Monday, December 12, 2011

Artistic Consumption Log, Dec. 5, 2011 - Dec. 11, 2011: Birthday Celebration Edition

NEW YORK—I'm really starting to think that San Francisco bit me with some kind of "chill out" bug when I was there at the end of October—a bug that has led me to drastically slow down my culture intake. Two films? Only two? I usually manage, like, four or five in a week. What is wrong with me?

Maybe I should blame OKCupid (of which, the less said about it, the better—but if you want to ask, feel free to ask me about it). That and my 26th-birthday celebration (which went extremely well, if you wanted to know).'s a summary of my week in artistic consumption.

Krapp's Last Tape (photo credit: Anthony Woods)


A Dangerous Method (2011, David Cronenberg), seen at Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York
There are, I admit, moments in this adaptation of Christopher Hampton's stage drama about the clash between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in which David Cronenberg's surgical precision leads the film to plod a bit too much for my taste; I guess there's only so much even a brilliant visual artist like Cronenberg can do with such inherently talky material until it starts to feel, well, talky. Even at its saggiest, though, form follows function in A Dangerous Method: a wholly intellectual battle of wits gets an appropriately clinical treatment in Cronenberg's hands, the better for its stabs of underlying human anguish—Keira Knightley's virtuoso spasms of hysteria, Jung's attempts to repress his sexual urges—to puncture through the good surface manners with an unexpected emotional force. Its final image—which, now that I think about it, is remarkably similar to the final image of Cronenberg's last film, Eastern Promises, in terms of how much it implies about a character's persisting inner demons—is especially striking in that regard.

So yeah, I liked, if not necessarily loved, A Dangerous Method. If nothing else, I'm now much more interested in reading Jung and Freud than I was going into the film.

The Adventures of Tintin (2011, Steven Spielberg), seen at Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 in New York
I'm afraid of breaking any sort of review embargoes that Paramount might have imposed on this film, which, thanks to a roommate of mine, I was able to see at an early screening. (I guess I have the recent David Denby/The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo brouhaha in mind in my anxiety.) So I won't say too much about it now...except to say that if you're a fan of Spielberg's classic action-adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark, you will likely enjoy this, too.


The Roots Present: an undun performance..., seen at Highline Ballroom in New York
Illadelph Halflife (1996, The Roots)
Things Fall Apart (1999, The Roots)
I recently decided to dive into the music of The Roots because of a concert of theirs I agreed to go see with two of my roommates on Tuesday night. Alas, I wasn't able to listen to all of their albums before going to the concert—which was, in part, meant to promote their latest album, Undun—so I watched Black Thought, ?uestlove & co. more as a detached spectator than as a passionate longtime fan. I still enjoyed the experience, though; having only heard their first two albums, Organix and Do You Want More?!!!??! by that point, I found it interesting that their early stabs at infusing jazz elements into their hip-hop had, by all appearances, flowered into something grander, as evidenced by the group's inclusion of full-blown brass instruments (tuba, trumpets, saxophone).

Later in the week, I got around to listening to their next two albums after Do You Want More?!!!??! I didn't notice quite as much of the smooth-jazz sound in these two albums; if anything, Illadelph Halflife and Things Fall Apart seem to mark a move away from that to something approaching straight hip-hop. Perhaps I have some more experimentation to expect from The Roots as I go further into their recorded output to date. In the meantime, allow me to express my full admiration for the band's consistently intelligent and inventive rhymes, always showing an awareness of the outside world even when they rap about themselves (no Kanye West-like self-involvement here).    


Krapp's Last Tape (1958, Samuel Beckett), performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Samuel Beckett did indeed write plays other than Waiting for Godot, and on Friday night, I saw one of them: a 55-minute one-man play in which a sick, elderly man plays an old audio recording of himself made years ago, tries to record a new one, eats some bananas, drinks a lot, and just generally feels disappointment at what he considers a wasted life. This production, directed by Michael Colgan and starring John Hurt, is equally spare in execution: The set is basically just a table on a stage, no other sets in sight, with light literally boxing Krapp in (and this boxing-in is turned into a visual joke at one point when Hurt plays peekaboo with the darkness outside of that box of light). Krapp is imprisoned not only by light, but by his own memories of missed and failed opportunities. Depressing? Sure. But, as with the best "depressing" art, the sense of invention on display as well as its range of emotion—from bleak humor to deep despair—is genuinely enlivening. Did I mention it's only 55 minutes long? And yet, one feels, within those 55 minutes, as if one has experienced a précis of a whole lifetime of experience.

Krapp's Last Tape is running until Dec. 18 at BAM's Harvey Theatre. It's well worth your time. If you aren't able to see it, though...well...look what I found on YouTube!

Apparently, way back in 2000, Atom Egoyan, as part of a British TV series entitled Beckett on Film, shot a film version of Krapp's Last Tape with...John Hurt as Krapp! Someone was nice enough to upload the whole hour-long work to YouTube. For those who aren't able to see Hurt act live onstage, I guess this offers you all a second-best option.


Unknown said...

It's posts like this that make me wish I didn't live in such a cultural backwater.
I was able to get to New York this summer and the Book of Mormon tickets were top of my list. I loved what they did with Eugene ONeill Theater. I wish I could do it again.

Kenji Fujishima said...

In which cultural backwater do you reside, Tobin_Vance?