East of Eden, however – that one is a bit surprising, for a minute or two. A literary adaptation of a flawed John Steinbeck novel set in rural California, a Biblical allegory writ so large and plain even the character's names ring a cathedral bell for Cain and Abel--what big link is there to the man who made Taxi Driver and Goodfellas? And yet, it isn't surprising at all. East of Eden is crippling in its level of emotional violence, James Dean's need for his father's love so raw it's like a third-degree burn. Scorsese makes several references to his own relationship with his older brother, never spelling out particulars. Eden spends a lot of time with the Bible-reading scene, where Dean's father, played by Raymond Massey, tries to force a confession as to why Dean had pushed blocks of valuable ice down a ramp. Richard Davalos as the brother watches Dean's agony with a bit of sympathy, but mostly relief that he's the good one. Even without the cagey tidbits about his own brother, it's clear Scorsese admires the film's ruthless eye for the way men simultaneously seek connection and cut themselves off from it.
That is the Siren writing about the excellent A Letter to Elia, the documentary about the art of Elia Kazan from Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones. It’s from her first column for Nomad Wide Screen, and for now it is available here. The column, scheduled to appear bimonthly, is called Retro Fit and will deal with, well, what you’d probably expect the Siren to deal with, only in first person. She'll still be here in third person. Nomad Wide Screen is an online magazine that forms part of Nomad Media. You can check out the first issue here and read about the contributors, who include my esteemed pals Vadim Rizov and Simon Abrams. The editor of Wide Screen is the great Glenn Kenny.
The magazine will be subscription-based, and the Nomad Media founders explain the philosophy thus:
Nomad Editions represents a new business model for digital media. We believe that readers will pay a fair price for high-quality, original and exclusive content, delivered in a superior format, to mobile devices.
Nomad Editions also wants the creators of that content — writers, photographers, illustrators, and editors — to be well rewarded for success. Nomad Editions shares a substantial percentage of our revenue with the contributors and editors, so that everyone who's part of Nomad Editions has a direct and substantial stake in the success of the business.
The Siren hopes her patient readers will check it out, and sign up. Free trials are available here.
(The screen cap is from a brief but wonderfully heartening post at 24 Frames Per Second, about the reaction of college students to Dean's performance in East of Eden: "He's still got it.")