31 May 2006
Key quote: "Watch out: sex on a whim can lead to feelings of love for a person who is entirely wrong for you." You don't say.... Anyone else hear a Tina Turner song playing in the background?
29 May 2006
Watched yesterday the Pacino Merchant of Venice and was moderately impressed with the performances. Pacino, of whom I had expected the worst, was refreshingly restrained (by his standards, at least), though he continues as ever to rely on a lot of the same tics and mannerisms that have become his trademarks. The real discovery was Jeremy Irons, who managed to give Antonio a subtle nobility that few actors have been able to give the part. Unfortunately, the movie does the typically corrective re-rendering of the play that I find too apologetic by half. When the film opens with title cards explaining the plight of the Jews in Venice, one knows well in advance that the story will be redone against contemporary templates of ambiguity and irony, and so become the implied tragedy of Shylock. So, yes, the film is sensitive and nuanced-- and finally quite bloodless. In fact, the film alternates between being melancholic and phlegmatic, with predictably ponderous results. I remain convinced that we can't make nicey-nice with Shakespeare, nor with Merchant in particular, which I think needs to be treated in much the same ways that we currently treat Measure for Measure and All's Well That Ends Well, as dark comedies (and cynical allegories) in which none of the characters are especially admirable. Ultimately, I think we're more uncomfortable with Merchant than it is with us. What that means, I'll leave you to decide.
28 May 2006
FOLLOW-UP: Mr Owen, it seems, has been cast to play Sir Walter Raleigh in the sequel to Elizabeth tentatively titled Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Reason enough perhaps to send Mr Owen back to Coventry? (RK will know what I mean.) Today to spend watching Elizabeth again, followed by Al Pacino's The Merchant of Venice, the latter being cause for some trepidation on my part. One haws, after all, to see Scent of a Christian or Jewface: "Antonio! Say hello to my little friend!!! Hoo-waaah!!!"
27 May 2006
Also, in a few short takes (well, they were supposed to be short....):
- RK has brought to my attention the British project of restoring a valued portrait of John Donne, which is especially intriguing for those of us with an interest such matters;
- The Weekly Standard has a review of the new book on F.R. Leavis, and though Leavis is by-and-large a figure of much (deserved) distaste, the central problem of the article on it warrants concern here, specifically that of the professionalization of literary studies. A dozen years ago, I'd surely have argued with great vigour and pompousity about the virtues of it; now, however, I'm much, much less certain, and in fact increasingly inclined to argue for the need for the informed amateur reader in cultural discussion. Academic studies of literature these days do tend to belong more to the social sciences than to literary studies proper, as evidenced most plainly by the sickening consolidation of English Departments into cheaper, broader and sillier departments with the label "Cultural Studies." Wonder if your local English department has been so debased? Check its course calendar and see if it is offering more courses in graphic novels and the Oprah Effect than on Sterne or Milton; if the former, it is not an English department really, but a pastiche of one. I'm all for interdisciplinarity-- up until the point at which such interdisciplinarity becomes little more than a means to study everything but literature, otherwise known as the interdisciplinarity that evades discipline. If this makes me sound like a crank à la Harold Bloom, so be it.
- ... And as if by example: this article from the BBC on The Simpsons reminds me all-too-well of the persistent over-reaching by so many contemporary punditistes. Make no mistake: I love The Simpsons as much as anyone, but articles like this one neglect the obvious for the sake of pursuing the grandiose. The obvious, in this case, is the first rule of modern comedy: Whatever else you're trying to do, always get the laugh first.In the case of The Simpsons, that very often means going for the ridiculous joke just because it's there. Such articles smack to me of Pirandello: they're about six observations in search of a proclamation.
- Of last, in full disclosure, such things are the sorts of statements I used to make when I was an academic nipper. I try not to make them too much now, even if I occasionally lapse into doing so. Sometimes I think the desperate quest to demonstrate one's relevance indicates desperation-- and effectively renders the quest an act of self-service rather than one of intellectual service.
26 May 2006
22 May 2006
21 May 2006
She will surely be livid with me for calling attention to it, but today is Zelda's something-somethingth birthday, and this blog of course wants to wish her a great one and many happy returns. Discretion prevents me from including an actual picture of her here, or (temptation of temptations) revealing her nouvelle age, so I'll instead reproduce one of her own self-portraits in which she does one of her very favourite things, mainly mocking the Not-So-Good Doctor, whom we all know is only ever an innocent bystander to her savagery. Have a happy, tingly and ecstatically misanthropy-filled birthday, kiddo.
12 May 2006
11 May 2006
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