Review: Friday, 27 February, 2009
Here's Tim Marlow with details of what's coming up in Newsnight Review tonight:
Tonight's programme has a distinctly combative edge to it as Pablo Picasso squares up to the entire tradition of European painting at the National Gallery in London. Given the vast number of exhibitions devoted to the greatest artist of the twentieth century it is odd to think that Picasso's relationship to the past has never been explicitly confronted before now, but finally there is a chance to see just how much he relied on, cannibalised, obliterated, reconstructed, transformed and occasionally paid homage to the art of the Old Masters and, of course, how he measures up. Sitting in judgment and going head to head will be Paul Morley, Jeanette Winterson and Tom Service.
In addition to an attack on the Old Masters (which Picasso described as 'a battle to the death'), there's the week's big film which unravels a global conspiracy involving the self-professed masters of the universe, or just "bankers" now to you and I. The International stars Clive Owen and Naomi Watts as the literary-named double-act of Salinger and Whitman on the trail of a multi-national bank whose portfolio of operations includes embezzlement, extortion, arms-dealing and murder.
The International is a fictional thriller but distantly alludes to certain historical facts, particularly the collapse of the BCCI in the early nineties. Red Riding, a powerful new Channel Four drama series, is more consciously ambivalent in its blurring of fact and fiction and suggests that the West Yorkshire Police Force were not just institutionally corrupt but ran a kind of paramilitary murder squad at the time of the Ripper inquiry. Just how far our panel feel it played fast and loose with history and how much it used the past as an effective creative springboard remains to be seen.
We will also be discussing one of the most ambitious operas of the past decade by the Pulitzer-Prize winning American composer John Adams. Dr Atomic, which has its UK premier this week at the London Coliseum, charts the final stages of the development of the atom bomb in the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1945. The opera seeks to examine the uneasy alliance between the US military and the thousands of scientists led by Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos, and to wrestle with the ethical dilemmas of a project which fundamentally changed the world. It also attempts the seemingly impossible task of conveying the sensation of a nuclear test on stage. Explosive, or just, as the scientists feared, a 'mere fizzle'?
Join us on the purple sofa at 11pm to find out.