- A Christmas Carol (1951 film)
12/7/18 (Fri), Tokyo
12/4/18 (Tues), Tokyo
A chilling German film set in the late 1980s in the pre-liberated East about the surveillance of a playwright suspected of dissident activity. His home is secretly wired by the Stasi, and agents are ruthless in ensuring its success, warning a busybody neighbor, for instance, that any word from her will prevent her son from getting into the university. The main agent and his assistant listen carefully to every utterance 24 hours a day, keeping detailed notes on all conversations and activity (“suspect and his girlfriend presumably engage in intercourse”). But this soon becomes a story about the listener rather than the listened as the agent charged with the case – himself threatened by his superiors if he doesn’t find something incriminating – grows increasingly sympathetic with his charge. The web of betrayals and lies leads in the end to death, shame and disgrace, leavened only by an act of deep self-sacrifice. It is just a few years later, after the Berlin Wall has fallen, when the playwright is able to view his files and learn the thoroughness of the scrutiny and corruption as well as the fate of the investigator.
A portrayal of the suffocating power of the Communist state: how it creates suspicion among citizens, its pettiness and paranoia, and its ability to crush the will of anyone in its way. Continue reading
11/30/18 (Fri), Los Angeles
A one-man version of the evergreen classic by the protean actor Jefferson Mays, directed by Michael Arden (Once On This Island revival). May is something of a specialist in playing multiple roles after notable performances in I Am My Own Wife and A Gentleman’s Guide…, both of which I loved. So my expectations were high.
11/19/18 (Mon), Tokyo
An oddball Japanese film about a lonely Japanese office worker named Setsuko (the ever-reliable Terashima Shinobu) with a knack for ruining lives. Continue reading
11/17/18 (Sat), Tokyo
A Jewish mensch named Norman (a pitch-perfect Richard Gere) makes his living by introducing powerful people to other powerful people, hoping that some of the benefits will rub off on him. He hits the big time when a minor politician that he once befriended unexpectedly becomes Israeli prime minister. Unfortunately his sudden leap to fame leaves him unprepared for the burst of people seeking favors through his connections, which, desperate to feel important, he proves utterly unable to reject. He begins making impossible promises – finding a huge donation to rebuild a flailing synagogue, getting the prime minister’s son into Harvard – that gradually become a web entrapping him. Worse, his careless blabbing to a woman on a train about a gift he innocently offered the now-prime minister leads to disaster when she turns out to be a government official, who seeks to use the information to topple the government. As the situation spirals into crisis, Norman finds the courage for action, including a bold sacrifice.
9/22/18 (Mon), Tokyo
A full-scale production of Follies is always an event given the huge cast, glamorous setting and the show’s complexity, and the National Theatre production had been widely praised. It also featured one of my favorite British stage actresses, Imelda Staunton, so I wasn’t going to miss it. But the pleasures of the production need to be separated from the dreariness of what’s on stage. A bit of background.
Boys in the Band → Angels in America → The Inheritance
I’m glad to see that The Inheritance has moved deservedly from the Young Vic to an open-ended West End run, winning rave reviews in the process. It’s especially interesting to look back on this play in the context of two other powerhouse NY-based gay-themed shows that have been revived in NY and London in recent months, Boys in the Band and Angels in America.