Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’: The Holocaust Brought To The Present

One of the most distinctive features of Claude Lanzmann‘s Shoah is that it features no archival footage. Not a single second of it. There are no grainy, black-and-white flickering images of Jews being herded into train cars for shipment to concentration camps, pushed and shoved along by brutal, indifferent German soldiers, of camp inmates peeringContinue reading “Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’: The Holocaust Brought To The Present”

Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia And The Insight Of The Depressed

There is a moment during the disastrous wedding reception that kicks off Lars Von Trier‘s Melancholia that you suspect the reason Justine the bride is being so mysteriously, bafflingly, awkwardly morose, is that she is aware of an impending apocalypse, the one made imminent by a beautiful blue planet approaching the earth on a collisionContinue reading “Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia And The Insight Of The Depressed”

On Not Watching Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible

A dozen or so years ago, my now-wife-and-then-girlfriend’s roommate, a young woman who worked as a community organizer, told me that she had recently seen Gaspar Noé‘s recently released Irréversible. She really liked it: it was a disturbing movie, hard to watch because of that notorious eight-minute rape scene and all the other violence, but I,Continue reading “On Not Watching Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible”

The Trials Of Muhammad Ali

We all know the story: In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, [Muhammad] Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. The U.S. government declined to recognize him as a conscientious objector, however, because Ali declared that he wouldContinue reading “The Trials Of Muhammad Ali”

Snowpiercer: The Train As Capitalist Society And The Universe

Post-apocalyptic art–whether literature or movies–is provided, sometimes all too easily, ample opportunity for flirting with the grand, for making sweeping statements about human nature and the meaning and purpose of life. After all, it’s the (often violent) end of the world. Time to speculate about the new, phoenix-like world that may rise from the ashesContinue reading “Snowpiercer: The Train As Capitalist Society And The Universe”

Re-Reading Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’

I’m re-reading Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road in preparation for discussing it with my students next week. It has been an interesting experience. First, I am struck by how new the book seems on this second reading. I read it first a year ago, and yet, its prose seems just as pristine. There is some familiarityContinue reading “Re-Reading Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’”

Vampire, Vampire, Burning Bright

When I was ten years old or so, my father and I went to visit an old friend of his at his sprawling home. While they chatted in the living room, I went wandering around the house, looking for books to browse through. (I had asked for, and had been granted permission to do so;Continue reading “Vampire, Vampire, Burning Bright”

Paul Morel and Travis Bickle: The World-Dissolving Melancholic Gaze

In Sons and Lovers (1913), D. H. Lawrence directs many glances at the Derbyshire landscape, often through his characters’ distinctive visions. Here is one, this time through Paul Morel: He was brooding now, staring out over the country from under sullen brows. The little, interesting diversity of shapes had vanished from the scene; all thatContinue reading “Paul Morel and Travis Bickle: The World-Dissolving Melancholic Gaze”

Ghost From The Machine: Once Again, The Dead Return

Matt Osterman‘s Ghost from the Machine (2010)–originally titled and known internationally as Phasma Ex Machina–is touted by its marketing material as a ‘supernatural thriller’. A low-budget indie, it uses a cast made up of genuine amateurs who sometimes look distinctly uncomfortable and self-conscious on camera, and wears its modest production values on its sleeve. The story sounds hokeyContinue reading “Ghost From The Machine: Once Again, The Dead Return”

The Unread Reading

In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Žižek says: All too often, when we love somebody, we don’t accept him or her as what the person effectively is. We accept him or her insofar as this person fits the co-ordinates of our fantasy. We misidentify, wrongly identify him or her, which is why, when we discover thatContinue reading “The Unread Reading”