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Roman James
Roman James

Subtitle Boyhood

n 1962, only nine years after Eugene O'Neill died, Arthur and Barbara Gelb published a major study of his life and work. Crammed with interviews with O'Neill's ex-wives, boyhood friends and theatrical colleagues, driven by the conviction that O'Neill's posthumously published masterpiece, "A Long Day's Journey Into Night," was the theatrical equivalent of "Moby-Dick," the Gelbs' biography helped to establish O'Neill's reputation as the great brooding genius of American dramatic history. Like O'Neill's life, their book was a sprawling work of passion, with the rough edges still showing and its own nervous energy throbbing slightly out of control.

subtitle Boyhood

O'Neill was literally born on Broadway, at a theatrical hotel in 1888. His father, James O'Neill, was a prominent actor who squandered his talent by playing more than 5,000 performances in the lead role of the melodramatic moneymaker "The Count of Monte Cristo." The subtitle of this book refers to O'Neill's extended dependence on his father and on the money he earned in a play that symbolized the sentimental values O'Neill learned to loathe.

The author covered the sex abuse crisis for Newsweek and has produced a big book, mainly about people and events in Boston, that will hold the attention of readers interested in a journalistic account that tries to be fair-minded, although it is not untouched by moments of legitimate, indeed necessary, outrage. Despite the subtitle, no secrets are revealed that have not been in the headlines.

. A quirky account of a Catholic boyhood in Cincinnati in the 1970s, turning on the author’s seizures, which he took to be visitations by Satan. This is not another Catholic horror story of sadistic knuckle-rapping nuns but a basically affectionate tale of the religious imagination running wild through the wildnesses of growing up. The author concludes that growing up Catholic was, all in all, a blessing. Definitely worth a look.

The films were all screened at multiplexes in the center of town, accessible from my hotel by the new sky train, the elevated subway that has gone into service in the last five years. The theaters were secreted deep within vertical shopping malls, up a maze of escalators, and through floor after floor of screaming video games, fast-food parlors, bowling alleys, ice-skating rinks, and stores selling everything a teenager might want. It was very loud, very vivid, very Blade Runner. I was surprised that anyone was able to find the theaters, but screenings were fairly well attended, at least compared with last year, when some films were apparently seen by audiences of one or two. Attendance was particularly impressive because all the films were shown in English, or with English subtitles. This language bias reflects the fact that the film festival was created and is sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which is hoping to use it to promote the country and its culture.

Perhaps because it's held in a developing nation that just experienced a major natural disaster, or perhaps as a result of its being organized from 18 flying hours away, or both, this wasn't the most organized festival I've ever been to, with last-minute schedule changes, poor communication, and dreadfully bad projection for the many digital features. In only the third year of its existence, the Bangkok International Film Festival is a work in progress, progress that seems only slightly slowed by the tsunami. It'll be interesting to see how it develops -- whether it takes root as a genuinely Thai festival, with deep local support (and maybe even Thai subtitles one day); whether it helps introduce the Thai film industry to a wider audience; and whether it promotes tourism, as the tourism authority hopes. I hope I'm invited back someday to see. 041b061a72


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