Thursday, September 11, 2014

TIFF 2014: The 50 year argument

The 50 year argument (U.S., 2014) directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, 97 minutes, TIFF Lightbox, 6.30p

Martin Scorsese co-directed this documentary with David Tedeschi (Editor on another Scorsese doc Shine a Light) about the history of the New York Review of Books. Founded in 1963, Scorsese has followed the Review since its inception. You may be surprised at how exciting the history of a cultural, literary and political magazine could be.  

Robert B. Silvers, current editor, and Barbara Epstein, former co-editor (now deceased) oversaw it all from the beginning ... One part iconoclast, one part intellectual, one part curmudgeon, Silver adds a soupçon of healthy skepticism and tremendous curiosity to the work that he edits and the writers that he has mentored.

It's worth the price of admission to hear and see on film the literary feuds and political scuffles from the 1960s to the present: Norman Mailer excoriating Mary McCarthy's novel The Group in a scathing review (Silver dared him to do it, no other writer would take it on); Darrell Pinckney's admittedly puny and wrong-headed efforts to take down James Baldwin's last novel; a charmingly young and cheeky Susan Sontag questioning Mailer's use of the title "lady novelist"; Joan Didion questioning the media's handling of the Central Park rapists (now fully exonerated); Edward Said versus Bernard Lewis on Islam ...

The film combines archival footage and photographs, new and old interviews with contributors and harnesses a bevy of New York and international intellectuals and writers: Colm Tóibín, Joan Didion, Zoë Heller, Michael Chabon.

After the screening of the film, Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi along with Bob Silver appeared in a panel. And I have the pics to prove it ...

TIFF of the Day: The best anecdote that Scorsese told (among many) was a story about going down to Mulberry St. in Little Italy in NYC to shoot a new doc about the beginnings of rock and roll and all the bohos complaining about the movie trailers cluttering the street. They were muttering about the presumed "HBO crap" they presumed was being shot which they didn't like (this is within Scorsese's earshot). Scorsese had a friend from the old neighborhood who was with him that day and said to him sadly, "We don't belong here no more ..." No, he agreed, we don't. 

Scorsese and Silvers, from the second row baby!

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