Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting (Frick Collection, 1 E. 70, up through May 13). A miniature show of nine full-length portraits, all of them stunningly persuasive, painted between 1874 and 1883 by a painter who could be too easy and likable but is here shown to be the master he (sometimes) was (TT).
Archives for March 3, 2012
David Goodis, Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s (Library of America, $35, out Mar. 29). All but forgotten today save for the films made out of his books–François Truffaut turned Down There into Shoot the Piano Player–Goodis was a pulp novelist of nightmarish compulsion, and his work, whether or not it merits enshrinement by the Library of America, remains immensely readable. If you’ve been missing Richard Stark more than usually of late, this collection, which opens with Dark Passage, the 1946 novel on which the Bogart-Bacall thriller was based, will ease your pain (TT).
Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion Collection, two DVDs). Otto Preminger was the most uneven of major film directors, but he hit the target with awesome force in this tough-minded 1959 screen version of the best-selling novel about a self-doubting lawyer (James Stewart) who tries to save an army officer (Ben Gazzara) from doing time for a murder that he may or may not have committed. The “supporting” cast, which includes George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Arthur O’Connell, and Eve Arden, is fully equal in quality to the front-liners, but it’s the total effect of Anatomy of a Murder that you’ll remember. Never has the American legal system been portrayed with such searching honesty–or such cinematic éclat. The score is by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, the titles by Saul Bass. As usual, the Criterion Collection provides both a flawless transfer and a second disc crammed full of watchable extras (TT).
Duke Ellington, At the Crystal Gardens, Salem, Oregon, 1952 (Hep, two CDs). This album captures the Ellington band in public performance at an awkward juncture in its long life: Clark Terry had recently come aboard, and Johnny Hodges and Sonny Greer had been replaced by Willie Smith and Louis Bellson. It was a tough time for the Duke, but he made the most of it, and this set, privately recorded in excellent sound at a West Coast dance date, reveals the band to have been in colossally fine form. The fare includes The Tattooed Bride, one of Ellington’s most effective large-scale pieces. Outstanding liner notes by Andrew Homzy (TT).
Galileo (Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13, closes Mar. 18). Bertolt Brecht’s play, performed in Charles Laughton’s superbly speakable translation and intimately staged by Brian Kulick with Shakespearean speed and direction. F. Murray Abraham is lean and sardonic in the title role–he looks almost like an El Greco saint–and Adrianne Lobel’s set, which turns the theater into a planetarium, is perfect (TT).