‘The Notebook’: Brothers Grim, No Gosling

As a reviewer, it is my responsibility to judge a film on its own merits, even if I’m disinclined to its genre. I admit it, though: When faced with the prospect of yet another film about the Holocaust, it’s hard to suppress a groan. It’s not that I’m immune to the unspeakable horrors of that chapter in human history; if anything, as the descendant of Polish Jews, I’m especially sensitive to them. But sitting through films on the topic has become miserable, especially because, well, there are just so many of them. Fair or not, at this point I expect a Holocaust movie to shed new insight in order to legitimize its existence.

The good news is that “The Notebook,” adapted from Agota Kristof’s 1986 bestseller Le Grand Cahier, does. It also, it should be noted, is about as far we’re ever going to get from the 2004 Ryan Gosling-Rachel McAdams weepie that shares its name. Set in 1944 Hungary, this “Notebook” frames the evil revealed by the region’s Nazi Occupation as the most treacherous of fairy tales: one that realizes our childhood fear that there really are no trustworthy grownups. (more…)

‘The Two Faces of January’ Are Skin-Deep

As much as it’s possible to write good-looking novels, Patricia Highsmith wrote good-looking novels. Cast against opulent European and American backdrops, many of them featured sly-eyed predators prowling the finest relics of Western Civilization: the finest autos, meals, wines, garments, jewels, music, and paintings – not to mention the finest fatted calves of old money. It’s not that Highsmith favored style over substance; it’s that the substance of her books was style itself, as well as how much larceny was committed in its good name.

Highsmith’s most famous sly-eyed predator, Ripley, hatched such elegant schemes that it was impossible not to root for him, though he had no loyalties of his own.… Read More

A Wolf in Lady Critic’s Clothing

Although I am just blind enough to prevent me from legally operating a moving vehicle without corrective lenses, I almost never wear glasses. The reason is simple: I find it relaxing to glide through NYC unfettered by too much visual stimuli. (The better to see you with a third eye, my pretties.) So if you think I’m looking at you funny, chances are good I can’t see you at all. Only once in a blue moon do I actually think you’re shit on my shoe.… Read More