Calvary

December 11, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, RELIGION, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. J M McDonagh) (2014) This is Craggy Island without the laughs, a richly human ‘who-will-do-it’ as Brendan Gleeson, the village catholic priest, struggles with his faith in the wake of a confessional death threat. Paul Byrnes in the Sydney Morning Herald well described Gleeson’s role as “the one good man in a town of jackals” – the relentless vitriol and mockery spat at him by various village types is matched by their own astonishing, preternatural candour – no feelings are spared in this story. The whole tone reflects an Irish ambivalence vis-à-vis organized religion, its utility and its scars….

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Islamic Arts

(by J Bloom & S Blair) Despite ongoing conventions, Islamic Art (an extremely wide term, used here for convenience and coherence) flourished beyond the merely decorative or doctrinal. This sumptuous Phaidon edition is a good entrée to the flowers of the various Muslim empires in history.    

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The Life of Thomas More

(by Peter Ackroyd) Highly readable and balanced life (and death) of the contentious, hair-shirted and many faceted ‘man for all seasons’ (omnium horarum). Beatified but no saint, an intolerant believer and a survivor who sacrificed himself on principle, he remains an enigma and a controversial one. This book comes close to doing justice to all sides and all sides of the man and one can’t do much better than that.

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Wise Blood

(by Flannery O’Connor) You can almost hear Father Ted saying, “Those Protestants; up to no good as usual.”. A slight but hysterical piece of southern Grand-Guignol in which O’Connor, in stark muscular prose, shows us why warmer climes tend to grow lusher fruit (viz., the evangelists in northern Queensland, the Spanish Inquisition, etc.).  O’Connor presents her freak show without explanation, comment or censure and you close the book as if you’ve just escaped the weird tent, gasping for air.

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Sweet Dreams

(by Michael Frayn) Highly original and amusing satire of a bespoke heaven for boyish, middle management men of early middle age and their moral crises as the right hands of god.  You can see the influence cast by this book on, for example, Douglas Adams. The chaps, all from Cambridge naturally, are no longer scholars but creators, and they have an easy, breezy, Ian Fleming style way with women and imagine themselves to be radicals, even the lukewarm Head Man, in that smug, cosy, implacable bourgeois way, a la J. P. Sartre.  The heavenly staples – taramasalata, gigot aux haricots…

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