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Arts Recommends

By The Brandeis Hoot

Section: Arts

May 19, 2012

‘Go Down, Moses’

The novelist William Faulkner never met a family he didn’t enjoy destroying through his patented combination of humility, disjointed narrative and Southern guilt: Look no further than the Compsons of “The Sound and the Fury” and the Sutpens of “Absalom, Absalom!” Faulkner presents yet another version of dynastic decline in one of his lesser-known novels, “Go Down, Moses.”

Here the focus is on the McCaslins, a Mississippi plantation family inhabiting the author’s apocryphal Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner always prefers presenting his stories in a fragmented, half-glimpsed fashion, and “Go Down, Moses” is no different. It consists of seven related short stories that span 100 years in the family’s life. Its most prominent character, Isaac McCaslin, appears in only three of the stories, yet the novel is decidedly about his coming to terms with his family’s myriad sins, which range from greed to incest.

Faulkner never shies away from exploring the moral effects of slavery on the South, but here he also ruminates on the region’s vanishing wilderness. Isaac is a hunter deeply in-tune with nature, and part of the South’s sin in his eyes is its willingness to sacrifice this connection for material wealth. It’s an ecological novel that predates the birth of the eco novel.

“Go Down, Moses” ended the most fruitful period of Faulkner’s career, in which he published 13 novels in the span of 16 years. At that time, Faulkner was something of a failure as a writer—most of his novels had already gone out-of-print, and his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature was eight years in the future. Thankfully, obscurity needn’t be permanent.

Sean Fabery, Editor

‘Blue Valentine’

To put things simply, “Blue Valentine” is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” meets the second half of “Titanic.” It’s undeniably an indie film, but it pulls off its indie low-budget feel without feeling misguided emotionally in the way other indie films can be.

The film stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a troubled married couple, Dean and Cindy. Their marriage is clearly approaching its expiration date, and its deterioration is contrasted with their hopeful courtship in a narrative peppered with flashbacks. These glimpses into the past only make the current set of circumstances even more heartbreaking. For Dean, it’s love at first sight. He happens to spot Cindy while working for a moving company; as he tells it, he immediately gets “that feeling when you just gotta dance” and eventually convinces her to take a chance on him. Their early relationship is not completely absent of drama, but an undeniable bond ties them together.

There are two main reasons why this film is truly tragic: Their relationship is realistic, and there is no antagonist. Both Dean and Cindy have valid reasons for feeling reluctant about their relationship. As the film continues forward, the viewer is helplessly thrown into the turmoil of their decaying relationship. When the movie finally concludes, there is nothing to do but stare at the credits. “Blue Valentine” is a great film because of the feelings it manages to inspire in its audience.

Candice Bautista, Editor

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