Culture

Massive Counter-Attack

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Review of 'Peace Not War' CD, Various, £15

Fusing art and politics has never been so easy. The growing global anti-war movement means that great anthems of hope and inspiration, which celebrate the joy of mass resistance, can be recorded. This fundraising CD, which is available from major retailers as well as activists, does just that. For me there was only one choice for best song--'The Unpeople', which brillantly samples John Pilger, edges it over Asian Dub Foundation's use of Tariq Ali's melodious tones.

Set Menu

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Review of 'Dinner' by Moira Buffini, National Theatre, London

'Dinner' is brought to us by the sisters Moira (writer) and Fiona (director) Buffini and features a number of familiar faces from the stage and screen. Nicholas Farrell plays Lars, who has given up on his career in the city to pursue life as a writer of philosophical tomes. The success of his latest book 'Beyond Belief' is being celebrated by his wife Paige (Harriet Walter), who plans to hold a dinner party in his honour. At least, that is the apparent reason for the dinner party.

Blood Sacrifice

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Review of exhibition 'Aztecs', Royal Academy, London

The Aztecs exhibition will stun and perplex many people who see it. There are displays of magnificent sculptures from pre-Hispanic Mexico. There is a beautiful filmed reconstruction of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, one of the biggest and most magnificent cities in the world before the Spanish conquistadors tore it down to build Mexico City. But there are also written descriptions of how many of the sculptures and buildings were used for gruesome religious rites.

One Moment in Time

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Review of '11.09.01', various directors

'11.09.01' is a movie I expected to like. After all, it is an interesting idea. Eleven directors from around the world were given a budget of $400,000 and asked to make a short film (each a symbolic 11 minutes 9 seconds and one frame long) about 11 September.

It's also a film that our enemies actively hate. It has been mercilessly attacked in the right wing press of the world, usually for being 'anti-American propaganda'. The film has been effectively banned in the US. On the other hand Indian director Mira Nair has acclaimed the movie a 'rebirth of cinema's conscience'. If only.

Counterpoint

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Review of 'The Pianist', director Roman Polanski

When the Nazis invaded Warsaw in September 1939, 360,000 of the city's 1 million inhabitants were Jewish. By the time the Nazis retreated in January 1945 there were only 20 Jews left alive. 'The Pianist' is the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, one of those survivors.

Poetry in Palestine

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Review of 'Divine Intervention', director Elia Suleiman

What do we learn of the real lives of Palestinian men, women and children from the press? Not much. 'Divine Intervention' is a highly successful attempt to challenge this censorship by omission. Its form is reminiscent of 1980s Latin American magical realism. This is not accidental. In order for those voices to be heard, director Elia Suleiman has created an allegory, a pastiche of the sufferings of the Palestinian people which contains sublime moments of pathos, humour and love.

City Lives

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Review of 'Metropolis: Special Edition', director Fritz Lang

During the first half of the 20th century many of the great milestones in world cinema were repeatedly censored, re-edited and generally mutilated beyond recognition. In particular, the most highly politically charged films were most liable to be either banned or bowdlerised and 'Metropolis', the classic German Expressionist film of 1926, was no exception.

Hill District Blues

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Review of 'King Hedley II' by August Wilson, Tricycle Theatre, London

'King Hedley II' is the eighth in August Wilson's projected cycle of ten plays exploring the black experience in each decade of the 20th century. Set in the Reaganite 1980s in Pittsburgh's Hill District, it is a time of urban devastation brought on by slash and burn economic policies. Job opportunities are scarce and violence is a part of everyday life. Like all of Wilson's plays, starting with 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom', and including 'Fences' and 'The Piano Lesson', for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, it is set in the background of an American society created by racism.

Bunny Business

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Review of 'Donnie Darko', director Richard Kelly

This is not the first film about a murderous giant rabbit, but it is by a long way the best.

On one level, cult triumph 'Donnie Darko' is an old story. Donnie (magnificently played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is the troubled outsider at high school, with a dysfunctional family and a genius IQ. And he has a monstrous giant rabbit-thing giving him orders. It is a measure of 26 year old, first-time writer/director Richard Kelly's prowess that the fact this rabbit goes by the amiable name 'Frank' does nothing to diminish the chill of its presence.

Players and Fighters

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Review of 'Laissez-Passer', director Bertrand Tavernier

The French Resistance is a subject that film-makers have returned to time and time again. The vast majority of these films present either romanticised versions, typified by the recent blockbuster 'Charlotte Gray', or glossy sitcom 'Allo, Allo' types. There is no danger of either with Bertrand Tavernier's wonderful new film 'Laissez-Passer' ('Safe Conduct').

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