Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Most Original of the Fakers

The New Yorker, October 2008

from Claudia Roth Pierpont's essay "Method Man" on Marlon Brando:

[Of "A Streetcar Named Desire"] Without changing a word, the actor seemed to have expanded the role and turned Williams's original meaning upside down. Jessica Tandy, the British actress who played Blanche, was furious that the audience laughed along with Stanley's jokes at her expense--as though he were a regular guy putting an uppity woman in her place--and stunned that it openly extended its sympathies more to the executioner than his victim. The reason was not just Brando's youth: it was the comic innocence that fuelled the gibes, the baffled tenderness beneath the toughness. The face above the heavily muscled body was angelic; the pain he showed when he broke down and wailed for his wife was searing, elemental. And his intensity was almost unbearable. One critic wrote that "Brando seems always on the verge of tearing down the proscenium with his bare hands."

I really wish I could have watched that proscenium-tearing Brando, because the film does not feel unbearable.


from Peter Schjeldahl's essay on Hans van Meergeren, art forger:

He became the most original of the fakers when, starting in 1936, he put aside mere canny simulations, mostly of the work of Johannes Vermeer, to create wildly implausible pictures which were presented as discoveries of a missing phase in the artist's conveniently spotty, little-documented opus.

Nice phrase: the most original of the fakers.


from Alex Ross's review of a Met performance of John Adams's "Doctor Atomic":

Oppenheimer's central aria, a setting of the John Donne sonnet "Batter my heart, three-person'd God," has a stark Renaissance eloquence, its melody a single taut wire.


(The physicist had the Donne sonnet in mind--"break, blow, burn, and make me new"--when he called the site Trinity.)


from Hilton Als's review of Simon McBurney's take on Arthur Miller's "All My Sons":

Shortly after the acclaimed opening of "All My Sons" on broadway, Miller seeking a return to normalcy, applied for a job through the New York State Employment Service and was sent to a factory in Long Island City, where he worked for minimum wage assembling beer-box dividers. Later he wrote of the experience, "The grinding boredrom and the unnaturalness of my pretence to anonymity soon drove me out of that place. . . . I was not the first to experience the guilt of success (which, incidentally, was reinforced by leftist egalitarian convictions) . . .: such guilt is a protective device to conceal one's happiness at surpassing others, especially those one loves, like a brother, father, or friend. It is a kind of payment to them in the form of a pseudo remorse."

Miller's words gloss my poem "The Grand Historian Makes a Virtue of Necessity," which opens the new book.

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