[The best posts I read this week. A few are a bit older than that, as I work through the backlog of my reading list, but hopefully you'll find some things you hadn't seen yet.]
When I first heard that Sofia Coppola was taking on The Little Mermaid, I had the Disney one in my head and was like “whaaaaa…” But then I remembered the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and how DARK it is, and I was like, wait, maybe this could work. Noah Gittel has gone me one better and proven how perfectly suited Coppola actually is to the original material. Here’s hoping the film goes this direction.
Andersen is depicting a girl’s transformation into a woman, but it involves a horrible ordeal and lasting pain. The mermaid will be beautiful by man’s standards, but she will have no voice and be in constant discomfort. For every woman who has worn a corset or six-inch heels, or had plastic surgery, this trade-off may sound achingly familiar, and it applies in particular to some of Coppola’s heroines. Marie Antoinette and Charlotte from Lost in Translation suffered not pain but ennui (the upper-class version of pain) from being objectified—and they also essentially had their voices muted.
I’m a few posts behind reading David Bordwell’s series on 1940s film critics (he’s since posted two entries on Manny Farber that I haven’t gotten to yet), but this one on James Agee is gold, as usual. When I’ve attempted to read Agee in the past, I’ve had a difficult time overcoming the sheer distance between then and now in terms of film criticism (a lot of Agee’s reviews of films that are considered canon now are often dismissive, and he often praises films that are totally forgotten now), but when you consider the state of film writing at the time, which was almost nonexistent in terms of serious criticism, and the kinds of things Agee was looking for, which this article illuminated quite a bit, I’m ready to go back and give him another try.
Instead of delivering a final, fixed judgment in a clever epigram, he shares with us his effort, pushing against the limits of language, always approximating, trying to capture hard outlines by lightning sketching. The task is that of the congenital Romantic, the artist who knows that every experience, every item in the world, flickers with untapped but felt energies. These the artist tries to convey, usually in vain. The privileged vehicle for this nearly hopeless pursuit is lyric poetry, and Dwight Macdonald considered Agee at bottom a poet.