Arts Review

An interview with Jose Ramon Pedroza, director of Los Jinetes Del Tiempo (Time Riders)

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 3 April 2017

The WSWS conducted an interview with Mexican film director Jose Ramon Pedroza.

Once again on Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till: The New York Times intervenes to preserve identity politics

By David Walsh, 31 March 2017

The media establishment clearly senses that in the case of the Schutz painting in the Whitney Biennial, the identity politics zealots may have overstepped the bounds.

Lyrical and left-wing film

Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1948): “They’re thieves, just like us”

By Joanne Laurier, 29 March 2017

A viewing of Nicholas Ray’s iconic 1948 film They Live by Night is a refreshing antidote to the current trivia, social indifference and identity politics.

Get Out: The horror of racism, and racialist politics

By Hiram Lee, 28 March 2017

With Get Out, Jordan Peele has said he wanted to make a film to “combat the lie that America had become post-racial.” The monster at the heart of this horror film is racism itself.

The foul attempt to censor and suppress Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till

By David Walsh, 24 March 2017

The current campaign being waged against Open Casket, white artist Dana Schutz’s painting of murdered black youth Emmett Till, on racialist grounds is thoroughly reactionary.

Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin museums in Philadelphia closed by Trump administration hiring freeze

By Douglas Lyons, 23 March 2017

The Trump administration’s hiring freeze and threatened budget cuts prompted the National Park Service to close the historic attractions.

Rock ’n’ roll great Chuck Berry dead at 90

By Hiram Lee, 23 March 2017

It would be difficult to overstate Berry’s influence on American popular music in the second half of the 20th century. Perhaps more than any other artist in the genre, he defined the sound of rock ’n’ roll.

Revisiting John Steinbeck’s A Russian Journal from 1948

By Clara Weiss, 21 March 2017

American novelist John Steinbeck, together with famed Hungarian-born war photographer Robert Capa, visited the Soviet Union in 1947 on the very eve of the Cold War.

Bitter Harvest: Ukrainian nationalist fantasy as film

By Jason Melanovski, 18 March 2017

Russophobia and historical misrepresentation abound in George Mendeluk’s pseudo-historical drama.

Revolution: New Art for a New World—A careless, unserious treatment of Russian Revolutionary art

By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 17 March 2017

British filmmaker Margy Kinmonth is out of her depth in her documentary about Russian avant-garde art.

The Settlers: Israel’s movement toward an apartheid state

By Fred Mazelis, 11 March 2017

A new documentary shows the impact of decades of Israeli occupation of the West Bank on the Zionist state.

67th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 3

The absence for the most part of the big wide world: German films at the Berlinale

By Bernd Reinhardt, 9 March 2017

The dramatic social and political developments of the past several years were evidently not high on the German filmmakers’ agenda.

The Look of Silence: Important documentary on the aftermath of the 1965 Indonesia massacres

By Clara Weiss, 6 March 2017

In a profoundly moving, intimate and disturbing way, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film deals with the long-lasting and devastating impact of the mass murder of up to one million Communists and suspected Communists.

67th Berlin International Film Festival--Part 2

A film about the legendary guitarist: Django

By Bernd Reinhardt, 4 March 2017

The debut film of Étienne Comar focuses on the year 1943, when the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to convince Django Reinhardt to undertake a tour of fascist Germany.

A contribution on art and identity politics

It isn’t a highway and it doesn’t have lanes

By Steven Brust, 3 March 2017

The comment by fantasy and science fiction writer Steven Brust is a response to the effort to restrict art and literature according to the dictates of racial and gender politics.

89th Academy Awards: What does Hollywood offer today?

By David Walsh, 28 February 2017

The 89th Academy Awards ceremony, held Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, was an even more complex and peculiar affair than usual.

Why is the Flaming Lips’ Oczy Mlody so disappointing?

By Hiram Lee, 27 February 2017

Indie rock veterans The Flaming Lips have returned with a new album of mostly detached psychedelia.

Russian revolutionary art exhibition in London excises Trotsky—and, more generally, historical truth

Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932

By Paul Mitchell, 25 February 2017

Curator Natalia Murray’s aim in the Royal Academy exhibition is to pour scorn on and discredit the 1917 October Revolution and to combat the contemporary impact of the works it inspired.

Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall: Issues bound up with a major Chinese film production

By Joanne Laurier, 23 February 2017

Set in ancient China, Zhang Yimou’s new work is a visually arresting, large-scale action film undermined by its general cartoonishness.

Australian governments’ decade-long cultural wrecking operation

By Richard Phillips and Linda Tenenbaum, 22 February 2017

Today, the ruling elites regard genuinely critical and creative voices with suspicion or outright hostility.

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Bruckner symphony cycle in New York

By Fred Mazelis, 20 February 2017

A late 19th century composer who has some detractors gets his big moment at Carnegie Hall.

British actor John Hurt: 1940-2017

By Kevin Martinez, 17 February 2017

Renowned for playing outsiders and “commoners,” British actor John Hurt died January 25, three days after his 77th birthday.

Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta: A mother and daughter … and what else?

By Joanne Laurier, 16 February 2017

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Julieta, is a family melodrama that seeks to explore themes of guilt, alienation and absence, but with very limited results.

Columnist Myles E. Johnson on Beyoncé at the Grammys

The New York Times opens its pages to frenzied racialism

By David Walsh, 16 February 2017

The February 14 op-ed piece in the Times by Myles E. Johnson (“What Beyoncé Won Was Bigger Than a Grammy”) is an especially repugnant example of racialism.

Recording artists voice opposition to the White House at 2017 Grammy Awards

By Nick Barrickman, 15 February 2017

Numerous Grammy Award-winning music artists took to the stage on Sunday’s awards ceremony to criticize the new US administration.

Composer David Axelrod dies at age 85

By Nick Barrickman, 15 February 2017

Axelrod crafted and inspired some of the more haunting, cinematic and versatile popular American music during the second half of the 20th century.

I Am Not Your Negro: Raoul Peck’s documentary on James Baldwin

By Clare Hurley, 14 February 2017

The film takes as its point of departure Baldwin’s proposal to his editor in 1979 to write a piece about civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman

By Tom Carter, 13 February 2017

“Most of the film takes place inside an apartment,” Farhadi told one interviewer, “but once the film has ended, you feel like you’ve seen the whole city.”

Budapest Festival Orchestra in New York

Classical music performers take a stand against Trump’s travel ban

By Fred Mazelis, 11 February 2017

Symphony orchestras in major US cities (and many smaller cities as well) have large and growing numbers of immigrants in their ranks, and the music they perform is international in scope and history.

Alberto Cavalcanti and postwar British cinema

By Joanne Laurier, 10 February 2017

In the course of a lengthy filmmaking career, Brazilian-born Alberto Cavalcanti created several of the most poetically realistic and socially poignant films of the twentieth century.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones denounces the Russian Revolution and its art

By Chris Marsden and Paul Mitchell, 8 February 2017

Jones paints a lying picture of gratuitous violence by the Bolsheviks, but fails to mention the intervention of the imperialist powers, or to detail the White terror they helped sustain.

John Berger, radical art critic, 1926-2017

By Sandy English and David Walsh, 7 February 2017

Prominent left-wing art critic John Berger died on January 2 and left a mixed legacy of writing on art and society.

“None of these games would be possible without our labor”

Striking video game actors rally in Los Angeles

By Glenn Mulwray, 7 February 2017

The Screen Actors Guild called for a rally in support of video game performers striking against 11 major entertainment corporations.

Black Mirror: A murky reflection

By Carlos Delgado, 4 February 2017

The science fiction television series purports to show its viewers the dark side of modern technology.

Lion: A former homeless child searches for his town

By George Morley, 3 February 2017

The two-hour feature, about a young Indian-Australian man finding his birth mother, has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

American painter Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective, Mastry

By Clare Hurley, 2 February 2017

This retrospective of 35 years of Marshall’s work, jointly organized by several museums, is welcome and somewhat overdue.

The generally lackluster Gold and 20th Century Women

By Joanne Laurier, 1 February 2017

Set in the 1980s, Gold is a fictionalized account of a notorious mining fraud. 20th Century Women is a trite “coming of age” piece located in 1979 California.

Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City

A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde

By Josh Varlin, 30 January 2017

The current exhibition in New York is an opportunity to see some of the most influential works from the early Soviet Union.

Elle: The latest offering from Paul Verhoeven

By David Walsh, 28 January 2017

Dutch-born director Verhoeven’s new film was made in France, and features Isabelle Huppert, who received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

The Founder: Hollywood’s love affair with Ray Kroc and McDonald's

By Joanne Laurier, 26 January 2017

John Lee Hancock’s The Founder is a biographical drama about Ray Kroc, known as the man who established the McDonald’s global fast food chain.

2017 Academy Award nominations: Hollywood’s “sigh of relief” over racial “diversity”

By David Walsh, 25 January 2017

The media is now so conditioned to treat every major social and cultural phenomenon in racial, ethnic or gender terms that questions of artistic quality or social truthfulness barely receive a mention.

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: Right-wing propaganda in the guise of personal memoir

By Henry Seward, 25 January 2017

The 2016 best-selling memoir by a lawyer at a Silicon Valley investment firm is a rehash of reactionary attacks on the working class in Appalachia and the Midwest.

Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Ben Affleck’s Live by Night: Punishment and crime

By Joanne Laurier, 20 January 2017

A nearly three-hour carnival of torture and cruelty, Martin Scorsese’s Silence aims to dramatize the persecution of Catholics in mid-17th-century Japan. Ben Affleck’s Live by Night is a mediocre gangster drama set in the 1920s.

New York Times film critics watch “while white”

Against racialism in film and art

By David Walsh, 19 January 2017

It would be very nearly possible at present to post a daily column devoted to the fixation of the American media and Hollywood filmmaking with race.

Patriots Day: An ode to law enforcement and repression

By Hiram Lee, 18 January 2017

The latest collaboration of director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg is a right-wing tribute to law enforcement following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

August Wilson’s Fences—an African-American family in mid-20th century Pittsburgh

By Fred Mazelis, 14 January 2017

The film is the first screen adaptation of any of the plays in Wilson’s cycle of 10 spanning the 20th century.

Saving the world: The moving legacy of sculptor Ernst Neizvestny (1925-2016)

By Lee Parsons, 13 January 2017

Last August the Soviet-Russian sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, one of the most interesting artists of the postwar period, and someone with a distinctive political history, died in New York City at the age of 91.

Hidden Figures and Passengers: One official story, and another trite one

By Joanne Laurier, 12 January 2017

Hidden Figures retells the story of three African-American female scientists who made extraordinary contributions to NASA’s aeronautics and space programs in the 1960s. Passengers is a boiler-plate science fiction thriller.

Meryl Streep, Donald Trump and the Golden Globes

By David Walsh, 11 January 2017

The actress’s remarks at the Golden Globes, an annual event organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, were quite mild and limited.

The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw—Part 2

From the Holocaust to present-day Poland

By Clara Weiss, 11 January 2017

The core exhibition at the recently opened POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw has now marked its second anniversary.

Hail to the Chief—wealthy celebrities bid farewell to Obama

By Hiram Lee, 10 January 2017

The Obama administration hosted an all-star farewell party at the White House this weekend, and celebrities from throughout the film and music industries came to pay their respects.

The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw—Part 1

Jewish life in Poland before World War II

By Clara Weiss, 9 January 2017

The core exhibition at the recently opened POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw has now marked its second anniversary.

Rap artist Yasiin Bey’s “final” performance at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center

By Nick Barrickman, 7 January 2017

Bey’s humane and charismatic personality was on display at his Washington, D.C. performances; with the artist rapping, crooning, drumming and at times breaking into dance on stage.

Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago

The photomontages of Soviet political artist Aleksandr Zhitomirsky (1907-1993)

By George Marlowe, 5 January 2017

An exhibition in Chicago features the work of a leading Soviet photomontage artist and designer, whose works attacked war, imperialism and fascism.

A century since the publication of Henri Barbusse’s antiwar novel, Under Fire

By Sandy English, 4 January 2017

Under Fire was one of the first fictional treatments and intimate accounts of the hideous conditions facing solders at the front during the First World War, as well as the rise of revolutionary sentiment in the trenches.

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson: A tribute to American cities and poetry

By Dorota Niemitz, 3 January 2017

Paterson is a city with a rich social and cultural history. Jarmusch pays homage to its history in his own, idiosyncratic manner.

Popular music in 2016

By Hiram Lee and Matthew Brennan, 31 December 2016

Much of the pop music released in North America this past year was uninspired and superficial. Some was merely empty-headed and crude.

At the Public Theater in New York City

Sweat: An honest depiction of the American working class

By Fred Mazelis, 30 December 2016

The play, set in impoverished Reading, Pennsylvania, is headed for a run on Broadway.

Carrie Fisher and the Star Wars phenomenon

By David Walsh, 29 December 2016

The announcement Tuesday that Carrie Fisher had died at only 60 was sad news. The actress, writer and humorist was an appealing figure and personality.

Exile as an Intellectual Way of Life: The collaboration of Lion Feuchtwanger and Bertolt Brecht

By Sybille Fuchs, 29 December 2016

In his new book, journalist and non-fiction writer Andreas Rumler examines the intellectual relationship between two major German literary figures, Lion Feuchtwanger and Bertolt Brecht.

Rogue One: Does it really “stand alone”?

By Matthew MacEgan, 21 December 2016

December 16 saw the release of the first stand-alone Star Wars film. The plot of Rogue One is an exact prequel to the 1977 original.

Four hundred years since William Shakespeare’s death–Part 2

And a conversation with James Shapiro of Columbia University

By David Walsh, 20 December 2016

It is four centuries since the death of dramatist William Shakespeare. Arts editor David Walsh spoke to James Shapiro, the author of numerous remarkable books on the playwright and his times. The second of two articles.

Four hundred years since William Shakespeare’s death–Part 1

And a conversation with James Shapiro of Columbia University

By David Walsh, 19 December 2016

It is four centuries since the death of dramatist William Shakespeare. Arts editor David Walsh spoke to James Shapiro, the author of numerous remarkable books on the playwright and his times.

Miss Sloane and All We Had: Aiming at American life

By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2016

Miss Sloane presents a fantastical view of Washington’s hired gun world of political lobbyism. Set at the beginning of the 2008 financial crash, All We Had is a limited drama about poverty and homelessness.

Aquarius: Personal resistance and isolation in Brazil

By Miguel Andrade, 13 December 2016

Filmed prior to Brazil’s impeachment crisis, Aquarius has since become an artistic point of reference (and a target) in the continuing political turmoil wracking the country.

From a reader: A second comment on Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

By Thomas Douglass, 12 December 2016

The authentic and genuinely interesting character of the protagonists is one of Moonlight’s greatest appeals.

Novelist Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 imagines an American meltdown

By James Brookfield, 6 December 2016

When we meet the cast of characters, in Shriver’s dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future, the US is mired in economic crisis, driven largely by the growth of entitlement spending.

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today—the 1948 documentary restored

By Clara Weiss, 5 December 2016

The film, written and directed by Stuart Schulberg, was intended to advertise the principles underlying the indictment of the Nazi criminals at the Nuremberg Trials.

New study of American novelist

A conversation with Tony Williams, author of James Jones: The Limits of Eternity—Part 2

By David Walsh, 2 December 2016

Tony J. Williams has written a new study of the American novelist, James Jones (1921–77), best known for From Here to Eternity, Some Came Running, The Thin Red Line and the posthumously published Whistle.

New study of American novelist

A conversation with Tony Williams, author of James Jones: The Limits of Eternity—Part 1

By David Walsh, 1 December 2016

Tony J. Williams has written a new study of the American novelist, James Jones (1921–77), best known for From Here to Eternity, Some Came Running, The Thin Red Line and the posthumously published Whistle.

Moonlight: How much can a person be reduced?

By Glenn Mulwray, 30 November 2016

The critically-acclaimed film by Barry Jenkins, about a working-class youth in Miami, seeks to understand a person’s development in fairly narrow terms.

Silent Night: A moving contemporary opera on the 1914 Christmas truce

By Fred Mazelis, 29 November 2016

The opera has received almost a dozen productions since its premiere five years ago.

Bleed for This and The Edge of Seventeen: Are these any match for the times?

By Joanne Laurier, 24 November 2016

Bleed for This is a gritty biographical movie about a “blue collar” fighter who makes one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history. A difficult, friendless teenager finds her stride in The Edge of Seventeen.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) dies at 82

By Hiram Lee, 23 November 2016

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, famed for songs such as “Suzanne,” “The Stranger Song,” “So Long, Marianne,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Bird on the Wire,” died November 7 at the age of 82.

The “madness” of war dimly understood in Hacksaw Ridge and the world set right by aliens in Arrival

By Joanne Laurier, 17 November 2016

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is about the first and only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II. Arrival is a feeble science fiction parable from Denis Villeneuve.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Ang Lee on the Iraq war and American hoopla

By David Walsh, 15 November 2016

The drama takes place in 2004. A unit of American soldiers, who have survived a brief but fierce battle with Iraqi insurgents, are being celebrated as “heroes” on a nationwide tour.

Pittsburgh Symphony musician strike longest in history

By Evan Winters and Samuel Davidson, 15 November 2016

On November 15, the strike will surpass the 46-day strike of 1975, the only other in the orchestra's history.

Gimme Danger from Jim Jarmusch

By Kevin Martinez, 11 November 2016

American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has made a documentary on the not so well-known, but hugely influential rock group, The Stooges.

National Bird: “I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” says US drone pilot

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2016

Sonia Kennebeck’s film, whose title suggests that drones should now be considered the US national emblem, is a documentary that brings to the screen the story of three whistleblowers.

USA Network’s Mr. Robot, Season 2: Pessimism overtakes anger, with unfortunate results

By Carlos Delgado, 7 November 2016

After an intriguing start, the second season of the television drama about anti-corporate hackers spirals largely into gloom and incoherence.

Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes and the current cultural vacuum

By Joanne Laurier, 3 November 2016

Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes, commissioned by Amazon Studios, is a television miniseries set in the period of the anti-Vietnam War protests.

American Pastoral: A film version of Philip Roth’s novel

By David Walsh, 29 October 2016

The film and novel follow the life and eventual terrible misfortune of Seymour “Swede” Levov, the son of a glove manufacturer in Newark, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand grovels in praise of Hillary Clinton

By Fred Mazelis, 27 October 2016

With his latest effort, Moore emerges as a chief promoter of the favored candidate of Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Nick Hedges’s photographs reveal what Britain’s slums were like in the 1960s and 1970s

By Margot Miller, 25 October 2016

In Hedges’s words: “Adequate housing is the basis of a civilised urban society. … The photographs should allow us to celebrate progress, yet all they can do is haunt us with a sense of failure.”

The Magnificent Seven: Hollywood remakes and the problem of diminishing returns

By Carlos Delgado, 24 October 2016

The film, a remake of the 1960 original, tells the story of a band of hired guns who defend a small town from marauders.

Does Bob Dylan deserve to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature?

By David Walsh, 21 October 2016

Comparisons of the singer with Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville are out of place and also beside the point. In the end, it will not do Bob Dylan any good to be placed in such company.

The false friends of Peter Weiss, German dramatist, filmmaker and novelist

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 October 2016

Central to Peter Weiss’s work were the seminal experiences of the twentieth century––the crimes of fascism, the October Revolution and its subsequent betrayal by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The Dressmaker, The Girl on the Train: The “return of the native” and other issues

By Joanne Laurier, 15 October 2016

In The Dressmaker, the art of beautifying the human body is the weapon of choice to vanquish intolerance and ignorance. The Girl on the Train is a murder mystery centered around a New York City suburb.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 4

Sami Blood from Sweden, Werewolf from Canada, Park from Greece: Society’s cruelty to its youngest members

By David Walsh, 5 October 2016

Amanda Kernell’s Sami Blood, from Sweden, is not an easy film to watch. It was also one of the most moving and authentic films shown in Toronto this year.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016

Ma’ Rosa from the Philippines: Small-time drug dealers set upon by the police

By Dylan Lubao, 5 October 2016

The 14th film from Filipino director Brillante Mendoza was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and earlier premiered at Cannes.

Clint Eastwood’s Sully: The “Miracle on the Hudson” dramatized

By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2016

Eastwood directs a fictional version of the January 2009 incident in which pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a commuter jet in the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 1

How well does filmmaking reflect present-day life?

By David Walsh, 27 September 2016

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival screened some 400 feature and short films from 83 countries at 1,200 public screenings.

Leonardo da Vinci–The Genius in Milan: The marketing of genius

By Lee Parsons, 23 September 2016

The film is being distributed in over 50 countries this year and comes out of the largest exhibition ever mounted in Italy of the work of the great polymath, Leonardo da Vinci.

Young Euro Classic: International music festival in shadow of European Union crisis

By Verena Nees, 19 September 2016

The summer music festival was held in Berlin for the seventeenth time and attracted an audience of 26,000 to the Berlin concert hall at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Miss Sharon Jones! Barbara Kopple’s documentary

By Kevin Martinez, 12 September 2016

Veteran documentarian Barbara Kopple has returned with a lively and inspiring film about soul singer Sharon Jones and her battle with pancreatic cancer.

Jason Bourne again

By Hiram Lee, 6 September 2016

The latest entry in the Bourne series of spy films finds the former CIA assassin taking on the agency in a “post-Snowden world.”

War Dogs: Cry havoc? Or what exactly?

By Kevin Martinez, 5 September 2016

Based on a true story about two young arms dealers who defrauded the US government out of millions, the film is a coarse yet oddly sanitized version of a little-known episode of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comic actor Gene Wilder: 1933–2016

By James Brewer, 1 September 2016

Although his work in film ended more than 25 years ago, Wilder will be long remembered for the humor and humanity he displayed in films like Young Frankenstein.

Southside With You: An insufferable account of the Obamas’ first date

By Matthew MacEgan, 31 August 2016

This fictionalized account of the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama in 1989 presents a racialized view of society served up with a large side of banality.

“Political art” in New York City this summer

By Clare Hurley, 29 August 2016

While much of the artwork is as yet unsatisfying, it is welcome that many of these visual artists are registering awareness of the social and political crisis.