Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Political Hey!

Garret Eisler at Playgoer, and George Hunka at Superfluities, tackle Isherwood's piece about political theatre in the New York Times.

I have not much to add to the discussion that hasn't been said, but with regards to politics and art, I would like to point out my relief at reading the following in Stanley Kaufmann's review of World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's new movie.

There is no trace of the previous virtuosic Stone dazzle. In fact, several commentators have congratulated him on his restraint.


These congratulations are worrisome. Certainly Stone showed restraint in
World Trade Center: who would have had it otherwise? But I hope he hasn't learned his lesson, as these comments imply, and from now on will choose only subjects that preclude his virtuosity.

Look at what Stone has done in his career. He has been one of the most adventurous, radical, and perceptive directors in American film history. As far back as
Salvador (1986), he was upsetting popular acceptances. Platoon, which came in the same year, is the best film ever made about Vietnam. It is stained with some sentiment on the soundtrack that may have been added as a producer's emollient, but it is nonetheless stark, terrifyingly truthful, superbly directed. (Stone, as everyone now knows, is a decorated infantry veteran of Vietnam.) Wall Street (1987) is a testament of the drooling, greed-hyped "Americanism" of the Reagan years. Born on the Fourth of July (1989), also about Vietnam, presented Tom Cruise--Tom Cruise!--excellent in an impassioned role. The Doors (1991) had one of the sadly unappreciated fine performances of our time--Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. JFK (also 1991) was grubbed over by historical literalists who forgot the factual liberties taken by Schiller, Kleist, and Brecht, among others, and who ignored the social perception, the cinematic imagination, with which Stone rendered the core of the film--the end of our national confidence in heaven's blessing...

To recognize what Stone has accomplished in his best pictures is, I believe, to salute a major talent in film history, especially noteworthy because those pictures do not merely triumph over convention--they explode it. Has he really now become a conventional director?
World Trade Center could not have been made in the style of those earlier pictures, but was it no more than a chance for Stone to be both excellent and orderly? He is almost sixty. I hope that, as with the mature Buñuel and Bergman and Kurosawa and Ford, more unrestrained films lie ahead of him.


Amen, Mr. Kauffmann.

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