The editors' blog


    ~ 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

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, January 20th 2015

    In 1950, the Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks returned to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas, to create a photo essay on segregation in American schools. Parks was the only African-American photographer on the staff at Life and he was no stranger to the subject. The youngest of 15 children born to a tenant farmer and a maid, he had attended the segregated Plaza School, where an all-black student body had been taught by an all-black faculty. For the young Parks this had seemed quite normal, as had the black Main Street that existed on one side of the railroad tracks and the white Main Street that existed on the other. But by 1950 this forced separation was starting to splinter and Kansas was at the centre of a growing national debate over segregation: in 1954 the Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, would order schools to desegregate, kick-starting the civil-rights revolution.

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionsgeorge pendlePhotography

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, January 19th 2015

    Sometimes it’s easier to admire a play than to like it. That was the case with “Bull”, a one-act four-hander by Mike Bartlett (“Cock”, “King Charles III”) that premiered at the Sheffield Crucible Studio in 2013 and opened, with the same excellent cast, at the Young Vic in London last Thursday. The premise is simple—a team of three “Apprentice”-style office workers, head to toe in grim grey businesswear, wait to meet their boss, who is due to “downsize” one of them. None know who it will be, but two of them have a pretty good idea, and will play any sort of destructive psychological game to make sure things go their way. On Soutra Gilmour’s spare, pull-no-punches set, the metaphor is made clear: the three will do verbal battle in a wrestling ring, floored with office carpeting, lit by a harsh square of fluorescent lighting, with a recalcitrant watercooler in one corner. Half the audience stands around the ring; the other half sits in raked seats above, peering claustrophobically down on the three combatants. The game is on: a 55-minute nightmare.

    read more » Isabel LloydTheatre

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, January 15th 2015

    One hesitates to use the word “egoless” with regard to Hollywood but one of the pleasures turned up by this year’s awards season has been watching the director Richard Linklater’s Capraesque path to and from the winner’s podium. His film "Boyhood", shot over a 12-year period in the life of its teenage hero, played by the newcomer Ellar Coltrane (above), has been the unlikely frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar since October. Unlikely because nothing about Linklater’s gently indolent films—from his debut, "Slacker", to "Dazed and Confused" to the "Before Sunrise" trilogy—exactly shouted “Oscar”. They don’t shout much of anything at all, offering up small-scale epiphanies and stoner pensées in a spirit of patient pointillism not a million miles away from the films of Eric Rohmer.

    read more » awardscinemacultureFilmOscarsTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Caroline Moorehead and Stefanie Grant, January 15th 2014

    Since New Year’s Eve two rusting cargo ships overflowing with cold, hungry, desperate people have arrived on Italy’s southern coast. They are a worrying sign that the Mediterranean’s refugee and migrant crisis is becoming a greater catastrophe. We covered this crisis for Intelligent Life last summer, after visiting El Kabariya, a village outside Tunis. We spoke to the families of economic migrants who, four years ago, had escaped impoverished Tunisia for Europe in small boats, never to be seen again. Today, tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing conflict in the Middle East by sea. The majority are Syrians and, unlike on other refugee boats, many on these two enormous ships were middle-class professionals. A UN video of one of the ship’s arrivals shows a young boy and girl standing on the quay clutching a big white toy rabbit—not something very poor children would carry. Another passenger, Mohamed, had been in his final year at the dental school in Aleppo, until it was destroyed.

    read more » Caroline MooreheadcrimeNewsPOLITICSsocietyStefanie Grant

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, January 14th 2015

    Paul Thomas Anderson is probably the most revered writer-director of his generation. He was already loved for “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, but when he made “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master”, he came to be regarded as a major American artist whose grand themes and experimental narratives made his contemporaries seem like lightweights. It’s an assessment I would go along with. But when the trailer for his new film promised that it would be a faster, sillier, sex’n’drug-fuelled detective comedy, I couldn’t stifle a sigh of relief. Anderson, it seemed, had got his sense of humour back.

    read more » cinemacultureFilmNicholas Barber

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, January 13th 2015

    Our current cover story is about George Orwell, and why, 65 years after his death, he's bigger than ever. With "Animal Farm" and "1984", Robert Butler writes in the piece, Orwell "would change the way we think about our lives". But as well as being one of our most visionary writers, he is also one of our most quotable. Here is a sprinkling of his spikiest, funniest and most relevant maxims.

    read more » BooksLiteratureSimon Willis

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, January 12th 2015

    Last Friday Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant voted the best in the world for the fourth time last year, relocated to Tokyo for a month. Its head chef René Redzepi and his team can normally be found foraging the Danish countryside for wood sorrel, wild mushrooms, spicy woodruff and the like to create their New Nordic cuisine. But for the Tokyo pop-up they’ll leave their usual ingredients at home and create a new menu using the fruits of the Japanese landscape.

    I met Redzepi in late 2013. In person he’s warm, animated and fervent about food. When he talks about flavours he uses words like “insane”, “amazing” and “crazy good”. A lot. One area that really gets his superlatives going is fermentation—a process used in much Japanese cuisine (think soy sauce and miso). Noma has been fermenting anything and everything in its experimental test kitchen over the last couple of years, discovering flavours and liquids that can add new dimensions to a dish, like adding a dash of the juice from fermented wild berries to a broth to give it both more depth and tang. Redzepi told me when we met that fermentation would be the future of cooking because “the potential for exploring new flavours is insanely huge.” (Superlative? Check.) And he was right. Every food-trend report for 2015 predicts that this is the year when fermented foods will have their moment.

    read more » cookingFoodJapanLucy FarmerRestaurants

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, January 8th 2015

    Elvis Presley would have been 80 today. A string of parties around the world are being held to celebrate. One travel agency has arranged an 11-night tour of Tupelo and Vegas, landing in Memphis in time to see his widow Priscilla Presley cut a birthday cake on Graceland’s front lawn—a snip at £1,899, or available to stream live from home. In Sydney, 18,000 people are expected to descend on an annual Elvis festival where the main attraction is 2010’s top Elvis impersonator. In London, his life is being celebrated with an exhibition at the O2 arena.

    read more » Hazel SheffieldMusicRock