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The Guardian G2 - May 4, 2018

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Friday 04/05/18
Lost in showbiz
The ballad of
Pammy and Julian
page 3
Liz Phair
A rock’n’roll rebel
takes on Trump
page 4
Gangsters on steroids
The surprise rise of
Polish thrillers
page 6
Face Palme
Why Cannes
is struggling to
fill its Harvey
By Alexis Petridis
Primal Scream
Primal Scream
have variously
been a postindustrial
noise band, 60s
beatific, ecstasyfuelled dancepop pioneers,
Rolling Stones
imitators and dub
enthusiasts. Their
oeuvre ranges
from the sublime
to the catastrophic
and all points
in between; a
of their best
moments would
be both baffling
and fantastic.
The Jesus and
Mary Chain
Early Jesus and
Mary Chain
sounded like
a bomb that
wouldn’t stop
going off. They
made a string of
great records, but
it’s their initial
cocktail of Beach
Boys melodies,
lyrical ennui and
incendiary noise
that remains the
most impactful.
Teenage Fanclub
If you held a
poll to find the
most beloved of
Scottish indie
bands, Teenage
Fanclub might
well win: affiliates
of perennial
the Pastels,
something about
the warmth of
their sound – west
coast harmonies,
chiming guitars,
all honed to
perfection on
1996’s Grand
Prix, soon to be
reissued on vinyl
along with their
other classics –
seemed to find a
place deep within
people’s hearts.
Life Without
A band out
of time, Life
Buildings split
just before the
noughties postpunk revival,
during which
they might
have slotted in,
although were
less inspired by
the sound of the
early 80s than by
its exploratory
spirit: the oblique
vocals of singer
Sue Tompkins
rested on quietly
guitar riffs to
Orange Juice
It would be exaggerating
to say that Orange Juice
singlehandedly invented what
came to be known as “indie”
music, but only slightly: for
decades, the term was virtually
defined by the influence of their
trebly guitars, their defiantly
anti-rock and un-macho stance,
even their haircuts. Frontman
Edwyn Collins often
d by
professed to be horrified
what they inadvertently
spawned, and you can see
why. In love with disco
and soul as much as the
Velvet Underground,
Orange Juice were
richer, wittier and more
daring than any of their
imitators: their records
e– whether the chaotic, lifeaffirming rush of 1980’s
Blueboy, their sparkling hit
Rip It Up or 1984’s gorgeous
ballad A Sad Lament – are
still as fresh as new paint.
Fire Engines
They could
write pop songs
– the brilliant
1981 single
Candyskin even
featured a string
arrangement – but
the real legacy
of Edinburgh’s
Fire Engines was
in their nervy,
funk rhythms and
abrasive guitar
clang, a sound
streamlined and
taken to the top
of the charts 20
years later by
Franz Ferdinand.
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
In the late
90s, the great
label suggested
a Scottish indie
renaissance at
odds with thencurrent alt-rock
trends, involving
the smart, folky
Delgados, Arab
Strap’s scuzzy
spoken word and
Mogwai, whose
intense, witty,
evolving brand of
post-rock proved
the most lasting
and impactful
of all.
The Associates
A band that
literally sounded
like no other,
the Associates
shifted from wiry,
post-punk to
the sumptuous
art-pop of 1982’s
peerless Sulk,
their disparate
sound bound
together by
the late Billy
vocals: everyone
knows their hit
single Party
Fears Two, but
a whole world of
remarkable music
bears their name.
Josef K
On the slender roster of the
legendary Postcard label,
Josef K were the dark, literary,
angular Edinburgh counterpoint
to Orange Juice: alternately
brooding and frenzied, they
released a string of fantastic
singles – of which the insistent
Radio Drill Time might be the
pick – and never fully realised
their potential. Nonetheless,
there was a point in the early
noughties where the music press
was packed with bands – such as
Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, the
Futureheads and the Rapture –
who clearly bore their influence.
Florence + the Machine
Florence’s singles
never lack impact, but
it’s hard to remember
one that’s hit like this:
with lyrics as intimate
as its gospel harmonies
and piano are huge,
about the vices that
never plug the gap.
Roisin Murphy
Gigantically satisfying
deep house production
from Maurice Fulton,
full of timbales and acid
bass squiggles, underpins
Murphy’s breathy diva
With a similar spooked
intimacy to early
Sugababes, and just as
hypnotic, Tirzah sings
nonchalantly about
devotion over a spacey,
looped synth.
Onyx Collective
FDR Drive
Traditional post-bop
from the rising jazz
quartet, with strong
melodic sax lines by
Isaiah Barr and produced
with an appealing lack of
J Albert
Envy Turned Curiosity
The title track from
the lo-fi New York
producer’s new EP is a
gorgeous, ghostly rave
jam punctuated with
dub effects and clanging
Wheel of Fortune (feat.
Kelley Deal)
After making the
post-punk album of
2017, the soapboxranting Detroit band team
up with the Breeders’
Kelley Deal for this
meandering, pummelling
The Belgian laments
the conveyor belt of
life and our shallow
pursuits therein – an
utterly miserable theme
saved by its spartan,
dramatic synth-pop
Belle and
at Britpop’s
height, Belle and
Sebastian were
its antithesis:
bookish, in thrall
to 60s and 70s
and the kind
of indie music
the commercial
ambitions of
mid-90s alt-rock
were supposed
to have rendered
obsolete. They
hadn’t, not if you
could write songs
as strong and
touching as those
on 1996’s If You’re
Feeling Sinister.
Lost in Showbiz
Pammy and Julian,
her poor, mournful friend
– both all at sea
hat a priceless
image adorns
the current
edition of the
featuring former Baywatch star
Pamela Anderson vamping it up
to the max. Meeting the camera’s
gaze slightly uncertainly, his arms
wrapped awkwardly around her
waist, is WikiLeaks emperor Julian
Assange. It is a comic masterpiece,
which can only be captioned: “When
ur girlfriend’s boyfriend plays centre
back for Marseille.”
The pair, you may recall, are
close friends, and this week Pamela
grants the magazine an interview in
her home town of Marseille (she lives
with French footballer Adil Rami.)
The chat is accompanied by a shot
taken by David LaChapelle in the
Ecuadorian embassy in London, in
which Julian has voluntarily secluded
himself for the past six years.
First impressions? Well, I suppose
it’s one way to torpedo your “no
sunlight” defence. Hats off to
LaChapelle for making it look as
though the embassy contains a
synthetic sun slightly more powerful
than the real one. It was only earlier
this year, you might recall, that three
doctors penned an article for this
newspaper bemoaning Assange’s
lack of access to proper medical care.
“Although it is possible for clinicians
to visit him in the embassy,” this ran,
“most doctors are reluctant to do so.”
Perhaps it’s because he’s on the run
from the law? Still, the idea he can’t
find a bent doctor in Knightsbridge
is arguably the biggest joke of all.
There’s barely anything else, apart
from petrochemical mistresses and
half the Candy brothers.
Anyway, looking at our two
principals, there is a real TV guide
feel to this image. Julian and
Pamela resemble lead actors in a
$10m-an-episode TV show about
a Promethean tech boss. Actually,
I’m not even sure we need to bother
developing a new format here. Let’s
just call it Westworld: Series 7. I love
how this show continues to raise
unsettling questions.
On the nature of her relationship
with Assange, Pamela declines to be
fully drawn. Ditto the rumours that
she is dating occasional WikiLeaks
source Vladimir Putin. What she will
say of Assange is that he talks to her
about everything. “It’s not just about
politics,” she says, “even though
I do take a lot of notes and it’s so
overwhelming, the information he
gives me.” Pammy goes on to say
that one of the things he talks to her
about is “the Bible”.
I bet he does. Picture the full
John Lithgow in Footloose, only if
the character never had a learning
curve. Ariel needs to stop dancing
with this no-good out-of-towner,
and Pamela needs to bin Adil. It’s
all there in the big book, if only you
have the source codes.
Anyway, back to the Pamela
interview. Without wishing to
lose you with technical publishing
industry argot, it is a study in the
absolute wank people will write in
magazines. “Somehow,” punts the
writer, “while nobody was looking,
Pamela Anderson found herself
at the centre of the geopolitical
universe.” I don’t think you should
even dignify that one with an eyeroll
emoji. Even less successful are the
attempts to conjure up what we
might call la magique of la France.
“In the morning,” we learn of
Pamela’s “tres ordinaire” routine,
“she might make a trip to le petit
marche with her vegan grocery list in
hand, then perhaps take a boat ride
from Cassis to Calanques.” Perhaps.
Both interviewer and Pamela
are at pains to stress how far she
has come. Back in the day, Pamela
reveals, she was once paid $500 to
attend a party for Donald Trump.
And now, well – she was invited
to hand Putin flowers at his most
recent inauguration “or I speak
at Vladivostok at the economic
conference about green energy and
a green economy”. Plus ça change,
you might say – unless you were the
interviewer, who misses the sole
justifiable opportunity to wheel out
a French cliche.
Given that she is in an
uncategorised form of liaison with
Assange, a man who has twice been
accused of sexual offences, Pamela’s
thoughts on the #MeToo movement
are naturally sought. In summary, it
seems to have been the women’s
fault for not having “a Spidey sense”
about what was about to happen to
them in the various rooms. “Don’t go
in that room … or if you go in the
room, get that role.”
The chief point of the chat with
the Hollywood Reporter, however,
seems to be to raise awareness of
Assange’s current plight. In March,
the Ecuadorians cut Assange’s
internet, in a thinly disguised bid to
get him to do one. He and Pamela
haven’t spoken since.
Over to the interview: “‘He’s cut
off from everybody,’ Pamela says,
a frantic note creeping into her
voice. The air and light quality [at
the embassy] is terrible because
he can’t keep his windows open
and he can’t get any sunlight. Even
prisoners can go outside, but he
can’t. I’m always bringing him
vegan food, but he eats very simply.
I talked to him on the phone the
day [his internet] was shut off. He
sent me an urgent call. And now,
nothing.” (Remember, kids: he can
walk out at any time.)
Incidentally, I often wonder if
Pamela and Julian is a case of life
imitating high art. As fellow doctoral
completists will know, there is an
episode of Baywatch set at Seaworld
that deals with many similar issues.
Pamela’s character – the legendary
CJ Parker – finds a sea lion who has
been injured by hunters. She forms
an intense bond with the creature,
nurses and cares for him in seclusion
at Seaworld – until the moment he
must be released from captivity. CJ
is very sad about this – but she says
she knows that the sea lion would be
happy, because the bad fishermen
who hunted him were now in jail.
As he departs, he honks back at her,
as if to say, “yes, that was precisely
the logical place I’d got to on the
matter”, as opposed to: “I was only
interested in you for the fish.”
If only justice could be similarly
served on the bad men who made
Julian skip bail to avoid answering
sexual assault claims (since dropped
by the Swedish prosecutor because
his evasions meant the investigation
could go no further). “He’s been
wrongly accused of so many things,”
is Pamela’s take. “But this is a way
of keeping him down and keeping
him ineffective. He’s just ruffling the
feathers of people that are powerful.
I always try to humanise him
because people think he’s a robot or
he’s a computer screen or he’s not
this human being.”
But the crowning glory of this
characterisation – the tinsel on
the incel, if you will – is the idea
that Assange is being denied some
kind of movie stardom, because
… well, because Hillary. “He’s so
misunderstood,” she continues,
“especially in Hollywood, and
really hated, because of the Clinton
monopoly on the media.”
In one sense, you have to salute
Pamela and Julian’s ability to keep
things as sweet as they have. These
kinds of relationships are difficult.
I read only this week that Charles
Bronson’s marriage to a former soap
actress 30-odd years his junior was
“on the rocks”.
I wonder what went wrong? Is the
problem that Bronson is Britain’s
most violent inmate, currently
serving a serially extended stretch
at HMP Frankland, who recently
endangered his parole chances by
stripping off, smearing himself in
butter, and challenging guards to a
fight? Or is it something less specific,
like she loves him but she’s not IN
love with him, or some people grow
together but she feels as if they’re
growing apart?
Who knows. Let’s hope Julian
and Pamela’s bond is not similarly
sundered. Occasionally, our
misunderstood sea lion appears
on the embassy balcony to honk
mournfully about this or that – he
misgendered Chelsea Manning
last year, for instance, on her day
of release from actual prison for
giving WikiLeaks information. But
with Pamela’s help, perhaps real
freedom is a possibility, and our
slippery mammal can one day flap
out into the welcoming waters of
Knightsbridge for good.
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
‘I don’t turn to
the guitar
when I’m happy.
I’m a dark writer’
Posters for
the Uncensored
Even repressive regimes
allow music streaming, so
the Uncensored Playlist is
turning forbidden
journalism into songs.
Derek Robertson reports
Pop goes the
ournalist Chang Ping remembers
his first brush with Chinese press
censorship. “In early 1998, I sent
a reporter in Beijing to interview
rock singer Cui Jian, to talk about the
difficulty of revolt. The propaganda
department was very unhappy about it
and chided me harshly; I was criticised for
‘promoting a capitalist view of the press’.”
This was the first of many run-ins the
writer and editor had with the authorities
while working for the Chengdu Commercial
Daily. Eventually, he was sacked and forced
into exile, first in Hong Kong, and then, after
refusing to bow to intimidation from both
governments, Germany, where he continues
to write critically about the Communist party’s
policies and human rights abuses.
All of which made Chang a natural choice
for the Uncensored Playlist, a joint initiative
by Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF
Germany), an NGO dedicated to defending
the freedom of the press, and DDB Berlin, its
long-time PR agency. While mentoring some
university students and brainstorming ways
to negate censorship, Patrik Lenhart and
Marco Lemcke, creatives at DDB, discovered
an interesting loophole. Despite many
repressive regimes’ bans on social media sites
and search engines, music streaming services
– particularly Apple Music, Deezer and Spotify
– continued to be freely available.
This got them thinking: why not turn
censored articles into pop songs to bypass
the firewalls and slip these stories back into
countries where they had been forbidden?
They presented the idea to RSF Germany’s
executive director, Christian Mihr, who loved
it, and so they began fleshing out the proposal.
First, they had to choose the countries, a
task that Mihr says wasn’t easy. Of those that
were open enough to allow at least one of the
services they wanted to employ, which would
benefit the most from raised awareness?
Eventually, they settled on China, Egypt,
Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, then set
about choosing five journalists, another tricky
task. The dangers facing dissenters in these
countries can be severe – as Chang says: “Many
of my friends have been imprisoned and even
tortured.” Chang and Vietnam’s Bùi Thanh
Hieu were already exiled, but the others –
Egypt’s Basma Abdelaziz, a Thai collective
known as Prachatai, and Uzbekistan’s Galima
Bukharbaeva – continue to live and work
in their homelands. It is testament to RSF
Germany’s standing, and belief in the project,
that none of the five declined the invitation.
The journalists were asked to choose two
articles that were representative of their work
and their country’s situation. Then, over the
course of a number of interviews with musical
director Lucas Mayer and his team, lyrics were
written – in English and their native language
– before local musicians were hired to make
the songs a reality. The results can now be
streamed almost anywhere in the world.
The decision was made early on not to
inform the streaming services about the
project. “We just did it,” says Lenhart. “We
sneaked them on to spark people to find
loopholes, to prove we could beat the censors.”
Nor does Mihr expect them to get in touch
or complain; in fact, he thinks they tacitly
approve. “Once we’d gone public, Amazon
Germany asked if it could also publish the
playlist. So it seems these services are
unafraid, and actually like the idea.”
I ask whether any of the regimes have
cottoned on, and, if so, what they might do.
Mihr says it is impossible to block specific
songs; they would have to block the whole
site, which he thinks is unlikely. Lenhart
adds that they must know – the Vietnamese
songs made it into the Top 10 streaming chart
– but is equally unworried about a backlash.
Besides, says Lemcke: “We made sure thatt
our songs, articles, lyrics and album coverss
are downloadable, so even if somebody can’t
get access, the idea and the music will always
be out there.”
Everyone at RSF Germany and DDB is
d the
optimistic – about the project’s impact and
fight for freedom of speech. Lenhart concedes
it may be “a small step and a small victory, but
it’s a great message to send”. For the journalists
themselves, they believe that truth will find a
way. As Chang says: “Every voice has an echo.
As my daughter and I left China, we sat on the
train crossing one border after another. She
discovered that the trees and flowers looked
the same and said with excitement: ‘Dad,
spring comes to every country!’ I said: ‘Yes,
every country will see springtime, including
the homeland to which we cannot return.’”
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Liz Phair’s album Exile in Guyville captured the voice
of third-wave feminism – but Trump means it’s time to
fight again, she tells Evelyn McDonnell
Exiled Chinese
Chang Ping
s she sits in the
Rose cafe in Venice,
California, it does not
look as if a quarter of
a century has passed
since Liz Phair’s
debut album, Exile in Guyville,
made her rock’s voice of third-wave
feminism. But a quarter of a century
on, as it is remastered and reissued
to mark its 25th anniversary, men are
still excluding women from power,
reducing them to sexual objects
and demeaning their modes of
expression. It’s Guyville redux, only
this time it is not just the hipsters
in Phair’s indie-rock scene of early
90s Chicago. It is the man in the
White House.
“You could not have given us
a bigger middle finger,” says the Los
Angeles-based singer-songwriter,
referring to how Trump’s election
appeared to women. “It changed
what I needed to do in the world,
who I wanted to be and what
I wanted to put out there.” She is
working on new material, after the
events of November 2016 led her
to abandon the songs she had been
writing with Ryan Adams. “Postelection, there was a lightness that
didn’t fit any more,” she says.
Music aficionados – and women
who came of age with her acidtongued confessionals – have
celebrated Phair’s return. Yet,
thanks to her unexpected career
turns since Guyville, she remains
largely unknown to a generation
smitten with Solange, Lana Del
Rey and others whose ability to
sing frankly about sexual power
relations is in some ways beholden
to Phair’s trailblazing provocations.
On songs such as Polyester Bride and
Flower, she used graphic language to
challenge the emotive equity of what
is now called friends with benefits,
or to mock the “slut-shaming” of
sexually active women long before
this was even a term.
Later, her frustration with
the hypocritical limitations of
“alternative” rock led her to
experiment with fashion and music
choices that were seen as more
mainstream; moves that alienated
her from some of her initial fanbase.
She was also raising a son – and she
disappeared into motherhood.
Phair marvels at the creative
feel of the bustling, hustling Rose
cafe, a few miles from the upmarket
seaside community of Manhattan
Beach that she has called home for
two decades. “The creative world is
where I belong,” she says. “My life
hasn’t been easy and it has been very
up and down, but, as my mom likes
to say: ‘You’re never happier than
when you’re singing some song.’”
In her 51 years, Phair has known
her share of different communities.
She was born in Connecticut, where
she was given up by her biological
mother and adopted by a medical
student at Yale and his wife. Along
with her older brother, Phillip,
she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, for
a time, then spent a year in Sheffield
while her father was on sabbatical.
Experiencing a different culture was
transformative for Phair, making
her a lifelong Anglophile. “I’ve seen
every cathedral, manor house and
castle. My mom packed about five
years of living into that one.”
She is also obsessed with the
British royal family and traces that
not so much to her childhood year
in the UK, but to her status as an
adopted child who, out of love and
respect for the man and woman who
raised her, has never sought out her
birth parents. “Of course, you want
to know where you came from, and
you’d like to see people who look
like you. I want to marry into [the
royal] family because you can trace
everything back.”
The Phair family then settled in
a wealthy suburb of Chicago, the
kind of neighbourhood depicted in
John Hughes movies that seems to
offer a seemingly perfect existence
but under whose surface roils social
dysfunction. “Those kinds of places
were built probably for the express
purpose of raising children in a safe
environment; it was a conspiracy
to keep us safe, to make us into
model citizens.”
The pressure to succeed was
oppressive. Eating disorders
‘I was tired
of being the
girlfriend of
the guy in
the band’
(Left, below
and bottom)
Recording Exile
in Guyville
‘It’s scary how the
male perspective
can shape women
without them
even knowing’
Liz Phair …
‘The creative
world is
where I belong’
abounded. Three friends killed
themselves. “That explains why
I have this impulse to share, to be
honest and unveil stuff – because
that area was, like: ‘No, you have to
be perfect.’” She rebelled, staying
out, smoking cigarettes and pot, and
drinking. She also refused to take the
home economics course required of
female students.
Phair recognises that her
decision to opt out was cushioned
by the safety net of her privileged
upbringing. “My father made sure
that I could speak at the dinner table.
My mother made sure I knew the
contributions and powers of women
throughout history. I was raised
to feel a sense of my own value.”
She managed to get a diploma,
despite her defiance against gender
discrimination in education, and she
returned to Ohio to study at Oberlin
College, where she recorded songs
for the first time, secretly in her
dorm room.
After graduating, she moved to
San Francisco, where a friend from
Oberlin, the musician Chris Brokaw,
encouraged Phair to record more.
Thus began the Girly-Sound tapes,
released for the first time with the
Guyville reissue: lo-fi recordings
of raw, unedited, very personal
material, such as Fuck and Run,
a song that presaged the freedoms –
and frailties – of today’s hook-up
culture. Her guitar-playing and
lyrics were dense, but the singing
and point of view were in-your-face
and eminently relatable. The songs
were about disappointment and
estrangement; about the failure of
feminism to resolve the most basic
of bedroom power struggles. “Those
songs about the new flush of love,
how awesome it is? I want to write
that, but I just don’t,” she says.
“I don’t turn to the guitar when I’m
really happy. I’m a dark writer.”
Phair returned to Chicago and
continued to live the itinerant
life of a wannabe artist. But she
learned what so many women
involved in supposedly progressive
communities discover: same shit,
different soundtrack. Irritated by
the hipper-than-thou arrogance of
Chicago’s testosterock scene, called
Guyville by one resident male, she
decided to speak out.
“There was a very strong sense of:
I’m tired of giving up the patriarchy,
and the mainstream, just to have
it recreated in this subsect of
alternative music,” she says. “Men
were the gatekeepers. They ran all
the equipment and the labels …
I was tired of being the girlfriend
of the guy in the band, I was
tired of hearing that my musical
tastes sucked.”
Phair knew just what she wanted
to make: a riposte to the Rolling
Stones’ Exile on Main Street. Just
like that rock classic, Exile in
Guyville would be a double album.
It’s a near-perfect record: 18 songs
that capture a woman learning to
navigate the adult world on her
own and discovering that her fight
for free choice did not end with
home economics.
Guyville was an immediate
critical favourite and college-radio
hit, though it didn’t chart. She
followed with Whip-Smart, a decent,
but not outstanding, album, which
landed her on the cover of Rolling
Stone magazine and earned her
criticism from fans and feminists
for posing in a slip, sans guitar.
She stands by the decisions she
has made: “I please myself,” she
says. “When I make music, I don’t
worry about people thinking it’s
cool or not. But it’s scary how the
male perspective can shape women
without them even knowing.”
Phair embraced pop, but the
sharp-witted tongue that defined
earlier work did not necessarily
endear her to the mainstream fans
she was seeking and she struggled
with her next four albums. Though
she scored her biggest hit in 2003
with Why Can’t I?, the idea of the
Joni Mitchell of her generation
hiring writing and production
team the Matrix struck many as
unseemly – shouldn’t the verbally
and melodically adept Phair be
writing songs for the hit-makers,
not the other way round? She would
have loved to simply write and never
perform again, but that line of work
hasn’t panned out. “I think I’m too
weird,” she says. “I think my songs
aren’t straight enough.”
Besides, Phair had been focused
on another endeavour: life as
a divorcee and raising her son, Nick.
She wanted to give him the normal,
suburban experience she had
once resisted – with mixed results.
“I was just Mom, but I’m not sure
in retrospect if he wouldn’t have
preferred a little more rock star,
a little less Mom.”
Her son is now on his own track,
and she remembers a time he flew
to Japan with a high school group.
After leaving him at the airport,
“I went home and realised my son
was crossing an ocean without
me, and had this deep … it wasn’t
sad crying, it was a one-of-a-kind
cry, and it felt primal. I felt as if
a thousand women had cried like me
before – proud that the job was done,
but feeling that invisible umbilical
cord finally cut.”
Current events have given her
a renewed sense of purpose. Her first
book, a collection of stories about
touchstone moments of trauma
and change in her own life, will be
published in the autumn. Shows for
her tour sold out in seconds. Once
again, circumstances – the extremity
of the new political administration –
are driving her out of her bedroom.
“It’s obscene!” she says, specifically
referencing the praise that the US
attorney general, Jeff Sessions,
lavished upon the Philippines for
slaughtering drug dealers, but
speaking more generally about the
extreme right-turn her country has
taken. “We’ve reached the level
of obscenity.”
So once again Phair is crafting her
own idiosyncratic protest music,
trying to process it all. “It was such
a big blow that it takes a minute to
run through the metabolism to come
out. The profound stuff will have to
be digested slowly,” Phair says. “But
we all just have to come with guns
blazing. Actuate now, even in a most
imperfect way because the people
who are quieter need to get louder.”
Girly-Sound to Guyville – 25th
Anniversary Box Set by Liz Phair is
released on 4 May. Evelyn McDonnell
is the editor of Women Who Rock:
Bessie to Beyoncé, Girl Groups
to Riot Grrrl, to be published in
autumn 2018.
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
‘Gangsters on
steroids’: the
Polish film boom
Brutal thrillers such as Pitbull and Botoks are making it
big at the British box office. Are Polish-language films
about to enter the mainstream, asks Ryan Gilbey
t is a late Saturday afternoon
in Walthamstow, north-east
London, and business is
slow at the Empire cinema,
as it usually is on hot days.
Nevertheless, 13 people
have chosen a brutal thriller over an
extra few hours in the sun. Pitbull:
Last Dog, which opened the previous
weekend on 279 screens, will have
escaped the attention of most
cinemagoers. It’s certainly more
stomach-churning than the average
multiplex fare. One woman has her
throat slashed in the first five
minutes; another is placed under a
carpet and then beaten violently
with belts by a gang of thugs. A dead
man is shot in the mouth at pointblank range, while a gangster pouring
acid on a corpse tells his cohort
charmingly: “If you make it without
puking, I’ll buy you a whore.”
Pitbull: Ostatni pies (Pitbull: Last
Dog) is the latest in a run of films to
have dented the UK box office top 10
despite being marketed exclusively
at the Polish community. (At the time
of writing it has taken around
£340,000.) This year has already
brought one hit, Kobiety mafii (Mafia
Women), which took almost £900,000
in the UK and Ireland. Last year, the
grisly 18-rated medical drama Botoks
amassed £1.06m, making it not only
the third highest-grossing foreignlanguage release of 2017 (after Park
Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden and
the Bollywood hit Raees) but the most
successful Polish film ever in the UK.
Like Bollywood, Polish cinema
has flourished in UK multiplexes
rather than arthouses, without any
help from the British media. It is
only partly true to say that the
mainstream press has ignored these
releases; what’s more significant is
that its attention and approval
were never sought in the first place.
With Polish now the second most
commonly spoken language in
England, English-speaking viewers
are not part of this particular
success story.
The audience members I talk to
after Pitbull: Last Dog are both
Polish, though neither is especially
impressed by what they have just
seen. “It’s not as good as the other
ones,” says Tomasz, a 40-year-old
draughtsman and fan of the two
previous Pitbull instalments. “This
one is softer, more American. In
Polish, we would say grubymi nićmi
szyte – ‘stitched with a thick thread’.
Armed and
Mafia Women
(right); hit
medical thriller
Botoks (below)
Do these films
reflect Polish
life? ‘I hope not,’
says Maciej. ‘If it’s
like that , I don’t
want to go back’
Pitbull: Last Dog
has dented the
UK top 10
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
It hangs together, but only just.”
Maciej, a 41-year-old veterinary
surgeon, hasn’t seen a Polish film in
a cinema since coming to live in the
UK 12 years ago. “It was like it was on
steroids,” he laughs. “It just showed
all the different ways you could kill
someone. I couldn’t follow what was
going on.” Did it reflect anything about
Polish life or culture? “I hope not. If
it’s like that, I don’t want to go back.”
Awareness of these movies is
raised largely through social media
and websites, and by the hoopla
surrounding the initial premieres
back in Poland (Pitbull: Last Dog was
released there a month ago and
enjoyed the second-biggest
opening weekend of any native
film this year). But what are Polish
viewers here getting from these
movies that they can’t get from the
mainstream US equivalents?
“There’s a certain mix of humour
and toughness and a real eastern
European vibe which Polish
audiences like,” says Joanna
Michalec, director of Phoenix
Productions, the leading
international distributor of Polish
films. “I think they also like seeing
Poland in a movie, and what’s
important is they can go to a normal
multiplex and see these films in
Polish. That means a lot.”
Phoenix, which is based in Chicago,
started distributing Polish films in
Britain in April 2016 after noticing
interest on its Facebook page from
the UK and Ireland. Its inaugural
release was Pitbull. Nowe porządki
(Pitbull: New Orders), the first of the
trilogy, spun off from a Polish TV
series. “Polish distributors in the past
released on 20 or 30 screens, but we
decided to give it all we’d got,” she
says. A typical Phoenix release will
now play on upwards of 250 screens,
although the company has its sights
set even higher. “There are a million
Polish people in the UK,” says Paul
Sweeney, Phoenix’s director of UK
and Ireland strategy. “Only 10% of
them come to the cinema, so part of
what I’m doing is finding the ones
we’re not targeting. The potential
to grow is huge.”
The mainstay of Polish cinema is
director Patryk Vega, a Guy Ritchiestyle figure responsible for every gory,
high-octane success to date with
the exception of the latest Pitbull.
But not all of Phoenix’s films are
violent. It also does a roaring trade
in romantic comedies: Narzeczony
na Niby (Pretend Fiance) opens
‘There are a
million Polish
people in the UK.
The potential to
grow is huge’
Chloë Sevigny
and Charlie
Plummer in
Andrew Haigh’s
new film Lean
on Pete
Andrew Haigh is one of Britain’s leading directors, so
what drew him to an intimate story about a boy and an
old nag set in the wilds of Oregon? He tells Ellen E Jones
‘I’m quite scared of
horses, actually’
Two extremes:
Pitbull: Last
Dog (left)
and romcom
Pretend Fiance
(above right)
today, while the company had a hit
two years ago with Planeta Singli
(Planet Single), a lively Richard
Curtis-style romcom centred on a
dating app. Its Slovenian director,
Mitja Okorn, currently lives in Los
Angeles and recently finished
making Life in a Year with Cara
Delevingne and Jaden Smith for Will
Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.
In June 2016, I attended a press
screening of Planet Single introduced
by Okorn, although it is unusual for
non-arthouse Polish films to be
shown to the press. “I was happy
with the UK release, but I always
want more,” he says now. “What
I wanted was a bigger screening, a
premiere where we could get even
more UK opinion-makers and
journalists to see the film. And that’s
how we could slowly build a nonPolish UK audience that would
become fans of good Polish cinema.
For that to work, the distributors of
Polish films would also need to be
careful which movies they are
distributing. The way it is now, they
distribute everything – good, bad
and extremely bad. Polish people
confuse successful with good.”
Can Polish cinema draw Englishspeaking audiences – and does that
even matter? “Absolutely it matters,”
says Sweeney. “It’s an untapped
market that we’re trying to get into.
We want to reach those viewers who
are perfectly happy to watch foreign
films.” The problem is that the sort
of Polish movies put out by Phoenix
are very different from the arthouse
kind. No one is going to mistake
Botoks for Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski’s
haunting 2014 Oscar-winner, and
Vega is no Krzysztof Kieślowski.
With that in mind, Phoenix is
planning to widen its slate to feature
highbrow releases as well as, say, the
forthcoming Kobiety mafii sequels.
“We’re looking at projects geared
toward lovers of foreign films in
Britain,” says Michalec. “We have
one in the pipeline that’s a PolishBritish production aimed at arty
audiences who tend to avoid the
multiplexes.” If Brexit is causing the
company any jitters, Michalec is
hiding it well. “I don’t think many
Polish people will move out. I can’t
see it. The community is very settled.”
Asked about his goals for the
future, Sweeney doesn’t miss a beat.
“My aim is simple,” he says. “A Bafta
for best foreign language film.”
Pitbull: Last Dog is on release.
Narzeczony na Niby (Pretend Fiance)
is released today.
Andrew Haigh:
‘I wanted to hug
the character
and tell him:
“You’ll be fine.”’
f you were to watch Lean on Pete and
then picture the person who had made
it, you would be unlikely to come up
with Andrew Haigh. The film is an
adaptation of the third novel by an altcountry musician about a neglected
teen called Charley and a knackered racehorse
(Pete) who wander the lonely scrublands of
Oregon. Its director is a soft-spoken 45-yearold from Harrogate, in Yorkshire, who’s “quite
scared of horses, actually”.
Haigh’s breakthrough was Weekend (2011),
which, like his debut, 2009’s Greek Pete, gave
an intimate account of the lives of gay men in
Britain when such projects were still rare beasts.
“Now,” says Haigh, “people want to put money
into films about gay experiences, whereas when
I tried to make Weekend, no one wanted to.”
That film’s success led him to San Francisco,
to shoot his much-missed HBO series Looking,
about three sexually fraught – and adventurous
– friends. But his next move belied a fondness for
curveballs: 45 Years, starring Tom Courtenay
and Charlotte Rampling, was a polite, brutal
portrait of a middle-class marriage in meltdown.
“After Weekend, everyone was like: ‘Why would
you do a thing about two old people? That seems
crazy.’ When the film did quite well, everyone
was like: ‘Oh yeah, it makes total sense!’
“I’m not very good at thinking, ‘This is the
thing I should do now to help my career.’ I mean,
I want to keep my career going, but that’s not
what draws me to a story. So Lean on Pete was
just …” He pauses. “I love the story.”
Weekend and 45 Years were portraits of a
couple. So too is this one, which takes care to
avoid any of the Disneyfied sentimentality that
often afflicts the boy-and-his-horse/dog/dragon
subgenre. “There are no closeup shots of the
horse’s eyes looking at Charley. It’s not about
trying to create a fake connection between the
two of them. Charley needs that horse for his
own purposes, but the horse is always just a
horse. This isn’t Black Beauty.”
Despite the alien environment, Haigh says he
connected with his protagonist when he read
Willy Vlautin’s book. “I felt like I understood
him,” he says. “I felt heartbroken for him;
I wanted to reach through the pages and pick
him up and just hug him and tell him: ‘You’ll
be fine!’”
After Haigh’s parents divorced, he had a
miserable time at boarding school, where he says
he experienced the particular sort of adolescent
loneliness we watch Pete help Charley through.
“I was not a happy teenager.” But it was more
specific than that. “It was also about growing
up gay in the 80s; not the most joyful of times.
There is definitely a world in which this story,
for me, could be about a gay kid coming to
terms with being gay.”
Haigh’s star is Charlie Plummer, an 18-yearold actor best known for his turn as kidnap
victim John Paul Getty III in Ridley Scott’s All
the Money in the World. In him, Haigh found
an inscrutable quality he has long prized.
“I don’t want a performance to give me
everything. You can look at Charlotte Rampling
in 45 Years and you don’t really know what she’s
thinking, but you know something interesting
is happening. It’s the same with Charlie. I want
the audience to lean in, to engage. I want them
to try to understand, because I think that’s
a problem in the world, isn’t it? We don’t lean
in a bit harder to understand what someone
is thinking and feeling.”
Haigh’s special talent as a film-maker comes
through his humanity. One of Lean on Pete’s
most memorable lines comes from Charley’s
fickle, often-absent father, in a rare moment of
parental counsel: “All the best women have been
waitresses at some point.” It’s lifted direct from
the book, so Haigh can’t take credit, but the
sentiment chimes. “The whole life of waitresses
is dealing with people all the time. The whole of
humanity is there in front of them and, I think,
his point – and I suppose my point – is that
when you see all that life in front of you, you’re
more likely to be compassionate.”
It is perhaps this valuing of human (and
animal) kindness – rather than any particular
location, sexuality or subject matter – that most
defines Haigh’s work. “In stories, those are the
moments that hit me the most,” he says. “When
people really don’t expect it, don’t have it much
in their lives, and suddenly: an act of kindness.
It’s like, oh God! Heartbreaking!”
Lean on Pete is released today. See review, page 14
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Monsta X:
K-pop’s great
Military-grade training and constant surveillance from
fans creates a ruthless culture of perfection in Korean
pop music. These megastars are taking back control
➺ Words Taylor Glasby
he heat and organised
chaos hit you like a
fist. The windowless
dressing room in one
of Seoul’s major TV
studios isn’t much
bigger than a double bedroom, but
is crowded with 11 staff and the
seven members of K-pop group
Monsta X, who are promoting their
new single: the seductive, dramatic
Jealousy. Vocalists Shownu, Kihyun,
Minhyuk, Hyungwon and Wonho,
and rappers Jooheon and I.M, are
now seasoned “idols”, as K-pop
stars are called, and oblivious to
this lack of space. Within a culture
of seniority, a dressing room is
earned; until recently, they were in
a communal room with other young
teams (known as “rookies”) with
flimsy dividers for privacy.
Wonho, 25, whose infectious
laugh belies a thoughtful intensity,
is practising dance moves while the
softly spoken 25-year-old Shownu,
Monsta X’s team leader, whose
duty is to “guide them in the right
direction and keep them sharp”, asks
if we have eaten. Red-haired Kihyun,
24, brings over iced Americano. They
are running on zero sleep from a trip
to the south-east city of Ulsan the
day before, where they performed in
a rainstorm on a TV
show. Fan footage
shows Kihyun
falling over, but he
shrugs it off. “From
our debut, we’ve
experienced stuff
like this. I knew I
was going to slip.
In my head it’s:
Choreography!’ so I go into the
next move. It’s not something to be
embarrassed about.”
K-pop’s hyper-produced earworm
songs and visual perfection have
had a recent boom of global interest,
spearheaded by boyband BTS,
whose phenomenal success has
crossed over into the US and the
Billboard Hot 100. But the cameras
of Korean fans, who post online
every minute of an idol’s public life,
reveal a strenuous existence. K-pop
can seem like a factory, its idols
helpless drones rather than artists,
and the stress and fatigue are often
in the spotlight: 33-year-old Seo
Minwoo, of the group 100%, died
of a reported heart attack in March,
while Shinee member Jonghyun,
struggling with depression, took his
life last December.
Ms Suh and Ms Shim, executive
directors at Monsta X’s agency,
Starship, put idol training – when
talent is honed and new skills
developed – at five to seven years.
The aim for these putative stars
is to be put alongside others in
a manufactured band, and then
“debuted” as a finished product;
Monsta X were formed in 2015 after
prospective members were whittled
down on a reality show called
No.Mercy. “Korean entertainment
is one of the hardest jobs out there,”
say Suh and Shim. “Trainees are
cast from the street and auditions,
and learn there are guidelines,
and things they need to give up.
Everyone is running towards the
same goal: debuting.” No trainee
is guaranteed a debut and Shownu
switched agencies (“It was slightly
painful”) to give himself the best
chance of being picked for a group.
Each agency sets its own rules,
but mobile phones or romantic
are forbidden
as standard;
Monsta X
say they
their phones
as trainees and
for nearly two
years after their
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Back l-r:
I.M, Kihyun,
Wonho, Jooheon
and Minhyuk
Front l-r:
Shownu and
debut. Minhyuk, 24, saw it as an
“inconvenience”, and Hyungwon,
also 24, a self-proclaimed introvert
with pink hair and a wry sense of
humour, says only now does he
understand Starship’s intentions in
removing outside distractions. But
Jooheon, 23, recalls he felt “walled
in during training. There was no
freedom. At least
when you debut,
you experience
new things.”
Their early,
aggressivesounding singles,
Trespass and
Rush, brought
a solid fanbase,
known as
Monbebe. They
shower Monsta
X with clothes,
toys, snacks and
letters before shows and at album
signings, where fans talk with each
member, often holding hands with
their favourite. To the cynical, it may
be a genius marketing ploy but these
meetings develop an emotionally
symbiotic bond unique to K-pop – in
a tough industry, the fans are, says
I.M, a “source of strength”.
The youngest at 22, I.M has an
adult wariness from spending his
formative years in front of cameras
where the slightest error can bring
career-damaging public criticism.
“I worry about making mistakes,
but I feel being an idol is natural to
me,” he says. “Do I like having rules?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but
that’s real life and I’m fine with it.”
Starship undeniably rules the
Monsta X roost. Idol groups, with
few exceptions, have little power,
but in recent years a number have
begun to exert some creative grip.
Monsta X, too, are striving towards
a level of autonomy. I.M pens
solo material plus his lyrics on
their tracks, as does Jooheon, and
several of Wonho’s emotive pop
songs are Monsta X album cuts.
Jooheon reveals dozens of
inspirational phrases on his phone
and says he frequently gets by on
three hours of sleep. “I feel uneasy
if I don’t make one song every day,”
he says, yet he and I.M have been
able to release only a couple of solo
singles. The group live together in a
cluttered apartment but each has a
small studio where they can create.
“I’ll do everything there – eat,
scream, cry, laugh, watch movies.
It’s my playground,” Jooheon
This downtime is crucial; an
idol’s schedule is back-breaking.
Interviews, radio, variety TV, fan
meetings and music shows make
For others, idol life is challenging.
“I used to like being around
people, but now I need space,” says
Hyungwon. Minhyuk is a ball of a
warm energy but beneath that is a
poignancy. “I’m not an idol for fame,
I just like to perform,” he says. “I
don’t like going outside because I
don’t like people gossiping, so it’s
been almost two years since I went
drinking with friends. Sometimes
I’m lonely.”
Even in the wake of Jonghyun’s
suicide, mental health problems in
South Korea aren’t always dealt with
correctly or understood by either
industry or the public, but Kihyun
says it’s better than it was. “When
artists say they’re going to rest, the
reaction is: ‘Please rest before it
gets worse.’” Starship’s Shim says
they “monitor the mental health
of all trainees and idols. If we feel
like they’re emotionally having a
hard time, we’ll suggest they see a
therapist or work with them to figure
out how to make them better.”
Most successful K-Pop groups
will exist for five to seven years, and
idols often head into presenting
or acting, with some finding solo
success. But male groups face
South Korea’s compulsory two-year
military service and the threat of
career decline on return to civilian
life. As a result, Shownu has adopted
a day-by-day approach for Monsta
X. “I used to think: would I be able
to make a living from this?” he says.
“There were teams that debuted at
the same time as
us but we weren’t
going at the same
pace. Now I feel
like I shouldn’t
be pressured –
it’s more about
longevity as a
After their
sold out world
tour, Monsta X
may well have
another release
before the end
of 2018. If they
had full control
what would they
create? Minhyuk
quickly replies
with “something
like Trespass,
a banger”.
Hyungwon would
keep the sexiness
of Jealousy but
“I’d love to mix
it up with a more
casual look”,
but it’s Shownu
who grounds and
bolsters them
“It doesn’t matter
what song we
do,” he says from
across the room
where he’s been silently observing.
“Sexy, soft, or strong – if Monsta X
are doing it, it’s our style.”
Each age
agency sets
its own rules,
bil phones
or romantic
relationships are
for 18-hour days.
“The workload
can sometimes
be too much
but we need to
grow. It’s good
to be busy,” says
Wonho. Kihyun,
laughing, says:
“It’s our third
year. This is in my bones.” Fans call
him Monsta X’s “mom”, although
he refers to himself as the “police,
keeping Monsta X within the
boundaries”. But he is happy. “I’m
doing something I love, I’m earning
money and I don’t feel like I’ve
sacrificed a lot.”
Jealousy is out now. Monsta X
play Eventim Apollo, London, on
17 June. With thanks to CJ Kim
for translation.
‘My body was
a good omen,
a beacon’
Trans producer Elysia
Crampton works through
a lifetime of violence
on her startling debut.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas
meets her
n Elysia Crampton’s Bristol hotel
room, we stare at the furniture
on offer: a neat armchair and a
chaise longue. “I’ll be the analyst,”
she decides. It’s no wonder: the
experimental Californian producer
has had a tougher life than most. Her music
often feels like a lifetime of violence and
confusion being worked through in Afro-Latin
rhythms and frictious digital overload.
Crampton identifies as Aymara, a native
American tribe from Bolivia who were
suppressed by the Inca and then the Spanish
in the middle of the last millennium, but
who survived to the present day. Her parents
moved from La Paz, the Bolivian capital,
to Barstow, California, in the 1960s, where
she was later born into relative poverty;
her education ended, she said, because of
“disability” (she won’t elaborate on this or her
age) and a lack of funds.
Even before puberty, she knew she was
transgender. “What do you do with that?” she
wonders anew. “I really thought I would be
disowned and locked up. When you’re trans,
there’s so much internalised violence, selfhatred, shame, and not knowing what to do.
For so many of us, our kin ties are severed. We
end up being homeless at very young ages,
getting into different types of illegal work,
whether that’s sex work or selling contraband.
It’s devastating.” Her parents are conservative
Christians and didn’t initially accept
Crampton’s identity. “Of course there was
friction, but they grew. Their understanding of
God changed.”
Crampton was surrounded by music as
a child – her parents wouldn’t allow secular
music in the house except for classical. Her
grandfather would bring back traditional
instruments from their tribal land in
Bolivia: a charango, a guitar with the shell
of a quirquincho, a hairy armadillo. “It was
enchanted,” she says. Music became her
medium: “It was a very affordable language. I
could do it on a keyboard and” – she drums the
hotel furniture – “a tabletop.”
As well as the support from her parents,
she drew strength from how Bolivia has been,
unexpectedly, a champion of trans identity.
In the 1960s and 70s, it was the home of
mariposas – trans and queer people who
were celebrated and took part in folkloric
dances and rituals. “They were representing
possibility itself in terms of the body and
where it can go,” she says. “One of the first
times I went back to Bolivia as a young adult
I remember my aunt pulling me in to dance
in the festivities. At a time when my family
in the US didn’t really have any place for me
or understanding for me, in Bolivia I was
welcome. My body was this beacon, this
good omen.” Crampton has dedicated her
new album to a mariposa called Ofelia, and
the track Moscow (Mariposa Voladora) was
inspired in part by footage of her dancing.
“Anything can drive me to want to create
music or make some sort of sound,” she says.
“As a child I was obsessed with the anime
Gundam Wing – I had an art book with all these
androgynous characters and mechas.
This folding of past and present, indigenous
and American, is a feature across her work.
“I grew up in a culture with lots of anime,
and TRL on MTV”, she says. “I’m a California
girl.” Her peers, producers
including Chino Amobi
and Total Freedom, have a
similarly glutted, unstable
digital aesthetic. “To see
our own language develop
is really incredible,” she
says. “I won’t be in contact
with them for months, and
‘For many of
I’ll hear some of their music
us, kin ties are
and it’s like we’ve been in
severed. We
the same place. We weren’t
end up being
trading notes, we just
homeless at a
happen to be responding to
young age’
the world in a similar way.
Screaming in a similar key.”
Aymara philosophy has
the concept of taypi, “that
place where so-called
opposites or contrary things can be mediated –
it’s like the shape of the S, the little bend is that
taypi place between those two things.” She has
the S tattoed on each temple. The idea is that
anything possible, and everything can happen
at once, a little like Crampton’s nationality,
gender and music. “But in reality, though,
decisions also have to be made,” she admits.
“When black fathers are being shot down in
their front yards, I don’t want to be in a floating
space – I make a stand.”
Elysia Crampton’s self-titled album is out now
on Break World Records
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Charlize Theron
in Tully; (right)
Ricki and the
Flash, 2015;
(below) Diablo
‘There’s this idea
that mothers
are selfless’
In Diablo Cody’s new film Tully a mother is shown
unravelling. The writer talks to Kate Hutchinson
about kids, turning 40 – and the backlash against Juno
otherhood isn’t
all it’s cracked
up to be. Or at
least it isn’t black
and white, more
of a stretched,
washed-out, beige maternity-bra
shade inbetween, according to
screenwriter Diablo Cody’s new
film Tully. A decade on from her
Academy Award-winning teen
pregnancy rom-com Juno, Cody
has created another lead who is
expecting, this time turning Charlize
Theron into baggy-eyed mum Marlo,
who is one frozen pizza dinner
away from the edge. She shouts.
She accidentally drops an iPhone
on her baby’s head. She slumps in
front of her children, post-birth belly
hanging out, much to their horror.
Deflated, running on empty, she
resembles a whoopee cushion being
sat on in slow motion. Parenting has
never looked so relatable.
“The expectations [on] women
are out of control,” says Cody, who
takes our call in her garage, the only
place in her LA home where there’s
any quiet. She is currently juggling
the Alanis Morissette musical she
has scripted and which is about to
open in Boston, a pilot for ABC that
she is cutting, and being a mother
of three. “I can’t believe the disdain
towards women who have ‘let
themselves go’. Why can’t I? I’m
taking care of three small children;
why am I also supposed to be skinny
and hot?”
Cody, 39, says she is a different
Diablo from the one who sashayed
down the 2008 Oscars red carpet
in head-to-toe leopard print
to collect her award for Juno’s
screenplay. She wrote the romcom in a month while sitting in
Starbucks, and it took her from
part-time stripper-blogger to star
overnight. Her projects since Juno
haven’t quite matched that film’s
pop culture-puncturing potential:
Megan Fox horror dud Jennifer’s
Body; a Spielberg-produced TV
series, United States of Tara, which
lasted three seasons; underrated
rock comedy Ricki and the Flash;
brilliant but cancelled Amazon
Prime series One Mississippi, which
she co-created with standup Tig
Notaro. But one aspect that has
remained constant is her focus on
creating female characters that defy
the ordinary. Meryl Streep’s ageing
rocker in 2015’s Ricki and the Flash,
based on Cody’s mother-in-law,
was particularly important – “a
woman who had chosen to pursue
her passion at the expense of her
children, and she was viewed as a
monster because of that,” she says.
“We’re surrounded by men who
have made that choice and are not
demonised in the same way.”
Tully is the third film in her
trilogy with Jason Reitman, and the
second with Theron after Young
Adult, and again offers a view on
the female experience that Cody
rarely sees onscreen. And so there
are money issues, a sexless marriage
with a fairly useless husband,
the exasperation at not knowing
how to care for a young son with
undiagnosed special needs. Sensing
her desperation, Marlo’s brother
buys the baby shower gift that every
strained mother dreams of: help.
Tully is a night nanny who breezily
glides in, all toned abs and tanned
limbs, to do the twilight shift so
Marlo can rest. She’s a Manic Pixie
Dream Girl version of Maria von
Trapp, but also a device to help Marlo
question what parts of herself have
been lost under the tummy-huggers.
Cody can relate. After having kids,
she says, the question of “How do
you access the person that you once
were?” is something she grapples
with. “I feel like a completely
different human being on a cellular
level since having children.” Not
just through a loss of identity – in
the film, Marlo is also suffering from
postnatal depression, which Cody
says there’s still a stigma around. She
doesn’t say whether she had postnatal depression herself but does
confirm she felt “that emptiness” for
a while. “We’re told that we should
feel completely blissed out after we
have a baby, and that’s not always
how women feel.”
Tully isn’t just about parenting,
however: “It’s about the great and
intense transformation of middle
age. It’s waking up and going: ‘Oh
my God, I’m 40 – what happened?’”
Is she feeling apprehensive about
that coming milestone? “Yeah,
and it’s strange. For years I’ve been
regarded as ‘a young screenwriter’,
or someone who has achieved a
lot for her age. But no one’s going
to give you a cookie for achieving
something at 40. At this point, the
pressure’s on me to perform and to
sustain that. And also, we all know
how older women are regarded,
particularly in Hollywood. So it’s
a little scary to think: ‘Oh, I will be
discarded – that’s going to happen.’”
Cody says she is “heartened”
ollywood is
by the progress that Hollywood
making with “the typess of roles that
are being written for women. When
w or a film
I started out, a TV show
n was a hard
about a difficult woman
thing that
sell, and now it’s something
om me.”
people are soliciting from
ting that
But she finds it frustrating
women aren’t allowed to fail in
the same way as men. “It drives
me crazy that if a woman
directs a movie and it doesn’t
Oh, they
perform, people say: ‘Oh,
oman direct
shouldn’t have let a woman
orial debut,
it.’” Cody’s own directorial
ma Paradise,
the 2013 comedy drama
was made while she was
pregnant, and was subsequently
panned by critics. “If a man directs
here’s literally
a movie and it flops, there’s
no discussion of the director’s
gender,” she adds.
oes seem to
With Tully, Cody does
ince Juno.
have come full circle since
ows now
Knowing what she knows
about childbirth, would she have
done anything about her first film
differently? “In terms of pregnancy,
no,” she says. “But I don’t feel I was
clear enough in terms of why Juno
chose to not have an abortion. It was
simply because she did not want to.”
The film was criticised by some for
portraying abortion in a “negative”
light. “It was not about any type of
feeling that abortion was wrong – I’m
pro-choice,” Cody says. “So for it
to be interpreted as an anti-choice
movie, that’s upsetting to me.”
The Juno backlash is one reason
that she has become “more private”.
She refuses to self-censor – “it hasn’t
affected my writing” – but says: “It’s
certainly affected the way that I talk
to people about the projects. I’ve
become very boring because I want
to protect myself and my children. I
would like to just keep a low profile
and continue to work, and I’ve had
to really stay under the radar in order
to accomplish that.”
It’s depressing that a forthright
person such as Cody has been
forced to retreat from the public
eye. But, like Marlo, she sees a “joy”
in embracing a life more ordinary.
“I take great pride in my boring
life, because it’s not easy for me to
be sedate. I’m a naturally curious,
impulsive, self-destructive person.
And I’ve had to put all that aside as a
mum. I’m proud of that because it’s
required a lot of discipline.”
Tully is out tomorrow.
See review, page 15
‘If a man directs
nd it
a movie and
flops, there’s
y no
discussion of the
director’s gender’
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Cannes 2017:
‘A two-week
celebration of
male brains and
female beauty’
Cannes in crisis
Has the festival
learned the
lessons of
A sexual harassment helpline has been set up – but they
have also welcomed Lars von Trier back to the Croisette.
Andrew Pulver on Cannes’ very difficult year
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
ith its outsize
red carpet,
and auteurworship, the
Cannes film festival has been at
the pinnacle of the international
film festival circuit for decades. It
somehow manages to shoehorn both
movie-world glamour and austere
artistic rigour into the same 10-day
screening frenzy on France’s Côte
d’Azur, packing movie stars on to its
gala premiere conveyor belt as well
as bestowing the Palme d’Or, one of
the film industry’s most prized and
valuable awards. But for this year’s
edition, the 71st, Cannes is having
to face up to the fact that business
cannot go on as usual: the Harvey
Weinstein scandal has seen to that.
The film festival is now, in effect,
a crime scene. Weinstein was one
of Cannes’ princes, a showman
who used the festival as a personal
fiefdom: buying and selling films,
holding court to the press and
public, and, it would now appear,
using the festival as a private
playground. A good number of
the accusations against Weinstein
are alleged to have taken place
at Cannes – most notably Asia
Argento’s allegation of rape, which
she claimed took place in 1997 in
his hotel room at the Hôtel du CapEden-Roc, the super-swanky hotel
down the coast from Cannes where
the A-list names go to avoid the
festival hubbub.
Criticism of the festival’s response
to the scandal is not hard to find.
Kate Muir, former chief film critic of
the Times and now a screenwriter
and activist with the Time’s Up
campaign, sees a direct equivalence
between the apparent tolerance for
harassment and exploitation and
the festival’s seeming reluctance
to select female film-makers for
competition. “Cannes itself is a twoweek celebration of male brains and
female beauty, as a walk down the
Croisette in the evening will attest,”
Muir says. “Many wheelers, dealers
and producers still parade with paidfor models or prostitutes on their
arms, which makes female filmmakers deeply uneasy about what,
precisely, is valued by the money
The chaotic, frantic nature
of Cannes – as one massive film
after another, three or four a day,
unspools in the town’s cinemas with
all the attendant hangers-on and
rubberneckers – can only work to a
predator’s advantage. New Zealand
actor Zoe Brock’s description of
her encounter with Weinstein –
which Weinstein’s representatives
call “saturated with false and
defamatory statements” – offers
a flavour of the experience at its
absolute top end: endless cocktail
parties, limousines on permanent
call, luxury hotel suites on standby.
Brock also describes a culture of
“bro” enablers that allowed the
powerful to manipulate situations to
their advantage.
Now Weinstein has vanished
– practically overnight – from
Cannes, the festival has made
some moves towards dealing
with the Weinstein-shaped hole
that has suddenly appeared. It
has set up a helpline to report
incidents of sexual harassment,
has appointed Cate Blanchett as
jury president, and plans to stage
an event under the banner of 50/50
2020 (France’s answer to Time’s
Up) in which France’s minister
of culture Françoise Nyssen and
festival artistic director Thierry
Frémaux will share a platform
with international equality
campaigners. But Cannes has
seemingly failed to grasp the level
of anger over the marginalisation
of female film-makers: not only in
its apparent eagerness to overturn
its own ban on the director Lars von
Dee Rees,
director of the
Netflix movie
‘Of the 179 films
selected to
compete this
decade, 18 have
female directors’
Trier – the subject of harassment
allegations from his Dancer in the
Dark star Björk – but even more
straightforwardly, in its inability
to increase its dismal record of
programming female directors. Last
year, before the #MeToo and Time’s
Up campaigns took hold, only three
women were in competition: Sofia
Coppola, Lynne Ramsay and Naomi
Kawase. Twelve months later, out
of 21 films in the competition, and
after so much upheaval and uproar
… again, three: Nadine Labaki, Eva
Husson and Alice Rohrwacher.
Frémaux has defended himself,
stating: “We don’t distinguish by
gender in the selection.” Muir isn’t
having any of that. “The core values
of Cannes’ ancien regime remain,
so far, unchanged,” she says. “The
celebration of the male auteur
above all; the marginalising of
women’s work.” The statistics back
her up: of the 179 films selected to
compete so far this decade, only 18
have female directors: a sliver over
10%. The years 2010 and 2012 had
no women at all. Critic and author
Agnès Poirier, who is part of Cannes’
informal pre-selection network,
says this actually reflects the gender
balance of the work submitted in
the first place. “Cannes takes a lot
of flak,” she says. “But they have
to work with what they have.” She
suggests the problem lies further
back, in overcoming obstacles to
getting projects off the ground in
the first place. “We have reached
gender parity in film schools, but
there is still a problem with funding.
It’s still more difficult for women to
make a first feature, and even more
difficult to make the second. All the
directors I know say that financiers
are reluctant to entrust women with
a bigger budget.”
That, however, is not the full story
for Corrina Antrobus, founder of
the Bechdel Test Fest, a film festival
specifically designed as a showcase
for films by and about women. “I
never buy the answer that there
aren’t enough films out there made
by women. The problem does lie
with the gatekeepers – of which
Cannes is one – that are just not
recognising they have to make more
of an effort. The talent is there. If you
are at the absolute top of the pile,
as Cannes is, it’s easy to neglect the
power you have to make a healthier
film culture.”
“They are really turning a blind
eye to all the work that’s going on
for women in film. They have the
power; it would be nice to see them
engaging with the issues.”
Antrobus does, however, back the
festival for its plan to put on the live
50/50 2020 event. “When Bechdel
Test Fest started [in 2015] there was
a lot of talking and not much doing.
Lynne Ramsay
(above) and
Sofia Coppola,
two of the chosen
few female
directors at
Cannes in the
past two years
I feel for the first time we are doing
productive things – unfortunately,
it has been because of the news of
the Weinstein monstrosities. Film
festivals are the perfect place –
because all the film industry is in the
same room, together. If not at a film
festival, when?”
annes’ resolute defence
of its old-school male
auteurs is, for many
in Time’s Up, the
other side of the same
coin. Frémaux openly
admitted he and festival president
Pierre Lescure “worked hard” to
convince the Cannes board to readmit
Von Trier, the director they banned in
2011 for making Nazi jokes, and who
Björk has alleged made “unwanted
whispered sexual offers” when they
worked together, (the company he
co-founded in 1992 has also been
subject to multiple harassment
allegations). Muir says: “That Roman
Polanski, Woody Allen and Lars
von Trier are still feted regularly
here leaves many ethical questions
unanswered.” Poirier suggests that,
as far as Cannes is concerned, “it’s all
about the film”. “Polanski might be
an appalling man, but he is a genius
film director. The French really do
distinguish between the man and
the artist – it’s the film they judge.”
It surely cannot be a coincidence
that the most high-profile filmworld names to have expressed
their exasperation with #MeToo –
Catherine Deneuve, Michael Haneke,
Woody Allen and Terry Gilliam – are
all favourites at Cannes.
Cannes’ problems don’t end
there, however. The festival has
also found itself in confrontation
with Netflix, which has refused to
accept invitations to show any of
its films after Frémaux excluded
them from the main competition;
this was apparently due to Netflix
not guaranteeing its films cinematic
releases in France. This deprives
Cannes of such films as Paul
Greengrass’s Anders Breivik biopic
Norway, and Alfonso Cuarón’s
70s-set family drama, Roma, not
to mention the recently restored
Orson Welles film The Other Side
of the World. But it also makes
Cannes look good: the keeper of the
arthouse flame, standing up to the
cash-flashing new kids on the block.
Poirier says Netflix was “a bit silly”
not to accept out-of-competition
slots – given that films of the
calibre of Solo: A Star Wars Story
find no problem screening there.
The standoff may or may not have
ramifications for the wider industry,
but would appear to chime with
Cannes’ difficulties in attracting
significant US participation, in the
face of ever-increasing pressure
from the autumn “awards season”
– where likely films opt to save
themselves for an early autumn
launch at Venice or Toronto to try to
gain Oscar momentum, rather than
chance it in Cannes in late spring.
Cannes may not have all its
own way with Netflix, however. A
younger generation is much less
sniffy about streaming, and Cannes’
stance may quickly come to look oldfashioned. Moreover, as Antrobus
points out, Netflix has put its money
where its mouth is when it comes
to supporting non-mainstream
audiences and film-makers.
“Netflix are doing a really good job
of diversifying our film culture,”
she says. “Streaming platforms
are helping a lot of film-makers of
colour find audiences. A film like
Mudbound would surely have found
an audience on the big screen;
however I have spoken to Dee Rees
[the director] herself and know she
is over the moon about how Netflix
has looked after her and her work,
and given her the opportunity to
reach a wide audience.
“And it’s also about those
audiences that aren’t lucky enough
to go to a cinema. Cinemas are
expensive, and there are so many
‘Cannes is
turning a blind
eye to the work
going on for
women in film’
Weinstein at
Cannes, 2001
communities across the world for
whom Netflix is a vital platform for
reaching any kind of screen art.”
As Cannes prides itself on its
progressive vision, providing a
showcase for films from overlooked
corners of the film industry (Poirier
calls it “an Olympic Games of
cinema”) this could well become the
route to a compromise. The festival
proudly announces its breakthroughs
– this year, for the first time, a film
from Kenya has made it to the
Croisette – and it is easy to imagine
Cannes and Netflix collaborating on
some kind of outreach project, in
areas with few if any cinemas.
However, it hardly helps that the
festival has contrived yet another
confrontation, this time with its
4,000-strong press corps which,
when all is said and done, sustains
the festival’s enormous media
profile. By ending the tradition of
morning press screenings – which
regularly resulted in the trashing
of high-profile films shortly before
their glossy red-carpet premiere Cannes seems to have antagonised
all the critics at a stroke. It has also
tilted the festival’s balance – always
a tricky push-pull – away from
critical debate and towards a filmbusiness love-in. Other festivals
have solved the problem with an
embargo system, which prevents
reviews from being published until
after the public premiere; festival
director Frémaux’s view is that the
1,200 or so critics who swarm into
the early-morning preview cannot
be contained.
Until the scandal broke, Harvey
Weinstein was a personification
of Cannes, exemplifying an ugly
energy: brawling with his staff,
intimidating the press, hustling his
product on the street. Now he is
gone, in what Frémaux described
as an “earthquake”, it remains to be
seen whether some of the festival’s
overall energy has gone with him.
On the face of it, Cannes is far bigger
than one man, however individually
powerful and influential he may be.
But the bad taste of the Weinstein
years will linger.
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Reviews Film
Horse sense …
Charlie Plummer
in Lean on Pete;
below, Chloë Sevigny
I Feel Pretty
Dirs Marc Silverstein, Abby Kohn
Starring Amy Schumer, Michelle
Williams, Rory Scovel
Length 110 mins Cert 12A
Lean on Pete
Dir Andrew Haigh
Length 122 mins
Cert 15
Starring Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny
‘Friendship, love and
dignity in the company
of a martyred animal’
ndrew Haigh’s sad
and lovely new
film Lean on Pete
is adapted by him
from the 2010 novel
by American author
and musician Willy
Vlautin. It’s got the wonderfully
easy, unforced naturalism and calm
that distinguished his last two films,
Weekend (2011) and 45 Years (2015).
Things are taken mostly at a walking
pace, a measured, controlled tempo,
like someone carefully leading an
injured horse. That doesn’t mean to
say there aren’t some very dramatic
and violent moments, including a
fateful highway incident, fabricated
brilliantly but unobtrusively with
digital effects, that had me clasp
both hands over my mouth in shock.
A lonely teenage boy, Charlie
(Charlie Plummer) finds himself
one summer in a dilapidated house
in Portland, Oregon having been
uprooted from his Washington
state hometown where despite his
poor background he had been a
good student and promising track
star. He’s right back to square one
now, and the move evidently has
something to do with a broken
home. His mom is no longer in the
picture and his handsome wastrel
of a dad, Ray (Travis Fimmel), is
a shiftless guy who brings home a
different woman every night. Charlie
finds transient work at a nearby
racecourse, working for a seedy and
unscrupulous horse trainer called
Del (Steve Buscemi) who is too bad
tempered and cynical to be even an
ironic father figure.
Charlie is entranced by the
excitement and exotic rituals of
horse training; he befriends Del’s
jockey Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny)
and mutely sympathises with her
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
stoic complaints about this corrupt
and misogynistic scene. Both
Bonnie and Del are amused and yet
worried about Charlie becoming so
infatuated by a world that can only
end for him in the heartbreak and
failure they see in their own lives.
And Charlie finds himself
falling for Del’s sweet-natured and
biddable racehorse Lean on Pete.
This equable beast is very good for
teaching newbies like Charlie – Del
brutally calls him a “pussy”. But he
is also, ominously, getting slower.
Losers like Lean on Pete get sold to
horseflesh dealers in Mexico, a fate
that doesn’t need to be spelled out.
And when Pete becomes injured
one afternoon – Charlie abbreviates
his name in a way that poignantly
emphasises reliability and strength –
horse and boy become runaways.
The movie takes us across some
classic American landscape but it
isn’t quite in the tradition of Larry
McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy – nor
is it like, for example, Chloé Zhao’s
recent film The Rider. Importantly,
Charlie can’t and won’t ride Lean
on Pete. In fact, the theme of the
poverty-stricken youngster finding
friendship, love and transcendent
dignity in the company of a
martyred animal is part of a different
tradition – the British social realistt
line stretching from Ken Loach’s
Kes to Clio Barnard’s The Selfish
Giant. In some ways, the British
film-maker Haigh has exported this
style to the American West. Lean on
Pete has an alt.socialrealist twang..
But where his movie departs from
that style is in the construction
of narrative, and the unexpected
way in which the relationship of
horse and boy is perhaps not as
central and dominant as we might
otherwise expect. The meaning
and presence of Lean on Pete is
mysterious. I found myself thinking
about the donkey in Robert Bresson’s
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966).
Haigh has a masterly way with
mood and moment, with the play
of light on a scene, and with a
robust shift from fierce sunshine
to sombre night-time. Everything
looks scuffed, worn, broken down;
perhaps the only things that are
cared for are the furniture and
fittings of the diners that Del and
Charlie show up in. Del’s horses are
trained by being made to walk in
a circle attached to a rotating
maypole contraption that looks
ironically like one of the rides at the
tatty old fairground races where
Lean on Pete usually runs.
Plummer gives an excellent
performance: watchful, sensitive,
delicate and yet possessed of
a survivor’s impassive quality.
Fimmel is also very good in a role
that is perhaps smaller than I
expected. Buscemi is as robust and
confident as ever and Steve Zahn
is also strong in a small role as a
homeless alcoholic guy. My only
slight reservation is that Lean on
Pete, though running to an affecting
conclusion, maybe doesn’t deliver
the final sting or narrative turn
that marked out his previous film,
45 Years. Yet perhaps its simplicity
and plainness
is the whole p
On paper, this should be a
perfect showcase for comedy
star Amy Schumer (above): the
title is taken from that girlishly
hopeful song in the 1961 musical
West Side Story delivered by
Natalie Wood, whose gamine
image is of course so different
from Schumer’s. Yet, at almost
every stage, Schumer’s routine is
weirdly restrained and inhibited,
because of the film’s high concept
– that she becomes an aspirational
success, against all the odds.
It’s a plot imperative that works
against the all-important disaster,
embarrassment and cynicism that
are integral to Schumer’s comedy.
The film is written by romcom
veterans Marc Silverstein and Abby
Kohn, with obvious borrowings
from The Devil Wears Prada and
TV’s Ugly Betty. They are making
their joint feature directing debut,
and Schumer has a producer credit.
She plays Renee, who works in the
online delivery unit of a big New
York fashion brand, stuck in a dull
office well away from the superprestigious Fifth Avenue building.
She is a woman who is insidiously
made to feel ashamed of her bigger
size by the patriarchal body image
imposed by the worlds of media
and fashion, and by the impossibly
slim women surrounding her at
the gym. One day she hits her
head during spin class and wakes
up believing that she is a size zero
babe and the resulting delusional
aura of confidence – together with
the fact that her fashion brand is
trying to reach out to “ordinary”
women – means she gets a top job
there. Well, actually Schumer is
pretty, and the casting wouldn’t
work otherwise, but despite the
disconnect between how she
is portrayed and how she feels,
she is never really humiliated or
abashed and there is no comic
friction. In fact, it is more a parable
of how celebrities like Schumer, on
becoming successful, suddenly get
an inkling of how beautiful people
have always felt. I Feel Famous
would be an alternative title. PB
Mother’s little helper
… Mackenzie Davis
and Charlize Theron
New Town Utopia
Dir Christopher Ian Smith
Length 81 mins Cert 15
Dir Jason Reitman
Starring Charlize Theron,
Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston
Length 96 mins Cert 15
Much, but not all, of this movie’s
good work is undone by its silly and
unconvincing ending. A screenwriter
less prestigious than the Oscarwinning Diablo Cody would probably
get told to go away and come up
with a third-act rewrite. But never
mind. Until then, we’d had a wellacted, wittily written and intriguing
psychological drama with edge-ofthe-seat moments of dilemma in
which the only challenge to disbelief
suspension had been the idea that
Charlize Theron doesn’t look good.
Theron plays Marlo, a mother-oftwo, heavily pregnant with a third
baby. She is very stressed with her
son who has behavioural problems.
Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston)
zones out in the evening and plays
video games. When the baby comes,
Marlo comes to the very brink of a
breakdown through lack of sleep
– she feels tired, useless, ugly. But
then her annoying and rich brother
Craig (Mark Duplass) offers her a
present: hiring
a “night nanny”
She portrays
for a month.
how alien
Initially, Marlo is
a young
resistant, but then
she relents, and
the nanny, called
Tully (Mackenzie
and strength
Davis) is an
can seem
absurdly pretty,
to careworn
thin, carefree
young woman
who handles
the enforced
intimacy with
practised ease
and has a brilliant flair for working
with the baby that goes beyond
mere professionalism. She becomes
a best friend to the awestruck
Marlo who is entranced by Tully’s
polyamorous lifestyle. Tully herself
seems to intuit and heal everything
that is wrong in Marlo’s family life.
The stakes get higher when she
candidly offers a psycho-surrogacy
roleplay solution to Marlo and
Drew’s sex problems. Cody’s writing
is reliably good, and director Jason
Reitman, who worked with Cody
and Theron on Young Adult (2011)
handles the material with an easy
swing. He has a great “baby-feed”
montage which reproduces the
leaden and yet pitilessly quick and
unrelenting rhythms of getting
up over and over again in the
night to feed the baby, dealing
with the used nappies, collapsing
back into bed. Mackenzie Drew
has exactly the right borderlinestrange happiness and charm;
she portrays how exotic and
alien twentysomethings seem to
careworn parents and how jealous
these oldsters are, not merely of the
young people’s sexiness, innocence
and strength, but of the way their
unimpeded mental capabilities
actually make them cleverer and
wiser than the old. If only that ending
was better. PB
Here is an absorbing and heartening
documentary portrait of Basildon
in Essex, conceived as a supermodern utopian development
for the forelock-tugging working
classes after the second world
war. The film periodically has Jim
Broadbent reading the sonorous
words of Clement Attlee’s planning
minister Lewis Silkin on the
subject of how wonderful it’s going
to be. And the odd thing is that
Christopher Smith’s film doesn’t
fall into the trap of simply making
it look horrible. With interestingly
composed shots of various parts
of Basildon – importantly just
the architecture and landscaping
without any of the people that
could make it look untidy – it does
look good, or at least interesting.
There is an eerie futurism to
Basildon sometimes, though, more
often, it looks depressed. One
interviewee compares the Laindon
shopping centre to something
from East Germany. Smith tracks
Basildon’s postwar history as a
Labour stronghold with lots of
manufacturing jobs (“Moscowon-the-Thames”) until the loss
of these and Mrs Thatcher’s
right-to-buy council house policy
turned Essex blue. The film talks
about Basildon’s scary and tough
reputation as a place where looking
at someone the wrong way in a
pub will earn you a visit to A&E.
But most importantly, Smith
suggests that Basildon will find its
21st-century salvation in the arts.
It is already a place of pilgrimage
for fans of Depeche Mode, who
got their start there. Punk was
thriving in Basildon. Community
arts flourished. Arnold Wesker
wrote a play for the town. And now
old-fashioned painters are being
encouraged to exhibit in Basildon.
It is an unapologetically upbeat
film in which utopianism is taken
unexpectedly seriously. PB
Modern Life Is
world with its downloads and its
“skinny decaf lattes”. One day,
while browsing in an old-fashioned
vinyl store, Liam gets talking to the
beautiful Natalie (Freya Mavor), an
artist with an interest in doing album
covers, of all the quixotically oldfashioned things. They fall in love
and the drama intercuts between
the glorious beginning of their affair
and the grim breakup, the moving
out, the deciding whose CDs are
whose. Ian Hart contributes a wacky
but wholly unbelievable cameo as
Curve, a guy whose job is to be a
freelance “groove consultant” to
struggling bands, including Liam’s
group, whimsically named HeadCleaner. There are time-honoured
romdram moments including the
tortured post-split hallucination
when the guy thinks he sees his ex
in a crowd, looks again … and it’s
not her. Whitehouse and Mavor
do their best with their roles and
there’s a nice scene at the rainswept
nightmare that is the Reading
festival when their relationship
gets stuck in the mud. But the spark
of real originality, real romance, is
lacking. PB
The Young Karl Marx
Dir Raoul Peck
Starring August Diehl, Vicky Krieps,
Stefan Konarske
Length 118 mins
Raoul Peck is the Haitian film-maker
who had an Oscar nomination and
Bafta win for his James Baldwin
documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Now he has made this sinewy
and uncompromisingly cerebral
period drama, co-written with
Pascal Bonitzer, about the birth
of communism. Peck saves up his
biggest joke, or coup de cinema,
for the very end. After an austere
movie featuring men in top hats and
mutton chop whiskers, the closing
credits explode in a boisterous and
even euphoric montage of political
events in the 20th century – Che,
the Berlin Wall, Ronnie and Maggie,
Nelson Mandela, the Occupy
movement. No Stalin or Lenin or
gulags or Erich Honecker in the
montage, though. Young Marx is
played by August Diehl (below):
ragged, fierce with indignation and
poverty, addicted to cheap cigars,
spoiling for an argument and a fight.
Engels, played by Stefan Konarske,
is the rich kid with a romantic
mien, like a young Werther who
isn’t sorrowful but excited about
the forthcoming victory for the
working class. They meet cute. Marx
glowers. The chippy young bruiser
clashes with the arrogant puppy.
But the ice breaks. Engels admires
the clarity of Marx’s material
thinking; Marx is a massive fan of
Engels’ groundbreaking study of
the English working class. Together,
they inhale the new thinking in
the air. This is a film that sticks to
a credo that people arguing about
theories and concepts – while also
periodically angrily rejecting the
notion of mere abstraction – is highly
interesting. And Peck and Bonitzer
pull off the considerable trick of
making it interesting, aided by very
good performances from Diehl and
Konarske. PB
Dir Daniel Jerome Gill
Starring Josh Whitehouse,
Freya Mavor, Tom Riley
Length 101 mins Cert 15
“Modern” isn’t exactly the word;
this is a well-meaning but flaccid
and cliched 90s-style relationship
dramedy clearly inspired by Nick
Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity
and the resulting Stephen Frears
movie with a young John Cusack
playing the gloomy, lovelorn recordshop owner. There is, however,
no mention of these pop-cultural
elephants in the living room. The
title is taken from the name of
Blur’s second album – an LP of great
significance to wannabe rock star,
romantic and nerd connoisseur Liam
(Josh Whitehouse), who is given
to shrill, tiresome rants about the
horrible soullessness of the modern
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Skid Row Marathon
A or B
Dir Mark Hayes
Dir Ren Pengyuan
Length 98 mins Cert 12A
Starring Xu Zheng, Wang Likun,
Wang Yanhui, Duan Bowen
If watching – or even participating –
in the London Marathon last month
didn’t provide you with enough
imagery of people pounding the
streets in trainers and accompanying
stories of inspiration, this is the
movie for you. Undeniably uplifting,
even if the string-laden score strains
too hard to tweak the tear ducts,
this US-made documentary tracks
a running group of recovering
addicts and paroled convicts who
train for marathons together. Their
square-jawed, sinewy leader is
Craig Mitchell, a fiercely principled
Los Angeles-based lawman who
has sent many people to prison
over the course of his career, first
as a prosecutor and later as a judge.
When a defendant whom Mitchell
sent to prison contacted him after his
release and asked to meet the judge
at the Midnight Mission homeless
shelter where he was living, Mitchell
felt moved to start a club to help
other homeless people and those
striving to go straight to discover a
new, healthier addiction in running.
Likable though Mitchell is, the film
would be a duller work if director
Mark Hayes had chosen to focus
entirely on this virtuous volunteer.
Thankfully, the other runners
featured here form a compelling
cast of characters whose stories
have more pronounced arcs. David
Askew and Ben Shirley, for instance.
Both were men with talents who
ended up on the streets because of
drink and drug addictions, but by
the end of the film their lives have
been turned around, one of them
finding a new passion in painting,
while the other inches towards
recovery by rediscovering his love
of music. Single mother Rebecca
Hayes’s backstory is not dissimilar,
but her struggle to find meaningful
work illustrates the challenges of
re-entering the job market for people
with big gaps in their employment
histories. Paradoxically, the most
striking story is that of Rafael
Cabrera, a quiet, dignified chap with
a natural touch with kids, who did
28 years in prison for murder. Fluent
cinematography adds a dynamic
edge throughout. Leslie Felperin
Length 110 mins Cert 12A
Mary and the Witch’s
Dir Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring Hana Sugisaki, Ryunosuke
Kamiki, Yuki Amami
Length 103 mins Cert U
“Innocence has a catalytic effect
on the absorption of magic.”
These words, from the worryingly
named Doctor Dee, are a very good
description of the film’s ethos. This
Japanese animation is from director
Hiromasa “Maro” Yonebayashi, who
made When Marnie Was There for
Studio Ghibli. It is another example
of that remarkable way in which
Japanese animation is reviving the
memory of classic English children’s
literature from the 1960s and 70s
– otherwise forgotten in its native
land. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
The Strangers: Prey
at Night
Dir Johannes Roberts
Starring Christina Hendricks,
Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson
Length 85 mins Cert 15
Loosely inspired by the Manson
Family murders, 2008’s low-budget
home invasion horror The Strangers
took a familiar setup and turned it
into something horribly memorable.
It was a no-nonsense 85-minute
shock to the system about a couple
who find themselves tormented by
three masked killers. The inevitable
development of a sequel (the
original made $82m from a $9m
budget) has been plagued with
setbacks and now, 10 years later, it
creeps into cinemas. It’s a retread
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
is adapted from the 1971 novel The
Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart.
A little English girl called Mary (voiced
by Hana Sugisaki in the original, and
by Ruby Barnhill – from Spielberg’s
BFG – in the dubbed version) is a
lonely child living with her greataunt in the countryside while her
parents are away. She encounters a
local boy called Peter (Ryonosuke
Kamiki, Louis Serkis) whom she
dislikes at first for his nasty, teasing
ways. But Peter’s cats Tib and Gib
lead Mary to what are supposed to
be magical flowers and then to a
mysterious broomstick entombed in
a tree trunk – all of which takes her to
an extraordinary school for witches,
governed by Madame Bumblechook
(Yuki Amami/Kate Winslet) and
her sinister associate, Doctor Dee
(Fumiyo Kohinata/Jim Broadbent).
And so a magical adventure of
discovery and rescue begins. The film has charm as well as a certain
deja vu for audiences, although
for me it didn’t quite have the
distinction of Marnie. PB
of sorts but there’s something
significant missing: the scares.
Kinsey (Bailee Madison), a rebellious
teenager, has pushed her parents
(Christina Hendricks and Martin
Henderson) too far and they’re
taking drastic action. Before she’s
sent to boarding school, the family,
along with their more rule-following
son (Lewis Pullman), decide to
d to
take a brief vacation. They head
a secluded mobile home park and
within hours, their peaceful getaway
is interrupted by a knock on the
door. It’s far from the cheapo sequel
one might expect and there’s a
as to
slicker sheen here than there was
the original. It may sound like faint
praise but it’s well-lit, something
that can’t be said for so many scary
movies, and Roberts tries to stage
the film’s key sequences with
an artful eye. But what the film
crucially fails to do is fill us with
that same dread that made its
predecessor so gut-wrenching.
Benjamin Lee
Despite some wildly implausible
plot twists and a flashy high
concept, this Chinese thriller is a
film to induce a gentle drooping of
the eyelids. Xu Zheng plays Zhong
Xiaonian, a filthy rich investor who
has been rigging the stock market
for years. He groggily wakes up one
morning to find himself trapped
inside his Bond villain-ish modernist
pad with no mobile reception and
just a sanctimonious kidnapper
at the end of a walkie-talkie for
company. His mysterious captor
announces that Zhong must pay
the price for his dodgy dealings (a plotline that could charitably
be described as inspired by the
Saw franchise). For the next five
days, when the markets open
at 9.30am, Zhong will be made
to choose which of his secrets is
revealed to a TV news channel.
First up: a) reveal his long history
of tax evasion or b) announce his
marriage split? Since Zhong is a
bit like Warren Buffett, Richard
Branson and George Clooney
rolled into one clickbaity national
celebrity, the media jumps all over
the revelations, while Zhong plots
his escape. There are plot holes
here larger than a billionaire’s
bank balance. For a start, the
surveillance evidence amassed
by Zhong’s kidnapper would put a
strain on the combined resources
of Russia’s FSB and Silicon Valley.
The film deserves some points for
peering into the lives of China’s
super-elite, but the convoluted
script frantically throws too much
in and, in the end, pulls its anticonsumerist punches. Overdone
and underwhelming, A or B is like
cinematic drops of lavender on
the pillow. I found myself digging
my fingernails into my palms to
keep awake.
Cath Clarke
Harry Potter:
iPhone, Android
There’s about an hour of
magic at the beginning of
Harry Potter: Hogwarts
Mystery, when an owl
arrives and you’re
whisked off to Diagon
Alley to prepare for your
wizarding education.
Like many smartphone
games, this looks a bit
basic, but it’s colourful
and gently humorous.
Sadly, the enchantment
fades quickly. When your
character gets tangled
up in Devil’s Snare, your
“energy” suddenly runs
out, and the game asks
you to pay a couple of
quid to refill it or wait an
hour or for it to recharge
before you can continue.
From this point onwards,
Hogwarts Mystery does
everything it can to
stop you from playing.
A typical lesson now
involves 90 seconds of
tapping, followed by
an hour of waiting (or a
purchase). You’d have to
spend about £10 a day just
to play Hogwarts Mystery
for 20 consecutive
minutes. These
continuous interruptions
prevent you from forming
any attachment to fellow
students, or the mystery
at the heart of its story. It
is like trying to read a book
that asks you for money
every 10 pages and slams
shut on your fingers if you
refuse. What’s sad is that
it’s unnecessary: there
are countless examples of
free-to-play games that
offer spending options
without ruining the
experience. Harry Potter
is such a powerful fantasy
that it overrides all that, at
least for a while. But the
lessons quickly become
boring and the writing
remains disappointingly
bland. It makes an effort
with its wonderful
setting, but Harry Potter:
Hogwarts Mystery is a
dull game with a great
concept, made borderline
unplayable by its hyperaggressive monetisation.
Keza MacDonald
Reviews Music
DJ Koze
Knock Knock
Label Pampa
In brief
Genre Electronic
The young Danes
bolster their
usual post-punk
party with
parping horns,
Stonesy swagger
and even woozy
New Orleans
blues: the retool
suits them. DS
Who’s there? A parallel
pop universe
n January 1987, Smash
Hits tried to address
the unexpected rise of
house music by printing
the lyrics to Steve “Silk”
Hurley’s chart-topping
Jack Your Body. In an attempt to
circumvent the fact that the lyrics
to Jack Your Body consisted entirely
of the words “jack your body”
repeated ad infinitum, the page
was padded out with parenthetical
descriptions of how the record
sounded: “(Rather a long bit where
it goes bing bong diddle a lot, then
sort of dum-de-dum).” If the 21st
century equivalent of the song
words in Smash Hits is the YouTube
lyric video – a phenomenon
kickstarted by a cheap placeholder
clip for Cee Lo Green’s 2010 hit Fuck
You, and now warrants its own
category at the MTV video music
awards – then its Jack Your Body
moment may have come with the
release of DJ Koze’s Pick Up, a single
that preceded this fifth solo album,
Knock Knock. It was promoted with
a video featuring nothing more than
white words on a black background,
offering not just its three lines
of lyrics but a wry running
commentary on the track: “vocal
sample … beat kicks in … disco
sample loop x6 … brain realises song
consists only of these few elements
… deep feeling of happiness” etc.
A video simultaneously revealing
and celebrating the simplicity
of its construction isn’t the only
eccentric thing about Pick Up. It’s
a fantastic single – the melancholy
of the vocal snagging against the
propulsive euphoria of the music
in time-honoured style. But it’s
based around precisely the same
vocal sample – from Gladys Knight
and the Pips’ 1972 ballad Neither
of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say
Goodbye) – found on Midland’s
inescapable, end-of-year-polltopping 2016 house track Final
Credits. By anyone’s standards,
using the same source material
as one of the biggest club hits of
recent years, a mere 18 months
after said track dominated
dancefloors and festivals, is ballsy
to the point of eccentricity. But then
eccentricity is very much DJ Koze’s
thing. At its least appealing, it finds
its expression in self-consciously
weird photo shoots, big on wacky
costumes and “you don’t have to
be mad to work here” gurning – he
was pictured on the cover of Knock
Knock’s predecessor Amygdala
wearing a crash helmet and riding
a reindeer. But a certain unbiddable
idiosyncrasy also informs his
music, to frequently stunning
effect. You never quite know what
a Koze track is going to sound like:
the remixes collected on his two
Reincarnations collections leapt
wildly from sparse techno to disco
homages to swooning pre-rock’n’roll
pop to ambience, and none of them
sounded much like the intricate,
understated, soul-ballad-influenced
electronica on Amygdala.
The tracks on Knock Knock,
meanwhile, seem to exist in
the intriguing spaces between
genres. Pick Up is by far the
most straightforward thing
here. Its closest relation might
be the fantastic Illumination, a
collaboration with Róisín Murphy
that a remixer could easily turn
into a sweaty 3am club banger, but
that in its current state – vocals
and fragments of guitar and sax
mixed far louder than the hypnotic
rhythm track – takes on a mood
of weird calm. Elsewhere, Muddy
Funster sets Lambchop frontman
Kurt Wagner’s voice against drifting
clouds of electronics and a sample
from post-punk band the Gist’s
gorgeous 1983 single Love at First
Sight. Moving in a Liquid places a
euphoric, richly melodic swell of
sound over an off-kilter beat not a
million miles from German producer
Wolfgang Voigt’s glam-inspired
schaffel sound, and Colours of
Autumn constructs a bizarre and
compelling take on R&B out of
a patchwork of droning vocal
samples and chicken-scratch
funk guitar. Not everything works
– a second Róisín Murphy track,
Scratch That, is a little close to
Tove Styrke
The Swedish pop
star’s trademark
vocals pitched
against minimal,
production are
striking, but
wear thin across
album three. LS
‘It is so eclectic, it
could easily sound
messy, but it holds
together as the
work of a man with
an appealingly odd
take on pop music’
trip-hop filler – but most of it does,
to frequently stunning effect.
There’s something hugely satisfying
about the way Bonfire sounds
simultaneously warm and uneasy,
its soft four-to-the-floor pulse
and vocals from Bon Iver’s Justin
Vernon disrupted by a quietly
atonal synthesiser.
It’s a collection of music
so eclectic that it could easily
sound scattered and messy – the
distance between the trebly,
lo-fi strum of José González
collaboration Music on My Teeth
and the warped deep house and
naive, untutored vocals of Planet
Hase is pretty huge – but it holds
together, largely as a result of
Koze’s evident interest in melody:
he has a knack of coming up with
tunes that are hugely appealing,
but never feel hackneyed or
predictable, that sound like the work
of a man with an appealingly odd,
personal take on pop music in its
multifarious forms. And that’s what
Knock Knock feels like as a whole.
Not a house or techno album or a
collection of choice dancefloor cuts
padded out with star guests, but
a glimpse into an alternate world
that’s simultaneously familiar,
rich and strange.
Strange yet
familiar …
DJ Koze
Reviews by
Dave Simpson,
Laura Snapes,
Michael Hann,
Ben BeaumontThomas
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
It’s 23 years since
their last album,
but Tanya
Donelly et al pick
up where they
left off with an
and gloriously
melodic comeback. A lowprofile treat. MH
Royce Da 5’9”
Book of Ryan
An epic from
the underrated
veteran MC, who
unpacks every
corner of his past
from alcoholism
to witnessing
violence, with
A-list guests
Eminem and
J Cole. BBT
Reviews Music
Artist Eleanor Friedberger
album of
the week
Album Rebound
Label Frenchkiss
In 2016, Eleanor
Friedberger spent
a month in Athens,
ending up in what
the half-Greek
American describes
as an “80s goth disco” – called
Rebound – where everyone did a
solitary routine called the chicken
dance. “I copied the slouchy strut,”
she remembers, “swinging my arms
in time to music that sounded like Joy
Division but was probably a knock-off
by an unknown Baltic band. It was
alienating and exhilarating.”
Two years later, this same sense
of giddy disconnection fires her
fourth and best solo album, but
although Rebound resurfaces as the
location for It’s Hard (“where time
stands still”), it’s otherwise a long
way from crimped hair and eyeliner.
Instead, vaguely gothic themes of
loneliness, miscommunication and
isolation are channeled into warm,
quirky electronic pop that’s more
gently uplifting than melancholy.
It’s a radically different musical
landscape to that which Friedberger
occupied in her indie rock Fiery
Furnaces days (with brother
Matthew) or on previous solo
albums. Guitars are used sparingly
but effectively. Mostly, synthesisers
and drum machines produce beatific
electronic pop with traces of Laurie
Anderson or Yellow Magic Orchestra,
while Friedberger’s soaring singing
recalls Russell Mael of Sparks.
Although there is a core of
sadness, the songs use wit, humour
and wordplay to document failures
of human (and even canine)
interaction. My Jesus Phase finds
her “in the Galaxy barr alone, a
me”. The
universe far from home”.
chugging In Between Stars (her
“homage to dark 80s pop” – Berlin
aps) refers
or Eurythmics, perhaps)
dn’t love
to someone who “didn’t
oo much.”
enough, then loved too
The sublime The Letter
documents a failing
postal relationship. By
the time Friedberger
gets to the funny,
farce-like Are We
Good? even the dog
outside the gas station
“is not barking in the
right language”. The
emotional rollercoaster
sees her hurtle from
“losing my mind to ZZ
Top” to achieving some
kind of connection in
the dreamy love song,
Nice to Be Nowhere.
It’s all held together
by sharp, tunefully
lovely songwriting,
and the likes of Make Me
a Song and Everything
are copper-bottomed,
classy, euphoric electro
pop. Dave Simpson
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Artist Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle
Album The Asia Tour
Label Berliner Philharmoniker
Vivid and lavish:
Rattle exits Berlin
n November last year, Simon Rattle and the
Berlin Philharmonic gave a series of concerts
in Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan.
It was the last tour of Asia that Rattle would
undertake as the orchestra’s chief conductor,
and their performances are thoroughly
documented on these discs. Four of the five audio CDs
are derived from the final pair of concerts, given in
Tokyo’s magnificent Suntory Hall, while the other, a
performance of Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto with
Seong-Jin Cho as soloist, was recorded in the Berlin
Philharmonie before the tour began. The Blu-ray disc
contains videos of the same seven
works, taken from concerts in Hong
Kong, Wuhan and Seoul.
The recordings are astonishingly
vivid, and the whole set provides
a very impressive showcase of the
Berlin Phil’s current condition as
it nears the end of Rattle’s reign.
The highlight is definitely the highPetrushka is
voltage performance of Stravinsky’s
Petrushka, taken at quite a lick, but
taken at quite
crammed with telling detail and
a lick, but
sharply characterised solo playing,
crammed with
while at the other extreme is a
detail and
distinctly uninvolving account of
sharp playing
Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, equally
well played but over-moulded, as
many of Rattle’s performances of
late Romantic symphonies tend to
be nowadays. There’s an energised
account of Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan, and a
dazzlingly fleet but rather lightweight one of Bartók’s
Second Piano Concerto, with Yuja Wang as the soloist.
Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony is a dark, sometimes
rather sluggish reading, though the textures are
sumptuous. A new work was commissioned for the tour,
too. Chorós Chordón, by the Seoul-born, Berlin resident
Unsuk Chin, is a dense web of melodic tendrils, led by
the strings, which vanishes as abruptly as it begins.
The set is presented in the familiarly lavish way of
Berliner Philharmoniker recordings, complete with
an illustrated hardback book. But it may perhaps be
repackaged more affordably in a couple of years’ time,
like the orchestra’s recent reissues of both Rattle’s rather
disappointing Sibelius symphony cycle from 2015, and
the recording of Claudio Abbado’s last concert with his
former orchestra – Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s
Dream and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique – which
appeared the following year. The best of it, the superb
Stravinsky, is worth hearing. Andrew Clements
Reviews Music
album of
the month
Artist Leon Bridges
Album Good Thing
Label Columbia
Who is Leon Bridges?
The question trailed
his acclaimed debut,
2015’s Coming
Home – not least
because he seemed
to appear from nowhere: the Texan
dishwasher-turned-singer whose
music suddenly went viral. But it
also felt like a criticism. Sure, he
evoked golden-era Sam Cooke and
Otis Redding, but could Bridges
create his own lane?
Good Thing suggests that, yes, he
could: gone is the fuzzy, old-timey
veneer, replaced with invigorating
polish from pop producer Ricky
Reed (Jason Derulo, Maroon 5)
who joins forces with Bridges’
core co-writers. Bridges has lately
been talking about Beyoncé-style
pyrotechnics and Grammys, and
this is an album that’s consciously
aiming to be big: “Let me come
through, I’m tired of being in the
back”, he commands over the
swinging shuffle of Bad Bad News.
In practice, that means embracing
the soft textures of modern R&B
and neo-soul, but also the funky
stylings of someone like Bruno
Mars, notably on tracks like If It
Feels Good (Then It Must Be), or
the throbbing post-disco pulse of
You Don’t Know.
It’s not a comprehensive pop
overhaul: Bridges expands his
palette while staying true to his
soulful roots. His vocals remain
rich and smooth – albeit with the
occasional use of a newfound
falsetto – and jazzy adornments
abound. His lyrics contain a sense
of schmaltzy romanticism gleaned
from the classics: “Sometimes I
wonder what we’re holding on for
/ Then you climb on top of me and
Artist Jon Hopkins
Album Singularity
Label Domino
Artist The Left Outsides
Album All That Remains
Label Cardinal Fuzz
Sweetness and
lingering shadows
I remember”, he sings on delicate
slowjam Mrs, which owes as much
to D’Angelo as it does to Smokey
Robinson. But it’s his personal
lyrics that push him from pastiche
to presence: “I learned in school I
didn’t measure up / I felt short of
what true blackness was”, he sings
on Georgia to Texas, a sentiment that
makes sense of his faithful Motown
productions. It doesn’t all work:
tracks such as Forgive You are overly
broad, and his descriptions of his girl
on the MOR, country-tinged Beyond
(“I know that grandma would have
loved her / Like she was her own”)
feel cloying. Bridges doesn’t entirely
leave the old-school behind, but,
while Good Thing is hardly the next
Blonde or 24K Magic, it leaves you
with a greater sense of who he is:
loved-up, and striving for a level of
ambition that feels within reach.
Tara Joshi
Written amid
calculated mind
expansion, via
meditation and
naturally occurring
psychedelics, Jon Hopkins, the
Mercury-nominated producer who
has credits with Brian Eno and
Coldplay, hones his exploratory
take on HD electronics on this
smoothly sequenced trip. The
level of craft is extremely high.
The way the beats on the two
big techno numbers, Everything
Connected and Emerald Rush,
crunch and splinter to blur the
quantization requires expert sound
design, and the latter swings with
an almost reggaeton groove – it
is exceptionally good. But what
use is craft if you have nothing to
say? Just as what seems universesharpeningly significant on drugs
is revealed to be laughably obvious
the morning after, the tracks in the
album’s more ambient second half
appear deep while being nothing
of the sort. Luminous Beings
pulses prettily for 12 minutes like
a light-up mobile you let your baby
stare at while you neck some wine,
and C O S M nicks the reversedstrings effect Four Tet came up
with 15 years ago – compare its
blinkered emotional range with
the brilliant peak of Emerald Rush,
where anxiety and dread muscle
in to push the chords downwards.
The title track works as an overture
but not in isolation, and Neon
Pattern Drum’s mood doesn’t
deviate from mild peril (though it
may bang in his live set). The nadir
is the three tracks – inevitable
among him and his posh-trance
peers – of maddeningly basic and
unimaginative piano minimalism,
like Ryuichi Sakamoto robbed of
his spatial awareness. Too much
of this album is the sort of thing
people stick on to make their drug
comedowns feel meaningful.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas
It’s pastoral,
before drones
and strings
weave a slowly
web of soft
olk means different things to different
people, especially in the lengthening,
brightening days of spring. To traditional
folk-lovers, it means the maypole and the
morris, with their buoyant regional revivals.
To people who flirt with folk’s alternative
edges, it’s more about the rituals of nature, as drones and
strings build in tension, rain falls and birdsong calls.
The Left Outsides are London-based husband and
wife Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas (the former the
viola and harmonium player in mid-noughties folkrockers The Eighteenth Day of May and John Peel indie
favourites Saloon, the latter a multi-instrumentalist who
was in Of Arrowe Hill, who call themselves “the most
haunted group in England”). Their time with folk music
proper has been brief, although their 2009 version of
the Gower Wassail (still on Bandcamp) is stunning stuff,
and the eerie psych-folk mood it conjured has prevailed
in their music through the intervening years. The Left
Outsides’ music generally evokes “chilly fields at dawn”
they say, and they’re not wrong.
All That Remains begins perkily for them, though,
with The Unbroken Circle, its marching folk-rock charge
tempered by lyrics about how small people are (“we have
no control,” Nicholas warns, “seasons they change”).
Naming Shadows Was Your Existence takes its foot
off the gas, as this record regularly does, evoking the
more pastoral moments of Birmingham psych-lovers
Broadcast, before drones and strings weave a slowly
thickening web of soft horror. Down to the Waterside is
gentler, recalling the lights of the early 70s Canterbury
scene, while The Yellow Wallpaper takes the gaslighting
tale of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and fits it into a
strangely bucolic English shape. This record drifts when
you first hear it, beguiling you with its sweetness, before
its shadows start to linger, and its darker moments eat
you whole.
This month’s other folk picks
May also brings some bouncier moments. Kacy &
Clayton’s The Siren’s Song, finally released in the UK,
is folk-rock siphoned through west coast sunshine,
immaculately produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
Aidan O’Rourke from Lau’s 365: Volume I is an
interesting exercise in music responding to James
Robertson’s short stories, inspiring some beautiful
nuggets from O’Rourke and Mercury-nominated piano/
harmonium player Kit Downes. Will Pound’s Through
the Seasons: A Year in Folk Dance is full of gleeful
renditions of traditional songs on melodeon, fiddle
and banjo, while the gorgeous playing on Moore, Moss
and Rutter’s III, showcases folk instrumentals in new
skins, glistening with a fresh power. Jude Rogers
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
ST MARTIN’S 020 7836 1443
66th year of Agatha Christie’s
Mon-Sat 7.30, Tues & Thu 3, Sat 4
Entertainment Classified
Live reviews
No grinding
gears …
Dara Ó Briain
Dara Ó Briain
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Touring until December
LA Phil/
Barbican, London
Final concert tonight
Box office: 020-7638 8891
seldom more so than this evening,
as Ó Briain mines his public status,
midlife hypochondria and the
march of technology for
big-hitting entertainment.
He starts as he means to go on,
with gentle self-mockery of his role
as Brian Cox’s wingman on
Stargazing Live. It’s not the last
example offered of the indignities
of life in the public eye. One story
tells how he fluffed the climactic
punchline on the final gig of his last
tour. Later, he has great fun with a
news story that pronounced him
dead in a ravine-based car crash in
central Dublin. On stage, Ó Briain
has the aristocratic bearing of
someone esteemed in almost every
household in the land. But – like
David Baddiel before him – he seems
to relish the incongruities of fame at
least as much as the elevated status.
By the time of his fake news
routine, midway through act two,
the show’s impressive structural
intricacy is revealing itself. There are
no grinding gears as Ó Briain cruises
from one subject to the next. The
callbacks aren’t just cheap tricks;
they thread the show together. He
talks about hosting Robot Wars, and
it becomes easy to see this show as
an exercise in mechanical
engineering. The springs and cogs
are expertly
There is
expert crowd everything
work as
precisely when
he feigns
it’s supposed to.
Only now and
at audience
then does the
responses he
blueprint feel
himself has
conspicuous. His
orchestrated crowd work is
highly effective,
but the principles
by which it
operates aren’t
well hidden. He feigns indignation
at audience responses he himself
has orchestrated. He puts words
in the audience’s mouth – then
makes them feel funny for thinking
of them. He feeds scraps from the
front row into stream-ofconsciousness ad libbing, which
sometimes yields comic gold (there’s
a fine off-the-cuff gag about a faulty
sign outside the theatre) and
sometimes trips over itself
(“Dominic – what’s your name?”).
I prefer him on-script: there are
several top-notch routines tonight.
Like Bill Bailey at the same address
a few months back, Ó Briain
treads twinkle-toed the tightrope
separating Brexit-sceptic material
from a (presumably) Brexity
audience. Elsewhere, there’s
a beautiful line to describe the
particular sense of loss when his
unused bike gets stolen (“To steal
from me the me I could become
if I wasn’t the me I am!”), and a
show-stopping joke about why
VR tech isn’t being used for porn:
a simple premise built on, block
by block, until something
toweringly funny takes shape.
Brian Logan
ou can’t accuse
the Los Angeles
Philharmonic of
underselling itself. Any
orchestra that kicks off
a three-day residency
with a programme that includes
Edgard Varèse’s riotous Amériques
alongside a Shostakovich symphony,
with the Liebestod from Wagner’s
Tristan und Isolde as an encore, is
counting on making an impression.
But while the loudest moments
lacked nothing, it took conductor
Bold but blunt …
Gustavo Dudamel until well into the
the LA Philharmonic
second half – the slow movement of
Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5 – to
and Gustavo Dudamel
draw out quiet playing of anything
bassline, and when a glockenspiel
like the same intensity.
pinged out high above, it could
That the orchestra’s expressive
have been John Adams at quarterrange seemed curtailed wasn’t a
speed. Salonen plans a partner
problem in the first half, which was
piece, Castor, depicting Zeus’s other
all Technicolor anyway. It opened
twin son. For now, Pollux remains
with the European premiere of
an abstract work, its seething,
Pollux by Esa-Pekka Salonen. A feast
intriguing textures let down by
of many-layered strings, it sounded
a slightly pedestrian peroration
dense and sweet. Occasionally
towards the end.
there was the addition of a weighty
Amériques is a kind of urban
Rite of Spring – imagine not the ice
cracking, but the Manhattan tarmac.
Varèse had been at the scandalous
Paris premiere of The Rite only a few
years earlier, and he boldly peppers
his score not only with references to
Stravinsky but with a wailing siren,
which sounded rather measured
– no freewheeling cop- show
sound effects here. Otherwise, the
orchestra played the piece for all it
was worth, achieving a floor-shaking
depth of sound, with Dudamel
keeping things taut and tense.
The Shostakovich, rightly, had the
slow movement as its beating heart.
The rest, though, tended towards
bluntness, with phrasing that got
the music from A to B without
much nuance. The Wagner sounded
luscious but felt foursquare. Perhaps
the rest of the orchestra’s residency,
which closes with Beethoven’s Ninth
but otherwise focuses on new music
and youth work, will play more
consistently to Dudamel’s strengths.
Erica Jeal
lymouth, Dubai,
Oslo – the locations
of three consecutive
gigs on his last tour,
Dara Ó Briain tells
us. So how do you
write a comedy show that appeals
to all those audiences and retains
its currency across two years of
gigging? Such are the standup’s
dilemmas in this industrial era of
comedy. But the Irishman makes
light of them with Voice of Reason,
another globetrotting set that
may stint on topicality and local
specificity but not on meticulously
well-worked laughs about the
unglamorous middle age of
a husband, dad and celeb.
So are the demands of world
touring depriving us of a harderedged Ó Briain? Probably not. Even
when he had the opportunity, the
Mock the Week man was never one
to cut deep with his comedy. But it
can be fun splashing in the shallows,
Beckett meets
kabuki …
Hideki Noda
and Kathryn
One Green
Soho theatre, London
Until 19 May
Box office: 020-7478 0100
ideki Noda is
a master of the
theatrical endgame.
In his 2012 show
The Bee, a man’s
family are taken
hostage by an escaped convict, so
the man duly kidnaps the convict’s
family. In this apocalyptic farce
– the third of three Noda plays
to be staged by Soho theatre, all
starring the ever-playful Kathryn
Hunter and all cast against gender
– the family home becomes a
prison of their own making.
Hunter plays patriarch
Boo, the self-styled “legend of the
classical stage”, clinging to more
than 600 years of Noh history. He
is going out for the evening but
wife Bo (Noda, who also directs)
and daughter Pickle (Glyn Pritchard)
also have appointments and are
just as determined to leave the
house. But with Princess the dog
about to give birth, somebody
has to stay home for the evening.
Who is it going to be?
Drawing on the Noh theatre
tradition and featuring live musical
accompaniment from Japanese
kabuki musician Denzaemon Tanaka
XIII, this is as strange and dislocating
an evening as you can currently find
in London. It’s like watching a
heightened Ray Cooney farce
crossed with Beckett and overlaid
with a heavy veneer of Japanese
cultural references.
It is distinctly odd, and yet in
the end oddly moving, too, as
the entire family’s failure to take
responsibility for the future has
appalling consequences. The
performances are spot-on, and if
the outlandishness of the comedy
sometimes veers dangerously close
to being irritating, the piece earns
its ending as it demonstrates the
madness of standing your ground
and refusing to give an inch.
Lyn Gardner
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
TV and radio
Watch this
BBC reporter
Lyse Doucet
in the ruins
of Homs
Friday Night Dinner
10pm, Channel 4
Ah, the joy: the return of Robert Popper’s
always very funny sitcom about a Jewish family’s
ever-thwarted efforts to settle down for a
customary Friday-night meal. Tonight, Mark
Heap excels as oddball neighbour Jim, who has
somehow managed to secure himself a date. He
saddles the Goodmans with his enigmatic dog
Wilson, about whose dietary habits we learn a
little. All this eats into the quality time the
parents, if not their sons, had hoped to spend
in their new hot tub.
Syria: The World’s War BBC Two
Chitra Ramaswamy
Expert witness Lyse Doucet
presents the distressing facts of a
brutal and misunderstood conflict
The worst humanitarian crisis of the century. A conflict
that has gone on longer than the second world war, drawing
in 75 countries and counting. Half a million killed. Millions
displaced. A country in utter ruins. And still, seven years
on, no military solution, no diplomatic answer and no end
in sight. This tremendous – and necessarily distressing –
documentary (part two is on tonight), fronted by the
veteran correspondent Lyse Doucet, begins with the now
stock phrases and statistics that trick us into thinking we
know this war. Then it tells the story of what actually
happened. The facts, as they used to be known.
And we need to be reminded. The appalling truth of a
war so long and entangled in world politics is that you
become confused, disengaged and desensitised. Despair
blots out the need to know and keep knowing. This is how
we begin to forget why wars started in the first place.
Doucet, who has been in Syria since the beginning of the
conflict and is a reminder of the courage and tenacity of
old-school reporters, begins with the peaceful protests in
Homs in May 2011. She interviews Noura al-Jizawi, a
student who, emboldened by the Arab spring like thousands
of others, risked everything to take to the streets against
the Assad regime. “It was an amazing day,” Noura recalls,
describing it as the first time in her life she had a voice.
When the protests swept the country and Assad responded
with a brutal crackdown, Noura became a daughter of the
revolution. She was kidnapped and detained in the notorious
Sadynaya prison. Images taken inside by a government
photographer show numbered dead bodies. What more
damning evidence of state-sponsored torture is there?
And yet. “We detain terrorists,” the Syrian foreign
minister Faisal Mekdad maintains when Doucet asks him
about the scores of imprisoned and disappeared doctors,
teachers and students. “We detain potential violators of
law … We don’t detain citizens at large.” Time and time
again, key players on all sides engage in doublespeak or
refuse to own their part. The overwhelming sense is of
opportunities missed and gross inaction. One question
posed by a documentary that is so nuanced it left me more
confused than when I started (which is a compliment, by
the way) is: “How did the world come to abandon Syria?”
For Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria during the
Obama administration, the president initially calling on
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Assad to resign was a mistake that created expectations:
“I should have objected when I was called the night before.”
For others in the inner circle, his reluctance to intervene
made sense in an insane situation. “President Obama
would always ask: ‘How is that actually going to fix the
problem?’” says the former senior foreign policy adviser
Derek Chollet of the CIA plan to arm rebel militias. “Then
everyone looked at their shoes and said: ‘It won’t.’” Obama’s
response, he added, was invariably: “We’re not doing this
just to make ourselves feel good.” Which is not something
you can imagine the incumbent US president saying.
While state department officials
placed bets that Assad would be gone by
Thanksgiving 2012, Marwa al Sabouni,
words were
an architect who stayed on in besieged
whittled down Homs with her children, recalls her
by the horror
son blocking his ears at the sound of
mortar rounds landing. Muhammed
of what she
Jinnyat, who defected to join the Free
had seen
Syrian Army, explains how starving
civilians trapped in rebel-held areas
resorted to eating leaves from trees.
The trees became “bait” and snipers
were positioned near them. “Many people died this way.”
In deeply distressing footage from 2012, Doucet reports
on families massacred in their own homes by armed gangs
who villagers claim were from the Alawite sect, fiercely
loyal to the Assad regime. “A woman. Completely charred.
In her own bed,” says Doucet, her words whittled down
by horror as she stumbles out of a house.
Perhaps most upsetting of all is photographer Artino’s
account of filming the aftermath of the 2013 chemical
attack in Damascus. “I see them as children sleeping,” he
says of the babies and children he photographed on the
ground. “Their eyes are closed and they are wearing
pyjamas.” When he realised they were not sleeping the
camera fell out of his hand and he went down, poisoned by
the sarin gas that killed 1,000 people and was attributed to
Assad. Later, Artino and his friends borrowed a generator
and clubbed together to buy a TV so they could watch how
President Obama, and the world, would react. “We were
like, no way. Did he just say he’s not going to do anything?”
Artino says. “We felt hopeless. We felt left behind.”
David Stubbs
Our Wildest Dreams
8pm, Channel 4
Possibly the
last thing TV
needs is another
show about
cooking, yet
I’m all over
Britain’s Best
Home Cook. The
fact is, there’s
no combo more
comforting than
Mary Berry
and Claudia
Channel 4’s obsession
with tracking cosseted
Brits as they venture out
of their comfort zones
continues. This week,
Lyndon and Ruth (who,
just to add extra jeopardy,
is pregnant) give up their
careers to open a safari
lodge in Zambia. Not
entirely unpredictably,
trouble is waiting, like a
famished lion, to pounce.
Phil Harrison
Portillo’s Hidden
History of Britain
9pm, Channel 5
The former politico
pokes around Shepton
Mallet prison, a hulking
400-year-old clink that
finally shut up shop in
2012. Former turnkeys and
lags paint a stark picture
of life on the inside, while
Fred Dinenage pops up to
discuss how the place
shaped young Ronnie
and Reggie Kray.
Graeme Virtue
10pm, BBC Two
With Matt claiming
designer credit for
waistcoats, it’s no surprise
that he’s equally keen to
snaffle co-creator credit
on Sean and Beverly’s
new show. The writing
talent aren’t keen on
sharing ownership with an
actor who barely bothered
reading their script.
Evidently, it’s a hill each
party is willing to die on.
Mark Gibbings-Jones
High & Dry
10.30pm, Channel 4
Even on an island
paradise, hell is other
people. Such is the neat
premise of Marc Wootton’s
new comedy about
castaways who survive
a plane crash. There are
some good one-liners
but, in this opener at
least, Wootton’s garish
sociopath, flight
attendant Brett, rather
overpowers the show.
Jonathan Wright
The Graham
Norton Show
10.35pm, BBC One
Stephen Mangan is on
Graham’s sofa this week,
talking about his new
TV show Hang Ups, with
a musical interlude
from Jess Glynne
performing her new single
I’ll Be There (presumably
not a Jackson 5 cover).
Plus, Amy Schumer tells
us about her somewhat
problematic new film
I Feel Pretty.
Candice Carty-Williams
Channel 4
Channel 5
Flog It! Trade Secrets (T) (R)
6.30 A1: Britain’s Longest
Road (T) (R) 7.15 Rip Off
Britain: Food (T) (R) 8.0
Antiques Roadshow (T) (R)
9.0 BBC Newsroom Live:
Election Special (T) 10.0
Live Snooker: The World
Championship (T) The second
session of the opening
semi-final. 12.0 Election
2018 (T) 1.0 Live Snooker (T)
The second semi-final. 3.0
Election 2018 (T) 4.30 Live
Snooker (T) 6.0 Eggheads (T)
(R) 6.30 Britain in Bloom (T)
7.0 Live Snooker (T) The third
session of the first semi-final.
Good Morning Britain
(T) 8.30 Lorraine (T) 9.25
The Jeremy Kyle Show
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Emmerdale (T) Belle reaches
breaking point, and Lachlan
faces a shocking realisation.
7.30 Coronation Street (T)
Johnny questions Jenny’s
strange behaviour.
Countdown (T) (R) 6.45 3rd
Rock from the Sun (T) (R) 8.0
Everybody Loves Raymond
(T) (R) 8.35 Frasier (T) (R)
10.05 Ramsay’s Hotel Hell (T)
(R) 11.0 Undercover Boss USA
(T) (R) 12.0 News Summary
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(R) 1.05 Posh Pawnbrokers
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3.0 A Place in the Sun: Home
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Four in a Bed (T) (R) 5.30 Buy
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(T) (R) 6.30 Hollyoaks
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Syria’s World War (T)
(2/2) How an uprising
about high unemployment,
corruption and a lack of
political freedom seven
years ago has turned into
full-scale civil war. Lyse
Doucet speaks to politicians
and soldiers from Syria as
well as from western and
regional powers.
Love Your Garden (T)
Alan Titchmarsh visits
Canterbury to help
Gurkha Hari Budha Magar.
8.30 Coronation Street (T)
Simon alerts Leanne
to Toyah’s lies.
9.0 Lethal Weapon An
Inconvenient Ruth (T)
Murtaugh and Riggs
investigate a jewellery heist.
Our Wildest Dreams (T)
Cameras follow Lyndon
and his wife Ruth as they
give up their careers in the
UK to plough their savings
into starting a new business
running a safari lodge in the
Zambian outback.
Gogglebox (T) Capturing
householders’ reactions to
what they watch on telly.
10.0 News (T)
10.30 Local News (T)
10.45 The Keith & Paddy Picture
Show (T) (R) Keith Lemon
and Paddy McGuinness
re-create Pretty Woman.
11.10 Through the Keyhole (T) (R)
More celebrity snooping.
12.10 Jackpot247 3.0 Take on
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ITV Nightscreen
10.0 Friday Night Dinner (T) New
series. Jim dates a woman
with an annoying laugh.
10.30 High & Dry (T) New series.
Sitcom about plane crash
victims on a tropical island.
11.05 First Dates (T) (R)
12.05 The Grey (Joe
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2.10 True Horror (T) (R)
3.05 Kiss Me First (T) (R)
Breakfast (T) 9.15 Rip Off
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11.0 A1: Britain’s Longest
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News and Weather (T) 1.45
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(T) 3.0 Escape to the Country
(T) (R) 3.45 Flipping Profit
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The One Show (T) 7.30
Sounds Like Friday Night (T)
EastEnders (T) Halfway
is embarrassed by the
attention he is getting.
8.30 The Button (T) Gameshow
set simultaneously in the
houses of five UK families.
9.0 Have I Got News for You
(T) Hosted by Rhod Gilbert.
9.30 Home from Home (T) Neil
is despondent about his
lack of popularity.
10.0 Episodes (T) Beverly and
Sean are at odds with Matt.
10.30 Newsnight (T) Weather
11.05 Front Row Late (T)
11.35 Snooker (T)
12.25 Easy Money (Daniel
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The Graham Norton Show (T)
Wannabe (T) Maxine gets
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of a lifetime. Last in series.
11.50 No Strings Attached
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Romcom with Natalie
Portman, Ashton Kutcher.
1.30 Weather (T) 1.35 News (T)
Other channels
6.0am Home Shopping
7.10 Top Gear 8.10
American Pickers 9.010.0 Storage Hunters
10.0-1.0 American
Pickers 1.0-3.0 Top Gear
3.0 Sin City Motors 4.0
Steve Austin’s Broken
Skull Challenge 5.0 Top
Gear 6.0 Room 101 6.40
Would I Lie to You? 7.20
Would I Lie to You? The
Unseen Bits 8.0 Into the
Fire 9.0-11.0 Red Dwarf
11.0 Have I Got a Bit More
News for You 12.0 QI
12.40 Would I Lie to You?
The Unseen Bits 1.20
Mock the Week 2.0 QI
2.40 Would I Lie to You?
The Unseen Bits 3.20
Parks and Recreation
4.0 Home Shopping
6.0am Hollyoaks 6.30
Hollyoaks 7.0 Couples
Come Dine with Me 8.0
How I Met Your Mother
8.30 How I Met Your
Mother 9.0 New Girl
9.30 New Girl 10.0
2 Broke Girls 10.30 2
Broke Girls 11.0 Brooklyn
Nine-Nine 11.30
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 12.0
The Goldbergs 12.30
The Goldbergs 1.0 The
Big Bang Theory 1.30
The Big Bang Theory
2.0 How I Met Your
Mother 2.30 How I Met
Your Mother 3.0 New
Girl 3.30 New Girl 4.0
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 4.30
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 5.0
The Goldbergs 5.30 The
Goldbergs 6.0 The Big
Bang Theory 6.30 The
Big Bang Theory 7.0
Hollyoaks 7.30 Extreme
Cake Makers 8.0 The
Big Bang Theory 8.30
The Big Bang Theory
9.0 Magic Mike
(2012) 11.15 The Big
Bang Theory 11.40 The
Big Bang Theory 12.10
Tattoo Fixers 1.15 Gogglebox 2.20 First Dates
3.15 Rude Tube 4.10 2
Broke Girls 4.30 2 Broke
Girls 4.55 Couples Come
Dine with Me
11.0am Broken
Arrow (1950) 12.50
Rage at Dawn
(1955) 2.40 Track
of the Cat (1954) 4.45
Thunderbirds Are
Go! (1966) 6.40 The Day After Tomorrow
(2004) 9.0 NonStop (2014) 11.05 AVP: Alien vs Predator
(2004) 12.50 Pulp Fiction (1994)
6.0am The Planet’s
Funniest Animals 6.20
Totally Bonkers Guinness World Records
6.45 Totally Bonkers
Guinness World Records
7.10 Who’s Doing the
Dishes? 7.55 Emmerdale
BBC Four
Milkshake! 9.15 The Wright
Stuff 11.15 The Nightmare
Neighbour Next Door (T)
(R) 12.10 News (T) 12.15
GPs: Behind Closed Doors
(T) (R) 1.10 Access (T) 1.15
Home and Away (T) 1.45
Neighbours (T) 2.20 NCIS (T)
(R) 3.15 Presumed Dead
in Paradise (Mary Lambert,
2013) (T) 5.0 News (T) 5.30
Neighbours (T) (R) 6.0 Home
and Away (T) (R) 6.30 News
(T) 7.0 The Gadget Show
(T) Jon Bentley checks out
advances in home cinema
audio, while the G Team test
three styles of barbecue.
Britain’s Great Cathedrals
with Tony Robinson (T)
The history of Liverpool
Cathedral. Includes news.
Portillo’s Hidden History of
Britain (T) Michael Portillo
explores Shepton Mallet
prison, which over its
400-year history has seen
numerous executions and
countless escape attempts.
10.0 Inside Strangeways (T) (R)
Behind the bars of Britain’s
most famous prison.
11.05 Meet Mick Philpott:
Psychopath (T) (R)
12.0 SuperCasino (T) 3.10 GPs:
Behind Closed Doors (T)
(R) 4.0 Rich House, Poor
House: The Big Surprise (T)
(R) 4.50 House Doctor (T)
(R) 5.15 Wildlife SOS (T) (R)
World News Today (T) 7.30
BBC Young Musician 2018
(T) Pianist Lucy Parham
joins Josie d’Arby for the
keyboard category final.
The Jazz Ambassadors
(T) The role of America’s
great jazz musicians –
Dizzy Gillespie, Duke
Ellington, Dave Brubeck
– in the cold war, and how
the US state department
unwittingly gave the civil
rights movement a voice
on the world stage when
it needed one most.
10.30 Latin Music USA (T) (3/4)
Documentary, this week
tracing the influence of
Mexican music in America.
11.30 Kings of Rock’n’Roll (T) Bill
Haley and His Comets, Little
Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy
Holly, Elvis Presley…
12.30 Stunning Soloists at the BBC
(T) 1.30 Latin Music USA (T)
2.30 Kings of Rock’n’Roll (T)
8.25 Emmerdale 8.55
You’ve Been Framed!
Gold 9.25 The Ellen
DeGeneres Show 10.20
The Bachelorette 12.15
Emmerdale 12.45 Emmerdale 1.15 You’ve Been
Framed! Gold 1.45 The
Ellen DeGeneres Show
2.35 The Jeremy Kyle
Show 3.40 The Jeremy
Kyle Show 4.50 The
Jeremy Kyle Show 5.50
Take Me Out 7.0 You’ve
Been Framed! Gold 8.0
Two and a Half Men 8.30
Superstore 9.0 Hercules (2014) 11.0
Family Guy 11.30 Family
Guy 11.55 American Dad!
12.30 American Dad!
12.55 The Cleveland
Show 1.25 Two and a
Half Men 1.50 Superstore 2.20 Teleshopping
5.50 ITV2 Nightscreen
8.55am Food Unwrapped
9.30-11.35 A Place in the
Sun: Winter Sun 11.352.10 Four in a Bed 2.104.50 Come Dine With Me
4.50 A Place in the Sun:
Winter Sun 5.55 Ugly
House to Lovely House
with George Clarke 6.55
The Secret Life of the
Zoo 7.55 Grand Designs
9.0 Rough Justice
10.0-12.05 24 Hours
in A&E 12.05 Kitchen
Nightmares USA 1.053.15 24 Hours in A&E
3.15 8 Out of 10 Cats
6.0am-7.0 Animal 999
7.0-8.0 Meerkat Manor
8.0-9.0 Monkey Life
9.0-10.0 Motorway
Patrol 10.0 Road Wars
11.0 Warehouse 13 12.0
NCIS: LA 1.0-3.0 Hawaii
Five-0 3.0 NCIS: LA 4.0
Stargate SG-1 5.0 The
Simpsons 5.30-6.30
Futurama 6.30-8.30
The Simpsons 8.30
Modern Family 9.0 Karl
Pilkington: The Moaning
of Life 10.0 The Late
Late Show: Best of the
Week 11.0 Scream
(1996) 1.05 A League
of Their Own 2.0 Most
Shocking 3.0 Duck
Quacks Don’t Echo 4.05.0 Motorway Patrol
5.0 It’s Me or the Dog
Sky Arts
6.0am Prokofiev: Piano
Concertos 6.45 Jonas
Kaufmann: An Evening
With Puccini 9.0 Watercolour Challenge 9.30
The Art Show 10.30 Tales
of the Unexpected 11.0
Classic Albums 12.0 The
Eighties 1.0 Discovering:
Charlie Chaplin 2.0 Watercolour Challenge 2.30
The Art Show 3.30 Tales
of the Unexpected 4.0
Classic Albums 5.0 The
Eighties 6.0 Discovering:
Greta Garbo 7.0 Johnny
Cash: Song by Song 7.30
Dolly Parton: Song by
Song 8.0 Video Killed the
Radio Star 8.30 Discovering: Coldplay 9.0 The
Nineties 10.0 Coldplay:
Austin City Limits 11.15
Brian Johnson’s A Life
on the Road 12.15 Def
Leppard: Viva! Hysteria
2.0 Johnny Cash: Behind
Prison Walls 3.0 Rock
and Roll 4.30 Tales of
the Unexpected 5.0
Auction: Jackie Kennedy
Special 5.30 Auction
Sky Atlantic
6.0am The British 7.0
Storm City 8.0 Fish
Town 9.0-11.0 The West
Wing 11.0-1.0 House
1.0 Without a Trace 2.0
Blue Bloods 3.0-5.0 The
West Wing 5.0-7.0 House
7.0 CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation 8.0 Blue
Bloods 9.0-12.15 Game
of Thrones 12.15-2.25
The Sopranos 2.25 House
of Lies 3.0 CSI: Crime
Scene Investigation 4.06.0 The West Wing
Magic Mike, E4
Radio 3
Radio 4
6.30 Breakfast 9.0
Essential Classics 12.0
Composer of the Week:
Copland (5/5) 1.0 News
1.02 Lunchtime Concert:
Verbier Festival (4/4)
2.0 Afternoon Concert:
The BBC SO. Today’s
venue is the Victoria Hall,
Geneva, where Sakari
Oramo condcuts. Anna
Clyne: This Midnight
Hour. 2.45 Beethoven:
Symphony No 6 in F,
Pastoral. 3.30 Richard
Strauss: Suite in B flat
for 13 wind instruments,
Op 4. 3.55 Florent
Schmitt: Symphony
No 2. 4.30 BBC Young
Musician 2018: Keyboard
Finalists 5.0 In Tune 7.0
In Tune Mixtape 7.30 In
Concert. From Milton
Court at the Barbican,
London. St James’
Baroque, BBC Singers,
Sofi Jeannin. Handel:
Zadok the Priest; Organ
Concerto in F, Cuckoo
and the Nightingale; My
Heart Is Inditing; The
King Shall Rejoice, Dixit
Dominus, HWV232.
10.0 The Verb: Autism
– Poetry, Language
and Writing 10.45 The
Essay: My Life in Music
– Shostakovich’s Second
Piano Trio. With Sally
Beamish. (5/5) 11.0
Music Planet. A session
by Aïcha Redouane.
1.0 Through the Night
6.0 Today 8.31 (LW)
Yesterday in Parliament
9.0 The Reunion:
The Young Ones (R)
(5/5) 9.45 (LW) Daily
Service 9.45 (FM)
Book of the Week (5/5)
10.0 Woman’s Hour.
Includes at 10.45
Drama: The Wings of
the Dove. (5/10) 11.0
The Remittance. Nihal
Arthanayake on the
prejudices, politics and
pride of the multibillionpound world of migrant
money. 11.30 When the
Dog Dies (R) 12.0 News
12.01 (LW) Shipping
Forecast 12.04 Four
Thought (R) 12.15
You and Yours 1.0 The
World at One 1.45
Chinese Characters:
Deng Xiaoping – Black
Cat, Yellow Cat (20/20)
2.0 The Archers 2.15
Drama: Watch Me
While I’m Sleeping, by
Christopher William Hill.
3.0 Gardeners’ Question
Time: Kew Gardens 3.45
Short Works: Craters,
by Chris Power. 4.0
Last Word 4.30 More
or Less (2/7) 5.0 PM
5.54 (LW) Shipping
Forecast 6.0 News 6.30
The News Quiz (4/8)
7.0 The Archers. Brian
comes clean. 7.15 Front
Row 7.45 The Wings
of the Dove (R) (5/10)
8.0 Any Questions?
Jonathan Dimbleby
presents debate from
Lady Margaret School
in Putney, south-west
London. 8.50 A Point
of View. With Tom
Shakespeare. 9.0 Chinese
Characters Omnibus (R)
(1/4) 10.0 The World
Tonight 10.45 Book at
Bedtime: The Valley at
the Centre of the World,
by Malachy Tallack.
(5/10) 11.0 Great Lives:
Tej Lalvani on Richard
Feynman (R) 11.30 Today
in Parliament 12.0 News
12.30 Book of the Week
(R) 12.48 Shipping
Forecast 1.0 As World
Service 5.20 Shipping
Forecast 5.30 News
5.43 Prayer for the Day
5.45 iPM
Radio 4 Extra
6.0 John Mortimer
Presents The Trials of
Marshall Hall (5/5) 6.30
Mr Pollock’s Theatres
7.0 Minor Adjustment
(1/6) 7.30 Lucy Porter in
the Family Way 8.0 I’m
Sorry I’ll Read That Again
(12/13) 8.30 Brothers
in Law (9/12) 9.0 It’s
Your Round (4/6) 9.30
After Henry (4/8) 10.0
The Master of Ballantrae
(2/2) 11.0 Podcast Radio
Hour 12.0 I’m Sorry
I’ll Read That Again
(12/13) 12.30 Brothers
in Law (9/12) 1.0 John
Mortimer Presents…
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
(5/5) 1.30 Mr Pollock’s
Theatres 2.0 The Secret
History (5/15) 2.15
Shakespeare’s Restless
World (15/20) 2.30
The Enchanted April
(5/5) 2.45 Sissinghurst:
An Unfinished History
(5/5) 3.0 The Master of
Ballantrae (2/2) 4.0 It’s
Your Round (4/6) 4.30
After Henry (4/8) 5.0
Minor Adjustment (1/6)
5.30 Lucy Porter in the
Family Way 6.0 Duel
(2/2) 6.30 Mastertapes
(13/14) 7.0 I’m Sorry
I’ll… (12/13) 7.30
Brothers in Law (9/12)
8.0 John Mortimer
Presents… (5/5) 8.30 Mr
Pollock’s Theatres 9.0
Podcast Radio Hour 10.0
Lucy Porter in the Family
Way 10.30 Sketchorama
(1/4) 11.0 Adolf Hitler:
My Part in His Downfall
(3/8) 11.30 Chain
Reaction (1/4) 12.0 Duel
(2/2) 12.30 Mastertapes
(13/14) 1.0 John
Mortimer Presents…
(5/5) 1.30 Mr Pollock’s
Theatres 2.0 The Secret
History (5/15) 2.15
Shakespeare’s Restless
World (15/20) 2.30 The
Enchanted April (5/5)
2.45 Sissinghurst…
(5/5) 3.0 The Master of
Ballantrae (2/2) 4.0 It’s
Your Round (4/6) 4.30
After Henry (4/8) 5.0
Minor Adjustment (1/6)
5.30 Lucy Porter in…
no 14,973
Quick crossword
Garry Trudeau
1 Using force (8)
5 Egg on (4)
9 Superfluous (5)
10 Customers (7)
11 One of Canada’s prairie
provinces (12)
13 Stew (from Lancashire?) (6)
14 Rankle (6)
17 Novel accents (anag) —
gradually recovering health
20 Islands of the south Pacific
— a neo-CIA (anag) (7)
21 Queen Boudicca’s people (5)
22 Things that provide
amusement (4)
23 Lineage (8)
1 Cook (4)
2 A new participant (7)
3 Harmful drug (5,7)
4 Leave (a place previously
occupied) (6)
6 Revive (5)
7 Hamlet’s castle (8)
8 Star of The Italian Job (7,5)
12 Supermarket pay desk (8)
15 Trig ratio (7)
16 Stay (6)
18 Impoverished (5)
19 Large urban area (4)
Stuck? For help call 0906 200 83 83. Calls cost £1.10 per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
Service supplied by ATS. Call 0330 333 6946 for customer service (charged at standard rate).
To buy puzzle books, visit or call 0330 333 6846.
no 4,051
Hard. Fill the grid so that each row, column and
3x3 box contains the numbers 1-9. Printable
version at
Word wheel
Find as many words as
possible using the letters
in the wheel. Each must
use the central letter and
at least two others. Letters
may be used only once. You
may not use plurals, foreign
words or proper nouns.
There is at least one nineletter word to be found.
TARGET: Excellent-57.
Good-50. Average-37.
Fill the grid so that each
square in an outlined block
contains a digit. A block of 2
squares contains the digits
1 and 2, a block of three
squares contains the digits
1, 2 and 3, and so on. The
same digit does not appear
in neighbouring squares,
not even diagonally.
Can you find 13 words associated
with China in the grid? Words can run
forwards, backwards, vertically or
diagonally, but always in a straight,
unbroken line.
Yesterday’s solutions
Sudoku no 4,050
Pet corner
Solution no 14,972
Word wheel
The Guardian
Friday 4 May 2018
Which poet’s muse had a
cat called Minnaloushe?
a. Fanny Brawne
b. Maud Gonne
c. Margot Callas
d. Beatrice Portinari
Answer top right
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