Siberia, Italy and Eddie Izzard!: entertainment viewed

THE LETTER NEVER SENT (1959) is a Russian “socialist realist” drama in which four geologists hunt across Siberia for a hypothetical diamond lode, not for personal greed but to advance Soviet industry! At first there’s the minor distraction of their personal dramas (such as one of them constantly adding to the letter he forgot to mail to his wife), but then the real challenge becomes returning to civilization after a devastating forest fire sweeps across the region. More interesting than enjoyable though it picks up steam as it goes along, and certainly some striking location footage. “You have raised yet higher the glorious banner of Soviet geologists!”

Adapted from the successful musical, NINE (2009) stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a 1960s Italian director (the source play is based on Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2) with a film about to shoot and writer’s block about the unwritten script. That leaves him stressed out, sliding into fantasy and memory and dealing with his issues about the way too many women in his life including long-suffering wife Marion Cotillard (“Even the moments I thought were ours are not!”), not-quite-as-suffering mistress Penelope Cruz, randy journalist Kate Hudson, star actor Nicole Kidman, costume director Judi Dench, and childhood fantasy Fergie. Better than I expected, great to look at and solidly acted. “I can’t tell you what my film will be about — I still don’t know what my last film was about!”

As I’m a fan of the British comic Eddie Izzard, TYG got me tickets to his WUNDERBAR! tour (“I adopted a German word because your government and mine are both embracing certain behaviors from the 1930s.”) which hit Durham last Monday. Izzard speculates about God’s drug use, gives the history of England (“William the Conqueror’s father blew up.”), talks politics (“Donald Trump eats his own backside.”) and discusses dogs (“Assassins! Assassins Assass — oooh, poop. Is it mine?”), which unsurprisingly was my favorite bit. Fun to see the guy live, though it’s not the kind of show that will suffer if you saw it on tape. “That’s right, dogs are American conservatives.”

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