Sunday, January 16, 2011

The History Boys

Even while watching the opening scenes I was wondering whether I should really enjoy the movie - it was very obvious, from the opening scenes, that I would. But it was not wholly indulgent and not wholly sentimental. There were genuinely good bits there. Apart from the various buttons of mine that it very expertly happened to push. Sentimentality is one of the worst sins, if not the worst, and much loved by Hollywood (and West End and Broadway). Indulgence is the invariable companion to it: things too pretty, solutions too easy, all sugared by cheap sentiment, sugaring it in turn. You can of course err in the other direction as well with too easy cynicism, killing all emotion, all sympathy. A narrow path to negotiate. Anyway, history is a curious beast - and we curious pray (but we are not only pray). This state of affairs was not totally hidden by the movie, so I think my enjoyment was permissible after all...

Friday, January 07, 2011

Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa (thrice)

I'm sure Tom Stoppard has been amply punished by the academics for the glittering of his language. You cannot fundamentally be a serious writer if your text is madly funny and witty, and if you time comic dialogue like an angel. That's unserious. I am currently re-reading Arcadia - have seen it only once, a very polished Gate Theatre performance in Dublin - and it never ceases to amaze how well someone can write. Stoppardian wit, seriousness and language correspond very closely with my own esthetic ideals - it's very liberal art, very liberal concerns. It's not all there is, naturally, but through his skill, through his language Stoppard surpasses such limitations, and easily, effortlessly approaches universality. That is how it should be done. And there's a deadly seriousness in it.