The Network of “The Apprentice” Wants to Remake Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Dekalog? Great. And I’ll Be Touching-Up Picasso’s Guernica This Sunday.

Dek2

Well, here’s something to wake some of you up.

A Hunter student has called my attention to the fact that NBC – in an effort to do better with younger audiences – plans to remake Decalogue, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10-part masterpiece originally made for Polish television.

According to industry gossip, their focus will be on reshaping the piece to reach both late teens and the still much-valued 18 – 24 year-old demographic. A decaying Boston will stand-in for Poland in the earliest days of the post-communist era.

Deca

I had a funny and completely unexpected reaction when I heard this.

I have always been an appreciative consumer of all sorts of mash-ups and remakes and assorted subversions of the canon. And no one would have blabbed more sincerely about the way that both the modernist and post-modernist impulses made this possible. It’s not that the 20th and 21st century troublemakers paved an easy path for the barbarians to rush the palace gates, or that they protected them from injury and scorn, but the modernists and their descendants did at least bring the bolt cutters that snapped open the lock.

Well, now I find myself in a funny place.

Mr. Subversion just discovered his limits. While I might come to see this remake as something valuable, it would be among the very first remakes I have ever found even minimally acceptable. But I’ve been surprised before.

The lesson for me is pretty obvious:

Art that challenges our tendency to view any aspect of life or art as sacred makes an indispensable contribution to the cause of free expression. Even when one sees a specific challenge as deeply offensive (as I often do) the simple act of heresy is a visible reminder of what one could choose to do if they felt it was important.

This, though, is the first time that the canon they’re proposing to mess with is my canon! And I’m stunned at how protective I feel. I don’t want to overstate my indignation, but when the property being proposed for a makeover is something you believe to be the most profound and revealing film ever made on what it means to be a human being, I don’t want to understate it either.

Dek1

OK, I admit it.

This time it’s my sacred space, and I can’t say that I feel very subversive. I do, though, see more clearly how others must have felt when a work of art or culture that they cherished was threatened by profit-driven commercial interests.

It doesn’t feel so good. At all. Because the network of The Apprentice, The Celebrity Apprentice, The Recently Paroled Apprentice, and The Hobbled By Lower Back Pain Apprentice is going to _____ with my film?

Yup. And now its my turn to be angry, offended and worried about just how bad it will get.

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I have seen the news, and it is Pete Williams: The gold-standard in coverage of complex, breaking news

I’ve long had a beef with the trend in 24-hour cable news coverage that enshrined hyperventilation, faux-urgency, and screens flashing the words “breaking news” as standard operating procedure.

It’s not that some news — much news — isn’t genuinely earth shaking, it’s that gravity is no longer allowed to logically emerge  from the magnitude of an event. News has to be hyped and flashed and yelled and screamed, as if some viewers or listeners might somehow have missed the seriousness of a terrorist bombing.

One result is that those first, few moments when we learn of an event has become absolutely polluted by hasty news judgments, spreading of rumors, and speculation about facts that virtually no one could actually know.

And when the event is truly traumatic — when the public is desperately struggling to understand something that seems to defy explanation — all this babbling and speculating can only increase widespread  feelings of dislocation and disorientation. The world – already heading to “hell in a hand basket “ – can only look more confused and unpredictable.

So what else is new?

News delivered in the form of screams and shouts  is old news. The frenzied attempts to be first that recently led CNN into a series of  major blunders is now routine. One wonders if the CNN brand can even survive the string of embarrassing and inaccurate “scoops” that have turned out to be so completely and unambiguously wrong.

What is news is that – amidst the tragic events of the last week – one calm, brilliant, judicious voice could be heard almost non-stop —  rejecting rumors, waiting for confirmation, dismissing publicized inaccuracies, and slowly – with impeccable news judgment – piecing the complex story together. It was a virtuoso display of what can still happen in the digital age when one person’s  supremely sound judgment and sense of fairness are allowed to trump all the bells and whistles and urgent music that too often passes for substance on the networks.

So let us praise and honor the work of NBC correspondent Pete Williams, who needed only a few phones, a chair and a table to find truth in a flood of fragments, half-truths, and rumors.

Any one of the hundreds of careful, declarative sentences Pete delivered this week was almost certain to contain more confirmed truth than any randomly selected hour of the crazed, over-caffeinated, circus now performing at CNN.

I have seen the news, and it is Pete.