May 2024 Reading and Viewing

During May I consumed more and more Stefan Zweig, whose psychological insights are really breathtaking. And a lot of older films for which my co-workers would mock me. Whatevs!

Greatest hits: Crime Wave, The Insider, and Macao (mainly for its being funny); and the first part of Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls.

Meh: The Equalizer.

— Finished Stefan Zweig, “A Chess Story”; started “Fear

Still from the 1953 De Toth film Crime Wave starring Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson
Gene Wilson, Phyllis Kirk and Sterling Hayden in Crime Wave
Poster for the 1953 De Toth film Crime Wave starring Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson

— Finished Zweig, “Fear
Crime Wave (1953)
Directed by Andre de Toth, with screenplay written by Bernard Gorden and Richard Wormser, based on the story “Criminal Mark” by John and Ward Hawkins; starring Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson, and Phyllis Kirk, Charles Bronson, and Timothy Carey (who starred with Hayden in Kubrick’s The Killing only 3 years later).

— Zweig, “Confusion

An original poster for the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean
History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps Podcast logo

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, “The Inquisition,” “Longitudinal Studies: Exploration and Science,” “Lambs to the Slaughter: Debating the New World
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Directed by David Lean, based on the 1952 novel written by Pierre Boulle with a screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson; starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa.
The second showing in the inadvertent David Lean film festival, selected because its content would find approbation in my son’s viewing.
Something to be said about what rules bear on prisoners of war, not too far from Hannah Arendt’s comments on human rights in The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Alec Guiness and William Holden are so good in this. The latter with being something of a coward and a reprobate who redeems himself at the last moment.
I am also conflicted by the fact that the treatment of prisoners of war in this film is so far askance the reality of Japan’s treatment of POWs.
Interesting fact: Lucian pointed out to me that the Japanese flag shown at the POW camp was the Japanese flag, but not the military flag, the flag of the Rising Sun.
Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by Irvin Kershner, written by yadda yadda yadda.
It was May the 4th …

A still with Alec Guiness from the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean
Alec Guiness’ Nicholson is a fascinating tragic figure in this film. Only at the end of the film does he gain a sense of context, and that after being mortally wounded by a grenade. Am I wrong in thinking it’s sad he’ll be remembered more for his portrayal of the much less interesting Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Poster for the 1995 Kassovitz film La Haine

La Haine (1995)
Directed and written by Mathieu Kassovitz; starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui.
Never seen before.
— “Confusion”, 50 pp.

— Finished “Confusion”
— Finished “Journey into the Past”

— Galileo, 10 pp

Framed (1947)
Directed by Richard Wallace, written by Ben Maddow; starring Glenn Ford, Janis Carter and Barry Sullivan.
Glenn Ford plays the new guy in town, looking for work. Eyed as a potential dead man, but becomes the new beau of his would-be killer.
Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls, 40 pp.

Inside Man (2006)
Directed by Spike Lee and written by Russell Gewirtz; starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer.
How many times have I seen this? Is this a Spike Lee joint? Washington’s character is sort of play-acting, not a real role. Perhaps that’s why he’s been working with Antoine Fuqua too much (I mean, how dumb is The Equalizer!?). Or vice versa. Jodie Foster’s is I guess the most interesting character.
— Gogol, Dead Souls, 15 pp.

Split (2016)
Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan; starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley.
Had never seen this before. Honestly, not such a Shyamalan fan. Though I do really love The Happening (2008) even if I freely admit its limitations. Wahlberg can be a great comic actor, especially when he’s not intended to.
One interesting feature of this film is the way that it encourages the scopophilic pleasures of women’s bodies, to make the abject into a saving grace. Yet, I think this is a bit familiar. Beauty is a curse?
The Insider (1999)
Directed by Michael Mann, and written by Eric Roth and Mann based on Marie Brenner‘s 1996 Vanity Fair article “The Man Who Knew Too Much”; starring Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Bruce McGill, Diane Venora, and Michael Gambon.
Hadn’t seen this since the 90s, probably. There are aspects of this that jar my identification of Mann’s auteurship with his perspective of urban place. At the same time, regardless, these characters fit in their environments as much as does Dasein within equipmentality. The disgusting bougie dream of the 1980s and 1990s is alive in Crowe and Venora’s characters. That home! The Audi!
Richard Powers, The Overstory, 20 pp.

— NYRB on wildfires and fire cults, Sargent and his models

Macao (1952)
Directed by Josef von Sternberg and Nicholas Ray, written by Stanley Rubin, Bernard C. Schoenfeld, and Robert Mitchum; starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, William Bendix, and Gloria Grahame.
Everyone’s really good in this, but I was playing most attention to Bendix because he stood out so much for his hilarious and terrifying performance in The Glass Key (1942) — you may know I am interested in this film because of my profound appreciate for Miller’s Crossing (1990), for which the former was a formative influence. I guess I always assumed he’d play a heavy and so was surprised by this role.
Also, Jane Russell was outdone by Gloria Grahame here.
Awesome last lines: “You better get used to me fresh out of the shower.” I mean, what?
Dead Souls, 10 pp.

Poster for the 1950 film One Way Street, starring James Mason and Dan Duryea

One Way Street (1950)
Directed by Hugo Fregonese , written by Lawrence Kimble; starring James Mason, Märta Torén and Dan Duryea.
Duryea-love lead me to watch a film that is supposed to be a film noir, but really it’s a travel film. And there wasn’t much of Duryea in it.
Dead Souls, 15 pp.

Dead Souls, 20 pp.

Poster for the 1947 film They Won't Believe Me, starring Robert Young and Susan Hayward

They Won’t Believe Me (1947)
Directed by Irving Pichel, written by Jonathan Latimer; starring Robert Young, Susan Hayward and Jane Greer.
I suppose it’s hard to feel much for the protagonist, given everything.

Dead Souls, 10 pp.

Poster for the 1972 Sidney Lumet film Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford

Dead Souls, 20 pp.
— Stefan Zweig, Mary Queen of Scots, 25 pp.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972), last hour
Directed by Sydney Pollack, written by John Milius and Edward Anhalt; starring Robert Redford and Will Geer.
One of my students from Villanova I remember repeatedly talking up how great was this film, which I confess to having never seen until it was showing on GET TV. I guess there’s something about Robert Redford that I don’t like, but he is a more interesting character in this film, and the story is compelling. I like Redford as a fool, like in the 1972 Peter Yates film The Hot Rock. Made the same year as Jeremiah Johnson. But films like The Sting (1973) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1967) and The Great Gatsby (1974) and The Natural (1984) all ruined Redford for me.
World War II: From the Frontlines (2023), 1-2

Poster for the 1976 film Eat My Dust!

— NYRB on skyscrapers, Madonna
— “Introduction” to Friedrich Schiller, Mary Stuart, in Mary Stuart& Maid of Orleans
Eat My Dust! (1976), last hour
Directed and written by Charles B. Griffith; starring Ron Howard.
I’m pretty sure everyone was watching this for Kathryn O’Dare.
Wheelman (2017)
Directed and written by Jeremy Rush; starring Frank Grillo, Garret Dillahunt, Shea Whigham, and Caitlin Carmichael.
Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Yeah, kind of entertaining. But mostly dumb.
Dead Souls, 20 pp.
— Zweig, Mary Queen of Scots, 15 pp.

Poster for the 1950 Anthony Mann film Winchester '73, starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters

— NYRB on Germany
Winchester ‘73 (1950)
Directed by Anthony Mann, written by Borden Chase and Robert L. Richards; starring James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea and Stephen McNally.
“Ooh, coffee!”

Still from the 1950 film Winchester '73 with James Stewart
Promotional poster for the 1999 Steven Soderbergh film The Limey, starring Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda

The Limey (1999)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Lem Dobbs; starring Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzmán, Barry Newman, Nicky Katt, and Peter Fonda.
Have written about this film recently as it gave me the opportunity to pontificate about dialogue and mise-en-scène.

Poster for the 1943 Humphrey Bogart film Sahara

Sahara (1943)
Directed by Zoltán Korda, written by Korda and John Howard Lawson; starring Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, and Lloyd Bridges.
This is a great little unsung film. Thought it’s tank content would thrill Lucian, but not so much.
The Great Escape (1963)
Directed by John Sturges, written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett; starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Hannes Messemer, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton and Angus Lennie.
Come for McQueen and Garner, stay for Bronson and Pleasence.
— Finished Part One of Dead Souls.
It’s worth saying that this is a great book, although calling it a book is a little misprision.
Mary Queen of Scots, 20 pp.

The Equalizer (2014)
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Richard Wenk; starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo.
Does Washington know that he’s pissing away his legacy by making stupid films like this. Why do we just so much love the myth of the single man with a set of very extraordinary skills who can kill bad guys and do justice with ease?

— NYRB on Fanon, Dance First, and genocide in Gaza
Amadeus (1984)
Directed by Miloš Forman, written by Peter Shaffer; starring F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce.
This time it stood out so strongly that Salierni’s character was destroying Amadeus out of his hatred for God, that Salierni had made every and all sacrifices out of profound Christian faith and been punished for it.