Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sharp Old Camera Eye

Sidney Lumet's Before The Devil Knows You're Dead seems destined not to be seen by many. The resolution of its story is too bleak, the tensions within the viewer too unrelenting. The performances are strong, and you continue to admire the actors who took on this project (P.S. Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney).

Lumet, when I looked him up on imdb had -- and I didn't remember all of it -- a great many 'New York bleak' films to his credit, many of which I've watched again and again: the Fonda ones, 12 Angry Men and Fail Safe; the Pacino ones, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, not to mention Rod Steiger's classic The Pawnbroker.

Either black-and-white grit. Or liquidly-colored but glitzless NYC boroughed Americana.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Great Man Gone

Mailer is dead. He seemed to go on, strongly, for a long time. When Charlie Rose asked him if he planned more novels, he said that he was in the research phase of one, a sequel to The Castle In The Forest, but that sometime or other 'the ping pong ball has to roll off the table'.

He's been a fixture, a kind of courageous mind, a self-confessed 'joker in the pack', shamed by some of his own actions, but always available to take responsibility and not make excuses. I think those who may see him as a loose cannon, a self-publicizing bull, miss the point of his nature. He lived in the existentialist time, and knew his Frenchmen. He engaged with the politics and social ethics of his time through his novels and other prose.

For people who see 'intellectuals' as ivory tower types, Mailer put them to the lie. He 'acted' -- as in taking on roles and as in taking public positions. There was an old-fashionedness to him, a sense of honor. Physical risk, boxing, would prove courage. He would fight men. He would challenge women to accept gallantry when they clearly saw it as clownish condescension. However ill-accepted, these actions, even at their worst, aimed at virtue.

Not much has been said of his religiosity, and I may take that subject on later. For now, it's worth noticing that he saw God as he would see a character in a novel -- a Being whose development is not entirely decided. Mankind itself may be the 'road agent' in that universe, discovering what to do at every rut and stone and bad rooming house meal.

Thank you, Norman.