raoul]
Coutard and has consistently pursued with other cinematographers, is
central to his films' mixture of palpable actuality and manifest artifice.
Whatever it isit's obviously not just a matter of leaving the
camera open to the light of things in the worldno one else does
with available light what Godard does, which brings about a singular
beauty. 'Everything beautiful,' Novalis said, is 'self-illuminated.'
Godard's images have that quality" (5). Whereas Jones (see
below) likes best the films made with Anne-Marie Miéville in
the 1970s, Perez likes just about everything except those: since "Nouvelle
Vague, which he made in his sixtieth year, he has been having
a moment of old age that can stand beside the works of his youth"
Kent Jones | "Two or Three Things About Him" | Rev. of Godard:
A Portrait of the Artist at 70 by Colin MacCabe | Bookforum
| Spring 2004 | 24 | link
tome is overly devotional for Jone's taste, though it "does nail
two aspects of Godard's output that will keep it forever fresh: the
complete absence of the shot-countershot structure that has been a staple
of narrative cinema since the '20s and his utterly unique approach to
color, light, and space, rethought in their organizational and expressive
properties on a project-by-project basis."
"In the end, it's not the individual films that have made Godard
so influential, the jump-cutting in Breathless
aside. In essence, I think it has to do with the way he has cultivated
his identity as the grand demiurge of the moment when he came of age.
In one way or another, his films all revolve around the high drama,
poignance, and considerable charisma of postwar Paris, when the flood
of American movies suppressed by the Germans and a moribund French film
industry dovetailed with the crisis of representation brought on by
the Holocaust to create a form of spontaneous combustionfrom which
emerged a pack of angry, talented, morally self-conscious young men
ready to raise the roof off the French film world."
Adam Cohen | "The Intellectual Imperialists" | Rev. of Free
Culture by Lawrence Lessig | New York Times Book Review
| 4 April 2004 | 12 | link
the silliness to which copyright battles frequently descend, it is hard
to improve on Lessig's story of the Marx brothers telling Warner Brothers,
after it threatened to sue if they did a parody of 'Casablanca,' to
watch out because the Marx brothers 'were brothers long before you were.'"
Heart of Glass | Dir.
Werner Herzog, 1976 | DVD 94min | IMDb link
Herzog actually 'hypnotised' the cast, or merely directed them to give
hypnosis-type performances or even if he sedated them by chemical
means doesn't ultimately matter. Whatever the process, the results
are often agonisingly protracted, with heavy-lidded rustics intoning
their lines in a robotic monotone. The effect extends to the viewer,
and we may find ourselves being sucked into this sleepy world of nightmarish
stasis. It's the horror, ultimately, of failed progress as the
world teeters on the cusp of a brave new industrial era, the crisis
in the glassworks (a spectacular instance of "trouble at t'mill"
indeed) opens the possibility that the whole of humanity may actually
be poised on the precipice of a terrible abyss" (Neil
Young writing for Jigsaw
The Swimmer | Dir. Frank
Perry, 1968 | Dir. of Photography David L. Quaid | DVD 95min | IMDb link
is terrifying as Merrill. His powerful body, combined with the mechanical,
rote way in which he utters social pleasantries, only to return the
conversation to his aquatic quest at first opportunity, unnerves the
viewer as much as it does the friends who seem to be granting him pool-access
the way one indulges a street-crazy anything to end the encounter
and return to normalcy. Lancaster is frightening in this film in a way
he's never been in anything else. As his façade cracks, bit by
bit over the course of two hours, there is a gradual realization of
just how much is wrong here, and exactly what form that wrongness is
taking; it comes like a series of hammer-blows to the gut. ¶ Equally
awful, though, is the social scene Merrill crashes through, as he first
sprints, then clambers, and finally trudges from one pool to the next.
The braying laughter, the omnipresent alcohol, and the sheer glassy-eyed
vapidity of the conversations all combine to paint a nightmarishly detailed
portrait of a world that could quite easily drive a man insane and force
him to seek solace underwater" (Phil Freeman writing for CultureVulture).
M on Perry's 1972 adaptation of Joan Didion's Play
It As It Lays.
Le Divorce |
Dir. James Ivory, 2003 | DVD 117min | IMDb link
[Thierry] Lhermitte [as a telegenic right-wing lothario] and Glenn Close,
as an aging literary expatriate, find the right notes of wry Jamesian
comedy, and this is because they alone seem able to let their vain,
self-aware characters unfurl a bit. The virtue of [Diane] Johnson's
novel lay not in its profunditya comedy of manners is by definition
an affair of surfacesbut in its sparkle and its speed, qualities
notably lacking in Mr. Ivory's direction" (A.O.
Scott writing for the NYT).
I'm always surprised by the offhanded brutality with which comedies
like this one treat their non-comedic elements, here an attempted suicide
by a pregnant American poet who's been jilted by her French husband
and, later, the murder of same straying husband to nobody's apparent
remorse: a cut and a cute remark later, we're back to that "surface"
of which Scott speaks above, with all that we know about such acts and
their consequences left awkwardly outside the frame.
As the film heads into its predictable finish (better husband to replace
dead one, etc.), we learn that Naomi Watts has had her book of poems
accepted by "Loaf of Bread Press."
| Dir. Alexander Payne, 2002 | DVD 125min | IMDb link
Schmidt is essentially a portrait of a man without qualities,
baffled by the emotions and needs of others. That Jack Nicholson makes
this man so watchable is a tribute not only to his craft, but to his
legend: Jack is so unlike Schmidt that his performance generates a certain
awe. Another actor might have made the character too tragic or passive
or empty, but Nicholson somehow finds within Schmidt a slowing developing
hunger, a desire to start living now that the time is almost gone"
Ebert writing for the Chicago Sun-Times).
Sven Birkerts | "Critical Condition: Reading, Writing, and Reviewing:
An Old-Schooler Looks Back | Bookforum
| Spring 2004 | link
this is more or less where we find ourselves now. Psychologically it
is a landscape subtly demoralized by the slash-and-burn of bottom-line
economics; the modernist/humanist assumption of art and social criticism
marching forward, leading the way, has not recovered from the wholesale
flight of academia into theory; the publishing world remains tyrannized
in acquisition, marketing, and sales by the mentality of the blockbuster;
the confident authority of print journalism has been challenged by the
proliferation of online alternatives."
"Invisible Jukebox: Damon & Naomi" | The Wire | January
2004 | now online here
Is it Quicksilver?
[Wire]: Wow, you're batting a thousand today."
George Washington | Dir. David Gordon Green,
2000 | Dir. of Photography Tim Orr | 89min | DVD Criterion Collection
| Screened in the Devil's Eye Film Series curated by Justin Andrews at
the University of Maine | IMDB link
arty, scene-setting montage, his use of slight slow-motion underscored
by a portentous drone-tone, the movie's skewed voice-over narration,
its sumptuous Cinemascope compositions, and lush bucolic mood remind
many people of Terrence Malick. This modest movie is draped in visual
grandeur, like a kid trying on an overlarge suitfar from overweening,
the effect is oddly disarming. (To add to the mystery, cinematographer
Tim Orr gets an onscreen credit nearly equal to Green's, but barely
a mention in the press notes.) [...] For all its troubling incidents,
however, what's most shocking about GW is its tender regard. The movie
is unabashedly utopian. (Green lived communally with the cast and crew
during production.) It also suggests Boaz Yakin's Fresh
in its programmatic subtraction of all popular culture from the lives
of its child protagonists. (And, as with Fresh,
GW was made by a white filmmaker who has been assumed to be black.)
But, unlike Yakin, Green allows his performers remarkable space before
the camera to simply be, whether surprisingly good or eloquently terrible"
(J. Hoberman writing in the Voice
upon the film's release in the fall of 2000).
Soon-to-be-forgotten things: "Passion," a short story by Alice
Munro in the 22 March 2004 issue of the New Yorker, and Secret
Window, another bad film I've watched out of devotion to Johnny
Depp's career. I read the one and watched the other in a perfectly amiable
and receptive state of mind, hoping for the best, but Munro's even competence
was no more compelling than Secret Window's
steadily-worsening stupidity and both, I suspect, will pass
from memory with very little trace in the coming few days.
David Thomson | "What Does a Snake Know, or Intend?" | Rev.
of Where I Was From by Joan Didion | London
Review of Books 26.6 | 18 March 2004 | 3-10
Thomson, the author of The Biographical Dictionary
of Film, a less than scintillating prose stylist, but I kept
at this long and somewhat haphazardly-structured overview of Didion's
career in part because it's been so long since anyone I know or read
has tried to make the case for her importance: "For forty years
her attempt has been the most absorbing modern reading I know"
(10). On the new volume: the "wonder
in Where I Was From is the way in which
Eduene Jerrett Didion develops, piece by piece, as the the author's
mother, yet as someone who, even at 90, remained inexplicable, or fictionalor
as moving as she was because of things not settled or addressed. Here
again, I think the characteristic obliqueness in Didion's work is a
way of writing about people in fact and fiction as if they lived in
the same remote or opaque place. 'Getting people'or being mistaken
about themis one of the abiding perils in Didion's fearful view
of the world. And surely she sees herself in a similar way as ungraspable,
as close to breakdown as to lucidity" (6).
Konvolut M | Screening notes
for Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
and The Captive by Chantal Akerman
| 11 March 2004 | link
are 24 years and many projects between these films. Still, after three
straight nights of interminable static shots and intense formal rigor,
[The Captive] felt more conventional than
it probably is. I mean: There's plain old shot-reverse shot going on,
p.o.v. shots, extra-diegetic music, the whole shebang. Compared to Dielman,
this is Lawrence Kasdan."
George Steiner | "Zion's Shadows" | Rev. of Témoins
du Futur by Pierre Bouretz | TLS 5265 | 27 February 2004
judges Bouretz's twelve-hundred page volume to belong to that rare genre
of studies capable of "alter[ing] the intellectual landscape"
(3): "More, perhaps, than any previous inquiry, Bouretz's investigation
seeks out the fatal logic, the doomed appositeness of the flowering
of Jewish geniuslinguistic, philosophical, scholarly and literaryin
the context of Imperial and Weimar Germany, a context which was to prove
its annihilation" (3). Steiner
attempts, and more or less pulls off, highly-condensed profiles of the
nine intellectuals treated in Bouretz's book: Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig,
Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Ernst Bloch, Han Jonas,
Leo Strauss, and Emmanuel Levinas.
"What remains for Levinas is a kind of dynamic fundamentalisma
conviction that the only Messianic presence allowed to us is that of
a just, compassionate life on earth. It is no accident that Levinas
looks to Paul Celan's intimations of a God in need of man and of the
equivalence between a poem and a handshake" (5).
Malcolm Gladwell | "The Terrazzo Jungle" | The New Yorker
| 15 March 2004 | 120-27
profiles the Viennese socialist who designed Southdale, a mall built
just outside Minneapolis in the mid-1950s: "Fifty years ago, Victor
Gruen designed a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant
shopping complex with a garden court under a skylightand today
virtually every regional shopping center in American is a fully enclosed,
introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant complex with a garden
court under a skylight. Victor Gruen didn't design a building; he designed
an archetype" (122). Nice throwaway
line: "shopping malls are, at bottom, delivery systems for lipstick"
Kingdom Hospital | VHS tape of pilot episode
broadcast by ABC on 3 March 2004 | 120min | link
seen The KingdomLars von Triers's
"surreal soap" set in a Copenhagen hospitalbut the Time
Out capsule summary makes clear the extent to which this U.S. adaptation
borrows central charactersa "universally loathed" consultant,
a career patient (here played by Diane Ladd) "determined to exorcise
from the building the unquiet spirit of a murdered girl," two basement
dwelling "savants with Down's syndrome," etc.while falling
far short, in this first two hours at least, of meriting a description
like the following: "Shot in breathless vérité-style,
and marked by von Trier's customary jaundiced tone, it's a compulsive,
bizarrely plausible witches' brew of interweaving storylines, conspiracy
theories and paranoiac visions, held together by manic conviction right
up to its Grand Guignol finale" (Wally Hammond, in Time Out
Film Guide, 12th edition, 2004: 631).
Paul R. Krugman | "The Wars of the Texas Succession" | Rev.
of American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips and
The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind | New
York Review of Books LI.3 | 26 February 2004 | 4-6 | link
dilates on John DiIulio's "Mayberry Machiavellis" remark with
the help of two recent critical appraisals of the Bush clan's political
conduct over the past several generations.
"Today there is, to an extent not seen since the 1920s, a substantial
class of people wealthy enough to form their own dynasties. And in a
variety of ways, from political contributions to more subtle shaping
of culture, for example by promoting aristocratic values, this class
has created an environment favorable for dynastic ambitions" (5).
"Bush's motivations are dynasticto
secure his family's rightful place. While he may have some policy biaseslike
that 'instinctive policy fealty' to the investment businesspolicy
is basically there to serve the acquisition of power, and not the other
way around" (6).
Viktor Shklovsky | Third Factory | Introd.
and trans. Richard Sheldon | Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1977 | Rpt. with afterword
by Lyn Hejinian | Chicago: Dalkey Archive, 2003 | 106pp | $12.95
Riker, a senior editor at Dalkey Archive currently residing in Denver,
was kind enough to put the new edition of the book after which this
website is named into my hands just minutes before my talk at the University
of Denver on Friday. I read it, for perhaps the sixth time, in the air
between Denver and Cincinnati on my return travels to Bangor.
"In brief, I see the matter in this way: change can and does take
place in works of art for non-esthetic reasonsfor example, when
one language influences another, or when a new 'social demand' appears.
Thus a new form appears in a work of art imperceptibly, without registering
its presence esthetically; only afterward is that new form esthetically
evaluated, at which time it loses its original meaning, its pre-esthetic
significance" (58). Read on-line excerpts
from Third Factory in Context.
Read Martin Riker on Shklovsky's trilogy here.
Roger D. Hodge | "Weekly Review" | Harper's Magazine
online | link
up for the e-mail version of this feature after discovering it via a
link on Reading and
Writing. Makes a nice counterpoint to the Economist's summary
of political and business news at the front of each print issue and
the dull post-Raines Week in Review put out with the Sunday New
Raphael Rubinstein | "Philip Guston: Some Thoughts" | Art
in America | March 2004 | 82-91, 141
1977, [Guston] told an interviewer that when the 1960s 'came along'
he was affected by 'the war, what was happening to America, the brutality
of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines,
going into a frustrated fury about everythingand then going into
my studio to adjust a red to a blue" (91).
Rubinstein is careful, as always, to stress the poetic context for the
painter's work: "It's no accident, I think, that Guston's writer-friends
in the 1970s were nearly all poets in their 30s" (91).
Didn't know that Guston was the subject of a Life magazine feature
story in 1946 ("several years before Pollock").
Especially struck, among the reproduced images, by Couple in Bed
(1977), which is at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Rubinstein concludes with a lengthy conceit involving Dylan and Guston
simultaneously at work transforming their arts in Woodstock in 1967-1968:
"like his guitar-playing neighbor, Guston had also retreated from
the public stage (the New York art world) and the style that his fans
had grown to expect from him (gestural abstraction)" (141).
Below, "Flatlands" (1970) posted on the Cioran63
site in August of 2003.
Lisa Duggan | "Holy Matrimony!" | The Nation | 15 March
2004 | 14-19 | link
a bid for equality, some gay groups are producing rhetoric that insults
and marginalizes unmarried people, while promoting marriage in much
the same terms as the welfare reformers use to stigmatize single-parent
households, divorce and 'out of wedlock' births. If pursued in this
way, the drive for gay-marriage equality can undermine rather than support
the broader movement for social justice and democratic diversity"
(18). "Given the rising political
stakes, and the narrow horizons of political possibility, it seems imperative
now that progressives find ways to make room for a more integrated,
broadly democratic marriage politics. To respond to widespread changes
in household organization and incipient dissatisfaction with the marital
status quo, progressives could begin to disentangle the religious, symbolic,
kinship and economic functions of marriage, making a case for both civil
equality and the separation of church and state. They could argue that
civil marriage (perhaps renamed or reconfigured), like any other household
status, should be open to all who are willing to make the trek to city
hall, whether or not they also choose to seek a church's blessing. Beginning
with the imperfect menu of household and partnership statuses now unevenly
available from state to state, it might not be such an impossibly utopian
leap to suggest that we should expand and democratize what we've already
got, rather than contract our options" (18).
Andrew O'Hanagan | "Cartwheels over Broken Glass" | Rev. of
Saint Morrissey by Mark Simpson and The
Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life by Simon Goddard | London
Review of Books | 4 March 2004 | 19-21
does a nice job with a delicate task: discussing two worshipful books
about Morrissey without ridiculing the special form of transference
that gave rise to them ("being a fan") or pandering overmuch
to the manias and fantasias that sustain that transferential state.
"I was a Smiths fan," he
confesses early on, "a position, I'd discover, only slightly less
involving than being a Moonie, and the thing that made it so eminently
sensible was that the person before us [i.e. Morrissey on stage] was
a Smiths fan too the ultimate fan and his self-disgust
and neuroses seemed to puncture the ethos of the 1980s rather nicely.
The fans were outfanned by the object of their fanaticism: here was
a pop phenomenon made up of pop phenomena Morrissey's influences
were the whole point of him, it seemed, and he understood hero-worship
in such a manner as to make him a new sort of hero. He also knew how
to hate Margaret Thatcher and the royal family, and he sent them up
with an intoxicating vaudevillian glee" (19-20).
"The best thing about writing by fans is that it really matters
to them: nobody wants to read a measured assessment of life on the road
with the Rolling Stones. Fans must be capable of hating people who don't
agree with them they have to have the mentality of a teenager,
in other words, as well as the acquisitive beakiness of the trains-spotter.
But despite occasional enjoyment of one another's company, fans never
really get on, and that's because it's in the fan's essential makeup
to imagine that they are The Only One" (21).
While waiting for the on-line link to this article, due here
on March 4th, check out Nicholas Spice's "I
Must Be Mad," an energetically composed piece of witwork triggered
by the recent re-translation of Freud's Wild Analysis
which I somehow neglected to note here after admiring it in the
22 January issue of the LRB.
1-15, 2003 June
1-15, 2003 July 16-31, 2003
2003 September 2003
- December 2003
- February 2004
to ensemble back to index