What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 11, 2017 Issue

Anthony Lane, reviewing the Dardenne brothers’ new film, The Unknown Girl, in this weeks issue, mocks the documentary plainness of their work. He writes,

Holy moly, a Dardenne car chase! Purists may flinch, but the rest of us are already looking forward to the brothers’ next film, Fast & Furious: Showdown in Seraing, in which only Vin Diesel and his matte-black Corvette can get the lonely single mother to the welfare office before it closes for lunch. ["Inquiring Minds"]

That line made me smile. It’s true that Dardenne movies lack visual extravagance. But that’s exactly what I like about them. They track the problems and troubles that afflict ordinary, yet particular individuals, and find the drama in that. As Christine Smallwood says, in her terrific “The In-Between World” (The New York Review of Books, May 10, 2012), a review of the Dardennes’ great The Kid with a Bike, “The Dardennes are interested in the everyday moral dramas of average people suffering and colliding and surviving within it.” That doesn’t mean their films are boring. Quite the opposite – they’re transfixing! Smallwood says of them, “These films are high-wire acts of dramatic irony.” I agree. I look forward to seeing The Unknown Girl.

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