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Rating: 3
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Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol

Joseph Dorman

Joseph Dorman

November 15 @ AMMI

Arguing the World

By Chris Chang, Cinemania Online


Arguing the World  
Left faces: Irving Kristol (far right, standing) at City College, in Joseph Dorman's "Arguing the World."

Premise: A documentary on post–World War II New York intellectuals, and all their squabbling.

Pitch: "Reds" meets "My Dinner With Andre."

Pedigree: The film was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Audience: Socialists, neoconservative radicals and magazine editors.

Verdict: Director Joseph Dorman takes an entertaining look backwards to a time when people honestly believed that either utopia or oblivion was just around the corner, and an endless soapbox rant was going single-handedly to bring it — whichever — about. Starting with young student radicals bickering about Marx and Trotsky inside City College's cafeteria, following through to the shock of war and Stalin, and then on to the further complications brought out by McCarthy, liberals and the 1960s, Dorman's documentary on the New York intellectual scene is filled with moments of both nostalgic insight and cerebral wheel spinning. (At times, it's like watching academic pit bulls chasing their own tails.) Although you might think the subject matter would result in dryness to the point of dehydration, the film proves to be endlessly informative, at times very amusing and filled with incredible period footage, including shots of the Depression-era Lower East Side and the student takeover of Columbia in the 1960s.

Background: Howe is the founding editor of "Dissent" and the author of "Socialism in America." Bell is the author of "The End of Ideology." Glazer is the author of "We Are All Multiculturists Now." Kristol is considered a founder of the neoconservative movement.

 (1 hour, 47 minutes)

Photo/image credits: Courtesy of: Film Forum

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