TOTALLY, TENDERLY, TRAGICALLY

ESSAYS AND CRITICISM FROM A LIFELONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE MOVIES

Essays in film criticism, fueled by Lopate’s heartfelt (if snobby) obsession with the —cinema— and Les Cahiers du CinÇma. Before he found his vocation as a personal essayist, Lopate (Portrait of My Body, 1996, etc.) wrote a wrap-up of the first New York Film Festival in 1963 for a Columbia student newspaper, during what he calls the — —heroic— age of moviegoing” that began his film education. Although not a hardcore cineaste, Lopate quickly declares his loyalties here: auteurs like Truffaut, Dreyer, and Mizoguchi over mere directors; Europe and Japan over Hollywood; mise-en-scäne over montage; realism over escapism. His hesitant, somewhat fawning contribution to a Festschrift for auteur-theorist Andrew Sarris shows how deep these formative allegiances run. In this mode, such as when he discusses Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert, writer-directors David Mamet, Paul Schrader, and John Sayles, and Jerry Lewis’s Three on a Couch (really), Lopate loses some of his intellectual independence and much of the slightly egotistical charm that enlivens his personal essays. When, however, he profiles Pauline Kael, whose entertainment-driven film aesthetics are not so congenial but whose writing and company are attractive, he shows his movie buff’s heart, as well as hers—although the prickly Kael disliked his well-written, incisive piece. Lopate shines in a charming retrospective of Japanese director Mikio Naruse, in his ambivalent musings on Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, in assessing the significance of montage in contemporary sex scenes, and more. To dramatize his love affair with celluloid, he takes his title from a bit of dialogue in Godard’s Contempt (discussing this with ease, elegance, and expertise). Two thumbs up for the veteran essayist’s art-house movie-going excursions.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-49250-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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