Here are some of the films and books I consumed over the last months.
Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
Set in a 14th century monastery in Northern Italy, Eco’s claustrophobic mystery encompasses semiotics, apocryphal religious texts, and insights into the Church’s efforts to purge itself of heresy.
The Luminaries (Elizabeth Catton)
Despite its 800 page length, this historical novel reads quick. Set in 1860s New Zealand’s gold camps, it concerns a death, a disappearance, and a bequest.
I Celebrate Myself (Bill Morgan)
I learned more than I wanted to about Allen Ginsberg in this fine-tuned biography, though the insights about his poetry, particularly Howl, are invaluable.
Appointment in Samarra (John O’Hara)
A small town bourgeois’s complete self-destruction. Ernest Hemmingway and Dorothy Parker were fans.
Arthurian Romances (Chretien de Troyes)
The basis of Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. Here are the roots of Romance.
The Horseman on the Roof (Jean Giono)
A young Piedmontese hussar navigates the post-Napoleonic South of France during a cholera outbreak. Existentialist!
The White Company (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Doyle considered this Late Medieval-set story his best novel.
The Passenger (Cormac McCarthy)
Probably McCarthy’s penultimate book. Not as scorching as Blood Meridian, yet fraught with greed, obsession, and schizophrenia.
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Nelson 2019)
Miles was a genius, obviously. And a bit of a bastard.
In Fabric (Strickland 2018)
Stylized, Giallo-like art direction. Great pallette. Still images/ variable film speed. Retro score.
Cashback (Ellis 2006)
A winsome post-college rom-com.
Hyena (Johnson 2014)
The English Bad Lt.? No, that’s too glib. Even so, this crime drama is a lot of fun.
True History of the Kelly Gang (Kurzel 2019)
Based on Peter Carey’s stupendous, Booker-winning novel. Cross-dressing bushrangers punish the Brits Down Under.
The Mauritanian (McDonald 2021)
Ultimately far too forgiving. Guantanamo Bay is a necrotic sore, and those who administered it, including Ron DeSantis, deserve punishment.
The Wonder (Lelio 2022)
Florence Pugh dominates this story about faith and fraud set in 19th century rural Ireland.
That Man from Rio (de Broca 1964)
Jean-Paul Belmondo at perhaps his lithest and most nimble pinballs around Brutalist Rio during its dictatorship era, something no one in the film feels compelled to address.
That Touch of Mink (Mann 1962)
There’s an icy distance to Cary Grant in his later films, a quality not even Doris Day’s sunny enthusiasm can dispel in this 1962 romantic comedy.
Berberian Sound Studio (Strickland 2012)
This homage to Italian trash cinema includes Toby Jones as a meek audio engineer whose work on a bloody giallo begins to warp his sense of reality. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the complete absence of screen violence. Instead of watching gore we witness foley artists hacking apart watermelons. Lacking any visual counterpart, the screams and squishes land that much harder. A great movie to use for Thought and Image.
Pilgrimage (Muldowney 2017)
A gratifying film for any fan of medievalist cinema. A 13th century Cistercian monk transports a holy relic through the bogs of Ireland, where Norman invaders and Gaelic warriors clash.