August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter in Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life
August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter in Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life

“The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

— George Eliot, Middlemarch


Terrence Malick‘s A Hidden Life has debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It is the American filmmaker’s second work to be based on the events of the Second World War, and tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who was executed by the Nazis in 1943. Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang has praised Malick’s latest work as a return to form and “a spiritual call to arms”:

“At its simplest level, A Hidden Life exists to disprove the snarling Nazi soldiers we hear telling Franz that his act of protest is meaningless and that no one will ever remember him. (They have admittedly already been disproved, thanks to the scholarship of Gordon Zahn and Thomas Merton, as well as a 2007 papal declaration of Jägerstätter as a martyr.) But it is also a call for moral vigilance in any era, the present one very much included…”

Source: The Los Angeles Times

Joan Didion

“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”

― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Mark Cousins
Mark Cousins

On Thursday evening, I started teaching an evening course called The World of Cinema at Cardiff University’s Centre for Continuing and Professional Education. I asked filmmaker, presenter, and critic Mark Cousins if he had any words of advice for students beginning a course on film. This is what he had to say…

Tamar Jeffers McDonald discusses one of the most beloved romantic comedies ever made

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Tamar Jeffers McDonald, When Harry Met Sally… (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Why led you to write about When Harry Met Sally…?

It was a film I’d liked but not studied, but the BFI asked me to write the Classic on it to tie in to the LOVE season it had in 2015. I really came to appreciate the film once I sat down to analyse it.

How would you describe When Harry Met Sally… to someone who has never seen it?

Hmm! I would say that, narratively, this is a comedy about a woman and a man who meet at various times in their lives, and eventually get to the right point to be friends. For a while their individual neuroses balance each other out but then their increasing intimacy starts to cause more problems… From the point of view of form, I’d say it was one of the most cleverly and elegantly structured films I’ve seen. (more…)

“The age of the sequel is over. Now it’s the age of the sequel to the sequel. Also the prequel, the reboot, the reunion, the revival, the remake, the spinoff and the stand-alone franchise-adjacent film. Canceled television shows are reinstated. Killed-off characters are resuscitated. Movies do not begin and end so much as they loiter onscreen. And social media is built for infinite scrolling. Nothing ends anymore, and it’s driving me insane.”

The New York Times

“David Lynch relives his days in Thought Gang, the band whose music was even wilder than his movies” — The Guardian.

“A spate of women-authored speculative fiction imagines detailed worlds of widespread infertility, criminalized abortion, and flipped power dynamics”

The Atlantic

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“‘No one expects a musician to play a song the same way every night.’ It was this impulse to explore different rhythms and intonations in an already completed work, says our executive producer Kim Hendrickson, that led the visionary director Terrence Malick to dive into reediting one of his most acclaimed films, 2011’s The Tree of Life. The three-hour-plus version he ultimately came up with—just released as part of our new edition, which features the theatrical cut that remains Malick’s preferred form—includes fifty minutes of never-before-seen footage. For fans wondering how this all came about, here’s a look at the process behind one of the most complex and challenging projects we’ve ever undertaken.”

— The Criterion Collection

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A still from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

“Douglas Rain, who performed for 32 seasons with the Stratford Festival in Ontario but was perhaps most famous for one faceless movie role — the voice of the HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey” — died on Sunday in St. Marys, Ontario. He was 90.”

The New York Times

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“Showtime [has] previewed its first Twin Peaks VR experience, which will be available for fans to buy on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sometime in 2019. The demo, on display at the Festival of Disruption—a two-day event curated by Lynch where art, music and meditation intersect—immersed viewers into key scenes of the show. However, the full experience will eventually be a one-hour production created by Showtime and Collider, with guidance from Lynch himself.”

Adweek

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I am both delighted and honoured to announce that RhysTranter.com has been selected by the British Library’s UK Web Archive “as an important part of Wales’ documentary heritage”. The site has become part of the repository’s permanent collection, where it will “remain available to researchers in the future”. The UK Web Archive is a partnership between the British Library, the National Library of Wales, and the National Library of Scotland.

Find out more about the UK Web Archive.

William Faulkner was a terrible postman • Friends and fellow authors pay tribute to Newark native Philip Roth • 5 new biographies about Mary Shelley • Friedrich Nietzsche’s descent into madness • 48 Years In the Making, Orson Welles’s Last Film Is Finally Released • 58 Jazz Giants in Art Kane‘s One Immortal Image • Patti Smith on Little Women • How to write the perfect sentence Storyboard for Tarkovsky‘s Andrei Rublev • Haruki Murakami Introduces The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories  Twenty Questions with Esi Edugyan The 50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018

Reflecting on the decision to pursue my vocation in art, service, and simple living

One year ago today I made a decision to change my life. A cardiology appointment prompted me to think more carefully about my lifestyle choices, and I became motivated to start living according to values of simplicity, humility, and compassion. (more…)

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Philip Roth

Yesterday night, I was sad to hear that the American novelist Philip Roth had died of congestive heart failure at the age of 85. As one of the most important literary chroniclers of post-war America, his voice carries across the decades to cover some of the most bracing and stupendous events of the last sixty years.

I can still remember being introduced to his work as a college student, and sitting up on winter nights to read The Ghost Writer and the other Zuckerman novels. It was what I did in lieu of starting my essay assignments. I found Nathan Zuckerman, a complex or not-so-complex stand-in for Roth, a fascinating example of modern American identity, with all its inconsistencies, strange neuroses, and grand ambitions. For a long time, Zuckerman was the character who came to mind when I imagined the figure of the modern writer hunching over a typewriter: the bold American novelist who sought to capture the world on the page as it seemed intent on collapsing all around him.

I read Portnoy’s Complaint, of course, and then graduated to the stately, mature works on which so much of his reputation is based: Sabbath’s Theater (did I say stately and mature?), American Pastoral (perhaps my favourite Roth title), The Human Stain, The Plot Against America (which I anxiously carried through customs on a trip to California). But, for me, many of the favourites come right at the end: those short, intense novels (or are they novellas?) which tackle the great questions of life and death in the dwindling hours of the American century: Everyman, Nemesis, The Humbling, Exit Ghost.

There was a certain romance that surrounded Roth’s later years. His solitary life in deepest green Connecticut. His athletic writing routine spent standing at the window of his study, before retiring in the quiet evenings to read Turgenev by lamplight. A number of journalists and television interviewers were dispatched to marvel at the writer’s almost monastic self-discipline, and he improvised answers to their incredulous questions with a down-to-earth humility and street-smart dry humour.

When he finally announced his retirement from writing he began to focus on questions of life and legacy, welcoming an authorised biographer into his home, and working with the Library of America to produce a multi-volume edition of his works—a rare honour for any living man or woman of American letters. But while Roth helped others find their way around his earlier years, he remained an acute observer of contemporary culture and politics, a commentator whose words conveyed the wisdom of experience and a rare, often mischievous, humour. He will be missed.

What follows are a few of the interviews and articles that I have featured on the site in recent years:

“[Jonathan] Demme’s dive into the deviant undercurrents of America at the end of the Reagan-Bush era gripped audiences who had been primed by another auteur’s breaking of the barriers between art and exploitation. Moody and visceral as no prime-time series had ever been before, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990–91) was a twisted tale founded on the naked corpse of a teenage girl—Laura Palmer. A quarter of a century later, viewers who had been bingeing on the original Twin Peaks as it was released on various digital platforms along with its prequel, the theatrical feature Fire Walk with Me (1992), avidly consumed Twin Peaks: The Return during its eighteen-episode run on Showtime, finding themselves trapped in a wormhole, also known as the Lynchian unconscious, where the homicidal law of the father is forever unchecked and unchanged. The return of Twin Peaks roughly coincided with the appearance of a new restoration of The Silence of the Lambs in theaters, and now in this release. This dialectician of gender in popular culture relishes the timing. […] One major thing that distinguishes Demme’s film from Twin Peaks—and from the vast majority of serial-killer investigative dramas, including those of another contemporary auteur, David Fincher—is the fact that his hero is a woman. “

The Criterion Collection