Culture

The Language of Art

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Review of 'Dreams and Conflicts, the Dictatorship of the Viewer', Venice Biennale

The 50th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is an immense event which runs until the beginning of November. It consists of the work of hundreds of artists in exhibitions spread over 64 national pavilions, themed shows in the Arsenale and Museo Correr, and numerous additional exhibitions and events at venues around the city. Established in 1895, one of the original ambitions of the Biennale was to promote a 'universal language of art'.

Bullets and Ballet

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Review of 'Matrix Reloaded', directors Larry and Andy Wachowski

The 'Matrix' films take place in two parallel worlds. In the real world, machines rule. Most humans are kept in tanks to be farmed by the machines to provide their fuel. The few that remain free live in the last surviving city, Zion, deep within the earth's crust. Our world is the world of the Matrix - a computer simulation designed to keep the bulk of humanity pacified while the machines feed. The 'Matrix' trilogy chronicles the struggle against the machines, which takes place in both the real world and the illusory world of the Matrix.

A Revolution in the Making

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Review of 'To Kill a King', director Mike Barker

This film is set against the background of the English Civil War after the parliamentary rebel armies have decisively defeated the Royalist forces of King Charles I at Naseby in 1645. A film covering the period to Charles I's public execution and beyond has many devolopmental options - a history of the 17th century, the causes of the Civil War, the nature of the social revolution of which it was an expression, the religious cloaks, the main dramatis personae of the action, and more.

A Symbol of the New World Order

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Review of 'Lilya 4-Ever', director Lukas Moodysson

This dark, sobering film, the latest by acclaimed Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, is all at once a profoundly moving story, a protest against misogyny, a damning indictment of the new world order and a longing for something better. It is, in short, a tale for our times. Set in the bleak housing schemes of the former USSR, it charts the descent of an abandoned Russian teenager into prostitution, rape and finally suicide.

When Art and Politics Don't Mix

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Review of 'Max', director Menno Meyers

Max' is set in Munich after the defeat of Germany in the First World War. One of the two main protagonists is Max Rothman (John Cusack), a Jewish artist who lost an arm in the war. Now he runs an art gallery and shows the new art that exploded in Germany as a result of the turmoil of defeat. He meets another veteran who, unlike him, is penniless. He too has an interest in art - and reactionary politics. It is struggling artist Adolf Hitler.

Band of Warring Brothers

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Review of 'Henry V', director Nicholas Hytner, National Theatre, London

No other Shakespeare play has been so shamelessly harnessed to the chariot of imperialist war than 'Henry V'. In the 1944 film version Laurence Olivier turned it into a patriotic wartime epic by cutting out those bits of the text that didn't conform to this political objective. From the Falklands to the first Gulf War, and most recently in the war on Iraq, the propagandists and the ideologues have appropriated Henry's famous rallying cry in order to provide a noble justification for squalid adventures.

Peeping Toms and Jerry

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Review of 'Jerry Springer: The Opera', director Stewart Lee, National Theatre, London

Jerry Springer: The Opera' is a highly original and exhilarating show that is both a satire on the successful US TV show and a serious modern opera. In the TV show, conflictual couples are invited by Springer to air their disputes in public and to submit to criticism or mediation by him and members of the studio audience. The results are orgies of brash self revelation in which the participants expose their innermost secrets to a gawping and at times mocking but invariably fascinated national audience.

Hitting the Right Notes

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Review of 'Werckmeister Harmonies', director Bela Tarr

This film is directed by an acclaimed Hungarian film-maker, Bela Tarr, whose work was recently celebrated with a retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A more appropriate title would be the name of the novel it is based on, 'The Melancholy of Resistance' by Laszlo Krasaznahorkai, as that is what the film is about.

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