Bob Light

The Death of Stalin

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Before the inevitable “buts” appear, let me just nail the fact that this is an excellent movie — intelligent, witty and showcasing some seriously bravura film acting. There are no buts in the statement that if it opens in a cinema near you, you should see it. If it doesn’t, travel.

As the title suggests this is about that punch the air moment in 1953 when Joe Stalin dies and a Monsters Ball breaks out as the blood-soaked dotards on the Soviet Politbureau duck and dive to seize his crown as general secretary.

John Berger opened up new ways of seeing

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When John Berger died on the second day of the new year Marxism lost one of its finest thinkers and the left lost one of its most eloquent writers.

Many of Berger’s obituaries have referred to him as an “art critic”, but Berger himself hated that description, and it is far too narrow a description of the scale and fecundity of Berger’s work. He is probably best described as a “cultural freedom fighter” — a brilliant and innovative writer across the genres of the novel, film and TV, criticism, theory, photo journalism and poetry.

Silence

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Here is a movie adapted from a book by Shuaku Edo, a Japanese Catholic. It tells the story of two Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. It is directed by a man who was “educated” in a Jesuit seminary until he was 14, and the film is dedicated to “Japanese Christians and their padres”. It was given its world premiere at the Vatican. So it is hardly a bolt from the blue that this movie is in-your-face propaganda for that bastion of obscurantism, misogyny and child molestation, the Catholic church.

The Entertainer

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I went to see this production with low expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Entertainer is quite possibly the most overhyped play in modern theatre. While a comparable play of genuine originality and power like Trevor Griffiths’ The Comedians is rarely performed, this shallow threnody for the British Empire is regularly revived and regularly discussed in academia as one of the great plays.

Trumbo

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If you trace the so-called principles of the Labour MPs who voted to bomb Iraq — and who will no doubt soon vote to renew Trident — their slug-trail invariably leads to Washington. Right-wing Labour MPs are brand ambassadors for US imperialism. They simply take it for granted that in any situation America will be the good guys. The Labour right really does believe that America is the “land of the free”.

This month a new movie and newly published book help to remind us just what total piffle this view of America is.

Pasolini

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Here is a film made by Abel Ferrara, the enfant terrible of New York cinema (the auteur behind Driller Killer and Bad Lieutenant), about Pier-Paolo Pasolini, the enfant terrible of 60s and 70s Italian cinema (whose genitalia-fest Salo is still banned throughout most of the world). When enfants get it together like this the results are usually both infantile and terrible. Yet against all expectations this is a rich and masterly movie.

The Hook: a real contender

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This is in so many ways a remarkable and important play. It is after all a world premiere of a major play, staged to mark the centenary of Arthur Miller, one of the great playwrights of the last century. It is also Miller’s most directly political script from his early career.

Miller and Elia Kazan (two of the tyros of left wing American theatre) became interested in the matted politics of New York dockland in the late 1940s.

Up the Auntie?

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While we do not know yet who will win the May election, it is already clear that among the biggest losers will surely be the BBC. Whatever government we have, it is certain that the BBC will be mangled and probably dismembered. When a disease-carrying rat like Jeremy Clarkson abandons the Good Ship BBC (and please do not tell me that the “fracas” was anything but a stage-managed exit strategy), it is clear that we are in a Titanic and iceberg moment.

The Ruling Class

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One of the shittier aspects of the world we live in is that our rulers want us to like them. It is no longer enough that this is their world (while we just live in it). Now they want to be liked, even loved. Films such as The King’s Speech and TV shows like Made in Chelsea and Downtown Abcess are all part of a Smarm Offensive by the 1 percent. When the global ruling class gathered for their annual Rich Boys Beano at Davos they hired in children’s entertainer Emma Watson and in-the-news-again Prince Andrew solely to generate the Toff Love vibes.

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