The Broken Men – Rudyard Kipling

For things we never mention,
For Art misunderstood —
For excellent intention
That did not turn to good;
From ancient tales’ renewing,
From clouds we would not clear —
Beyond the Law’s pursuing
We fled, and settled here.

We took no tearful leaving,
We bade no long good-byes.
Men talked of crime and thieving,
Men wrote of fraud and lies.
To save our injured feelings
‘Twas time and time to go —
Behind was dock and Dartmoor,
Ahead lay Callao!

Note: Dartmoor is the name of a notorious prison on the moor of that name, in Devon in the west of England.  Callao a port in Peru at that time one of the overseas havens for persons wanted by the law in Britain.

‘Anna Karenina,’ Rushing Headlong Toward Her Train

NPR – Ella Taylor

… Tolstoy gave good ballroom, too, and for all his reputation as the ultimate realist writer, he deployed an array of literary strategies in Anna Karenina— including a section written from the point of view of a dog. But his prose wasn’t forever blaring, “Look, Ma, no hands!”

And given that Anna’s adventures in extramarital romance famously end in tears, there are (or should be) limits to how long you can sustain the jaunty tone; Wright keeps at it, alas, until it’s too late for tragedy, even considering the endlessly foreshadowing grind of giant train wheels presumably meant to remind us that this is not a caper.

The best that can be said of Knightley is that she’s puppy-eyed eye candy, in vibrant reds and blacks with fur trims to die for. But that’s window dressing, and under her glossy surface, Anna Karenina is a woman of many passionately conflicting parts — reluctant temptress, ardent lover, loving mother, an urban sophisticate who’s also deeply insecure and hungry for approval. She’s a modern woman way before her time…

Valerie Eliot, keeper of the TS Eliot flame

Valerie Eliot, who died this week, devoted her life to guarding her husband’s legacy. Did she do more harm than good?

Guardian – By Aida Edemariam

In her subtle and authoritative 1998 book The Imperfect Life of TS Eliot, Lyndall Gordon argues that the poet’s second marriage, entered into when he was 67 years old, was a symbolically as well as personally satisfying final chapter: “For him, paradise followed purgatory with the same logic that purgatory had followed the hell of his first marriage.”

Valerie Eliot, who died this week, put it more earthily – if, on closer reading, slightly disturbingly: “He obviously needed to have a happy marriage. He wouldn’t die until he’d had it. There was a little boy in him that had never been released.”

Ever since the age of 14, when she heard John Gielgud’s recording of “Journey of the Magi”, her life was geared towards meeting Eliot; she was 38 when he died, eight years after they married, and she spent nearly 50 years guarding, burnishing and managing his memory…

Cats took £1.4bn in world-wide box office, £130m in London alone, a good proportion of which went to Valerie and the Eliot estate and then to various prizes and charities. It also made Faber’s financial position much more secure. Initially, Eliot wanted no correspondence published at all, but she “appreciated its importance and fascination” and teased him into compliance of a sort: letters could only be published if she did the selecting and the editing.

She spent years editing the first volume, tracking down letter after letter, citation after citation; the second volume took 11 years to appear; alongside a revised first volume, which by this time had acquired a co-editor, Hugh Haughton.

The third volume appeared this July, and covers one year, 1926-27. Eliot died in 1965; many of the intervening 38 years of letters – the boxes and boxes that were in her private possession, for instance – will probably not be properly accessible for years.

When Valerie Fletcher finally achieved her dream – announced to her headmistress when she left public school – of becoming Eliot’s secretary, she hid her love so successfully that Eliot wasn’t even sure she liked him…

They quickly settled into happy domesticity. “We used to stay at home and drink Drambuie and eat cheese and play Scrabble,” Valerie once said. “He loved to win at cards, and I always made a point of losing by the time we went to bed.” Every Sunday night he left a love letter by her bed; “I have kept every one and would want them to be published after I die.”

Evans, who arrived at Faber the year before Eliot died, and left in 2002, says that she was “incredibly supportive and kind, a very loyal and good shareholder”. Stephen Page is the current publisher and chief executive (both men stress that her death changes nothing at Faber, financially).

He remembers meetings at her flat where, an Epstein bust of Eliot peering over her shoulder, she served tea and “nice biscuits”, and they discussed a trolley-full of new books set carefully between them. Little had been changed in the flat since Eliot’s death. “It was extraordinary working on the correspondence,” Haughton says. “One could be sitting at Eliot’s desk, with his crucifix on the wall, his books around you, his editions of Aristotle or of Indian texts…

“I think that the dedication to the collecting and publication of the letters will be the most important and greatly positive thing she did,” Haughton says. He believes that even after Eliot died, Valerie did what she had always done; at some profound level, she “continued, as it were, to take dictation”.

“But as keeper of the flame and shielding Eliot from the attention of biographers – that will be the question mark over her legacy. Her refusal to countenance biography has I think been very unhelpful.”

“Inevitably, there was some harm done to his reputation in the absence of access and permission, but it won’t be lasting harm,” Schuchard believes. “On balance I think she took the right, hard course over the long haul.

Eliot’s work will stand for itself; he needs no apologists.” Having said that, “The new editions of his letters, poetry, prose and drama will dramatically change the way we see him.”

And she brought something to the books she edited that very few others could. “She loved poetry, and she loved Eliot’s work,” Gordon says. “She saw that there was a simplicity to Eliot in spite of the apparent difficulty.

She saw him in the best light, and he probably was at his best with her. I think she honestly saw the very good side of him and that was her good fortune.”

The White Shadow (1924) (Video)

Film stills are no substitute for moving pictures, but even static images from The White Shadow convey a sense of Alfred Hitchcock’s early gift for creating drama by purely visual means. Betty Compson’s impish smile and half-open eyes framed by a jauntily angled hat and a wreath of artfully positioned smoke; the motley crew of men at the poker table she effortlessly controls; Clive Brook’s steely gaze set off by a slash of light across an otherwise dark background; the graceful shading of an ivy-draped window framing a wistful face. These and many other images confirm Hitchcock’s precocious talent for silent storytelling.

They also indicate why Hitchcock advanced so rapidly in the British film industry. Although he broke into the business as a designer of title-cards conveying plot information and dialogue, he knew that one eloquent picture is worth a dozen printed texts. Learning to conceptualize and create such pictures was the project he successfully completed during his two-year tenure as assistant director for Graham Cutts, with whom he worked on five movies, starting with Woman to Woman in 1923. All were made on economical six-week schedules. The first three were vehicles for Compson, an important star at Paramount who came to England when Balcon-Saville-Freedman, the enterprising production company that employed Cutts and Hitchcock, offered her a dazzling salary of a thousand pounds a week.

Hitchcock said later that Woman to Woman was “the first film that I had really got my hands onto,” and it proved to be a major hit. Reviews were good too; it was deemed the “best American picture made in England” by the Daily Express critic, who shared the British consensus that Hollywood movies were livelier and more entertaining than English ones. Woman to Woman was among the very few British films to do excellent business in the United States, and it also fared well in Germany, where previous British exports had sunk under the weight of lingering resentments from the world war.

Dazzled by their own success, producers Michael Balcon and Victor Saville rushed a second Compson picture into production — The White Shadow — and whisked it to theaters with a conspicuously clunky advertising tag: “The same Star, Producer, Author, Hero, Cameraman, Scenic Artist, Staff, Studio, Renting Company as Woman to Woman.” It also had the same Paris setting, and again Hitchcock’s scenario was based on a work by Michael Morton, this time his unpublished novel Children of Chance. The box-office results were definitely not the same, however: “It was as big a flop,” Balcon wrote in his memoir, “as Woman to Woman had been a success.” This notwithstanding, plans proceeded for three more Cutts-Hitchcock pictures, commencing with The Passionate Adventure in 1924.

The financial failure of The White Shadow was regrettable, but it paradoxically helped advance Hitchcock’s career. The film’s British distributor was C.M. Woolf, who owned the “rental company” referred to in the promotional tag. Woolf was famous for despising “artistic” moviemaking, and thanks to Cutts and Hitchcock, The White Shadow was far too artistic for his taste. Seeing its poor financial performance as proof of his wisdom, he used the occasion to withdraw his investment in Balcon-Saville-Freedman, which subsequently went out of business. Balcon then set up Gainsborough Productions, which went on to become one of England’s most respected, successful — and, yes, artistic — production companies.

Among its first ventures were two Cutts-Hitchcock films: The Blackguard, also known as Die Prininzessin und der Geiger, shot at Germany’s great UFA studio for release in 1925, and The Prude’s Fall, also known as Dangerous Virtue, released in 1924. Soon thereafter, Gainsborough and two German companies would coproduce Hitchcock’s first film as director, the 1925 romance The Pleasure Garden. Two years later, again with Gainsborough’s backing, Hitch made the thriller he regarded as “the first true Hitchcock film” — The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog — and Woolf, still at war with artistic moviemaking, did his best to keep it out of distribution. Fortunately for Hitchcock and for us, he failed.

Cutts was fourteen years older than Hitchcock, and he had a complicated love life that distracted him considerably during the younger man’s apprenticeship, leading to rivalry and envy on Cutts’s part. He belittled Hitchcock behind his back, according to Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan, and matters didn’t improve when The Prude’s Fall turned out so badly that moviegoers “practically hooted it from the screen,” as a Variety critic wrote. Hitchcock had limited amounts of sympathy for Cutts — he later said he was “running even the director” when they worked together — but in the 1930s, when Hitchcock was a rising star and Cutts was looking for any work he could get, Hitchcock quietly helped him out.

These things said, it would be a mistake to think of Hitchcock as a self-assured young genius butting heads with a directorial hack whose time had come and gone. Hitchcock surely profited from his close observation of Cutts, who had entered cinema in 1909 as an exhibitor — dubbed “the master showman of the North” by producer-director Herbert Wilcox — and had made his own directorial debut as recently as 1922, when his melodrama The Wonderful Story was praised by Kinematograph Weekly for its “truth, realism and perfect acting.” His films of the 1920s, including many that he made after Balcon put him and Hitchcock onto separate paths, were known for “spectacular production values, experimental virtuosity of camerawork and lighting and the intense performances… of his actors,” in film historian Christine Gledhill’s words. There can be no doubt that Hitchcock would have mastered cinema technique and discovered his own inimitable voice under almost any circumstances — as critic Andrew Sarris has remarked, he and filmmaking were born for each other, and at almost the same moment — but Cutts was far from the worst senior partner he might have had.

Hitchcock also got to practice and refine a considerable number of skills while making The White Shadow: he was assistant director, film editor, set designer, and scenario writer, and this alone made the production a valuable asset to his budding career. Indeed, his experiences as a “general factotum” on this and other silent films never stopped paying artistic dividends. His goal as a mature filmmaker was to create “pure cinema,” meaning cinema that blends story, style, and technique into an expressive, suspenseful whole. As film scholar Sidney Gottlieb has definitively shown, the lessons Hitch learned from silent film never faded in importance for him. Even decades later and a continent away, he energized his greatest Hollywood pictures with lengthy stretches of unadulterated visual storytelling — think of the crop-dusting scene in North by Northwest (1959) and Scottie shadowing Madeleine in Vertigo (1958) and Jefferies spying on the killer in Rear Window (1954) and the extended sequence showing Marion’s fatal shower and Norman’s obsessive clean-up in Psycho (1960). These are only a few examples from a career that produced as many heart-pounding, soul-stirring visual sequences as any in the history of film.

Reviewers found the story of The White Shadow far-fetched, and they had a point. The plot synopsis filed for copyright purposes is amusingly hard to untangle, and shamelessly melodramatic to boot. But this didn’t stop critics from applauding the acting, the style, and the look of the production — precisely the elements that meant most to Hitchcock even at this early period. The outdoor scenes at Nancy’s home are spaciously composed and gracefully staged; the jazzy atmosphere of The Cat Who Laughs café is introduced with a striking — and startling — close-up of the eponymous statuette, then fleshed out with elaborately detailed long shots of the bohemian dive in full swing; the scene of misrecognition between father and daughter unfolds in close-ups that evince strong emotion with marvelous restraint. These and other sequences are exemplary of their kind.

Watching the surviving reels of The White Shadow with an audience vividly illustrates the natural gifts of the young Hitchcock as well as the enduring power of silent cinema. When the film comes to a halt in the middle of a bravura staircase shot, you’re likely to hear an audible sigh of disappointment from those around you, and from yourself as well. I began by evoking the richness of the film’s individual images, and I’ll close by praising the rhythmic vitality and superbly choreographed movement of these moving pictures when the projector brings them alive. “Just as the sun casts a dark shadow,” the opening intertitle tells us, “so does the soul throw its shadow of white, reflecting a purity that influences the lives of those upon whom the white shadow falls.” The spirited whites, somber darks, and intriguing shades of grey created and orchestrated by Cutts, Hitchcock, and their talented crew will be enjoyed by cinephiles for years to come. The return of The White Shadow is a triumph of film preservation, a bonanza for scholars, and a thrill for movie buffs, showing both Hitchcock and his chosen medium on the threshold of their fullest powers. We are in a better position than ever to study and assess his monumental creativity when it was first crystallizing in his imagination.

—Contributed by David Sterritt
Chairman, National Society of Film Critics

Voyage into the Far-Out Mind of Tomi Ungerer, Renegade Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

Media Bistro – By Stephanie Murg

With a career that began with acclaimed children’s books, surged into iconic 1960s protest posters, blossomed into lavish books of erotica, and included dalliances with architectural design, advertising, and sculpture, Tomi Ungerer evades easy description. (Reader, he has published almost as many books as Steven Heller!) The Alsatian-born illustrator gets his close-up in Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, a documentary that makes its U.S. premiere tomorrow at the DOC NYC film festival.

Jean-Thomas “Tomi” Ungerer (born 28 November 1931) is an award-winning illustrator and a trilingual author. He has published over 140 books ranging from his much loved children’s books to his controversial adult work. He is famous for his sharp social satire and his witty aphorisms and he ranges from the fantastic to the autobiographical.

Tomi Ungerer was born in Strasbourg, France, the youngest of four children of Alice (Essler) and Theo Ungerer. The family moved to Logelbach, near Colmar, after the death of Tomi’s father, Theodore — an artist, engineer, and astronomical clock manufacturer — in 1936. Ungerer also lived through the German occupation of Alsace and the requisitioning of the family home by the Wehrmacht.

As a young man, Ungerer was inspired by the illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, particularly the work of Saul Steinberg. Ungerer moved to the United States in 1956. The following year, he published his first children’s book for Harper & Row, The Mellops Go Flying. He also did illustration work for such publications as The New York Times, Esquire, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, The Village Voice, and for television during this time, and began to create posters denouncing the Vietnam War.

Upon the publication of Ungerer’s children’s book Moon Man in 1966, Maurice Sendak called it “easily one of the best picture books in recent years.”

After Allumette; A Fable, with Due Respect to Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and the Honorable Ambrose Bierce in 1974, he ceased writing children’s books, focusing instead on adult-level books, many of which focused on sexuality. He eventually returned to children’s literature with Flix 1998. Ungerer donated many of the manuscripts and artwork for his early children’s books to the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

In 1998, Ungerer was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration.

One consistent theme in Ungerer’s illustrations has been his support for European construction, beginning with Franco-German reconciliation in his home region of Alsace, and in particular European values of tolerance and diversity. In 2003, he was named Ambassador for Childhood and Education by the 47-nation Council of Europe.

In 2007, his home town dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.

Ungerer currently divides his time between Ireland (where he and his wife moved in 1976), and Strasbourg. In addition to his work as a graphic artist and ‘drawer’, he is also a designer, toy collector and “archivist of human absurdity.”

Tomi Ungerer describes himself first and foremost as a story teller and satirist. Prevalent themes in his work include political satire such as drawings and posters against the Vietnam War and against animal cruelty, eroticism, and imaginative subjects for children’s books.

Erotic novel removed from iTunes store due to cover, says publisher

The Proof of the Honey, by Syrian author Salwa Al Neimi, pulled by Apple due to ‘inappropriate’ cover featuring naked bottom

Guardian – By Alison Flood

A publisher has claimed that Apple has removed Salwa Al Neimi’s erotic novel The Proof of the Honey from the iTunes store because its cover – which features part of a woman’s naked back and bottom – is “inappropriate”.

Europa Editions said in a statement on its Facebook page that The Proof of the Honey was pulled from the Apple shop. Apple, said the publisher, cited the “inappropriateness of the cover”. The novel is not currently available in the Apple store in its English edition, although a French edition, La preuve par le miel – featuring the same cover – is still in the shop.

Banned in many Arab countries, The Proof of the Honey tells of the erotic adventures of a Syrian scholar in Paris. The narrator has, she says at one point, “a physical need for water, semen, and words. The three things I need in life. I cannot exist without them.” Europa Editions describes it as “a stirring novel about the place afforded sex in modern Arabic society and its relationship to the long, rich tradition of Arabic erotica”; Reuters says that the Syrian-born Al Neimi, who moved to Paris in the mid-1970s, “announces the end of a taboo in the Arab world: that of sex!”

“The author is Syrian-born. Is it too much to think that this might have something to do with their decision?” wrote Europa Editions on Facebook. The publisher also highlighted the lack of consistency in Apple’s move. “One would assume, then, they would also consider classical nudes by Ingres, Renoir and Botticelli, not to mention photography by Man Ray inappropriate,” it wrote. “What about New York Book Review editions of Dud Avocado, Tyrant Banderas, or our very own The Days of Abandonment? NOPE! All are available in the iTunes bookstore.”

Earlier this autumn, Apple censored the title of Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina, starring out part of the title. After readers protested – “Are Apple worried that people are going to discover that ‘lady parts’ have a name?” wrote one on the online store – the novel’s title is now visible in all its glory in the Apple store.

Apple had not responded to a request for comment by press time.