Thursday, November 29, 2007

"the band's visit"

Talking about Henry James at a bookstore gathering last night (the admirable Norwich Bookstore) turned my thoughts again to James's Whig sensibility, and the ways in which it may have survived. If you haven't seen the film "Ratatouille" that I mentioned in an earlier post, you should. James would like the images of Paris as the city of light; perhaps would also enjoy seeing his sensibility rendered in that most American and democratic of media, the animated film. But do also see "The Band's Visit," which sends an Egyptian band wandering in an Israeli desert, and summons with true Jamesian humor and skepticism the sensual encounter of new and old cultures. Mass market entertainment is no better than it ever was, in the days of penny newspapers and serial novels, but every now and then a film (or a television series) self-consciously carries forward what once were only literary and theatrical traditions.

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