Sally Campbell

Positive side-effects

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"These days, nobody seems able to 'keep it in their pants' or honour a commitment! Raising the question, is marriage still a viable option? I'm ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it is the cornerstone of civilisation, an essential institution that stabilises society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy."

This was Raquel Welch's response on CNN to this month's fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the pill in the US. Her somewhat internally contradictory argument (she loves marriage so much, she's done it four times!) is that the advent of oral contraception has led to the breakdown of "family values" and rampant promiscuity. She is not alone in putting that case. Tory politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith have argued against making contraception more available to girls, paradoxically claiming it will lead to higher teenage pregnancy rates.

The corporate seduction of feminism

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Socialist feminist and US academic Hester Eisenstein spoke to Sally Campbell and Judith Orr about her book, Feminism Seduced, and the challenges facing the women's movement in the US and worldwide.

What do you think about the first year of Barack Obama's presidency?

I didn't share the excitement and the enthusiasm that a lot of my colleagues on the left had about Obama. I distinguish his actions from the symbolism of his being elected.


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Director Martin Provost; Release date: out now

I can't recall the last film I saw in which the lead character was a middle-aged, ordinary-looking, working class woman with mental health issues. That she is also an artist and a real person makes this story rare indeed.

Yolande Moreau plays Séraphine Louis (known as Séraphine de Senlis - the French town in which she lived and worked), a cleaning woman and an artist "discovered" in 1912 when she was already nearly 50.

The White Ribbon

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Director Michael Haneke; Release date: 13 November

The White Ribbon is an utterly convincing and absorbing portrait of a small north German village in the 15 months running up to the First World War. Nasty incidents begin to occur, and it seems there is an "enemy within" disrupting the harmony of the village. Taking his time and with absolute precision Haneke builds up a set of characters ranged in almost feudal relationships with each other: the baron, the doctor, the pastor, the schoolteacher, the farmer.

Broken Embraces

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Director: Pedro Almodovar; Release date: out now

Pedro Almodovar's latest film, Broken Embraces, is a self-referential meditation on filmmaking starring his muse, Penelope Cruz, and dealing in all the melodrama, sex and death that we have come to expect (and love) from the Spanish master.

O is for oppression

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One of the common accusations thrown at Marxism by others in the movement is that it is "economistic" - it reduces everything to the economy and class relations and therefore can't deal adequately with questions of oppression.

On the surface this can seem a reasonable point.

Oppression doesn't mirror class but cuts across it. All women suffer from sexism, whether an Indonesian factory worker or a highly paid (though not as highly paid as her male counterparts) London City trader. A factory worker's experience of her oppression, however, is very different to that of a rich woman.

Sweeney Todd

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Director: Tim Burton; Release date: out now

The opening credits set up what's to come: giant, sinister lettering (if you can have such a thing) runs with thick red blood while orchestral music drums up fear, suspense and horror. If you didn't know it already, you can tell this is not a story with a happy ending.

Day Watch

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Director: Timur Bekmambetov; Release date: 5 October

On its release in Russia last January, Day Watch became the highest grossing film in post-Soviet Russian history. It is the second part of a trilogy which began with 2004's Night Watch - itself a box office hit, trouncing Spider-Man 2 and Lord of the Rings. The films are flashy, special effects led and very post-Matrix - but achieved at a fraction of a Hollywood budget.

Empty Pages

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Review of "Black Book", Director: Paul Verhoeven

Dutch film director Paul Verhoeven has spent the past two decades making a name for himself with trashy Hollywood films such as Basic Instinct and Showgirls, as well as slightly heftier satirical action flicks including Robocop and Starship Troopers.

Black Book, set in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War, supposedly marks his return to his roots as a serious filmmaker. He and his colleague Gerard Soeteman say they have worked on the script for over 20 years.

Cracks in the System

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Sally Campbell spoke to John Rees about the growing weaknesses in the imperialist project, and how they might be exploited by the anti-war movement.

The cover of John Rees's new book, Imperialism and Resistance, shows graffiti on a wall in Barcelona on 15 February 2003 - the global day of action on which, according to one study, 36 million people demonstrated against the pending war on Iraq. The image depicts George Bush, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld with red noses. I ask Rees whether it boosts the argument that the Iraq war is simply the result of a few bad men's stupidity. "I like the cover," he responds, "because it illustrates the theme of imperialism and resistance.


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