The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Georgia Grimond, February 27th 2015 

    As Rio de Janeiro slowly returns to work after its annual carnival, the celebrations tell a tale of two cities. At the Sambadrome, home to the official carnival, thousands of smiling, shimmying dancers competed to be crowned carnival queens. Tickets were sold, sponsors schmoozed and businesses hosted lavish boxes. Questions are often asked about how the elaborate floats are financed and this year was no different. The winner, with a near-perfect score, was the Beija-Flor (Hummingbird) samba school with its celebration of Equatorial Guinea. Though its dictatorial president is one of Africa’s richest men, many of his people live in deep poverty. Allegations flew among the glitter and feathers that his government gave millions of reais towards the float, and that Brazil has been seen to support the regime.

    read more » BrazilGeorgia GrimondMusicRio de Janeiro

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, February 26th 2015

    Reading a George Bernard Shaw play can be a dry and tedious affair: all those endless monologues of ideas, all that gnawing at dead Edwardian moralities. And in the first minutes of “Man and Superman”, which opened at the National Theatre in London last night, there doesn’t seem to be much to lift the 21st-century heart. A white-haired man in a pin-stripe suit sits reading a will in an Edwardian library; a lovesick young man enters to discuss the potential marriage of his guardian. So far, so creaky, even with the deliciously pompous Nicholas Le Provost booming and tutting as the paterfamilias. And then the double doors slam open and in bursts—Leonard Rossiter!

    read more » cultureIsabel LloydTheatre

    ~ 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