What We’re Watching This Week: “To Walk Invisible,” “Call My Agent!,” and Feist’s Admiration Poetry Project |

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Photograph by Gary Moyes / BBC / Masterpiece

“To Walk Invisible”

Recently, in the midst of writer’s block, I did what I always do when
marooned in the middle of a story: I sank into bed and surrendered to
someone else’s. On Amazon, I found “To Walk Invisible,” a two-hour
period drama, written and directed by Sally Wainright, which centers on
the three years in which the Brontë sisters wrote the books that
immortalized them. Before the Brontës became the Brontës, Charlotte,
Emily, and Anne were the dutiful daughters of a loving if dithering
priest, tending to their parsonage in a provincial village on the edge
of the Yorkshire moors. Their lives were pinched and prosaic, filled
with the chores of cooking and washing and ironing, but it’s Wainright’s
refusal to romanticize that makes her portrayal so affecting. The
Brontës did not write for fame or fortune or even for some poetic sense
of self-affirmation. Their storytelling was a dirty secret, a means of
survival. Their father almost cast the family into financial ruin by
yielding to the whims of their alcoholic brother, Branwell—the heir who,
by dint of being male, is encouraged to pursue his artistic ambition and
given the means to do so. Branwell fails everyone, most of all himself,
but his perennial self-pity contrasts sharply with his sisters’
preternatural focus and determination.

“To Walk Invisible” isn’t feel-good television, but its world, so
vividly evoked and unsentimentally rendered, glitters with dark
intensity. “When a man writes something, it’s what he’s written that’s
judged,” Charlotte remarks to her sisters. “When a woman writes
something, it’s her that’s judged.” These lines have haunted me now for
days, their truth reframing the way I think about contemporary
literature and the lens through which it’s judged. To watch the Brontës
fighting for their art, in 2018, is to be grateful, in some ways, for
how times have changed. But the true brilliance of Wainright’s work lies
in its ability to capture a past, abounding in unthinkable prejudices,
that doesn’t seem all that distant from the present. —Jiayang Fan

Photograph Courtesy Netflix

“Call My Agent!”

When the horrible, flu-like cold that’s been going around came for me,
in mid-January, I took to my couch with tissues and a remote control to
binge my way straight through the French series “Call My Agent!,” which
is available (with subtitles, of course) on Netflix. The show is set in
a Parisian talent firm, ASK, where four agents who represent some of the
biggest stars in the French film industry struggle to keep business
running smoothly amid a series of crises, creative and otherwise. Most
workplace comedies mine their humor from the tedium and rote absurdities
of corporate life, “The Office” being the exemplar of the form. Most
talent-management comedies, like “Entourage” or “30 Rock,” play on the
narcissistic inanity of celebrity. “Call My Agent!” has its fair share
of famous people acting out—one pleasure of the show is that each
episode features great French actors, like Isabelle Adjani, Nathalie
Baye
, and Fabrice Luchini, playing themselves. But “Call My Agent!,”
which was created by the TV writer Fanny Herrero, genuinely enjoys the
world it takes place in. The people who work at ASK are competent (even
when they fall victim to disaster), competitive, and devoted; they love
what they do, and they revere the cinema. That, and the fact that
business and pleasure mix very freely, is how you know that the show
is French. There are melodramatic twists worthy of a soap opera, cut
with a general Gallic wryness at the vagaries of business and art. So
far there are two seasons, with six episodes each. Watch to the end and
you’ll get to see Juliette Binoche have her own #MeToo moment (filmed before the Weinstein
revelations) at Cannes. —Alexandra Schwartz

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The Admiration Poetry Project

Feist is the kind of artist we were supposed to like only for a moment.
She became well known, stateside, with her single “1234,” from 2007,
which became a hit when it was featured in a cutesy commercial for the
iPod Nano. But last year, at age forty-one, and after six years without
an album, she put out the unruly, cathartic, guitar-heavy “Pleasure.”
It’s the record you make when your twenties are finally just another
life—a restless shedding of hangups, insecurities, and fears, and a
belated arrival into a thrilling, explosive space.

Feist’s latest project seems an expansion of that space. Recently, on
Instagram, she’s posted iPhone videos of her friend, the actor Lisa
Dwan
, reciting verse from memory while walking down sidewalks in
Manhattan and Brooklyn. The videos are unofficially called the
Admiration Poetry Project, and Feist’s camera work, like her music, whips
and roves while remaining close and committed to its subject. Dwan is a
compelling performer, and though “The Love Song of J. Alfred
Prufrock”
is overindulged among earnest lit majors, it sounds momentous coming off
her tongue. In another video, Dwan recites part of Samuel Beckett’s
“Cascando,”
and Feist allows the camera to linger on a conversation between two men
in the street, one of whom looks after Dwan with mild confusion as the
other continues his wild gesticulations. Both “Prufrock” and “Cascando”
are romantic, musical overtures, love poems steeped in concerns both
grand and tedious, perfect for a brisk, unsolicited recitation among
passing strangers. The videos’ off-the-cuff expressiveness feels like a
rebellion against the carefully curated social-media brands of entertainers, influencers, and well-connected acquaintances. I’d love to
see the movie Feist would direct—something that would be neither fearful
of nor allegiant to the Zeitgeist, but that would come right up against
it, look it in the eye, and continue right on. —Cassie da Costa

In search of new TV shows? Every Thursday, our writers and editors tell you about the shows they’re watching. Browse The New Yorker Recommends to discover more cultural recommendations from our staff.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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