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Friday, November 26, 2021

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for television, movies, books and music

By JACOB ANDERSON — arts@theaggie.org

Movie: “Divorce: Italian Style” dir. by Pietro Germi (1961)

Desperate to marry his extraordinarily pretty cousin, Ferdinando conspires to get around Italy’s restrictive divorce laws by inducing his cloying wife to cheat on him so he can kill her. Germi’s terse humor swarms every element of the film: The compositions are vibrant and precise, allowing for scenes full of quick, dense humor. Fast-speaking characters collide and deliver stealthy jokes with a hypnotic rhythm. The legendary Marcello Mastroianni provides a lead performance fitting of his pedigree — Ferdinando’s dour stares and his robotic, despicably memorable facial tic that replicates itself like the boom of a gong as he draws closer to murder. Wickedly funny.

Book: “Hellfire” by Nick Tosches (1982)

Nick Tosches’ biography of the tormented Jerry Lee Lewis shivers with suggestion and pious anxiety. Rolling Stone once called it “the best rock and roll biography,” an assessment difficult to dismiss. Tosches perfectly mingles the facts of Lewis’ life with measured prose and a penetrating demeanor that leaves the book rich in meaning and memory usually reserved for the most skillful fiction. Lewis’ need for God, inculcated by his Southern family, is diametric to his gifted Rock ‘n’ Roll and debauched lifestyle, a tension begging to explode, but which simmers for decades as his life warps around him. “Hellfire” doesn’t restrict itself to the sore tropes of celebrity biographies, and instead seeks to retrieve something glittering and purposeful from the wreckage of a troubled life.

Album: “Tell Me About the Long Dark Path Home” by The Newfound Interest in Connecticut (2005)

Released to no attention at the band’s final show in 2005, “Tell Me About the Long Dark Path Home” is one of a number of vintage (or nearly vintage) emo records to see a sudden and mild resurgence at the rumblings of internet forums and house shows, a pocket of people dumbstruck by the patience and rough precision of the band’s Alaska-themed tracks. Long, ghostly passages of sweet singing and windy ambience connect heart-thrashing moments of violence. The album comprises a vast and frostbitten melancholy, perfect for the oncoming season.

TV Show: “Kenny vs. Spenny” (2003)

In the tradition of “Jackass,” the early 2000s saw an interminable number of low-budget, crass reality shows in which men with improperly developed self-preservation instincts place themselves in violent danger for the amusement of skaters and the unemployed. “Kenny vs. Spenny” is such a show, but one which deserves special note for its ingenuity and consistency. In each episode, the two hosts compete to outperform one another in sundry tasks, such as smoking weed, staying awake for as long as possible, antagonizing strangers and eating impossible amounts of meat. For a reasonably low-concept show in the proto-YouTube vein, it manages to elicit a certain amount of pathos and joy.

Written by: Jacob Anderson — arts@theaggie.org

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