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Marian McPartland, Pioneering Jazz Legend

The fact that she is a British-born white woman hasn't stopped jazz pianist Marian McPartland from playing for nearly 50 years in a world that is largely male and black. Now about to turn 90, McPartland has a new CD called 'Twilight World.'

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Other segments from the episode on March 14, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 14, 2008: Interview with Quincy Jones, Review of the HBO miniseries "John Adams;" Review of the film "Funny games."

Transcript

DATE March 14, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Quincy Jones talks about his career as a musician,
producer, arranger and composer
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

Our guest, Quincy Jones, started his career as a trumpeter in Lionel Hampton's
big band in the early '50s. Jones never became a noted instrumentalist. What
made him famous and wealthy was his work as an arranger, composer, producer
and media mogul, work that spans the big bands through be-bop, pop, movie
soundtracks, TV themes and hip-hop. He's arranged or produced recordings for
Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, George Benson,
James Ingram and Ice-T, and he produced the Michael Jackson megahit
"Thriller."

Terry Gross spoke with Quincy Jones in 2001 about his memoir, called "Q." He
had just put out a four-CD box set of music featuring him as a trumpeter,
arranger, composer or producer. Here's a sampling.

(Soundbite of music medley)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) Another bride, another June
Another sunny honeymoon
Another season, another reason
For making whoopee.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I'm beginning to see the light...

Unidentified Woman #3: (Singing) Look at me
I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree
And I feel like I'm clinging to a cloud I can't understand
I get misty just holding your hand...

Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
And let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me.

(Soundbite of "Soul Bossa Nova")

(Soundbite of "Beat It")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) You better run, you better do what you can,
Don't want to see no blood, don't be a macho man
You want to be tough
Better do what you can
So beat it
But you want to be bad

Just beat it
Beat it
Beat it
Beat it
No one wants to be defeated

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Back, back on the block.

Backup Singers: (Singing) Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Group: (Singing) Back, back on the block.

Back Singers: (Singing) Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Group: (Singing) Back on the block
So we can rock with soul, rhythm and blues
You got to hip-hop back on the block.

Backup Singers: (Singing) Do-whoa-oh. Do-wa-da-nay-oh-oh.

Group: (Singing) Back on the block.

ICE-T: (Rapping) Ice-T...

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: A sampling of tracks from the Quincy Jones retrospective CD box set
called "Q," also the title of his autobiography.

One of the first musicians he came to know well was Ray Charles. They met
when they were both teenagers. Terry asked him about their friendship.

TERRY GROSS, host:

You said that you admired Ray Charles' independence. He was 16 years old. He
was blind. But he had his own apartment, he got around town himself, he had a
girlfriend; I mean, he had a lot of things that you wanted.

Mr. QUINCY JONES: Yes, he did. He had his own apartment, too, and two
suits. It was amazing. But I guess what impressed me the most with Ray is
that he was so independent, and that his sightlessness did not hinder him at
all. It's one of the treasured, cherished friendships that I really have,
because as kids we used to talk about everything. He'd show me how to write
music in braille, Dizzy Gillespie songs like "Emanon" and be-bop, etc. And we
used to dream about the future, like, `Wouldn't it be great to work with a
symphony orchestra? One day we're going to do that. One day we're going to
have three girlfriends each,' you know? `One day we're going to do movies
together.' We're going to do all of that stuff, and we did it. And that's
what's amazing. We did, you know, "In the Heat of the Night" together. And
we did "We Are the World," all of those things. Everything--the girls. So we
did--it's amazing to dream and have your dreams executed like that, you know?

GROSS: Well, I thought I'd play a 1959 recording that you arranged for Ray
Charles, and this is from "The Genius of Ray Charles" album, which was
recorded in 1959. We're going to hear "Let the Good Times Roll." Would you
like to say anything about this track?

Mr. JONES: I would just like to add that we had half of Count Basie's band
on that session and half of Duke Ellington's band on that session. And in
those days, that's when I first started to work with Phil Ramone, the
engineer, who's now a producer. And Ahmed Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry
Wexler came by, because in those days what you heard was what you got. It
wasn't about fixing in the mix. There was nothing to mix.

GROSS: This is Ray Charles' arrangement by Quincy Jones, "Let the Good Times
Roll."

(Soundbite of "Let the Good Times Roll")

Mr. RAY CHARLES: (Singing) Hey, everybody, let's have some fun
You only live but once
And when you're dead, you're done
So let the good times roll
I said, let the good times roll

I don't care if you're young or old
You ought to get together and let the good times roll
Don't sit there mumbling, talking trash
If you want to have a ball, you got to go out and spend some cash
And let the good times roll now
I'm talking about the good times

Well, it makes no difference whether you're young or old
All you got to do is get together and let the good times roll

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Ray Charles recorded in 1959, from the album "The Genius of Ray
Charles." The arrangement is by my guest, Quincy Jones. He has a new
autobiography. Quincy Jones also has a new four-CD box set that spans his
whole career.

Your first important music job was with the Lionel Hampton big band. You got
that job while you were still in high school. How did he hire you when you
were still in school?

Mr. JONES: Well, I had written a suite that I'd been working on for a long
time called "From the Four Winds," and it was almost a descriptive piece. And
I didn't understand theory too well then, but I just went ahead straight--it
didn't stop me from writing. I didn't understand key signatures or anything,
you know. I'd say silly things at the top of a trumpet part like `Note: When
you play B naturals, make the B naturals a half step lower because they sound
funny if they're B naturals.' And some guy said, `Idiot, just put a flat on
the third line and it's a key signature,' you know? Because it didn't bother
me that I didn't understand that, because I knew eventually I'd learn it.

And so I gave this arrangement to--submitted this to Lionel Hampton. And he
said, `You wrote this, huh?' I said, `Yeah.' He said, `Play the trumpet, too?'
I said, `Yeah.' Well, he said, `How'd you like to join my band? Please.' I
says, `Are you kidding?' And so they had little brown leather bags for your
trumpet then. I had that and just a very few toilet articles and so forth.
And I went and sat on that bus so nobody would change their mind, and I
wouldn't have to ask the people at home whether I could go or not. And sure
enough, everybody got on one by one. Hamp said, `Hi,' and I felt secure.
Then Gladys Hampton got on the bus and says, `Unh-unh. What is that child
doing on this bus?' And she said, `No, son, you get off the bus.' She said,
`We will try to talk later, but you go to school.' And I was destroyed.

And so I got a scholarship to Boston--to the Berklee College of Music, and I
got the call. A friend named Janet Thurlow was singing with the band and she
reminded them, and they called and said, `We'd like you to be with the band.'
I was 18 then and I was ready. And I told the school I'd be back, but I guess
down inside, you know when you go with a band like that you'll never go back.

GROSS: Now, you say that you were afraid that when you were playing with
Hampton that Parker or Thelonious Monk might show up in the audience, and you
were worried they'd laugh at what you had to wear in the band. What did you
have to wear in the Hampton band?

Mr. JONES: Well, that incident happened when we were playing at a place on
Broadway right next door to Birdland; I mean, totally like adjacent. And both
places were downstairs. And we had to wear Tyrolean hats, purple
shawl-collared coats and Bermuda shorts.

GROSS: Bermuda shorts. Why?

Mr. JONES: Oh, my god, the whole band. And...

GROSS: Why did you have to wear shorts?

Mr. JONES: Oh, I don't know. That's just Hamp's idea. But he--Hamp was
like a rock 'n' roll band. He was the first rock 'n' roll band, because he
attacked an audience like a rock 'n' roll band; no prisoners, and he knew how
to get them, too. He put...

GROSS: Well, some of the tenor solos are almost like a rock 'n' roll band,
too, yeah.

Mr. JONES: Yes. In the theaters, they'd walk--they had thin-soled shoes.
They'd walk over the audience's heads with these thin-soled shoes on top of
their chairs, you know. It was absolutely incredible. And he had this sense
of show business, but he had a lot of music in the band, because, you know,
they had people like Wes Montgomery and Charlie Mingus and Fats Navarro and
Clifford Brown--amazing musicians in the band. And I loved Hampton for having
that ambidexterity because he liked great music, but he also liked to level
his audience and take no prisoners. Until they were wrung out, he was not
satisfied.

GROSS: So did any of your be-bop friends end up seeing you in that band that
night?

Mr. JONES: Well, that particular night, he had this favorite thing he'd like
to do. He'd have everybody--he'd get his drumsticks and start a whole line,
almost like a conga line. The saxophone section would follow him around the
audience, and he'd go around and beat the drumsticks on everybody's table.
The trumpets and trombones were right behind him playing "Flying Home." Then
he'd go upstairs. I said, `Oh my God.' Clifford Brown and I said, `If he goes
upstairs, we may run into Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and Mingus and all
these great musicians.' And Hamp went upstairs and he's playing his drumsticks
all over the awnings and the guys are saying, `What is going on here?' He'd
even go so far as to get in a taxi cab with the saxophone section and go to
another club maybe three blocks away and play with the saxophone section
there, and meanwhile, back at the ranch, we're still playing. So it was quite
an experience. He had no shame, and he was a great musician--one of the great
times of my life.

GROSS: But did Parker see you in your Bermuda shorts?

Mr. JONES: Oh, yes. But on top of that, Parker would come next door. Bird
would come next door. He loved to read music. And he was starring next door
with like the 52nd Street All-Stars, the Be-Bop All-Stars, and they were
looking for him next door. It was time for him to play his set. And he's
sitting over there in our band playing second tenor because he loved to read
music. And he's sitting for an hour while people are next door waiting to
hear him as this genius of the 20th century. And he's over there playing
second tenor parts to practice his reading--because all the musicians read
music back then.

DAVIES: Quincy Jones speaking with Terry Gross. We'll hear more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's 2001 interview with trumpeter, producer,
arranger and composer Quincy Jones.

GROSS: Now I've got to move to a 1962 recording. This is the "Soul Bossa
Nova," which became the theme for "Austin Powers"...

Mr. JONES: Yes, it did.

GROSS: ...the movie, which just goes to show how this epitomizes a certain
'60s sound. What was the occasion for writing this originally?

Mr. JONES: We had just come back from two State Department tours with Dizzy
Gillespie. The first was in the Middle East, the place was Pakistan, right
there, you know? I've been down in Iran and Syria, Beirut. And we came back
to the White House Correspondents' Ball in Washington, and they liked what we
had done, and so they sent us out to South America after that.

And so we went down to Argentina first and Buenos Aires, and when we got to
Brazil Dizzy played with a rhythm section, samba rhythm section at the Gloria
Hotel one afternoon. And sitting in the front row were three teenagers, a
married couple, Astrud and Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, who
started a whole bossa nova movement. And ironically, the first record that
came out in the United States was "Desafinado." And the melody on the
first--just the opening strain was just almost pure Dizzy Gillespie. That's
why they referred to it at that time as jazz and samba before they even called
it bossa nova.

And so we came home all excited about this new music. They had moved
the...(unintelligible)...beat, which is really like the foundation of Latin
music, straight up and down Latin America. It's--that's the foundation
of...(unintelligible)...beat. It's the guiding force. And I wanted to record
some of this stuff, and so I made a thing called "Big Band Bossa Nova," and I
wrote in about 20 minutes--this is 1962--a tune called "Soul Bossa Nova."

GROSS: Well, let's hear your 1962 recording of "Soul Bossa Nova," which later
become the theme for "Austin Powers."

Mr. JONES: Shagadelic. Behave! (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of "Soul Bossa Nova")

GROSS: Let's talk about your childhood. Your early years were spent on the
South Side of Chicago. Your father was a carpenter. And you say that he
worked for the guys who ran the rackets on the South Side. How did he end up
being their carpenter?

Mr. JONES: Well, you know, that was the--Chicago during the Depression, in
the ghetto, nobody asked any questions, you know? And Chicago also was the
spawning ground of every--of probably the headquarter spawning ground of every
gangster in America, black or white--Roger Touhy, Dillinger, Capone,
everybody. So the Jones boys were just--they were one of the first black
gangsters. They started a policy racket, and they also had a five-and-dime
store chain, the Jones five and dime, which they used to call the "Vs and Xs."
So someone's making a trip over to the Vs and Xs today.

GROSS: So these were the Jones boys your father worked for. This isn't the
Quincy Jones family you're talking about?

Mr. JONES: No, no, no, no, no.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: They were the gangsters back in the day.

GROSS: Your mother was a Christian Scientist. Did she bring you up in your
early years as a Christian Scientist?

Mr. JONES: I think so, if I can remember. She went to Boston University
probably in the '20s, which was very unusual, you know, for an
African-American female in those days. And she--very smart lady. She spoke
and wrote, like, 12 languages, spoke in Hebrew, everything. And she could
type a hundred words a minute. And so she was like kind of the administrator
or superintendent of one of the places we lived in, like the Rosenwall, before
we got into a house.

GROSS: Your mother was later diagnosed as schizophrenic, and she was
institutionalized for a while. What were some of her problems at home before
she was actually diagnosed, problems that you found disturbing?

Mr. JONES: Well, it's dementia praecox, which is schizophrenia. She was
obsessed with religion, all forms of religion. And I didn't understand that
at that time, and I don't really know what happened. You know, the families
don't really tell you what the bottom line is, but she would stare out of the
window, and she would sing spirituals. She'd play spirituals and was just
erratic at times.

And I remember when I was about five years old, she--my birthday party, she
threw my coconut cake off the back porch. And it was really a big deal to me
then. I don't know why I remember that so much, but it was really something
that I couldn't understand because the cake was supposed to be, like, the
symbol or the metaphor for the joy of the birthday party, you know. That's
the object that you...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: ...the campfire. And she threw it out. And it just really
shocked me. And it was a very traumatic moment. I know it sounds like it's
nothing.

GROSS: No, it doesn't sound like it's nothing.

Mr. JONES: But at five years old, it freaked me out. And I realized--my
brother and I both realized something was wrong. I mean, every day we
realized something was wrong because it just wasn't like other people's
parents. Even the bad parents, it wasn't the same as that. It was...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: Because she was very smart. And so finally, she was committed.
And I didn't know or kind of blanked out what the process was until I went
back there, like 50 years later when I did Listen Up. All of it came back,
and I guess that's the part of the book that was cathartic. There were
missing pieces in my memory, and it got clarified.

GROSS: I want to get back to your music, and to get to the most colossal
success that you had, and that was the album "Thriller" with Michael Jackson.
What was your approach to producing "Thriller"? What did you think of as your
major contributions to the sound of that record?

Mr. JONES: Of course, "Thriller" was a combination of all of my experience
as an orchestrator and picking the songs and Michael's--all the talents he has
as a dancer, as a singer, as an amazing entertainer. It was like us throwing
everything we--accumulated experience, putting it all together.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "Billie Jean." I really regret we're out of time. I
wish we could talk some more. I want to thank you so much for talking with
us.

Mr. JONES: It's a pleasure, Terry.

DAVIES: Terry Gross spoke with Quincy Jones in 2001. Today is his 75th
birthday. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR. Happy birthday, Q.

(Soundbite of "Billie Jean")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) She was more like a beauty queen from a movie
scene
I said don't mind, but what do you mean I am the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round
She said I am the one who will dance on the floor in the round

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one
Who will dance on the floor in the round

(End of soundbite)

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Review: David Bianculli on HBO's miniseries "John Adams"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

On Sunday HBO presents the first two installments of a seven-part
eight-and-a-half-hour miniseries called "John Adams," based on the Pulitzer
Prize-winning book by David McCullough. Tom Hanks is one of the executive
producers and Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney star as John and Abigail Adams.
Our TV critic David Bianculli has this review.

Mr. DAVID BIANCULLI: If you remember your American history, even a little,
you probably know of John Adams as one of our country's founding fathers, as
well as its first vice president and second president of the United States.
That was back when uniting those states, formerly British colonies, was by no
means a sure thing. But there's so much about him in this new HBO miniseries
that wasn't covered in high school history classes that "John Adams" is
bursting with one surprise after another.

The opening hour begins in 1770 with John Adams arriving home on horseback in
the snow and rushing almost immediately to the scene of what becomes known as
the Boston massacre, British soldiers firing on an angry mob, killing several
of them. The soldiers are captured and put on trial, and John Adams takes the
case, but defending the British.

By the show's second hour, Adams is a delegate to the Continental Congress,
trying to push for a colonial militia to fight against the British.
Pennsylvania delegate John Dickinson is one of those who would rather
negotiate with the crown than oppose it militarily, but Adams ultimately
forces the issue by nominating a colonel, another delegate to the Congress, as
the general of a new colonial army.

That Virginia delegate was Colonel George Washington, one of many famous
figures fleshed out in this entertaining, well-told history. We get up close
and personal with George Washington, played by David Morse, and with Thomas
Jefferson and Ben Franklin, played respectively by Stephen Dillane and Tom
Wilkinson.

But the core of the story, which spans more than five decades, belongs to John
Adams, portrayed by Paul Giamatti, and his beloved, influential, opinionated
wife, Abigail, played by Laura Linney. Though often separated
geographically--John's political career takes him not only to Philadelphia but
to France and England--John and Abigail constantly seek each other's comfort
and counsel through letters. And when they're together, the strength and
equality of their relationship is evident and impressive. Here's a scene in
which John returns to Boston and Abigail, having just secured George
Washington's appointment as head of a ragtag army, but getting no political
support from most of the other colonies for waging war against England. John
and Abigail are standing outside in the snow.

(Soundbite of "John Adams")

Ms. LAURA LINNEY: (As Abigail Adams) I understand people like Mr. Dickinson
and his friends all too well, John. Send a woman to the Congress. She might
knock some sense into them.

Mr. PAUL GIAMATTI: (As John Adams) This is not a question of men and women,
Abigail. It is a matter of politics.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Abigail Adams) Politics! Politics?

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As John Adams) Mm.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Abigail Adams) And do women not live politics, John Adams?
When I go to the cupboard and I find no coffee, no sugar, no pins, no meat, am
I not living politics? This war touches people that your Congress treats with
the same contempt King George reserves for the people of Boston. I mean
women--yes, and slaves too, for that matter, though I'm sure you wish I would
not mention that subject as it might upset your Southern friends.

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As John Adams) You're harsh, madam.

(Soundbite of birds)

Ms. LINNEY: (As Abigail Adams) I am cold. I'm frightened. I'm afraid this
war will never end, or begin.

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As John Adams) I am frightened, too, Abigail, that however
much I talk and talk I will never carry the Congress.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. BIANCULLI: It's an extraordinary relationship, and these are
extraordinary performances. It's almost impossible to think of Giamatti as
the same guy who starred in "American Splendor" and "Sideways." And Linney as
Abigail exudes such strength and sense, you can't help but wish our country
had made room for some founding mothers.

Kirk Ellis wrote the smart screenplay adaptation for "John Adams," and it's
directed by Tom Hooper. Hooper's credits include two of the best TV dramas in
recent years, "Elizabeth I" and "Longford," and he's just as self-assured
here.

"John Adams" includes some major set pieces, but not as many as you might
expect. Even the Boston tea party is an off-camera event. This HBO
miniseries is far more concerned with where the real action is. It's in
private conversations and public debates. It's dialogue. It's vocabulary.
It's ideas. And it's truly inspirational.

This historical miniseries also brings to mind another piece of history, TV
history. The first time television devoted a miniseries to John Adams was in
the bicentennial year of 1976 with the PBS drama "The Adams Chronicles." Even
before that, CBS presented a miniseries about Benjamin Franklin, and in the
1980s gave us Barry Bostwick as a memorable George Washington. But now the
broadcast networks don't even bother making miniseries anymore, much less
important, impressive, instructive historical dramas. They've ceded that
territory to cable, which is a a short-sighted, stupid mistake. "John Adams"
is just the sort of program the broadcast networks should be proud to present.
If they don't know why their losing audiences, here's another reason why.

History in the right hands is a thrilling resource for television, and the
miniseries form is the perfect canvas for a story that spans decades and
contains lots of complex characters and events. Tom Hanks, as a movie star,
understands this all too well. As a TV producer, his company has given us
long-form dramatic miniseries about space travel--"From the Earth to the
Moon"--and World War II--"Band of Brothers." And now the birth of our nation
in "John Adams." Hanks is three for three, and all three were made for HBO.
Good for Tom Hanks, good for HBO, and very, very bad for broadcast television.

DAVIES: David Bianculli writes for tvworthwatching.com and for Broadcasting
and Cable Magazine.

Coming up, Marian McPartland's piano jazz. This is FRESH AIR.

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Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Review: David Edelstein on the new film "Funny Games"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

The 65-year-old director Michael Haneke was born in Germany and raised in
Austria, the setting of many of his violent and controversial films. In 2005
he had his biggest international hit, the French language "Cache." His new
English language film "Funny Games" stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth and is a
remake of his own 1997 Austrian thriller. Critic David Edelstein has this
review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Two years ago, I was the butt of Michael Haneke's sick
joke. The folks at Kino Video sent me a package of the German director's
pre-"Cache" features, among them "Funny Games," which Haneke has now remade
with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. The original is the tale of a well-to-do
Austrian family--a mom, a dad, a little son--whose vacation home is invaded by
two courteous young men in white preppy duds who, for no apparent reason, go
on to torture them. I watched to the end, removed the DVD and snapped it over
my knee. It hit me later that my response would have delighted Haneke. Here
was proof he'd succeeded in shocking the bourgeoisie.

I can't say whether the American "Funny Games" is a frame-by-frame remake of
the original because, of course, I broke the DVD. But the changes are
minimal. Here are the same elegant tableaux, the same impassive camera, the
same creepy-crawly flatness. Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet now play Paul and
Peter, who move from gated compound to gated compound, introducing themselves
with a polite request on behalf of a neighbor for eggs, dropping them by
accident and asking for more. When Naomi Watts' Ann tells Michael Pitt's Paul
to leave, he feigns total incredulity.

(Soundbite of "Funny Games")

(Soundbite of door closing)

Ms. NAOMI WATTS: (As Ann) Listen, young man. I don't know what kind of game
you're playing, but I don't want to be a part of it.

(Soundbite of steps)

Ms. WATTS: (As Ann) Would you please leave now?

Mr. MICHAEL PITT: (As Paul) What game? I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't
understand why you're suddenly being so unfriendly. Did Tom or I do anything
to upset you?

Ms. WATTS: (As Ann) Please leave.

Mr. PITT: (As Paul) Did--did you misbehave while I was outside? Was he
rude? Did he say something that...

Ms. WATTS: (As Ann) Stop it!

(Soundbite of steps)

Ms. WATTS: (As Ann) I've asked you nicely to leave. Now I'd like you to go.

Mr. PITT: (As Paul) Well, I don't understand what's upset you, but if you
insist, just give Tom the eggs and we won't bother you any more.

(End of soundbite)

EDELSTEIN: Naomi Watts produced this remake, apparently concluding she hadn't
yet been sufficiently violated on-screen. "King Kong," after all, turned out
to be a softie. Now she's hopped into the hairy paw of a giant ape artiste.
And this ape has post-modern pretensions, so Paul occasionally turns to the
camera and winks at the audience. The campiness surprisingly doesn't take the
edge off what we're watching. The suffering of the mother, father and child
is hideously realistic, and our thoughts turn not to the picture's artifice
but to the line of cinematic killers in the last few decade who videotaped
their atrocities.

One is the title character in Haneke's early "Benny's Video," a media-deadened
12-year-old who repeatedly watches a tape of a pig being slaughtered then
tries out the pig-killing gun on an adolescent girl in a scene that would
appall even "No Country for Old Men"'s Anton Chigurh. Benny was played by
Arno Frisch, who grew up to be one of the home invaders in the original "Funny
Games," and the link is significant. "Benny's Video" was part of what Haneke
called his "glaciation trilogy," in which he indicted the people of Austria
for their callousness toward the carnage in nearby Bosnia.

Later, in "Cache," he used a mysterious videotape as a means of punishing a
Frenchman for repressing his country's crimes against Algerian immigrants.
The sociopaths of "Funny Games" are monstrous, but the director also seems to
be mocking the American family they ravage for its privileged obliviousness.
I say "seems to be" because it's difficult to grapple with serious themes when
what comes through most vividly is the director's sadism. In the end, "Funny
Games" is little more than high-tone torture porn with an edge of
righteousness that's not unlike Peter and Paul's.

Audiences flock to nightmarish home invasion thrillers because of an implicit
pact with the filmmakers that the invaders will be vanquished and the family
unit saved. Some could make the case that Haneke deserves a measure of
respect for reminding us how pathetically dependent we are on that pact and
its cathartic endings, but I won't because the movie is shallow and itself
glacially unengaged, a punkish assault without punk's redeeming passion.

There I go again, metaphorically snapping "Funny Games" over my knee. I bet
that tickles Haneke. That's the thing about vapid provocateurs. No matter
how wretched their work, they think the joke is always on us.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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