The Passion of the Coens

Francine Prose

George Clooney as Baird Whitlock in the Coen brothers' Hail, Caesar!, 2016
Universal Pictures/Mike Zoss Productions/Working Title Films

More than half a century after the era in which the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! is set, Hollywood is still making pictures of the sort that the film parodies, but which will presumably lack the irony, the nuance, the humor—and the fun—which the Coen brothers have brought to this latest chapter in their ongoing exploration of how we live, or try to live, in the presence or absence of the divine.

The Problem with Poland

Jan-Werner Müller

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland's main opposition Law and Justice Party (PiS) speaks during the final pre-election convention in Warsaw, October 7, 2011
Kacper Pempel/Reuters

In 2011, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party (known as PiS), announced he wanted to create “Budapest in Warsaw.” Since his party’s resounding election victory in October, the conservative politician has kept his promise. The new Law and Justice government has done everything it can to emulate the authoritarian course of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: already, it has attacked the constitutional court, undermined Poland’s independent civil service, and set out to bring the public media under government control.

The Collapsing Center

Elizabeth Drew

Donald Trump visits a polling station in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Clinton’s campaign is now shadowed by the questions of whether the FBI director will recommend prosecution for mishandling classified information, a standard that requires knowledge and intent, and if that happens, what the Justice Department and the White House will decide.

North Korea’s Mystery Bomb

Jeremy Bernstein

A map of seismic waves from North Korea’s nuclear test, Korea Meteorological Administration, Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016
Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

On January 6, North Korea detonated a nuclear device with a yield larger than that of any previous North Korean test, but the kind of bomb tested remains a mystery. Most likely, the bomb was a “boosted device.” This is a very serious matter because these weapons, while having an enhanced yield, can be made light enough to fit on rockets, which the North Koreans have in abundance.

A Thousand Movies in One

Adam Thirlwell

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes in “The Enchanted One,” the third part of Arabian Nights, 2015
O Som e a Fúria/Shellac Sud/Komplizen Film/Box Productions/Kino Lorber

Director Miguel Gomes has always enjoyed combining two separate elements in a single film, and in Arabian Nights this technique is cosmically expanded. The dream is of pure lightness (a film as fantasia) and simultaneously of pure weight (a film as witness). Or, to put this another way: How do you take political and aesthetic risks in a film’s form while dramatizing them within that film as well?

A Long Way from Primo Levi

Tim Parks

Drawing by Sonja Waldsteinová during her captivity in Terezín concentration camp; Waldsteinová, who survived, was sixteen when she was interned in March 1943
Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

In my previous piece on translation, discussing Stuart Woolf’s translation of Levi’s first memoir, If This is a Man, I observed that, although mostly serviceable as a translation, the English is frequently a little stilted or simply odd where the original is fluent and standard. Here, I compare places, in Goldstein’s translation of Levi’s The Truce, where the English sounds distinctly odd, or where I felt that there was some interference from the Italian original, to Woolf’s translation of the same text. Since it seems unfair to criticize others without offering up something of one’s own to be shot down, I’ll give my version too.

Afghanistan: Threatening News

Ahmed Rashid

The Tolo TV news studio, in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 18, 2015
Ahmad Masood/Reuters

At least seven people were killed when, January 20 in Kabul, a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Afghanistan’s Tolo TV home after a day at the office. With the Tolo TV massacre, public patience for President Ashraf Ghani is running out.

The Clinton System

Simon Head

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton during the seventh annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), New York City, September 22, 2011
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

What stands out about the Clinton System of big money politics is the scale and complexity of the connections involved, the length of time they have been in operation, the presence of former president Bill Clinton alongside Hillary as an equal partner in the enterprise, and the sheer magnitude of the funds involved.

Revolution from Another Angle

Jamey Gambrell

Alexander Rodchenko: Pioneer Playing a Trumpet, 1930
Centre Pompidou, Paris/Estate of Alexander Rodchenko/RAO, Moscow/VAGA, New York

The serendipitous confluence of technology, art, and politics in the fields of photography and film is the subject of the Jewish Museum in New York’s current exhibition, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film.” In his catalogue essay, the Russian art historian Alexander Lavrentiev, grandson of the artists Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, gives a nuanced view of the complex situation in which Soviet photography developed: photography was dominated by three groups or tendencies, whose aesthetics mirrored, to some extent, the spectrum of political factions on the post-Soviet cultural stage. None of these groups opposed the Revolution, however; initially, in fact, most artists and the intelligentsia supported the regime.