The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 29th 2015

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    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 27th 2015

    “Blessed is he who has found his work”, wrote the Victorian moralist Thomas Carlyle. At 25, Van Gogh had lost his job at an art dealers, given up teaching, given up working in a bookshop and given up theological studies. Added to that, he had been turned down for one job preaching to miners in Britain and another job preaching to miners in Belgium. Nevertheless, in 1878 he went to the Belgian coal mines.

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    ~ Posted by Caroline Moorehead, January 27th 2015

    In the closing weeks of the second world war, work began on an uncompromising and essential documentary about the Holocaust, which is being remembered today on Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey” was conceived by Sidney Bernstein, who later founded Granada television. It includes footage filmed by Bernstein himself at Bergen-Belsen and by the Soviets and Americans at Auschwitz, Majdanek and Dachau. Later this year the film, recently restored by the Imperial War Museum, will be released in Britain by the British Film Institute. The rough cut was completed in 1945, and this will be its first general release.

    read more » Caroline MooreheadcinemaFilmHISTORYHolocaustSECOND WORLD WAR

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 24th 2015

    As Abel Morales, the oil distributor struggling to keep his business afloat in "A Most Violent Year", Oscar Isaac (above) wears a big camel-hair coat, looks people dead in the eye and speaks in the crisp, precise diction of a man who has learned that power comes with not raising your voice. “You must take the path that is most right,” he says—a lesson close to the heart of this sombre, slightly dry, urgent film about one man’s attempts not to become a gangster in the New York of 1981. Its director, J.C. Chandor, has chosen his location and period with great care. The drama stems from the fact that in the New York of 1981—a city that boasted more than 1,800 murders—there were probably more reasons for a struggling oil distributor to become a gangster than there were reasons not to. It’s a film about criminality’s slow, gravitational suck—the steady drip, drip, drip of difficulties that one day makes brushing past the law seem easier than waiting in line.   

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    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, January 23rd 2015

    When the atom bomb eventually goes off in Tom Morton-Smith's new play, "Oppenheimer"—which opened at Stratford's Swan Theatre last night—it's followed by drunken celebrations. We're in the desert in New Mexico, where a bunch of physicists are lying in the sand wearing army uniforms and black goggles (above). The explosion itself is a blackout and a slow deep rumble, but the lights swiftly come up on frenetic dancing at a party. Soon after, we hear an appalling description of what happens when the detonation is repeated over the city of Hiroshima. If the play veers unpredictably in tone in the summer of 1945, losing its earlier assurance, that is no surprise: there can be few bigger challenges, in terms of dramaturgy, than introducing a weapon that kills over 100,000 people.

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, January 23rd 2015

    Films about artificial intelligence, from “Blade Runner” to “Her”, tend to pose two key questions: first, how can we prove that a machine has consciousness? And second, would a conscious machine have human rights? But once such films have posed those key questions, they usually move on to the issues they’re really interested in. First, will these machines decide to murder us all and take over the world? And second, will any of them look and sound like beautiful women? What’s disappointing about Alex Garland’s shiny new science-fiction mystery, “Ex Machina”, is that it seems genuinely fascinated by the first two questions, only to discard them in favour of the last two.

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    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, January 23rd 2015

    In 2008, Julie Kavanagh wrote a piece for Intelligent Life about the photographer Richard Avedon. She had watched him at work on photo shoots for the New Yorker in the mid-1990s, for which his subjects included Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Alan Bennett. One of the most moving moments in Kavanagh's piece, though, comes from a shoot with the novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, who has died at the age of 89:

    read more » BooksMemoirPhotographySimon Willis

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, January 22nd 2015

    Mark Rylance has a lot to carry. There’s a weight of history on his shoulders, and also one of expectation: as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s six-part adaptation of “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”, which began last night, every Hilary Mantel fan in the land will have been watching his performance with rabid attention.

    read more » BookscultureIsabel LloydTELEVISION

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, January 21st 2015

    To manage the expectations of exhibition-goers, I suggest that the Royal Academy changes the name of its latest show from "Rubens and his Legacy" to "Rubens' Legacy". That way people will not be surprised when the first painting they see is by John Constable, or that only three of the eight pictures in this initial room, entitled "Poetry", are by Rubens himself. Similarly, when they get to the room called "Elegance", which looks at portraiture, they won't feel so cheated when they discover that the ratio of Rubens to other artists is just 2:11. The emphasis here is definitely on the word "legacy".

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionsRebecca Willis

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, January 21st 2015

    Werner Herzog would make a bad psychoanalyst. For one thing, he hates psychobabble, and has said many times that the damage it has wrought is on a par with the Spanish Inquisition. For another, he is a madman. Herzog is, after all, the man who dragged a steamship up a mountain in the Amazon, and the man who stewed and ate his own shoe, all in the name of cinema. He’s also the man who was shot and wounded during an interview, but carried on, saying the bullet was “not significant”. Herzog is wild, untamed, a “metaphysical Tarzan”, as the critic Pauline Kael once called him. But people don’t seem to mind. More and more have been turning to the 72-year-old Herzog for advice; in a recent interview with the Telegraph, he described it as “a huge avalanche of young people in particular, who actually want guidance”—not just about film-making, but about life’s grand themes: individuality, self-expression…chicken hypnosis.

    Last Friday, a small avalanche of people—some 2,000—turned up at Central Hall, a marble behemoth of a church in London, for an event called “Guidance for the Perplexed”. Billed as a conversation between Herzog and Paul Holdengräber, the director of the LIVE series at the New York Public Library, it was the oral counterpart to “A Guide for the Perplexed”, a book of interviews with Herzog by the British writer Paul Cronin. (A revised and expanded version of Cronin’s “Herzog on Herzog”, published in 2002.)

    read more » Charlie McCanncinemaFilmLondontalks