Sally Campbell


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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.

Passion for the Truth

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Review of 'The Constant Gardener', director Fernando Meirelles

The news in recent weeks has been dominated by the threat of an avian flu pandemic, which could kill millions worldwide without a coordinated global response. As I write, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical giant which produces tamiflu, an anti-viral drug being stockpiled throughout the world to cope with the looming crisis, is on the radio.

From Russia with Love

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Review of 'Wild East' by April de Angelis, Royal Court, London

When Frank went on an archaeological dig that uncovered a 30,000 year old figure of a bird carved from a mammoth's tusk, he made up his mind: this figure was so exquisite, so perfect, so lovingly carved, he had to understand the people who made it. So he studied anthropology, inquisitive about human societies and their desires and needs.


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