The editors' blog
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 16th 2015
How do you catch a murderer in a country where murder, officially, doesn’t exist? That’s the question that keeps tripping up the characters in Daniel Espinosa’s grim, ambitious new thriller, “Child 44”, a film in which the oppressive institutional anti-logic of Stalin’s USSR is far more threatening than the serial killer on the loose.
Adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel, “Child 44” features Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov (pictured), a ruthless secret-police investigator who is so efficient at snaring “traitors”, and so loyal to the Party, that he has earnt a swanky Moscow apartment and a beautiful wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace). His rise through the ranks stalls only when his best friend’s young son is found dead by a railway track. All the forensic evidence suggests that a Russian Jack the Ripper is picking off children, but Leo’s superior officer (Vincent Cassel) declares that the boy was hit by a train: murder, after all, is a “capitalist disease” with no place in Stalin’s socialist Utopia. If Leo asks to look at the autopsy report, he will be committing treason and inviting execution—especially if his envious lieutenant (Joel Kinnaman) has anything to do with it. But after a lifetime’s profitable obedience, not even Leo can keep ignoring the chasm between the real truth and the government-approved version.read more »
~ Posted by Julie Kavanagh, April 15th 2015
How is it possible to judge one dancer against another in a radically different style? That's the question facing the judges in the BBC's new Young Dancer of the Year competition, in which the categories are contemporary, hip-hop, ballet and the South Asian classical tradition. The four category finals will be shown weekly on BBC4, starting on April 17th. The winners in each category will then compete in the grand final, broadcast live from Sadler's Wells on May 9th. There’s an impressive panel of judges including the choreographer Wayne McGregor and Tamara Rojo, the artistic director of the English National Ballet. I asked Darcey Bussell, the former Royal Ballet principal and a host of the grand final, how they'd pick a winner. "Talent always shines through," she told me. "Despite having different techniques, it all comes down to whether a dancer has the determination and scope to adapt their performance within their genre."read more »
~ Posted by Alix Christie, April 13th 2015
Günter Grass, the towering German writer who has died age 87, called himself many things: toad, dinosaur, "notorious pessimist". Yet this was the same man whom the Nobel committee in 1999 praised for giving German literature "a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction" with his first novel, “The Tin Drum”, published 40 years before. He could be caustic and lyrical, arrogant and kind, a mass of seeming contradiction. Yet one through-line animated his extraordinary life: he never wavered in his role as a member of that vanishing breed, the public intellectual.read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, April 13th 2015
Time is an unusual commodity: we all have it and, if we’re lucky, plenty of it. It’s in ample supply, yet highly valued—and some times more than others. For our last Big Question, we asked seven writers to choose their favourite time of day. Readers voted for the answer that chimed most in our online poll.
Ann Wroe, the author of the forthcoming “Six Excursions in Light”, waxed lyrical about twilight, that sliver of evening when light is on the wane. She won the day (just) with 20% of the vote. Tied at 17% were the poet Simon Armitage and the pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, both champions of the solitude that steals in when the sun slips away. Vanhoenacker relishes the small hours, when “the world below sleeps”; Armitage thrills to 5am, when the day isn’t yet “muddled with people”. The poet Kathleen Jamie yearns for 9-11am, when her children are at school and “time is my own”; she took in 15% of the vote. With her ode to midnight, the novelist Elif Shafak claimed 10% for the night. The author Romesh Gunesekera prefers 7.23am, when there’s “still time to save the day”; he convinced 8%. The novelist Ali Smith recalled a January afternoon 45 years ago: 4pm, school finished, marbles out. She won 4%.
Some readers voted for their own slices of time. But one commented that this Big Question “enriches any time of the day”.read more »
~ Posted by David Bennun, April 10th 2015
These days, Joni Mitchell’s appearances in the news are more often prompted by her opinions (rebarbative) or her health (erratic) than her music. But after her hospitalisation in Los Angeles last week, her fans had reason to wonder if they were about to lose her, which inevitably concentrated minds on her career. “Folk legend” was the phrase frequently invoked in coverage of the story, alongside an emphasis on her lasting impact upon women performers. It’s not exactly damning her with faint praise, but it does misrepresent and undervalue her.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, April 10th 2015
Stornoway's third album, "Bonxie", is out on April 13th. As I wrote in the March/April issue of Intelligent Life, it's a record infused with birdsong, inspired by the frontman Brian Briggs's lifelong passion for the natural world. One bright and gusty day last month, I went to Chalgrove Airfield in the Cotswolds to film the making of the video for their single "Get Low". They worked with Rose and Lloyd Buck, two kindly bird handlers, to bring a wild-goose chase to life.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, April 10th 2015
The best sound in cricket is the one that features in the celebrated speech in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing”. It is not just the thwack of any old piece of willow on leather, but the sonorous pop of a well-made bat executing a well-timed stroke; “a noise,” as Stoppard wrote, “like a trout taking a fly.” The second-best sound in cricket, for most of the past 50 years, has been a sentence. “And after So-and-So, it will be Richie Benaud.”
As a cricketer, Benaud was very good. As a captain, he was one of the best. But, as a commentator, he was in a class of his own.read more »
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 9th 2015
The Swedish family in Ruben Ostlund’s sublime comedy-drama, "Force Majeure", could have strolled straight out of a holiday brochure. When we first see them posing for a photograph on an Alpine mountainside in designer ski togs, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are as attractively sculpted and well dressed as models, and their adorable son and daughter complete a picture of wholesome Scandinavian health and harmony.
There is a similar photogenic gorgeousness to the avalanche they see on the other side of the valley the next day, just as they’re sitting down to lunch on a restaurant terrace. Tomas explains that it is a controlled avalanche, set off by the resort managers, but when the thundering wave of snow gets worryingly close to the terrace, he panics and runs for cover, leaving Ebba clinging to their terrified children. The killer detail: he grabbed his phone and his gloves from the restaurant table before he bolted.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, April 8th 2015
On our cover is one of the all-time great faces. It belongs to a woman so loved that we don’t have to put her name in lights: that bone structure announces itself. The Line of Beauty is about the gamine in history, and Audrey Hepburn is the gamine’s gamine.
She died in 1993, yet she has lost none of her luminosity. For the past two years, a commercial has been running on television which uses Hepburn—apparently resurrected—to sell a bar of chocolate, by sprinkling some of her “classiness and elegance” on it, in the words of one of the team providing the CGI trickery (who also worked on the film “Gravity”). In January, a cosmetics firm published a poll of 2,000 women who had been asked to name the “ultimate beauty icon of all time”. Marilyn Monroe might have been the bookies’ favourite, or Grace Kelly; in fact they finished second and third, behind Hepburn. All three of them made their name in the Fifties, which suggests that that is where, when we look back, we detect the greatest beauty. Or perhaps it’s just that 60 years is the span of living memory.read more »
~ Posted by George Pendle, April 7th 2015
Nearly 200 years on, its threat has not diminished. Its massive precipitous curve still overwhelms the thin straight boats beneath it. Tendrils of foam still reach out like a thousand white hands ready to smash them into matchsticks. In the distance Mount Fuji, its snowcap mimicking the froth-tipped waves, is still dwarfed by this watery mountain range. Katsushika Hokusai’s "Under The Wave of Kanagawa" (1830-31, above), better known as "The Great Wave", is one of the most recognisable works of art in the world. Yet in the jaw-dropping new Hokusai exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, "The Great Wave" isn't accorded any special status. It’s actually somewhat overshadowed by the rest of the work on display.read more »