Arts Review

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.

Hegel: “In their paintings we can study and get to know men and human nature”

Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

By David Walsh, 29 October 2015

The exhibition is not huge, but its 75 paintings from 40 institutions in the US, Canada and Europe, a third of which have not been seen in the US before, were thoughtfully chosen.

Coming Home: A small, sincere film about big, complex times

By David Walsh, 20 October 2015

In the late 1970s, after two decades in a remote “rehabilitation camp,” a Chinese political prisoner returns to his long-suffering wife, who does not recognize him.

“Artists have the capacity to expose the reality of war”

Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage speaks with the World Socialist Web Site

By Wasantha Rupasinghe, 13 October 2015

Vithanage discusses With You, Without You and the political difficulties facing contemporary Sri Lankan filmmakers.

Black Mass: The story of Whitey Bulger, gangster and FBI informant

By Kevin Martinez, 10 October 2015

Despite exhibiting a healthy cynicism toward the authorities, the film fails to give a satisfying picture of Boston’s underworld, or the city’s social relations, in the 1970s and 1980s.

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.