Category: Film Reviews

Another Dodge in a System of Dodges: Evasion of Responsibility in What Maisie Knew, Book and Film

Henry James created characters able to embody his concern for elegance, intelligence, morality, and social ritual; and his work attains intellectual and spiritual dimension of a high degree—and his style, thoughtful, textured, teasing, can be complex to the point of profound obscurity, requiring attention, consideration, and deep understanding. The drama is increased for all that.

A review of Macbeth directed by Justin Kurzel

MacbethFaced with the prospect of a dreary peace, Macbeth the triumphant warrior goes for the main prize: King Duncan’s crown. It is an exhilarating adaptation of Shakespeare’s great tragedy but I feel that the emphasis is sometimes misplaced or even absent. For example, Lady Macduff’s ‘I have done no harm’ speech, usually the most moving in the whole play, is delivered while she’s on the run from murderers. They can’t hear her, we wonder why she’s starting a conversation. Run faster, woman.

A review of Pasolini

Pasolini It’s an uncompromising film by Abel Ferrara, quite in keeping with Pasolini’s own oeuvre, and he has made it in his own distinct way. Some scenes are straight forward, understated even, while others have a visionary quality. However, you always feel that Ferrara is in control of his material

The Free Mind of a Man in Captivity: Twelve Years A Slave, Book and Film

The director Steve McQueen has turned the book Twelve Years A Slave into the film 12 Years a Slave, interpreting Solomon Northup’s story with accuracy, exquisite craft, and significant understanding.  What makes 12 Years A Slave remarkable are the consciousness, skill, and experience of Solomon Northup, his being an embodiment not of potential but of actual value—value (valued formed by liberty, knowledge, accomplishment, and family relations) that was denied by those who captured him. 

Notes on the television program “Roots,” Black Narratives, the new King monument in Washington, D.C., and Barack

I know that the original broadcast of the television program “Roots,” based on African-American writer Alex Haley’s imaginative reconstruction of his family’s history, was an important cultural and historical event, presenting at once to all of America a history—the history of the capture and enslavement of Africans—that had been referred to but rarely discussed at length or widely. 

Mainstream Maverick: The Biography and Work of Robert Redford, incl. All Is Lost (& Selected Books)

Appearance or truth? Both? Form and spirit. There has been a tension in our appreciation for Robert Redford, a dedicated actor and filmmaker who also happens to be an image of masculine beauty. Redford, as a young man of impulse and integrity, and not a little rebellion, was interested in adventurous exploration, whether involving art, travel, or relationships. Everything considered, he was a lot less selfish and shallow than most of us would be. That may be part of why he has become such an intriguing and respectable elder statesman.

Tourists with Typewriters: Writers in the Sternthal-Klugman film The Words and Lucy Fischer’s book Body Double

There are many writers in many films. In Body Double, a book of eight chapters, with acknowledgements, afterword, notes, filmography, bibliography, and index, University of Pittsburgh English and Film Studies professor Lucy Fischer gathers together for examination a great bunch of films in which writers appear—Naked Lunch, Smoke, Deconstructing Harry, Paris When It Sizzles, Barton Fink, Adaptation, How Is Your Fish Today?, Swimming Pool, The Singing Detective, and Providence, among others.

Art and Environment: Manufacturing Landscapes, featuring photographer Edward Burtynsky

John James Audubon may have been a naturalist and a painter, but it does seem all that often that one gets to contemplate both art and environmental issues, as with Manufacturing Landscapes, a film that presents the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who focuses on nature and how it has been transformed by industrial use, producing a different landscape, often one of devastation, yet one in which an unexpected beauty can be found.