Culture

Murder and Mystery

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Review of 'From Hell', directors Albert and Allen Hughes

The Jack the Ripper story repeatedly attracts the interest of modern artists. Is it the dark and frightening background of Victorian London, or the supposed connections of the murderer to the Freemasons and to the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Clarence? Whatever, this is no ordinary murder story, but a symbol of a class riven city and an imperial order in deep crisis.

A Very Public Rebellion

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Review of 'If...', director Lindsay Anderson

1968 was the big year of revolt, its epicentre the student-led insurrection in Paris. But the spirit of resistance in the field of culture and the arts had begun earlier. In the late 1950s French New Wave cinema had rejected the well made studio film and taken to the streets to celebrate freedom. The spin-off here was the emergence of a number of film directors such as Lindsay Anderson. He made 'If...' in 1968, the very year in which the spirit of revolt became a material force.

Resisting the Temptation of Love

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Review of 'Charlotte Gray', director Gillian Armstrong

'Charlotte Gray', based on Sebastian Faulks's novel, is a classic story of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl signs up as a spy behind enemy lines in Vichy France to find boy, girl ends up with different boy. Cate Blanchett plays the title role, a young Scottish woman with a love of all things French and a hatred of what the Nazis have done to the country. She is naive and romantic, and falls in love with an RAF officer at a party. When he fails to return from a mission over France she resolves to go there and find him.

Top of the Pops?

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John Molyneux reviews the new Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern.

In 1963 the Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein painted 'Whaam!' It was a huge blow-up of a comic book image depicting a US fighter jet destroying an enemy plane at the press of a button. Nearly 30 years later, in the run-up to the Gulf War, 'Socialist Review' put this picture on the front cover with the caption 'Stop Bush's Mad War'. Similarly, in 1962 Andy Warhol produced his 'Marilyn Diptych', with its rows of yellow-haired Marilyns, and 36 years later the 'International Socialism Journal' referenced Warhol on its cover with rows of yellow-haired Karl Marxes.

When the Rhythm is Right

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Review of exhibition 'Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation' at the Hayward Gallery, London

It is a joy to step in from a grey London to the warm North African colours and playful lines of Swiss artist Paul Klee. Klee (1879-1940) spent most of his adult life in Germany, where his career culminated in 1921 when he became master of arts at the famous Bauhaus school. From the beginning, the Bauhaus was an institution based on radical views of art and its role in society. Klee left shortly before the Nazis closed it down.

When Black and White Unite

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Review of 'The Syringa Tree' by Pamela Gien, National Theatre, London

This play brought back many heart-wrenching impressions and feelings I had as a child growing up in apartheid South Africa. In the play Salamina, the loving black nanny of Lizzie, a six year old white child, is pregnant, and when Lizzie wants to announce the coming joy, Salamina reacts in terror: 'No, no, don't tell anybody', because if you're a black servant you can't keep your child--the police will take it away. The police come stalking relentlessly late at night, and the frightened black servants climb up the branches of the syringa tree to hide.

Jab in the Right Direction

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Review of 'Ali', director Michael Mann

Pity the makers of 'Ali', the long gestated $105 million Hollywood biopic starring Will Smith. The picture was in the can well before 11 September, and one can imagine the growing discomfort of studio executives as they wondered how to market this tale of a black American who converts to Islam and then refuses to serve his country in a time of war. In the US the film has already proved a box office disappointment, overshadowed by Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.

Detecting the Divide

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Review of 'Gosford Park', director Robert Altman

In a big country mansion in 1932 a rich family and their friends gather, waited on hand and foot by an army of servants. At midnight a murder is committed. 'Gosford Park' has all the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie whodunit. But anyone expecting the usual Agatha Christie fare, with its gentlemanly upper class heroes, comic book villains and racist stereotypes, will be sorely disappointed. This is a whodunit told from the servants' point of view.

Friendship Turns to Ashes

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Review of 'Last Orders', director Fred Schepisi

At first sight you may question the appeal of a film about the lives of a rather unrepresentative group of friends--an undertaker, a car salesman, a butcher and a market trader, all of whom are white. Nonetheless, this is a warm and witty film with great characters and wonderful acting. It also has interesting things to say about familiar aspects of human relationships such as friendship, loyalty and betrayal, loss and grief, the end of innocence during the war, and the new aspirations of the postwar generation.

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