Today is Akira Kurosawa’s 100th birthday. I wonder how many culture bloggers will mention it. No one seems to have noticed Hugo Wolf’s 150th, which was 10 days ago.
Tuesday: March 23, 2010
Monday: December 21, 2009
Perhaps I’m just addicted to bad jokes and cultural allusions, but if I were Terry Teachout, I would have titled his latest post “Top of the world, ma!”.
Tuesday: March 17, 2009
When Orson Welles was filming Macbeth, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight, did the crew call him Horson Welles? Behind his back, or to his face, it would have been a thoroughly Shakespearian pun.
Tuesday: February 10, 2009
“The dead weep with joy when their books are reprinted.”
“Everyone can see the future, but no one remembers the past.”
(The Stranger, in Russian Ark, 2002)
Monday: February 9, 2009
“Unhappiness is our own invention. At times I’m sad that I lack the imagination for it.”
(Général André de . . ., in The Earrings of Madame de . . ., 1953)
Sunday: September 30, 2007
Amazon and other retailers offer four BBC Shakespeare DVD box sets, of five plays each: Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Tragedies II. The list price is $149.99 per box, and Amazon doesn’t discount them nearly as much as most of their DVDs. As I write, the Amazon prices are $134.99 for two of them, $129.99 for the other two, which is as low as I’ve ever seen them. To judge from the thre I’ve seen, they are excellent productions, but $529.96 plus shipping for 20 plays is an awful lot of money, and the seventeen plays not available include some of those I most wanted to see — not least because they are exactly the ones I’m unlikely ever to see in a theater.
There is a simple solution, which I owe to a former colleague I’ll call ‘Dr. Johnson’ for his erudition. Amazon UK sells all 37 canonical plays in a big box for a lot less. When I bought them in May, the price was $238.11, including air-freight shipping: they arrived in six days. The Sterling price must have been £115 or so. As I recall, it was £130, and they subtracted £15 for VAT tax since it was being shipped to North Carolina, were we are not eligible for the VAT-funded National Health. The exchange rate has worsened a bit since then, but the Sterling price is now £99,98 including (I assume) VAT. However you calculate it, buying all 37 plays from Amazon UK costs less than half of what it costs to buy only twenty of them from Amazon US. I wonder if it was the BBC’s idea to soak the colonists? Of the three I’ve watched so far, the best (Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice) are not available in the U.S. (The other is Julius Caesar: not bad, but it didn’t grab me like the other two.)
Of course, you will need a Region 2 or all-region DVD player to play the discs, but even a better-than-average all-region DVD player cost me only $170. It will be useful for more than just BBC Shakespeare. Other movies not available in region 1 versions include three Bergman movies from the U.K. with English subtitles and the Orson Welles Shakespeares (Othello, Macbeth, and Chimes at Midnight) with South Korean subtitles. Even some American movies are only available in Region 2: until the Criterion edition came out a few weeks ago, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth was only available in a U.K. edition. I’m so glad ‘Dr. Johnson’ told me about the Amazon UK edition before I bought any of the U.S. boxes.
Monday: March 19, 2007
Next Tuesday, the Criterion Collection will be coming out with a five-DVD collection of Ingmar Bergman’s earliest movies. Here’s the IMDB plot summary of the earliest of all, Hets or Torment (1944):
Jan-Erik Widgren is a high-school senior. His Latin teacher, Caligula, is feared by everybody, both teachers and students. Widgren falls in love with Berta, who works in a tobacco store. She tells him that she is harassed by a mean, sadistic man, but does not tell him that it is Caligula himself.
Here’s a user comment:
The brilliance of Stig Järrel needs to be mentioned. He is so convincing in his performance that when you’re leaving the movie-theater you might just see him coming around the corner with his wooden ruler . . .
According to IMDB, this was a reprise of a previous performance as a sadistic Latin teacher in a non-Bergman movie, not available on DVD. I hope my local Border’s has the Bergman set in stock on the day of release, since that’s also the last day of Teacher Appreciation Weekend (March 22-27).
Sunday: December 31, 2006
Over the last year, I haven’t had time to read a lot of books, but have finally started to catch up on some of the movies I’ve missed out on over the years. Some were checked out of the U.N.C. library, some I bought, but most came from Netflix. In 2006, I watched 98 movies, one of them twice, only two previously familiar, plus 20 shorts. (At least half a dozen more I’d seen many years before, but more or less forgotten.) Some brief notes:
- Best: perhaps Smiles of a Summer Night — I hadn’t realized that Bergman could be funny. All I remember from college is The Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring, and some contemporary scenes of emotional torture and self-torture.
- Worst by far: By Brakhage — what little I watched of it was pretentious crap. On a scale of one to five stars, I gave even The Abominable Dr. Phibes one and a half, but By Brakhage earned a special score of zero stars.
- Most painful to watch, at least for a bibliophile: I, the Worst of All, which features both a book-burning scene (1:06) and another in which philosopher-poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is forced to sell all of her books and scientific apparatus (1:39).
- Best adaptation of a novel I’ve read: Schlöndorff’s Coup de Grâce. I’ve looked into Young Törless (the book) but not read it yet.
- Worst adaptation: The Driver’s Seat.
- Most suitable for showing bits of in 6th-grade Geography class: Ozu’s Good Morning.
I will add to this list if I think of anything else.
Thursday: August 31, 2006
Three early Fellini movies (Le Notti di Cabiria, La Strada, and I Vitelloni) list one of the workers as ‘Narciso Vicario’. This must be a pseudonym. According to IMDB, he is also named Vicario Narciso, Narciso Vicari, and Narcisio Vicario, and the variability of the name increases my suspicions. Of course, the most interesting point is to speculate on what exactly a ‘vicarious Narcissus’ would be: someone who falls in love with other people? Would that make it a fancy equivalent of Everyman? Or is some kind of metatheatrical joke involved?
Wednesday: June 7, 2006
In Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), the subtitles quote the maid as telling the title character, Priape Boudu, “You behave like a Neanderthal”, but the last word is clearly audible as ‘troglodyte’. Was the gloss really necessary? Surely anyone likely to watch a 74-year-old movie in a Criterion edition knows the meaning of the word ‘troglodyte’?