Ben Greenman on Prince’s new album, “Art Official Age”:
“It’s worth thinking about what it means for Prince to step into new territory. He has spent years trying to recapture pieces of his old self … Here, for the first time, he suggests an alternative: maybe there’s an entirely new Prince music, possibly aided and abetted by Joshua Welton, that harnesses his talents and his vision. Maybe he’s not condemned to auto-pastiche.”
Photograph by Kevin Mazur/WireImage via Getty
What Williams shows us, in a film like Jacob the Liar, is that innocence may be worth preserving if, that is, we want to preserve hope which is at the core of not just Jewish culture but American culture as well. This preservation, however, is not to be found in “bromance” films (like Apatow’s) which, on the contrary, look to preserve adolescence and postpone adulthood. These films may be considered “sophomoric” but Williams’ work, in films like Jacob the Liar, is not. Fiedler was wrong and so is Scott on this account.
More is at stake than a simple repetition of a historical origin that ends up becoming the legacy of American literature. When it comes to innocence, the promise of goodness is at stake. It – and not simply a kind of comedy that is vulgar and fixed to take down the status quo – should be at the forefront of American comedy and Williams’ comedic career shows us that he took this task to heart. He knew, after Auschwitz, that comedy can still be the best challenge to history and that this stance is not taken on by the bromance comedy so much as the comedy of the schlemiel.
And on this note, we can say that even Mork teaches us something that the adolescent comedy in Apatow cannot; namely, that the “people’s poet,” it’s “lord of dreams,” can be complete (“tam”) if they act as if the world is still surprising. One is complete when one knows that, despite all the randomness in the world, good things can still happen and that wonder is still possible.
But, still, this completion doesn’t mean that one is whole – one is complete while one is broken. Moving on “as if” good things can still happen and that wonder is still possible, while knowing one is broken, one learns the meaning of completion. It is, as Adorno citing Beckett would say, the kind of moving on that gives birth to “the laugh that laughs at the laugh.” This laugh is the laugh of a certain kind of innocence, which remains, even in the context of chaos. This is a lesson that Robin Williams – a true master of comic simplicity and innocence – left with us.
The Western is an integral part of the Hollywood canon, but European filmmakers weren’t about to let Americans have all the fun. Germany and France produced scores of Westerns, in part because “once you found a wide-open landscape vaguely redolent of the American West, they were relatively cheap to make.” But it was Italy that arguably perfected the European Western: “The Spaghetti Westerns, with their multiple aliases (Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite is variously also known as Once Upon a Time … the Revolution and Duck, You Sucker!), their badly-dubbed voices, their sweaty, sunburned close-ups and their loud, redounding music, were both gothic and grand guignol. They could also be incredibly sophisticated amid all the alarum.”
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We’re saddened by the death this week of Alastair Reid, a poet, translator, traveler, and children’s book author. Born in Scotland, he came to the United States in the early 1950s, began publishing his poems in The New Yorker in 1951, and for the next fifty-odd years was a traveling correspondent for that magazine. He translated Borges and Neruda and published more than forty books, among them a wordbook for children, Ounce Dice Trice (with drawings by Ben Shahn), published by The New York Review Children’s Collection. Reid died on Sunday, September 21, at age eighty-eight.
Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair.
— Jean-Paul Sartre