Arts Review

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba—The banalization of the novelist and his art

By David Walsh, 4 May 2016

The film follows the relationship that develops after a young American journalist in Miami in the mid-1950s writes an admiring letter to novelist Ernest Hemingway, then living in Havana, Cuba.

David Walsh speaks on “Art, War and Social Revolution” at meetings in California

By Evan Blake and Jake Dean, 3 May 2016

Walsh presented the history of 20th century anti-war cinema and sought to uncover the roots behind the present cultural stagnation in the light of the eruption of American imperialism.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me: The plight of a Lakota youth

By Norisa Diaz and Kevin Martinez, 2 May 2016

The film is a lyrical and honest look at the poverty and social neglect that affects one of the most historically oppressed communities in the United States.

Class Divide: A close-up look at gentrification, inequality in New York City

By Fred Mazelis, 29 April 2016

Children of hedge fund managers attend private school on Manhattan’s Tenth Avenue, across the street from one of the city’s public housing projects.

Prince (1958-2016)

By Hiram Lee, 27 April 2016

While music icon Prince, who died April 21 at the age of 57, was among the more electrifying performers of his generation, his work could be terribly uneven.

The paintings of Eugène Delacroix at London’s National Gallery

By Ross Mitchell and Paul Mitchell, 26 April 2016

The stated intention of the organisers is to give visitors “the opportunity to (re)discover” the “revolutionary artist” Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).

A concert of relative rarities by American composer Aaron Copland

By Fred Mazelis, 23 April 2016

Copland’s jazz-influenced Piano Concerto deserves a higher profile in the orchestral repertoire.

The Hope Six Demolition Project: PJ Harvey takes on war and global poverty

By Matthew MacEgan, 22 April 2016

Harvey’s new album is the product of the artist’s investigation into the poverty and devastation being inflicted on different parts of the globe.

Demolition: Take an investment banker apart, and what do you find?

By Carlos Delgado, 20 April 2016

The film tells the story of Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal), a New York investment banker who experiences an emotional unraveling after his wife dies in an automobile accident.

A conversation with Stephen Parker, author of Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life

By David Walsh, 19 April 2016

WSWS writers Sybille Fuchs, Stefan Steinberg and David Walsh recently spoke to the author of a valuable new biography of the famed German playwright and poet.

Stephen Parker’s Bertolt Brecht. A Literary Life—a welcome biography that raises big historical issues

By Sybille Fuchs, 18 April 2016

One of the most talented and influential playwrights of the 20th century, Brecht adapted to Stalinism, with pernicious consequences for his career and work.

Colonia: Under Pinochet, a disposal center for enemies of the state

By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 16 April 2016

German director Florian Gallenberger’s political thriller Colonia takes place during and after the US-backed Chilean military coup in September 1973.

SEP/IYSSE meetings in California: Art, War and Social Revolution

14 April 2016

WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh will speak at meetings in San Diego and Berkeley, California, addressing the political and cultural situation in relation to American imperialism’s relentless war drive.

Born to Be Blue and Miles Ahead: Why so much fiction when life is fascinating enough?

By John Andrews, 7 April 2016

Films based on the lives and personas of post-World War II jazz musicians Chet Baker and Miles Davis have been released recently.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—Doom and gloom, with capes

By Carlos Delgado, 6 April 2016

The price tag of the film, including production and marketing costs, approaches half a billion dollars, and some analysts believe it would need an $800 million box office to recoup its investment.

UK documentary exposes Saudi role in global terror operations

By Jean Shaoul, 5 April 2016

The Saudi ruling family spent $70 billion exporting its particularly repressive form of Islamism through books, the media, Islamic welfare institutions and charities.

The New York Times on race and art

By Hiram Lee, 4 April 2016

A review published in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review advances a racialist view of art and culture with thoroughly reactionary implications.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 3

From Cuba a grim drama (La obra del siglo) and from Argentina a political thriller (El Clan) and a road trip (Camino a La Paz)

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 1 April 2016

The festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, and South and Central America.

Eye in the Sky: The liberal war on terror

By Joanne Laurier, 31 March 2016

Eye in the Sky is a political-military thriller in which British and American officials weigh the consequences of a drone strike in Nairobi, Kenya.

On sexual harassment policy

Professors’ group charges Obama administration with undermining academic freedom and due process

By David Walsh, 30 March 2016

A report by the American Association of University Professors points to the reactionary role of the sexual harassment industry on university campuses.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 2

The human cost of the drug war in Mexico and a drama from Venezuela: Retratos de una búsqueda and Dauna. Lo que lleva el río

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 30 March 2016

The San Diego festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, South and Central America.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 1

Films from Argentina, Spain and Guatemala: El Movimiento, Hablar, Ixcanul and Tras Nazarin

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 28 March 2016

The festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, South and Central America.

Atom Egoyan’s Remember: A Nazi criminal hunted…

By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2016

Two Auschwitz concentration camp survivors plot to kill the SS guard who murdered their families in Atom Egoyan’s latest film, Remember, a psychological drama.

“We make the terror:” Season four of House of Cards

By Andre Damon, 24 March 2016

The latest season of the Netflix series suggests that the US government facilitates terrorism to keep a lid on domestic opposition, spies on the population for political gain, and conspires to go to war for Machiavellian ends.

Book Review

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See: All the history the novelist cannot see

By Leah Jeresova, 23 March 2016

Doerr’s second novel takes a moralizing, ahistorical view of events during the Second World War.

Ten years since the death of hip hop artist James “J Dilla” Yancey

By Nick Barrickman, 21 March 2016

A talented musician, Yancey is considered by many to have been among the greatest of all hip hop producers.

Novelist Jonathan Franzen’s Purity

By Sandy English, 17 March 2016

Franzen’s highly praised fifth novel is a largely––and carelessly––misanthropic, right-wing work that fails to create complex or plausible characters.

Beatles producer George Martin dies at 90

By Hiram Lee, 15 March 2016

Legendary music producer George Martin, who supervised almost all of the Beatles’ recordings, died on March 8.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4:

Flight and persecution—yesterday and today (The Diary of Anne Frank and Meteorstraße)

By Bernd Reinhardt, 14 March 2016

A new adaptation of the immortal Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, about Nazi persecution, and a film about Palestinian refugees in contemporary Germany.

A Perfect Day: 24 hours in the Bosnian War

By Joanne Laurier, 12 March 2016

Spanish filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa’s movie A Perfect Day deals with international humanitarian aid workers in the Balkans near the end of the war in the mid-1990s.

Race: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Alan Gilman and David Walsh, 10 March 2016

Stephen Hopkins’ film centers on critical events in the life of African-American track and field legend Jesse Owens.

American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson: An indictment of American celebrity culture

By Charles Bogle, 8 March 2016

The FX series examines the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in June 1994, for which former football star O. J. Simpson was charged.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 3:

Alone in Berlin—a working class couple opposes the Nazis

By Bernd Reinhardt, 7 March 2016

Vincent Pérez’s film is a new adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel Every Man Dies Alone (published posthumously in 1947).

Two poor films on the Afghanistan war—Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and A War—and Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto

By Joanne Laurier, 5 March 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a semi-comic treatment of the tragic Afghan conflict; A War from Denmark is ostensibly a more serious effort. Desierto takes up the war against Mexican immigrants.

Eighty-eighth Academy Awards: Hopeful signs amidst reactionary “diversity” campaign

By Fred Mazelis, 1 March 2016

The Oscar awards ceremony Sunday night included some welcome notes and surprises, and generally, despite the disorienting campaign waged under the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, revealed a more humane side of Hollywood.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2:

A critique of Europe’s refugee policy: On the Berlinale’s Golden Bear for Fire at Sea

By Verena Nees and Bernd Reinhardt, 27 February 2016

This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Berlin international film festival, the Berlinale, held February 11-20, 2016.

66th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 1:

Refugee crisis takes centre stage at the Berlinale

By Stefan Steinberg, 22 February 2016

The main prize of the festival went to Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) by Gianfranco Rosi, dealing with the fate of refugees attempting to enter Europe.

John Patrick Shanley’s Prodigal Son: A working class youth at a Catholic high school in the 1960s

By Robert Fowler, 19 February 2016

The playwright raises some important issues and then proceeds to skirt them, leaving the audience with little more than a banal liberalism.

Woman at the Window: Oratorio remembers the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

By Adam Mclean, 16 February 2016

Students at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles tackle the deadliest industrial disaster in US history in an honest and compelling work.

Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart: Three periods in modern China, a good deal of confusion

By David Walsh, 13 February 2016

Veteran independent Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart is opening in theaters in the US this week.

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dramatized in a new television series

By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2016

Tolstoy’s titanic novel has received a new adaptation by the BBC and is now airing in numerous countries.

The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar!: The “Passion” of a film studio troubleshooter

By Joanne Laurier, 9 February 2016

Hail Caesar!, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a comedy about Hollywood set in the early 1950s.

At the Jewish Museum in New York City

“The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film”—an exhibition

By C.W. Rogers, 6 February 2016

The exhibition examines some of the remarkable photography, magazines, film posters and innovative films produced in the years that followed the October Revolution of 1917.

45 Years: A nightmare on the brain of the living?

By David Walsh, 5 February 2016

In Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, a childless, middle class couple living in a provincial English town, are on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary.

Flint pre-screening of the documentary MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic

Parents fighting lead poisoning denounce government inaction and lies

By Tim Rivers, 4 February 2016

Following a preview screening of the film MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic, which documents the epidemic spread of lead across America, a panel of parents was joined by the director of the film and a state expert for lead risk assessment.

“Light lights in air”: Value, price, profit and Louis Zukofsky’s poetry

By Andras Gyorgy, 3 February 2016

Louis Zukofsky (1904–78), largely unknown today except in academic circles, was a remarkable American poet. In the late 1920s and 1930s, a supporter of the Communist Party, he wrote complex, modernist works.

Racialism, art and the Academy Awards controversy

By David Walsh, 30 January 2016

It is no exaggeration to point out that, in ideological terms, Cara Buckley in the New York Times and others, in their obsession with race, are spouting a conception of society and art identified historically with the extreme right.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi—Michael Bay’s mythmaking

By Kevin Martinez, 30 January 2016

Hollywood’s latest propaganda piece tells the story of the 2012 attack on a US base in Libya from a right-wing perspective, with predictable results.

Drone, a Norwegian-made documentary: “We just made orphans out of all these children”

By Joanne Laurier, 29 January 2016

The documentary brings together opponents of the CIA drone program and includes interviews with two former US Air Force drone pilots.

A modern Antigone: Son of Saul by László Nemes

By Dorota Niemitz, 28 January 2016

The debut film of Hungarian director László Nemes depicts the horrors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the prisoner uprising of October 1944.

J.M.W. Turner and modern art: Comments on an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario

By Lee Parsons, 26 January 2016

Given the current upsurge of interest in representational imagery, the exhibition of the late work of J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is of particular interest.

Charlie Kaufman’s often charming, moving Anomalisa (and Michael Moore’s feeble Where to Invade Next)

By Joanne Laurier, 23 January 2016

Anomalisa is an adult animated film created with stop-motion puppetry centering around an angst-ridden, self-help author. Where to Invade Next is a non-comment on Washington’s never-ending wars.

Jazz album: Crisis by Amir ElSaffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble

By Jeff Lusanne, 22 January 2016

An album fusing Western jazz traditions and traditional Arab music preserves an endangered Iraqi art form and creates a new sound.

The semi-boycott of the “whites only” Academy Awards

By David Walsh, 21 January 2016

Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, both African-American, have indicated they will shun this year’s award ceremony on February 28.

To create a genuine artistic “avant garde” means confronting critical historical issues

By David Walsh, 20 January 2016

The essay by David Walsh we are posting today considers whether or not an artistic vanguard exists today—and, if not, what such a vanguard would consist of and what questions it would have to confront.

30 Americans at the Detroit Institute of Arts: The art of identity politics

By Zac Corrigan, 20 January 2016

30 Americans is a collection of artwork created under the influence of racialist and gender politics, and it provides an opportunity to assess the aesthetic contribution of this outlook.

Neorealism: We Were Not Just Bicycle Thieves—a documentary on Italian cinema

By Richard Phillips, 19 January 2016

The 72-minute film provides a general outline of neo-realist cinema, but it is a seriously limited one.

Picasso’s sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

By Clare Hurley, 18 January 2016

MoMA has given Picasso’s sculpture blockbuster treatment, including more than 140 pieces. The handful of sculptures that are a discovery tend to get lost in the crowd.

The Revenant: Are we all savages? (And Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth )

By Joanne Laurier, 16 January 2016

The Revenant is a sensationalized account of the life of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, who famously survived a mauling by a bear. Youth is a banal meditation on aging.

The 88th Academy Awards nominations

By David Walsh, 15 January 2016

The Academy Award nominations revealed the usual muddle-headedness, liberal good intentions and severe limitations of the social grouping that decides these things.

Concussion: Highlighting the perils of American football

By Alan Gilman, 14 January 2016

Despite its limitations, Concussion serves to bring before a mass audience the grave risks inherent in playing America’s most popular sport.

Carol and The Danish Girl: Real problems, but the danger of exclusivism

By Joanne Laurier, 8 January 2016

The two films address significant subjects that could potentially shed light on society and its moral and psychological condition.

Conductor and avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez (1925–2016)

By Alex Lantier, 7 January 2016

As a conductor who worked and recorded extensively with leading orchestras and opera companies, Boulez elicited powerful, precise, unpretentious and always tasteful performances, though they sometimes had a touch of coldness.

Racism and revenge: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

By Hiram Lee, 7 January 2016

Tarantino’s latest is a deeply unpleasant work, another in a long line of the director’s blood-soaked revenge fantasies.

Frank Capra: The Early Collection—The American filmmaker’s most ambitious and honest work

By Charles Bogle, 6 January 2016

The box set contains five pre-Code movies: Ladies of Leisure (1930), Rain Or Shine (1930), The Miracle Woman (1931), Forbidden (1932) and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933).

The failure of David O. Russell’s Joy, or, what any “sensible” person should know about modern society

By David Walsh, 5 January 2016

Russell’s film is loosely inspired by the life story of millionaire inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who created a self-wringing mop and other products.

Lulu: A new production of a challenging 20th century opera

By Fred Mazelis, 4 January 2016

Alban Berg found ways to express drama and emotional power within the atonal framework pioneered by his teacher Arnold Schoenberg.

The Big Short: The criminality of Wall Street and the crash of 2008

By Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015

Adam McKay’s new film The Big Short is a hard-hitting comedy-drama about the 2008 financial meltdown.

Best films of 2015

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015

The most interesting films we saw in 2015, both those that played in a movie theater in the US and those not yet distributed.

The year in popular music

30 December 2015

World Socialist Web Site music writers pick their favorite recordings of 2015.

In Jackson Heights: Documentarian Frederick Wiseman on life in a New York City neighborhood

By Mark Witkowski and Fred Mazelis, 29 December 2015

If nothing else, Wiseman’s new documentary is a reminder of the fact that, even in this wealthiest city in the world, the working class makes up the vast majority of the population.

John Heartfield: Laughter Is A Devastating Weapon

David King on the famed German photomontage artist

By Jeff Lusanne, 28 December 2015

Laughter is a Devastating Weapon presents 50 full-page images of John Heartfield’s work, revealing the power, impact and problems of the brilliant German artist’s satirical photomontages.

An interview with performer, educator and archivist of the Great American Songbook, Michael Feinstein

By Barry Grey, 23 December 2015

“I feel that this body of work is timeless, because it has a level of craft, inspiration and quality that transcends the era in which it was created.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: No real awakening

By Matthew MacEgan and David Walsh, 22 December 2015

The new Star Wars offering serves as the first part of a “sequel” trilogy that tells the story of the next generation by reusing many of the same ideas and visuals.

“Bloody instructions ... return to plague the instructor”

A new film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

By George Marlowe and David Walsh, 19 December 2015

A new version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard emphasizes the bloody, barbaric times.

Canada’s role in Afghanistan

Hyena Road: Neither pro- nor anti-war? Not so fast, Mr. Gross…!

By Lee Parsons, 18 December 2015

Paul Gross’s film follows the construction of a tactically important road being built in the heart of Taliban territory by Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan.

Legend and Room: Once again, celebrating the underworld—and a peculiar film about captives

By Joanne Laurier, 17 December 2015

Legend is a British crime drama about the Kray twins, London’s most notorious gangsters in the 1960s; Room concerns a mother and her five-year-old son held prisoner in a shed for seven years.

Who would celebrate Hitler today?: The German satirical film Look Who’s Back

By Bernd Reinhardt, 16 December 2015

The satirical film, based on the novel of the same title by Timur Vermes, has been seen by over two million people, making it one of the most watched in Germany this year.

Killing Them Safely: The big business of police tasers

By Kevin Martinez, 15 December 2015

The documentary is a disturbing look at TASER International, the company that has cornered the market for police electro-shock weapons.

Brooklyn: Irish immigration through rose-colored glasses

By Joanne Laurier, 10 December 2015

Brooklyn focuses on a young Irish girl who emigrates to America in the early 1950s and struggles with homesickness and adjusting to an alien environment.

An interview with Ted Dawe, author of Into the River

By Tom Peters, 9 December 2015

Dawe’s novel has been attacked in the media and by fundamentalist Christians because of its realistic depiction of New Zealand society, from the point of view of a working-class Maori teenager.

Interview with Indian filmmaker Rahul Roy, director of The Factory

By Lee Parsons, 7 December 2015

Roy’s film chronicles the struggle of autoworkers at the assembly plant operated by Maruti Suzuki India, in Manesar, northern India.

Interview with Denny Tedesco, director of The Wrecking Crew

“Everybody loves this music around the world”

By Joanne Laurier, 5 December 2015

The WSWS recently spoke with Denny Tedesco, son of legendary guitarist Tommy Tedesco and director of The Wrecking Crew, a documentary about the 1960s’ musical scene in Los Angeles.

Spotlight: A telling exposé of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

By Joanne Laurier, 3 December 2015

Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is a taut, quasi-political thriller that chronicles the Boston Globe’s 2002 exposure of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area.

The 33: A drama of the 2010 Chilean mine disaster

By Hiram Lee, 2 December 2015

The new film from Mexican-born director Patricia Riggen tells the story of the 2010 mine disaster in Chile, in which 33 miners were trapped underground for more than two months.

Trumbo and the history of the Hollywood blacklist

By Fred Mazelis, 30 November 2015

Jay Roach’s film about the anti-communist Hollywood witch-hunt, though politically limited and marred by the conventions of the biopic genre, deserves to be widely seen.

Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette: What do Mrs. Pankhurst and an East End laundress have in common?

By Joanne Laurier, 28 November 2015

British filmmaker Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is a fictionalized account of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain in the pre-World War I period.

Iraqi Odyssey opens in the US

By David Walsh, 27 November 2015

This elegantly composed documentary 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.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2: Worn seriously thin by now

By David Walsh, 26 November 2015

The new film treats the climax of the struggle in Panem between the rebels, morally led by Katniss Everdeen, and the forces of the Capitol, presided over by the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow.

Red Pill’s Look What This World Did To Us: The “everyman mentality,” its strengths and weaknesses

By Nick Barrickman, 20 November 2015

Look What This World Did To Us (April 2015, Mello Music Group) is the third full-length studio album from Detroit-area rapper/producer Red Pill (born Chris Orrick, 1987).

The Holocaust as Via Dolorosa: The mysticism of Piotr Chrzan’s Klezmer

By Dorota Niemitz, 19 November 2015

Piotr Chrzan’s directorial debut deals with the subject of the organized search for the Jews, or the Judenjagd, in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

New Orleans songwriter, musician Allen Toussaint dead at 77

By Hiram Lee, 12 November 2015

On tour at the time of his death, Toussaint suffered a heart attack following a performance at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, Spain.

Our Brand is Crisis: US political consultants at their dirty work in Bolivia

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2015

Based on a documentary, the new David Gordon Green movie, Our Brand is Crisis, is a comedy-drama about the activities of American political operatives in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.

Beethoven’s Fidelio distorted beyond recognition at 2015 Salzburg Festival

By Fred Mazelis, 7 November 2015

The opera was written in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and expressed the composer’s devotion to the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican in London

“Foul deeds will rise…”: Hamlet, in a world on the brink

By George Marlowe, 5 November 2015

The weight of our time is felt, even if unevenly, in the overall mood of the recent production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

The impact of the refugee crisis: Lampedusa by Anders Lustgarten at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre

By Joe Mount, 5 November 2015

Lustgarten’s play attempts to convey the lives and plight of ordinary people and avoids the self-absorption of many artists.

Truth: The victimization of CBS’s Dan Rather and Mary Mapes

By Fred Mazelis, 4 November 2015

The film at least partly reveals the role of the media as a virtual propaganda arm of the military and the CIA.

Steve Jobs fails to transcend conventional mythologizing

By Kevin Reed, 2 November 2015

Based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, the film presents its title character as a clairvoyant and brilliant business leader with significant character flaws.

F.W. Murnau’s classic, groundbreaking Nosferatu in US theaters …

… and two poor, new films (Beasts of No Nation, Rock the Kasbah)

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2015

Several movie theaters in the US are currently screening F.W. Murnau’s classic silent film, Nosferatu (1922). We also look briefly at Rock the Kasbah and Beasts of No Nation.