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Short Takes
THE ROYAL PHYSICIAN'S VISIT Per Olov Enquist Christian VII, King of Denmark in the latter half of the 18th century, was madder than a host of Hamlets. His minders hired an idealistic young physician to take care of him, but when the doctor used his access to the weak-minded King to take control of the nation--and to romance the hot-blooded young Queen--things went very rotten indeed. Enquist, a celebrated Swedish novelist, turns this actual historical incident into an enthralling fable of the temptations of power--and a surprisingly poignant love story.

OCEAN'S ELEVEN Directed by Steven Soderbergh There's a lovely moment when charming ex-con Danny Ocean (George Clooney) quizzes his ex (Julia Roberts) about her new beau. "Does he make you laugh like I did?" he asks, and she douses the flame by replying, "He doesn't make me cry like you did." Other than that, this remake of the 1960 Rat Pack caper doesn't offer much. The stars, including Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, hit their marks and smile a lot. The ending hints at a sequel (Ocean's 12? Ocean's 22?), but you've seen this one. Rent a video of Topkapi instead.

TREASURY OF THE WORLD Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City The Mughals, the Muslim rulers of India from 1526 to 1858, were the Taliban's basic nightmare. They loved jewelry and ornamentation of all kinds, gleefully adapted local and European techniques and had a high threshold for excess. This eye-popping exhibition includes all one can imagine making with precious stones (dagger handles, walking sticks and fly whisks) and lots of things one cannot (a back scratcher, a pedestal for a huqqa--hookah, to some--and a conch-shell holder). The show, organized by the Kuwait National Museum and the Met, will also bedazzle London; Cleveland, Ohio; and Houston. Be warned: your preconceptions about a joyless Islam may be shattered by the inscribed royal spinel (all 249.3 carats of it) alone.

ART OFFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: BIONIX De La Soul Twelve years is an unheard-of span of time for a hip-hop group to stay popular, and the reasons De La Soul has carried it off are loud and clear on its sixth album. The lyrics are funny but humane, the beats fresh and surprising. The high point comes when Slick Rick, one of rap's best dirty storytellers, weds his sleaze appeal to the group's nerdy humor and stuffs a Ben Stiller movie's worth of innuendo into a 5-min. track. The crackling originality that producer Prince Paul brought to the group's early work is sorely missed, but may they keep rolling on anyhow.

WALKING WITH PREHISTORIC BEASTS Discovery, Sunday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m. The name doesn't quite trip off the tongue like Walking with Dinosaurs, which brought the terrible lizards to life in digital animation. Otherwise this documentary, about the age of mammals, is a fab, furry follow-up. The menagerie--Ambulocetus (a "walking whale"), Propalaeotherium (a cat-size horse), et al.--is so stunning it's almost a disappointment when live actors turn up to play early humans. But when the giant deer Megaloceros charges and breathtakingly leaps over a hunter, it's like watching the ani-Matrix.

December 10, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 25

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