Staff Picks: ‘The Quiet Man,’ Mary Ruefle and Unknown Mortal Orchestra


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

Exploring The Quiet Man

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this month delving into the world of John Ford’s 1952 classic The Quiet Man, prompted by this week’s Blu-ray release of John Ford: Dreaming the Quiet Man, an Irish-made documentary that’s simultaneously a making-of account, a deep dive into director Ford’s Irish heritage, and close-reading of the picture itself. And yet, in spite of that ambition, it never feels jumbled or rushed; it’s involving and well told, with wonderful interviews by film experts, film directors (Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich among them), and co-star Maureen O’Hara, uproarious and still quite the spark plug. She helps detail Ford’s struggle to get his seemingly uncommercial Irish tale told, which involved bargaining with Republic Pictures to make a sure-fire hit with John Wayne and O’Hara to help cover costs. That film, Rio Grande (also available on Blu-ray from Olive Films) is a competent, occasionally inspired Calvary picture that absolutely feels like “one for them,” though it sports some legitimately stunning compositions and offers the first showcase for the bananas chemistry between O’Hara and Duke.

That chemistry goes full tilt in The Quiet Man itself (another Olive Blu-ray release), seemingly a departure for Ford and Wayne, but really just a reimagining; the filmmaker foregrounds the local color and sense of ritual that always made his oaters so rich, and slyly takes the familiar Western tropes (a stranger in town, a rivalry with a local, etc.) and comes at ‘em sideways. It’s a warm, lovely movie, one I’ll appreciate all the more for knowing how much of himself Ford put into it. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The Director Must Not Be Credited: 20 Years of Dogme 95 at MAD

Frequently mocked and quick to sink into obsolescence, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 was nonetheless one of the most important movements in 20th-century cinema. Governed by a strict set of rules rather than a loose ethos, Dogme aimed to oppose Hollywood excess by stripping away effects, genre conceits, and auteurist ego. From Denmark, the movement spread around the world, producing some of the greatest character-driven films of the late ’90s and early ’00s. New York’s Museum of Art and Design is celebrating Dogme’s 20th anniversary in a film series that runs through May 8. Though they’ve already shown Von Trier’s The Idiots and Vinterberg’s The Celebration, there are plenty of excellent screenings coming up, from better-known entries such as Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy and Lone Scherfig’s Italian for Beginners to Annette K. Olesen’s In Your Hands and the only Asian Dogme film, Daniel H. Byun’s Interview. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Ken Ragsdale: The Hundred-Acre Wood

Ken Ragsdale takes photographs. They’re strange, haunting photographs that evoke his childhood in the Pacific Northwest, living on a tree-cutting ranch. These small marvels (they’re photos of dioramas) use paper to conjure up whole worlds. They’re strange, odd, and fascinating, and it’s the sort of art show where you can spend lots of time gazing at each piece, wondering about the scenes they portray and the ghosts that linger in each. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

Sufjan Stevens’ “Fourth of July”

On “Fourth of July” (off Carrie & Lowell), Stevens juxtaposes grief over his mother’s death with moments from his childhood. It’s hard to “recommend” the song “Fourth of July” — just as it’s hard to recommend one attend a stranger’s funeral because it’s going to be really “beautiful.” It feels intrusive. But here we are, with a new album to listen to, a new window open to intrusion over on NPR. The song is a transcendently candid portrait of bereavement, of the strange and constant duality between the force of parental love (in this case, one that’s partly imaginary) and the stronger forces that never fail to extinguish it. It’s a song to pay attention to because of its ultimate universality, but it also feels as uncomfortably personal as crawling into a gash in a favorite musician’s flesh. On a lighter note, its lyrics taught me that “Tillamook Burn” is not something that happens when you get cheap fondue on your arm. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Playmind Dance Classes

As a former tap class drop out, I had a little anxiety going into a Playmind Dance class this past Sunday, which was guided by instructor Coco Karol at The Ark, and is is part of the Scared Arts Research Foundation in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Would it be really technical? Would the two hours feel like a lifetime? Would I be the worst one in the class? None of the above, actually. It turned out that Playmind is about improv dance, breathing, and cultivating awareness of the body and not about being a dance pro. There’s no wrong way to go about it, and so I blissfully spent two hours moving in ways that I didn’t realize I could (to live bass clarinet music by Mara Mayer), without feeling awkward about it. Afterwards, riding on my wave of feel-good, I bought a baby cactus in a shop around the corner. — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice

Madness, Rack and Honey by Mary Ruefle

I spent the weekend holed up upstate, watching the snow melt. As reading material, I pulled out a copy of Madness, Rack and Honey, Mary Ruefle’s book of poetic lecture-essays, and a pen for highlighting. A few years ago I bought the book because she gave the lectures to my graduate school classmates who studied poetry, and because the reviews she received were outstanding. The female essayist is so hot right now, but Ruefle’s musings defy genre or the neat order of the form, and their marvelous charm is the result of not adhering to particular rules. She skips from anecdote to philosophy to image and back again, using the anti-logic of a poet, and tucks profound truths into her flowing prose, here and there. A perfect book for shaking off the dreary veil of winter. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Multi-Love”

Ruban Nielson’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra has so far crafted two albums full of snaky psychedelia, its hooks buried beneath Nielson’s faraway falsetto and layers, layers, and layers of vague noise. With “Multi-Love,” off of the upcoming album of the same name, the hook is front and center, and this newly released video is far left-field. Watching it is pretty much the same as listening to the music, though, so, mission accomplished. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice