Letters on Arts and Culture

The contemporary relevance of Ludwig van Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his birth

By Verena Nees and Peter Schwarz, 17 December 2020

Beethoven was the most profound musical voice during a period in which humanity progressed in quantum leaps. His works are ineradicably connected with the striving for human liberation.

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle—A remarkable exhibition

By Clare Hurley, 19 November 2020

A timely and long overdue exhibition of Struggle: From the History of the American People reunites this remarkable series of paintings by Jacob Lawrence, the famed African-American artist, for the first time since they were completed in 1956.

German artists, cultural institutions fight for survival in COVID-19 crisis

By Stefan Steinberg, 17 November 2020

German artists and cultural institutions fear bankruptcy and destitution as the coronavirus crisis deepens and the government refuses to allocate adequate funding.

Collected Ghazals: Poet Jim Harrison regains spontaneity through a fixed verse form

By Erik Schreiber, 4 November 2020

Harrison’s eclectic approach to the ghazal produced collage-like poems that combine personal and social concerns.

Right-wing press in Germany steps up attacks on pianist Igor Levit

By Ulrich Rippert, 26 October 2020

The Süddeutsche Zeitung editorial board’s initial defence of its article, as well as subsequent articles in Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, reveal that these leading newspapers share essentially the same line as the far right Alternative for Germany.

On the brink: A photographic examination of social cleansing in London

By Paul Mitchell, 22 October 2020

“My aim is to focus on existing council properties that have been neglected due to the lack of maintenance. It’s imperative to showcase the decay of these buildings as it’s been a deliberate strategy to run them down.”—photographic artist Sarah Douglas

Further signs of the “devastating impact” of the pandemic on arts and artists: What are the implications?

By David Walsh, 21 October 2020

The ongoing destruction of the jobs, incomes and aspirations of tens of thousands of artists of every kind in the US and elsewhere has a significance that goes beyond the immediate cultural sphere.

Rick Poynor’s David King: Designer, Activist, Visual Historian: An important new work on the revolutionary socialist, artist and defender of historical truth

By Kevin Reed and David Walsh, 16 October 2020

If David King is not better known, it is attributable largely to the shift to the right in so-called intellectual circles, their hostility to the October Revolution and their growing social indifference.

More than three-quarters of event workers have lost all of their income

Live music industry in the US faces “massive collapse” due to pandemic

By David Walsh, 14 October 2020

The devastation has implications that go beyond even the immediate economic situation, as desperate as that is. The coronavirus crisis is threatening to wipe out a considerable portion of cultural life in the US.

Tenor Placido Domingo, defending his character and reputation, retracts “apologies” for alleged sexual harassment

By Fred Mazelis, 29 September 2020

Operatic tenor Placido Domingo told an interviewer for Spanish television last Saturday that his apologies last February for alleged sexual misconduct had been taken out of context, and that he was not guilty of abuse or mistreatment.

Toronto International Film Festival 2020: Part one

76 Days: The drama of the Wuhan lockdown

Under the Open Sky from Japan, The Best Is Yet to Come from China

By David Walsh, 23 September 2020

This year’s event presented some 60 feature films, a sharp decline from the more than 330 screened in 2019, with the festival organizers forecasting a 50 percent decline in revenue throughout 2020.

Ghosts of West Virginia: A moving new album by Steve Earle & The Dukes

By Matthew Brennan, 27 August 2020

The album was created in conjunction with a stage play about the 2010 Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine explosion in West Virginia, which killed 29 coal miners.

Julian Bream (1933-2020): Pioneer of the classical guitar

By Paul Bond, 26 August 2020

A turning point for Bream was hearing recordings of Andrés Segovia (1893-1987), another great guitarist, whose transcriptions of Baroque compositions helped shape the modern repertoire.

Sinclair Lewis’s novel Main Street at 100

By James McDonald, 16 July 2020

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Main Street, the breakthrough work of an author who would become, in 1930, the first American awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

American comic writer and performer Carl Reiner, 1922-2020

Making “fun of the people higher on the totem pole”

By David Walsh, 2 July 2020

Reiner may not be a name known by many under a certain age, but his influence and impact on American comedy and performance in the postwar period was considerable.

Season 4 of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why: Biting off more than it can chew

By Nick Barrickman, 1 July 2020

The latest season is the final one in the series about the lives and difficult circumstances of a group of teenagers at fictional Liberty High School.

The coronavirus crisis, the government’s aid package and the attempt to strangle German art

By Verena Nees, 25 June 2020

On closer inspection, the German government’s aid package proves to be a sham and a step towards neutering and strangling a diverse cultural landscape.

Cultural resources wiped out by COVID-19 crisis: 13 percent of museums worldwide may never reopen

By Clare Hurley, 27 May 2020

Some 95 percent of the world’s museums are currently closed, and more than 11,000 institutions may remain closed after the pandemic recedes.

The New York Times exposes journalist, #MeToo crusader Ronan Farrow as a dishonest fraud

By David Walsh, 20 May 2020

Farrow has been the golden boy of the American media since the publication of his supposed exposé of Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker magazine in October 2017.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters: One small step for Fiona Apple

By Erik Schreiber, 15 May 2020

The new album, which resonates during our time of quarantine, reflects the singer’s personal growth, as well as the regressive influences of her Hollywood-celebrity environment.

Classical musicians, orchestras and opera companies confront COVID-19 lockdown

By Fred Mazelis, 29 April 2020

Freelance and younger musicians are especially hard hit by cancellations and shutdowns.

COVID-19’s devastating impact on artists

By Clare Hurley, 29 April 2020

Ninety-five percent of arts workers in the US have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic, with 62 percent now unemployed, according to a recently published survey by Americans for the Arts.

Star Trek: Picard—The prospects of an aging icon

By Lee Parsons, 18 April 2020

Set late in the 24th century, Star Trek: Picard concluded its 10-episode season in March to generally favourable reviews, if a mixed reception from the faithful.

Detroit Symphony musicians to take 20 percent pay cut

By Shannon Jones, 15 April 2020

Orchestras, opera companies, museums and other cultural institutions face severe revenue strains due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are responding with major cuts.

Leading orchestras and musicians move to free online performances in response to the coronavirus pandemic

By Clara Weiss, 17 March 2020

Some of the most important cultural achievements of humanity, previously locked behind paywalls or limited to local audiences, are now available to virtually everyone in the world who has access to the Internet.

A comment by writer and director Andrew Birkin on Speer Goes to Hollywood

13 March 2020

The WSWS has received a letter from writer and director Andrew Birkin in response to its review, posted on March 11, of Speer Goes to Hollywood .

The controversy surrounding Jeanine Cummins’s novel American Dirt

By Sandy English, 3 March 2020

The novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which describes the plight of refugees in Mexico, has come under attack primarily because its author is not Latina.

National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood—How the US military and CIA go about their propaganda operations

By Charles Bogle, 27 February 2020

The book, by Matthew Alford and Tom Secker, presents extensive evidence that US government departments and agencies use multiple means to manipulate content and even block production of Hollywood films.

2020 Academy Awards: Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite from South Korea wins major awards

By David Walsh, 11 February 2020

Parasite deserved to win the most serious awards, being markedly superior to every other film up for consideration. Bong’s effort is a complex, troubling work.

Neil Peart, renowned drummer for rock band Rush, dead at 67

By Kevin Reed, 14 January 2020

Peart, the hard-driving drummer and lyricist of the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, died on January 7 at the age of 67.

Scott Z. Burns’ The Report  exposes CIA torture, then absolves the Democrats

By Joanne Laurier, 29 November 2019

The Report is a film dramatization of the events surrounding the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into and writing of a report on pervasive CIA torture under the Bush administration.

Modern-day philistinism and reaction: the New York Times considers “canceling” French painter Paul Gauguin

By David Walsh, 25 November 2019

The Times published an article November 18 with a headline that posed the question, “Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?”

Michael Winterbottom’s Greed: A searing indictment of the super-rich

By Thomas Scripps, 18 November 2019

Greed offers a sharp and often funny critique of the impact on society of rule by a criminal financial oligarchy and deserves a wide audience.

Striking Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians return to work, ending three-month work stoppage

By Dmitri Church, 30 September 2019

The one-year contract signed last week accedes to management’s demands to cut the symphony’s summer season, while doing nothing to guarantee salaries.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino’s non-conformist conformism

By Joanne Laurier, 31 July 2019

Tarantino’s latest film reimagines 1969 Los Angeles and the disintegration of the traditional studio system.

Modern art in Germany and the Nazis Part 2: The Die Brücke painters

By Sybille Fuchs, 26 July 2019

The exhibition at the Brücke Museum represents a welcome change in favour of art appreciation based on a critical examination of contemporary history.

Racialism and money-grubbing: The New York Times explains why “more critics of color” are needed

By David Walsh and Fred Mazelis, 9 July 2019

In the interests of honesty, “Race-fixated upper middle class continues its campaign for positions and money” ought to have been the headline of an opinion piece published by the New York Times July 5.

Marching Song, play co-written by Orson Welles about abolitionist John Brown, to be published after 85 years

By David Walsh, 2 July 2019

Todd Tarbox has edited the play and Rowman & Littlefield will publish it in August. This is a significant cultural event. Marching Song is an important historical drama.

A conversation with Todd Tarbox, editor of Marching Song

By David Walsh, 2 July 2019

David Walsh spoke recently with Todd Tarbox, who has edited and overseen the publication of Marching Song, a play co-written by Orson Welles in 1932 about the abolitionist John Brown.

San Francisco School Board votes to destroy left-wing murals they claim are “racist” and “white supremacist”

By Toby Reese, 28 June 2019

On Tuesday evening, the San Francisco Unified School Board voted unanimously to destroy or cover over the historic 1936 “Life of George Washington Murals” at a district high school. The vote is a reactionary decision that marks a new stage in the censorship drive that began last December.

”We can’t erase history to suit people’s feelings”

San Francisco residents voice opposition to censorship of George Washington High School murals

By Evan Blake and Alex Gonzalez, 28 June 2019

Numerous residents spoke out against the destruction of art and the need to contextualize the murals for a younger audience.

Behind the cover-up of the 2008 Universal Music Group vault fire

By Kevin Reed, 17 June 2019

The recent exposure of Universal Music Group's concealment of the loss of a huge trove of postwar popular music reveals the corruption of the corporate elite, as well as the compliance of news media.

Mayor Emanuel intervenes to shut down Chicago Symphony Orchestra strike

By George Marlowe, 26 April 2019

As part of his final act on behalf of the city’s financial elite, outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel has offered to intervene to end the nearly two-month strike by Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) musicians

Some films from the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 1

Paper Flags, Tehran: City of Love and Belmonte—Alienation, loneliness and other problems

By David Walsh, 26 April 2019

Paper Flags, Tehran: City of Love and Belmonte—three films from France, Iran and Uruguay, respectively—were screened at the recent San Francisco film festival.

Warner Bros. CEO’s resignation sheds revealing light on Hollywood and #MeToo campaign

By David Walsh, 22 March 2019

Kevin Tsujihara, one of the American film industry’s most powerful executives, resigned March 18 after texts were made public indicating he had promised to promote an actress’ career in exchange for sex.

A reply to a comment on the obituary of Sri Lankan filmmaker Lester James Peries

By Pani Wijesiriwardane and Gamini Karunatileka, 24 July 2018

Our basic objective was to examine Peries’s general contribution to Sri Lankan cinema and how he came to be known as its father.

A concert of relative rarities by American composer Aaron Copland

By Fred Mazelis, 23 April 2016

Copland’s jazz-influenced Piano Concerto deserves a higher profile in the orchestral repertoire.

Stephen Parker’s Bertolt Brecht. A Literary Life—a welcome biography that raises big historical issues

By Sybille Fuchs, 18 April 2016

One of the most talented and influential playwrights of the 20th century, Brecht adapted to Stalinism, with pernicious consequences for his career and work.

On sexual harassment policy

Professors’ group charges Obama administration with undermining academic freedom and due process

By David Walsh, 30 March 2016

A report by the American Association of University Professors points to the reactionary role of the sexual harassment industry on university campuses.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 2

The human cost of the drug war in Mexico and a drama from Venezuela: Retratos de una búsqueda and Dauna. Lo que lleva el río

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 30 March 2016

The San Diego festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, South and Central America.

Rolling Stone’s retraction of University of Virginia gang rape story

By David Walsh, 7 April 2015

Rolling Stone magazine commissioned Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, and two colleagues, to investigate the writing and publication of “A Rape on Campus.”

The historical and political issues in Selma

By Fred Mazelis and Tom Mackaman, 20 January 2015

Most attention has been focused on the relationship between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson, but far deeper questions must be explored, including the significance of the mass movement against Jim Crow segregation, its political limitations and its fate.

To End All Wars: An anthology of antiwar comics about World War I

By Jeff Lusanne, 16 January 2015

Artists from around the world have contributed 26 comics depicting the criminality and brutality of World War I.

A further comment on The Cranes Are Flying

By Wolfgang Weber, 19 June 2014

The Cranes Are Flying was a great success in East and West Germany, as it was in the Soviet Union.

Letters from our readers

17 December 2013

A selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

Letters on the Academy Awards

28 February 2013

A selection of letters in response to “The 2013 Academy Awards: Mediocrities by and large, and at their worst.”

A comment from a reader in Uruguay on Lincoln, Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty

25 February 2013

A reader notes the comments of certain South American critics, part of a global phenomenon, in praise of Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow.

Letter about The Green Mile

10 February 2000

Just saw The Green Mile. My wife and I would have never seen it had it not been for some friends who recommended it. We said, "OK, let's see it. We can't have an intelligent conversation without actually seeing it." Well, the film confirmed our worst expectations. It is without doubt one of the most disgustingly self-satisfied and stupid movies we have seen (though better, in our opinion, than Amistad). We had refrained from reading your review of it so as not to taint our perceptions. As it is, I just read it this morning and, though it was one of your most brutal pans, you were too, too kind!

A letter on It All Starts Today

6 September 1999

Dear editor,

A note in appreciation of Eyes Wide Shut

2 September 1999

While I agree that attempts to read a larger social statement into this film will inevitably fail, I feel that MJ's comment does not do Eyes Wide Shut justice. Much of the film's success has to do with Kubrick's understanding of the craft of powerful visual storytelling. The long shots, especially in the scenes between Cruise and Kidman, cement our belief in the characters and subsequently in what is occurring. This may be seen as purely technical virtuosity and thus cover for lack of a compelling story-line but I don't believe that's the case here.

A reader comments on Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and David Walsh replies

21 August 1999

Dear Editor,

An exchange on the Wim Wenders film Buena Vista Social Club

4 August 1999

The following is a letter from a WSWS reader in response to the July 9 article "Music of life—Buena Vista Social Club " and a reply by Fred Mazelis, for the WSWS editorial board.

Readers comment on the WSWS review of Spike Lee's Summer of Sam

10 July 1999

To the editor:

Saving Private Ryan: First and second impressions

25 June 1999

To the editor:

Was 1933's "Gabriel over the White House" inspired by California gubernatorial election?

2 June 1999

To the Editor:

Titanic: An exchange of letters between David Walsh and a reader

25 February 1998

David Walsh’s review of Titanic generated a large number of letters as well as the following exchange.

Readers respond to David Walsh’s review of Titanic

25 February 1998

The WSWS has received dozens of letters on its review of the move Titanic. Here we publish some of the recent ones.