Arts Review

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.

FICUNAM 2015

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.

To End All Wars: An anthology of antiwar comics about World War I

By Jeff Lusanne, 16 January 2015

Artists from around the world have contributed 26 comics depicting the criminality and brutality of World War I.

Downton Abbey: A rose-tinted depiction of class relations

By Paul Mitchell, 14 January 2015

Downton Abbey, set in Yorkshire, depicts the lives of the Crawley family and their 16 servants in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Goya: Order and Disorder: A comprehensive view of the work of the Spanish genius

By Clare Hurley, 12 January 2015

The painter’s range was so diverse that at times it hardly seems the work of a single person.

Doctor Who turns toward militarism

By Bryan Dyne and Christine Schofelt, 9 January 2015

Christmas 2014 marked the end of the eighth season of the rebooted British science fiction television series and the first season featuring Peter Capaldi in the title role.

Unbroken: Mediocre Hollywood fare in the service of … what exactly?

By Charles Bogle, 7 January 2015

Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 non-fiction work about Louie Zamperini’s harrowing experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.

15th Tokyo Filmex—Part 2

Life in modern Tokyo, and life during the two world wars: Kabukicho Love Hotel, Tsili and Theeb

By John Watanabe, 5 January 2015

Kabukicho Love Hotel is the latest film by Japanese director Ryuichi Hiroki. Amos Gitai’s Tsili takes place during World War II, and Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb during the First World War.

Tim Burton’s Big Eyes: Kitsch has never helped anyone yet

By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2015

Tim Burton’s new film Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, the American artist who created the “big-eye art” that became a mass marketing sensation in the 1960s.

The Imitation Game: “Am I a machine? Am I a war hero? Am I a criminal?”

By David Walsh, 31 December 2014

Screenwriter Graham Moore and director Morten Tyldum attempt to come to terms with the complicated life and work of Alan Turing, the British mathematician, computer scientist, cryptanalyst and logician.

The year in music: Favorite recordings of 2014

By our reporters, 31 December 2014

World Socialist Web Site music writers pick their favorite pop and jazz recordings of 2014.

Best films of 2014

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2014

Some interesting films opened in North America in 2014, a greater number than in many recent years. At the same time, sections of the film industry associated themselves more than ever with the American state.

The latest blockbuster from CIA Pictures: The Interview

By Andre Damon and David Walsh, 29 December 2014

It is entirely fitting that The Interview has been embraced by the Obama administration as the vehicle of the values it represents.

New albums from saxophonists Dayna Stephens and Walter Smith III

By Hiram Lee, 27 December 2014

The music of saxophonists Stephens and Smith reveals some of the strengths and weaknesses in contemporary jazz.

Foxcatcher: Under the thumb of a wealthy madman

By Joanne Laurier, 23 December 2014

Bennett Miller’s film is based on events that culminated in the shocking 1996 murder of an Olympic wrestling champion by the multimillionaire scion, John Eleuthère du Pont, of the American chemical dynasty.

What the Sony emails tell us about the American film industry

By David Walsh, 22 December 2014

No one familiar with Hollywood will be astonished by the picture of back-biting, pettiness and shortsightedness that emerges from the leaked emails, but the information is salutary nonetheless.

The Sky Between the Leaves now available in eBook format

19 December 2014

This work by WSWS Arts and Culture Editor David Walsh is now available in ePub and Kindle formats. It is an important contribution to the study of Hollywood and global cinema and belongs in every Marxist library.

15th Tokyo Filmex—Part 1

The Prince and A Few Cubic Meters of Love: Two films about Iran and Afghanistan

By John Watanabe, 17 December 2014

The Prince, the better of the pair of films, is a “docu-fiction” about the life journey of Jalil Nazari, an Afghan refugee in Iran, who subsequently applied for asylum in Germany.

Devil’s Knot, The Congress, The Giver and The Last Sentence: A few of this year’s films

By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, the WSWS will comment on a number of films that were released in North America and, in some cases, globally in the course of the past 12 months.

Edith Wharton—The Sense of Harmony: A documentary about the American novelist

By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2014

IndiePix Films has recently released a one-hour documentary about American novelist Edith Wharton (1862-1937), featuring fascinating, never-before-seen archival footage.

The veiled art of Alex Colville

Art Gallery of Ontario exhibition

By Lee Parsons, 8 December 2014

The Art Gallery of Ontario has brought together nearly 100 of Colville’s paintings, drawings and prints, the largest number ever in a single exhibit.

Ernest Cole Photographer—A searing look at apartheid South Africa

By Fred Mazelis, 5 December 2014

A moving and powerful exhibit at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery showcases the remarkable work of a little known black South African, Ernest Cole.

“Seeking for Utopia”—or were they? The Russian avant-garde and Soviet modernism in posters

Exhibition at the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo

By John Watanabe, 3 December 2014

The recent exhibition in Tokyo included some 180 early Soviet posters, which have remarkable artistic and historic significance.

The Theory of Everything: Stephen Hawking’s life, or parts of it, on film

By Walter Gilberti, 2 December 2014

Stephen Hawking has over the years become a familiar personage to millions. A brilliant physicist and cosmologist, Hawking’s nearly life-long battle with disease has become the stuff of legend.

“The real question is: does your art speak to the times and ask serious questions?”

Veteran photographer Errol Sawyer talks with the World Socialist Web Site

By Richard Phillips, 1 December 2014

Errol Sawyer discusses his early career and influences and the responsibilities facing photographic artists today.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: A mess in space

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 29 November 2014

Interstellar takes place in a dystopian near future, when dust storms are destroying crops and threatening to leave the planet without food.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1: More battle scenes and bloodshed—to what end?

By Christine Schofelt, 24 November 2014

With the third film in the Hunger Games series, the phenomenon is wearing increasingly thin.

Jon Stewart’s Rosewater: Fatal sins of omission

By Joanne Laurier, 21 November 2014

Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has written and directed a film treating the Iranian government’s incarceration and torture of a London-based, Iranian-born journalist in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.

Distortion and dishonesty: Ukrainian films at the Cottbus Film Festival

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 November 2014

The Festival of East European Cinema in Cottbus, Germany has been an annual event since 1991.

Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work: A biography of the remarkable actor

By Charles Bogle, 19 November 2014

Susan L. Mizruchi’s work uses the late actor’s extensive book collection, along with film scripts, research materials and notes for films, to deliver a complex and believable Marlon Brando.

Still The Enemy Within: The 1984-85 British miners’ strike according to the pseudo-left

By Paul Mitchell, 15 November 2014

The central problem with the documentary is its promotion of the state capitalist Socialist Workers Party’s perspective, which lets the Labour Party and the unions entirely off the hook for the betrayal of the miners.

The Death of Klinghoffer dramatizes 1985 hijacking of Achille Lauro

By Fred Mazelis, 14 November 2014

John Adams’s opera is a worthy addition to the contemporary operatic repertory.

Atlanta Symphony musicians agree to concessions after nine-week lockout

By Fred Mazelis, 13 November 2014

The latest contract follows a pattern across the US, but there is also growing anger at the corporate stranglehold on culture.

HBO’s Olive Kitteridge: Why are these people so unhappy?

By Joanne Laurier, 10 November 2014

Adapted from Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge deals with life in a small community on the coast of Maine.

“Give me something to do”

The literary impact and social concerns of American novelist Dave Eggers

By James Brookfield, 3 November 2014

Without wanting to oversimplify, one presumes that the general sympathy with which sufferers are treated in Eggers’ novels is owing in no small measure to his own experiences.

Fury: What is “realism”? What is an “anti-war” film?

By David Walsh, 1 November 2014

David Ayer’s morbid and militarist film follows an American tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), in the final days of World War II in Europe.

Three darkish comedies: Birdman, The Skeleton Twins and St. Vincent

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2014

Birdman deals with the washed-up star of a super-hero franchise. The Skeleton Twins portrays two siblings trying to overcome a painful psychological legacy. St. Vincent features a misanthropic Vietnam veteran who forms a life-changing attachment.

Pride: The UK miners’ strike through the distorted mirror of identity politics

By Robert Stevens, 29 October 2014

Matthew Warchus’ film about the 1984-85 conflict has been well received in Britain and was the third highest-grossing release on its opening weekend.

The Cut, a story of the Armenian Genocide

By Hiram Lee, 28 October 2014

Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin returns with a story of a family torn apart by the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

The Death of Klinghoffer premieres in New York

By Fred Mazelis, 22 October 2014

Despite vitriolic attacks and demands that the performance be cancelled, John Adams’s work went on as scheduled at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl: The lady vanishes

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 22 October 2014

Gone Girl wants to be a psychological study, a black comedy about the upper middle class, a social critique and a satire of media sensationalism. A few aspects are intriguing, even accomplished.

Citizenfour documentary on Edward Snowden premieres in UK and US

By Robert Stevens, 20 October 2014

Speaking of the NSA and the intelligence apparatus, Snowden asserts, in Laura Poitras’ documentary, “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

The Gary Webb story in Kill the Messenger: Shedding light on CIA criminality and conspiracy

By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2014

Michael Cuesta’s film tells the story of the journalist whose 1996 investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.

The Gold Mine by Kelsey Waldon: Life, more or less

By Dylan Lubao, 16 October 2014

Kelsey Waldon sets out to tell small-town stories in her debut album.

The legacy of postwar Polish filmmaker Andrzej Munk

By Dorota Niemitz, 13 October 2014

Munk, part of a generation of Eastern European artists struggling to deal with the postwar situation, was able to create a humane and authentic portrait of his times.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 5

99 Homes, Shelter and harsh American realities: Filmmakers inch their way toward important truths

Director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”

By Joanne Laurier, 10 October 2014

99 Homes deals with the foreclosure and eviction crisis, Shelter with the homeless. Also screened was a documentary about a Mexican citizen 30 years on death row, The Years of Fierro.

Snowpiercer: A new ice age and its consequences

By Muhammad Khan, 8 October 2014

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film tackles environmental catastrophe and social revolution.

The Boxtrolls: A cartoonish glimpse of class society

By Zaida Green, 6 October 2014

An underclass of trolls takes on the wealthy and corrupt White Hats in the new animated film from Laika, the Oregon-based studio.

Calvary: An Irish priest threatened for another’s crimes

By Christine Schofelt, 4 October 2014

In the opening scene, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) takes confession from an unseen man who recounts being sexually abused by a priest as a child, and informs James he is going to kill him “Sunday week.”

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 4

Iraqi Odyssey and other pictures of the modern world

By David Walsh, 2 October 2014

The film, directed by Iraqi-Swiss filmmaker Samir, attempts to interweave the complex saga of the director’s own family with the larger history of Iraq over the past half-century or more.