The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, February 26th 2015

    Kinky films work best when they touch our own ordinary lives rather than remaining trapped inside erotic echo chambers. Few well-to-do housewives were likely to supplement their routines with stints working in a brothel, à la “Belle de Jour” (1967). But many could identify with the depths of her boredom and the richness of her fantasy life. Similarly, the appeal of “Fifty Shades of Grey” may be the goings on in “the red room of pain”. But its success is probably owed to its timeworn theme—a strong but damaged man saved by the love of a good woman. And Peter Strickland's new film, “The Duke of Burgundy”, pulls off the same trick. Despite having a lesbian couple keen on S&M at its centre, it has the fundamental truths of all relationships at its heart.

    read more » FilmKassia St Clairmovies

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, February 26th 2015

    For each issue of Intelligent Life, we ask a selection of contributors to record their pieces for our digital editions and website. Below you can listen to Robert Macfarlane on the landscapes of Nabokov's "Lolita"; Rebecca Willis on fashion's ebb and flow; Maggie Fergusson on her pick of the best new books; the novelist Benjamin Markovits on how he found a sense of belonging at the breakfast table; and Ed Smith on sports stars who seem to have more time. 

    read more » audiomarch/april 2015Simon Willis

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, February 25th 2015

    On February 20th 1962, the astronaut John Glenn blasted into space on board Friendship 7. He had with him a 35mm Ansco camera, bought for less than $20 at a high-street store. From the capsule’s small window he captured a simple, pale picture of broken cloud patterns, milky-white against grey, shrouded in a thin powdery atmosphere (above). It was the first picture of Earth from space that a man ever took.

    read more » culturePhotographySCIENCESimon WillisSpace

    ~ Posted by James Tozer, February 24th 2015

    Fans of the vintage Bond films will enjoy “Kingsman: The Secret Service”: it’s been made for their enjoyment. Based loosely on a 007-inspired comic book series, Matthew Vaughn’s tale of an aristocratic spy ring disguised as Savile Row tailors attempts to revive the Bonds of the Sixties and Seventies—not in the slick Bourne-ified way of the Daniel Craig reboots, but with all the swagger and slapstick of the Moore and Connery classics. From the promo poster’s homage to “For Your Eyes Only” to the knowing jokes between the suave hero, Galahad (Colin Firth), and the lisping villain, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), this is a tribute that glories in its source material—bulletproof umbrellas, well-shaken martinis and cringe-worthy one-liners abound.

    read more » espionageFilmJames BondJAMES tozermovies

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, February 21st 2015

    To start with, the most hotly contested categories. Best Picture is as close a race as can be between "Birdman" (above) and "Boyhood", two Davids in a field with no Goliaths. "Birdman" won all the guild awards; "Boyhood" the BAFTAs. The Academy’s preferential ballot would seem to favour Linklater's more mild-mannered "Boyhood", but its slightly fey, gentle spirit has always struck me as unlikely to close the deal with the steak-eaters—the set-builders and effects guys—who vote for films like "Braveheart". Gun to head, I’m going to go with "Birdman" riding the same you-don’t-have-to-be-mad-to-work-here spirit that helped Bob Fosse’s "All That Jazz" to its wins, making this the third Best Picture winner in a row set in the world of show business, after "Argo" and "The Artist". "Birdman" is out there for the Academy, no question, but in the absence of any film addressing the state of the nation or the way we live now, maybe they’ll settle for a baring of the showbiz soul.

    read more » awardscinemacultureFilmOscarsTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 20th 2015

    Here's our pick of the best new tunes. You can listen to them on the player below, or find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs are available on iTunes, unless otherwise stated.

    read more » intelligent tunesmarch/april 2015MusicRockTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Irving Wardle, February 18th 2015

    It is no surprise to see a political figure spotlit by the theatre, but rare to see theatre spotlit by a political figure. Such is the good fortune of “Antigone”, a new production of which opens at the Barbican in March starring Juliette Binoche (above). Last month Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, launched his government with a vote of thanks to the Sophoclean heroine, who "has taught us that there are moments when the supreme law is justice.”

    read more » cultureIrving WardleTheatre

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, February 14th 2015

    Christian Marclay’s exhibition at the Bermondsey branch of White Cube reverberates with sound even when it doesn’t. That’s because it turns noises—paint splashing on canvas, a pen tapping a glass—into images. Only one work, “Pub Crawl”, composed of 11 videos projected onto the walls of a long corridor, makes a sound: you watch Marclay stomping on beer cans and you hear the corresponding crunch. But walk into the next room and you are greeted with a silent cacophony. On the walls is a series of canvases on which Marclay has overlaid vibrantly coloured spatters of paint with screen-printed words from comic books: “splat”, “squish”, “plop”, “plof”, “ploosh”, “blub”. And in the other two rooms, you continue to see sound, rather than hear it.

    read more » ArtCharlie McCanncontemporary artExhibitionLondonMusic

    ~ Posted by Caroline Carter, February 13th 2015

    At the end of January I attended a vigil for a cyclist who was killed by a lorry on a street close to where I live in north London. Stephanie Turner was an enthusiastic sportswoman who cycled regularly to appointments for her job as a physiotherapist. She was 29 years old and the first cyclist to be killed on London’s roads this year. Part memorial, part protest, the gathering culminated in a "die-in", a two-minute silence held as hundreds of cyclists lay down in the road where she was hit on her way to work. A small line of policemen waved vehicles away from us but I felt intensely exposed as traffic rumbled past. Our silence heightened the sounds around us: the drone of cars was accompanied by the horns of irritated drivers beeping out their resentment towards us for disrupting their journeys. It was a reminder of how vulnerable cyclists are.

    read more » Caroline CarterCyclingLondontransport

    ~ Posted by Alix Christie, February 13th 2015

    Peering inside 14 different artists' studios and marvelling at the objects they collect is a fine idea for a show. "Magnificent Obsessions", at the Barbican in London, appears to promise a satisfying gawk at the cabinets of curiosities assembled by both the world-famous (Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst) and the less well known (Dr Lakra, Jim Shaw). What it turns out to be is its own kind of curiosity. Like any collection, the show contains both gems and duds. It is entrancing in many small ways, but doesn’t always hit the larger goal of illuminating an artist's work by "spelunking through [their] consciousnesses", in Shaw's memorable phrase.

    Go for the opportunity to see things you'd otherwise never get close to. These include: the hare with amber eyes, a netsuke made famous by the potter Edmund de Waal's eponymous memoir; Warhol's kitschy array of ceramic cookie jars; surreal postcards and Soviet space-dog memorabilia assembled by the photographer Martin Parr; and a riot of puppets, masks, freaky creatures and elephant figurines amassed by the self-described "collecting junkie" Peter Blake, best known for designing the album cover for the Beatles’ "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

    read more » Alix ChristieArtExhibitionLondon