I’ve never read anything by Knausgard, but this does make me a little more curious to read him. When the cabbage painting came on the screen, my first thought was, death is always out there, waiting. I was a bit surprised when Knausgard then mentioned it and saw the same thing. I guess when you get to middle age and beyond, some things become impossible not to see.
I was lucky enough to see a Munch exhibition in Paris in the late ’90’s. I was transfixed and moved. Munch might as well have been standing there talking to me. The canvases were much larger than I was expecting and they had what I can only describe as an aura. I’ve experienced this a few times with great works of art. It is a kind of magic. Unfortunately, there is no way to experience this kind of work without being in its presence. Fortunately, the same is not true of all art forms, including writing. When writing is magic, it can be reproduced for anyone and everyone to experience – as long as you can read the language in which it was written that is (and sometimes the magic is so powerful it even comes through in translation). In a world where the people in power are fighting against the humanities, it’s important to remember that kind of magic is always around us. We are going to have to fight if we want that to continue to be true.
He was a thinker. I could quibble with some of his thoughts (like getting caught in the focus on the individual trap and not realizing he was surrounded by women artists), but that is not the point. Much of this conversation is sadly relevant, partly because they touch on some perennial questions and partly because there is some prescience in Jim’s thoughts. And remember he was 26. I could post actual philosophers and write 5,000 words on this, but no one would click on it…
There are many other elements to analyze in the film: the homage to films of the 30’s and 40’s, especially the film noir detective genre and the Busby Berkeley musical of course. There is the satire of the art world, L.A., power and violence, the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy and violence of the rich (and their cop enforcers)…The list is long, but this clip gets at the most important theme, the heart of the matter, in more ways than one.
The dude abides…
P.S. This is a short video clip with a voice-over review from Richard Brody’s “Front Row” series for the New Yorker magazine. In case they move the link again, that should help people search for it. If you find the link at the top is broken, please let me know in the comments and I will fix it if possible.
P.P.S. This is a spoiler for the clip, but if the clip does get taken down permanently, here is the most important part of the review:
After The Dude tells Maude about his experiences as a 60’s radical, Brody comments,
“The historical events The Dude refers to here are real and crucial moments in the American New Left in the 1960’s. The subject of the film is, what remains of the 1960’s, of the spirit of protest, of the anti-militarism of that period? And the Coen brothers provide an answer: No matter how burned-out and gone to seed its heralds may seem, its spirit abides.
“All governments lie,
but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials
smoke the same hashish they give out.” – I.F. Stone
from “In a Time of Torment, 1961-1967” (1967), p. 317
Arcylic and computer collage on canvas
25 x 20 cm
Self Portrait (Mustique)(2002)
Lithograph on Fabriano paper
24 x 19 cm
“My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter. The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety, all of the high points of one’s life.” – David Bowie
Click here to watch Boots Riley’s extended interview on Democracy Now! I’m glad he was interviewed and given time on DN!, but it’s a shame most people will miss seeing this second part, because it wasn’t aired. It’s only available on the DN! website as an extended interview.
The first part was important because it got the story out about his cousin and introduced Boots to people who had had never heard of him. Unfortunately, it was rushed and it didn’t give people a chance to fully see what he has to offer politically or musically. He didn’t choose one of his best rhymes (which, even more unfortunately, he flubbed) and the interview just didn’t communicate enough about Riley’s knowledge and experience.
In this extended piece, he has time to relax and tell his story – and surprisingly, he ends-up giving a great analysis of the left that many on the left don’t want to hear. It’s not a total analysis, but it gets to crux of the problem. He also gives a much better performance of a much better song. And there’s even more good stuff in there. So, as they say, watch and learn…
Here’s a little time capsule: A 20/20 Report on rap. Surprisingly, it didn’t do a bad job talking about its origins. Of course they missed quite a few things, like the dozens, Gil Scott-Heron, and if they were really on it they would have included a toasting clip from a Jamaican sound system instead of the clip they showed, but I was surprised they even generally got the idea. They tried to put it in some historical and cultural context as well, while showing some respect. Usually there is much more condescension in stories like this from sources like this. The reporter also predicted rap would have staying power. Not too shabby considering the source.
In the end, he states everybody can rap. Maybe, but not everybody can rap well. It’s like saying everyone can sing. But he was trying to make the point that the music was accessible to the makers and the listeners.
For the hardcore old school Hip Hop heads: because he went to the epicenter to get footage, there are actually a couple of clips I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Enjoy the time capsule. The discerning viewer will see how much (and how little) things have changed, in all respects.
I just took another look at the beginning of the video and caught the producer’s name: Danny Schechter. That was Danny Schechter the News Dissector, who recently passed away. Now the quality makes sense. This happened to be from the time Danny spent in corporate news, but he was a good ol’ leftie. Like anyone, he wasn’t perfect or always right, but he left a legacy of engagement and activism when he died, from the struggle for South Africa to media freedom. Here is my post on him from 2013:
Danny Schechter The News Dissector
“This is what I really would love to have in my music: presence. You know, as long as I can live. I mean I don’t care about nothing I played yesterday if I can go home right now and write some music that, is a presence. You know? That’s why they have machines, you know, so, if you want the past, there’s a machine that’s got the past. Right there, you know…which I think is very good, you know; so therefore, that means we as human beings can be in the present.”
Robin Williams was one of the kindest, most talented, funniest, most creative individuals to ever walk the earth. He was a ball of energy and light in an imperfect vessel. Now he has cast it off and all of that beautiful energy is truly free. He survived much and experienced more than most of us ever will – and as cliched as it sounds, brought joy to the world. A true loss.
There is a lot of humanity and intelligence here. This discussion gives some insight into the well from which he drew. I could quibble with some things that were said by both of them, but the important thing is just to take a moment to acknowledge a talented human who felt deeply, was thoughtful, and created – despite the impediments many of us face.
“All great art contains at its center contemplation, a dynamic contemplation.”
Peter O’Toole was one of the smartest actors to ever walk the boards. He could play everything from insouciance to madness. A star in every sense.
Click picture above to read Sam Sacks’ fine review of “Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine”
This is what I have to say about it:
Well done man.
I like the approach of the authors as well as your approach to the review. The psychology of human action (or non-action) is an inexhaustible subject because we will never know precisely why we do things (or do not). This may be at the root of the brilliance of the play. It gives us a question to which there is no answer. Human beings are rational and irrational, and never the twain shall meet. While this is true, we are cursed at the same time with the need to know. We want certainty about why someone acts they way they do – and we are cursed again with a need to control how others act. Maybe that is at the root of some people’s need to create robots – and to make them appear more and more human.
I’ve always thought the question of whether Hamlet was crazy or not was as strange as the idea of temporary insanity. If one has little or no insight into choices one makes that hurt others and one kills and plots to kill, what is one? Sane? Is one sane if one has a good reason for committing condemnable acts? Is Obama sane for killing children with drones and bragging that he is, “good at killing people”? Insanity (or at least irrationality) and human actions often seem one and the same to me.
I enjoyed the Slings and Arrows clip – and that last brilliant clip as well. Erudite actors! Fun and edifying. And how fitting that Wells says, “…the first point about Hamlet is that he is a genius.” Well, of course that is what he would say! As your piece observed, Wells reading of the play revealed as much about Wells as it did Hamlet.