John Wyver writes: I’m on holiday this week (in Northumberland, since you ask) but to mainciontinuity here’s a shorter-than-usual list of recommended reading, listening and viewing.
• What made Buster Keaton’s comedy so modern? [£, but limited free access]: reviewing for The New Yorker recent books by James Curtis and Dana Stevens, Adam Gopnik is excellent on the comedian and modern times.
• “There is nothin’ like a dame:” female stardom and performance in pre-code cinema: for Mubi.com Olympia Kiriakou writes about the MoMA film programme curated by Farran Nehme of early 1930s American movies, ‘Dames, Janes, Dolls, and Canaries – Women Stars of the Pre-Code Era’; for those of us who can’t make it to Manhattan, Nehme’s notes introducing each film are well worth your time, as is her introductory article. (Above, Leila Hyams, with Edmund Lowe, in Part-Time Wife (1930), directed by Leo McCarey).
• Céline Sciamma’s quest for a new, feminist grammar of cinema: another exceptional New Yorker essay about film, this time by Elif Batuman, who writes with quiet passion about the French filmmaker.
• People, Places, Things – an Interview with Ricky D’Ambrose on The Cathedral: I really want to see The Cathedral, and I’m very intrigued by D’Ambrose’s work, introduced at Reverse Shot in a conversation between Lawrence Garcia and the director; as Garcia suggests:
As D’Ambrose’s films unfold, we feel driven to piece them together into a coherent, even schematic whole—to establish a vision of simultaneous apprehension which we nonetheless feel some unease about accepting. Always, the clarity of his images is matched only by the spectral force of the gaps between.
• Missing Movies Is determined to democratize independent film preservation: an important IndieWire report by Samantha Bergeson.
• In memoriam Monica Vitti, enigmatic beauty and exquisite icon of alienation: Glenn Kenny at Decider on the extraordinary actor who we lost this week.
• Todd Gitlin, a voice and critic of the New Left, dies at 79: I’m sad at this news; I never met Gitlin, but his writing and ideas have been hugely important to me over decades – this is his New York Times report on his death, by Katharine Q. Seelye.
• Charles Ray Is pushing sculpture to Its limit: a substantial profile of the American sculptor, from Jason Farago for The New York Times.
• Learning from Marble Arch Mound – a premature opening and an execution lacking in love (our side of the story): Dutch designers MVRDV break their silence about the notorious project, and are entirely convincing about the shortcomings of its execution – and about the failures of Westminster Council.
• Snail slow [£, with limited free access]: I haven’t read any of John McGahern’s novels or short stories, but I most definitely want to after reading Colm Tóibín’s warm and (largely) admiring memoir, which for LRB he wraps up in a review of The Letters of John McGahern edited for Faber by Frank Shovlin.
• Bloody Sunday and how the British empire came home: a fine essay for openDemocracy by Adam Ramsay:
If Britain had a functional media or a sensible government, the debate about the prosecution of a soldier for alleged murder on Bloody Sunday would be a chance to talk about our imperial history: how it’s shaped our post-imperial present and how it’s led us to the chaos of today… But instead, we get delusion from the Northern Ireland secretary and praise for the chaps at the top. We get mawkish empire sentimentalism, and our reporters rarely examine the fact that we’ve become the world centre for mercenary companies, nor think about how that influences our politics.
• Vasectomies won’t save the planet: fascinating reflections from Matthew Sweet about W.B. Yeats, H.G. Wells and voluntary sterilisation.
• ‘Death and the Lady’: what else could I close with this week? Norma Waterson, whose death was announced on Monday, introduces and sings, wonderfully, the ancient ballad, with Martin Carthy on guitar. Recorded for The Open University.