Artist turned director Julian Schnabel managed to make a film about a man with one of the most terrifying illnesses I can imagine into a genuinely uplifting experience with 2007’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Now he takes on probably the most single most contentious issue in all of world politics, Israel-Palestine, in “Miral.”
Take a look at this French trailer for the English-language film, written by Palestinian-Italian journalist-author Rula Jebreal, adapting her own novel. “Miral” stars a slightly de-glammed Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” and Arab-Israeli actress Hiam Abbass.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” ran the risk of being a drippy in terms of being a bit of rather conventional arthouse fare/Oscar-bait, but he was quite adept at transcending that at every turn there. Let’s hope he and writer Jebreal — working in, or being translated into, English — pull off the same trick here.
Clearly, the film-makers are hoping for a large audience for “Miral.” Considering the subject matter and what looks like an honest but evenhanded treatment of the ultimate hot-button topic, I kind of hope they get it; I also hope all my Jewish relatives see it. I hate to say it, but too many people — and not only Jews — have allowed support for Israel to become translated into what I see as a near complete lack of awareness of the humanity of Palestinians.
H/t /Film. (I have to say I’m not sure I agree with Brad Brevet about the Tom Waits song at the end. Maybe it’s a bit of cultural stereotyping on my part, but when I think about the problems of a teenager in modern day Palestine/Israel, I don’t think of Waits’ bluesy tones, so popular among middle-aged ex-bohos in L.A. and New York.)
Tonight’s installment of “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…” finds our man Elvis opening the proceedings with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” One presumes that his guest for the evening, Lou Reed, was at least tolerant of the rendition, since it’s not as though ol’ laughing Lou has ever been afraid to speak his mind. (Plus, the two of them team up later in the episode for performances of “Perfect Day” and “Set the Twilight Reeling.”)
Maybe it’s just the interviews I’ve read, but most of the time, Reed tends to come off as not just prickly but downright grouchy; it’s therefore a testament either to Elvis’s ability as a moderator or Lou’s respect for him that the conversation between the two of them is actually rather illuminating. Mind you, there was no discussion about Lester Bangs (I’m sure Reed is tired of being asked about Bangs’ love/hate relationship with his work, but I’d still love to have heard Elvis pose a question about it), but be sure to catch the discussion of the R&B great who played on Reed’s very first record, the relationship between Reed and Doc Pomus, the hard and fast rule in the VU about not copping blues licks, the secret chord in “Sweet Jane” that everybody gets wrong, and how he thought he spent his youth convinced that he was utterly unemployable.
The most fascinating moment of the conversation, however, comes when filmmaker Julian Schnabel joins Costello and Reed onstage. At first, it sounds like Schnabel more or less just happened to be in the crowd, but we soon learn that Reed and Schnabel are longtime friends, and before long, the discussion leads into a moment that the two of them shared as a result of the death of Schnabel’s father. It’s a story that starts out rather disconcertingly, but as it progresses, it becomes a testament to the healing power of music.