Saturday 29 March 2014

Cabaret: The Crooked Frame in “The Attack on Modern Art in Germany 1937”

This review originally appeared in Critics at Large March 29, 2014

Alan Cumming in the 1998 production of Cabaret.
Indulge me in serving up what might appear as an improbable conceit: that the current New York production of Sam Mendes’s Cabaret, that (as I write) is in previews on Broadway, could have been included in the Degenerate Art Exhibition of avant-garde paintings and sculptures on display uptown at the Neue Galerie. The Mendes production is a revival of his own 1998 reinterpretation of the 1966 Harold Prince Broadway blockbuster and the 1972 celebrated Bob Fosse film, all of which are loosely based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories and his experiences in Berlin during the early 1930s when he befriended a cabaret singer who became the inspiration for Sally Bowles. If Prince and, to a greater extent, Fosse’s glossy sheen and honky-tonk gaiety were inspired by the garishly-coloured and provocative subject matter depicted in the paintings of George Grosz, Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Beckmann, Mendes offers a grungier, economically desperate and grimmer look. Both the characters and the set – the Kit Kat Klub alternates with a dowdy rooming house without any evidence of conspicuous wealth – communicate a sense of impending danger, false hope, resignation and the threat of radical change that will forever alter their lives and designate the cabaret as degenerate just like the modernist artworks that provided some of the cinematographic cornucopia in the Fosse film.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Week Six: Words Have Consequences: The World after 9/11

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."
—George Bush

“The primary impetus for invading Iraq…was to make an example of [Saddam] Hussein, to create a demonstration model to guide the behaviour of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States.”
—Dick Cheney

"We will implement the rule of God on earth by the tip of the sword."
—Anwar al-Awlaki

 For an excellent discussion on leaking secrets see Wiki Leaks

For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty reunites the Oscar winning team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) for the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man.
One of the most incisive commentaries on the film Zero Dark Thirty

Hannah Arendt: The Limits of Thinking

This review originally appeared in Critics at Large  March 7, 2014

Barbara Sukowa stars in Margarethe von Trotta's Hannah Arendt (2013)
When the influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt reported on the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker, it caused an outrage. Its subsequent publication as Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which included a provocative postscript wherein she commented on the implications of her report, only compounded the controversy. Arendt’s critics were most upset about her portrait of Eichmann and her views on the Jewish councils organized by the Nazis. She regarded Eichmann as a pathetic little pen-pusher, a hapless clown in a glass booth, and not as a fanatical ideologue who hated Jews. Although her material on Jewish councils was only about a dozen pages and threaded throughout the book, many of her critics took umbrage at her suggestion that Jewish leaders failed to use their power to protect Jews.