Film Review: ‘Green Book,’ a road trip peppered with hilarity and humiliation

A still from ‘Green Book.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 24 November 2018
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Film Review: ‘Green Book,’ a road trip peppered with hilarity and humiliation

CHENNAI: Peter Farrelly’s latest work, “Green Book,” which had its Middle East premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival last week, captures the agony and angst of African-Americans at a crucial time in US history.
Farrelly presents a deeply moving snapshot of a biased society, but narrates it with delightful humor, in this story about African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who embarks on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. Armed with a Green Book — a guide for black travelers with information on safe hotels and other public places — the prosperous Shirley hires tough-talking Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver-cum-muscle and the pair set out on an eventful journey into the heartland of racial prejudices.

While Vallelonga is uncouth in his ways, Shirley is a thoroughbred and takes pains to teach his driver social etiquette. When Vallelonga steals a precious stone from a wayside store, Shirley insists that the gem be returned. Vallelonga gets even by forcing his boss to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, something he has never done before. These lighter moments are neatly woven into a patchwork with the humiliating, difficult to digest incidents that Shirley faces. While he is welcome to play at some of the poshest theaters and hotels in the Deep South, he is not allowed to use their conveniences — not even their restaurants — due to the color of his skin.
Based on a true story — interviews with the real-life Shirley and Vallelonga’s accounts of the concert tour were reportedly the primary sources for the original screenplay — the film was co-written by Vallelonga’s son, Nick. It is a departure from Farrelly’s most famous films, “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” as it provides a serious study of racism in the US, along with a healthy dose of humor.
It is saddening to see Shirley suffer through the torturous trials he is put through, incidents that serve as a reminder of what was a daily reality for so many not so long ago. While Mortensen shines in his role, it is ultimately Ali who steals the show as a trailblazing pianist with a point to prove.


Performance artist Marina Abramovic returns to native Belgrade for retrospective

Updated 21 September 2019

Performance artist Marina Abramovic returns to native Belgrade for retrospective

  • ‘You know for me it’s very emotional to be here, and it’s not easy, there’s lots of nostalgia, lots of memories that are forgotten’
  • Doling out advice for youth, the artist said: ‘It is very important to follow your heart, your ideas, without compromising’

BELGRADE: The boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramovic returned to Belgrade Saturday to inaugurate the final exhibition of a major touring retrospective, marking her first professional homecoming in nearly 50 years.
Dressed in black, the 72-year-old invited reporters to Belgrade’s Contemporary Art Museum at dawn for the “symbolic cleansing of her career.”
The retrospective, titled “The Cleaner,” exhibits more than 100 works from Abramovic’s past 50 years of provocative performances, many of which saw the artist put her own body on the line.
“You know for me it’s very emotional to be here, and it’s not easy, there’s lots of nostalgia, lots of memories that are forgotten,” she said of her return to the Serbian capital, a place she said shaped her outlook as an artist.
“I learned three things here: from my grandmother I learned spirituality … from my father I learned bravery, and from my mother willpower and discipline,” she said.
The exhibition, which has been touring Europe since 2017, features photo montages and video reels replaying many of Abramovic’s most daring works, including one where she laid out a table of 72 objects, among which figured scissors and a loaded gun, and invited spectators to use them on her “as desired.”
Another piece from 1997, titled Balkan Baroque, saw her sit and clean 1,000 beef bones while singing folk songs from her youth, earning her a Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale.
Young Serbian artists also re-enacted some performances live on Saturday, including one in which a naked man and woman stand inside a doorway, forcing museum-goers to squeeze past their bodies.
Doling out advice for youth, the artist said: “It is very important to follow your heart, your ideas, without compromising.”
“To live for your art, which requires a lot of sacrifice,” she added.
At the start of the exhibition, Abramovic briefly sat down to re-enact a 2010 performance in New York named “The Artist is Present.”
That three-month-long piece saw her sit silently, without moving, for seven hours a day, six days a week, as visitors took turns sitting across her.
Asked if she would use her fame to bring more support to Serbian artists, Abramovic said:
“I am not a politician, but an artist, and I believe that this exhibit will show politicians that investing in culture will bring it to higher levels.”
The exhibit will be open in Belgrade until January 20, 2020.