Film

We played with life and lost

Jeanne Moreau, one of the iconic French actresses of her generation, has died today in Paris. She had the fortune to be at the peak of her powers during one of the great ages of cinema. She acted in films made by some of the best post-war directors: Antonioni, Welles, Truffaut, Bunuel, Fassbinder. I want to write about three of her films (all shot in black and white): Lift to the Scaffold (1958, Louis Malle), Jules et Jim (1962, François Truffaut) and Diary of a Chambermaid (1964, Luis Bunuel).

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Books

Austenian irony

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading.

The new £10 note, shown for the first time today, displays a drawing of Jane Austen by her sister on the cover and has this accompanying text from Pride and Prejudice. Social media has condemned the words and the Bank of England for their cloth-eared choice. The phrase is spoken by the supercilious Caroline Bingley when Elizabeth Bennet is suffering the condescensions of the women at Netherfield, as Jane lies ill in bed with a cold. Miss Bingley exclaims the words after being ‘quite exhausted by her attempt to be amused with her own book’ in a failed attempt to draw Darcy away from his. The line therefore purports to be in praise of reading but is from the lips of a deceitful character with no love of books as she pretends to read. Austen is skewering a snob with characteristic irony. Miss Bingley knows the price of a book but not its value. But irony is capable of cutting is many ways; is this sly irony on Mark Carney’s part, an unhealthy emphasis on crass materialism at a time of late stage capitalism?

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Books, Film, Rhetoric

Rats in a cage

Question: is it better for a human to choose to be bad than be conditioned to be good?

The American psychologist B. F. Skinner believed that human behaviour was determined by environmental variables rather than free will, and that by systematically altering those variables human behaviour could be modified. In this way humans could be conditioned to display good, rather than bad, behaviour. He developed his theory of applied behavioural analysis from experiments he conducted in the 1930s on rats. He invented and constructed an enclosed soundproof cage with food dispenser that a rat could operate by pressing a lever, called a ‘Skinner box’. Continue reading

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