Wednesday, December 14, 2011

James Wolcott

I keep forgetting to post my reviews, and my non-existent readers are not giving me no end of grief about it.

Here's my review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York by James Wolcott, which I enjoyed immensely -- in part because any book with Pauline Kael as a character automatically has my attention.

I'm in the process of writing a longer piece on the recent Kael bio by Brian Kellow and the new collection of her criticism from Library of America.

I'm supplementing it with occasional glances at James Agee and lots and lots of other critics.

And I'm constantly tempted by Hulu or Netflix to watch or re-watch all the movies that brought about all this impassioned critical writing in the first place. The other night I watched Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine, the story of two boys in post-war Italy who are corrupted by the system of justice into turning on each other, with tragic consequences. Reminded me a lot of Bunuel's later film, Los Olvidados, especially the ending.

Agee and Kael were both beside themselves ecstatic about it. I thought it was a very good film, if not as moving as De Sica's The Bicycle Thief or Umberto D (that poor old man calling for his dog is an immortal movie memory.) It's a powerful slice of pure Italian Neo Realism, and it has a strong sense of authenticity to it. When it first came out, there was probably nothing like it; it was so unvarnished and raw, yet a little too familiar as well. (Neither Agee or Kael seemed to have noticed or cared that the authority figures were just stereotypes.) At the time, it must have looked like pure cinema.

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