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Review: Friday, 27 February, 2009

Sarah McDermott | 14:22 UK time, 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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ive seen a number of Picasso shows, one was massive. It was his early etchings that astounded me, I recall looking down a whole line of them and thinking , yep this man is a genius, not to many people in history could do this. There was one particular small etching of a horse from a front point of view, articulated with a single line that just blew me away, the fact that he was able to describe its moment and form with one line, first go was very affecting. It seems to me he tried too hard and for a very long time to be nonchalant and capricious in later years. He was, for me, in ability an old master regurgitated 300 years later.

  • Comment number 2.

    As usual, NNR last night reduced to a group of people all talking over each other, having a good time and making no sense at times. This may have been allowed because it makes it look informal but to viewers the discussion was incomprehensible in parts. There was a particular spot when all three contributors were talking together. This may be what happens during a real-life chat in a drawing room but as far as the viewers are concerned, it was pointless. If the purpose of NNR is to give us an idea of what the item is about and its strong and weak points, then we need to be able to hear and understand clearly what those points are. Why doesn't the presenter of NNR stop people from interupting each other and let us hear what each person has to say UNLESS of course, like Paul Morley, someone tries to take over in which case they should be interrupted by the prsenter. Can't we also have more people who are articulate, knowledgable and, above all, do not interrupt? Maybe inviting more women would be a good idea.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2; Couldn't agree more!

    I think we should ask Newsnight Review to conduct a poll and decide a smaller but more articulate, knowledgeable and POLITE pool of panellists from which to draw.

    I nominate Iain Rankin, Tom Paulin and Bonnie Greer.

    Immediately out of the balloon goes Morley, Kwei Armah, that strange American lady with the man's name and Tony Parsons; anyone who wrote for the NME in the Seventies and appears on this show is clearly a kid-on; did you read any of the stuff Morley and Parsons wrote then?



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