February 13, 2013
AN IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION: Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, facing the camera) has placed her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) in an impossible situation when she made him promise that he would not return her to a hospital or place her in a nursing home, regardless of how ill she became. However, Georges found that he was not physically able to provide her the care that she needed at home. To find out how he resolved his dilemma, see the movie.

AN IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION: Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, facing the camera) has placed her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) in an impossible situation when she made him promise that he would not return her to a hospital or place her in a nursing home, regardless of how ill she became. However, Georges found that he was not physically able to provide her the care that she needed at home. To find out how he resolved his dilemma, see the movie.

Retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) have been married for over 60 years. But the frail octogenarians’ love for each other remains as strong as it was the day they met.

The elderly couple lives in a Paris apartment surrounded by music and art and other indicia of an appreciation of culture. With Anne’s health in sharp decline, their days are now mostly spent attending to her host of medical issues.

Unfortunately, Anne’s been bedridden since a stroke left her right side paralyzed. Her biggest fear is not death but the prospect of returning to the hospital or being moved to a nursing home.

It’s clear that Georges would prefer to abide by his wife’s wishes. However, he’s no youngster either, and she’s gradually becoming more than he can handle as her health deteriorates. They do have a daughter, but Eva (Isabelle Huppert) is a travelling musician who can only visit occasionally because of her hectic touring schedule.

When it becomes obvious that Anne has passed the point of no return, Georges finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Does he abide by his life-mate’s last request and let her live out her days in the familiar confines of their home, or does he accept that he can no longer provide the quality care she needs to survive?

That is the critical question explored in Amour, a bittersweet drama which tugs on the heartstrings. Written and directed by Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher), the flashback film has deservedly been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, foreign film, director, actress, and original script.

A poignant tale of undying love.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity. Running time: 127 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

February 6, 2013

DVD revLast week people all over the country were in mourning for Downton Abbey’s Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay). The brutal, shocking demise from postpartum eclampsia of the youngest and most lovable of the Crawley sisters was a scene worthy of a great or at least very good novel. Looking down from death-scene heaven, Charles Dickens might tip his hat, for not since Little Nell bit the Dickensian dust has a fictional demise had such an impact stateside. All the more impressive is the fact that the blow was so deeply felt in spite of many viewers knowing it was coming, thanks to leaks from the U.K. where Season 3 had already been aired. You have to hand it to Julian Fellowes and the cast for a truly bravura piece of theatre (the great strength of Downton Abbey is in the ensemble playing), as the titled doctor, oozing class, forces through his feel-good prognosis and everything seemingly bears him out, the baby safely delivered, joy reigns supreme, then wham!

Meanwhile there are reports of binge viewers planning weekend marathons of The Wire and The West Wing or viewing a whole 12-episode season of Homeland in one sitting. Denizens of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre at least have the decency to wait a week for the next episode of Downton Abbey, allowing the plot to steep, as it were, while they quote their favorite lines from Maggie Smith’s undaunted Dowager Countess of Grantham and ponder the future for Upstairs’ Mary and Matthew and Downstairs’ Bates and Anna. No doubt when Downton fans get together, their dinner parties or high teas are more civilized than the Soprano-themed evenings we shared with our neighbors where we ate gabagool and ziti a la Carmela and speculated on great issues like who would get whacked next week. But what a great foil all that Downton decorum is for subtle, nasty little twists like the bar of soap put where a pregnant Lady Grantham will step, or the not so subtle outrages like the dead Turkish diplomat dragged out of Lady Mary’s bed.

Raising the Stakes

Along with as many as 7.9 million other viewers, my wife and I have been enjoying Season 3 of Downton Abbey on PBS and have just finished all of Season 2 of Showtime’s Homeland On Demand, firmly limiting ourselves to two episodes a night until indulging in a minor binge watching the last three straight through. We became curious about Homeland when we were in the midst of the Breaking Bad addiction described here late last year (“Investing in Breaking Bad: A Matter of Life and Death,” Nov. 21, 2012) and learned that a 24-style CIA series (same producers, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa) had swept the top three Emmys, Best Series, Best Actor and Best Actress. After being mesmerized by 24 for 5 seasons, we fell off the back of that runaway train from sheer exhaustion.

As soon as we were able to get to the top of the library’s DVD wait list, we found that Homeland indeed offered more of the same with its crazily convoluted, high-stakes, terrorism-driven plot, but there were several stunning differences that lifted it to a level above both 24 and Downton Abbey. Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack was a very human superhero but his feats demanded a formidable suspension of disbelief and his love life was a mess. Homeland’s version of Jack, Claire Danes’s CIA agent/analyst Carrie Mathison, performs wonders on a slightly more believable level and her love life is what people have come away talking about. Carrie’s obsessive affair with ex-Marine Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the terrorist disguised as war hero that she’s stalking, creates a fascinating emotional dimension all its own. There’s been nothing like this unique romance in any of cable television’s landmarks from The Sopranos on. It’s in their scenes together that Danes and Lewis earn their Emmys and put the series over the top.

Carrie

Carrie is played to the hilt, taken to the limit, name your superlative, by Claire Danes. Brody is a human conundrum who, as good as Damien Lewis is, could have been played by any number of actors, probably even including Kiefer Sutherland. Lewis’s greatest moments are drawn, coaxed, caressed from him by Carrie, notably in their cozy idyll in a lakeside cabin where she spent childhood summers (“The Weekend,” episode 7 from Season 1) and ultimately and most movingly in episode 5 of Season 2 (“Q and A”), where she, in a manner of speaking, saves his soul, takes the terrorist apart, and puts the real Brody back together again. That’s the calm caring conflicted but ever resourceful Carrie, on task even when she’s turning the love of her life into a double agent.

Saul

What makes Homeland remarkable is not just the improbable Carrie-Brody romance, it’s also the bond between Carrie and her professorial mentor at the CIA, Saul Berenson, played with just the right balance of heart and mind by Mandy Patinkin. Here’s this wild woman passionately devoted to her task as a spy who also manages to be deliriously engaging, silly, slaphappy, hard as nails, funny, fascinating, frantic, disaster-prone, and infuriating. Saul is the falconeer to Carrie’s falcon, the eye of her hurricane, and in the devious world of Homeland, he’s also the emotional and intellectual mean. When everything else is descending into chaos, especially bipolar Carrie minus her meds, only Saul has the patience to sort it out. One of the reasons “The Weekend” is, along with “Q and A,” among the best episodes ever on cable television is the way the cabin scenes with Carrie and Brody are interwoven with the scenes between Saul and Aileen, a member of the terrorist cell plotting the attack that the CIA is scrambling to circumvent. Nicely played by Marin Ireland, Aileen was captured at the Mexican border but deep down she’s a Princeton girl (really) who fell in love with a young terrorist, and while it’s true that Saul is masterfully endearing himself to Aileen in order to secure information, he also is clearly becoming paternally attached to the girl and will weep for her in Season 2.

Mainly, Saul has his hands full with Carrie, who breaks all the rules. When a national catastrophe is prevented only thanks to her last-ditch, frantically determined efforts, she’s scorned, despised, and treated as a nut case. By all rights she should be hailed as a hero (at least within the CIA); instead she’s ousted from the agency, and at the end of Season 1 voluntarily receives shock therapy.

Chemistry

One thing that drew people to Downton Abbey and kept them watching was the teasingly thwarted, drawn-out romance of Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). The positive negative chemistry of attraction was there from the beginning and carefully processed and developed until it produced the wedding that opened Season 3. By comparison, the force of attraction binding Carrie and her quarry, Brody, is complex and explosive, with two wounded people bonding in endgame situations. As Carrie’s professional obsession with Brody becomes personal, you have the feeling that if he hadn’t existed, she’d have invented him.

Real Love

For a bizarre take on Homeland, see Lorrie Moore’s piece in the February 21 New York Review of Books (“Double Agents In Love”), where, besides contradicting her own title, she claims that the “main problem with the show is that the love between Carrie and Brody” (pictured here) is “unconvincing for many reasons having to do with common sense,” that “viewers will sense a lack of chemistry between Lewis and Danes,” that the actors “project only a cold canned heat,” that “this is too tense-making for what purports to be a love story,” that they “lack mutual trust or any palpable erotic vibe,” and that “they are not bonded and they part without any persuasive anguish.” If you turn each of these observations upside down, you will understand why Danes and Lewis and Homeland swept the Emmys. This love story is, as Carrie might say, for real.

LET’S TALK ABOUT ART: Artist Geoffrey Dorfman (left) discusses his upcoming exhibit at Rider University’s Art Gallery with gallery director Harry I. Naar. There will be an opening reception Thursday, February 7 from 5-7 p.m., and Mr. Naar will lead a talk with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m. For more on Mr. Dorfman’s work, visit: geoffreydorfman.com.(Photo by Jon Naar, 2012.)

LET’S TALK ABOUT ART: Artist Geoffrey Dorfman (left) discusses his upcoming exhibit at Rider University’s Art Gallery with gallery director Harry I. Naar. There will be an opening reception Thursday, February 7 from 5-7 p.m., and Mr. Naar will lead a talk with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m. For more on Mr. Dorfman’s work, visit: geoffreydorfman.com. (Photo by Jon Naar, 2012.)

Geoffrey Dorfman describes the paint he works with as holding everything necessary to “create a world that … unlocks the sensation of being that lies at the root of our existence.” As an abstract painter, Mr. Dorfman imbues his work with color, texture, and light.

An exhibition of 18 of Mr. Dorfman’s paintings and six monotypes opens at the Rider University Art Gallery tomorrow evening, Thursday, February 7, with a reception for the artist from from 5 to 7 p.m. Titled “Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind, the exhibition continues through Sunday, March 3. Gallery Director Harry I. Naar will lead a discussion with the artist on Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m.

In an interview with Mr. Dorfman in the Gallery, the artist described his process: “Every stroke gives you an indication of your next move. If things are working well, a painting can be done quickly but if not, the effort can be futile.” He doesn’t work from a prior sketch. He doesn’t spatter or throw paint. It’s a misconception, he says, that abstract artists work in a frenzy, throwing paint around in drugged abandon. “I’m not an athletic painter. If anything, I have a strong classical streak.” His antecedents are Willem De Kooning and Milton Resnick but there’s also a dash of French influence.

“Dorfman comes out of a long and strong tradition of painting out of ‘discovery,’ searching and finding and developing images. He pushes, pulls, and twists the paint, across and through the surface of the canvas with rhythmical, gestural forms, and calligraphic marks,” says Mr. Naar. “Spend time looking at his paintings and you’ll begin to discover a world of strong feelings and sensations. Some are dramatic and bold while others are soft and quiet. His work is strong and quite beautiful.”

The result of 45 years of putting paint on canvas, Mr. Dorfman’s paintings are all different and yet they are his paintings. “You are not going to see work like this anywhere else,” he says. The artist has no affectations about his art. He doesn’t call himself an abstract expressionist and he doesn’t care to be compared to Kandinsky, whose work he regards as cerebral. “My work is more felt,” he says.

He’s an intuitive artist and while his starting point is always the same, the paintings he creates are endlessly varied. First, he “activates” the canvas by applying paint in an arbitrary way. He likens his process to chess, which has well-defined moves at the start that require little thought. But as his work develops, there’s a lot of movement. It’s not all additive, he says, a lot of paint gets taken off and elements get moved around. “My paintings expand, although there are moments of concentration within the whole.”

“Art is a form of play and always has been,” he says. That’s not to trivialize it, on the contrary, play is a fundamental part of the creative process.

How does he know when a painting is finished? “That’s the most important aspect of a painting; sometimes I realize I stopped too early and go back into it. There is a moment when it just ‘comes together.’ Cezanne described it thus, says Mr. Dorfman linking his fingers together in demonstration.

“The hard task of any art is bringing unity and variety together. That’s the play of art, abstract or representative,” he says. “Achieving either one alone is easy but bringing them together is not.” Unlike Rothko who stained the canvas with paint, applying it in a way that erases its substance, Dorfman embraces the substance of his medium. “I like to be frank about the way a painting is made. I like the idea that people might feel it’s available to them, that they could do this themselves.

“Some paints are grainy, mineral, and weigh a ton; some are honey and vegetal; some offer friction to the brush; some apply with ease. The oil, the color, the brushwork; all of that is the sensuous aspect, the feeling part. Over time the surface gets increasingly complex and catches light rather than reflects it.”

He uses housepainter’s brushes and applies paint in a way that he says is “straightforward, prosaic rather than poetic.” Which is not to say that the end result is prosaic. Anything but, as the Rider exhibition demonstrates.

The majority of the work included is recent and each is titled. “The idea of numbering my paintings, as Jackson Pollock did, is too dry for me. Besides it can be confusing. Even in music this type of numbering can be confusing. A poetic or imagistic title sticks in your mind.”

The reference to music comes naturally to Dorfman, who is also a concert pianist. Having pursued composition at the Manhattan School of Music, he has performed in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Bechstein Hall, the Marjorie Deane Little Theater at the Westside YMCA, Columbia University, the Cooper Union, and at Great Britain’s Marlborough Summer Festival. But classical music has scores to be followed or interpreted. Dorfman decided on painting instead. “Art isn’t a discipline in the sense that music is,” he says.

When asked about the exhibition’s title, “Eye and Mind,” Mr. Dorfman launches into a discussion on perception. “What makes something complete is a matter of mind,” he says. “Perception involves interpretation by the mind; fragments don’t interest me, in abstract art this is crucial, fragments just show the activity of the brush; to create a whole in abstract expressionism takes a great deal of work.” Dorfman may work for weeks or months on a painting, often going back again and again to a piece over time. In a “good” year, he’ll created around 16 paintings, half of that in a “bad” year.

Mr. Dorfman lives in the historic Mill Hill district of Trenton. He received his BFA from Cooper Union and his MFA from Syracuse University. Since 1978, he’s taught at the College of Staten Island/CUNY and he’s the author of several articles on painting for ArtForum, as well as the book Out of the Picture: Milton Resnick and the New York School, published by Midmarch Arts Press in 2004.

He received the Henry Ward Ranger prize from the National Academy of Design and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship Grant, and he has curated numerous exhibitions, most recently “Hans Hoffman: The Legacy” at The Painting Center in New York City.

In the conversation with Mr. Naar that is included in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, Dorfman describes the effect that the 1969 New York Painting and Sculpture show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had on him. “The Hans Hofman room just knocked me out,” he says. “The mountains of saturated pigment made the pictures look like slabs of chroma; it was quite dazzling. The paintings spoke of an ecstatic state. Frankly there was nothing in figurative painting of that time that could compete with it.”

Appeal of the Abstract

“Abstract art is not appealing to everyone,” says Mr. Dorfman. “In art as in literature, there’s been a retreat from Modernism, and Abstract Expressionism appeals to a particular kind of person: one who is intrigued by complexity, who is is not discouraged if they don’t get an immediate sense of what something is about and who doesn’t dismiss something out of hand if it doesn’t immediately speak meaning to them.” According to Mr. Dorfman, vision and understanding are not identical, even though we often conflate the two as when we say “don’t you see,” when we mean “don’t you understand.”

Abstract art works at a more visceral level than representative art, says Dorfman. “It has to do with feelings and a kind of recognition that is basic to knowledge.”

Mr. Dorfman isn’t one for neat predictable endings. He prefers to be kept in suspense. Of his upcoming discussion with Mr. Naar at the Gallery on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Dorfman says he prefers not to know what the gallery director has in mind to talk about in advance. “That way it will be much more interesting.”

“Art is a constant joy,” he says “Sometimes I get so excited that I have to leave the studio. If people feel a sense of ebullience when looking at my paintings that’s wonderful, but it’s not something I set out to achieve, I wouldn’t know how.”

“Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind,” will be on view at The Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville through March 3. All except one of the paintings is for sale. Gallery hours are: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (609) 895-5588, or visit: www.rider.edu/artsgallery.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, through April. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. “Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction” runs through March 9. Works by Al Aronson, Benjamin Colbert, Nancy Cohen, John Franklin, and Alyce Gottesman are included. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artsbridge at Prallsville Mill, Route 29, Stockton, presents the 19th Annual Members’ Show February 9-24. Visit www.artsbridge
online.com.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, has “World Sampler,” a group exhibit curated by Frances Heinrich, through February 23. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Scenes from Cuba” by Maurice Harmon through February 15. Visit www.the
bankofprinceton.com.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. “The Fourth Grade Project,” portraits by Judy Gelles, runs February 21-April 4. An opening reception is February 22, 4 p.m.

Brodsky Gallery, Chauncey Conference Center, ETS, Rosedale Road, has an exhibit by Janis Blayne Paul titled “Karmic Stone: Inspiration Carved in Stone” through March 31. Meet the artist February 21, 4-7 p.m. (609) 921-3600.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, presents “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon” through March 7.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Drumthwacket, 354 Stockton Street, shows photos from Wendel White’s portfolios “Small Towns, Black Lives” through March 5. Call (609) 683-0057 or visit www.drumthwacket.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, has through February 24, “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan.” An artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. From February 9-May 25, “Trenton’s Educational Legacy: The New Lincoln School” is on view. The opening reception is February 9, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.
ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view at Cotsen Children’s Library through February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has “Images: Reflections of Adventure” through February 28, featuring artists Connie and Ken McIndoe. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Exposed,” a member exhibit, February 8-March 10. Visit photogallery14.com.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. For more information visit www.princeton
history.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” runs through April 28. Visit www.michener
artmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14.

Lawrence Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, has works by portrait artist Negin Mohseni during February. A reception is February 17, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 989-6920.

Lawrenceville School Gruss Center for Visual Arts, Route 206, Lawrenceville, presents Priscilla Snow Algava’s “Life Dance: A Retrospective” February 7-28. The opening is February 7, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, has “Mapping Mercer,” an exhibit of historic and contemporary maps tracing the history of Mercer County, through February 14. On February 13 at noon, Maxine Lurie and Michael Siegel discuss their book Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation. Photographs by Richard Speedy” through April 14. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has “New Hope New Media” through February 10. Artists include Andrew Wilkinson, John Goodyear, Lisa Nanni, Frances Heinrich, Susan Hogan, Elizabeth McCue, Marc Reed, Simone Spicer, and Carol Wisker. Visit www.newhopearts.org.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, displays “Jon Naar: Signature Photography” through May 4. Visit www.nj.gov/state/museum.

Princeton Day School Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery has “Wabi-Sabi” featuring works of PDS art department faculty members Stephanie Stuefer and Chris Maher, February 11-March 7. A luncheon reception with the artists is February 22, 12:30 p.m. A cocktail reception is that evening, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.pds.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum has“Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” on exhibit through February 17. “Two Views” Atget & Friedlander” is on display through March 10. “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” runs February 16-June 9. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, Rider University, Route 206, Lawrenceville, presents “Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind” February 7-March 3. Gallery director Harry Naar leads a talk with the artist February 14, 7 p.m. Visit www.rider.edu/artgallery.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, presents “The Love Show” through March 5. Works by more than 40 artists on the topic of love will be displayed. The opening party is February 8, 8-11 p.m. with music and dancing. $20 donation suggested for the party.

Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street branch, has a show, “The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop,” through March 5. Visit jaymcphillips@earth
link.net.

Straube Center, 1 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, shows “Center for Creative Works” through March 15. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, through February 24. Photographers of all skill levels interested in participating in “Energy and Motion” show have until February 11 to submit entries. Call (609) 716-1931.

NECESSITY MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone, right) and Washington D. C. police detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) join forces to bring the local mob boss Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, not shown) to justice. In unrelated incidents Morel ordered the killing of Bobo’s close friend and detective Kwon’s partner. Since the local police are all in Morel’s pocket, the only way the unlikely team can catch Morel is to join forces in an unholy alliance.

NECESSITY MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone, right) and Washington D. C. police detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) join forces to bring the local mob boss Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, not shown) to justice. In unrelated incidents Morel ordered the killing of Bobo’s close friend and detective Kwon’s partner. Since the local police are all in Morel’s pocket, the only way the unlikely team can catch Morel is to join forces in an unholy alliance.

Sylvester Stallone is the only movie star who has been number one at the box-office in five straight decades, a record stretching from Rocky in the 70s through last summer’s action hit The Expendables 2. And, judging by Bullet to the Head, the aging matinee idol need not retire to a rocking chair any time soon.

This riveting revenge thriller was directed by the legendary Walter Hill who, in 1982, brilliantly cast Eddie Murphy opposite Nick Nolte in 48 Hours. Here, his inspired pairing of Stallone and the relative newcomer Sung Kang as unlikely partners proves to be equally entertaining.

Based on Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel of the same name, Bullet to the Head is about two tough guys from opposite sides of the law who grudgingly team up to settle a score with their common adversary. Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) is a hit man operating in New Orleans whose protégé (Jon Seda) has just been gutted in a bar by a goon with a bowie knife (Jason Momoa). Meanwhile. Taylor Kwon (Kang) is a cop from Washington, D.C., who is in town to investigate the murder of his partner (Holt McCallany).

As it turns out, both murders were ordered by Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an ambitious mobster who will stop at nothing in his quest for control of the city’s crime rackets. Because so many corrupt police and politicians are already in cahoots with Morel, double-crossed Detective Kwon almost ends-up dead when he tries to enlist the assistance of the local authorities in solving his partner’s slaying.

That betrayal leads him to reluctantly forge an unholy alliance with Jimmy. Together, they proceed to embark on a bloody rampage, dispensing a brutal brand of vigilante justice to the henchmen who stand between them and the ruthless Morel. In adddition to creating mayhem, however, the two share many moments of levity during disagreements over what weapons and tactics to employ.

Streetwise Jimmy repeatedly relies on his instincts and brute force: shooting first and asking questions never. This approach grates on tech-savvy Kwon, who is dependent on his cell phone and the internet. Kwon also finds time to develop a romantic interest in Jimmy’s estranged daughter (Sarah Shahi), an attractive tattoo artist whose parlor is in a seedy neighborhood.

This action packed movie is all about exacting vengeance and body counts, and it won’t disappoint diehard Stallone fans in that regard.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, nudity, drug use, violence, and bloody images. Running time: 91 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.

January 30, 2013

record revWilhelm followed every movement of the dear little creature, and felt surprised to see how finely her character unfolded itself as she proceeded in the dance …. At this moment he experienced at once all the emotions he had ever felt for Mignon.

—from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship

Franz Schubert (1791-1828), whose birthday is this Thursday, January 31, found musical ideas in some unlikely places, including the old coffeemill he called his “most precious possession,” grinding away while telling a friend, “Melodies and themes just come flying in …. One sometimes searches for days for an idea which the little machine finds in a second.”

Though the anecdote comes from “a not absolutely reliable source,” according to Joseph Wechsberg’s Schubert, it sounds too good, too Schubertian, not to be true, and if he could find music in a coffee grinder, what’s to keep him from finding it in a cat? I’d like to think that at some point in his life Schubert had a feline at his feet as he was composing and that whenever he felt in need of some company he could reach down and stroke it while the creature gazed up at him the way cats do, as if he and the world were one. While I’m at it, let’s make the cat the 19th-century Viennese equivalent of our Nora, a ten-year-old tuxedo female with a white patch on her brow and white paws.

Our brother and sister tuxedos were named for that effervescent couple from the Thin Man movies, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy). Although the Dickensian puddle of lovable catness we call Nick has never been remotely effervescent, his sister Nora has been a screwball comedy, a Disney cartoon, a creature feature, and a silent musical all in one. Most kittens meet the challenge of climbing and descending the stairs in their own sweet way, some more playfully and lovably than others. Nora slid down the bannister. Nor did she simply trip kittenishly up the stairs: she took them in three effortless bounds. She did not romp: she flew. And she danced. The gavottes we witnessed had to be seen to be believed. When confronted by a suspect obstacle or a toy mouse she would jump straight up, halfway to the ceiling.

Nora and Mignoncat

Lately I’ve been listening with special attention to the Mignon songs in Schubert Lieder (Deutsche Grammophone), with soprano Gundula Janowitz and pianist Irwin Gage, while reading selectively (the emphasis on Mignon) in Thomas Carlyle’s translation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795-96). The more I read, the more I recognize qualities in the gentle, loving, otherworldly Mignon that remind me of our antic Nora.

“In her whole system of proceedings,” Goethe says of Mignon, “there was something very singular. She never walked up or down the stairs, but jumped. She would spring along by the railing, and before you were aware would be sitting quietly above upon the landing.” When Wilhelm asks her how old she is, she says, “No one has counted.” When asked who was her father, she says “The Great Devil is dead.” Later on, when Wilhelm is feeling low, “she laid her head upon his knees, and remained quite still. He played with her hair, patted her, and spoke kindly to her” (he also pats her after she performs her flawless blindfolded dance among the eggs). Mignon, like our small but mighty Nora, “was frolicsome beyond all wont.” Responding to a Punch and Judy show, she “grew frantic with gayety: the company, much as they had laughed at her at first, were in fine obliged to curb her. But persuasion was of small avail; for she now sprang up, and … capered round the table. With her hair flying out behind her, with her head thrown back, and her limbs, as it were, cast into the air, she seemed like one of those antique Mænads, whose wild and all but impossible positions … often strike us with amazement.”

Like I said, two of a kind — though, to be honest, our Mignon has mellowed into middle age and is now sweet, sensible (most of the time), and companionable.

Mignon Lives On

When it comes to singing, however, the resemblance between early Nora and Goethe’s Mignon becomes decidedly less credible. A review of a lieder recital at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall in New York in last Friday’s New York Times (“Of Goethe’s Land, Romantic and Full-Throated”) shows that Mignon is alive and well through German soprano Dorothea Röschmann’s performance of Schubert’s setting of “Heiss Mich Nicht Reden/Bid Me Not Speak.” In Wilhelm Meister, Goethe indicates what that song means for Mignon: “Often for the whole day she was mute. At times she answered various questions more freely, yet always strangely: so that you could not determine whether it was caused by shrewd sense, or ignorance of the language; for she spoke in broken German interlaced with French and Italian.”

A Potent Silence

A thoroughly mute and radiantly feline Mignon is 13-year-old Nastassja Kinski in Wrong Move/Falsche Bewegung (1974), the inventively free adaptation of Wilhelm Meister directed by Wim Wenders and written by Peter Handke. Having embarked on his adventures, Wilhelm (Rudiger Volger) is seated on a train bound for Bonn when he becomes aware of a presence, the full force of which is so magnificently impending you can feel him being literally turned in his seat by the penetrating gaze of the creature across the aisle. It’s an appearance in the most enigmatic sense of the word, revealed in a sequence of gradually more intimate camera movements until her face fills the screen, magnified to a mysterious glory by cinematic chemistry and the natural beauty of Kinski in her screen debut. Ten years later she’s the missing mother in Wenders’s Paris, Texas, one of the great films of the 1980s. Given the animal intensity with which she compel’s Wilhelm’s attention on the train, it’s no surprise that the same actress ends up starring in Paul Schrader’s Cat People (1982).

A Notorious Tour

The notes to Schubert Lieder, which was recorded in Berlin in 1976 and 1977, refer to how Gage encouraged Janowitz to “sing as her own nature dictated.” I chose this recording not only because it includes performances of the Mignon songs but because Irwin Gage introduced me to great music when he and I were on the same student tour of Europe long long ago. The tour earned a certain notoriety when the bipolar leader had a nervous breakdown ten days into the itinerary. Among the numerous delusions consuming the man was one right out of Wilhelm Meister; he wanted us to become a traveling company of performers called the Golden Bear (after the Berkeley-based tour company). He even wrote nonsensical songs for us to sing (“Vi are di Europins uf di Golden Bear/Ve have stars und straw dust in are hair”). By the time we got to Oslo, our guide was totally out of control and had to be taken away by the police.

As the tour was shepherded through Europe for the next two months by a relay team of leaders, Irwin accompanied me to a stirring outdoor concert of Respighi’s Pines of Rome in Venice, a performance of Turandot at the Baths of Caracalla, and a Mozart program in Salzburg, presumably part of the same festival where 18 years later he and Janowitz would present a program (“The Fortunes of Women in Schubert’s Lieder”) around the time they made this record.

Mignon’s Songs

The extraordinary rapport between singer and accompanist (they had been playing together since 1970) is worth a column in itself, but in deference to my theme I’ll stick to Mignon’s songs, “Kennst du das land/Know thou the land,” in particular. It always struck me as odd that pieces meant to be sung by a haunted 13-year-old waif should be performed by ample, well-endowed middle aged women. As if anticipating the potential incongruity, Goethe describes Mignon’s singing in Wilhelm Meister in terms suited for adult performers looking for direction: “She began every verse in a stately and solemn manner, as if she wished to draw attention towards something wonderful, as if she had something weighty to communicate. In the third line, her tones became deeper and gloomier; the words, ‘Dost know?’ were uttered with a show of mystery and eager circumspectness; in ‘’Tis there! ’tis there!’ lay an irresistible longing; and her ‘Let us go!’ she modified at each repetition, so that now it appeared to entreat and implore, now to impel and persuade.”

Composed when Schubert was 18, and performed by Janowitz and Gage in just under five brilliant minutes, the song has everything: grandeur, passion, longing, and mystery: it’s wanderlust set to music. No doubt that’s why Thomas Wolfe used the poem as an epigraph for Of Time and the River, and why Wim Wenders, whose production company is called Road Movies, gave us the train scenes and Kinski’s Mignon in his version of Wilhelm Meister. And it’s why I see a tuxedo cat named Nora sliding down the bannister every time the piano breaks free and flies at the “Let us go!” moment of maximum longing.

PRECARIOUS BALANCING: Tobias (John Glover) struggles with a difficult marriage, an angry daughter, unexpected house guests and the existential terrors of existence, in Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” (1966) at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 17. (Photo by Richard Termine)

PRECARIOUS BALANCING: Tobias (John Glover) struggles with a difficult marriage, an angry daughter, unexpected house guests and the existential terrors of existence, in Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” (1966) at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 17. (Photo by Richard Termine)

Towards the end of the first act of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (1966), currently playing in a stunning revival at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre, Tobias (John Glover) late middle-aged, upper- middle-class suburbanite, reminisces about a pet cat he had owned and loved for many years. One day he realized that “she didn’t like me any more. It was that simple …. I resented having a … being judged. Being betrayed.” So he took her to the veterinarian to be put to sleep.

Some forty years later Tobias lives in a precariously balanced marriage with his wife Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant). Agnes’ alcoholic sister Claire (Penny Fuller) has taken up permanent residence, and, before long, best friends Harry (James A. Stephens) and Edna (Roberta Maxwell) move in, followed soon afterwards by Tobias and Agnes’ 36-year-old daughter Julia (Francesca Faridany), returning home from the break-up of her fourth marriage. Tobias’ cat story may be a metaphor for the human relationships in this play, but there is no vet available to provide a simple way out for any of these tortured characters. They must live with the losses inflicted by time and the existential terrors of human life.

A Delicate Balance, the first of three Albee plays — also Seascape (1974) and Three Tall Women (1991) — to win the Pulitzer Prize, resonates with a striking immediacy and timelessness in this brilliant, thoroughly engaging production. Emily Mann, McCarter artistic director and a longtime friend and collaborator of Mr. Albee, has directed here with authority and wisdom, bringing out the full horror and the full tenderness of these thoroughly mundane yet bizarre proceedings. Ms. Mann has assembled an ideal cast, and together they deliver richly deep, complex individual characterizations and an array of relationships that are utterly credible, intriguing, and three-dimensional.

Despite the familiar surfaces in this drama, with an opulent, deceptively conventional upper-class suburban living room setting, beautifully and realistically designed by Daniel Ostling, this is a difficult play for audiences and actors. There are frequent moments of humor, but the themes here are dark, the loquacious dialogue requires close attention, and the play — at least by contemporary standards — is long, about three hours. And nothing happens, or at least not much seems to change from beginning to end for these despairing characters.

A Delicate Balance might be just as mean and deadly as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1961), considered by many to be Albee’s greatest play, but A Delicate Balance is more subdued, more civilized. In the world of Agnes and Tobias, who were to some degree modeled after Mr. Albee’s adoptive parents, the proprieties of upper class WASP society, that “balance” that Agnes has dedicated her life to preserving, are mostly, except for one or two major outbursts, maintained. “There is a balance to be maintained, after all,” Agnes declares, ” though the rest of you teeter, unconcerned, or uncaring…”

All three acts of A Delicate Balance take place in Agnes and Tobias’ living room. Mr. Ostling’s set is rich in detail, from Oriental rugs to high white molding, beautifully upholstered furniture, sconces, chandeliers, archway leading to front hallway, stairs, and dining room on stage left, adjoining room and backstairs on stage right. At first glance you might want to move right in. After watching the events that transpire during the course of the drama, you will change your mind. A well-supplied liquor table sits at center stage, and alcohol — brandy, cognac, anisette, gin, martinis — serves as a frequent topic of conversation and a motif throughout the play. Claire’s alcoholism is a constant issue and alcohol is a means to help all to escape unpleasant truths and memories and to maintain the “delicate balance” in their lives.

The difficult relationship between Agnes and Tobias quickly becomes apparent in the first act. The intrusions on their shaky domestic scene rapidly ensue. First Claire, who may have had an affair with Tobias in the past but in any case poses a constant threat to her sister’s need for order and control, enters the scene from upstairs. Then Harry and Edna suddenly appear at the front door, with no explanation except that “WE WERE FRIGHTENED … AND THERE WAS NOTHING.” They insist on taking refuge with Agnes and Tobias. They act as if they belong there. By the start of the second act, the angry, self-centered Julia, furious that her childhood room is occupied by Harry and Edna, has joined the volatile mix.

The odd presence of Harry and Edna, and the terror they bring with them threaten to upset the status quo, the social equilibrium of the household. The terror is never specified, never explained, but it is completely credible. Is it the existential fear of loss, the terrible compromises of life, the doubts brought on by contemplation of old age and death? A Delicate Balance is certainly about the needs and requirements of friendship, but it is also about the despair of the human condition and, as Mr. Albee is quoted in his biography by Mel Gussow, ”the isolation of people who have turned their backs on fully participating in their own lives and therefore cannot participate fully in anyone else’s life.”

Ms. Chalfant’s Agnes is elegantly controlled, stern, judgmental, and eloquent in her defense of her way of life. Much celebrated star in Angels in America on Broadway and Wit Off-Broadway, Ms. Chalfant’s Agnes sees herself as the fulcrum of the balance in the family, and is determined to “keep this family in shape. I shall maintain it; hold it.”

Mr. Glover (Tony Award winner in Love! Valour! Compassion! along with numerous other Broadway, Off-Broadway and film credits) provides a worthy counterpart and foil to Ms. Chalfant’s Agnes. He is often passive, attempting to be conciliatory with his wife, sister-in-law, daughter, and friends, trying to do the right thing with his intrusive friends, and suffering visibly and sympathetically in “the dark sadness” he inhabits throughout the play.

As Agnes’ alcoholic sister Ms. Fuller injects energy and a needed breath of candor, humor, and fresh air to the household and the events of the play. Ms. Faridany is utterly believable in her characterization of Julia, and even easy to identify with in her anger and resentment at the loss of her childhood and her inability to reclaim her old room.

Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Stephens, as embodiments of the inexplicable fear that pervades the proceedings, are suitably restrained yet dynamic, ominous yet worthy of sympathy, kindness, and pity, from us and from Tobias and Agnes. These character portrayals are other-worldly yet entirely down-to-earth and realistic.

The six-member ensemble, meticulously, seamlessly directed by Ms. Mann, is intensely focused, in character and convincing. The relationships here are endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking, as this extraordinary cast artfully delivers both the dazzlingly eloquent surface and the terrifying depths of Mr. Albee’s play.

Mr. Albee, who was in the audience for last Friday night’s opening, explained, at the time of the last major revival of the play, in 1996, that A Delicate Balance “concerns — as it always has, in spite of early-on critical misunderstanding — the rigidity and ultimate paralysis which afflicts those who settle in too easily, waking up one day to discover that all the choices they have avoided no longer give them any freedom of choice, and that what choices they do have left are beside the point.” That message and the enduring power of this disturbing play and its troubled characters continue to resonate richly seventeen years later in Ms. Mann’s memorable production.

IS IT TOO LATE TO MAKE A GO OF IT?: Reggie (Tom Courtenay, left) and Jean (Maggie Smith) find themselves together again as residents in Beecham House, a retirement home for classical musicians. The pair was briefly married in the past and Reggie has not yet gotten over the breakup. Also, their reconciliation is crucial to the success of the annual fundraising concert for the home because they form half of the famous quartet whose appearance will guarantee the concert’s success, thereby keeping Beecham House solvent.

IS IT TOO LATE TO MAKE A GO OF IT?: Reggie (Tom Courtenay, left) and Jean (Maggie Smith) find themselves together again as residents in Beecham House, a retirement home for classical musicians. The pair was briefly married in the past and Reggie has not yet gotten over the breakup. Also, their reconciliation is crucial to the success of the annual fundraising concert for the home because they form half of the famous quartet whose appearance will guarantee the concert’s success, thereby keeping Beecham House solvent.

Sometimes a gem of a movie falls through the cracks that really has no business getting lost. Such is the case with Quartet, a delightful film directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Maggie Smith.

The film was released in late December by the Weinstein Company, and one would naturally expect it to generate a lot of Academy Award buzz. But it was overlooked entirely, which means moviegoers might now be tempted to pass over the picture in favor of Oscar contenders. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss Quartet just because it lacks the Academy’s stamp of approval.

The story is set at Beecham House, a sprawling estate in England which is a retirement home for accomplished classical musicians. At the point of departure, we are introduced to three of its residents; Wilfred (Billy Connolly), Cecily (Pauline Collins), and Reginald (Tom Courtenay), opera singers who once shared the limelight as members of a famous quartet.

Melancholy Reggie is rather reserved in contrast to the comic relief from slightly senile Cissy and ladies man Wilf, a frisky codger who flirts with anyone in a skirt. In the meantime, Beecham House is busy preparing to put on an annual concert that is staged each year on Verdi’s birthday.

The plot thickens when Jean Horton (Smith), a very demanding retired diva, moves in unannounced. Not only was she responsible for the breakup of the above mentioned quartet, but she was also to blame for the failure of her brief marriage to Reggie.

However, Jean is so narcissistic that she’s initially oblivious to the effect that her arrival is having on Reggie, who apparently never fully recovered from their divorce. Instead, she spends her time complaining about having to adjust to the relatively modest accomodations at Beecham House.

Will the two reconcile, let alone be able to even share the same space? And can the quartet be reunited to perform as headliners at the recital, a fundraiser that is critical to Beecham’s remaining solvent? These are the concerns that will keep you entertained and engaged every step of the way to the glorious resolution.

A charming romantic romp.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for suggestive humor and brief profanity. Running time: 98 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. “Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction” runs through March 9. Works by Al Aronson, Benjamin Colbert, Nancy Cohen, John Franklin, and Alyce Gottesman are included. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, has “World Sampler,” a group exhibit curated by Frances Heinrich, through February 23. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. A reception and artist talk is February 3, 3-5 p.m.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Drumthwacket, 354 Stockton Street, shows photos from Wendel White’s portfolios “Small Towns, Black Lives” through March 5. Call (609) 683-0057 or visit www.drumthwacket.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, has through February 24, “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan.” An artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. From February 9-May 25, “Trenton’s Educational Legacy: The New Lincoln School” is on view. The opening reception is February 9, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.el
larslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view at Cotsen Children’s Library through February 28.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Abstractions: Zen Versions, Iris Dancers and Other Images” by Charles T. Miller and “Cannas in Black and White” by Martha Weintraub through February 3. Visit photogallery14.com.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. For more information visit www.prince
tonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” runs through April 28. Visit www.michener
artmuseum.org.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation. Photographs by Richard Speedy” through April 14. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has “New Hope New Media” through February 10. Artists include Andrew Wilkinson, John Goodyear, Lisa Nanni, Frances Heinrich, Susan Hogan, Elizabeth McCue, Marc Reed, Simone Spicer, and Carol Wisker. Visit www.newhopearts.org.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, displays “Jon Naar: Signature Photography” through May 4. Visit www.nj.gov/state/museum.

The Princeton University Art Museum has“Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” on exhibit through February 17. “Two Views” Atget & Friedlander” is on display through March 10. “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” runs February 16-June 9. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, Rider University, Route 206, Lawrenceville, presents “Geoffrey Dorfman: Eye and Mind” February 7-March 3. The opening reception is February 3, 5-7 p.m. Gallery director Harry Naar leads a talk with the artist February 14, 7 p.m. Visit www.rider.edu/artgallery.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, presents “The Love Show” February 6-March 5. Works by more than 40 artists on the topic of love will be displayed. The opening party is February 8, 8-11 p.m. with music and dancing. $20 donation suggested for the party.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, through February 24. Photographers of all skill levels interested in participating in “Energy and Motion” show have until February 11 to submit entries. Call (609) 716-1931.

January 23, 2013

book revWilhelm, what is the world to our heart without love? What a magic lantern is without light!

—from The Sufferings 

of Young Werther

Bear with me please while I imagine a contemporary publisher of serious stature but limited taste and tact communicating with a 21st century incarnation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) about the denouement of his epistolary novel, The Sufferings of Young Werther (Norton paperback $13.95), newly available in Stanley Corngold’s engaging translation. The problem is that the path to the book’s moment of maximum emotional intensity is impeded by a mind-numbingly lengthy quotation from an epic poem concocted by a wily Scotsman impersonating an ancient bard he calls Ossian.

“With all due respect, Your Excellency,” says my imaginary publisher, “you’ve got us in your pocket, it’s Werther’s last moment with his beloved Lotte, he’s doomed and she knows it, down deep she’s crazy about him but she’s a good woman, a faithful wife (more’s the pity), so what does he do when he finally has her to himself (her uptight husband out of town)? He reads six and a half pages of bardic mumbojumbo by some poor man’s Tolkien who didn’t even exist, with all his Rynos and Dauras and Eraths and Ogdals and Colmas. But (no accounting for taste) she melts, he melts, and they have their moment, finally young Mr. Werther (who has no first name, never mind why) is really making out and she’s in a rapture of repressed passion, it’s happening, — I tell you, it had my heart beating like a drum machine, she’s squeezing his hands, pressing them to her breast, their ‘glowing cheeks’ are touching, ‘The world faded from them,’ he’s covering ‘her trembling, stammering lips with furious kisses.’ The reader’s feeling the book like never before! So why not just a little Ossian up front? Like maybe just the last bit about the drops of heaven, the one that pushes them over the emotional cliff?”

Goethe’s only answer is to shrug, sip some belladonna, and dissolve in a mist. In real life, even after it became known that Ossian was James McPherson’s invention, Goethe tried to justify the passage by making it symptomatic of Werther’s love-driven decline into suicidal madness, to go from “his beloved Homer” to “a death-drunk Gaelic poet,” as Corngold puts it in his introduction. The rub is that J.M. Coetzee spends a third of his massive essay in the New York Review of Books (“Storm Over Young Goethe,” April 26, 2012) expounding on McPherson’s ancient bards and quibbling about Corngold’s use of the original even while concluding that “reproducing a monstrous slab of Ossian in so short a novel is a misstep.”

But then who’s complaining? Not readers in the late 18th century and beyond who were caught up in Werthermania. Long before Byron woke up to find himself famous at roughly the same age (24-25), Goethe was already there, his Werther, in Corngold’s words, “being bought, pirated, read, translated, and imitated throughout Europe.” The luminary of the age, Napoleon himself, is said to have carried a copy in his knapsack and upon meeting Goethe in 1808 claimed to have read it seven times.

Opening the Gate

The only other time I tried to read Werther I found it almost as hard to get into as Melville’s fantastically overwrought but ultimately magnificent Pierre (which a review in 1852 called a New York Werther). Otherwise my acquaintance with Goethe’s kingdom was limited to a reading of Faust in college and Schubert’s settings of the poetry. Corngold’s translation finally opened the gate.

Comparing the new translation with Michael Hulse’s in Penguin Classics (1989), I don’t find Corngold’s that much more “modern,” perhaps because, as Michael Wood has noted, he’s been able to suggest “the modernity of the text without in any way modernizing it.” One conspicuous instance comes in the letter where Werther is describing how he’s drawn to visit his beloved Lotte in spite of himself: Hulse has it thus, “I am too close to her magic realm — snap your fingers! and there I am.” Corngold: “I am too close to her aura — whoosh! and I’m there.” Hulse’s snapping finger seems out of synch with a “magic realm,” more like a spell breaker than Corngold’s aura and whoosh, which feels casually right in a letter to a friend and suggests something closer to the telepathic instantaneity of access to his beloved that Werther fancies.

The Turning Point

In the long August 12 letter to Wilhelm that contains what is arguably the narrative’s pivotal scene, Werther expounds on the virtues of action and passion to Lotte’s eminently rational fiance, Albert, with a command that Napoleon must have appreciated. Impatient with the qualifying phrase (“True, but”) Albert uses following his account of an accident with a loaded gun, Werther admits a fondness for him, “up until his True, but; for isn’t it self-evident that every statement admits of exceptions? But the man is so eager to justify himself! When he thinks he’s said something in haste, a generality, a half-truth, he won’t stop limiting, modifying, and adding on and taking back, until there’s nothing left of the statement.” At this point, when language falls short, Goethe has Werther foreshadow his own fate by abruptly putting one of Albert’s guns to his forehead.

Repelled by the gesture, Albert grabs the unloaded pistol, saying he can’t imagine “that a man can be so foolish as to shoot himself.” Which inspires Werther to make his case for irrational behavior with several analogies, the last of which concerns a girl who “in an hour of ecstasy, gives herself over to the irresistible joys of love” (something Lotte comes dangerously close to doing with Werther in their last encounter). Albert contends that one “swept away by passion loses all his powers of reason and is viewed as a drunkard or a madman,” but Goethe has given all the rhetorical firepower to Werther, who delivers a vivid account of a girl who drowned herself for love, imagining every stage of the fatal affair up to the point where, feeling lost and alone, “cornered by the terrible need of her heart, she plunges down to stifle all her pains in the death that envelops her all around.”

Schubert’s Formula

The August 18 letter, possibly the strongest piece of writing in the book, begins with a question that led me to pencil “Schubert” in the margin: “Does it have to be this way, that whatever it is that makes a man blissfully happy in turn becomes the source of his misery?” This comes close to the emotional formula at the heart of Schubert’s music (of all music and all art, you could say), whether he’s composing lieder from Goethe’s verses or the fourth movement of the great piano sonata in B-flat, the back-and-forth dynamic that pianists are said to translate as “I know not if I’m happy — I know not if I’m sad.”

The passage that follows moves from “the full warm feeling of my heart for living nature” — the adoration of a landscape that nourished and inspired him (“how I felt like a god among the overflowing abundance”) — to a heart “undermined by the destructive force that is concealed in the totality of nature; which has never created a thing that has not destroyed its neighbor or itself,” and then to the harrowing conclusion, “And so I stagger about in fear! heaven and earth and their interweaving forces around me. I see nothing but an eternally devouring, eternally regurgitating monster.” Once again Corngold’s translation improves on Hulse’s “And so I go my fearful way betwixt heaven and earth and all their active forces; and all I can see is a monster, forever devouring, regurgitating, chewing and gorging.”

The Creature Reads It

Searching for signs of Werther’s impact on English literature in the late 18th-early 19th century, I found a line in Jane Austen’s epistolary juvenalia from 1790, Love and Friendship (“We were convinced he had no soul,” having “never read” the Sorrows of Werther), and in Keats from a September 1819 letter, spinning some “nonsense verses”: “A fly is in the milk pot — must he die/Circled by a humane society?/No no there mr Werter takes his spoon/Inverts it — dips the handle and lo, soon/The little struggler sav’d from perils dark/Across the teaboard draws a long wet mark.”

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge is discoursing in 1796 on the “false and bastard sensibility” that denies evils like “the continuance of the slave trade” which “by hideous spectacle or clamorous outcry are present to their senses and disturb their selfish enjoyments,” he imagines a “fine lady” whose nerves “are not shattered by the shrieks” sipping “a beverage sweetened with human blood, even while she is weeping over the refined sorrows of Werther.” Some three decades after that passage from his self-published journal, The Watchman, Coleridge pairs Wordsworth and Goethe as “spectators ab extra, — feeling for, but never with, their characters.”

The Creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein finds a copy of The Sorrows “in a leathern portmanteau,” and thinks Werther “a more divine being that I had ever beheld or imagined.” Says the monster, “Besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed, and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects, that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment …. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understanding it.”

Aimez-vous Goethe?

In J.D. Salinger’s “Hapworth 16, 1924,” five-year-old Seymour Glass confesses in his prodigious letter home from camp that while he was swimming in the lake, “It was suddenly borne in upon me, utterly beyond dispute, that I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but do not love the great Goethe!” Even after reading Corngold’s first-rate Werther and watching Wrong Movement (1974), Wim Wenders’s fascinating, freely adapted film of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship with Nastassja Kinski making an unforgettable screen debut at 14 as Mignon, I’m still not inclined to love the great Goethe. But I did feel some affection for the version of him played by Alexander Fehling in Young Goethe in Love (2011) and I definitely loved Miriam Stein’s Lotte. Both films are available at the Princeton Public Library.

 

A DIFFICULT NIGHT TIME OPERATION: Equipped with an aresenal of deadly weapons and equipment and wearing night vision eyepieces, highly trained Navy SEAL Team Six members have entered Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan where they will ultimately track him down, identify, and kill him.

A DIFFICULT NIGHT TIME OPERATION: Equipped with an aresenal of deadly weapons and equipment and wearing night vision eyepieces, highly trained Navy SEAL Team Six members have entered Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan where they will ultimately track him down, identify, and kill him.

After 9/11, the United States intensified its efforts in the international manhunt for Osama bin Laden (Ricky Sekhon). Nevertheless, the elusive mastermind of the terrorist attack continued to orchestrate mass murders in Bali, Istanbul, London, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere around the world.

Dismayed by the mounting death toll, the authorities rationalized the use of rough interrogation tactics bordering on torture in the hope of expediting the capture, dead or alive, of the elusive al-Qaida leader. He was finally tracked down to a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where he died on May 2, 2011 during a daring helicopter raid conducted by the Navy’s SEAL Team Six.

Directed by Academy Award-winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Zero Dark Thirty (military speak for 12:30 a.m.) is a riveting account of the decade long search for bin Laden. Bigelow has again collaborated with Oscar winning scriptwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), and they apparently had access to classified materials while working on the movie.

The film is presented as a tale of female empowerment involving Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA agent who manages to keep her head even when many around her are losing theirs, literally and figuratively. She also has an uncanny knack for deciphering which clues might be worth following, in sharp contrast to her bumbling colleagues who spend most of their time on wild goose chases.

At the point of departure, we find Maya getting her first fieldwork assignment after she had been studying bin Laden from behind a desk in Washington, D.C. She’s been reassigned to participate in the questioning of al-Qaida members and sympathizers who have been detained at secret sites located outside the U.S. where the Geneva Conventions provisions relating to torture presumably don’t apply.

Soon, Maya’s imvestigating leads from Pakistan, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, alongside her bosses (Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler) who could have cracked the case sooner if they weren’t male chauvinists who didn’t believe Maya’s analyses. It’s a shopworn plot device that pits a frustrated and unappreciated protagonist against a group of stubbornly skeptical naysayers.

Whether a convenient cinematic contrivance, or an accurate portrayal of what transpired, Zero Dark Thirty’s version of history is a very convincing piece of patriotic storytelling. Credit goes to Jessica Chastain for imbuing her character, Maya, with a compelling combination of vulnerability, sagacity, and steely resolve in a memorable, Oscar quality performance.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, disturbing images, and graphic violence. Running time: 157 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

Art for Healing Gallery, University Medical Center of Princeton, Route 1, Plainsboro, is showing watercolors by Joel Popadics through January.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, through April. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. “Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction” runs through March 9. Works by Al Aronson, Benjamin Colbert, Nancy Cohen, John Franklin, and Alyce Gottesman are included. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artsbridge at Prallsville Mill, Route 29, Stockton, presents the 19th Annual Members’ Show February 9-24. Visit www.artsbridge
online.com.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, has “World Sampler,” a group exhibit curated by Frances Heinrich, through February 23. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Scenes from Cuba” by Maurice Harmon through February 15. A reception is January 26, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Visit www.thebankofprince
ton.com.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. A reception and artist talk is February 3, 3-5 p.m.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, presents “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon” through March 7.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, has through February 24, “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan.” An artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. From February 9-May 25, “Trenton’s Educational Legacy: The New Lincoln School” is on display. The opening reception is February 9, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view at Cotsen Children’s Library through February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has “Images: Reflections of Adventure” February 4-28, featuring artists Connie and Ken McIndoe. The reception is February 6, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Abstractions: Zen Versions, Iris Dancers and Other Images” by Charles T. Miller and “Cannas in Black and White” by Martha Weintraub through February 3. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, shows “Art to Curl Up With” through January 26. Visit www.cran
bury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. For more information visit www.prince
tonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” runs through April 28. Visit www.michener
artmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed January 26-July 14.

Lawrenceville School Gruss Center for Visual Arts, Route 206, Lawrenceville, prsents Priscilla Snow Algava’s “Life Dance: A Retrospective” February 7-28. The opening is February 7, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Mariboe Gallery at the Swig Arts Center of The Peddie School, Hightstown, presents “Score,” an exhibit by Shanti Grumbine, through February 8. Visit www.ped
die.org/mariboegallery.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, has “Mapping Mercer,” an exhibit of historic and contemporary maps tracing the history of Mercer County, through February 14. The opening reception is January 23, 5-7:30 p.m. A lecture January 31, “Planning and Engineering Today,” is at noon. On February 13, also at noon, Maxine Lurie and Michael Siegel discuss their book Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape. Visit www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation. Photographs by Richard Speedy” January 25-April 14. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has “New Hope New Media” through February 10. Artists include Andrew Wilkinson, John Goodyear, Lisa Nanni, Frances Heinrich, Susan Hogan, Elizabeth McCue, Marc Reed, Simone Spicer, and Carol Wisker. Visit www.newhopearts.org.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, shows oils by Vimala Arunachalam, inspired by architecture, through January 30. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Princeton Day School Anne Reid ‘72 Art Gallery has “Celia Reisman: Hidden Spaces” through January 31. Visit www.pds.org.

Princeton High School Numina Gallery, 151 Moore Street, shows “PHS Odyssey Projects Show” through January 25, during school hours or by appointment. Visit numina.prince
tonk12.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum has“Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” on exhibit through February 17. “Two Views” Atget & Friedlander” is on display through March 10. “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” runs February 16-June 9. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, presents “The Love Show” February 6-March 5. Works by more than 40 artists on the topic of love will be displayed. The opening party is February 8, 8-11 p.m. with music and dancing. $20 donation suggested for the party.

Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street branch, has a show, “The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop,” February 6-March 5. Visit jaymcphillips@earthlink.net.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, through February 24. Photographers of all skill levels interested in participating in “Energy and Motion” show have until February 11 to submit entries. Call (609) 716-1931.

January 16, 2013
COUR, 7 RUE DE VALENCE: On display in “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander” through March 10, Eugène Atget’s photograph, printed by Berenice Abbott, is from “Eugène Atget Portfolio 1922,” printed 1956. Gift of David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920.(Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum)

COUR, 7 RUE DE VALENCE: On display in “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander” through March 10, Eugène Atget’s photograph, printed by Berenice Abbott, is from “Eugène Atget Portfolio 1922,” printed 1956. Gift of David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920. (Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum)

The mind-finger presses the release on the silly machine and it stops time and holds what its jaws can encompass and what the light will stain.

—Lee Friedlander (1934—)

These are simply documents I make.

—Eugène Atget (1857-1927)

No one knows who coined the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It might have been an American newspaper editor in 1911 or it may go all the way back to Confucius. If you visit the Princeton University Art Museum’s new photography exhibit, “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander,” you’re almost sure to hear it or think it, but there’s a mystery guest in Atget’s Paris and Friedlander’s America who renders the old adage meaningless, turns it on its head, blows it to the moon. Depending on which translation of the four thousand-plus pages of Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu, also translated as In Search of Lost Time) you’re referring to, Marcel Proust’s multi-volume work contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200,000 words, any number or combination of which are worth a thousand pictures. You need more than mathematics to comprehend the magnitude of Proust (1871-1922). Walter Benjamin describes a “Nile of language” that “overflows and fructifies the regions of truth.” Virginia Woolf admits that her “great adventure is really Proust …. What remains to be written after that? One has to put down the book and gasp.”

A single sentence by Proust contains a quantity of phenomena even the most accomplished photographic artists would be hard put to keep up with, not to mention the translators E.M. Forster imagines confronting one such sentence, which “begins quite simply,” then “undulates and expands, parentheses intervene like quick-set hedges, the flowers of comparison bloom, and three fields off, like a wounded partridge, crouches the principal verb, making one wonder as one picks it up, poor little thing, whether after all it was worth such a tramp, so many guns, and such expensive dogs.”

Looking for Partridges 

Besides the edition of In Search of Lost Time (2000) illustrated by Atget’s photography, there’s A Vision of Paris,in which Proust’s words accompany Atget’s images. Although the pairing makes decorative sense, Atget would have assembled his Paris no less memorably and selectively had Proust never existed. On the other hand, in introducing Lee Friedlander, Photographs (1978), Friedlander feels close enough to Proust’s way of reimagining reality to quote in full a sentence from the master every bit as far afield as the one Forster’s word picture of hedges and flowers is describing. Here it is in all its Proustian glory (see if you can find the “partridges”):

Apart from the most recent applications of the art of photography — which set crouching at the foot of a cathedral all the houses which, time and again, when we stood near them, have appeared to us to reach almost to the height of the towers, drill and deploy like a regiment, in file, in open order, in mass, the same famous and familiar structures, bring into actual contact the two columns on the Piazzetta which a moment ago were so far apart, thrust away the adjoining dome of the Salute, and in a pale and toneless background manage to include a whole immense horizon within the span of a bridge, in the embrasure of a window, among the leaves of a tree that stands in the foreground and is portrayed in a more vigorous tone, give successively as setting to the same church the arched walls of all the others — I can think of nothing that can so effectively as a kiss evoke from what we believe to be a thing with one definite aspect, the hundred other things which it may equally well be since each is related to a view of it no less legitimate.

The foremost partridges that Proust’s “hunting party” of prose has been deployed to shoot down are the verb “bring”andthe “kiss” that occasioned the whole fabulous outing in the first place. This is a kiss the narrator, Marcel, has been longing for, dreaming of, since childhood. When he finally plants his lips on Albertine’s cheek, the world turns over, the city of Florence is vigorously realigned, rebuilt, repainted, above all seen — much as an inventive American photographer chooses to see a world unencumbered by rules of time and space and logic.

Stroll through Friedlander’s half of the “Two Views” exhibit and there’s no doubt how closely the photographer’s vision coheres with and reflects Proust’s approach to time, place, and memory. It’s almost as if the theatre of Friedlander’s imagery were shaped according to the stage directions provided in that exhilaratingly interminable prelude to a kiss, spaces contracted, disparate elements brought together, structures displaced and thrust into new formations, along with the urban horizons, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, compressed within the spans of bridges, in the “embrasure” of windows and mirrors, or “among the leaves of a tree.”

Stunt Man

The centrality of cars to Friedlander’s art would seem to set his work apart from both Atget and Proust. It’s not the car as subject that attracts him so much as the car as force, catalyst, enclosure, and high-octane photographic accessory. In Friedlander’s Hillcrest, New York (1970) you sit in the driver’s seat watching automobiles moving in opposite directions, at clumsy angles, against multiple backgrounds, where a distant human figure is walking downhill while still more distant human figures occupy a bench, as if in another dimension, everything expressing degrees of impediment and displacement, the template of a degraded reality that Friedlander is attacking like a stunt man driving through a plate glass window.

I wonder if Friedlander knew about Proust and fast cars. According to William C. Carter’s biography, Marcel Proust: A Life (Yale 2000), the novelist enjoyed speeding around Normandy in a red taxi with a professional driver (“It’s like being shot out of a cannon”). Too bad Friedlander couldn’t be there to photograph “the distant spires” Proust saw “appear and disappear against the horizon in constantly shifting perspectives” as he “marveled at the phenomenon of parallax and relativity so keenly felt in an automobile.”

Concerning Atget, it’s worth noting that the brightest image in his predominantly sepia portion of the “Two Views” exhibit (Cours, 7 rue de Valance) is centered on a resplendent Renault touring car. In The World of Atget: Modern Times (Museum of Modern Art 1985), a note by editor John Szarkowski says that because Atget preferred to see Paris on his own terms (“I can safely say that I possess all of old Paris”), he “withheld recognition of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe” and was equally reluctant to focus on automobiles — at least until he discovered that particular Renault, in Szarkowski’s words, “as handsome and strange as a heathen conqueror, in the homely, decaying courtyard.”

More important than the car, however, is the courtyard. Friedlander would appreciate the natural convergence of forms and angles (no need to do any fancy photographic shape shifting), and the same could be said of Proust, who would conjure wonders of literary art from this “homely” courtyard’s wealth of surfaces, the texture of the sloping roof of the garage and the masonry, the yawning dormer windows of the structure opposite with its stairway sheltered by yet another sloping roof. There are at least six or seven suggestively weathered canvases on which paintings could be imagined by the writer who turned a “patch of pale yellow” on a wall into “something rich and strange” in Remembrance of Things Past.

The End of Life

The month before Atget’s view of the “decaying courtyard” dated June 1922, Proust ventured outdoors for what may have been the last time (he died in November), his goal the Jeu de Paume, where one of his favorite paintings, Vermeer’s View of Delft, was on display. Even before he reached the street, he was feeling faint and needed help from a friend, who escorted him to the museum and the Vermeer and later said that he was shaken by the outing. Proust’s shaky last viewing of the Vermeer inspired one of the most celebrated and haunting sequences in his work: the death of the writer, Bergotte, who is also feeling unwell as he gazes into the View of Delft at the “little patch of yellow wall” that was “like some priceless specimen of Chinese art, of a beauty that was sufficient in itself.” His dizziness increasing, he fixes “his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall.” He finds himself thinking, “That’s how I ought to have written,” that he ought to have made his language “precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall.” Repeating it to himself, “Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall,” he sinks down on to a circular settee, thinking it’s “nothing, merely a touch of indigestion” when a “fresh attack” strikes him, he rolls from the settee to the floor, and dies.

The long paragraph pondering spiritualism and other worlds that follows the moment of Bergotte’s death is, according to Carter’s biography, as close as Proust ever comes to “declaring some sort of belief in the afterlife.” The writing is also noticeably less difficult than the prose Forster playfully improvised on and Friedlander used for a preface. The paragraph ends with a rather flat summary, for Proust, “So that the idea that Bergotte was not dead for ever is by no means improbable.” Proust improves on the same idea after describing Bergotte’s funeral: “They buried him, but all through that night of mourning, in the lighted shop-windows, his books, arranged three by three, kept vigil like angels with outspread wings and seemed, for him who was no more, the symbol of his resurrection.”

Proust will experience a resurrection of sorts in 2013. It was 100 years ago, November 14, 1913, that Swann’s Way, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past was published in Paris. The Morgan Museum and Library’s upcoming commemorative exhibit, “Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way,” begins on February 15.

Curated by Peter C. Bunnell, photography curator emeritus at the Princeton University Art Museum and former curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “Two Views” will run through March 10.

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE DOMINION: Dylan Thomas’s defiance of death notwithstanding, Federico Castellon portrays an entirely different sentiment in this 1968, 12 x 8¼ inch lithograph titled “And The Red Death Held Illimitable Dominion Over All.” The image, which comes from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, is one of a series on show together with works by Francisco Goya in a new exhibition opening on Wednesday, January 23, in the gallery at The College of New Jersey.(Image Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.)

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE DOMINION: Dylan Thomas’s defiance of death notwithstanding, Federico Castellon portrays an entirely different sentiment in this 1968, 12 x 8¼ inch lithograph titled “And The Red Death Held Illimitable Dominion Over All.” The image, which comes from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, is one of a series on show together with works by Francisco Goya in a new exhibition opening on Wednesday, January 23, in the gallery at The College of New Jersey.
(Image Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.)

In an exhibition appropriately titled “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon,” the art gallery at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) features prints by two artists who have much in common even though they are separated by about a century and a half.

Both Francisco Goya (1746–1828) and Federico Castellon (1914–1971) were born in Spain. Their work on display here focuses on the human condition and at times gives the impression that the two were contemporaries.

Famed as a romantic painter and printmaker, Goya is regarded as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns whose work influenced the likes of Picasso and Francis Bacon. He was a court painter famed for flattering portraits, but his work took a darker turn later in life after a serious illness left him deaf. A bleak outlook and fear of insanity can be seen in such works as the nightmarish Saturn Devouring His Son, which Goya painted directly onto the wall of his home.

Castellon is a mid-twentieth century Surrealist who moved with his family from Spain to Brooklyn, New York, when he was just seven years old. Largely self-taught, he became a friend of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera when his mother took him to a lecture given by Rivera during his installation of the murals at Rockefeller Center. Rivera helped Castellon achieve his first solo exhibition when he was just 19 years old. Castellon went on to win several prestigious awards, including two Guggenheim fellowships, and to a career in teaching at Columbia University and elsewhere. He also created illustrations for Life magazine and for numerous books.

The TCNJ exhibition, which opens on Wednesday, January 23, and continues through March 7, was organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan. It’s an exhibition in which artistry and literature collide.

Each artist is represented by a series of prints: Goya’s etchings from Los Disparates (The Proverbs) and Castellon’s lithographs for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. “Many artists have been drawn to things dark and fantastic, but few have probed the human condition with the insight and truthfulness found in these images,” comments exhibition curator, Greg Waskowsky of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Los Disparates was the last of Goya’s major series of etchings, and it was unfinished at the time of his death.

The prints in the Los Disparates series contain some of the most horrifying, fantastic, and enigmatic creations of his imagination: strange bird-men soaring through dense darkness, a wild horse abducting a woman, and hosts of witches and grotesque imaginings in dark shadows.

The images that Castellon created for The Masque of the Red Death are considered among his most remarkable accomplishments, technically and artistically. His work on Poe’s classic horror tale was a commission from Aquarius Press of Baltimore in 1969. His imagery maintains the spirit of Poe’s story.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Professor Amze Emmons will discuss the history of prints as a means of communication, as well as contemporary print making practices in a special lecture titled “Print Culture, Past and Present,” on Friday, February 15, at 11:30 a.m. in Mayo Concert Hall in the Music Building. A relative newcomer to TCNJ, having been appointed just last year in the department of art and art history, Mr. Emmons is an artist, illustrator, and curator. He has an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa where he focused on printmaking, digital media, and photography.

The art gallery at TCNJ Art Gallery is located in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road in Ewing. It is open to the public free of charge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit tcnj.edu/artgallery or call (609) 771 2633.

Each year at this time, the Princeton University department of music presents a concert showcasing a performance aspect of the department. This year the class Music 214, Projects in Vocal Performance, offered its members the opportunity to put a semester’s work onstage, and rise to the challenge of the performance practices they had been studying. Nine members of the class, accompanied by seven classmates (with one singer also playing violin) presented nine works from the late 17th and early 18th century in a concert of “Baroque Solo Cantatas.” Many of these students regularly perform with other University ensembles, but taking a complex Baroque piece of music from study to formal performance was a totally new experience.

The two faculty instructors for the class, vocalist Martha Elliott and harpsichordist Wendy Young, left repertoire choices up to the students, who combined themselves into appropriate instrumental and vocal combinations. Keyboard players who were unfamiliar with Baroque performance techniques learned the art of playing from a figured bass on the harpsichord, an instrumental which may have been totally new to them. The resulting concert Saturday night at Richardson Auditorium was a smoothly-flowing performance of opera excerpts and cantatas displaying impressive vocal talents and abilities for University-level singers.

Ms. Elliott and Ms. Young constructed the concert with the first half featuring mostly the sopranos and bass/baritones. Soprano Sophia Mockler performed one of the earlier pieces on the program, with two arias and a recitative from an opera by Alessandro Scarlatti. Accompanied by flute and harpsichord, Ms. Mockler was well poised, singing with a clean sound, light vibrato, and a voice which filled the hall well. Flutist Alison Beskin, principal flutist of the University orchestra, demonstrated especially elegant phrasing. Given that the flute is a principal obbligato instrument of the 18th century, Ms. Beskin was busy on Saturday night, accompanying several singers and always playing with refinement and accuracy.

Bass/baritone Edward Wang and tenor James Walsh chose cantata excerpts of J.S. Bach, among the trickiest to perform for both singers and instrumentalists. Mr. Wang sang with graceful low notes and well-handled runs, with great potential for a big sound down the road. Graduate student Stephen Raskauskas showed notable fluidity on the harpsichord, obviously very comfortable with the instrument. Mr. Walsh comes from an extensive choral background, which was evident in his polished rendition of a Bach aria. The only tenor on the program, Mr. Walsh demonstrated that he has clearly been around the professional choral arena, even at his age.

The music of Jean-Philippe Rameau is part of the bridge to the Baroque era, and is often difficult to perform because of its rapid shifts in harmony and texture. Soprano Heather O’Donovan sang with just the right amount of vibrato and phrase endings which tapered in the upper register. Flutist Ms. Beskin and violinist Brianna Leary played the difficult transitions with precision, especially with simultaneous trills which recurred throughout the short recitatives and airs. Ms. Leary effectively led the way through the next piece as baritone Dale Shepherd sang a selection of Telemann with a smooth baritone sound and an easy flow to the recitative passages. Music of Handel was represented by baritone Robert Kastner, who handled well the technical difficulty and runs of Handel’s vocal cantata as Derek Wu played some of the most challenging harpsichord passages of the evening.

The second half of the concert showed that there is no shortage of mezzo voices on the University campus, with music that was likely performed for the unique castrato voice. Mezzo-sopranos Marie-Gabrielle Arco and Tessa Romano showed that they are both experienced singers, with Ms. Arco alternating the emotional recitative style of Giovanni Battista Ferrandini with the sensitivity of Ferrandini’s cavatinas. Ms. Romano sang with a rich lower register and smooth shifts among the registers as two violins, cello, and harpsichord provided lilting accompaniment. Counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, a star of last year’s concerto competition, proved that this past year only strengthened the brilliance of his upper register and his own confidence in the unique instrument that he has. The Clerambault aria performed by Mr. Cohen was clearly a soprano aria, reaching high into the upper register of the voice. Mr. Cohen had no trouble with the highest notes, and clearly enjoyed himself as he spun off melodic lines.

The Princeton University Music 214 class clearly worked hard on the performance practice techniques and repertoire presented in the curriculum. However, this was much more than a class — as the young performers on Saturday night proved, this class could easily rival vocal education in any top music conservatory.

Art for Healing Gallery, University Medical Center of Princeton, Route 1, Plainsboro, is showing watercolors by Joel Popadics through January.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, through April. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. “Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction” runs through March 9. Works by Al Aronson, Benjamin Colbert, Nancy Cohen, John Franklin, and Alyce Gottesman are included. Visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Artsbridge at Prallsville Mill, Route 29, Stockton, presents potter Gloria Kosco as part of the Distinguished Artist Series on January 17 at 7 p.m. The 19th Annual Members’ Show is February 9-24. Visit www.artsbridge
online.com.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley in Trenton, has “World Sampler,” a group exhibit curated by Frances Heinrich, through February 23. An artist presentation and reception is January 19, 5-6 p.m. Visit artworkstrenton.org.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. A reception and artist talk is February 3, 3-5 p.m.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing, presents “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon” January 23-March 7.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, has “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan” is on view through February 24. The reception is January 19, 7-9 p.m., and an artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view at Cotsen Children’s Library through February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has “Images: Reflections of Adventure” February 4-28, featuring artists Connie and Ken McIndoe. The reception is February 6, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Abstractions: Zen Versions, Iris Dancers and Other Images” by Charles T. Miller and “Cannas in Black and White” by Martha Weintraub through February 3. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, shows “Art to Curl Up With” through January 26. Visit www.cran
bury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. For more information visit www.prince
tonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” is January 19-April 28. Visit www.michenerart
museum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed January 26-July 14.

Lawrenceville School Gruss Center for Visual Arts, Route 206, Lawrenceville, presents Priscilla Snow Algava’s “Life Dance: A Retrospective” February 7-28. The opening is February 7, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.lawrenceville.org.

Mariboe Gallery at the Swig Arts Center of The Peddie School, Hightstown, presents “Score,” an exhibit by Shanti Grumbine, through February 8. Visit www.ped
die.org/mariboegallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation. Photographs by Richard Speedy” January 25-April 14. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. on. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has “New Hope New Media” through February 10. Artists include Andrew Wilkinson, John Goodyear, Lisa Nanni, Frances Heinrich, Susan Hogan, Elizabeth McCue, Marc Reed, Simone Spicer, and Carol Wisker. Visit www.newhopearts.org.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, shows oils by Vimala Arunachalam, inspired by architecture, through January 30. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Princeton High School Numina Gallery, 151 Moore Street, shows “PHS Odyssey Projects Show” through January 25, during school hours or by appointment. Visit numina.prince
tonk12.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum has“Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view through January 20. “Two Views” Atget & Friedlander” is on display through March 10. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, presents “The Love Show” February 6-March 5. Works by more than 40 artists on the topic of love will be displayed. The opening party is February 8, 8-11 p.m. with music and dancing. $20 donation suggested for the party.

Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street branch, has a show, “The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop,” February 6-March 5. Visit jaymcphillips@earth
link.net.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, through February 24. Photographers of all skill levels interested in participating in “Energy and Motion” show have until February 11 to submit entries. Call (609) 716-1931.

ROMEO AND JULIET IN THE MOB WORLD OF THE 1940S: Sergeant Jerry Worters (Ryan Gosling, right) finds himself falling in love with a moll (Emma Stone) from Mickey Cohen’s mob, the mob that Worters has been assigned to break up. What to do, what to do. To find out how it turns out, see the movie.

ROMEO AND JULIET IN THE MOB WORLD OF THE 1940S: Sergeant Jerry Worters (Ryan Gosling, right) finds himself falling in love with a moll (Emma Stone) from Mickey Cohen’s mob, the mob that Worters has been assigned to break up. What to do, what to do. To find out how it turns out, see the movie.

Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) was born and raised in Brooklyn where he started out as a prizefighter before moving to Chicago during Prohibition to become an enforcer for Al Capone. In the 40s, he was sent by Meyer Lansky to Los Angeles to establish extortion, gambling, prostitution, and loan shark operations on behalf of the Jewish Mafia.

Mickey gradually began to make inroads, which didn’t sit well with Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) who was determined to prevent any crime syndicate from gaining a foothold in his city. But that would prove to be easier said than done since the mobster had already succeeded in bribing and/or intimidating many cops, judges, and powerful politicians.

In light of the frightening degree of corruption, Parker decided that the only way to bring down Mickey was to behave just as ruthlessly as he did. So, Parker asked one of his most fearless officers, Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), to form a top secret team whose mission would be to enforce the law by breaking it.

The so-called gangster squad’s mission was simply to enter each of Cohen’s establishments anonymously and break kneecaps and generally trash the place. Of course, if any of O’Mara’s operatives were killed or captured, the police commissioner would have to disavow any knowledge of their actions.

Gangster Squad is a stylized costume drama with far more charm than one would ordinarily expect to find in a ganster movie. Directed by Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland), the film is based on the Paul Lieberman bestseller of the same name.

The production has an A-list cast which includes Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Mireille Enos. Therefore, there are no throwaway roles here, and even lesser characters are developed because the veteran cast members put their experience into their performances.

As a result, the audience cares not only about whether or not Mickey will ever be brought to justice, but about surprisingly engaging subplots such as a lawman (Gosling) going gaga over the gangster moll Grace Faraday (Stone), and about a pregnant wife’s (Enos) fear that her husband Sergeant John O’Mara (Brolin) will not live long enough to see his baby being born. Nevertheless, the front story does feature all the staples of the genre, such as flashy zoot suits, tommy guns, and street-smart dialogue that mixes slang and savoir faire in a manner reminiscent of Damon Runyon.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and graphic violence. Running time: 113 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.

January 9, 2013

Nixon

I’ve never been one of those charisma nuts …. I think one of the curses of the modern television age is that it puts far too much attention on appearance rather than substance, on froth rather than what the beer is really like.

—Richard Nixon (1913-1994) in a 1983 interview

The 37th president’s remarks on the downside of charisma are taken from the remarkably revealing series of interviews his former aide Frank Gannon conducted with him in June 1983, a little less than a decade after the August of Nixon’s discontent. When Gannon was first ushered into the Oval office at the time of Watergate (“the iceberg had ripped a hole in the ship,” as Gannon puts it, “and the compartments were flooding”), Nixon was “in his easy chair with his feet up, eating soda crackers and spilling crumbs all down his chest.”

While much has been written and reported about the Kennedy charisma, Nixon’s notable lack of it is among the qualities that make his life worthy of a great novel. A Scott Fitzgerald might do justice to Kennedy. It would take a blend of Dickens and Dostoevsky to capture the stranger-than-fiction essence of Richard Nixon.

Consider the moment when the 39-year-old Republican vice-presidential nominee audaciously commanded the media on his behalf with the “Checkers Speech” in September 23, 1952. Introducing the full text in Richard Nixon: Speeches, Writings, Documents (Princeton University Press 2008), Rick Perlstein calls it “a remarkably courageous act,” Eisenhower’s handlers having put Nixon “on live television broadcast in order for him to deliver his resignation speech. Instead, he displayed before the world his most admirable quality: a refusal to back down before intimidation.” Charisma had nothing to do with what was arguably the turning point of Nixon’s political life. Even as he craftily exploits the gift of a cocker spaniel and his wife Pat’s cloth coat to save his place on the Republican ticket with Eisenhower, Nixon’s looking almost as nervous, shifty, and unsuited to the occasion as he would in the sweat of his first debate with Kennedy in 1960. While the “nation’s opinion elite,” as Perlstein reports, “considered the broadcast an embarrassing farce,” the Republican party “was inundated with more than two million telegrams demanding that he be kept on the ticket.”

Nixonian Traits

Amping up the rhetorical excitement for his narrative of the 1972 political conventions in St.George and the Godfather (Signet 1972), Norman Mailer claims that it took genius for Nixon, “a politician who was fundamentally unpopular even in his own party” to “nonetheless win the largest free election in the world, and give every promise of doing considerably better the second time” According to Mailer, Nixon is not only a genius but an artist of a sort it was “almost impossible to conceive … a literary artist who has a wholly pedestrian style. It was possible that no politician in the history of America employed so dependably mediocre a language in his speeches as Nixon, nor had a public mind ever chased so resolutely after the wholly uninteresting expression of every idea. But then few literary artists proved masters of the mediocre.”

While Perlstein offers ample evidence of Nixon’s mastery of the mediocre in Speeches, Writings, Documents, he begins with a reference to the opening passages of RN, the bulky 1978 memoir that Frank Gannon helped put together and that displays “several Nixonian traits,” including “first and most neglected, that Nixon was an outstanding storyteller”; second, “the surprising quality of self-revelation”; and finally, “the deep psychological imprint that the modesty of his upbringing made on him, combined with the cosmopolitan yearning of the devoted National Geographic reader who even then longs for worlds to conquer.” The passage that Perlstein’s comment prefaces reads like a trope out of Thomas Wolfe; after referring to the “railroad line that ran about a mile from our house,” Nixon writes, “In the daytime I could see the smoke from the steam engines. Sometimes at night I was awakened by the whistle of a train, and then I dreamed of far-off places I wanted to visit someday.”

One of the more unlikely literary references to turn up in the Gannon interviews concerns the Whittier College summer when Nixon claims to have read “virtually everything that Tolstoy has written …. I became, frankly, a Tolstoyan, which was very easy to do because nobody can read Tolstoy without being deeply moved.” When Gannon has the good sense to ask the obvious (“What is a Tolstoyan?”), Nixon gamely replies that in his case it “meant a belief in the individual and his importance, a belief in freedom, but particularly a passion for peace.”

A Dog’s Life

Of all the charisma-challenged cartoon characters ever created, Charles Schultz’s Charlie Brown is one Nixon might well have identified with in his why-does-everything-happen-to-me moments. Even as a child, Nixon seems to have had a predilection for disaster, for example the schoolboy effort Perlstein includes in Speeches, Writings, Documents. Writing at the age of ten in response to a school assignment to compose a letter in the voice of a pet, he produces a piece of work Franz Kafka might have admired. Addressed “My Dear Master” (he means his mother) and signed, “Your good dog, Richard,” the composition, a veritable treasure trove for predestination-minded pathographers, begins by complaining that “the two dogs you left with me are very bad to me” and the dog named Jim “will never talk or play with me.” When Richard the dog and Jim the dog go hunting with two boys, one of them “trip[p]ed and fell on me. I lost my temper and bit him …. While we were walking I saw a black round thing in a tree. I hit it with my paw. A swarm of black thing[s] came out of it. I felt a pain all over. I started to run as both of my eyes were swelled shut I fell into a pond. When I got home I was very sore. I wish you would come home right now.”

As I said, for a novel about Nixon, you’d need a mix of Dickens and Dostoevsky (forget Tolstoy), plus a touch of Kafka and a pinch of Charlie Brown.

Bunking With JFK

It may be that much of what Nixon has to say about Kennedy in the Gannon interviews is part of the post-resignation attempt to repair his reputation, which included publishing seven books to present himself, in Perlstein’s words, “as a foreign policy sage, the man who could take the long view, the guru of peace.” His centenary comes at a time of vicious political endgamesmanship, the worst of it fueled and fired by the Far Right with a blind fury that makes the Nixon era look like a bipartisan holiday. Numerous passages in the Gannon interviews stress the collegiality of his days in the House and Senate, whether playing poker with Tip O’Neill or working closely with Kennedy when they were first-term congressmen serving on the Education and Labor Committee. He tells Gannon that the original Kennedy-Nixon debate actually took place 13 years before the presidential one, at a Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Penn-McKee Hotel in McKeesport, Pa., where the subject was the recently passed Taft-Hartley bill. On the overnight train back to Washington, the two men shared a compartment and drew straws for who had to take the upper berth. “Didn’t make a lot of difference,” Nixon tells Gannon, “because we didn’t sleep all the way back. We talked, and mainly about what we agreed on. You always do that when you’re in Congress, and with people that are personal friends though political opponents.” In another passage from the Gannon interviews, Nixon returns to that overnight train ride: “We talked about our experiences in the past, but particularly about the world and where we were going and that sort of thing. I recall that was the occasion too, we talked about what we had done in the Pacific [when they were in the Navy] or where we had been. I asked him if he’d ever been in Vella Lavella [in the Solomon Islands]. He said, ‘Absolutely.’ He’d been in there many times. And I said, it’s very possible we met there, because I went aboard a PT boat and met all the officers … and we laughed about the fact that we might have met.”

Nixon in Princeton

In the spring of 1947, around the time he was debating Kennedy in McKeesport and making a name for himself going after Alger Hiss, Richard Milhous Nixon stopped in Princeton to speak at a meeting of the Republican Club. His growing fame was not yet widespread enough to prevent posters on campus from incorrectly announcing him as “Richard W. Nixon.” According to an email from the person who invited him, novelist, translator, and Princeton professor emeritus Edmund Keeley, then a Princeton sophomore, “He proved to be a good-looking (if slightly heavy-jawed) and reasonably intelligent young speaker, who offered rather casual thoughts on how spending might be cut back here and there in the national budget, except for the military portion, how taxes might be reduced for those paying too high a portion of their just riches, and how the kind of foreign policy the country was heading towards under Truman deserved serious review. At the end of his talk he took a few non-controversial questions, shook hands all around, and left with his aide for New York on an apparently tight schedule. As it turned out, he was scheduled to meet Whittaker Chambers later that evening.”

In his role as president of the Princeton Republican Club, Keeley was given a smiling picture of Nixon dedicated to the Club. “I wrote him a thank-you letter soon after his appearance on campus, and that was the last time I had any communication with him or, soon after with any Republican politician, because my education in Republicanism was so devastatingly negative under the selection of speakers I had invited to campus that I resigned from the club during the following year and joined the Liberal Union.”

The Nixon Foundation is hosting a centennial gala in Washington D.C. today, January 9, at 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel. Both daughters, Julie and Tricia, will be there, along with Henry Kissinger, who will chair the dinner. The quotes from and about Frank Gannon are from the online archive of People (April 2, 1984). The Gannon interviews can be found at www.libs.uga.edu/media/collections/nixon/nixonday1.html.

Damon

TRUST ME, YOU’LL MAKE A FORTUNE: Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is earnestly cajoling a farm owner into signing over the drilling rights to his farmland, so that the company that Butler is representing can proceed to extract natural gas from the oil shale deposit underneath the farmer’s property. Butler is hoping that the lure of easy money will blind the farmer to the potential long term damage to the local community’s ecology caused by the fracking process.

In 2011, a disturbing documentary called Gasland was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. That eye opening exposé chronicled how energy companies had duped landowners in Pennsylvania and Colorado into signing over the drilling rights on their property and, at the same time, downplaying the ecological risks.

Hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, the process employed to extract natural gas from underground oil shale deposits, has contaminated many communities environments, and made a number of homes virtually uninhabitable. In that documentary, victims demonstrated with a match how their tap water had become flammable and how their pets had turned sickly and started shedding fur in patches.

Presumably inspired by Gasland, the biblically titled Promised Land is a cautionary tale that tackles the same theme. This modern morality play reunites director Gus Van Sant with Matt Damon for their fourth collaboration which began back in 1997 with Good Will Hunting. The pair also worked together on Finding Forrester in 2000 and on Gerry a couple of years later.

In this film, Damon stars as Steve Butler, a farm boy who has become an itinerant corporate pitchman employed by a gas conglomerate to fast-talk country folks into turning over their drilling rights to the company. He and his partner (Frances McDormand) have been assigned to go to McKinley, a cash-strapped rural community whose local environment will almost certainly to be polluted if its residents are tricked into signing on the dotted line.

Steve has a down-home way of insinuating himself with the locals which even turns the head of a pretty schoolmarm (Rosemarie DeWitt). Fortunately, a couple of gadflies emerge when a skeptical science teacher (Hal Holbrook) and an outside agitator (John Krasinski) urge everybody not to be blinded by dollar signs, but to do a little research into the potential environmental consequences of fracking.

Very Good (***). Rated R for profanity. Running time: 106 minutes. Distributor: Focus Features.

January 2, 2013

dvd revMany might ask why re-release Raga now [2010]? The answer is simple: it was a very special period of my life.

—Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

The 1960s without Ravi Shankar, who died on December 11 at 92, seems as unimaginable as the 1960s without the Beatles. The headline over the New York Times obituary credits him with introducing Indian music to the West, but what he brought was beyond music; he radiated the style and ambiance and spiritual charm of his homeland. A generation’s passion for India, the fabrics, the gestures, trinkets, artifacts, posters, incense, the very colors of the country, found its brightest, warmest reflection in his presence and his devotion to his art. If it could be said that any one person was India during that period, it was Ravi Shankar, not the Maharishi or any of the other media-savvy sages.

For people in the so-called art house movie audience who had not been to India, the next best thing to being there was to see Satyajit Ray’s great Apu trilogy, where music composed and played by Shankar helped generate the emotional force of Ray’s art, particularly in the opening moments of Pather Panchali; the explosive impact of the father’s death in Aparajito; and the madness of the bridegroom in The World of Apu. For me, after returning to the States from a year in India however, the music that came closest to reviving the intensity of being up to my neck or over my head in the color and the chaos was not the sound of Shankar, but the soaring, swirling voices of Bollywood’s Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi. The chance of hearing Shankar’s music in the streets of Calcutta was about as good as hearing Mozart’s in the streets of Philadelphia.

In Person

I saw Ravi Shankar three times in India, twice in performance in Allahabad and New Delhi and once at a table by the window in the Kwality Restaurant in Allahabad. To sit down to order dinner after smiling and nodding hello to Ravi Shankar and his party was like casually nodding hello to Mozart. No surprise, really: he was in town for the great Hindu fair taking place at Sangam, where the Jumna meets the Ganges, and for the concert we would be enjoying the next evening. Among those at the table with him was a disagreeable looking man, typical of the well-fed, patronizing types who would accost us with questions (“And from where are you coming? And what is your religion?”); the most annoying such encounter had taken place earlier the same day, when I’d been cross-examined by a formidably pompous individual who suspected I was a spy because I was taking photos at the railway station (“And why is it please, sir, that you are taking these pictures?”). His excuse was that India and Pakistan were at war. My excuse was being a tourist with a fondness for Indian trains and stations.

Next evening the man I’d noticed having dinner with Ravi Shankar was sitting on the stage next to him looking distractingly like my fat, pompous accuser. There was a scowl on his face, his chin was in the air, and when he wasn’t looking superior, he seemed to be giving me dirty looks, as if he knew what I was thinking, which by then was something like what’s one of those officious creeps doing playing tabla with Ravi Shankar? Needless to say, my knowledge of Indian classical music at this time, about half a year before Shankar met George Harrison, was limited. As the raga commenced, the tabla player was still looking sour and cranky before slowly becoming earnest and intent and downright cocky as he began delivering elaborate rhythmic fills for the sitar’s introductory runs. Then, as the two men got into an incredibly involved and precise passion of counterpoint (so closely woven that “counter” had nothing to do with it), they glanced at each other on either side of the invisible temple of music they were building, and when their eyes met, the tabla player’s face lit up with a smile so broad, so sweet, so full of joy that it instantly shamed my misconception of him. From that point on he was beaming and so was the master. The shock of the transformation from fussy Philistine to happy genius was not unlike what happened, one way or another, at least once a day in India. You almost lose your life in a third-class crush on Indian Railways and a minute later your head is swimming in mindless joy.

The tabla player was Alla Rakha (1919-2000), whom Shankar describes in his 1999 autobiography, Raga Mala, as “a great virtuoso, with wonderful tonal quality and a romantic and humorous quality to his playing” who, “as a person,” has “such a good nature, almost like a child.” Grateful Dead drum master Mickey Hart was more extreme, calling Rakha “the Einstein, the Picasso … the highest form of rhythmic development on this planet.”

You can get some idea of the Rakha-Shankar chemistry by seeing Raga, or by viewing their scenes in Monterey Pop and Woodstock on YouTube.

All Aboard

In the opening image of the DVD of Raga, you’re in an Indian Railways carriage sitting next to Ravi Shankar as he stares out the window, his chin propped on his hand. There are no bars on the window to keep out monkeys, beggars, and madmen, so it’s most likely not one of the third-class coaches of my memory but a first-class car on a special train. This being one of those DVD menu sequences that keeps replaying itself until you hit Play Movie, I let it run over and over again to sustain the illusion that I was actually on that gently rocking train with the man, side by side in the moment. The fact that the haunting song accompanying the first appearance of the menu is never repeated is typical of India, where you occasionally lose moments you know are too good to be true before you have time to begin to fathom them. After the appearance and disappearance of the song, we keep moving, the hypnotic sound of the wheels in a fine subtle balance with the tranquil thoughtfulness of the man gazing out the window, perhaps listening to music of the train underscoring the story of his life as an artist, where the acceptance of the impossible is an aesthetic in itself, a sacred fact of life, as Shankar says or suggests more than once in the film, “always that sadness in a raga, that wanting to reach something that I know I never can and each note is like crying out, searching.”

Thoughtful and Worried

In this “very special period” of Ravi Shankar’s life (he would have been in his late forties) you see him reunited for the first time in many years with his musical guru, Ustad Allaudin Khan, the “tyrant” to whom he movingly admits he owes his life; praying with his spiritual teacher; receiving an honorary degree from the University of California; rehearsing with Yehudi Menhuin; teaching George Harrison and others in California, the blue Pacific in the background; and in his glory performing with Alla Rakha. What makes the film special is Shankar’s narration. His voice is tender, expressive, thoughtful, and worried, for he had much to be concerned about in the days when he was being lionized in the West: “the patterns of life changing everywhere …. The very soul of our music seems to be slipping away, so little concern, so much indifference, the young people drifting away from their roots.” The voiceover throughout is close to the lilt of a song, like a spoken version of the music that comes once and once only with the DVD’s menu. The man who died a few weeks ago is speaking to you, intimately, openly, vulnerably, telling you, and this was 40 years ago, “At times I feel as if I don’t belong today. My roots are so deep in the past; sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own country.”

Even so, as the camera moves along the riverfront in Benares, where he was born, he’s saying, “I feel all the richness of India in our music, the spiritual hopes of our people, the struggle for life …. In the holy city of Benares sound is everywhere; as a child I would spend hours filling myself with the vibrations of this place.”

In the sequence on the train, when he’s on his way to pay his respects to the teacher he loves and fears, he’s telling us how he devoted himself to the raga (working for seven punishing years “until it became alive”), which followed, he admits, the period when he was a young man in Paris (“I dressed like a dandy and chased girls all the time”). He also speaks openly about a lifelong “weakness for women” in Raga Mala, which is edited and introduced by George Harrison. At the beginning of the film there he is, one of the handsomest men on the planet, strolling through a crowd somewhere in the U.S. surrounded by fans, two beautiful girls, one Indian, one American, holding on to either arm. In view at the recent memorial service were two other beautiful women: Anoushka, his daughter, a virtuoso sitarist, and his American daughter, the acclaimed singer, Norah Jones. His final performance was a concert with Anoushka, on November 4 in Long Beach, California.

Art for Healing Gallery, University Medical Center of Princeton, Route 1, Plainsboro, is showing watercolors by Joel Popadics through January.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, through April. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. Visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing art by The Arc of Mercer and James Fanciano through January 15. A reception is January 11, 5-7 p.m.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. A reception and artist talk is February 3, 3-5 p.m.

Bray Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, shows recent paintings by Joseph Bottari and Malcolm Bray, and photography by Andrew Wilkinson through January 6. Call (609) 397-1858 for information.

Considine Gallery at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, EMERGING FORMS art exhibition: Mixed Media Works by Joy Barth and Eva Ries. Sunday, JANUARY 6, 2013 : 1-3 pm Opening reception / snow date: January 12, 4-6 pm. On exhibit January 6-March 31, 2013 M-F, 8am-6pm. 1200 Stuart Rd, Princeton NJ, 609 921 2330 x262. www.stuartschool.org

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection” through January 13. On view through January 6 is “Over the River: The Artists of Yardley,” a juried exhibition. From January 12-February 24, “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan” is on view. The reception is January 19, 7-9 p.m., and an artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view through February 28.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has Dan Fanaldi’s oils, “People in My Life,” through January 13. February 4-28, “Images: Reflections of Adventure” features artists Connie and Ken McIndoe. The reception is February 6, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, shows “Art to Curl Up With” January 6-26, and the reception is January 6, 1-3 p.m. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, is showing “Einstein at Home” and “From Princeton to the White House,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson, through January 13. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” is January 19-April 28. Visit www.michenerart
museum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed January 26-July 14.

Mariboe Gallery at the Swig Arts Center of The Peddie School, Hightstown, presents “Score,” an exhibit by Shanti Grumbine, through February 8. The opening reception is January 11, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.peddie.org/mariboegallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, shows oils by Vimala Arunachalam, inspired by architecture, January 5-30. The reception is January 13, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Princeton Day School’s Anne Reid Gallery shows “Celia Reisman: Hidden Spaces” January 13-31. The opening reception is January 15, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Visit www.pds.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum hasworks by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Laila Shawa on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view through January 20. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Straube Center, 108 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, presents an exhibit of Ebu-Arts work through January 12. Australian artist Guy Whitby is among the artists. Visit www.ebu-arts.org.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, January 13-February 24. The opening reception is January 13 at 4 p.m. Call (609) 716-1933.

“WANTED — DEAD OR ALIVE”: Bounty hunters Dr. Schulz (Christoph Waltz, right) and freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) are tracking down criminals who have eluded the justice system in the wild west of yesteryear. Along the way, Django takes advantage of his position to even the score with the people who tortured him when he was a slave.

“WANTED — DEAD OR ALIVE”: Bounty hunters Dr. Schulz (Christoph Waltz, right) and freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) are tracking down criminals who have eluded the justice system in the wild west of yesteryear. Along the way, Django takes advantage of his position to even the score with the people who tortured him when he was a slave.

There’s a good reason why nobody ever wanted to be an Indian whenever we played Cowboys and Indians as kids. That’s because the white man was invariably the hero of the Westerns which we’d seen, while the red man had always been presented as a wild savage dismissed by the dehumanizing declaration that, “The only good Injun is a dead Injun.”

True, a few films, such as Apaches (1973), The Sons of Great Bear (1966) and Chingachgook: The Great Snake (1967), portrayed Native Americans as the good guys and the European settlers as the bad guys. But those productions were few and far between.

Hollywood has also promoted a set of stereotypes when it comes to the depiction of black-white race relations during slavery, with classics like The Birth of the Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) setting the tone. Consequently, most movies have by-and-large suggested that docile African Americans were well treated by kindly masters, as long as they remained submissive and knew their place.

However, Quentin Tarantino has put a fresh spin on the genre, similar to what he did in the World War II movie Inglourious Basterds (2009). In Django Unchained, the writer/director rattles the cinematic cage in an irreverent adventure that turns conventional thinking on its head.

Set in the South in 1858, the picture is visually reminiscent of the Spaghetti Westerns popularized in the 60s by Italian director Sergio Leone, replete with big sky panoramas and cartoonish villains who are the embodiment of evil. But, in this movie instead of fighting cattle rustlers, it’s racists who are being slowly tortured or executed.

The movie stars Jamie Foxx in the title role as a slave who was liberated by a German dentist who became a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Dr. Schultz altruistically takes Django on as an apprentice, and teaches him how to ride a horse and handle a gun.

As a bounty hunter who tracks down outlaws who are “Wanted Dead-or-Alive,” the freed slave has many opportunities to exact revenge upon the people who were responsible for torturing him in his former life. The ones who gave him the scars on his back, or the “R” for “Runaway” branded on his cheek, or separated him from his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The action gets pretty gruesome, as is par for the course for any Tarantino movie.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, nudity, ethnic slurs, and graphic violence. Running time: 165 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company

December 26, 2012

You read me Shakespeare on the 

rolling Thames, 

That old river poet that never, ever ends

– Kate Bush

“The new year belongs to England” is how I began the column (Jan. 11, 2012) marking the Charles Dickens (1812-1870) bicentenary, my first subject being PJ Harvey’s brilliant album, Let England Shake. Harvey’s song “England” was wrenchingly emotional, the message “Undaunted, never-failing love for you, England, is all, to which I cling.” If you have close ties to the U.K., that song should remind you that you love the place in spite of the politics and politicians, the surveillance cameras, the crazed drivers, and the unthinkably bad weather (even for England) they’ve been enduring lately. A quite different song, Kate Bush’s “Lionheart” from her 1978 album of the same name, is guaranteed to put you back in touch with the England of the White Cliffs of Dover, that “old river poet” the Thames, “London Bridge in rain,” air-raid shelters “blooming clover,” and at this time of year, of course, A Christmas Carol.

And since Dickens’s 200th year is coming to an end, it feels right to travel back to the time when he began laying claim to the hearts of his countrymen, on his way to capturing hearts around the world. He was all but unknown when his first full-length work of fiction, The Pickwick Papers, began appearing in monthly installments in 1836. Sales were sluggish until the noble-souled if unworldly Mr. Pickwick met his Cockney servant and saviour Sam Weller in the fourth installment, at which point monthly sales rose from 400 to 40,000. The moment Dickens conceived Sam was as significant for his work and for the world as the moment Chaplin created his Tramp. Sam’s charm is on another level, however, even though almost everything he says is funny or wise or both. Sam’s a true hero, tough, charming, infinitely resourceful, and, like the best characters in Balzac and Shakespeare, he’s been touched with the glow of the author’s genius, so that the humble task of tending to the boots of an Inn’s various guests (as he’s doing when he makes his first appearance) becomes in his hands an admirable endeavor.

Once Sam arrived, Pickwick “was read upstairs and downstairs,” according to Wolf Mankowitz’s Dickens in London, “by judges on the bench and the cleaners after them,” by boys and girls who talked Sam’s talk and by critics who spoke of Dickens as another Cervantes. “Poor people shared a shilling copy and read it aloud in groups …. No hat or coat, cigar or cane, plagiaristic paper or play could be sold but with a Pickwick tag.” There were novelties flogged in Sam’s name, and Sam Weller joke books, and the publishers were selling the back numbers in the thousands.

At the age of 24, Dickens had the 19th Century equivalent of rock star fame and fortune. And he had the looks, “with long brown hair falling in silky masses over his temples” and “eyes full of power and strong will.”

“The limelight never left him,” Mankowitz writes. “The Pickwick mania was unparalled.”

True enough, but there are definite parallels to another mania of once-in-a-century dimensions that swept England and the world 130 years later in the form of four guys from Liverpool who were roughly the same age as Pickwick’s Dickens. While Sam was neither singer nor songwriter, his lively, virile, down-to-earth wit had something in it akin to that flashed by John Lennon and the other Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night. No less than Sam’s, their sassy upbeat attitude attracted all levels of society, rich and poor, upstairs and downstairs. That Sam was a rock star a century ahead of his time is clear to see in the 1985 BBC version of Pickwick (the DVD is available at the Princeton Public Library) where he’s slyly, appealingly played by Phil Daniels, who did the Cockney rap on one of the great rock singles of the 1990s, Blur’s “Park Life” (“I get up when I want except on Wednesdays when I get rudely awakened by the dustmen …. I put my trousers on, have a cuppa tea and I think about leaving the house …. I feed the pigeons, I sometimes feed the sparrows too, it gives me a sense of enormous well being”), not to mention his iconic Jimmy the Mod, the main character in the film version of the Who’s Quadrophenia.

The Joys of Jingle

My reaction to the BBC Pickwick followed a pattern similar to what happened in England when the first serial installments were released in booklet form in the spring of 1836. The first episode almost lost me (it did lose my wife), with its clubby 18th-century atmosphere. Who among this group of antic, quaintly convivial twits called Pickwickians could possibly be worth sticking around for? The reason I kept watching was a fast-talking charlatan whose rushed, manic, non-stop speechifying creates an effective cover for his scheming. Bearing the fine Dickensian name, Alfred Jingle (and played to a T by Patrick Malahide), he stole the show the first time I read The Pickwick Papers. It was as if Dickens had set his fancy loose in its purest state, unfettered, exposed in the quick of creation, raw wit gushing forth, as here, in one of Jingle’s first (to use Dickens’s own word for it) “stenographic” effusions, rattled off while riding atop a coach:

“‘Heads, heads — take care of your heads!’ cried the loquacious stranger, as they came out under the low archway, which in those days formed the entrance to the coach-yard. ‘Terrible place — dangerous work — other day — five children — mother — tall lady, eating sandwiches — forgot the arch — crash — knock — children look round — mother’s head off — sandwich in her hand — no mouth to put it in — head of a family off — shocking, shocking!’”

With Jingle’s stream of consciousness riffing, Pickwick seems to look miraculously ahead to the madcaps of the Goon Show, John Lennon’s wordplay, and Monty Python. Here in the free-flowing speech of a single character, Dickens is tapping the vein of comic eloquence that six years later will enliven the language of fabulous creations like Mr. Pecksniff and Mrs. Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit. The jaunty elliptical nature of Jingle’s word jazz also harks back to Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.

The Soul of Christmas

In fact, Dickens was working on Martin Chuzzlewit when he took time off to write the work Thackeray called “a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it a personal kindness.” If Dickens laid claim to England’s heart with Sam and Pickwick, he sealed the deal with the tale of Scrooge’s ghost-driven voyage from misery and morbidity to joy and glory. A Christmas Carol was written in six weeks, just in time for the Christmas of 1843. By Christmas Eve the first edition of 6000 had sold out. In his study of Dickens, George Gissing call it “a book no one can bear to criticize.”

John Forster, Dickens’s friend and first biographer, describes the author’s infatuation with A Christmas Carol: “how he wept over it, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself to an extraordinary degree, and how he walked thinking of it fifteen and twenty miles about the black streets of London, many and many a night after all sober folks had gone to bed.”

Looking Back

After Let England Shake, with its fixation on war and soldiers (“So our young men hid/with guns, in the dirt/and in the dark places”), my next column moved on to Cary Grant and the bombing of Bristol, then Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Wordsworth, Keats and Constable on Hampstead Heath, April with Robert Browning and late lamented singer songwriter Clifford T. Ward (“Home Thoughts from Abroad”), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two columns on the Beatles and three on Dickens, including one about his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), left unfinished (yet subtly finished) at the time of his death.

So, there’s finally nothing left to say in England’s year but Hail Britannia, God Save the Queen and the Kinks and beautiful Kate Middleton, and to quote Ray Davies, the true poet laureate of the British Isles, “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity.”


Art for Healing Gallery, University Medical Center of Princeton, Route 1, Plainsboro, is showing watercolors by Joel Popadics through January.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents “Energy in Mind: Picturing Consciousness,” works by Jennifer Cadoff, Debra Weier and Andrew Werth, through April. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo on view through March 30 on the Michael Graves Terrace. Visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, is showing art by The Arc of Mercer and James Fanciano through January 15. A reception is January 11, 5-7 p.m.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has works by political artist Marcia Annenberg through February 14. A reception and artist talk is February 3, 3-5 p.m.

Bray Gallery, 202 North Union Street, Lambertville, shows recent paintings by Joseph Bottari and Malcolm Bray, and photography by Andrew Wilkinson through January 6. Call (609) 397-1858 for information.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Urban Landscapes” on view through February 15. Works by Louis Russomanno, Susan Marie Brundage, Jean Childs Buzgo, Wills Kinsley, Leon Rainbow, Thom Lynch, and others are included, along with art by the A-Team Artists from Trenton. Also on view is a photo documentary on dance by Edward Greenblatt. Call (609) 924-4646 before visiting.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, is showing “James Rhodes, Trenton Stoneware Potter, 1773-1784” and “Contemporary Art from the TMS Collection” through January 13. On view through January 6 is “Over the River: The Artists of Yardley,” a juried exhibition. From January 12-February 24, “In My View: Stephen Smith, Florence Moonan, William Hogan” is on view. The reception is January 19, 7-9 p.m., and an artists’ talk is February 10, 2 p.m. Call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has in its Milberg Gallery “Woodrow Wilson’s Journey to the White House,” through December 28. “First X, Then Y, Now Z: Thematic Maps” runs through February 10 in the main exhibition gallery. “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” shows in the Mudd Manuscript Library Cotsen Children’s Library through July 31. “Into the Woods: A Bicentennial Celebration of the Brothers Grimm” is on view through February 28.

Gallery and Academy of Robert Beck, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, presents paintings by Alex Cohen through December 28. “Small Captivations” is the title. Call (215) 603-6573.

Gallery at Chapin, 4101 Princeton Pike, has Dan Fanaldi’s oils, “People in My Life,” January 3-13. February 4-28, “Images: Reflections of Adventure” features artists Connie and Ken McIndoe. The reception is February 6, 5-7 p.m. Call (609) 924-7206.

Gourgaud Gallery, Cranbury Town Hall, 23-A Main Street, Cranbury, hosts “Cranbury Art in the Park X” through December 30. From January 6-26, “Art to Curl Up With” is the exhibit, and the reception is January 6, 1-3 p.m. Visit www.cranbury.org.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, presents Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” installed in the new East Gallery through February 15. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, is showing “Einstein at Home” and “From Princeton to the White House,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson, through January 13. On December 28 at 11 a.m., “Happy Birthday Woodrow Wilson!” family program includes stories and activities. December 29 at 11 a.m., the family celebration is “USS Constitution,” focused on the story of “Old Ironsides.” For more information visit www.prince
tonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self,” through December 30. “Suspended Harmonies: Fiber Art by Ted Hallman” is exhibited through March 3. “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” is January 19-April 28. Visit www.michenerart
museum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23, 2013. Through January 6, “Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists” will be on view, from the collection of drawing collectors Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. “In the Company of Women: Prints by Mary Cassatt” runs through March 3. “Le Mur’ at the Cabaret des Quat’z Arts is on view through February 24. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed January 26-July 14.

Mariboe Gallery at the Swig Arts Center of The Peddie School, Hightstown, presents “Score,” an exhibit by Shanti Grumbine, January 1-February 8. The opening reception is January 11, 6:30-8 p.m. Visit www.ped
die.org/mariboegallery.

Mercer County Community College Gallery, West Windsor campus, CM Building, presents a show of mostly recent paintings by faculty member Mel Leipzig through December 27. Visit gallery@mccc.edu or www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, presents “Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898” through January 13. Museum hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Group tours of 10 or more can be arranged any day by advance reservation. Visit www.morven.org.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, has “Size Matters: Small Works from the Fine Art Collection” through December 30. Visit www.newjerseystatemuseum.org.

Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro, presents the clay monoprints of Priscilla Snow Algava through January 2. From January 5-30, oils by Vimala Arunachalam, inspired by architecture, will be on display. The reception is January 13, 2-4 p.m. Call (609) 275-2897 for more information.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, is showing photography by Mary Cross (“Egyptland”) and painter Ifat Shatzky through December 31 as part of “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society” series taking place in nine area venues. (609) 924-9529 or www.prince
tonlibrary.org.

The Princeton University Art Museum has works by Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Laila Shawa on view through January 13 as part of “The Fertile Crescent” project. “Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom” is on exhibit through February 17. “City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus” is on view through January 20. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Robert Beck Gallery, 204 North Union Street, Lambertville, hosts the 32nd Annual Juried Art Exhibit, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” by the Lambertville Historical Society, February 10-March 28. A reception is February 10, 3-6 p.m. Artists are invited to submit one original painting in all media; subject must be of Lambertville and environs. Call (609) 397-0951 for details.

Straube Center, 108 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, presents an exhibit of Ebu-Arts work through January 12. Australian artist Guy Whitby is among the artists. Visit www.ebu-arts.org.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, presents “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” with work by 18 artists from the local area, January 13-February 24. The opening reception is January 13 at 4 p.m. Call (609) 716-1933.

LOVE IN BLOOM: Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper, right) discovers that with the right woman, in this case Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and the right circumstances, the pair can find true love and happiness together.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) completely lost his temper one day when he came home early from work to find his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) naked in the shower with one of her colleagues (Ted Barba). In fact, he proceeded to beat up her lover so badly that the only way he avoided a prison sentence was by agreeing to enter a mental hospital.

That was eight months ago and now that he’s being discharged he’s eager to reconcile and reunite with Nikki. However, she’s so afraid of his temper that she sold their house and got a restraining order issued against him.

She has good reason to be concerned, since Pat has been diagnosed as bipolar, and having depression and anger management issues. Consequently, with no wife, no job, and no home to return to, the state releases Pat to the custody of his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver).

While suffering under the delusion that Nikki will come back to him soon, he is introduced to a recently widowed neighbor (Jennifer Lawrence). As luck would have it, Tiffany is afflicted with a set of neuroses that are somehow compatible with Pat’s problems.

She confides in him that she’s been very promiscuous as of late, and that she was fired for sleeping with just about everybody in her office. A platonic friendship is gradually forged between the two, with Pat chivalrously protecting Jennifer instead of exploiting her weaknesses. For her part, Tiffany agrees to secretly deliver forbidden letters to his estranged wife so long as he promises to be her dance partner in an upcoming ballroom competition.

Adapted from the Matthew Quick novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook is a tenderhearted tale about two terribly wounded souls who survive by leaning on each other for support. Written and directed by Academy Award nominee David O. Russell (The Fighter), this charming film has earned four well deserved Golden Globe nominations for best picture, screenplay, lead actor, and lead actress.

The protagonists Bradley Cooper and Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) exhibit an impressive acting range in emotionally demanding roles. The stellar supporting cast is at its best when providing comic relief, especially Anupam Kher as Pat’s eccentric psychiatrist, Chris Tucker as his pal, and Robert De Niro as his obsessive-compulsive father.

Director Russell deserves credit for keeping the audience captivated and in suspense with the help of a clever script and a crew of colorful characters. The movie is a romantic story about two unstable misfits who take forever to realize that they’ve found one another.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, sexuality, and nudity. Running time: 122 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company