Sunday links

11th April 2021

John Wyver writes: ahead of the limited easing of lockdown here’s another selection of links to articles and videos and threads that have caught my attention in the past week. The list is a little more limited than usual – apologies, but there’s a lot going on at the moment.

Merrily he rolls along: A belated birthday tribute to Stephen Sondheim: a wonderful David Bordwell essay about the composer and lyricist, and about modernism, popular storytelling and mass culture.

The making of Billy Wilder: courtesy of The Paris Review, a compelling excerpt from Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches for Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna, edited by Noah Isenberg and translated by Shelley Frisch, published by Princeton University Press.

Walkers in the city – Jules Dassin and Bruce Goldstein in New York: for Criterion’s The Current, Michael Sragow speaks with Goldstein about his short-form documentary Uncovering ‘The Naked City’ on the making of Dassin’s 1947 movie; the wonderful header image, taken from the feature, is of Dassin directing Ted de Corsia on Rivington Street.

A Zed & Two Noughts: Michael Sicinski reflects productively for Reverse Shot on Peter Greenaway’s 1985 feature…

one can sense [in Greenaway’s work] the fraught and unresolved relationship that Great Britain has to the Continent… Like his compatriot Derek Jarman, Greenaway adopted European cultural analysis as a way to provincialize Britain, to subject the nation to critique while at the same time mitigating its intellectual isolation. In contemporary terms, Greenaway’s cinema is the opposite of Brexit, an attempt at a full and unapologetic “Brentrance” into the larger expanse of European culture.

The Travelling Players: … and for the same ‘Symposium’, Christine Newland revisits another film that was immensely important to me when I was at university, Theo Angelopoulos’s 1975 epic.

Exterminate All the Brutes, reviewed – a vast, agonizing history of white supremacy: Richard Brody reviews for The New Yorker Raoul Peck’s four-hour essay-film for HBO Max, available in Britain on Sky Documentaries from 1 May; see also Lisa Wong Macabasco for the Guardian, ‘Sometimes, it’s shocking’: Raoul Peck on his bold new colonialism series.

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Easter links

4th April 2021

John Wyver writes: another cluster of recommendations for the second Easter in lockdown – articles, threads and videos, many culled from my Twitter feed, that have engaged me over the past week.

BFI at Home | Romeo & Juliet with Josh O’Connor, Jessie Buckley, Lucian Msamati and Simon Godwin: a richly interesting conversation about the much-anticipated NT Live ‘original film’ (that’s the official tagline, image above) that premieres tonight on Sky Arts at 9pm:

Shakespeare and lost plays: for the Folger’s ‘Shakespeare Unlimited’, David McInnis, Associate Professor in English and Theatre Studies, Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia, introduces the arguments of his important new book, Shakespeare and Lost Plays.

Shakespeare, 17:1: an exceptional resource in the shape of an open access issue of this significant journal, dedicated to ‘Shakespeare, Race and Nation’, guest-edited by Farah Karim-Cooper and Eoin Price.

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Sunday links

28th March 2021

John Wyver writes: another batch of pointers to content I’ve found stimulating and informative and engaging over the past week, with many recommended to me by colleagues and confreres on Twitter, to whom I remain immensely grateful.

Let’s start with a new video essay for Mubi.com about perhaps my favourite European director, Antonioni’s Cinema of Absence by Manuela Lazic and Alessandro Luchetti; the header image is Monica Vitti in L’avventura (1960)

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Sunday links

21st March 2021

John Wyver writes: I was wrestling with some tech issues on Sunday, so this week’s selection was a touch delayed – apologies. But it’s in reasonable shape now. The first link will take you to one of the very best pieces I’ve read in the past seven days (and longer), a LA Review of Books article by Priya Satia, Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History at Stanford University, and author of Time’s Monster: History, Conscience and Britain’s Empire, which I cannot recommend strongly enough. Then read Professor Satia’s sobering Twitter thread which follows.

Fascism and analogies – British and American, past and present

[Tory] nostalgia testifies to an urgent need to come to terms with the unpleasant reality of Britain’s imperial past. But the anxiety to distance that past from the moral abyss of Nazism and slavery frustrates efforts to do so. To urge Britain to reckon with its imperial past through reparations, school curriculum, restitution, memorialization, or other methods that Germany has also employed in confronting its Nazi past does not automatically imply an equation of British imperialism with Nazism. Different kinds of violent and racist pasts may yet share a common need for redress.

Why can’t Britain handle the truth about Winston Churchill?: this by Priyamvada Gopal for the Guardian is a fine complement to Priya Satia’s essay.

The Conservatives are now the party of England. Changing that will be hard and English politicians are waving the union jack, but its meaning is tattered and torn: two very good Guardian/Observer columns a week apart by John Harris.

The populist delusion: writing for Prospect with passion and purpose, Jon Bloomfield and David Edgar lay out an ambitious programme:

The Conservatives suspect their coalition is unstable and that after four decades of neoliberalism the ground is moving against them. Hence their drive for a new populist model. In response, progressives need to avoid the traps set by our opponents, expose their inadequacies and weaknesses, and unite around a new social settlement for the future. Are we up to the task? 

The clown king – how Boris Johnson made it by playing the fool: if you haven’t read it already, catch up with Edward Docx’s brilliant analysis for the Guardian, including citations from Paul Bouissac, ‘the leading scholar on the semiotics of clowning’, and a close reading of Johnson’s novel Seventy-Two Virgins (published 2004):

The book is beyond merely bad and into some hitherto unvisited hinterland of anti-art. More or less everything about it is ersatz. Commentators who fall for his self-conjured comparisons to Waugh and Wodehouse miss the point entirely and do both writers an oafish ill-service. Because here again: Johnson is not seriously interested in writing novels at all. It’s not that he’s a fraud. Rather, as ever, he is a jester-dilettante peddling parody and pastiche.

The end of closed democracy?: Anthony Barnett’s extended essay for Open Democracy is very good on where next for President Biden and the United States.

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Sunday links

14th March 2021

John Wyver writes: lockdown rolls on, as does the provision of a collection each week of articles and videos that I have found interesting or informative, and often both, over the past week. The list is perhaps a little less expansive than other weeks because, somehow, there’s a lot going on.

Beepie has won. Here’s what we’ve lost: not much doubt about the art world story of the week (above is a detail from ‘Everydays’, a digital artwork bought at an online Christie’s auction for $69 million, with fees), and Jason Farago’s column for The New York Times is the best piece I’ve read about it so far:

[Johann Joachim] Winckelmann’s most fundamental insight was that a sculpture, a painting or a building was not just a thing of beauty; a work of art is a product of its time, and expresses even without trying something about the place and the culture it comes from. It is as true as ever, and certainly true about Beeple’s pictures of naked giantesses with the face of Pikachu. It is his culture now, benighted but triumphant, where puerile amusements can never be questioned and the Simpsons have displaced the gods.

Non-fungible tokens are revolutionising the art world – and art theft: Alex Hern for the Guardian is also very good on the implications of what we have very quickly learned to call NFTs.

Chain reaction: … and Kevin Buist for Artforum provides really useful background in a column written before the Christie’s sale:

While NFTs may not provide a material framework for the artworks riding the wave of speculative investing, they do provide an ideological one, lending a hip veneer to the latest flavor of techno-optimism. At its worst, trading art on the blockchain is a libertarian pyramid scheme built on hype and a near-total disregard for the inevitable losers of the game, whether that’s atmospheric CO2 levels or whoever is left holding an overpriced cryptographic token pointing to a digital object that doesn’t physically exist.

How can Blackness construct America?: in another essential New York Times feature, Michael Kimmelman interviews ‘a new collective of Black architects and artists, formed out of a show now at MoMA, [which] aims to “reclaim the larger civic promise of architecture.”’

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Sunday links

7th March 2021

John Wyver writes: maybe it’s lockdown lassitude, but Links is a little late this week, and is still a work in progress; nonetheless, with my usual thanks to those on my Twitter feed, here is another selection of articles and videos that have engaged and informed me over recent days.

Brexit unhinged: I feel like I should start every set of recommendations with Chris Grey’s Friday blog post, which is the smartest and best-informed exploration of the Brexit process that I know of (and there’s a book on the way) – I’ve been following him throughout this whole, hideous story and my admiration for his writing is unbounded; here’s this week’s takeaway:

So two months in things aren’t looking at all good. The government is reduced to planting disingenuous stories in the press about the success of Brexit, its ministers and backbenchers don’t understand or don’t accept the Brexit deals they voted for, and it now again proposes to break international law by flouting part of what it agreed to. Relations with the EU are more fraught than ever. The Northern Ireland peace process is under strain. The Ultras are proposing a trade war with the EU, whilst trade with the EU is in chaos with SMEs especially suffering, billions of pounds of assets have fled the UK, the Brexiters’ iconic fishing industry is close to collapse, and many of the new restrictions on trade haven’t even been implemented yet. We’re not even at the end of the beginning, and, no, vaccines don’t give Brexiters a get out of jail free card.

Strong on rhetoric, weak on substance – so much for the ‘vision’ of Global Britain: punchy, powerful analysis from Will Hutton for the Guardian.

Sir David Barclay obituary – Farewell to A ‘Stinking Mobster: a month old but new to me, John Sweeney’s buccaneering Byline Times essay is fearless and formidably entertaining.

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Sunday links

28th February 2021

John Wyver writes: one more lockdown week, one more list of links to richly interesting reads, along with a small number of videos. My thanks to all those on Twitter and elsewhere who have made recommendations.

The 50 most beautiful cinemas in the world: an absolutely wonderful, beautifully illustrated list from Time Out – I’ve been inside just 5, and seen the exteriors of 3 more; a mission to visit every one might be appropriate for The After.

Where is the love?: Seeking intimacy in Josephine Baker’s films: Terri Simone Francis for Salon is terrific on the three features in which the star appeared.

Raymond Cauchetier, whose camera caught the New Wave, dies at 101: The New York Times obit by Robert D. McFadden – and there’s more at the photographer’s ‘self-portrait’, written in June 2013; also Richard Brody writing in 2015; header image: Jeanne Moreau and her screen lovers Oskar Werner, right, and Henri Serre while filming François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962); Raymond Cauchetier/La Galerie de l’Instant.

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Sunday links

21st February 2021

John Wyver writes: more links for lockdown, drawn from things that have engaged and enraged me this week; many are drawn from Twitter recommendations, while others come from my regular reading including the Guardian, LRB and New Statesman.

Why political conservatives should embrace free historical inquiry – rather than imposing and promoting an official version of the history of the United Kingdom: David Allen Green for The Law and Policy Blog.

Q&A | ‘We need to defend the freedom to research our histories in all their nuance’: a very good interview with Corinne Fowler, professor of postcolonial literature at the University of Leicester, by Geraldine Kendall Adams for the Museums Association, who ‘has been singled out for criticism by senior government figures and the press following the publication of a landmark report on links to slavery and colonialism at National Trust properties, which she co-authored.’

Culture wars in country houses – what the National Trust controversy tells us about British history today: a fine contribution by Charlotte Riley to the Legacies of British slave-ownership UCL blog, explaining the background to the current assault.

The culture minister should take an interest in museums – but he can’t tell them how to interpret the past: good, polite words from Charles Saumarez Smith for Apollo.

From folklore to wokelore – how myths of Britishness are turning totalitarian: for Byline Times, Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu powerfully ‘argue that Britain cannot ignore the Conservative kulturkampf, and that one way to combat the mythologising of politics is to expose the politics of the myths’.

Free speech proposals are ‘Trojan Horse for authoritarianism’: Ian Dunt on fine form for politics.co.uk.

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Sunday links

14th February 2021

John Wyver writes: another lockdown weekend, another list of links to articles and videos that have engaged me over the past seven days; my thanks as always to all those in my Twitter timeline who share interesting, informative and – very occasionally – just plain silly stuff.

The acrobatic grace of Cary Grant: for Criterion’s The Current, Angelica Jade Bastién on how the star could combine a ‘suave, glistening surface with pratfalls and acrobatics, perfectly timed, that allow him to be silly, even foolish, but retaining an assured sensibility that means he never becomes the fool.’

Inside cinema shorts – Beside the sea: a lovely 9-minute video essay by Pamela Hutchison about British film’s love affair with the seaside.

Mon Oncle d’Amérique – on Unforgiven: for Reverse Shot, Julien Allen is terrific on Clint Eastwood’s 1992 western (above), and on story-telling, uncertainty and America.

Tokyo rising: how Japan’s new wave rose – and broke: this week Sight & Sound re-upped this really good essay by Donald Richie about the generation of filmmakers who emerged from the upheavals of the 1960s; originally published in 2001.

The drenching richness of Andrei Tarkovsky: Alex Ross for The New Yorker thoughtfully reassesses the films of the great Russian director – which also gives me an excuse to show Kyle Kallgren’s 2018 video essay Nostalghia Critique, which is about Tarkovsky (he makes an appearance) but also copyright, Youtube and existential despair.

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Sunday links

7th February 2021

John Wyver writes: another collection of pointers to the past week’s interesting articles and videos, gathered from my Twitter timeline and elsewhere, and with the help of friends also.

All American end zones: for Super Bowl Sunday, Thomas Quist at Mubi.com Notebook on American football films.

Don DeLillo, the Super Bowl, and the language of the game: … and Jake Nevins for The New Yorker on the centrality of football in the works of one of the greatest living writers…

The first Super Bowl was broadcast on two networks, but you’re not allowed to watch it today: … and from Brian Flood at Fox News, the fascinating tale of the legal wranglings about access to the archival recording of the first Super Bowl back in 1967. Pictured, CBS announcer Ray Scott at that first game. Wearing headset is commentator Frank Gifford. (Credit: CBS via Getty Images.)

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