The House


Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight NightsTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights wears its literary precursor proudly. Scheherazade and her endless string of stories are both the fabric of this tale and its yarn. Salman Rushdie doesn't so much echo A Thousand and One Night as he bellows its narrative influence in a sprawling novel that emerges as an ode to storytelling.

"To tell a story about the past is to tell a story about the present. To recount a fantasy, a story of the imaginary, is also a way of recounting a tale about the actual." That the past and the present, the imaginary and the actual, blend seamlessly throughout Two Years will come as no surprise to longtime Rushdie fans. This is, after all, an author who's effortlessly fused religious iconography, ancient mythology, national histories, and contemporary fiction.

The novel opens, for example, with a long meditation on those most fabled of beings, the jinn: "Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures of smokeless fire." What follows is the story about those "creatures of smokeless fire" and their vexed relationship with us mere humans. Immersing us immediately into this world of myth and calling into question the scant information that has fed this very mythology, Rushdie places us in familiar territory (we all know about genies, especially from that most famous of Arabian Nights tales), but not before waving away any knowledge we may think we have. A mere couple of pages later, he sketches out the novel before us:

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TAGS: random house, salman rushdie, two years eight months and twenty-eight nights


Hannibal

"The Number of the Beast Is 666" finds Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) turning desperate as Francis (Richard Armitage) remains at large, with their only pipeline to the killer embodied by an increasingly contemptuous, puckish Hannibal (Mad Mikkelsen). Said desperation is predominantly embodied by three conversations, duets as always, that serve to heavily foreshadow whatever awaits us next week in Hannibal's season, perhaps series, finale, "The Wrath of the Lamb," a title that derives from a phrase in Revelation 6:16: "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb." Hannibal evokes this phrase this week, in the first duet, likening Will to the lamb, or to a spurned savior, taking in stride Jack's comparison of his truly to "The devil himself, bound in a pit." Hannibal retorts that, in these analogies, Jack would be God, then, sending his savior to battle Satan and the Great Red Dragon, a suggestion that Jack takes with something like a fusion of fury and good humor.

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TAGS: bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, gillian anderson, guillermo navarro, hannibal, hugh dancy, lara jean chorostecki, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, manhunter, Raul Esparza, recap, red dragon, richard armitage, Rutina Wesley, the number of the beast is 666, thomas harris


Summer of '90: The Witches

The WitchesChildren's movies are traditionally designed to comfort. There's an unspoken contract between parent and filmmaker: "For the next 90 minutes, your child will be entertained, but not threatened. No need to worry about your little darlings waking up at three in the morning, bawling in terror. This movie is guaranteed not to trouble anyone's mind. Most people are inherently good. The bad guys don't win."

Children's movies, for the most part, have abided by this contract, but for a brief period during the 1980s those rules went out the window. Children's cinema was in transition¬. The old standbys, musicals and animation, were out, and sci-fi and fantasy were in. Disney and Jim Henson, in particular, were looking to forge new identities, away from their trademark brands. The result was Something Wicked This Way Comes, Watcher in the Woods, The Black Cauldron, Return to Oz, and The Dark Crystal. These films were guaranteed to give children nightmares, populated as they were by creepy carnivals, screeching lizard-like Skeksis, and rooms full of shrieking severed heads. Nicolas Roeg's The Witches, released just as Disney's renaissance restored the old rules, was the last and darkest of this bunch—the best and perhaps the only horror movie made for children.

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TAGS: anjelica huston, jasen fisher, jim henson, Mai Zetterling, nicolas roeg, roald dahl, summer of 90, the witches, the world is ever changing, watch me


Recollection

It is what it is. Though such remarks can be damningly diplomatic, they come in handy at Locarno Film Festival—where, away from the main competition at least, one often encounters a brand of auteuristic cinema so unpretentiously personal that even the slightest criticism appears overly harsh. Such is the case with Recollection, the latest film by Kamal Aljafari, which received its world premiere in the festival's "Signs of Life" sidebar. This 70-minute German production sees the director returning to his familiar themes of occupation, displacement, and belonging with a dialogue-free, found-footage portrait of Jaffa, the ancient port city that neighbors Tel Aviv in Israel. Sourcing archive material from films shot in and around the historic locale, Aljafari shows an eerily abandoned city whose stony, enduring architecture is rendered into a cruddy mix of pixilated beige and shadow.

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TAGS: albert serpa, gabriele d'annunzio, josé régio, kamal aljafari, locarno film festival, lois patino, machine gun or typewriter, manoel de oliveira, manuel mozos, night without distance, recollection, sandro aguilar, strata of the image, the glory of filmmaking in portugal, travis wilkerson, undisclosed recipients


EileenOttessa Moshfegh's dark and beautiful Eileen takes place over seven tense days leading up to Christmas. The story is narrated by the eponymous character from somewhere in the future, looking back through a lens of personal growth and experience. "I looked like a girl you'd expect to see on a city bus, reading some clothbound book from the library about plants or geography...I looked like nothing special," Eileen says of her younger self. Later she says, "And I really didn't like books about flowers or home economics. I like books about awful things—murder, illness, death." Eileen the narrator is at once unreliable and reassuring in her honesty. Eileen the novel is a literary thriller grappling with ideas of freedom: breaking out of a metaphorical prison that's more than geographical, a prison constructed of elements that are situational, societal, gender-driven, and self-imposed.

Eileen is bored. It's 1964 and she's 24 years old, working at a prison for boys and living in a "brutal cold town" in New England she calls X-Ville. Her mother is dead, and she plays caretaker for her father, an ex-cop and current drunk who's paranoid and prone to alcoholic hallucinations. Eileen is "dark. Moony." She has an older sister who's in every way her opposite; "blonde, pouty and light-hearted," she rarely visits and never helps with their father. In her free time, Eileen stalks Randy, one of the corrections officers at the prison. And she longs to rid herself of X-Ville and all its residents.

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TAGS: eileen, ottessa moshfegh, penguin


Hannibal

"...And the Beast from the Sea" is structured as a perverse quasi romantic farce, in which two working-class guys are pitted against one another by a rarefied man who literally lives in a gilded cage. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) has been trying to jerk Will's (Hugh Dancy) figurative chain over Francis Dolarhyde's (Richard Armitage) crime spree for some time, suggesting that the latter has replaced the former as the primary occupier of his affections. (Or of whatever precisely counts as "affections" for Hannibal Lecter.) Will hasn't been taking the bait, having a variety of other things on his plate (a new wife and superstar killer to pursue will fill one's calendar fast), but Hannibal escalated the state of affairs this week, disclosing the address of Will's family to Francis and ordering him to "kill them all." Does Hannibal mean Will, too, when he says this to Francis? It's a question that hangs over the narrative. There are only two episodes remaining in the season, and probably of the entire series, so a discarding of subtlety is in order. Is Hannibal in love with Will, or running him through another psychological thresher? If it's love, does Hannibal want Will back, so to speak, hence his wanting the latter's family dead, or does he seek revenge for the gall he perceives Will to display in taking a family to begin with? Or is it all of the above? As one considers these questions, it's fruitful to remember: The FBI never caught Hannibal; he gave himself up to stay closer to Will, which is to say that he feels as if Will hasn't honored his side of that bargain.

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TAGS: and the beast from the sea, brian retzeill, bryan fuller, Caroline Dhavernas, gabriel browning rodriguez, hannibal, hugh dancy, laurence fishburne, mads mikkelsen, manhunter, nina arianda, recap, richard armitage, Rutina Wesley, the silence of the lambs


Wild at HeartThe power of David Lynch's Wild at Heart is the endurance of an Elvis Presley song (or two), the staying power of a children's movie, and the sight and sound of a match being struck: romantically mellow, wackily comic, and deadly, darkly serious.

Lynch gets more and scarier mileage out of fire in Wild at Heart than he did out of Frank Booth's lighter in Blue Velvet. In between the two came the game-changing Twin Peaks, which, soon after Wild at Heart, Lynch would round off with Fire Walk with Me. It's easy to see the whole arc from Blue Velvet to Fire Walk with Me as part of a single centralizing vision, an identifiable phase of his artistic development—his "fire period," if you like.

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TAGS: alfred hitchcock, blue velvet, david lynch, Diane Ladd, elvis presley, Jack Nance, laura dern, marnie, nicolas cage, Sheryl Lee, summer of 90, the wizard of oz, twin peaks, twin peaks: fire walk with me, wild at heart


Lana Del Rey

After last month's string-laden ballad "Honeymoon," from her upcoming album of the same name, hinted at a return to form, Lana Del Rey has unveiled the LP's official lead single, "High by the Beach." As promised, the song skews more toward the slick trip-hop of Born to Die than the rootsy rock of last year's Ultraviolence, featuring crisp, clear vocals atop an even crisper, clearer trap beat and a hypnotic, percolating synth line. Though it's an understated single by today's pop standards, boasting lyrics like "You could be a bad motherfucker, but that don't make you a man," it's handily Del Rey's catchiest single since "Summertime Sadness" or at least "National Anthem." When she breathlessly delivers the syncopated hook, just a hair behind the beat ("The truth is I never bought into your bullshit/When you would pay tribute to me"), lazy, revenge- and smoke-filled summer days never sounded so sweet. Listen below:

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TAGS: high by the beach, honeymoon, lana del rey, single review


The Exorcist III"Georgetown 1990": A college rowing team trains on the Potomac. Suited-up runners pass by. A tired movie way of introducing life at a big-city university. It's been done a hundred times to code Harvard. But stay with it. Just a few minutes in, our skepticism about the racing shell turns sour in our mouths as we hear the details of a brutal serial killing, its victim a young boy, crucified on a pair of rowing oars. And that's not the worst of it.

It's 20 years after the events of The Exorcist, and, as it turns out, after the grim reign of a monster dubbed the Gemini Killer. Following the college athletics and campus atmospherics of the opening shots, we're introduced—at first visually only—to Jesuit teacher Joe Dyer (Ed Flanders) and Detective Lieutenant Bill Kinderman (George C. Scott), linked for us to 1970 and to each other in a photograph we see on Kinderman's desk.

A church is invaded by a howling wind. Statuary eyes open wide. Something very ancient and evil has returned.

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TAGS: brad dourif, ed flanders, george c. scott, john boorman, legion, paul schrader, summer of 90, the exorcist, the exorcist iii, the ninth configuration, william friedkin, william peter blatty


You Too Can Have a Body Like MineAlexandra Kleeman's surreal and brilliant first novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, takes its title from a Charles Atlas ad-vertisement. In these ads, Atlas appears shirtless, clothed only in briefs, body toned and muscles rippled. Across the page, the words "[…] YOU can have a Body like Mine!" in bold lettering. This is one of the keys to understanding Kleeman's story, one that, along with the image of a body, is concerned with themes of identity, sex, and consumerism—a sto-ry of womanhood in contemporary American society.

Kleeman's main characters don't have proper names. The story is told through the eyes of A, a mostly unhappy young woman working as a proofreader and living in an un-named city with her roommate, B, who wants to be A and increasingly comes to resemble her in physical appearance (they're both thin and small, pale, with dark hair). "If you re-duced each of us to a list of adjectives, we'd come out nearly identical," A says. A works to avoid B by spending time with her boyfriend, C, who can make everything "suddenly, instantaneously normal, just by explaining them" and enjoys Shark Week, reality TV, and porn.

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TAGS: alexandra kleeman, don delillo, harper collins, n+1, white noise, you too can have a body like mine







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