The Taking of Power of Louis XIV

One of the most influential directors in the history of cinema, Roberto Rossellini (1906-1977) had a curious career. Its first, most famous phase begin in 1945 with Open City, and continued with Paisan and Germany Year Zero; employing a documentary-like visual directness, these postwar films were the seminal works of Italian Neorealism. Rosellini?s second, more notorious phase includes a trio of films (Voyage in Italy among them) starring Ingrid Bergman. Once regarded as footnotes to the director?s love affair with their star, they had a profound effect on the sensibility of the French New Wave auteurs. A third phase, devoted to an examination of history through television, is little known, but filled with visual and intellectual riches. A set of three of Rossellini's History Films -- The Age of the Medici, Blaise Pascal, and Cartesius -- has just been released by Criterion and is well worth viewing. But The Taking of Power by Louis XIV , available separately, best illustrates Rossellini?s command of historical reconstruction. The film portrays the young Louis XIV?s cunning stratagem of confining the court intrigue that threatened him to the palatial playground of Versailles, where the rules of the game could be controlled by the Sun King. Although the bewigged, sumptuously arrayed nobility at times seems about to stumble into a Monty Python skit, the steady seriousness of Rossellini?s apprehension wins the viewer over with its careful attention to the details -- and wonder -- of the past.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."