Ian Buruma is a Professor at Bard and the author of many books about Japan. His latest book, Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War, was published in paperback in January. (February 2017)
Martin Scorsese’s beautiful new movie, Silence, based on Endō Shūsaku’s novel, begins and ends in the same way: a dark screen filled with the noise of summer on the rural coast of southwestern Japan, cicadas rasping, waves crashing, thunderclaps exploding, and rain lashing the rocks. In between is played out, …
Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring
by Andrew Lownie
Guy Burgess: The Spy Who Knew Everyone
by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert
One of the oddities about Guy Burgess, the most colorful of the so-called Cambridge spies, was that in his usual state of extreme slovenliness, with food stains all over his rumpled suits and the stink of raw garlic and alcohol permanently on his breath, he always insisted on wearing his …
an exhibition produced by Artangel at Reading Prison, Reading, England, September 4–December 4, 2016
The exterior of Reading Prison in Berkshire, formerly known as Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde spent almost two years in confinement between 1895 and 1897, is impressive in a grandiose Victorian, mock-Medieval-Tudor-Gothic way. Designed by George Gilbert Scott and William Moffatt in the 1840s, the prison was made to look …
Mick Jackson’s new film Denial, about the 2000 trial between British Holocaust denier David Irving and American academic Deborah E. Lipstadt, is best in the scenes that focus on a particular conflict, between Lipstadt’s view of herself and her legal team. At the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, for example, we see Lipstadt praying in front of the ruins of the gas chamber, while Rampton is making careful notes and asking awkward questions about the exact procedures of mass murder. On the “sacred” spot of the killing, cool analysis and a search for legal proof look like disrespect to her.
Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart tells the story of Tao, a bouncy young woman caught in a love triangle between two suitors who represent different faces of modern China. It is superb at catching the changing moods of his country in poetic, frequently wordless, and often absurd images.
Yukio Ninagawa’s production of Kafka on the Shore at Lincoln Center in July—a surreal play that mixes slices of contemporary Japanese life with a ghostly spirit world, based on the 2002 novel by Haruki Murakami—was a brilliant example of Japan’s modern theater tradition. The words “modern” and “tradition” may appear contradictory, but in this case they are not.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I is more than a brilliant piece of froth. It dramatizes something historically profound about nineteenth-century Siam, which escaped from being colonized by a Western nation through what has been called “protection by mimicry.” The only way to keep Western powers at bay was to modernize as quickly as possible along Western lines.
It is fascinating to see, for example, how the image of prostitutes changed, not just from artist to artist, but in the course of time. The show is not just about art, but an absorbing illustration of social history.