The Arts Bureau’s Weekly Choices for TV, Movies, Books and Music
By JACOB ANDERSON – [email protected]
Film: “California Split” dir. by Robert Altman (1974)
Stemming from the magic of “The Long Goodbye” from 1973, Robert Altman’s fast-paced, laid-back chaos is perfectly suited to the anxious world of compulsive gamblers. The endlessly charming Elliott Gould, also back in a starring role in the aforementioned film, plays a twisted and energetic gamer who teams up with an addicting journalist and colleague, played by George Segal, to maximize the good times. The film is a hedonistic tsunami: The shifting fortunes and sleepless euphoria of future Big Wins trap the characters inside with no apparent means of escape. Altman’s signature overlapping dialogue and an ambiguous sense of time make the viewer feel as exclusively obsessed as the protagonists.
Elliott Gould’s non-reproducible magnetism is at its peak in this film, perhaps just after “The Long Goodbye”. His monotonous persuasion, soft, dry slang, all slightly inhuman, make up the extraterrestrial appeal. (His slick, trolling stoner face is the knockout, of course.) Gould is a die-hard cast here, and through him, the film manages to make the viewer feel as much as it understand the nature of these players.
Book: “Masks” by Fumiko Enchi (1958)
This is a short and breathtaking novel by one of Japan’s greatest post-war writers. Saturated by the eerie suggestions of spiritual possession in literature and the venerable style of Noh theater, the novel is about a love triangle between two men and a young widow named Yasuko, but it becomes clear as the novel progresses that the Control of the situation does not lie with any of the parties involved, but with the honorable and enigmatic mother of Yasuko’s late husband. A dense and elusive mystery unfolds, with almost every page involving some sort of indirect suggestion, invoking art and the spiritual for deep and multifaceted purposes. Despite its small word count (less than 50,000), the novel captures a shocking volume of depth thanks to its concise, self-referential, and layered structure.
Album: “L’art du trio, Vol. 2: Live at The Village Vanguard “by Brad Mehldau (1998)
Former child prodigy Brad Mehldau reinvented and embodied the jazz piano trio in the mid-90s with a precise and technical style that evokes legends Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. In the second volume of his “Art of the Trio” series, his style is individualized: overtly melodic movements have been transformed into long and constant sonorous routes, crossing similar terrain with an invariable cadence which suggests the endless fall of rain or ripples from a machine. The result is a selection of idiosyncratic and complex tracks over 10 minutes long that represent a skillful intrusion into the belly of an already well-developed genre.
Some sections may not be as remarkable as those found on the first volume of “Art of the Trio”, but the sacrifice of a certain amount of immediate appeal is more than made up for by the new forms discovered.
TV Show: “On Death Row” by Werner Herzog (2012)
Legendary indie pioneer Werner Herzog brings his arid and eerie style to a series of interviews with American death row inmates. Through a series of interviews with lawyers, other parties involved in their crimes, and the inmates themselves, Herzog paints a simple and overwhelming picture of each crime and who may have perpetrated it.
As interesting as the horrific stories and fates of these individuals is the goofy and flattering demeanor of Herzog, who seems to have baffled his interviewees with amusing regularity. Herzog himself is, to some extent, the antidote to the difficult subject he portrays: he does not hide his feelings regarding the death penalty in the United States, and his attitude towards his subjects betrays a sympathy and a personality. uncommon in documentaries and saves the content from getting drily horrible.
Although Herzog makes the series less demanding on the viewer, it remains a very grueling watch. The details of the crimes are not made more acceptable by his presence. Viewers would be wise to watch it piecemeal rather than all at once.
Written by: Jacob Anderson – [email protected]