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Short Takes
BEHIND THE SUN Directed by Walter Salles Deep in the Brazilian back country, circa 1910, two families engage in a vendetta. The Breves are poor and losing the fight. One of their sons (Rodrigo Santoro) runs from it, finds love with a traveling entertainer (Flavia Marco Antonio), but not without bleak consequences. This movie is more emotionally remote than Salles' fine Central Station. But it is starkly beautiful and says something potent to a world in which nations, like these families, engage in mindless blood feuds.

9-11: EMERGENCY RELIEF This comic-book fund raiser collects more than 60 black-and-white vignettes about Sept. 11 into 208 pages. Most are indie artists' personal accounts of that day, like Evan Forsch's escape from the 89th floor of the north tower. With profits going to various charities, comic books like this--including Marvel's Heroes and September 11, a two-volume set jointly published by DC and others--are providing both an artistic outlet and a way to help.

ROOTS Luke Skywalker was not 1977's most popular epic hero; that was Kunta Kinte, the African whom author Alex Haley identified as his ancestor and whose family's 200-year saga became a 12-hr. ABC miniseries that broke ratings records and gave Americans of all shades a serious lesson in the horror of slavery. The event is recalled in an NBC special (this Friday) and the series' DVD release. Sprawling and stolid, Roots today evokes two vanished eras: the antebellum South, when blacks could earn dignity but not freedom; and those eight wintry nights when a whole nation could sit, rapt and appalled, before the communal TV.

EXTREME BEAUTY: THE BODY TRANSFORMED Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City It's easy to laugh at such follies as the 1903 ad for "Men's Corsets, An Absolute Necessity," or the male stockings with fake calf muscles, but many of the body-distorting items in this exhibition are recent fashion misstatements. Categorized by anatomy--feet, waist, chest--this show is most surprising not when comparing Victorian support garments to the 2000 Issey Miyake bustier (above) but in its cross-cultural references. The Mongo women of Zaire, for example, wore a belt that looks like the tail of a Playboy Bunny.

BRUTAL IMAGINATION By Cornelius Eady This unusual off-Broadway theater piece explores the case of Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her children by letting her car roll into a lake, then lied to police that the kids had been abducted by a black man. Joe Morton, playing the imagined culprit, and Sally Murphy, as Smith, alternately recap news reports on the crime and give voice to Eady's poetic riffs on race and stereotyping. It's sober, well-intentioned evening (with evocative music by Diedre Murray) that, unfortunately, gives short shrift to the most intriguing questions about the crime (like why Smith did it) and fails to engage us dramatically.

January 21, 2002 Vol. 159 No. 3

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