Arts Review

The Martian: A modern Robinson Crusoe

By David Walsh, 7 October 2015

One member of a manned mission to Mars is presumed dead and left behind on the desolate planet.

Time Out of Mind: Richard Gere as a homeless man in New York City

By Robert Fowler, 5 October 2015

Some of the more authentic moments in the film come in the form of George Hammond’s difficulties with government bureaucracies and homeless shelter officials.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Three

I Saw the Light (Hank Williams) and Janis: Little Girl Blue (Janis Joplin)—Popular music and its discontents

By David Walsh, 3 October 2015

Country music performer Hank Williams (1923-1953) and rock and roll singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970) were both significant figures in the history of American popular culture.

Re-released after 40 years: The strengths and weaknesses of Robert Altman’s Nashville

By David Walsh, 30 September 2015

The nearly three-hour work follows two dozen characters over the course of several days in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, the official capital of country music.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part one

The physical and emotional toll that capitalist society takes

By David Walsh, 26 September 2015

The 40th Toronto International Film Festival screened some 285 feature films and 110 shorts from 71 countries.

99 Homes’ director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”

By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2015

Iranian-American writer-director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, 2005; Chop Shop, 2007; Goodbye Solo, 2008) has created a compelling work that puts flesh and blood on the foreclosure epidemic.

Diego Rivera murals in San Francisco—Mostly hidden and obscured

Change the World or Go Home by Alejandro Almanza Pereda

By Jeff Lusanne, 14 September 2015

The American public’s access to Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s murals has never been easy, as their social and political content has provoked opposition in powerful circles. Now, an artist joins the effort, with little to offer in return.

Exhibition in London

Shirley Baker: A compassionate photographer of 1960s working class life

By Paul Mitchell, 12 September 2015

The show is an opportunity to see the compassionate and humorous photographs of working class life by someone whose work rarely reached a wider audience during her own lifetime.

Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America offers some hints of humanity

By Christine Schofelt, 10 September 2015

A young student in New York City, an aspiring writer, meets her energetic, difficult stepsister-to-be.

Woman: The confessions of R&B singer Jill Scott

By Hiram Lee, 9 September 2015

The latest album from the neo-soul singer is an interesting but uneven effort.

Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947): The weight of history

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 5 September 2015

Tourneur’s film, adapted from Build My Gallows High, a novel by American writer Daniel Mainwaring published in 1946, has one of the most suggestive titles in cinema history.

Phoenix: After WWII in Germany, a woman rises from the ashes

By Joanne Laurier, 3 September 2015

Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), is grossly disfigured and traumatized.

Young Euro Classic: A music festival in Berlin opposing war and nationalism

By Verena Nees, 31 August 2015

The annual Young Euro Classic youth orchestra festival recently concluded with a memorable performance in the Berlin Concert Hall.

David G. Spielman’s The Katrina Decade—An unsentimental look at how things are now

By Christine Schofelt, 29 August 2015

Spielman is not given to the current fetish for “Ruins Photography.” There is no romanticism in these pages.

Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash and American Ultra: Tired or clueless filmmaking

By Joanne Laurier, 27 August 2015

Jonathan Demme’s film deals with a woman who left her husband and children decades ago, and now returns for a family crisis.

Dismaland, Banksy’s parody theme park: A despairing response to a complex world

By Kelly Taylor, 26 August 2015

Coming through the main gates into Dismaland, the spectator is confronted with a vision of a world that is terribly sick.

Straight Outta Compton: an uncritical picture of the rise of American “gangster rap”

By Nick Barrickman, 25 August 2015

Straight Outta Compton is a hip hop biopic focusing on the rise to prominence of the influential hip hop group N.W.A. in the late 1980s.

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy: The story of a troubled youth

By Laurent Lafrance, 22 August 2015

The fifth feature film by Quebecois director Xavier Dolan, only 25 years of age, won numerous awards in 2014 and 2015.

The Good Fight: the latest from Washington DC-based hip hop artist Oddisee

By Nick Barrickman, 21 August 2015

While avoiding many of the more overt expressions of self-absorption, many of the Oddisee’s attempts to reflect reality remain purely on an individual and superficial plane.

Woody Allen’s Irrational Man: The familiar flatness and lack of conviction

By David Walsh, 14 August 2015

Allen’s latest film focuses on controversial philosophy professor Abe Lucas who arrives at fictional, liberal arts Braylin College in Newport, Rhode Island to teach a summer course.

Amy, a documentary film about the British singer Amy Winehouse

By Joanne Laurier, 12 August 2015

Asif Kapadia’s documentary is a straightforward and compelling account of the performer’s life starting at the age of fourteen.

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman: More of a moneymaking than a literary event?

By Sandy English, 3 August 2015

Harper Lee’s early draft of a novel, Go Set a Watchman, has sold over a million copies in the United States since its release two weeks ago.

Trainwreck: The latest from Judd Apatow

By David Walsh, 1 August 2015

In Apatow’s Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, the stand-up comic and writer, is the psychological mess of the title.

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and the phenomenon of American film noir

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2015

Turner Classic Movies, the US cable and satellite television network, presented Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) at selected theaters on July 19 and 20.

R.W. Fassbinder at 70: the German filmmaker’s life on display in Berlin

By Hiram Lee, 23 July 2015

An exhibition at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau pays tribute to German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder on the seventieth anniversary of his birth.

Artist Shepard Fairey arrested on felony charges for Detroit graffiti

By Zac Corrigan, 20 July 2015

Fairey was arrested less than two months after completing a mural in Detroit, commissioned by billionaire Dan Gilbert.

USA Network’s Mr. Robot: A provocative start, but where will it go?

By Christine Schofelt and David Walsh, 17 July 2015

Making a direct appeal to debt-ridden youth and branding itself as “anti-corporate,” Mr. Robot raises many issues. But how does it deal with them?

Mary Ellen Mark: Photographer and humanist

By Seraphine Collins, 16 July 2015

Acclaimed American photographer Mary Ellen Mark recently died, leaving behind an extensive and thought-provoking body of work.

Manglehorn and The Cobbler: The influence of social-gravitational forces

By David Walsh, 13 July 2015

The two films, Manglehorn, directed by David Gordon Green, and The Cobbler, directed by Tom McCarthy, both fall into the independent drama, or comedy-drama category.

Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, Season 3: Life goes on in a women’s prison

By Ed Hightower, 11 July 2015

In the third season of the series about a fictional woman’s correctional facility, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, privatization comes to Litchfield prison.

Terminator Genisys and the trajectory of American “independent” filmmaking

By David Walsh, 8 July 2015

A number of the independent filmmakers of the 1990s and early 2000s have found their way, like Alan Taylor, to one or another blockbuster franchise.

NBC’s American Odyssey: Mercenaries, jihadists and Machiavellian US corporations

By Christine Schofelt, 6 July 2015

American Odyssey, cancelled after the first season, exhibited some good intentions, but ultimately familiar confusion.

Silicon Valley: HBO’s satire of American tech culture

By Kevin Reed, 4 July 2015

Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, the series follows the ups and downs of six young men who live together in a Silicon Valley “business startup incubator.”

The Wolfpack, Dope: American experiences, oddities

By Joanne Laurier, 3 July 2015

The Wolfpack is a documentary about seven children who were locked away for many years in an apartment in a public housing project in Manhattan.

Voodoo, a Harlem Renaissance opera, revived in New York

By Fred Mazelis, 2 July 2015

H. Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954) was active as a composer, conductor and teacher, but his work was rarely performed during his lifetime.

The Apu Trilogy: “Art wedded to truth must, in the end, have its rewards”

By Richard Phillips, 29 June 2015

Indian director Satyajit Ray’s cinematic masterwork, The Apu Trilogy has been meticulously restored by Janus Films and is currently screening in North American cinemas.

Redeployment: Phil Klay’s short stories about the Iraq War only go so far

By Sandy English, 25 June 2015

The new collection makes certain telling observations about the experiences of American Marines and others who invaded and occupied Iraq.

Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By David Walsh, 24 June 2015

The film was made during a run of Taymor’s version of Shakespeare’s play at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn in 2013-14.

Jurassic World, summer blockbuster

By Christine Schofelt, 23 June 2015

Though largely formulaic, the film is not without its charms and touches on some interesting questions—albeit lightly.

La loi du marché (The Measure of a Man): An attempt at a drama of the French working class

By Antoine Lerougetel, 20 June 2015

Fifty-one-year-old Thierry, who has lost his job in a factory closure, urgently tries to find work since his unemployment benefit will soon run out.

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young: No need to fight

By Christine Schofelt, 17 June 2015

Riddled with generational stereotypes, While We’re Young pleads the case against intellectual honesty in favor of “personal fulfillment.”

Orson Welles symposium at University of Michigan

By David Walsh, 13 June 2015

The University of Michigan’s library is the home of the largest assortment of Orson Welles archival papers and documents in the world.

A new film version of Far from the Madding Crowd; Brian Wilson’s story in Love & Mercy

By Joanne Laurier, 12 June 2015

Set in rural England in the 1870s, Far from the Madding Crowd is the story of a free-spirited young woman who attracts three suitors of diverse social and psychological make-up.

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series depicts a vital chapter in American history

By Fred Mazelis, 8 June 2015

The latest show juxtaposes the famous 1941 paintings with photography, writing, music and other work of this period.

Painter Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum: Trappings of empire and power

By Clare Hurley, 6 June 2015

Wiley copies European Old Masters paintings, substituting African Americans in contemporary garb in the poses of aristocrats and other wealthy figures of power and privilege.

100 years since the birth of Orson Welles—Part 2

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 5 June 2015

May 6 marked 100 years since the birth of Orson Welles, one of the most remarkable figures in American film and theater in the twentieth century. This is the second part of two.

Street artist Shepard Fairey paints a giant mural in Detroit

By Zac Corrigan, 3 June 2015

The garish work adorns the north face of the One Campus Martius office building, headquarters of Quicken Loans, the financial company chaired by billionaire Dan Gilbert.

To Pimp a Butterfly from rapper Kendrick Lamar

By Nick Barrickman, 1 June 2015

Despite the album’s billing as socially ­conscious “political rap” by certain critics, the focus of To Pimp ... is largely on the rapper himself and his personal experiences in the music world.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent—More talent and resources squandered

By Christine Schofelt, 30 May 2015

Any attempt at building a thoughtful story has been abandoned in favor of a special effects bonanza, leaving one to ask: Where is this heading?

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina: Will artificial intelligence replace human efforts?

By Dorota Niemitz, 20 May 2015

Ex Machina is an elegant and thought-provoking science fiction thriller that considers the future of humanity in relation to the rapid developments in computer science technology.

Is it a dangerous precedent?: Detroit Institute of Arts tests out art market with van Gogh

By David Walsh, 19 May 2015

The news that the DIA had been considering earlier this year selling an 1886 still life by Vincent van Gogh produced headlines and generated concern last week.

Christie’s $1 billion week: Art market heads for the stratosphere

By J. Cooper, 18 May 2015

Artwork, particularly 20th century and contemporary art, now functions as another commodity for the financial aristocracy to invest and speculate in.

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty

CIA-embedded Hollywood liars and their lies

By David Walsh, 15 May 2015

We now know, thanks to Seymour Hersh and his article in the London Review of Books, that, along with everything else, the Bigelow-Boal film was a pack of lies from beginning to end.

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore: Playwright John Ford’s lurid classic receives Off-Broadway revival

By Robert Fowler, 14 May 2015

Written around 1630, the play, set in Parma, Italy, has an incestuous relationship at its center.

Drone warfare in Good Kill

And a roundtable interview with writer-director Andrew Niccol and actor Ethan Hawke

By David Walsh, 13 May 2015

New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol has taken on the subject of drone warfare in Good Kill, featuring Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz and January Jones.

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Art Gallery of Ontario: Graffiti, fame and the art market

By Lee Parsons, 8 May 2015

Rapacious art speculators in the 1980s took a particular interest in Basquiat, who was well suited and, sadly, willing to play the part of the latest darling of the art world elite.

Co-director Wim Wenders’ The Salt of the Earth: The photographs of Sebastião Salgado

By David Walsh, 6 May 2015

Salgado is perhaps best known for his photos of people in impoverished regions and his pictures taken amid various social disasters, especially in Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Woman in Gold: The battle to recover art stolen by the Nazis

By David Walsh, 29 April 2015

The film is a fictional rendering of the successful legal efforts, undertaken by Maria Altmann, to regain possession of several Gustav Klimt paintings stolen or coerced from her family.

An appraisal of German writer Günter Grass: 1927-2015

By Sybille Fuchs, Wolfgang Weber and Peter Schwarz, 25 April 2015

Günter Grass, who died at the age of 87 on April 13, was one of Germany’s most outstanding storytellers and a man who remained true to his political principles throughout his life.

“Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts

In defense of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes

By Tim Rivers and David Walsh, 21 April 2015

Along with much fascinating material, the current exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts on the 11 months the famed Mexican artists spent in the city has some very troubling and wrongheaded aspects.

World famous German author Günter Grass dies at age 87

By Peter Schwarz, 14 April 2015

Grass was one of the most important German writers of the 20th century and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

The Good Soldier Švejk: A classic satire about World War I

By Isaac Finn, 14 April 2015

Josef Švejk is a Czech soldier who makes himself appear a fool to get around his superiors and fights a peculiar and hilarious war of attrition against the difficult circumstances he finds himself in.

Cymbeline: Michael Almereyda returns to Shakespeare

By David Walsh, 11 April 2015

Michael Almereyda, who previously directed a version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, has turned to one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, with intelligent results.

Rolling Stone’s retraction of University of Virginia gang rape story

By David Walsh, 7 April 2015

Rolling Stone magazine commissioned Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, and two colleagues, to investigate the writing and publication of “A Rape on Campus.”

FICUNAM 2015: Part 5

A revealing forum on “Politics and film criticism” at Mexican film festival

6 April 2015

WSWS arts editor David Walsh participated in a panel at the FICUNAM film festival on “Politics and Film Criticism,” hosted by film critic Roger Koza and including Cristina Nord, from Die Tageszeitung in Germany.

New York exhibition looks at “political art” of the 1930s

By Fred Mazelis, 3 April 2015

The Grey Art Gallery show presents the work of dozens of American artists who were radicalized in the period of the Depression, revolutionary struggle, the rise of fascism and the looming threat of world war.

Exhibition in Berlin: Rediscovery of a Russian revolutionary art school

By Sibylle Fuchs and Verena Nees, 31 March 2015

“VKhUTEMAS: A Russian Laboratory of Modernity—Architectural Designs 1920-1930,” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, December 5, 2014 to April 6, 2015.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 4

Tackling life head on: The films of Uzbek-Soviet director Ali Khamraev

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 March 2015

One of the genuine contributions of the recent FICUNAM film festival in Mexico City was its presentation of the works of veteran film director Ali Khamraev.


I Remember You: A comment on the history of his film by director Ali Khamraev

28 March 2015

Filmmaker Ali Khamraev explains the difficulties surrounding the making of his remarkable film I Remember You in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 3

Pedro Costa’s Horse Money, Jean-Marie Straub’s “leftism” and other problems

By David Walsh, 25 March 2015

The recent FICUNAM festival in Mexico City screened a number of films which, while not belonging to a single school by any means, provide the opportunity for something of a generalized overview.

Philistinism and crime in the German art market

By Sybille Fuchs, 23 March 2015

The greed and ignorance of the super-rich and the operations of unprincipled entrepreneurs are threatening public access to many art works.

Chappie: Is the sum greater than the parts?

By Christine Schofelt, 21 March 2015

Neill Blomkamp’s latest release presents an oddly sweet, if rather violent, tale, but something is missing.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 2

The rule and the exceptions—three good films: Court, National Gallery and The Gold Bug

By David Walsh, 20 March 2015

There are filmmakers who devote themselves seriously and conscientiously to representing life, not life in the abstract, not “life as a river,” but concrete life, the life of social classes and relationships.

The horrors of war depicted

Images of War—Sensory War 1914-2014: An exhibition at Manchester City Art Gallery

By Margot Miller, 6 March 2015

The gallery assembled both contemporary and historical art, adding to its already substantial collection of WWI art exhibits.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 5

Two stories of German resistance: The Resistors “their spirit prevails ...” and 13 Minutes

By Bernd Reinhardt, 3 March 2015

One film makes only a partial examination of Hitler’s middle class opponents, while the other makes a more significant look at the opposition from below.

House of Cards collapses

By Andre Damon, 2 March 2015

In its third season, the Netflix program that began as the American Macbeth has turned into a conformist celebration of the political establishment.

Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall: An honest artistic effort, or something else?

By Dorota Niemitz, 2 March 2015

What may be the British director’s final feature is a historical drama based on the life of James Gralton, deported in 1933 from Ireland for his communist activities by the nationalists he supported.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

Every Thing Will Be Fine from Wim Wenders, Taxi from Jafar Panahi, and other films

By Hiram Lee, 27 February 2015

New films from veteran German director Wim Wenders and Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi were screened at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 3

Haiti and Romania: Drama and social life in Murder in Pacot and Why me?

By Stefan Steinberg, 25 February 2015

Raoul Peck’s film focuses on a middle class couple whose home in Port-au-Prince has been ruined by the 2011 earthquake. Tudor Giurgiu’s feature looks at all-pervasive corruption in Romania.

87th Academy Awards: A more intriguing event than in recent years

By David Walsh, 24 February 2015

Social and political realities found expression on Sunday in a manner that accords with the film world’s peculiarities and contradictions.

Still Alice and Kingsman: The Secret Service—A woman battles disease and a street kid helps save the world …

By Joanne Laurier, 23 February 2015

In Still Alice, a middle class professor and her family struggle with Alzheimer’s, and in the comic book-based Kingsman: The Secret Service, a working class youth is recruited by an elite spy agency.

The upcoming Academy Awards: Selma, American Sniper and other issues

By David Walsh, 21 February 2015

If recent ceremonies are anything to go by, Sunday’s event will be thoroughly scripted and lacking in spontaneity.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2

Marcel Ophüls’ Memory of Justice and other documentaries

By Hiram Lee, 21 February 2015

A newly restored version of Marcel Ophüls’ 1976 documentary Memory of Justice was given a special screening at this year’s Berlinale.

“Cultural appropriation,” “white privilege” and the attacks on rapper Iggy Azalea

By Nick Barrickman and David Walsh, 20 February 2015

In recent months, the hip hop music industry has witnessed a controversy surrounding the commercial success of Australian-born rapper Iggy Azalea.

65th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 1

Pulling down the shutters at the Berlinale

By Stefan Steinberg, 19 February 2015

War raging in the middle of Europe, accelerating inequality, social decline at a level unknown since the 1930s…none of these issues got a look in.

The Two Faces of January: Three Americans joined together by crime

By David Walsh, 16 February 2015

Set in Greece in the early 1960s, Iranian-born director Hossein Amini’s film, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, follows a trio of Americans caught up in a series of increasingly traumatic events.

The Water Diviner: Russell Crowe’s contribution to the WWI centenary

By Richard Phillips, 14 February 2015

The movie dovetails with the Australian government’s reactionary promotion of the war centenary and the Gallipoli incursion.

Wild and Black or White: Social problems, but the solutions?

By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2015

Wild tells the true story of one woman’s 1,100-mile hike of self-discovery. Black or White recounts a custody battle between the white maternal grandfather and black paternal grandmother of a seven-year-old girl.

The twentieth century was lived in vain: Leonardo Padura’s The Man Who Loved Dogs

By Sandy English, 7 February 2015

Padura’s novel takes a pessimistic, cynical view of history as it describes the life of Ramon Mercader, the assassin of Trotsky.

Leviathan: A latter-day Job

By Dorota Niemitz and David Walsh, 6 February 2015

Oscar-nominated Leviathan is a dark tale about an individual struggling against the power of the state in contemporary Russia.

The Humbling: An actor who can no longer act

By David Walsh, 5 February 2015

In Barry Levinson’s film, based on a Philip Roth novel, an aging stage actor, who has lost the appetite for performing, encounters a younger woman with interesting consequences.

A guest reviewer: Quiet, now—three photographers (Salgado, Struth, Atget) in New York

By Virginia Smith, 3 February 2015

Three recent or current exhibitions in New York City present the work of photographers who stop time and allow us to contemplate what they see before their lens.

The controversy surrounding American Sniper

By David Walsh, 31 January 2015

The campaign in defense of Clint Eastwood’s film is the latest means by which the political and media establishment in the US is promoting its war-mongering agenda.

The Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night: Who should pay for the present situation?

By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2015

In a small Belgian factory, a woman fights to keep her job by trying to convince her workmates not to take a pay bonus.

Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon’s novel adapted for the screen

By David Walsh, 28 January 2015

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, his seventh feature, is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by well-known American writer Thomas Pynchon.

American Sniper: A wolf in sheep dog’s clothing

By Matthew MacEgan, 24 January 2015

Clint Eastwood’s newest film tells the story of Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest marksman in US military history.

The historical and political issues in Selma

By Fred Mazelis and Tom Mackaman, 20 January 2015

Most attention has been focused on the relationship between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson, but far deeper questions must be explored, including the significance of the mass movement against Jim Crow segregation, its political limitations and its fate.

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War

By Paul Mitchell, 19 January 2015

On display are works, many unseen publicly since they were first created, by a wide range of realist, surrealist and abstract artists.