TV / DVD

Dignity from the Gutter

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Review of the Complete Jean Vigo DVD box set, director Jean Vigo

Jean Vigo is best remembered for his masterpiece L'Atalante, a conventional romance presented in his unmistakably anarchic fashion. However, L'Atalante was a production whose plot was largely dictated to Vigo by his production company and distributors. It was chosen by these bastions of bourgeois censorship for its conventional sentimentality, which left little scope for any originality or controversy. It is a mark of Vigo's genius for presentation that such a plot has endured, and retains its vitality, 70 years after its first screening.

Screwball Success

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Review of 'Hail the Conquering Hero', director Preston Sturges

An anthology of the best films made by American director Preston Sturges will be released for the first time on DVD over the next few months. None of these movies are very well known outside the film world and that is not entirely surprising since most of them were made over a very short period between 1940 and 1945.

Reverse the Polarity

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Review of Doctor Who, BBC1

In 1989 after 26 years the BBC finally cancelled Doctor Who. Sixteen years later the show has returned to our screens. Previously notorious for feeble special effects and flimsy sets, the new series isn't science fiction on the cheap any more. A multimillion pound budget and an extensive advertising campaign helped the first episode, aired on 26 March, attract ratings of 9.9 million viewers. The following week's episode got more viewers than Tony Blair's interview with 'Ant 'n' Dec' could muster over on ITV.

Five Kids from Derry

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Review of 'Teenage Kicks - The Story of The Undertones'

Music lover and DJ extraordinaire John Peel, who died last year, had one pop song that he regarded above all others. At his personal request it was played at his funeral, and its opening line ('Teenage dreams, so hard to beat') is inscribed on his gravestone. The song is 'Teenage Kicks', the first single released by the Undertones.

Inner Turmoil Turns Outwards

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Review of 'Le Crime de Monsieur Lange', 'La Grande Illusion' and 'La Bête Humaine', director Jean Renoir

Considered individually, each of these three films is outstanding. Put into the historical context of the rise and fall of the Popular Front government, which existed in France from 1936 to 1938, they become a cinematic talisman for an era of hope and betrayal. Director Jean Renoir embraced the spirit of these times, adopting Communist sympathies and working with the radical left wing theatre company Le Groupe Octobre.

Unfair and Unbalanced

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Review of 'Outfoxed', director Robert Greenwald

Imagine the Daily Express has turned into a TV news station fronted by Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn, and you begin to get an inkling of how rabid Rupert Murdoch's Fox News TV is. Fox works very simply and repetitively both as a mouthpiece for Murdoch's own right wing views and as a rolling election broadcast for George W Bush and the Republican Party - hardly a surprise when you learn that the channel head is Roger Ailes, a former Bush Snr campaign strategist.

Hostage to Misfortune

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Review of 'Good Morning, Night', director Marco Bellochio

A film about the kidnapping of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978 sounded promising. Perhaps it would explore the politics of the kidnappers, the Red Brigades, or the possible complicity of the Italian state in Moro's assassination.

No such luck. Instead a horrid film that could easily have been produced by Washington to justify its 'war on terror'.

Getting the Angles Right

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Review of '1984', director Michael Radford

The opening scene: row after row of apathetic faces staring impassively at the despot before them. The speech delivered by the oblivious autocrat on the podium consists of vague threats regarding 'dark forces' and outside enemies... But this is not a review of Blair's speech to the Trades Union Congress - this is 1984.

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