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Review: The Bostonians
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Not every Merchant-Ivory film is a visually lush period drama based on novels by prestigious writers like E. M. Forster and Henry James, but the most memorable ones are, including The Europeans (1979), The Bostonians (1984), A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987), and Howards End (1992). Another in this vein is The Remains of the Day (1993), based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

All these films were produced by Ismail Merchant, an Indian Muslim, and directed by his gay partner James Ivory, an American Protestant. With the exception of Maurice, they were adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German Jew married to an Indian Parsi.

Yet for all the intersectional diversity points of their creators, there is something “problematic” about these films, for they feed on a deep nostalgia for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, characterized by overwhelming whiteness, patriarchy, sexual repression, and heteronormativity. Of course, all the characters struggle against this world in the name of an old-fashioned, white, and Eurocentric liberalism that is also problematic these days. But it is impossible to overlook that the world they are struggling against is far more attractive than the world they ended up making for us.

The archetypal Merchant-Ivory film appeals to pretty much the same people who love Downton Abbey: overwhelmingly white, predominantly female, disproportionately gay, and very liberal. The average Merchant-Ivory viewer loves to imagine himself or herself as rich, beautifully dressed, and at home in the most glamorous locales, all while being terribly oppressed but also enlightened and virtuous. It is a kind of porn for the NPR/BBC4 set: middle-aged, middlebrow, middle managers in our neoliberal Left-wing oligarchy. But race-conscious whites can also enjoy the nostalgia if they are willing to bracket out the propaganda.

Or, in the case of The Bostonians, they don’t have to, for through some strange twist of fate, this is one of the most anti-liberal, anti-feminist movies I have ever seen. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Reeve, Madeleine Potter, and Jessica Tandy, The Bostonians is based on Henry James’ 1886 novel of the same name, which is a satire of the Eastern Liberal Establishment circa 1875–76 set primarily in Boston but with forays to Cambridge, New York City, and Martha’s Vineyard—pretty much their same haunts today.

It is a world of bossy women and low-testosterone men. All the characters are either rich or the professionals, courtiers, and charlatans who feed off the rich. Mesmerism, spiritualism, homeopathy, and feminism are the current rages in their salons.

The Bostonians focuses on a circle of wealthy suffragettes. Now that blacks have been emancipated and the South put to the sword, feminism is the next great progressive crusade. The main suffragettes are the elderly Miss Birdseye (Jessica Tandy), a gentle soul who lives in a word of high-minded fancies; Mrs. Burrage (Nancy Marchand), a fabulously rich New Yorker with a son at Harvard who hosts radical salons at her Fifth Avenue mansion; and the fifty-something spinster Olive Chancellor, a lesbian and wild-eyed fanatic who is beautifully played by Vanessa Redgrave.

The dramatic conflict of The Bostonians is between Olive and her distant cousin, Basil Ransom (Christopher Reeve), a Confederate veteran from Mississippi who now works as a lawyer in New York City.

Basil is a writer on topics like honor, virtue, and aristocracy. He is unapologetically conservative, even reactionary. When one of his essays was rejected for being “300 hundred years out of date,” he replied: “On the rights of minorities, I am 300 years out of date. But you see, I haven’t come too late. I have come too soon.” A man after my own heart.

Basil also rejects feminism. He thinks that “for public uses” women are entirely “inferior and second rate.” Instead, he thinks that women are best suited for the private realm of family life. He also mocks the feminist complaint that women are oppressed. Basil thinks women have enormous power as it is, and their desire for equal footing in public would in fact lead to the oppression of men by women. Which raises a question: If men could see this in the 1880s, how did we end up where we are today?

Olive and Basil’s main conflict is not, however, over political philosophy. Instead, they are fighting over a woman: Verena Tarrant (Madeleine Potter). Verena is the daughter of “Dr.” Tarrant, a spiritualist and Mesmeric healer who never gets too transported to forget to present his bill. Both Basil and Olive meet Verena at a suffragist meeting where she is rolled out by her father and “started up” with some parlor magic to deliver an impassioned oration for women’s equality. It is love at first sight for both cousins.

Olive wants to groom Verena, both as a feminist speaker and a lover. She basically buys Verena from her parents, handing her father a check for \$5,000 for the privilege of overseeing her “education” for a year, after which he can expect the same amount. In 1875, that amount was the equivalent of \$120,000 today, in a time when the cost of living was far lower. Today, parents hand over that amount to universities for the privilege of having their children seduced and ruined, ideologically and otherwise.

Verena’s education consists of readings, museum outings, and Olive’s wild-eyed orations about dedication and sacrifice for the liberation of humanity—in the lap of embarrassing luxury, to the fey strains of the Wagner’s Lohengrin Prelude. Redgrave was really born for this role.

Basil tells Verena “I don’t think you mean what you preach.” Instead, he thinks that she simply has a “sweet nature” that makes her want to please the people around her: her father, Oliver, Miss Birdseye, etc. In short, Verena is exactly the kind of woman he wants for his wife: someone who will be devoted to pleasing him, which of course implies motherhood and child-rearing as well.

But can’t Verena “have it all”? No. Basil doesn’t want a wife who is famous for preaching dangerous nonsense. He wants her to give up politics altogether and devote herself entirely to private life. He asks, “Can’t I make you see how much more natural it is—not to say agreeable—to give yourself to a man, instead of to the movement of some morbid old maid?” Basil is also shrewd enough to know what Olive is after. They didn’t call lesbian cohabitation “Boston marriages” for nothing.

I’ll leave you to discover the twists and turns of Olive and Basil’s struggle over Verena for yourselves. But I should at least tell you that this movie does not follow the model of politically incorrect heroes (Archie Bunker, Tony Soprano) who “grow” over time. The Bostonians wouldn’t be remarkable unless our chivalrous Confederate hero won out in the end, without compromise, his character and principles entirely intact.

Henry James was known for extremely subtle studies of character and psychology. The movie does them justice. The tiniest gestures are revealing and often quite funny. For instance, during one of Dr. Tarrant’s mesmeric healing sessions, he breaks out of his prophetic voice twice to ask an unctuous a weasel of a reporter (Wallace Shawn), “Have you got that, Mr. Pardon?” Another great moment is when Mrs. Burrage tells Olive that she is devoted to the cause of “we poor women” as they are served tea in her sumptuous Fifth Avenue mansion.

Olive and Basil are polar opposites in character as well as in sex and politics.

Basil is unfailingly polite and kind, despite his inegalitarian convictions. But he is always firm and frank about who he is and what he wants. He is not threatened by people who disagree with him, perhaps because he doesn’t suffer from the grandiose delusion that his beliefs are ordained by the God of the Bible or the God of Progress, such that disagreement is equivalent to damnation. This is Christopher Reeve’s best role. He is completely natural and credible. In everything else I have seen him in, he comes off as smug and precious, like an overpraised child.

Olive is rude and supercilious, despite her professed humanitarianism. She is dogmatic about her political views: “He’s an enemy!” she whispers with the same trembling fanaticism that her Puritan ancestors said, “She’s a witch!” Olive is on the side of the angels, so woe to us.

But Olive refuses to take a stand on what she wants in her relationship with Verena. Verena wants to please Olive, but Olive always throws it back to Verena, “I want you to do it because you want it.” Note that she doesn’t want Verena to do what Olive wants, despite what Verena wants. She wants Verena to want what Olive wants—and without the necessity of Olive telling her. There’s a strange sort of narcissism here. Olive is stetting herself up as a sort of idol or oracle and demanding that her worshipper orbit her perpetually, trying to guess what would please her. It is utterly maddening. There’s a real possibility that Olive doesn’t consciously know she’s a lesbian. She may be the last to know.

The Eastern Liberal Establishment of The Bostonians is pretty much recognizable as today’s hostile elite, using their money and connections to launch destructive ideologies into the world, confident that their wealth and power will insulate them from any blowback. But this is an indigenous white Protestant hostile elite, not the Jewish-dominated one that arose in the twentieth century. There is, however, a hint of what is to come. At Mrs. Burrage’s salon, we learn that a Professor Guggenheim will soon deliver a lecture on the Talmud. I wonder if that is in James’ novel or if Ruth Prawer Jhabvala worked it in.

James’ novel received savage reviews from the Eastern Liberal Establishment it lampoons. Which makes me wonder how this movie garnered positive reviews and award nominations. It is a miracle that it was ever made. It is hard to believe that Jhabvala and Ivory didn’t see the humor and the horror in their depictions of characters like Olive, Miss Birdseye, Mrs. Burrage, and Dr. Tarrant. But if they did, would they have dared to make the movie at all?

It is also impossible to believe that they sympathized with the character and philosophy of Basil Ransom, yet here he is on the big screen, both admirable and undefeated. I’d like to think that this is a rare example of liberals being genuinely broadminded about their opponents and critical of themselves. But sometimes, dissident ideas leak into the mainstream simply because our opponents are so smug that they can’t imagine anyone actually taking them seriously.

I highly recommend The Bostonians. It is a nostalgic, escapist feast for the eyes that won’t insult your intellect or your values.

 
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  1. Dumbo says:

    All these films were produced by Ismail Merchant, an Indian Muslim, and directed by his gay partner James Ivory, an American Protestant. With the exception of Maurice, they were adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German Jew married to an Indian Parsi.

    Diversity über alles? A strange group, to say the least.

    In general, I find Merchat-Ivory productions boring and fake. Well-packaged fluff. It’s kind of a soap opera with a thin veneer of intellectual chic.

    (The fact that they are overwhelmingly “white and gay” does not impress me. Also soap operas tend to be like that – so what? Should we watch them just to see white people?)

    The Remains of the Day was probably the best one of the lot; a memorable Hopkins and even Emma Thompson, who tends to get on my nerves, was good on that one.

  2. Cliff says:

    The beautiful island of Marthas Vineyard where inner city youths trying to vacation on the island back in the year 2000 were arrested for bathing black and banished from the island by the Boston and State police gang units. The Oaks Bluff police chief who later had to resign as head of the Massachusetts National Guard for raping a white female soldier defended his actions of protecting the Black Hamptons from the black thugs from Boston.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  3. Wow, thanks. I LOVE merchant ivory productions and haven’t yet seen Bostonians, so I thank Trevor. This is probably something I can watch with my mom, so that’s good.

    I disagree that the movies are particularly liberal, inasmuch as the ideology of the source material seeps through, i suppose mostly em Forster. These are liberal for their time, but this is a liberalism among whites, which fights class wrongs and fusty social customs. Put me in the 19th century and I would probably be right with John Stuart mill. I only become “right wing wignat” on topics of race, which properly understood I argue are a form of oppression and marginalization of the white middle and lower classes.

    Thanks for bringing this movie and withnail and I into my ken. I forgive him for not understanding Conan!

    • Disagree: GazaPlanet
  4. @Dumbo

    Your opinion is incorrect.

    • Replies: @Dumbo
    , @Simon Tugmutton
  5. Dumbo says:
    @Wignat is a slur

    Pray tell, what is “incorrect” about a clearly subjective opinion?

    The fact that Emma Thompson tends to get on my nerves?

    Or the fact that I find Merchant-Ivory productions mostly boring and gay?

    By the way, with that name, “Merchant” (is Happy his middle name?), no way that guy is an Indian Muslim, he’s probably a crypto Jew.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
    , @ivan
  6. utu says:

    At Mrs. Burrage’s salon, we learn that a Professor Guggenheim will soon deliver a lecture on the Talmud. I wonder if that is in James’ novel or if Ruth Prawer Jhabvala worked it in.

    Easy to check

    ‘Oh dear, no. I am going to have Professor Gougenheim–all about the Talmud. You must come.’ – Chapter 26

    and even better would be to read the book before writing a review.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  7. I haven’t seen the movie; however, I’ve read The Bostonians, one of James’ finest 4-5 novels.
    This review is correct, as far as I recall the novel.

    Just -and this is perhaps temperamentally determined – I also found the novel somehow lacking. True, James is a psychological novelist, while The Bostonians is clearly more social than psychological novel; or, better, one of those works where social reality is not adequately supported by characterization. The most impressive character is Olive, as repellent & delusional she may be; Basil Ransom, while we nod in agreement with most of his utterances, is a sketchy cartoon (James didn’t know how to write about manly men who had passed through the crucible of suffering); Verena is pretty & empty, an innocent young woman who is just “feeling” & passive.

    Inadequacy of the novel is similar to Thackeray’s Vanity Fair– a satirical novel’s characters are basically 4th rate people who do not invoke in us deeper reverberations.

    Also, the ending is anti-climactic: Basil goes off with Verena & James informs us that she had shed tears- these were not the last tears she was destined to shed (quoting from memory). So- anything but a happy ending.

    That said, this novel is brilliant in its satire of the Boston Craze & certainly the most courageous of all James’ novels, especially considering the theme of lesbianism as probably the leading motive of early feminist movement.

    What remains unsatisfactory is that James, it seems to me, does not know what to do with it all. He sees clearly that the craze of spiritualism, feminism, positive thinking, social radicalism, early versions of New Thought … leads nowhere. But a traditional society also is not a solution, especially when times are changing.

    James, ever a spectator, couldn’t decide where he stands.

  8. Dumbo says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    It was a joke (but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true).

  9. @utu

    It’s a review of the movie, not the book.

    I’d thank you if you weren’t an asshole about it.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @Jeff Stryker
    , @Mike Tre
  10. @Bardon Kaldian

    Basil goes off with Verena & James informs us that she had shed tears- these were not the last tears she was destined to shed (quoting from memory). So- anything but a happy ending.

    Life is full of suffering, whether you choose wisely or wrongly. Verena still chose the better path.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  11. @Trevor Lynch

    Of course, but, evidently, James was skeptical about the outcome.

    An author writing about complex social issues wouldn’t be so explicit. In his worst novel, Resurrection, Tolstoy ended his hero Nekhlyudov’s struggle with something like that: “Only future will tell”. He didn’t write that his hero would triumph, become spiritually regenerated or turn out to be a horrible spiritual failure.

    So, James finishing his novel with future Verena’s tears is so obvious & explicit, showing that he actually doesn’t know what to make of it all.

  12. utu says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    “It’s a review of the movie, not the book.” – Right, so why did you wonder “I wonder if that is in James’ novel or if Ruth Prawer Jhabvala worked it in.” and beat around the bush of Jhabvala being Jewish.

    Anyway, it is a minor issue which however proves that you are amateurish and not serious while wanting to be taken seriously. In the future do your homework if you want to be taken seriously.

    • Agree: Johnny Rico
  13. Olive is stetting herself up…

    Somehow prophetic

  14. @utu

    Anyway, it is a minor issue which however proves that you are amateurish and not serious while wanting to be taken seriously. In the future do your homework if you want to be taken seriously.

    The issue will be corrected by the editor, but you will remain an asshole.

  15. @utu

    After looking over the merchant ivory filmography, I have to admit all the good ones are the ones adapted for the screen by this Indian jewess.

  16. The Remains of the Day is another superb film, one of the best ever. Mr. Lynch’s comments are devoid of interest, but don’t miss TROTD, if you haven’t seen it.

  17. baythoven says:

    On this recommendation, I viewed it last night.

    I found it not just a nostalgic feast for the eyes, but also for the ears. All of the music selections were enjoyable and apt. Most of all, I appreciated the use, twice, of Brahms Alto Rhapsody. And I think the opening credits sequence with the organist one of the most intriguing and clever (you realize later) ever.

    I agree with Mr. Lynch’s take. It’s amazing they made this movie, and as they did. The crux of the story is a battle of wills — Olive vs. Basil. But, at least as presented in the movie, it’s a very uneven contest, for Olive is ever riddled with anxiety, even while she is winning, whereas Basil is throughout unruffled composure and confidence. I haven’t read The Bostonians, but I am familiar with enough Henry James to suspect that in the novel the contest is more balanced. It is a typical James dynamic to present two predators after the same prey. But it is not typical of James to present such a heroic protagonist. No streaks of evil. Hmm.

    All of the cast is good, including, of course, Vanessa Redgrave. Still, it seems to me, Ms. Redgrave’s best performances were yet to come — one of them, her portrayal in a smaller role in Howard’s End.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  18. @baythoven

    Thanks so much. I agree that the music is well-chosen and that the organ opening is intriguing and well-used.

  19. @Trevor Lynch

    TREVOR

    Interestingly enough, in my opinion Christopher Reeve was the last real Old Money/Boston Brahmin/WASP & Proud movie star of US cinema.

    Another sad thing about his career is that his non-SUPERMAN roles were actually in better films. STREET SMART really reflected New York race/class in a way that BONFIRE tried & failed to do. It was the last film to really be honest about urban non-white criminality.

    I don’t think films like STREET SMART or SOMEWHERE IN TIME which celebrated the WASP Stud could be made now.

  20. @Jeff Stryker

    I have not seen Somewhere in Time, but I love John Barry’s music for it. I will have to check it out.

  21. @Wignat is a slur

    Your comment reminds me of a friend whose class, aged 12, was told by its English teacher to write a critique of a poem by Shelley. My friend duly handed in his piece; it was returned to him marked WRONG.

  22. @Bardon Kaldian

    I’ve seen the movie and read the book. I agree with your comments; in this case the movie is an improvement on the book, just as William Wyler’s The Heiress improves on Washington Square.

    What is quite funny is that Vanessa Redgrave accepted the role, which lampoons everything she has espoused in her long and tedious political career. Maybe she has an ironic, self-deprecating side – or maybe she is just as stupid as her polemics.

    PS Great review, Mr Lynch.

    • Thanks: Trevor Lynch
    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
    , @Skeptikal
  23. Anon[420] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dumbo

    “ a memorable Hopkins and even Emma Thompson, who tends to get on my nerves, was good on that one.”

    And yet the message of Remains of the Day is the difficulty of forming a (heterosexual) couple, a very very common Hollywood leitmotiv. And the male character is an utter wimp. And life is kind of a barren, fruitless experience.

    Is it envy or just the sincere gay vision of the world?

  24. moi says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    OK, so like many other Muslims, he was MINO (muslim in name only).

  25. I am a budding filmmaker here in Mumbai and interned at Ms Jhabvala’s now defunct production grounds-a great education. I have a theory that all this attack on whiteness-definitely in the realm of cinema has been a byproduct of the internet and social media. Looking at mainstream films of even as recent as the 90s things were pretty much okay.
    Merchant-Ivory productions(though quite boring at times) were a representation of what a great producer should make. A focus on the story and content-nothing more. None of this woke, diversity crap. I am brown but there are barely any stories I want to make around my own people. All my screenplays, all the adaptations I wish to make are of white people be they drama or science fiction.

    It will be a tough world I will be forging my path into. My dream project is an adaptation of War of the worlds but set in the late 19th century(as is the case in the Welles novel). What many people don’t realize is how astonishing the events of the novel would have been for the people of the novel set during those days before television and radio…..that must be portrayed and understood. Alas, I doubt this project will ever come to be realized.

  26. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    I read the book long ago and don’t remember a lot, but there was a wonderful minor character early on Basil meets at one of the Brahmins’ feminist soirees. She’s a middle-aged female doctor, capable and practical-minded. She gives Basil a withering critique of the all the feminist mysticism of the idle ladies before returning to work.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  27. @Simon Tugmutton

    Regarding Vanessa ….. the 2nd option.

  28. John Hagan says: • Website

    Greed &2: My aim here is to try and take some complex philosophical ideas and convert them into images that are perhaps more understandable to those who do not have the time or lanquage skills to understand them. A difficult task yet I hope it helps.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  29. “All these films were produced by Ismail Merchant, an Indian Muslim, and directed by his gay partner James Ivory, an American Protestant. With the exception of Maurice, they were adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German Jew married to an Indian Parsi.”

    Ismail Merchant was a Gujarati speaking Khoja Muslim just like Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the “Father of Pakistan” and Ruth Prawer was married to the Gujarati speaking Parsi just like Fredie Mercury of the Queen.

    BTW, Mohandas K. Gandhi aka the half naked fakir was also a Gujarati.

  30. @Anon

    No, the topic of unlived lives is one of the centerpieces of great literature & cinema. It goes from Balzac, Goncharov, Flaubert, .. to Chekhov, James, Joyce.

    Of course, the great progenitor of this all is Flaubert, with his rendition of receptive & paralyzed consciousness, as if hypnotized into passive zombiedom of emotional-moral- physical isolation by the overwhelming forces of the exterior world.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with gays or Hollywood. It is just a reflection of paralysis & vacuity besetting the modern man.

    • Agree: GomezAdddams
    • Replies: @ricpic
  31. “Which makes me wonder how this movie garnered positive reviews and award nominations.”

    Because Hollywood is controlled by Jews, the 20th century elite, who were in competition with the 19th century Protestant elite… what better way to knock off your opponent from the pedestal (or bring down a rung or two) than to lavish praise on the very thing that helps expose their idiosyncrasies?

    P. S. It’s a great film and a good review.

  32. Dumbo says:
    @Anon

    a very very common Hollywood leitmotiv.

    Is it envy or just the sincere gay vision of the world?

    I don’t know. Is Kazuo Ishigiro (the author of the novel) also gay?
    (By the way, despite the Japanese name and heritage, he grew up in England.)

    But your comment reminds me of the film “Brokeback Mountain”, where heterosexual family life was shown as a depressingly sad, dark and boring affair, while gay sex was shown as happiness and freedom. I remember one scene where having a pretty wife holding two babies was shown as an awful thing, while having butt sex among sheep was wonderful. LOL.

    • LOL: Ray Caruso
  33. Mike Tre says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Ewe-too is an anti-white acolyte of the face-diaper god. Pure arm-chair quarterback of the anon Bush League. Best to put him on ignore.

  34. @Anon

    Agree. The Hopkins character is shockingly dumb. Emma needed to bitch-slap the daylights out of him. Other than that, the neo-nazi background story was nicely done. Let’s not forget the deep German roots of the royal family. WWI yanked out many roots but others grew back, as they always do.

  35. At Mrs. Burrage’s salon, we learn that a Professor Guggenheim will soon deliver a lecture on the Talmud. I wonder if that is in James’ novel or if Ruth Prawer Jhabvala worked it in.

    Yes, a search of an unabridged edition of The Bostonians does bring up a passage about a Professor Gougenheim [sic] and the Talmud. It seems that the worthless Protestant elite of the US was flirting with Jews even at that early date. No surprise, really. They chose to give the Anti-Christians citizenship in their newly founded republic when no other country did so.

  36. @Dennis Dale

    there was a wonderful minor character early on Basil meets at one of the Brahmins’ feminist soirees. She’s a middle-aged female doctor, capable and practical-minded. She gives Basil a withering critique of the all the feminist mysticism of the idle ladies before returning to work.

    That’s Dr. Prance, well played by Linda Hunt in the movie.

    • Agree: SeekerofthePresence
    • Thanks: Dennis Dale
  37. @RJ Macready

    It will be a tough world I will be forging my path into. My dream project is an adaptation of War of the worlds but set in the late 19th century(as is the case in the Welles novel). What many people don’t realize is how astonishing the events of the novel would have been for the people of the novel set during those days before television and radio

    This is a wonderful idea, and I wish you the best with it.

    • Thanks: RJ Macready
  38. Z-man says:

    All these films were produced by Ismail Merchant, an Indian Muslim, and directed by his gay partner James Ivory, an American Protestant. With the exception of Maurice, they were adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a German Jew married to an Indian Parsi.

    ROFL!!!

    Never seen it never will except, like I said before, if I’m trapped in a nursing home in my 80’s.

  39. Skeptikal says:

    I don’t think The Bostonians (book) contained any mention of Martha’s Vineyard.

    In those days the Boston elite went to the North Shore (north of Boston: Marblehead, Manchester, etc.), or to Maine.

    But parts of the movie were filmed on Martha’s Vineyard—I guess they needed a beach of some kind and couldn’t find one on the North Shore.

    So they started filming a scene, I think of the two lovers, on a beach on the south shore of the Vineyard (Atlantic Ocean), the two lovers climbed over a dune—and the scene continued as they found themselves emerging on a beach ten miles away, on the north shore (Vineyard Sound)!

    Or perhaps it was vice versa.

    In any event, a miracle. Or, just a miracle of montage.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
  40. Skeptikal says:
    @Cliff

    Wow, major chip on shoulder alert!

    Please document these stories.

    You are aware, I assume, that Martha’s Vineyard, is home to one of three resort towns in the USA where well-to-do and other African Americans have vacationed for years since at least the 1930s.
    So if some black youths were arrested there, they probably deserved it.

    Furthermore, I don’t think Martha’s Vineyard figures in The Bostonians (book).

    As for the Hamptons . . .???

  41. @Liza

    And this is before the world wars. One wonders if the world has always been the same; stodgy conservatives b*tching that men are no longer men and everything is about to go to hell, etc etc.? We are about to be overrun by third world barbarians and blacks are running amuck! All the way back to Livy and Cato the elder. Watch the movie by woody Allen Midnight in Paris for a meditation on “golden age thinking” and also to hear some good music.

    • Replies: @Liza
    , @Dumbo
    , @bj0311
    , @Dennis Dale
  42. Skeptikal says:
    @Simon Tugmutton

    “maybe she is just as stupid as her polemics.”

    Or maybe Vanessa Redgrave is a great actress first and a political advocate second.

    In her life she has walked the talk.

    On the stage she submerges herself in her roles, uncompromisingly.

    Ar you saying she shouldn’t have played Mrs. Dalloway because the character is wealthy?

    You sound like an utter dickhead.

    This review seems to bring out guys with major chips on their shoulders.

    • Thanks: Iris
  43. @Dumbo

    That would be “Backdoor Mountain”.

  44. Liza says:
    @Happy Tapir

    Yes, I guess it’s like every generation going back to caveman days complaining about the “younger generation” and how disrespectful, lazy, etc. they are. 🙂 I would be interested in having a look at the film but I understand the music is mostly jazz? I am not much taken with that style of music.

    However, the world IS running amok, with or without women and our “canting”.

    • Replies: @Happy Tapir
  45. Dumbo says:
    @Happy Tapir

    But the world is going to Hell… And has been for quite some time.

    Yeah, yeah, different generations and all that also happen, and there is no real “golden age”, but, the contemporary age sure beats all or most.

    (And if we really end with a “Black Planet”, then it’s probably going to be the end of it all.)

    Btw, “Midnight in Paris” was a low effort by Allen. Yeah, one of the few actually watchable ones he made in the last 20 or 30 years after his late peak in the mid-90s, it has a few nice scenes or ideas, but still, a pretty low effort. Or I just tend to hate Allen now.

  46. bj0311 says:
    @Happy Tapir

    Saw that movie, but “golden age thinking” is only problematic if you’re historically and psychologically illiterate. If you bear in mind that man (in general) has always been an evil self-centered creature when left to his own devices, it is quite possible to see objectively that there were better eras and epochs–and they always occurred when people were rooted in the reality of human nature. It is only when we allow mental illnesses such as progressivism to have free reign, that social order falls apart. Looking fondly at better times in no way implies or requires that one define those times in terms of “perfection” they can be better simply because better people ran the world at the time. But anytime before anti-social media was a better time.

  47. @Liza

    Yeah it’s jazzy and classical, but in a good way. Lots of cole porter, offenbach. I tend not to be much on jazz in general either, but there are some good individual songs that classify as jazz. Take 5, girl from ipanema, etc. It’s so broad a category. Similar to country that way.

  48. @Skeptikal

    Thanks for the gratuitous insult. You plainly didn’t understand my comment, so I’ll just leave it there.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  49. @Trevor Lynch

    Applause — That’s just so classic it needs to be surreptitiously inserted into a Shakespeare work somewhere.

    • Thanks: Trevor Lynch
  50. @Skeptikal

    That sounds like one of Teddy Kennedy’s binge nights with some young female aide. (but when he wakes up with her, he discover she is a he)

    • LOL: GomezAdddams
    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  51. Dennis Dale says: • Website
    @Happy Tapir

    and they’ve often been right

  52. Skeptikal says:
    @Simon Tugmutton

    Oh, I think I understood it very well.

    You don’t appear to understand the difference between the art and craft of the theater and life.

    And you think you are entitled to make a snarky comment about Vanessa Redgrave.

    LOL.

  53. Skeptikal says:
    @Jim Bob Lassiter

    ?????

    As noted, this book/film/review and its subject matter is sure bringing out the chip-on-shoulder crowd.

    Why don’t you just book an Airbnb and take a holiday, and stop feeling so aggrieved.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
  54. Skeptikal says:
    @utu

    ” In the future do your homework if you want to be taken seriously.”

    Ouch , ouch, I feel for you, ootoo, with that iron rod up your ar–!

  55. @Dumbo

    Boston’s “Bad Boy Shields” was a great wrestler in Vancouver and was a fan favorite.

  56. Just wanted to thank Trevor for an unusually good review. The first few paragraphs were a particular tour-de-force:

    The average Merchant-Ivory viewer loves to imagine himself or herself as rich, beautifully dressed, and at home in the most glamorous locales, all while being terribly oppressed but also enlightened and virtuous.

    Lol! Funny because true!

    ——

    In everything else I have seen [Reeve] in, he comes off as smug and precious, like an overpraised child.

    Gosh, has it really been that bad? What about his brief (and final?) role in Remains of the Day?

  57. Simon says:
    @Skeptikal

    This review seems to bring out guys with major chips on their shoulders.

    Boy, does it ever! Certainly an inordinate number of creeps and ingrates.

    (I find the same thing whenever Sailer writes a movie review. Three-quarters of the resulting comments consist of “Nah, I wouldn’t bother seeing it” and “Here’s why I don’t like that sort of thing.”)

    I’ll be curious, when I see The Bostonians, if Redgrave’s performance bears any resemblance, even remotely, to a really early role of hers, the hysterical deranged nun in The Devils.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  58. Mr. Blank says:

    I read the original novel not too long ago. I remember I kept expecting Henry James to pull the rug out from under the reader, but he never does. It’s a thoroughly reactionary piece of literature. Absolutely remarkable.

    This is a book that definitely should be more widely known on the dissident right.

  59. UR2 says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    I haven’t seen the film but as for the book, despite his consumate writing ability, James always comes up short. He does not know what to do with his witness of life. His understanding is limited to the material.. the sense world. He goes neither deep nor high. He can only produce in the reader, after a lavish presentation, that tiresome existential angst. In this work, unwittingly perhaps; he does help expose the inadequate moral underpinings of Protestantism: there is no brake to its going off the cliff. As a witness, he can paint quite a picture. I do have affection for The Europeans and a bit for Daisy Miller, while grieving that, ultimately, he fails to write a novel appropriate to his talent.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  60. ricpic says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    “…unlived lives…”

    As opposed to action packed lives? There have been a small number of truly first rank writers who have led action packed lives. Hemingway for example. But they are far outnumbered by writer-spectators. It’s the nature of the beast. A contemplative nature, or more accurately a ruminant nature, an endless mulling over of a range of experience quite limited and yet sufficient to satisfy a lifetime’s grazing. And complementing the stance of spectator there is the strain of melancholia. There you have the writer’s temperament. Chekov, Turgenev, James.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  61. @UR2

    Unfortunately, I agree. His brother William was also annoyed by Henry’s wasting of energies on trifles, while J.L. Borges complained that James’ work is somehow sterile, lacking in “life”.

    This all is even stranger, considering that James was very perceptive & thoughtful in his critique of Whitman, Flaubert, Hawthorne, ..-alright, he flunked with Tolstoy and Conrad … James shrewdly sees others’ weaknesses (or “weaknesses”), and, simultaneously, he is unaware of his own limits & deficiencies.

  62. @ricpic

    No, you misunderstood what I thought. I didn’t mean “life full of external action”. One can live a wonderfully fulfilled life even when living as a monk – if this is one’s dharma/tao/destiny/vocation.

    That’s what Orwell rightly commented in his essay on Dickens:
    https://orwell.ru/library/reviews/dickens/english/e_chd

    The feeling ‘This is what I came into the world to do. Everything else is uninteresting. I will do this even if it means starvation’, which turns men of differing temperaments into scientists, inventors, artists, priests, explorers and revolutionaries — this motif is almost entirely absent from Dickens’s books.

    One can live a very fulfilled life as a mother, a plumber, pater familias, a monk, teacher,… where nothing spectacularly happens. But, it is one’s attitude to one’s goals & experience of life that matter.

    When I said unlived lives, I meant this. Not that one should have life full of exciting external events & physical action, or to live under the limelight. It should- but for such a type of personality. For others, they have their own ways, their different calling.

    Unlived life is basically what Flaubert & Chekhov had been writing about: yearning for some pure, noble life that is impossible to achieve; unrealistic expectations from oneself & the others; not possessing a combination of body-heart-mind-spirit adequate for one’s desires; essentially, being defeated by life.

    • Thanks: SeekerofthePresence
    • Replies: @Liza
  63. Liza says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    not possessing a combination of body-heart-mind-spirit adequate for one’s desires;

    Wouldn’t that version of the “unlived life” therefore describe a good sized portion of the population? And maybe that’s why Buddhism, an Asian way, seems to be based on the attempt to extinguish desire – an odd thing in my judgment – whereas Christianity, at least some interpretations, includes the eruption of desire, natural for all humans with a working brain (irrespective of religion). If we didn’t desire, and fail, and try again, how would we develop.

    JMO, Bardon, JMO. 🙂

  64. I’ll just give three quotes characteristic of the Western way (not just Christianity):

    Between grief and nothing, I’ll take grief.

    William Faulkner

    Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth. Thus I beg and beseech you. Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do—back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning

    Friedrich Nietzsche

    O man, take care!
    What does the deep midnight declare?
    “I was asleep—
    From a deep dream I woke and swear:
    The world is deep,
    Deeper than day had been aware.
    Deep is its woe;
    Joy—deeper yet than agony:
    Woe implores: Go!
    But all joy wants eternity—
    Wants deep, wants deep eternity

    Friedrich Nietzsche

    • Replies: @UR2
  65. Mr. Ed says:

    Has anyone mentioned that James was homosexual himself? So the fact that he is so hard on Olive is somewhat surprising; of course, he’s also unsparing towards the character played by Reeve. This is one of my favorite films, and one of my fave novels as well. Thanks for the review.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  66. @Dumbo

    ‘…But your comment reminds me of the film “Brokeback Mountain”, where heterosexual family life was shown as a depressingly sad, dark and boring affair, while gay sex was shown as happiness and freedom. I remember one scene where having a pretty wife holding two babies was shown as an awful thing, while having butt sex among sheep was wonderful.’

    I had a feeling I wasn’t missing much.

    • Replies: @Happy Tapir
  67. @Colin Wright

    It’s kind of pointless. Clearly a movie made just to win an Oscar by pandering to a group powerful in Hollywood. The character types don’t seem gay at all, not believable

  68. @Skeptikal

    Why don’t you just pack up your colonic smoke blowing machine and give up on trying to pathologize every sight attempt at levity you can spot in the world?

  69. @Mr. Ed

    Has anyone mentioned that James was homosexual himself? So the fact that he is so hard on Olive is somewhat surprising;

    Aside from being homosexual, gay men and lesbians have almost nothing in common. Olive, moreover, is a man-hater, something Henry James could not relate to.

    Thanks for your kind words.

    • Replies: @Happy Tapir
    , @Hibernian
  70. UR2 says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    How about a quote characteristic of the wise:
    ” What is my state of mind? Am l Hamlet? Or Don Quixote? On the left? On the right? I do not think l have been properly understood. I am filled with great joy. With all our affliction, l am overjoyed.” Pope Paul Vl

    • Agree: Bardon Kaldian
    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  71. @Trevor Lynch

    Heh, have you ever noticed, lesbians always want a space without men, such as Smith college, the galactic capital of lesbianism, or even in their literature, such as Herland, where they envision an entire universe without men! The Greek myth of the Amazon’s taps in to this phenomenon, obviously. Gay men on the other hand never ask for a space without women. We like women and cishet men around, in contrast. You never see all all gay college. Funny.

    • Replies: @Colinsky
  72. @UR2

    Yeah….

    I thank God every day that I have been permitted to experience the reality of the image of God in me. Had that not been so, I would be a bitter enemy of Christianity and of the church. Thanks to this act of grace, my life has meaning and my inner eye was opened to the beauty and grandeur of dogma. No matter what the world thinks of religious experience, the one who has it possesses a great treasure, a source of life, meaning, and beauty, and that has given a new splendor to the world and to mankind. He has a living faith.

    C.G.Jung

    She went out. Mitya was calm, and even looked more cheerful, but only for a moment. He felt more and more oppressed by a strange physical weakness. His eyes were closing with fatigue. The examination of the witnesses was, at last, over. They proceeded to a revision of the protocol. Mitya got up, moved from his chair to the corner by the curtain, lay down on a large chest covered with a rug, and instantly fell asleep.

    He had a strange dream, utterly out of keeping with the place and the time.

    He was driving somewhere in the steppes, where he had been stationed long ago, and a peasant was driving him in a cart with a pair of horses, through snow and sleet. He was cold, it was early in November, and the snow was falling in big wet flakes, melting as soon as it touched the earth. And the peasant drove him smartly, he had a fair, long beard. He was not an old man, somewhere about fifty, and he had on a grey peasant’s smock. Not far off was a village, he could see the black huts, and half the huts were burnt down, there were only the charred beams sticking up. And as they drove in, there were peasant women drawn up along the road, a lot of women, a whole row, all thin and wan, with their faces a sort of brownish colour, especially one at the edge, a tall, bony woman, who looked forty, but might have been only twenty, with a long thin face. And in her arms was a little baby crying. And her breasts seemed so dried up that there was not a drop of milk in them. And the child cried and cried, and held out its little bare arms, with its little fists blue from cold.

    “Why are they crying? Why are they crying?” Mitya asked, as they dashed gaily by.

    “It’s the babe,” answered the driver, “the babe weeping.”

    And Mitya was struck by his saying, in his peasant way, “the babe,” and he liked the peasant’s calling it a “babe.” There seemed more pity in it.

    “But why is it weeping?” Mitya persisted stupidly, “why are its little arms bare? Why don’t they wrap it up?”

    “The babe’s cold, its little clothes are frozen and don’t warm it.”

    “But why is it? Why?” foolish Mitya still persisted.

    “Why, they’re poor people, burnt out. They’ve no bread. They’re begging because they’ve been burnt out.”

    “No, no,” Mitya, as it were, still did not understand. “Tell me why it is those poor mothers stand there? Why are people poor? Why is the babe poor? Why is the steppe barren? Why don’t they hug each other and kiss? Why don’t they sing songs of joy? Why are they so dark from black misery? Why don’t they feed the babe?”

    And he felt that, though his questions were unreasonable and senseless, yet he wanted to ask just that, and he had to ask it just in that way. And he felt that a passion of pity, such as he had never known before, was rising in his heart, that he wanted to cry, that he wanted to do something for them all, so that the babe should weep no more, so that the dark-faced, dried-up mother should not weep, that no one should shed tears again from that moment, and he wanted to do it at once, at once, regardless of all obstacles, with all the recklessness of the Karamazovs.

    “And I’m coming with you. I won’t leave you now for the rest of my life, I’m coming with you”, he heard close beside him Grushenka’s tender voice, thrilling with emotion. And his heart glowed, and he struggled forward towards the light, and he longed to live, to live, to go on and on, towards the new, beckoning light, and to hasten, hasten, now, at once! “What! Where?” he exclaimed opening his eyes, and sitting up on the chest, as though he had revived from a swoon, smiling brightly. Nikolay Parfenovitch was standing over him, suggesting that he should hear the protocol read aloud and sign it.

    Mitya guessed that he had been asleep an hour or more, but he did not hear Nikolay Parfenovitch. He was suddenly struck by the fact that there was a pillow under his head, which hadn’t been there when he had leaned back, exhausted, on the chest.

    “Who put that pillow under my head? Who was so kind?” he cried, with a sort of ecstatic gratitude, and tears in his voice, as though some great kindness had been shown him.

    He never found out who this kind man was; perhaps one of the peasant witnesses, or Nikolay Parfenovitch’s little secretary, had compassionately thought to put a pillow under his head; but his whole soul was quivering with tears. He went to the table and said that he would sign whatever they liked.

    “I’ve had a good dream, gentlemen,” he said in a strange voice, with a new light, as of joy, in his face.

    Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov

  73. S. Clark says:

    A very enjoyable review, Mr. Lynch. I saw the movie and read the book, and found the film very faithful, and it is a battle of wills between Basil and Olive for Verena. I think that Basil is not necessarily a hero. Doesn’t he want to subject Verena as much as Olive? But Basil’s control is more traditional, and I agree Verena is a vessel waiting to be filled. The novel is a study of action and passivity.
    One scene that stands out is when Basil is at Harvard at Sanders Theater, where the walls are filled with names of Harvard men killed in the war. He admires their courage and sacrifice, and it emphasizes his lingering moment of honor as a soldier. Odd that this is the closest that James gets to the civil war, and never wrote about it, but, as Edmond Wilson pointed out in his splendid Patriotic Gore, American writers seem to have danced around the war.
    Noteworthy is that Olive champions the cause of woman. She would of course had been all for ending slavery, and she is a prefect example of the kind of social justice warrior waiting to be stirred forth. Even then, James knew what was coming. I prefer to see, in Nietzschean terms, Basil as Appolonian man, and Olive as Dionysian man (or woman); one for order, the other for passion.
    The Bostonians is an unusual James work. He said he wanted to write an American tale. Would that he have written more of them, and James was often criticized for not tackling American subjects.
    What would a Jamesian Huckelberry Finn have been like?
    James argued he wrote about Europe because America had no history. Jame’s subject was that of new Americans dealing with old Europe. When Twain did it, it was funny. James thought the subject was tragic.

    Theodore Roosevelt disliked James, called him effete and ‘a miserable little snob.’ James called TR ‘a dangerous and ominous jingo.’ Yet James was invited to the White House for dinner, and it was a success. TR still thought James ‘the tone of satirical cynicism,’ while James considered the president to be ‘the mere monstrous embodiment of unprecedented and resounding noise.’
    TR and James at dinner…THAT would have been a Merchant-Ivory film to die for.

    Since so many here consider Merchant-Ivory productions weak and insipid (a usual criticism is they are ‘too Masterpiece Theater’), one might try Ivory’s The Deceivers , starring Pierce Brosnan as a British officer who goes undercover to stop Thuggee, the cult of Indian assassins. A lot of action and a very realistic view of early Victorian British India.
    Also, if most of you find the Merchant-Ivory films staid, what about The Age of Innocence, the 1993 film based on Edith Wharton’s book done by Scorsese?

    As for Reeve, he always seemed not exactly a top rate actor. As one of my professors said’ ‘at least Chris tries,’ in that he did do a lot of stage work. I saw him onstage in Aphra Behn’s The Rover, and he was a lot of fun to watch, with much energy. having Edward Herrman in the cast did no harm. This could be his best role, but I liked him in a TV movie of London’s The Sea Wolf, where he played opposite Charles Bronson.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
    , @Skeptikal
  74. @Jeff Stryker

    “Bonfire of the Vanities,” noteworthy speech on justice by Morgan Freeman…

    Though I expect little justice, even less decency, would be had today. Freeman would be branded an Uncle Tom. Wolfe, if this ending resembled the novel’s, would be refused publication everywhere. The exoneration of the wealthy white boy would never survive the Marxist/Soviet race-based court and cultural system.

    • Replies: @Jeff Stryker
  75. Skeptikal says:
    @Simon

    “I’ll be curious, when I see The Bostonians, if Redgrave’s performance bears any resemblance, even remotely, to a really early role of hers, the hysterical deranged nun in The Devils.”

    Thanks for that reminder. I saw The Bostonians a long time ago. But Lynch’s description of Redgrave’s character in the story was ringing a dim little bell.

    Now I know what it was—exactly as you say, her role in The Devils.

    The film itself had a bumpy reception; some interesting background here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devils_(film)

    And a gander at just the trailer gives a hint why! There are brief shots of Redgrave.

    Yikes!!

    .

  76. Merchant-Ivory…

    REMAINS OF THE DAY is pretty good, and MAURICE(which I haven’t seen) had its defenders, surprisingly John Simon among them.

    But most of their films were middlebrow fare for the arthouse audience who wanted something respectable but not too challenging or different.

    As such, Merchant-Ivory productions are like soap. Maybe luxury soap but essentially product than art. It’s formula, very well done in REMAINS OF THE DAY but overly cute with ROOM WITH A VIEW and dull with HOWARD’S END, of which I could stand about 15 min.

    BOSTONIANS might be an exception but I don’t care to use any more Merchant-Ivory soap.
    Btw, what perfect label, Merchant Ivory, the cynical business of peddling ‘precious’ item.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  77. @RJ Macready

    My dream project is an adaptation of War of the worlds but set in the late 19th century(as is the case in the Welles novel).

    That’d be interesting. How about the space aliens side with Hindus against British Imperialists. The Space Aliens cynically enlist Hindus to oust the Brits while planning to exploit the Hindus themselves.

    But some mystical Brahmin yogi named Sexy Sadie figures out a way to read the Alien mind and control it through meditation-hypnosis, and in time, the Hindus gain mind-control over the Aliens who are then ordered to conquer the rest of the world for Brahmin Hindu supremacy.

    Aliens then construct their space battle ships to resemble elephants and cows.

    • LOL: Malla
    • Replies: @Malla
  78. Hibernian says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    They seem to have Leftism in common, a product of their alienation.

  79. Malla says:
    @Priss Factor

    Great idea for a Bollywood movie. trust me. You should discuss this with some Bollywood studios. But beware of the cunning Indian producers who may cut you at the knees. it is a snake-pit there.
    But Wow! whatta movie it would be. Very believable for the magical thinking Hindus.

    • LOL: Malla
  80. @SeekerofthePresence

    STREET SMART was a better, more realistic film. Morgan Freeman, like Leslie Nielsen, was astonishingly nasty in occasional straight parts without the avuncular charm. He’s incredibly convincing as the pimp.

    Hanks was too awkward & lumpy to play an old-money WASP & he’s half-Portuguese & does not look like someone with English aristocratic roots.

    Racially-speaking, Christopher Reeve was the last WASP Old Money East Coast Boston Brahmin Upper-Crust Stud.

    Today, he would be vilified.

    • Replies: @SeekerofthePresence
  81. @Malla

    MALLA

    Some Americans do well in Bollywood. They survive the Bollywood jungle.

    Truth be told, they are not interested in high-concept films that take place in an alternate universe.

    They finance lowbrow horror like this Sunny Leone horror film https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ieatyourskin

    However, I do feel some redneck American with a bunch of tattoos wanting to be a rock star in India is a little unrealistic. Not to denigrate him, because he did buy me a beer once.

  82. @Bardon Kaldian

    “James, ever a spectator, couldn’t decide where he stands.”

    My preference is for the artist to weave a tapestry within his medium and let me decide what it means. Artists with a message grind out putrid agitprop. I’m sure you’ve noticed the neurotic leftist pukes running amok, polluting the cultural landscape with their authoritarian politics.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  83. @Jeff Stryker

    Tried several times to get “Street Smart” on Amazon, but got: “This video is currently unavailable.” Yet another casualty of woke censorship?

    • Replies: @Jeff Stryker
  84. @Skeptikal

    “This review seems to bring out guys with major chips on their on their shoulders.”

    What the hell do you mean by that?

  85. @John Hagan

    “My aim is to try and take some complex philosophical ideas and convert them into images”

    Language, written and spoken, is the foundation of civilization. Reducing language to images squeezes out all meaning of concepts, philosophical and otherwise. Images more than language can be used by nefarious types to subliminally program mass populations. The postwar boom of American advertising and marketing was used for this purpose during the Cold War years. And now with the social media companies and their platforms the programming has become intensified. Images definitely have their place in communication; but to replace words with pictures is the slippery slope to idiocracy.

  86. @SeekerofthePresence

    Could be.

    Like Al Pacino’s film Cruising, which really demonstrated the reality of gay urban life. The serial killers loose, the drugs, the promiscuity. That film is hard to find as well.

    Street Smart was about Fast Eddie, a black pimp who becomes involved with a privileged, narcissistic, rather boorish upper-class white New York journalist played by Reeve. Freeman & Reeve are superb.

    The film paints no rosy picture of black pimps. Freeman is a vicious & depraved pimp who exploits white women who are mostly from rural redneck backgrounds. It’s totally realistic.

    He wheedles his way into Reeve’s life & Reeve is bullied & terrorized by him. Reeve is totally convincing as a yuppie wimp without his red cape.

    Because it is an 80’s film, it pulls no punches. It’s the reality of race in NYC.

    • Agree: WhiteWinger
    • Thanks: SeekerofthePresence
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  87. @Malla

    How about this? Martians have been secretly studying mankind for a long time and come to understand the mythic nature of man. So, instead of invading as Space Aliens, they pose as the gods worshiped by humans. For instance, Hindus have their gods, and space aliens use their technology to project the semblances of such gods. It’s like humans fool animals by using decoys and the like.

    So, Hindus come to believe that they are visited by Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, and etc.
    Martians pull a fast one on the Muslims, and make them believe Allah is speaking to them.
    And they fool Christians into believing jesus has returned.
    And they fool Buddhists into believing Buddha has come to show the way to Nirvana.
    And they fool Jews that a homo ass in the sky has arrived to spread ‘pride’ to lord over goyim.

    But the aliens make one mistake. They mistook superhero comics as real myths and disguise themselves as superheroes as well, and humans begin to wonder what the hell is really going on.

    • LOL: Malla
    • Replies: @Malla
  88. @Jeff Stryker

    Like Al Pacino’s film Cruising, which really demonstrated the reality of gay urban life. The serial killers loose, the drugs, the promiscuity. That film is hard to find as well.

    Better is Friedkin’s account of his tour of a S&M homo bar as part of prepping for the movie. If you match how Friedkin talks(in youtube videos) with the words on the pages, it’s LOL and ROTFL all the way. One of the funniest things I ever read. I had to put the book down several times from too much laughter.

  89. @SunBakedSuburb

    My preference is for the artist to weave a tapestry within his medium and let me decide what it means. Artists with a message grind out putrid agitprop.

    I share in the preference but the problem isn’t so much the message per se. Even when the message is obvious and clear(and/or disagreeable to the viewer), it can be appreciated if it was arrived at honestly and thoughtfully. It’s why I appreciate W by Oliver Stone. Its message is clear: George W. Bush is a simple-minded fool. Still, the movie gives the man his due and tries to understand why he thought he was on the right side of history, indeed even doing God’s work.

  90. Watch STREET SMART on 123 Film sites-

    The film is dead honest about the lifestyles of the white upper-class vs the poor inner-city blacks

    Morgan Freeman was nominated for an Academy Award for the role of the pimp & there is nothing numinous about him: it’s simply a dead honest portrayal of a black pimp named Fast Black.

    Reeve oddly enough got typecast as Superman but his best work was as weak-willed, unscrupulous, self-centered cads at the end of a free ride in life.

    Reeve himself financed the film through Cannon by agreeing to do SUPERMAN IV.

    It reflects a time in USA society when WASPS from Old Money were still the elite & still controlled the media & finance & judicial system.

    The film is totally honest about the business of black pimps: they ensnare poor undereducated white women from rural environments who come to cities like New York & are forced into prostitution by black pimps who terrorize them with violence.

    The film also reflects what life was like before Affirmative Action. African-Americans were poorer & left to their own devices.

    Reeve’s white girlfriend (Andie McDowell) goes into the wrong bar & pimps attempt to manhandle her. The film makes no bones about the ways in which non-white males threated white women. There’s no Wakanda on evidence.

    • Replies: @SeekerofthePresence
  91. @S. Clark

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

    TR and James at dinner…THAT would have been a Merchant-Ivory film to die for.

    That is actually a brilliant idea.

    Since so many here consider Merchant-Ivory productions weak and insipid (a usual criticism is they are ‘too Masterpiece Theater’), one might try Ivory’s The Deceivers , starring Pierce Brosnan as a British officer who goes undercover to stop Thuggee, the cult of Indian assassins. A lot of action and a very realistic view of early Victorian British India.

    Thanks, I will seek it out.

    Also, if most of you find the Merchant-Ivory films staid, what about The Age of Innocence, the 1993 film based on Edith Wharton’s book done by Scorsese?

    I like the novel The Age of Innocence, but I shut the movie off after a few minutes. I hated how Scorsese lingered on the props. It was Merchant-Ivory meets the Antiques Roadshow. The cast also brought to mind Woody Allen’s all-Orthodox Midsummer Night’s Dream. Later I watched the Criterion BluRay and got into it. I think it is one of Scorsese’s weaker movies, but it is a creditable adaptation.

    • Replies: @Arthur MacBride
  92. @Jeff Stryker

    Thanks for the redirect to 123-movies.com for “Street Smart.” No luck connecting, however. Either get a page that says something like, “source page unavailable.” Or “Download Norton VPN” for secure viewing. Upon installation, Norton offers 1 week free trial, followed by \$30 annual charge. Or follow 3-step procedure to view download or streaming.

    Although I reject all these options as too complicated for my primitive internet skills, at least got to see the trailer, which looks very interesting:

    It seems TPTB haven’t yet cancelled that.

  93. Malla says:
    @Priss Factor

    Why are you not a movie director or script writer? We would get far better movies than the shit which is coming out.

  94. ivan says:
    @Dumbo

    There are Muslims in India with the family name “Engineer”. Nothing unusual in a family name of “Merchant” or even “Screwallah”.

  95. Colinsky says:
    @Happy Tapir

    Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
    Space without men!

  96. @Trevor Lynch

    Thanks, I will seek it out.

    Here it is —

  97. anon[793] • Disclaimer says:

    After I saw Fast Black punk Superman and walk away with Lois Lane. I imediately called Morgan Freeman and offered him the role of God in Bruce Allmighty. Fast Black and his kind should lord over White gentiles with a strong pimp hand.

  98. S. Clark says:

    Mr. Lynch: I enjoyed your replies. The Age of Innocence is a good book. I liked the end where our hero doesn’t ‘die’ for his love, but grows older and is resigned about it. That’s reassuring. Hard to believe that Wharton was once one of the top writers, sort of Henry James lite.

    If you ever get to crosscurrents ,read my movie reviews. I just one on Wait ‘Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, a very unique 1952 film. I’m working on The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). A very fascinating and under appreciated movie.

    If RJ Macready is looking for classics to adapt, he should try Charles Brocken Brown (1771-1810), the first American novelist, and his gothic novels inspired Poe and Hawthorne. His Edgar Huntley (1799) is a kind of The Last of the Mohicans meets Edgar Alan Poe with sleepwalkers, a brooding murderer, weird caves, Indian raids. Also there’s Ormand (1798) with con men and a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, a woman fighting poverty and her lover is one of the Illuminati. I’ve got the screenplays rarin’ to go. All I need is a studio and a Vincent Price to act in them.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  99. Skeptikal says:
    @S. Clark

    Thanks for the mention of the film The Deceivers.

    I am a fan of the author of The Deceivers, John Masters, author also of Bhowani Junction.

    Great book.
    Great film about Anglo Indians (Anglo Indian heroine played by Ava Gardner).
    Also recommended for train nuts!!

    I have been meaning to read The Deceivers and now I will do so. Fascinating subject matter.

    Masters’s run of books/novels set in India is a go-to for those interested in the history of that country. Masters was the real deal, a real India hand.
    Kind of like the Patrick Leigh Fermor of India.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Masters

    I wonder why Merchant-Ivory didn’t concentrate on Victorian India rather than Victorian England. The former seems much more interesting.

  100. Skeptikal says:
    @S. Clark

    I love Edith Wharton. I don’t think of her as Henry James lite at all.

    Her writing is very lucid—no pebbles of commas everywhere.

    I loved The Age of Innocence.

    As for the movie, I think Michelle Pfeiffer was miscast as Ellen Olenska,

    I don’t have another actress in mind for the role—haven’t given it much thought.

    Pfeiffer radiates cool sex appeal, but that is not the essence of her charm.
    She certainly is conventionally pretty, but that also misses the target with this character.

    I think better casting of this central role might have made the movie a bigger hit than it was.

  101. S. Clark says:

    Skeptical: If you like Masters you might also like Casanova, a picture book published in 1969 and is funny, thoughtful, and delightful study of Casanova. Masters is a great writer, and I enjoyed his sense of humor here.

  102. AReply says:

    @Trevor Lynch: Please review Elvis Presley in Harum Scarum (1965)

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