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Must we pay for Sanskrit?

Michael Wood, 15 December 2011

... pay for them. But their children will, and so will ours – and not with money. Keith Thomas and Michael Wood spoke at ‘Universities under Attack’, a conference sponsored by the ‘London Review’, the ‘New York Review’ and Fritt Ord held on 26 November at King’s College ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Lust, Caution’, 24 January 2008

Lust, Caution 
directed by Ang Lee.
October 2007
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... may be no escape from the scene, no return to whatever world there was before the movie took over. ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Bergman and Antonioni, 20 September 2007

... It’s too late to climb on the bandwagon now, and it wasn’t much of a bandwagon to start with. If cinephilia is dead, as Susan Sontag some time ago suggested it was, who cares about the simultaneous death of two cinéastes? Still, no reader of signs can resist a coincidence, the image of a meaning that can’t be there. Michelangelo Antonioni (born 1912) and Ingmar Bergman (born 1918) both died on 30 July 2007 – as if time, otherwise indifferent to plot and meaning, had something to say about the cinema ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Peeping Tom’, 2 December 2010

The Peeping Tom 
directed by Michael Powell.
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... namesake, could not ‘wash his hands of responsibility for this essentially vicious film’), and Michael Powell’s career went into a slump. You can see the film on a Criterion Collection DVD with an excellent commentary by Laura Mulvey, or you can walk out yourselves from the Curzon and other cinemas, where it is now showing in a restored print. Martin ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘12 Years a Slave’, 6 February 2014

12 Years a Slave 
directed by Steve McQueen.
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... if you really wanted it to be another movie. The instant involves a tight close-up on the face of Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, the vicious second owner of Northup. He is, characteristically, reading to his slaves a passage from the Bible about the administration of stripes or lashes, and there is something about the closeness of the camera here, and the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Big Short’, 18 February 2016

The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... And that it may not matter what ain’t so as long as everyone else thinks the way you do. Michael Lewis, in the book the movie is based on, calls ‘not knowing’ a ‘talent’. ‘Their ignorance seems incredible,’ he says. ‘They’ in this case are traders who don’t know that sub-prime mortgages, waiting to default, make up 95 per cent of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Rebecca’, 20 July 2006

Rebecca 
directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
June 2006
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... is talking about, and it isn’t a dream at all, it’s a shifting picture of a dark and tangled wood. The supernatural powers are those of the camera, and the images begin to look like the portrait of the inside of a troubled mind, rather than the memory of a cherished place. And then the images begin to contradict the voice. ‘Time could not mar the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: At the Morelia Festival, 3 November 2011

... stay at home, eat their potatoes – that’s all they eat – stare at the landscape, chop wood, do the ironing. They scarcely talk except to bark a command or a piece of information to each other. The wind continues to blow furiously, and its music is supported on and off by the same grinding tune we heard at the beginning of the film. One day father ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ides of March’, 1 December 2011

The Ides of March 
directed by George Clooney.
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... that you keep forgetting what’s wrong with the writing) and a busy young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) who gets herself into all kinds of trouble. The very word ‘intern’ will give you a clue as to the kind of trouble this is, for her and for others, and the film rather clunkily underlines this suggestion – boys will be boys, even if they’re ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’, 8 May 2008

Stop-Loss 
directed by Kimberly Peirce.
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... the war in Vietnam were slow in coming. Saigon fell in 1975, and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home and Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter both date from 1978. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was 1979. In their separate ways these films were all about damage done to Americans; any damage done to others was incidental, part of some larger story that wasn’t ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... abnegation is too much to expect of any director with two expensive stars on his hands. Remember Michael Mann’s thriller Heat, where Robert de Niro and Al Pacino get together for a totally inconsequential conversation just so we can see them together before they return to their posts on opposite sides of the law. The stars have to share serious screen ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’, 22 July 2010

Breathless 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... like, in a reflective Godard movie rather than a darker or more dramatic one by Nicholas Ray or Michael Curtiz, or Mark Robson (the director of The Harder They Fall, the poster for which appears in Breathless and entrances Belmondo). Godard himself said he used to think of the film as being in the line of Scarface, but had come to see that it really ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Behind the Candelabra’, 4 July 2013

Behind the Candelabra 
directed by Steven Soderbergh.
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... died in 1987. In the movie the performances keep pace with the glitter and the hokum for a while. Michael Douglas as Liberace acts up onstage and off, twinkles with a coy kindness that is all self-admiration but quite fetching even so; Damon is bewildered and wary and captivated in just the right proportions, and his shift from baffled gay guy into trinketed ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, 26 April 2018

... appears in so many legends and quite a bit of history. And in the fiction of Leonardo Sciascia and Michael Dibdin, where a crucial question about any crime is not who did it, but what to do with any knowledge you may have of this fact. Is there anyone you could report it to who might not be the criminal’s friend or protector? The same question arises in the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, 30 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... there a (fictional) man behind the moustache? Well, there is a director, who is also Branagh, and Michael Green, a thoughtful and inventive scriptwriter. They give shape and sense to a particular notion of Poirot. But it is Branagh’s acting that makes the notion work. I say this as a non-fan of his Shakespeare films (Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado about ...

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