- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2010

Viva Italia

“The attitude of Saverio Costanzo, director of ‘In Memory of Me’ (‘In memoria di me’), was typical of his generation when I canvassed them in 2007. He felt oppressed by the old maestros. ‘They destroyed our cinema,’ Costanzo mourned. ‘They consumed Italy by portraying it in such an absolute, timeless way. And I sometimes have the feeling that nobody cares what Italy is now.’ …

“Domenico Procacci, Italy’s most important producer even before he made ‘Gomorrah,’ feels the weight of the past lifting now. ‘Whats happened in the last year, because of “Gomorrah” and “Il Divo” and a few other films, is that the perception of Italian cinema has changed a bit abroad. Often people say, “I loved your film. But ‘La Dolce Vita’ is better.” I quite agree! Its difficult to compete with Fellini. But I think Italian film is becoming better known for what we are doing now.’

“‘I Am Love’s dazzling title sequence — cut, designed and scored to brashly recall some great Italian art film from 1960 — defines this new confidence. ‘We were trying to connect the chromosomic code of great movies that we love, from Visconti to Antonioni, with a vision of Milano today,’ [director Luca] Guadagnino says. ‘You can’t start in a humble, hypocritical way, saying, “Those were masters, and we are not.” We have to say, “Let’s aim for the stars, and see where we go.’ “”

Nick Hasted, writing on “Maestros and mobsters” in the May issue of Sight and Sound

Punk right

“[Malcolm] McLaren’s first act of brilliance, remember, was to attempt to turn the wonderfully raw and feral New York Dolls into a communist front. Hell, guitarist Johnny Thunders couldn’t even pronounce dialectical materialism, never mind understand it. The Dolls were soon defunct — communism was never very popular in the good ol’ USA. He lucked out with the Sex Pistols, but I would still argue that the defining stuff of this band came from [John] Lydon’s whine and comically malevolent stance, Steve Jones’s meaty guitar (which became the defining sound of the 1980s in America), Glen Matlock’s tunes and Jamie Reid’s brilliant graphics. …

“Nor did McLaren really get the ideology behind punk rock; it was never leftist, in essence, much though the music press at the time wished that it were. If anything, it was part of the primal, pre-Thatcherite, radical right; it wanted to kick over staid and desiccated institutions and replace them with something more dynamic. It had no truck with trade unions, [organized labor], co-operatives, peace and love; it was viciously individualistic. Ayn Rand would have loved punk rock. Look at the music writers who cut their teeth on punk — Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, Garry Bushell. All well to the right of [center].”

Rod Liddle, writing on “McLaren was no cultural genius — just a lucky punk,” on April 11 at the Sunday Times

Innocent audience

“Everyone knows one thing about the life of Charles Dickens: the trauma of his childhood stung him into bestsellerdom. The 12-year-old boy whose parents were imprisoned for debt and who toiled in Warren’s Blacking Factory is father to the man who wrote ‘David Copperfield.’ But I was ashamed to learn only now, in Michael Slater’s new biography, ‘Charles Dickens,’ that the autobiographical background of ‘David Copperfield’ was completely unknown to Dickens’s huge contemporary fan base — hundreds of thousands of people who bought his novels in their serial form, subscribed to the magazines he published for [20] years, attended the marvelous public readings he gave of his own works, and bought his Christmas books for their friends.

“More than a year passed after Dickens’s death in 1870 at the age of 58 before the first volume of John Forster’s ‘Life of Dickens’ was published, and the facts of Dickens’s childhood became known. Slater says that it is hard for us ‘to register just how sensational all this was to the vast majority of Dickens’s readers, so many of whom felt themselves to be on terms of personal friendship with him.’ Hundreds of thousands learned for the first time that when Copperfield labored in Murdstone & Grimby’s warehouse, it was Dickens who wept, and that Dickens’s Micawberesque father was the cheerful resident of King’s Bench Prison.”

Sam Schulman, writing on “Good Writers. Bad Men. Does It Matter?” on March 30 at the webzine In Character

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