The French-American film Round Midnight, directed by Bertrand Tavernier and starring my late husband, Dexter Gordon, as a jazz musician in Paris in the late 1950s, premiered in New York City 30 years ago today. As I near completion of Dexter’s biography, Dexter Calling: The Life and Music of Dexter Gordon, memories of the film come flooding back. They are bittersweet, as many of the performers have since passed away, most recently Bobby Hutcherson (1941–2016), who died this past summer. Bobby plays Ace in the film and delivers one of its most memorable lines. In the hallway of the Hotel Louisiane, Ace is holding a bowl of jambalaya as Buttercup walks past. He says, about living in Paris, “It would be the best city in the world if I could just find some okra.” Dexter loved that line, and whenever he repeated it to Bobby, they would both burst out laughing.
I’ve been a Bob Dylan fan since roughly 1972. I had inherited a copy of Blonde on Blonde from one or other of my older brothers, along with a record player, and I spun all four sides incessantly. I laughed (“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”), I cheered (“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”), I cried (“Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”), I sang along (every word). Three years later, Blood on the Tracks joined the rotation, followed by Desire in 1976. Those were great years to be a young Dylan fan.
So, Terence Winter: I tried to like your new show, Vinyl, I really did. Not least because a cool musician friend of mine is in it, and because I lived through 1970s NYC, albeit as a kid. But once I remembered who you are—the writer and creator-showrunner of Boardwalk Empire and writer of The Wolf of Wall Street and lots of episodes of The Sopranos—I understood why I wasn’t liking Vinyl and realized it was hopeless.
It’s been 25 years since Goodfellas was released, on September 19, 1990—long enough for us to become so jaded about the gangland genre that Mob shenanigans are old hat.
Last year, that redoubtable rag The New York Review of Books—what my grad-school chums used to call “The New York Review of Each Other’s Books”—celebrated its 50th year of publication. Tonight, HBO will broadcast The Fifty-Year Argument, a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi feting the journal’s founding, history and legendary editor, Robert Silver.
In the 1986 film Caravaggio, director Derek Jarman achieves the nearly impossible—he turns the juicy, scandalous story of the rowdy, licentious, murderous, bisexual, drunken 17th-century Italian painter Caravaggio into a stupefying bore. It’s a sign of a real cinematic stinker when you can’t wait for the paintings to appear. When they do, you can see how Caravaggio performed magic with light and shadow to yank us right into his canvases. In Death of the Virgin, the corpse of Mary, swollen and stiff with rigor mortis, is illuminated from above, as if God is shining goodness on her. The scene is blasphemous and profane, even to our 21st-century sensibilities (the model is said to have been a prostitute), but it’s hauntingly spiritual, too.