Impressions of … Liberal Arts [Josh Radnor]

this reminded me of ‘Garden State’, both comic dramas written and directed by young TV stars, both concerned with young men going home and reflecting on the state of their lives – I didn’t know Radnor had attended the Kenyon College (or indeed grown up in its environs) but it was obvious – hard not to conflate Josh and ‘Jesse’, creator and character, and on this evidence he is a sweet guy, earnest, caring, pleasing to the eye (while Braff would seem overly-concerned with the issues related to his success)

almost fifteen years after graduation, Jesse (unlike Josh, you imagine) has not found fulfilment, professionally or personally, this leads him to accept an invitation to speak at his (second) favourite professor’s retirement celebration, which in turn leads to a romance with a current student, their age difference provokes a crisis – a sweet, earnest sort of crisis – and of course the resolution of the crisis leads to personal growth, maturity, Josh/Jesse are preoccupied by the principle of maturity, the emotional life cycle, the conclusion (assumption) is that age-appropriate behaviour is a pre-condition of happiness, childhood extends to age 21, or 22 if you took a year out, and being a good guy requires the substitution of anxiety for (inappropriate) sexual excitement – because, as Jesse explains, rather paternally, “sex is complicated” …

yes, Josh/Jesse, you are now ready to grow old and raise children: you have achieved the appropriate attitude – but you really didn’t get to grips with Romantic poets, did you? (literature isn’t wallpaper)

the script tends towards the earnest, but features some crisp dialogue – “I have a car.” “Okay?” “I would like for you to get in it with me. And I would like to drive us somewhere.” “Where?” – and some convincingly cringeworthy moments, and the affection for his alma mater, and for other people, is charming



Impressions of … The Act of Killing [Joshua Oppenheimer]

extraordinary, where did he get the idea? Inviting former members of Indonesian death squads to make a film re-enacting their killings. This is a documentary I’d like to know more about: I guess the filmmaker, Joshua Oppenheimer, was already acquainted with his protagonist – … he seems to have his trust even friendship (and he’s fluent in Indonesian)


this film within a film is an enormity, not least because the tone is nostalgic: an excuse for reminiscences and reunions: those were the days, eh, when street gangsters (“free men”) became paramilitaries and could round up suspected communists, torture and kill them (a kind of garotte was our protagonist’s personal favourite) – this was a good thing, he explains, because the communists wanted to take away his freedom to tout cinema tickets for Hollywood movies; most of the documentary follows … as he develops his idea for the film, the enterprise lulls him into a false sense of security (of importance?), he opens up to ‘Joshua’, and we get far more insight and access than we might have done

but the revelation, the genius of the documentary is the effect the re-enactments have on the protagonist, this is something I should leave as a surprise

I would like to note how reassuring this conclusion is, an affirmation of a moral universe, killing is bad for the soul, yet one man’s redemption does not bring back the hundreds, the thousands massacred in Indonesia during that period, nor does it prevent similar atrocities from occurring in the future