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A Week in Culture: Richard Brody, New Yorker Film Critic

June 30, 2010 | by

DAY ONE

10:02 A.M. The week’s first cultural object is a new, yet-unreleased film by Claude Chabrol, The Son of Summer, starring Isabelle Huppert as a childless, married bourgeois intellectual who has a special, foster-like relationship to a young, disabled boy whom, one day, she kills. The film is so new that, in fact, it doesn’t exist—I dreamed it at the end of a morning of troubled sleep.

10:15 A.M. A chamber transcription of Haydn’s Symphony no. 94, the “Surprise” symphony, is playing on WQXR, New York’s classical-music station. It’s music I know and love—I play a spare transcription of the middle movements on recorder—but have never heard in this arrangement.

11:00 A.M. Twitter (and every hour or two for a few minutes, throughout the day). Love the sense of listening in on discussions at the next table when they know you’re listening. Good to chat back and forth with people I don’t know but would want to, with others I do know but don’t talk with often enough, with a surprisingly large yet tight group of fellow cinephiles. The 140 characters? A snapshot of an idea.

11:10 A.M. Heading for the subway, unusually late.

11:20 A.M. The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, by Jeffrey Meyers on the No. 6 and the R. Anticipating something like a twist on the line from Saturday Night Fever: “Maybe he’s not so smart and maybe she’s not so dumb.”

11:47 A.M. The New York Times’s Web site, checked intermittently throughout the day’s editorial duties.

3:20 P.M. Glenn Kenny’s blog Some Came Running led me to his piece at Mubi about politicized viewings of “Sex and the City 2.” It concludes with a citation from Slavoj Zizek, which prompted me to revisit Adam Kirsch’s critical debunking, in The New Republic, of Zizek’s politics (The Deadly Jester), and Josh Strawn’s debunking of Kirsch’s, at Jewcy.

7:52 P.M. “The Young Schubert,” a recording by the pianist Leonard Hokanson, a student of Artur Schnabel. Hokanson delights in Schubert’s adolescent inspirations.

8:20 P.M. NY Post: the bridge column. I played a lot in high school, not at all since then—but I read the bridge column every day. And Page Six: the item about Ron Jeremy lunching at Condé Nast. I saw him in the lobby beforehand, where lots of employees came up to greet him. Afterwards, plenty of people in the office were talking about him.

8:30 PM. The Times: Read the front-page story with the headline, “Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.” Put any noun in the place of “gadgets” and there would be a price to pay; that’s true of any addiction or abuse, not just of electronic stimuli. Read the op-ed piece about legislative battles in Wisconsin over raw milk.

9:27 P.M. Bud Powell, A Portrait of Thelonious. Powell, the definitive bebop pianist and my favorite jazz pianist, whose scintillating yet melodious right-hand runs are anchored by the dark lightning of his left hand’s chords. His later recordings (such as this one, from a Paris studio in 1961) are much and wrongly maligned. What he lost in exuberance he gained in profundity; and where they’re exuberant (Live in Geneva 1962, for instance), they’re still more profound.

9:40 P.M. On-line Driver’s Manual and Study Guide—having let my license lapse, inadvertently, decades ago, I need to start again, with a learner’s permit: “You may not cross any railroad tracks unless there is room for your vehicle on the other side. If other traffic prevents you from crossing all the way, wait, and cross only when there is room.”

12:05 A.M. A few minutes of John Ford’s The Rising of the Moon, his low-budget Irish film, from 1956.

1:11 A.M. While preparing to DVR No Sad Songs for Me (which Jean-Luc Godard wrote about in Cahiers du Cinéma at the age of twenty-one), I burn to DVD—and start to watch—High Time, a 1960 comedy directed by Blake Edwards, starring Bing Crosby as a prosperous fifty-ish businessman who decides to get a college education.

2:48 A.M. The Genius and the Goddess. Reading about Arthur Miller’s troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee and its heinous methods, in 1956-57, even after the fall of McCarthy: “Miller said his battle with the committee was ‘a fraud and a farce, except it cost me a fortune [$40,000] for lawyers and a year’s time lost in the bargain, worrying about it and figuring out how to react to it.’”
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