Culture

Art Angels

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Pop music is political again. If it’s not that X Factor alumni Little Mix tweeted against the bombing of Syria, it’s that one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year is about climate change. Art Angels is Canadian Claire Boucher’s fourth studio album, and certainly her most ambitious to date.

On this, her first self-produced album, vocals are layered on top of each other, creating an otherworldly electropop. Sounds of the rainforest and the natural world are heard over energetic beats.

Deutschland 83

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This eight-part spy thriller is said to be auguring a golden age for German TV — and it’s been a long time coming.

The series will air on Channel 4 and is the first show to launch its video-on-demand service for “quality foreign television”, Walter Presents, a strand of the online platform All4.

In recent years the British audience for “Scandi noir” has expanded to welcome French and Italian thrillers, but there’s been nothing from Europe’s economic powerhouse.

Spotlight

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It’s not that we aren’t aware of scandals and cover-ups around paedophilia and the Catholic church. And in Britain the Jimmy Savile scandal demonstrated that it isn’t only the Catholic church which is involved in the institutionalised covering-up of child abuse.

The film Spotlight isn’t simply telling the story of yet more poor, working class children being abused by Catholic priests in Boston over a period of 30 or 40 years, although that itself would justify the telling of it.

The Danish Girl

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The visibility of trans people has taken great leaps in the past couple of years. The release of The Danish Girl is well timed to continue that trend.

Lili Elbe was born Einar Wegener in 1882. Einar became an award winning painter of rather restrained landscapes. She died aged 49, legally a woman, with a passport in the name Lili Elbe, after undergoing five experimental operations for gender confirmation.

Artist and Empire

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At first the idea of an exhibition of art relating to the British Empire sounds deeply off-putting. Is it a collection of images celebrating imperial conquest? While it does contain such paintings, Artist and Empire is doing something more complex and more interesting.

Its opening room concentrates on the justification for empire. It contains many maps, while the second has studies of plants, people and landscapes.

A brief history of seven Bob Marley songs

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Marlon James’s wonderful novel A Brief History of Seven Killings was the worthy winner of last year’s Man Booker prize. It takes as its starting point a dramatic real life event — the attempted assassination of Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley in December 1976.

Marley survived the attack, defiantly performing at the open air benefit concert which sparked the controversy that led to the shooting. Later he addressed his assailants in the song “Ambush in the Night”.

Grandma

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A day which starts with a full-on screaming breakup with your partner, followed by a serious bout of panic, will not be enhanced by an unexpected visit from your granddaughter who needs $600 by the end of the day.

Sunset Song

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Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song is a crushingly beautiful book that every socialist should read. Terence Davies’s beautiful film adaptation does the novel full justice.

Set in rural north east Scotland around the outbreak of the First World War, it couples a brutal realism — of back-breaking labour, women’s oppression and the devastation of war — with an incredible sense of the moments of beauty in life.

Carol

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Todd Haynes’s themes of sexual outsiders and repressive social mores have seen him associated with the New Queer Cinema — a trend which redefines cultures of sexual transgression.

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