Skip to main content

Cartoonist Daniel Clowes

Cartoonist Daniel Clowes. Drawn in 1950s pop culture style, his comics are darkly humorous satires of middle class America. His graphic novel Ghost World (first published in 1993) is the basis of the film of the same name. Ghost World has just been nominated for an academy award in the Adapted Screenplay division. Clowes' first comic book series was Lloyd Llewellyn, followed by Eightball


Other segments from the episode on February 15, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 15, 2002: Obituary for Waylon Jennings; Interview with Daniel Clowes; Interview with Terry Zwigoff; Commentary on Dave Van Ronk; Review of the film "Iris."


DATE February 15, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

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

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Cartoonist Daniel Clowes talks about his comic Ghost
World being made into a movie and reminisces about his childhood

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music from "Ghost World")

GROSS: That's music from the soundtrack of "Ghost World," a film which is on
many critics' 10-best lists for 2001. Now it's nominated for an Oscar for
best adapted screenplay. The film is based on a comic book by my guest,
Daniel Clowes. He co-wrote the screenplay with the film's director, Terry
Zwigoff, who we'll meet later in the show. "Ghost World" is about two
teen-age girls, Enid and Rebecca, who have just graduated from high school and
are in that limbo between school and whatever happens next. The smart,
cynical girls identify with the losers and misfits of the world. Although
they're best friends, they're starting to drift apart for reasons they don't
quite understand.

Enid is played by Thora Birch, and Rebecca is played by Scarlett Johansson.
Rebecca has started a new job, working at the register of a cafe that's part
of a big chain. Every day the cafe offers a free cup of coffee in exchange
for the correct answer to the day's posted trivia question. And every day, a
man in a motorized wheelchair triumphantly collects his free coffee with the
help of his laptop computer, which is hooked up to the Internet. In this
scene, Enid is visiting Rebecca at work and witnesses the daily trivia ritual.

(Soundbite of "Ghost World")

Unidentified Woman: (As Enid) I'll have a decaf mocha to go.

Ms. SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) Mm-hmm. One decaf mocha.

Unidentified Man: Decaf mocha.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) Can I get you a bis...

Unidentified Woman: No, I do not want a biscotti with that.

(Soundbite of coffee being poured; register; heels on floor)

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) God. Some people are OK, but mostly I just feel
like poisoning everybody.

Ms. THORA BIRCH: (As Enid) Well, at least the wheelchair guy is entertaining.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) He doesn't even need that wheelchair. He's just
totally lazy.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) That rules.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) No, it really doesn't. You'll see. You'll get
totally sick of all the creeps and losers and weirdos.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) But those are our people.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Rebecca) Yeah, well...

GROSS: Daniel Clowes, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. DANIEL CLOWES (Cartoonist): Hello there.

GROSS: When you were in high school, and shortly after high school, did you,
like Enid in "Ghost World," carry a sketchpad and sketch people who struck you
as particularly interesting or particularly ridiculous?

Mr. CLOWES: Oh, sure. Yeah. No, I drew all the kids in my high school
class, you know, in a variety of, you know, sexual positions with, you know,
animals and things like that and, you know, drew all the teachers. And, of
course, once a year one of the teachers would pick up my notebook, you know,
while I was obviously not paying attention in class, and read it out loud to
the whole class, you know, humiliating me. But, you know--and, of course, I
still do that. I still, every day, draw little notes and pictures about
people I'm observing.

GROSS: Now the character of Enid has a scene in a comic book store. She
doesn't like the people who work in the store. They mock her. And the people
who work in the store are all young guys. What's your experiences with comic
book stores and with the culture inside them?

Mr. CLOWES: I try to have as little to do with that whole culture as
possible. I mean, I find it very alienating. I feel like it has very little
to do with what I do. I mean, the typical comic store sells mostly only
superhero comics that are geared for an audience of sort of perpetual
adolescents, most of which are not adolescents at all, but 30- to 40-year-old
men who, for some reason, are stuck in this part of their lives where they
really need these kind of power fantasies, and it's just sort of endlessly
annoying and alienating to me. I've really no relation to it. I feel very
separate from it, and I find it sort of aesthetically vulgar or something. I
mean, that sounds a little snooty, but it's not something I want to be attuned
to at all.

GROSS: When did you start drawing comics?

Mr. CLOWES: Before I could read, actually. My brother left me a giant pile
of comics in his room, and I used to look at those and sort of try to piece
together the weird archetypes you'd see in these old comics, which are all,
you know, superheroes and monsters and idiots and hags in caves and all these
strange, sort of mythological archetypes, and, you know, I tried to sort of
draw my own versions of these very crudely when I was four or five years old.

GROSS: You went to art school. You went to the Pratt Institute in New York.
And one of your early comics, the first edition of Eightball, had a story
called "Art School Confidential."

Mr. CLOWES: Yes.

GROSS: And in it you write `Art School Confidential blows the lid off a
million-dollar racket. See rich guys who draw worse than your seven-year-old
sister. See has-been famous artist professors who couldn't teach a dog to
bark; self-obsessed, neurotic art girls who make their own clothes.' And you
write, `The teachers aren't there to help you. Most of them are still
free-lancers, and the last thing they want is more competition. They're there
because they need a steady paycheck, and they hope to score with the
students.' Does that kind of sum up your reaction to art school?

Mr. CLOWES: Yeah. I mean, I'm not exaggerating with that. I mean, that was
how I felt. I mean, when I went to art school, it cost me, I think, $8,000 to
go for all four years, and now it's like that much for one unit. You know, it
costs like $60,000 or $100,000 to go to art school. And I think, you know,
one out of 500 people actually make a living as an artist, so it's definitely
a racket.

GROSS: Let me play an art school scene from "Ghost World." Well, this is an
art class, I should say. Enid is taking an art class and her teacher, played
by Illeana Douglas, at this point is reviewing the students' art projects.
And she's holding up Enid's class submission, which is Enid's comic

(Soundbite of "Ghost World")

Ms. ILLEANA DOUGLAS: (As art teacher) What can you tell us about this piece,
Enid? Enid.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Well, it's kind of a diary, I guess.

Ms. DOUGLAS: Colorful. Hmm. I think that Phillip and Enid can help us to
see that there are many different ways we can express ourselves. We can do
things like these cartoons that are amusing as a sort of light entertainment
or we can do work that is more serious in scope and feeling and that deals
with issues--emotional, spiritual, political--of great importance.

GROSS: In the comic book Ghost World and in the movie "Ghost World" there's
one student artwork that consists of a tampon in a teacup. And in the movie,
it's submitted by a woman student, and it's supposed to be making a feminist
statement. In the comic book version, it's submitted by a male student, and
it's called "Tangerine Ameba Apartheid Heartbeat No. 4." Was this based on a
real art submission in high school or college?

Mr. CLOWES: Yeah. I'm actually afraid I can be sued for that by the poor
guy who turned that in.

GROSS: And what was your reaction to the piece when you saw it in real life?

Mr. CLOWES: I just thought it was one of those brilliant things where he
obviously hadn't done his homework and he was sitting there at the breakfast
table that morning and he got the brilliant idea to put a tampon in his teacup
and bring it in. To me, that's the beauty of art school is you can--he sort
of got away with it. I think he probably got, you know, like a C-plus or
something for that.

GROSS: Well, in your comic Artbook Confidential(ph) you write, `Seldom will
you be afforded the chance to scrutinize such an array of losers in an
environment that actually encourages their most pretentious inclinations.'

Mr. CLOWES: Yeah, that's the beauty of it all. I mean, it's this world
where, you know, you're not going there to learn to do painting techniques and
things like that. You're going to learn how to express yourself and to--you
know, you're being taught by people who are sort of abstract expressionists or
conceptual artists who have no sense of how to, you know, paint a horse or to
draw in perspective or anything like that. So God forbid you should learn
anything useful like that. You're taught to sort of fit into the art world in
some way and everybody goes with this sort of intention of showing what a
genius they are, and it can be quite amusing.

GROSS: Well, Dan Clowes, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. CLOWES: Well, thank you.

GROSS: Daniel Clowes, recorded last summer. He co-wrote the screenplay for
"Ghost World," which is
based on his comic book of the same name.

Coming up, we'll hear from the director of "Ghost World," Terry Zwigoff. This

(Soundbite of music)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Director Terry Zwigoff discusses his new movie
called "Ghost World"

Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes are nominated for an Academy Award for best
adapted screenplay for the film "Ghost World." It just came out on DVD.

My guest Terry Zwigoff also directed "Ghost World," and he's the director of
the acclaimed documentary "Crumb" about the underground comic book artist R.
Crumb. Zwigoff has seen a lot of comics over the years, because his wife has
worked for a comic book distribution company which puts out work by Crumb,
Clowes and many other artists. One of Zwigoff's contributions to the
screenplay was the addition of a new character, Seymour, played by Steve
Buscemi. Seymour is a middle-aged collector of jazz and blues 78s, who gets
involved with Enid, the alienated teen-age heroine of the movie. He's
socially awkward and especially self-conscious around women. In this scene
from early in the film, Enid has bought a blues anthology from Seymour at his
garage sale. Now she's coming back to tell him she really likes it.

(Soundbite from "Ghost World")

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Yeah, it took me a while before I got a chance to
actually play it, but once I heard that song, it was, like...

Mr. STEVE BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) You liked it, huh? Yeah. There's been some
really rare performances. What about the--did you like "The Memphis

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Yeah, that was good, too. The whole record was good,
but that one song, "Devil Got My Woman," I mostly just keep playing that over
and over. Do you have any other records like that?

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) There are no other records like that. Actually I
have the original 78 in my collection. It's one of maybe five known copies.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Wow.

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) You want to see it? I can run upstairs and get

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Sure. Yeah.

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) Watch my stuff. There you go. It's only about a
B minus. It's got an incipient ...(unintelligible) crack, but it plays
decent, as I recall.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Oops, I dropped it!

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) Oh, jeez.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) I was only kidding.

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) It's--yeah.

Ms. BIRCH: (As Enid) Seymour, are you all right?

Mr. BUSCEMI: (As Seymour) Yeah, it's just very valuable.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: There's a record-collecting theme at a party that Seymour gives and,
you know, everybody there except Enid is a collector of rare records. And all
the conversation they're having is about the condition of the records in their
collection. And she kind of thinks it's pretty cool and Seymour says, `You
think it's healthy to obsessively collect things? You can't connect with
other people, so you fill your life with stuff. I'm just like the rest of all
these pathetic collector losers.' Do you really think of collecting as being

Mr. TERRY ZWIGOFF (Director, "Ghost World"): Yeah, in some ways. I had a
hard time writing that line as well. I almost took it out 'cause I actually
wrote it with Charles Crumb in mind. I wanted to make Seymour have this sort
of tragic self-awareness that Charles Crumb had.

GROSS: Charles Crumb is R. Crumb's late brother.

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Yeah. And I thought that would be very strong in the
character. So I kept wavering on whether or not to do that, to keep that line
in. It seemed too obvious, and in other ways it seemed very truthful. So I
wound up going with the line.

GROSS: I really love the record-collecting scenes in this. There's a scene
that I particularly like later on in a bar. You know, Enid and Seymour are
going to a bar to hear an old performer who Seymour quite likes and is really
disappointed that this guy isn't the headliner. And the headliner is this...

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Like, Blueshammer is the headliner.

GROSS: Yeah, they're this really awful bar band. And so Buscemi is sitting
next to a woman at the table, and she says, `Oh, I really love the blues,'
after this performer that Buscemi likes has performed, and he corrects her.
And he says...

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Can't help himself.

GROSS: Yeah, he says, actually...

Mr. ZWIGOFF: He has to correct her.

GROSS: He says, `Actually, technically what he was mostly playing would more
accurately be classified in the ragtime idiom, although, of course, not in the
strictest sense of the more classical ragtime piano music like that of Scott
Joplin or Joseph Lamb.' I thought it was really funny the way he corrected
her. And then she goes on to say that she really loves the blues and that,
you know, if he loves the blues, he's got to see this band Blueshammer because
they're so great. And, of course, they're really horrible and they're
everything probably that he hates about ersatz contemporary blues bands.

Mr. ZWIGOFF: White guys singing about plowing behind mules.

GROSS: Yeah, and singing in black dialect and singing about being old and...

Mr. ZWIGOFF: I've been through that experience many times.

GROSS: Have you? Uh-huh.

Mr. ZWIGOFF: I cannot tell you how many times I've been dragged to a bar by
some--usually not a girl I'd met at the bar, some girl I just started dating.
And, `OK. We'll go hear some blues,' try to find some middle ground in the
relationship and something like that would happen. The problem in that scene
was how far to push it before the audience actually got it. I could have made
that a lot more subtle. But it's hard to tell, hard to be objective.

(Soundbite of music)

BLUESHAMMER: (Singing) Well, I've been plowing behind a mule, son, picking
cotton all day long. Yes, I've been plowing and picking cotton all day long.
I said, `Lordy, baby, oh, my woman, she be gone.'

GROSS: Now the Steve Buscemi character was largely your creation, the record
collector character.

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Yeah, I originally added him to the story because I actually
wanted an excuse--we kept going down to Hollywood pitch meetings to pitch this
film, and the first thing they'd say is, `Oh, great, it's based on a comic.
That's good. We have "X-Men" and it's going to make a lot of money and "Lara
Croft" and "Spiderman," all this stuff, "Batman." It's all made money.' And
then they started talking about the soundtrack. They really want a pop
soundtrack. `That's great. We have teen-age girls, comic books, and we'll
have, like, this hit soundtrack with 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys and
whoever's big this week,' you know? And I just said, `You know, got to figure
out some way around this,' so I wrote this main character into the film who
collects old music just so I could use old music.

GROSS: Now the director of photography in the movie is the same director of
photography who worked on Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother," which is a
beautiful looking film with color almost being almost like the characters in
the movies, the color's used so well.

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Yeah, it was great.

GROSS: So who's most responsible for the color, the director of photography,
yourself as the director, the fashion coordinator who's actually choosing the
clothes that everybody wears in the movie?

Mr. ZWIGOFF: It's all important to some degree, all those choices, and we
all talked about it. The first thing I did with the entire crew including
Mary Zophres, the costume designer, and the production designer, Ed McAvoy,
and Affonso Beato, the cinematographer--is I dragged them all out to a
shopping mall in LA and we had a camera with a long lens on it and we just
looked at people walking by that I would point out going down this escalator
that we had a good view of from about 100 feet away. I'd just say, `Take a
picture of that guy. Look at this guy. Look at the clothes there,' and then
we studied these photographs, and a lot of the colors, a lot of the wardrobe
itself, a lot of the hairdos on the extras, all that stuff, I said, `I'm very
interested and concerned with creating an entire world down to the extras.
All the background details are very important to me,' so we studied those
photos. It was very helpful.

GROSS: What did you want from those background details, from the people, for
instance? What kind of look did you want the extras to have?

Mr. ZWIGOFF: It was really an homage to Robert Crumb. It was really
something that I had picked up from knowing him and from his comics, the way
he sees modern Americans as just these sort of fat, unhealthy, out-of-shape
slubby people shuffling along, most of them rather depressed and they're just
wearing these clothes that are ridiculous on them. They're either--have big
ads for, you know, Nike or The Gap on them, or they're some sports team or,
you know, some old guy wearing, like, a jogging outfit and, you know, he can
barely walk. He's got a walker, you know? He's shuffling along and, you
know, the stuff that's too stylish for their age or too stylish for, you know,
their body type, their hairdo. I don't know. All that stuff was important to
me, and that was completely an homage to Robert Crumb.

GROSS: So are you already thinking what your next movie will be?

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Oh, boy, I guess I better pretty soon. The standard of living
has been raised. My wife made us get some cell phones, new computer. The
overhead's going up. I have to pay the bills. I just turned down a $10,000
offer from The Gap to have my photo taken for The Gap. I said, `What do you
mean, have my photo taken for The Gap?' They said, `Yeah, we're doing an ad
campaign and billboards and magazines of young hip film directors.' I said,
`I'm 53 years old. I'm not young. I'm not hip. I don't even wear blue
jeans, you know? I'm this sort of short, disheveled, graying guy with white
hairy arms, and you're going to put me in, like, a Gap T-shirt? Think that's
going to sell, like, Gap clothes?' As tempting as that $10,000 was, you know,
you're not going to endorse that company.

GROSS: Were you flattered that they thought you could be a hip model for
their clothes?

Mr. ZWIGOFF: Obviously, they never even seen what I looked like and they know
nothing about me or my pothers. I'm sure then never even saw the film. If
they saw that film, it'd be clear to any thinking person this is the last guy
who's going to endorse The Gap. It's, like, six years of my life went into
making some big statement against, like, this corporate consumers and sweeping
the planet and ruining the Earth.

GROSS: Terry Zwigoff, recorded last summer. He directed the film "Ghost
World, which he co-wrote with Daniel Clowes. They're nominated for an Oscar
for best adapted screenplay. "Ghost World" just came out on video.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Analysis: Remembering folk performer Dave Van Ronk

Folk performer Dave Van Ronk died last Sunday at the age of 65. He was one of
the earliest leaders of the urban folk movement of the '50s and '60s and
maintained a devoted following to the end. Music critic Milo Miles has this

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DAVE VAN RONK: (Singing) He was a friend of mine. He was a...


The wider world may associate guitarist, singer and songwriter Dave Van Ronk
with the Greenwich Village folk scene, but he would have been exactly the
same if it had never happened. He was a powerfully inner-directed man and
changed his style only as much as he wanted over the course of more than 40
years of performing. He had his landmarks. The Byrds made his version of
the blues "He Was a Friend of Mine" into a timeless tribute to John F.
Kennedy, and he made "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" into the unofficial anthem
of the village folk movement.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. VAN RONK: (Singing) He got on the road. Never had no money, pay for his
board. He was a friend of mine. He was a friend of mine.

MILES: Dave Van Ronk started as a trad jazz player but soon expanded to
blues. After a while, there were ragtime and bluegrass elements in his work.
He seemed able to transcribe any kind of music into his nimble but steely
finger-picking style, which remains an inspiration to aspiring guitarists.
Van Ronk was famously an early friend and mentor of Bob Dylan in his Village
days. But more than songs or guitar or literature, I think Van Ronk taught
Dylan how to be unvarnished but not corny. And he continued to be an example
by persisting, still playing, still recording, still believing in the power of
song. Of his 30-odd albums, "Inside Dave Van Ronk" makes a fine introduction.

The one time I saw him play, Van Ronk's voice had already gone from gruff to
ragged and rasping. But once he got going, he was plainly possessed by his
material. There wasn't a whisper of nostalgia or folky mustiness about him,
and he always made room for one of his droll observations about human folly
and joy. He could have been a troubadour from the '20s, the '50s or

GROSS: Dave Van Ronk died last Sunday. He was 65. Milo Miles is a critic
based in Boston.

Coming up, John Powers reviews the new film "Iris." Three of the actors are
nominated for Academy Awards. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New movie "Iris"

Our film critic John Powers has a review of the new movie "Iris."


Every era has a disease that seems to haunt the popular imagination, that
becomes a symbol of its fears. Over the course of my life, I've seen this
symbolic disease change from heart attacks to cancer to AIDS. The current
obsession is Alzheimer's, which is feared for doing something worse than
devouring the body: It destroys the very nature of one's self. That
destruction lies at the heart of "Iris," the story of what Alzheimer's does to
a married couple. But not just any couple. Based on John Bayley's memoir,
"Elegy For Iris," it's the story of this Oxford don's relationship with Iris
Murdoch, the philosopher-turned-novelist who is sometimes called the most
brilliant woman in England.

The film jumps back and forth between two time periods. In the first, Bayley,
played by Hugh Bonneville, is a stammering young lecturer who comes off as the
world's oldest virgin. Iris--that's Kate Winslet--is everything he's not:
patently brilliant, socially bold, flagrantly sexual. She sleeps with both
men and women. They become an odd couple, Iris goading Bayley into life--she
takes him skinny-dipping--while he provides a protective cushion that lets her
do her work.

The other story line shows them many years later as an old married couple.
Iris, now played by Judi Dench, is sinking into Alzheimer's, and the aging
Bayley--that's Jim Broadbent--has started to become her caretaker. As their
house becomes increasingly filthy and cluttered, Iris' own clear identity is
gradually extinguished, a process she denies but cannot escape. Here Iris
sees a doctor who begins by asking her a question.

(Soundbite of "Iris")

Unidentified Man: What is the name of the prime minister?

Ms. JUDI DENCH: Oh, me? Are you asking me?

Unidentified Man: Yes, I am.

Ms. DENCH: I don't know; ask John. Surely it doesn't matter.

Unidentified Man: OK. Well, no, not really.

Ms. DENCH: I've got a lot of ideas, but they won't come together. It happens
all the time, forgetting names.

Unidentified Man: Well, take care.

Mr. JIM BROADBENT: Goodbye, Doctor, thank you.

Unidentified Man: No problem.

(Soundbite of door closing)


Ms. DENCH: Surely the country won't go to the dogs. Not knowing the prime
minister's name is not a capital offense.

Mr. BROADBENT: Absolutely.

Ms. DENCH: I know the names that matter.

Mr. BROADBENT: You're all right.

Ms. DENCH: Well, I will be if you stop whining. I've got a book to finish.
Tony Blair. So there.

POWERS: Oscar voters are suckers for movies about disease and death, and
three of Iris' four leads were nominated earlier this week, and the fourth,
Hugh Bonneville, would have been if the Academy, which always backs the
famous, had ever heard of him. The overlooked Bonneville is a dead ringer for
his older self, Jim Broadbent, the wonderful actor you may know from the work
of Mike Leigh or as the emcee in "Moulin Rouge." Both of them movingly
capture a particular aspect of Bayley, the warm, loving, self-effacing sad
sack. Maybe he is these things, but it's annoying that the film pretends this
is all he is. In fact, Bayley is one of England's leading literary critics
whose pieces constantly appear in the New York Review of Books. Reading
"Elegy For Iris," you know how smart he is, not because he's boasting but
because he's the one writing the book. His intelligence shines through every
page. The movie makes you think Iris likes him simply because he's a nice

For her part, Iris is idolized as a great intellectual and writer, one worthy
of being played by Dame Judi Dench. Thanks to countless Miramax Oscar
campaigns, Hollywood now worships Dench, which explains how she could get a
best actress nomination for a role that asks her to spend most of the time
walking around with a vacant look in her eyes. She's perfectly fine, but the
best actress here is Winslet who, at age 26, is already a far more compelling
screen presence than Dench. She gives young Iris the hard-edged lust for life
the movie requires. She even rides a bicycle like Jeanne Moreau in "Jules and
Jim." Though I think Murdoch's novels are vastly overrated--she never met a
symbol she didn't belabor--I always liked the idea of her, and the fearless
Winslet gives us the fearless Iris we want to see.

If only the movie were so bold. But it ducks the tricky questions of freedom
and love, niceness and goodness, that lie at the heart of Murdoch's fiction.
Instead, director Richard Eyre clunkily cuts back and forth between the young
and old couple, trying to manipulate us into crying for the sadness of it all.
The only moment that really cuts to the core comes one night in bed when Iris'
mind is gone. Finally overcome, Bayley begins shrieking at Iris that after
all these years he finally possesses her and now he doesn't want her.

Although the film is mediocre, I have to admit it has a clumsy power,
especially for those of us old enough to deal with parents with Alzheimer's or
terrified we'll get it ourselves. In a sense, it's the flip side of "A
Beautiful Mind," which is all about John Nash battling and beating mental
illness. "Iris" is being marketed as a love story and a celebration of life,
but the story is actually far more pitiless. It's not a triumph of the human
spirit, but a portrait of inevitable decay. And "Iris" may bloom, but it will
certainly and inexorably wither and fade.

GROSS: John Powers is executive editor of LA Weekly. I'm Terry Gross. This
is NPR, National Public Radio.
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.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue