Culture

Beautiful Picture

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Review of 'Frida', director Julie Taymor

Frida Kahlo was an extraordinarily colourful character--in her own right as a popular and unconventional painter, but also as the wife of one of the greatest modern painters, Diego Rivera, and sometime lover of one of the greatest Russian revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky. It is therefore no accident that her life has been celebrated in many books and plays. This rendering, 'Frida', directed by Julie Taymor with Salma Hayek as Frida, is a very worthy addition to the list.

Flower Power

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Review of 'Adaptation', director Spike Jonze

'Adaptation' is a multi-layered black comedy by director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, whose previous offering was the wonderfully inventive 'Being John Malkovich'.

The film is based on the true ordeal Kaufman encountered while trying to adapt Susan Orlean's book, 'The Orchid Thief'. The latter is a passionate study of wild orchids and focuses on a charismatic jack of all trades named John Laroche, who is busy hunting for orchids in the swamps of Florida.

Shot for a Purpose

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A history of American war films

Darryl F Zanuck's 'The Longest Day' was very much a Nato film. It was made during the 1961 Berlin Wall crisis and reflected the US's need of its European allies in the Cold War with Russia. The film went out of its way to show the British, French, German and American experience of the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. The Allies were shown working together and those 'decent' Germans who had fought bravely and were not Nazi fanatics were rehabilitated. There was, of course, no mention of the Russian contribution to the defeat of the Nazis.

When You Hear the Warning

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Review of 'The War Game', director Peter Watkins

With Bush's recent adoption of a pre-emptive nuclear strike strategy, and the increasing anxiety we feel about living in a more unstable, conflict-riven world, the DVD release of 'The War Game' could not have been more timely. 'The War Game', produced 38 years ago, is a drama documentary about a 'limited' nuclear attack, and still retains its political impact and urgency.

Tempestuous Text

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Review of 'The Duchess of Malfi' by John Webster, National Theatre, London and touring

Whenever a new production emerges of this famous Jacobean political thriller--stuffed with sexual intrigue, ritual torture, multiple murder and religious hypocrisy--audiences flock in, eager for a new twist on the bloodthirsty plot and tempestuous text.

Pride Before the Falls

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Review of 'A Night in November', by Marie Jones, Tricycle Theatre, London

Kenneth Norman McCallister is a Protestant 'dole clerk' living in Northern Ireland. He has been brought up to believe in the inherent superiority of Protestants over 'pope lovers' and 'Fenian bastards'--his Catholic neighbours who he has been told to patronise and dislike. But there is a problem. For all his fake pride, he realises his job is less secure than he was told, and he is beginning to question his attitude towards Catholics.

A Triangle of Love and Despair

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Review of 'The Hours', director Stephen Daldry

'The Hours' was never going to be a low-key production. Directed by 'Billy Elliott''s Stephen Daldry, and with a Hollywood blockbuster cast starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman and her famous fake nose, it was always going to be up for award nominations and receive a lot of attention.

Kidman, Streep and Moore play three unrelated yet linked women living at different times, who we see grappling with the ideas of what makes their lives worth living and how they can be happy within the constraints of society.

The Trotters Trading Company

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Review of 'Revengers Tragedy', director Alex Cox

If your idea of a good night out is a movie based on a 400 year old play in blank verse, set in an imaginary and dystopian Liverpool with a cast that includes Eddie Izzard, Cherie Booth's dad and Craig who won Big Brother, all played out to the music of Chumbawamba, then get your coat now. 'Revengers Tragedy' is what you've been waiting for.

Airing the Dirty Washing in Public

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Review of 'The Magdalene Sisters', director Peter Mullen

Margaret is raped by her cousin at a family wedding. Rose has just given birth out of wedlock and has her son forcibly taken for adoption. Bernadette is in an orphanage and is unaware that her blossoming sexuality will be used against her. All three are sent against their wills to the Magdalene Laundry.

When an Oasis Becomes a Blur

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Review of 'Live Forever', director John Dower

'Live Forever' documents, in the words of writer and director John Dower, 'the rise and fall of one of the most visible movements in [contemporary] British music, Britpop', largely through interviews with some of the principal participants in the 'movement'--Damon Albarn of Blur, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp. Narration is kept to a minimum in an attempt to let the story flow.

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