The artist was spread-eagled against the wall. Dinh Q. Le had been putting up an enormous piece of artwork in the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum when he realized that he was missing his level, one of only two available for the installation of Saigon Open City (SOC), Vietnam's first international art show since 1962. By the time I arrived, he had been teetering on a ladder for 10 minutes, holding up the corners of the piece while assistants scurried around the city to find his equipment.
In his latest repulsive film, Roberto Benigni trots out the formula that served him so well in Life Is Beautiful -- a backdrop of real-life terror, and a self-inflating display of self-effacing love. In the Oscar-winning Beautiful, the backdrop was the Holocaust; in The Tiger and the Snow, it's the Iraq war. The difference is a matter of degree -- in Life, Benigni did not entirely upstage the horrors around him; in Tiger, however, he swallows them whole.
What sustains a life? Food, water, shelter, certainly -- all the tangibles taught in a survival course. But the ineffables -- ideas, loves, passions, and pleasures -- spell life or death, too, as Marjane Satrapi's new book Chicken with Plums attests.
This Romantic notion has been around at least as long as consumptive poets have been swooning under weeping willows. But in her latest graphic novel, the tale of her great-uncle, a famed musician who loses his beloved instrument and his will to live, Satrapi strips down the idea and gives it a stark beauty.
Will U.S. audiences avert their eyes at the latest Iraq documentary? A splintered mirror in three shards, Iraq in Fragments reflects realities that U.S. viewers haven't wanted to see -- jangling fear, black blooms of smoke, Iraqis' faces flickering with rage or pinched hope.
Advocacy and art -- how does a filmmaker fuse the two? How to deliver a clear argument without sacrificing the ambiguity, the authorial humility that thought-provoking art demands? Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta relies on a triad of techniques -- an embrace of mythic scope, finely wrought personal detail, and political clarity.