Culture

Rosa Luxemburg

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We first see Rosa Luxemburg in a snowy prison yard, guards patrolling the walls high above her. As she walks a raven hops beside her, the first of many references to Rosa’s affinity with nature. It’s 1906 and Rosa has been locked up in Poland for her involvement in the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Monsters and Men

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Monsters and Men

American cinema’s appetite for themes of race and class shows no sign of abating. This latest contribution from debut writer and director Reinaldo Marcus Green comes in a series of increasingly class-conscious movies.

Monsters and Men’s raw aesthetic and unapologetically direct style, stripped of the self-conscious pretensions of some of its predecessors, reinvents social realism for 2019 and makes for a gripping 90 minutes that propels us into the Brooklyn enclave of Bed-Stuy and its inhabitants’ problems, joys and struggles.

In defence of degenerate art

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The so called “alt-right” project is an attempt to throw an ideological blanket over a range of deeply reactionary political tendencies. These range from racist right wing “mainstream” conservatives (such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg in Britain), to far-right populists (like US president Donald Trump and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán) and outright fascists (such as Marine Le Pen in France and Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache).

Roma

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Yalitza Aparicio. Remember her name. As an amateur debutante she plays Cleo in Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film Roma. It’s a semi-autobiographical tale of upstairs/downstairs life in his native Mexico City, set in 1971 when he would have been ten.

Cleo is one of two live-in workers for the middle class family whose male doctor head deserts them, leaving mum, four young kids and gran to face their futures together poorer.

Fernand Leger: New Times, New Pleasures

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Tate Liverpool is currently hosting a major exhibition of the work of Fernand Léger.

Léger (1881–1955) is one of the 20th century’s great modernist artists. He worked in a diverse range of media which the exhibition successfully brings together with abstract and figurative paintings, a large-scale mural, films, graphic designs, drawings, books and textiles.

Drill music and social exclusion

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If you type the words “Incognito blessed” into your preferred internet search engine it will bring up a very poignant three-minute drill music video set in and around the Brandon Estate in south London. One of its six tower blocks, Molesworth House, is prominently featured in the film but the area is not just a grey and grim concrete jungle. The estate is just south of the lush green expanse of Kennington Park. I know the area well. On sunny days like those we enjoyed for much of 2018, these spaces are full of people relaxing and having fun.

Five things to do or see this month

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Ordinary Giants: A Life and Times 1918–2018
by Robb Johnson, out now on CD
Ordinary Giants is a song suite by Robb Johnson about the life and times of his father, Ron Johnson, who served in the Second World War. It follows his acclaimed 1997 album Gentle Men, which looked at his grandfathers and the First World War. The many contributors on Ordinary Giants include the late Roy Bailey, Maddy Carty, Phil Odgers, Tom Robinson, Steve White, and even Dennis Skinner.

Martin Parr: Return to Manchester

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Almost 50 years ago, the teenage Martin Parr came up north to Manchester Polytechnic where he learnt his trade as a photographer, shooting in black and white. He looked for people, often managing to get close to them. He hung out in the city centre, Piccadilly Gardens, where he found young couples and fans of the Osmonds willing to pose for him. He explored every Yates’ Wine Lodge in the area on weekday dinner times, often rather sad places.

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