Klemperer’s Flute

The tinkling business and romantic ninnies all well and good, but the paydirt for me, without doubt, the teased-out erotic history of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night and the strange evocation of Masonic brotherhood as the highest form of Enlightenment. [Read more]

Kierkegaard

The question arises, if we lay to rest the distortions and untruths of the Christian past, indeed of the whole Abrahamic inheritance, as unworthy of free and intelligent people, what bulwark will we have against the worst, who are full of passionate intensity? [Read more]

Butterfly

The dancers’ body paint ran under the hot lights and, afterwards, in the lobby, listening to working-class Italians from Bensonhurst, I first divined that a passion for an art form entails close critical attention and cold discriminations. These stern, brick-laying, bocce-playing critics thought Radames was not on form that night.— [Read more]

The Wolf of Wall Street

Rule out guessing Scorsese’s motives in making The Wolf of Wall Street. Rule out fantasizing some other movie different from the one in front of us. Rule out mere energy or gusto or talent or stylishness or what have you as in any way relevant. Rule out the idea that we are being taught anything about Wall Street or invidious consumption or debauchery we did not already know. What do we make of it then? What is the most economical interpretation of what we see? [Read more]

Barbara

The second ready-made, so to speak, on which Barbara hangs, is the dynamic of life in the old German Democratic Republic, now well-trodden ground in films. The action of the film takes place entirely in a provincial backwater on the Baltic coast, a shithole of casual brutality and meanness within which, in spite of everything, something like a normal life surfaces in unexpected ways. [Read more]

Parsifal

The trouble with this is not that Wagner is made nicer than he really was, or that his intention is given a teleological spin, it is rather that we are likely to miss what he actually says about the present age. The burden of Parsifal—which Wagner called ein Bühnenweihfestspiel, A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage—is that the path to maturity and wisdom for the exceptional individual, the Chosen One, the Redeemer, and, through him, to the redemption of the world of men and nature, must begin and end with religious consecration and utter spiritual isolation. [Read more]