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Must we pay for Sanskrit?

Michael Wood, 15 December 2011

... pay for them. But their children will, and so will ours – and not with money. Keith Thomas and Michael Wood spoke at ‘Universities under Attack’, a conference sponsored by the ‘London Review’, the ‘New York Review’ and Fritt Ord held on 26 November at King’s College ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Lust, Caution’, 24 January 2008

Lust, Caution 
directed by Ang Lee.
October 2007
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... may be no escape from the scene, no return to whatever world there was before the movie took over. ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Bergman and Antonioni, 20 September 2007

... It’s too late to climb on the bandwagon now, and it wasn’t much of a bandwagon to start with. If cinephilia is dead, as Susan Sontag some time ago suggested it was, who cares about the simultaneous death of two cinéastes? Still, no reader of signs can resist a coincidence, the image of a meaning that can’t be there. Michelangelo Antonioni (born 1912) and Ingmar Bergman (born 1918) both died on 30 July 2007 – as if time, otherwise indifferent to plot and meaning, had something to say about the cinema ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Peeping Tom’, 2 December 2010

The Peeping Tom 
directed by Michael Powell.
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... namesake, could not ‘wash his hands of responsibility for this essentially vicious film’), and Michael Powell’s career went into a slump. You can see the film on a Criterion Collection DVD with an excellent commentary by Laura Mulvey, or you can walk out yourselves from the Curzon and other cinemas, where it is now showing in a restored print. Martin ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Big Short’, 18 February 2016

The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... And that it may not matter what ain’t so as long as everyone else thinks the way you do. Michael Lewis, in the book the movie is based on, calls ‘not knowing’ a ‘talent’. ‘Their ignorance seems incredible,’ he says. ‘They’ in this case are traders who don’t know that sub-prime mortgages, waiting to default, make up 95 per cent of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘12 Years a Slave’, 6 February 2014

12 Years a Slave 
directed by Steve McQueen.
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... if you really wanted it to be another movie. The instant involves a tight close-up on the face of Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, the vicious second owner of Northup. He is, characteristically, reading to his slaves a passage from the Bible about the administration of stripes or lashes, and there is something about the closeness of the camera here, and the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Rebecca’, 20 July 2006

Rebecca 
directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
June 2006
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... is talking about, and it isn’t a dream at all, it’s a shifting picture of a dark and tangled wood. The supernatural powers are those of the camera, and the images begin to look like the portrait of the inside of a troubled mind, rather than the memory of a cherished place. And then the images begin to contradict the voice. ‘Time could not mar the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: At the Morelia Festival, 3 November 2011

... stay at home, eat their potatoes – that’s all they eat – stare at the landscape, chop wood, do the ironing. They scarcely talk except to bark a command or a piece of information to each other. The wind continues to blow furiously, and its music is supported on and off by the same grinding tune we heard at the beginning of the film. One day father ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ides of March’, 1 December 2011

The Ides of March 
directed by George Clooney.
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... that you keep forgetting what’s wrong with the writing) and a busy young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) who gets herself into all kinds of trouble. The very word ‘intern’ will give you a clue as to the kind of trouble this is, for her and for others, and the film rather clunkily underlines this suggestion – boys will be boys, even if they’re ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’, 22 July 2010

Breathless 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... like, in a reflective Godard movie rather than a darker or more dramatic one by Nicholas Ray or Michael Curtiz, or Mark Robson (the director of The Harder They Fall, the poster for which appears in Breathless and entrances Belmondo). Godard himself said he used to think of the film as being in the line of Scarface, but had come to see that it really ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Prometheus’, 5 July 2012

Prometheus 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... nothing.’ The suggestion is that nothing is just what an android needs, a mark of real class. Michael Fassbender plays David, the android, with terrific, elegant style, not as if he were Peter O’Toole but as if he liked Peter O’Toole – a fine distinction. His uniform makes him look like a prisoner rather than a servant, and the effect is that of one ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Dangerous Method’, 8 March 2012

A Dangerous Method 
directed by David Cronenberg.
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... Peter Suschitzky – but this only makes it feel more like a movie. The voices are a clue as well. Michael Fassbender as Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Freud speak with flawless English accents, as does Sarah Gadon as Emma, Jung’s all too perfect wife. Knightley speaks fluent American-Russian, and Vincent Cassel as the disreputable Otto Gross sounds as French ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Senna’, 14 July 2011

Senna 
directed by Asif Kapadia.
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... the go-karts was the British driver Terry Fullerton. No mention of Nigel Mansell or Niki Lauda or Michael Schumacher. Still less of Alain Prost. All Senna ever wanted, in this perspective, was to drive cars fast. Politics and fame were for other people; or perhaps just a cross he had to bear. He was fond of calling on God to help him, and of thanking ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... abnegation is too much to expect of any director with two expensive stars on his hands. Remember Michael Mann’s thriller Heat, where Robert de Niro and Al Pacino get together for a totally inconsequential conversation just so we can see them together before they return to their posts on opposite sides of the law. The stars have to share serious screen ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’, 15 June 2017

Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... superiority, however, is not the end of the story. The fact that both androids are played by Michael Fassbender, one as a stiff, friendly American guy and the other as the imitation of Peter O’Toole he had already perfected in Prometheus, adds to the riddle. And here, as in so many science-fiction movies, the decision to have the character of a robot ...

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