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Strange Stardom

David Haglund: James Franco

17 March 2011
Palo Alto: Stories 
by James Franco.
Faber, 197 pp., £12.99, January 2011, 978 0 571 27316 4
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... a type of celebrity now.’ He contrasts Ledger, who died three years ago at the age of 28, with James Dean, who died 55 years ago at the age of 24 and became the standard against which all young, handsome, would-be acting geniuses in Hollywood are measured. It’s not only, Thomson says, that Ledger wasn’t the actor Dean was. It’s that movies, and their ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Milk’

1 January 2009
... Gus Van Sant’s new film, Milk, is thoughtful, patient, funny and touching, and both Sean Penn and James Franco should get Oscars, but it doesn’t answer the questions any biopic raises for me: what’s it for and why now? Or perhaps it does have the answers, but we have to do our own digging for them. Harvey Milk was an elected official of the city of San Francisco, said to be the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Project Nim’, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

8 September 2011
Project Nim 
directed by James Marsh.
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
directed by Rupert Wyatt.
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... showing in London at the same time is presumably an accident of distribution. That the two works, James Marsh’s Project Nim and Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, should resemble each other so closely begins to look like a message or a clue, a movieworld sign that we actually are rethinking our relation to other animals. You’ll see how eerie ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’

24 May 2007
Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... making guest/ghost appearances in the other two; in the latest film, his son Harry, played by James Franco, now knowing who Spider-Man is, becomes the imaginatively named New Goblin, and follows in his father’s flight-pattern, riding an airborne missile-bearing skateboard, and duelling with Peter high about the Manhattan streets. Peter ...


Christian Lorentzen: Are books like nappies?

2 August 2012
... steps into quality lit aren’t yet in evidence. (One signing is the actor turned fiction writer James Franco, but his status as symbolic capital is a little shaky.) In the past few weeks, the Nation has run a cover story called ‘Amazon and the Conquest of Publishing’ by Steve Wasserman, and Ken Auletta in the New Yorker has reported on the ebook ...

At the British Museum

James Davidson: Persia’s ‘Forgotten Empire’

22 September 2005
... plain stone box. Sponsorship is provided by BP, formerly the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, for the Franco-Persian agreement did not stop William Knox D’Arcy from undertaking a different kind of exploration. There is a lot of history and politics in this exhibition, and not all of it is ancient. The original Xerxes remains where he has been for 2500 years, in ...

To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden

21 February 1985
Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part One: I Grandi Staii dell’Occidente 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 463 pp., lire 45,000, July 1984, 88 06 05695 6
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Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part Two: II Patriotismo Repubblicano e gli Imperi dell’Est 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 1040 pp., lire 55,000, July 1984, 88 06 05696 4
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The Great Cat Massacre, and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Viking, 284 pp., £14.95, July 1984, 0 7139 1728 8
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Rousseau, Dreamer of Democracy 
by James Miller.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 300 03044 4
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... perhaps the misfortune, of the Enlightenment that its historians frequently write very long books. Franco Venturi’s Settecento Riformatore, which must surely be one of the longest, has now reached its fifth and final volume. As an enterprise it can have few parallels even among dixhuitièmistes. It offers no less than the description of an entire culture ...

Top Sergeant

D.A.N. Jones

23 April 1992
An Autobiography 
by Fred Zinnemann.
Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 7475 1131 4
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... for invasion and insurrection than those surprised Americans at Pearl Harbor. The movie (and James Jones’s novel, on which it was based) presented that peace-time army as a community wherein a vicious and slothful officer might neglect his duties, turning over his responsibilities to the Top Sergeant, while the Other Ranks (or the Enlisted Men, as the ...
24 August 1995
Days of Anger, Days of Hope: A Memoir of the League of American Writers, 1937-1942 
by Franklin Folsom.
Colorado, 376 pp., £24.50, July 1994, 0 585 03686 1
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... the ‘non-intervention’ policy of the British and French governments with respect to the Franco rebellion in Spain; the helpless feeling that the humane liberal traditions in which so many of us had been brought up were dangerously threatened: all of this had us seriously worried. It led many to believe that the only hope for Europe lay in the idea ...

Short Cuts

Michael Dobson: Deutschland ist Hamlet

6 August 2009
... thereby finally outgrowing Shakespeare’s depressing and constraining plot. In the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, for instance, the American scholar H.H. Furness saluted the world’s first national society for the study of Shakespeare, the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, by dedicating his variorum edition of the complete works to it in ...

By the Width of a Street

Christopher Prendergast: Literary geography

29 October 1998
An Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 
by Franco Moretti.
Verso, 206 pp., £16, August 1998, 1 85984 883 4
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... of An Atlas of the European Novel, in a discussion of images of London in the 19th-century novel, Franco Moretti throws in a parenthetical aside on the whereabouts of his publisher (‘in a rather bleak part of Soho’). It’s a sort of joke, consistent with the laidback tone that Moretti seems able to combine effortlessly with high intellectual ...

Royal Mysteries

V.G. Kiernan

10 January 1983
From Agadir to Armageddon: Anatomy of a Crisis 
by Geoffrey Barraclough.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780297781745
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... There need have been no obstacle so far as confidentiality was concerned. Foreign policy, which James I was so adamant about keeping to himself as ‘the royal mystery’, was still everywhere the preserve of very small, exclusive circles. In London scarcely more than a dozen men knew where British policy was really going, or drifting. Parliament and public ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo

19 November 2019
NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... his material.Produced under Fascism in 1943, Visconti’s Ossessione (an unauthorised version of James M. Cain’s hardboiled novel The Postman Always Rings Twice) is generally considered the first Neorealist film, but it was Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945), the first movie made after the war to represent the recent Italian past, that planted the ...

The Real Price of Everything

Hilary Mantel: The Many Lives of Elizabeth Marsh

21 June 2007
The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History 
by Linda Colley.
HarperPress, 363 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 00 719218 2
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... and led to Milbourne’s hurried transfer to Gibraltar. Gibraltar was also under threat; if Franco-Spanish forces blockaded it, there was nowhere for the garrison to go. Colley believes it was Elizabeth’s own idea to leave her family and set sail for London, via Lisbon. She travelled on an unarmed merchantman called the Ann, which became separated ...

Towards Disappearance

James Francken: Oradour-sur-Glane

1 July 1999
Matyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane 
by Sarah Farmer.
California, 323 pp., £19.95, March 1999, 0 520 21186 3
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... serving in the German Army. Alsace was a region of fragmented attachments, ceded at the end of the Franco-Prussian War and returned to France in 1918. When it was again lost in 1940, those Alsatians who refused to give up their French citizenship were forced to leave, many of those who remained were subject to forcible conscription. Support for the soldiers on ...

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