In the reimagined Middle Ages of Alexei German’s Hard to Be a God, spears threaten bare buttocks, corpses are looted, mocked, kicked aside, faces are smeared with unidentifiable muck, the rain pours down. I don’t think any film has ever depicted a world so awful with such conviction.
Though it has received scant attention since its opening in Paris last fall, Renzo Piano’s discreetly restrained Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé ranks among his best works. With its voluptuously swelling aluminum-and-glass-clad form, it is an ingenious demonstration of how to insert a work of avant-garde architecture into a historic setting.
In Birdman Alejandro González Iñárritu has taken his cinematic nightmare to the Great White Way, illuminated it with Broadway footlights, located the pathos—and the hilarity—in the New York stage, and given us a cast of nuanced and beautifully acted minor characters.
In an afterword to his recent book Walking, Thomas Struth writes that he took the photographs “by rubbing my shoulders and my senses against ordinary, everyday architecture again.” This seems to acknowledge the project’s departure from the monumental rhetoric of his current show at the Metropolitan Museum, where twenty-five photographs are assembled in a kind of “greatest hits” homage.
Mark Strand, who died in November at the age of eighty after a long battle with cancer, is the first among my oldest friends to go. Having known him for forty-six years, I’ve come to realize since he passed away what a huge presence he was in my life and still continues to be.
We were all there because we were free, or because we wanted to be as free as possible, because we wanted to laugh and face off over everything, about everything, a small Homeric band feasting on red meat, and that is exactly what the men in black, those sinister ninjas, were out to kill.
The most harmful effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United may have been to free up super PACs from any meaningful constraints on spending money in politics. Over the five years since Citizens United and a related decision by a federal appeals court, super PACs have spent more than one billion dollars on federal election campaigns. About 60 percent of that billion dollars has come from just 195 people.
Featuring Marion Cotillard in what may be the most self-effacing, yet bravura performance of the year, the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night traffics in suspense and is a sort of thriller. But as a search for a lost (or stolen) livelihood, it is also a descendant of The Bicycle Thief, the neo-realist classic that implies a world in which “the poor must steal from each other to survive.”
Is the kind of satire that Charlie Hebdo has made its trademark—explicit, sometimes obscene images of religious figures (God the father, Son, and Holy Spirit sodomizing each other; Muhammad with a yellow star in his ass)—essentially different from mainstream satire? Is it crucial to Western culture that we be free to produce such images? Do they actually work as satire?
No one had predicted or even expected the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But already one reads and hears that “all the signs were there” and that “they”—the government, the police, multicultural journalists—refused to recognize them. It is not a hard story to sell.