Daily Archives: January 2, 2021

Pynchon’s Prayer

From the Chicago Reader (March 9, 1990). — J.R.

The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. . . . The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. –Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845-46)

A good many newspapers and magazines have accompanied their reviews of Vineland, Thomas Pynchon’s fourth novel, with the same 37-year-old photograph of the author grinning goofily from his high school yearbook. Given Pynchon’s refusal to be photographed or interviewed, there are touches of both desperation and petty vindictiveness in this compulsion to objectify and visualize, however inadequately, a novelist who chooses to be identified only through his writing.… Read more »

The Gaze of Antonioni

 Written for Rouge No. 4 (2004). The film can be accessed here. — J.R.


The Gaze of Antonioni

Jonathan Rosenbaum


Surfacing without press screenings at a few theatres in the Landmark arthouse chain in the US for two weekend screenings in mid-August, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 17-minute Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo may conceivably be his most interesting film since Red Desert (1964). It’s hard to be sure of this after only one look at it – the film was abruptly withdrawn after qualifying for an Oscar nomination – but I thought afterwards that I might have just seen one of the first truly durable reflections to date on digital cinema.

The Gaze of Antonioni

Mislabelled Michelangelo Eye to Eye in English when a more accurate English title might be The Gaze of Michelangelo, this beautifully filmed meditation is preceded by an intertitle – the only words in the film apart from the credits – explaining that Antonioni has been confined to a wheelchair since his stroke in 1985, but through the ‘magic of movies’ shows himself visiting the sculpture on foot. The action consists of Antonioni – walking without a cane, and looking like Antonioni prior to his stroke – entering the St. Pietro church in Rome to look at and then touch and caress portions of the restoration of Michelangelo’s Moses, then leaving again.Read more »

Getting Personal [CARO DIARIO]

From the Chicago Reader (December 2, 1994). — J.R.

Caro Diario (Dear Diary)

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Nanni Moretti

With Moretti, Jennifer Beals, Carlo Mazzacurati, Renato Carpentieri, Antonio Neiwiller, and Mario Schiano.

How many movies put us in touch with real people as opposed to stars and characters? Not very many, perhaps because we tend to go to movies to escape people — or at least to encounter them in more circumscribed and protected ways than we would in real life. Thanks to movies and TV, a good many of us think of some real people as heroes, villains, and other stock figures; witness the recent election campaigns.

One form of literature, and by extension, one form of film that’s designed to place us directly in contact with individuals is the personal essay. According to writer Phillip Lopate — an expert theorist and practitioner of the form whose invaluable anthology The Art of the Personal Essay was published earlier this year — “The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy. The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom. Through sharing thoughts, memories, desires, complaints, and whimsies, the personal essayist sets up a relationship with the reader, a dialogue — a friendship, if you will, based on identification, understanding, testiness, and companionship.”… Read more »


From the Chicago Reader (April 28, 1995). I’ resaw The Underneath 16 years later, and it still looked good — indeed, possibly even better than any other Soderbergh film I’ve seen since then (although reportedly he dislikes it himself). More recently, it seems that cynicism of various kinds and a preoccupation with prostitution tends to engulf  many of his films — perhaps making his filmmaking more appealing to some of my colleagues for this reason, but also making it less appealing to me. — J.R.

Kiss of Death Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed by Barbet Schroeder

Written by Richard Price and Eleazar Lipsky

With David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicolas Cage, Helen Hunt, Stanley Tucci, Michael Rapaport, and Ving Rhames.

The Underneath Rating *** A must see

Directed by Steven Soderbergh Written by Sam Lowry (Soderbergh) and Daniel Fuchs

With Peter Gallagher, Alison Elliott, William Fichtner, Adam Trese, Joe Don Baker, Paul Dooley, and Elisabeth Shue.

Sound-bite explanations are the media’s preferred means for tackling (i.e., buying and selling) the past as well as the present. Growing up on media images of the end of World War II that evoke relief and euphoria as well as exhaustion, I was hardly prepared for the discovery, in the spring issue of the academic journal October, that according to the respected German filmmaker Helke Sander, approximately 1.9 million women were raped in the territories of the former Third Reich between March and November 1945.… Read more »