- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Beautiful 'Perdition'

"'Road to Perdition' is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. Now, this gangster-revenge picture starring Tom Hanks is far from lovely when you consider its bloody and garish subject matter. And there's a lot that's wrong with 'Road to Perdition.' But the look of the thing is so extraordinary that you just have to go see it. Every shot, every camera angle, every frame in the course of its 119 minutes is ravishing in a way movies are seldom ravishing any more. In this and in other ways, 'Road to Perdition' is a fascinating throwback to the glory days of the American cinema.

"There is something self-defeating about self-consciously beautiful movies. The moviemakers often sacrifice a certain measure of drama because they fall so deeply in love with the pristine images they're creating. There's an old Broadway adage about lavish musicals that don't work: 'You can't hum the scenery.' Sadly, the same is too often true about movies that are also great works of cinematography.

"If you like 'Road to Perdition,' you'll call its pace stately. If it doesn't grab you, you'll call it slow. But even when it starts feeling as though it's crawling along, a simple image of a waitress bringing over a cup of coffee in a diner or a group of men reading the newspaper in a waiting area in Chicago's Union Station is enough to grab your eye and hold your interest."

Jon Podhoretz, writing on "Beautiful Movie," Monday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Prophecy and protest

"Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' may be a second-rate novel its characters wooden, its narrative overly didactic but it has turned out to have been first-rate prognostication. Published in 1932, it touches everywhere on 21st-century anxieties. Among other things, it is a world in which reproduction has been entirely handed over to the experts. The word 'parents' no longer describes a loving moral commitment but only an attenuated biological datum.

"What we are seeing in sexual life is the fulfillment, in some segments of society, of the radical emancipatory vision enunciated in the 1960s by such gurus as Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown. In 'Eros and Civilization' Marcuse looked forward to the establishment of a 'non-repressive reality principle' in which 'the body in its entirety would become an instrument of pleasure.' As in 'Brave New World,' children do not enter into the equation. The issue is pleasure, not progeny. Marcuse speaks glowingly of 'a resurgence of pregenital polymorphous sexuality' that 'protests against the repressive order of procreative sexuality.' A look at the alarmingly low birth rates of most affluent nations today suggests that the protest has been effective."

Roger Kimball, writing on "The Fortunes of Permanence," in the June issue of the New Criterion

Arafat's flood

"[Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat isn't just toast, he's buttered and dripping marmalade. Bush knows it, Israel knows it, the Arabs know it, Hamas knows it, his Fatah cronies know it, and ol' man Yasser knows it.

"Best case scenario: Arafat runs in 2003 and is elected to a Palestinian presidency stripped of all power. Worst case scenario: carried out by the handles. To Bush, either solution will do. Some rare Palestinian 'moderates' might yet emerge. On the other hand, some toxic Hamas honcho might carry the day. Doesn't matter: an unashamed terrorist would be easier to deal with than a frontman for terrorists.

"To the realpolitik sophisticates, the Arafat equation was very simple: a strongman state was a better bet than a weak democracy doomed to collapse into chaos. But, in launching the infitada, Yasser blew up his own raison d'être. You can't warn 'Après moi le deluge' when the deluge is already in full flood."

Mark Steyn, writing on "Arafat is toast; Bush knows it," July 11 in the National Post

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