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Links for the Day: Anita Ekberg R.I.P., Slavoj Zizek on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Mike Leigh Interview, Reverse Shot‘s 11 Movie Offenses of 2014, & More

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Links for the Day: Anita Ekberg R.I.P., Slavoj Zizek on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Mike Leigh Interview, Reverse Shot‘s 11 Movie Offenses of 2014, & More

1. “Anita Ekberg R.I.P.” The international screen beauty and Fellini star dies at 83.

“Anita Ekberg, who became an international symbol of lush beauty and unbridled sensuality in the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita, died Sunday morning. She was 83. Her death, in Rocca di Papa, southeast of Rome, was caused by complications from a longtime illness and was confirmed by her lawyer, Patrizia Ubaldi. Fellini cast Ms. Ekberg in La Dolce Vita as a hedonistic American actress visiting Rome. A single moonlit scene—in which she wades into the Trevi Fountain in a strapless evening gown, turns her face ecstatically to the fountain’s waterfall and seductively calls Marcello Mastroianni’s character to join her—established her place in cinema history. Ms. Ekberg won a Golden Globe, sharing the 1956 award for most promising newcomer with Dana Wynter and Victoria Shaw, but most of her roles focused primarily on her face and figure. When she traveled overseas to entertain American troops in the 1950s, it was as a sex symbol. Bob Hope introduced her as ’the greatest thing to come from Sweden since smorgasbord’ and joked that her parents had won the Nobel Prize for architecture.”

2. “Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?” How fragile the belief of an Islamist must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper, says the Slovenian philosopher.

“How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper? The fundamentalist Islamic terror is not grounded in the terrorists’ conviction of their superiority and in their desire to safeguard their cultural-religious identity from the onslaught of global consumerist civilization. The problem with fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior. This is why our condescending politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority towards them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment. The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that the fundamentalists are already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them. Paradoxically, what the fundamentalists really lack is precisely a dose of that true ’racist’ conviction of their own superiority.”

3. ”’That’s a Fairly Silly Question’: An Interview with Mike Leigh.” Calum Marsh chats with the acclaimed (and playfully salty) filmmaker on the evolution of style, shooting in digital, and the limits and joys of making period pieces.

“What follows is, I think, one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve conducted, even if in the moment it seemed among the most trying. I should say that Leigh’s occasional rebuffs were delivered with warmth and a kindly smile, and that, being both old and British, his wit leans so far toward dry that it may be mistaken on the page for an irritability that isn’t there in person. This is a useful point to consider if you’ve seen his latest film, Mr. Turner—a biopic on the life and death of the illustrious J.M.W., a beloved painter and, as the film makes clear, a notorious curmudgeon. As Turner, Timothy Spall is if nothing else an irascible, querulous chap, huffing and grunting extravagantly; he, too, is difficult—but he is very much the ultimate crank. Leigh wouldn’t want you to get the two confused.”

4. “HAL, Mother, and Father.” Jason Z. Renikoff on watching the sixties and seventies through 2001 and Alien.

“Put on the film now and you see the physical metaphor of evolution as Kubrick and Clarke imagined it: a perfectly symmetrical monolith, its facets immaculately smooth, the most ordered object imaginable. And there I see how my father was in the thick of it. He thought his work with computers was in a small way helping to liberate humanity, to allow people to think beyond what had until then been the limits of cognition. When those right angles appeared in the shape of a monolith, my father saw freedom, but I doubt he saw what else they stood for: that they were the same right angles of urban renewal displacing working-class neighborhoods and erecting in their ruins other kinds of monoliths, housing projects like prisons, expressways that gutted street life. Or the monolith of an office building somewhere in Thailand, where as a part of Operation Igloo White all the might of the United States military was mobilized in a truly insane attempt to automate ’strategic’ bombing in Vietnam via a dense network of computers, but only managed to drop bombs on random people. I very much doubt he realized how his work, the very systems of command and control he was helping to develop, would in the hands of the greedy and inhuman come to destroy the world he thought was on the verge of being born.

5. “11 Offenses of 2014.” Below is Reverse Shot’s Andrew Tracy on Gone Girl.

“David Fincher’s winkingly nasty adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s postgrad-clever potboiler has already attracted reams of commentary, and acquired passionate and eloquent defenders and detractors both, so one more screed against it hardly seems necessary at this point. For this detractor, though, the overwhelming feeling is one of rueful regret that so much passion and eloquence was squandered on an object so unworthy. The crux of the matter—is it a scathing satire of misogyny, or just plain misogynist?—is made moot by the fact that the film itself doesn’t care either way. While it’s true that Rosamund Pike’s ivory-skinned spider woman is ultimately not treated as anything more than a cartoonified femme fatale, Gone Girl: The Movie never truly departs the default plane of movie-world ’realism’; it has neither the hyperbolic exaggeration nor the wry distance required for actual satire, never mind Fincher’s typically cool remove. What it does have is hefty doses of glib, po-po-mo nattering about the Masks We Wear and the Personas We Adopt—catnip for a cultural climate that defines art (and, increasingly, reality) as primarily a matter of positioning and branding. Perhaps this is why the is-it-or-isn’t-it debate ultimately feels so futile. Gone Girl isn’t a provocation, it’s playing the part of a provocation, and all the while smugly congratulating itself on its ability to commit to nothing except its own immaculate, frictionless surface. “

Video of the Day: Patti Smith on her cinematic lullaby for Noah:

Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to ed@slantmagazine.com and to converse in the comments section.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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