Michael Wood

  • MEMORY OF THE FUTURE

    THERE HAVE LONG BEEN many ways of staging apparitions. One well-tried method is to present a troubled or slightly miscued conversation and then have a character tell the audience that one of the first talkers was a ghost. This is what happens in Jordan Harrison’s play, on which Michael Almereyda’s subtle and elusive film Marjorie Prime is based. Well, the phantasm in question is not a ghost in the old-fashioned sense. He is a stylish hologram, the visual representation of a computer program that stores memories and has astonishing learning capacities. It can also “look stuff up,” we are later

  • Christian Petzold’s Phoenix

    CHRISTIAN PETZOLD’S Phoenix is cool, clean, knowing, full of references to other movies—a stylish, belated film noir that invokes a lot more darkness than it can cope with or even acknowledge. It is based on a French novel by Hubert Monteilhet that became an English film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Maximilian Schell and Ingrid Thulin. The book and its adaptation were called, respectively, Le retour des cendres (1961) and Return from the Ashes (1965).

    In the new film, the Phoenix is a nightclub in rubble-strewn postwar Berlin. Has Germany been born again from the ashes? Well,

  • Fiona Banner’s Heart of Darkness

    IF YOU CROSS London’s Waterloo Bridge heading south, you will see the familiar complex of large buildings that make up the Southbank Centre—the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre, the Hayward Gallery. To the right you will see the more recent gigantic wheel of the London Eye. And currently, perched on the roof of a convenient concert hall, you will see what looks like a new, small, stranded houseboat. It is a sort of houseboat, but it isn’t stranded. It has been designed (by the artist Fiona Banner and the architect David Kohn) to float there for a while. It is modeled on a Belgian

  • Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald)

    W. G. SEBALD’S UNCLASSIFIABLE BOOK The Rings of Saturn (1995) begins with its aftermath. The writer takes a series of long walks through the Suffolk countryside and along the coast and then becomes ill, almost unable to move. He recovers in a hospital in Norwich, amid various bad omens, such as the abrupt, unexplained deaths of friends, and writes his book, now cautiously associating his medical condition (“perhaps it was because of this”) with “the paralysing horror” that had overcome him during his walks when he was repeatedly “confronted with the traces of destruction,” learning the lesson

  • Chris Marker’s Immemory

    MOST OF US COLLECT MEMORIES and a few relics, but photographers and filmmakers literally assemble traces of the world, build a piece of an archive every time they go to work. Chris Marker’s extraordinary CD-ROM Immemory is an attempt to make such an archive available in the form of a visual essay. Only visual? There are snatches of sound here and there, but Marker mainly invites us to see things, in every sense—and then remember and meditate. He gives us poems, pages of prose, book covers, postcards, book illustrations, paintings, posters, telegrams, letters, clips of film, and above all, hundreds