John Wyver writes: our break in Northumberland was glorious – thanks for asking – and I’m returning now with today’s list of recommended reading, listening and viewing.
• In Our Time – Walter Benjamin: let us now praise, and to the skies, the essential BBC Radio 4 series hosted by the indefatigably curious Melvyn Bragg; the subject this week was the great German critic and theorist, from whose collection of translated essays, Illuminations, we took our company name – the guests are Esther Leslie, Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London; Kevin McLaughlin, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of English, Comparative Literature and German Studies at Brown University; and Carolin Duttlinger, Professor of German Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford. And of course you know this but there is a wondrous archive of all the programmes since 1998. The header photograph by Gisèle Freund is Benjamin in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 1937.
• The Wings of the Dove: … and while we’re with BBC Radio 4, Linda Marshall Griffiths’ wonderfully imaginative 2018 adaptation of Henry James’ great novel is back for a month on BBC Sounds, compiled in two omnibus editions, the second of which is broadcast today.
• Dziga Vertov’s long-lost films: Dorota Lech for Mubi.com on the rescue and restoration by Russian film scholar Nikolai Izvolov of the Soviet director’s Anniversary of the Revolution (1918) and History of the Civil War (1921).
• When the image ruled – Julien Duvivier in the silent era: it’s great to have a new David Bordwell post, and this richly illustrated engagement with the 1920s films of the French director is packed with insight and critical acuity; his excuse is the release of a wonderful Blu-ray collection from Flicker Alley.
• Radio-activity – a conversation with Christopher Petit: Hillary Weston talks with the critic, novelist and filmmaker about his 1979 debut, Radio On; Chris was an immensely kind and supportive colleague when I joined Time Out as a totally green writer back in 1977, and I’ve been privileged to be involvced in producing several of his works for television:
I think Radio On belongs to a certain tradition of British film; I like to call them “cul-de-sac films,” because they come out at the end of a decade, and you think they will have an influence, but in an odd way they don’t. Another example is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, which pretty much finished his career, and then there was Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance.
• Auteurs at the Superbowl: Fincher, Snyder, Chazelle, Verbinski, etc.: an endlessly engaging collection of past high-profile commercials compiled by Adam Hart; included is Chrysler’s 2012 ‘It’s Half Time, America’, with Clint Eastwood, directed by David Gordon Green:
• … and while we’re at the Superbowl, here’s another of Paul Poast’s engaging threads
• Looking back on a colonial struggle, a museum stirs new disputes: Nina Siegal for The New York Times on a major show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam exploring Indonesia’s struggle for freedom from 350 years of Dutch colonial rule.
• The death of the department store: a Guardian Long Read by John Harris spinning off from the closure of John Lewis in Sheffield and embracing the statistic that ‘since 2016, according to a study published last summer, 83% of the UK’s big department stores have closed’; and as Harris asks:
… the rapid spread of vacant stores raises a huge question: if urban centres are not going to be dominated by shopping, what do we want them to be?
• My year of reading Lemmishly [£ but limited free access]: this is a really wonderful LRB essay by Jonathan Lethem about the science fiction of the Polish author Stanislaw Lem, and it is the perfect complement to…
• A Holocaust survivor’s hardboiled science fiction [£ but limited free access]: … Caleb Crain’s recent review of Lem’s writings for The New Yorker; read both and then, whether you’ve encountered him previously or not, read Lem.
• Great books are still great: for Aeon, Roosevelt Montás on the canon, liberal education and critical reading:
At one point, [reading from King Lear], Professor [Gayatri] Spivak stopped, put down the book and said, in a tone that lay somewhere between a confession and a sigh: ‘I’m sorry, I love Shakespeare. I’m sorry,’ and resumed her reading. I was relieved that she, the renowned postcolonial feminist theorist, could say this, and that our reading of Shakespeare would not simply be an exploration of the ways in which he was the product of and a mouthpiece for patriarchal, Eurocentric and imperialist discourses. We were also reading a Shakespeare that was lovable, and witnessing a family drama that touched our shared humanity. I too loved Shakespeare, and Professor Spivak was giving me permission to admit it.
• Librarian’s lament – Digital books are not fireproof: a very good argument at ZDNet about book-burning and corporate copyright by Chris Freeland, a librarian and Director of the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program.
• What gambling firms don’t want you to know – and how they keep you hooked: I almost never gamble, and this valuable Rob Davies article, extracted by the Guardian from his forthcoming book, more than reinforced my conviction
• Lata Mangeshkar, legendary playback singer and ‘nightingale of India’, 1929 to 2022: a BFI tribute by Naman Ramachandran to the artist who was the singing voice for many of India’s biggest movie stars; there’s more on her extraordinary life from Saima Mir for the Guardian – and this is from Lagaan (2001), starring Aamir Khan, with Mangeshkar singing for Gracy Singh: