Archives for November 2008

Can our Diana and Actaeon hold a torch to Titian's version?

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Ellen West - web producer | 12:55 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008


In tonight's show we go behind the scenes of a photo shoot with the artist Tom Hunter, in which he recreates Titian's Diana and Actaeon. In this modern day version, the fierce and powerful Diana is portrayed by Kim Cattrall, an actor known for playing strong women, while Actaeon and the nymphs are played by members of La Clique and art history students from the Courtauld. Hunter has created many pictures of this type, including a lovely version of Vermeer's A Girl Reading at an Open Window.

Titian's Diana and Actaeon recreated by Tom HunterTitian's Diana and Actaeon recreated by Tom Hunter

What do you think of the photo and our item? Does it have any of the impact of the original? Let us know what you think. You can compare the two here.

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Evening Standard Theatre Awards

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Ellen West - web producer | 15:18 UK time, Monday, 24 November 2008


It's been an outstanding year for Michael Grandage's Donmar Warehouse, and this has been reflected in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, announced this afternoon. Grandage was named best director for three plays: Othello, The Chalk Garden and Ivanov, while awards for Best Actress went to both Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton (The Chalk Garden), and Chiwetel Ejiofor won Best Actor (Othello). My only complaint about the Donmar is that it always seems so difficult to get tickets - a symptom of their success, I suppose.

ivanov.jpgAndrea Riseborough, Kenneth Branagh and Gina McKee in Ivanov. Photo by J Persson

The Charles Wintour Award for most promising playwright is always one of the most interesting categories, as it highlights which theatres are introducing new voices. This year The Royal Court had produced the two runners up, while the winner was at the Young Vic. See a full list of winners at This Is London.

Ladies and Gentlemen... Tom Jones

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Ellen West - web producer | 09:53 UK time, Thursday, 20 November 2008


Yesterday afternoon the Southbank was mobbed with people who had come to see a very special Culture Show Busking Challenge. Tom Jones worked his magic on the crowd, but will he be able to surpass the record of the current holders of the Busking Challenge crown, the Fron Male Voice Choir?

Tom Jones with the money he raised for charity from the Busking challengeTom Jones with the money he raised for charity. Photo by Fraser Rice

Tune in on Tuesday 2 December to find out who has triumphed in this battle of Welsh musical titans. Here's some footage filmed by somebody in the crowd:

Titian campaign

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Ellen West - web producer | 10:34 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Do you think that taxpayers' money should go towards the fund to buy the Titians for the nation? Andrew Graham-Dixon nailed his colours to the mast last night, arguing that it would be a disaster if we were to lose these paintings, but others in the programme argued that the money could be better spent.

It's just been announced that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has awarded £10 million to The National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London to buy Diana and Actaeon. Who has Andrew been talking to?

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Grace Jones - a spirited interviewee

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Ellen West - web producer | 17:09 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008


We've just added to the already long list of iconic images of Grace Jones with this picture, taken at our shoot earlier in the week.

Jack and GraceGrace Jones with one of the Culture Show directors

Jack, the director of tonight's interview with Grace Jones described the whole experience as "invigorating".

You can see more shots on the Culture Show Flickr group.

Local Hero - Kermode Speaks

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Ellen West - web producer | 10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008


We're back on air tonight, with a programme packed with such treats as Mark's trip to the village where Bill Forsyth filmed Local Hero 25 years ago (in the company of the director himself), an interview with Grace Jones and Andrew Graham Dixon on why we should keep a pair of Titian paintings from being sold on the open market. Mr Kermode has written a piece for BBC News Online about Local Hero and mentions that he was captured on film playing the bagpipes. Did it make the final cut? You'll have to watch tonight's programme to find out.

Mark Kermode and Bill ForsythMark Kermode and Bill Forsyth in The Ship Inn, Banff, near Pennan. Image by Rick Walker

We've also got some get shots taken while our Local Hero item was filmed, by the cameraman Rick Walker, in the Culture Show Flickr group. If you've been taking photos of cultural events you've been at recently then feel free to submit them to the group - we're keen to see what you've been up to (subject the usual taste and decency guidelines). Do let us know what you think of tonight's show.

BTW, we are relaunching our homepage today, so although the banner says that The Culture Show Uncut is on Thursday, by later today it will say Friday. Apologies for any confusion.

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Red Desert

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Ellen West - web producer | 15:53 UK time, Wednesday, 12 November 2008


Before I saw Red Desert at the British Film Institute earlier in the week, Blowup was the only film I'd seen by Michelangelo Antonioni. I'd been put off by the self-conscious cool of Blowup and didn't seek out work by the director after that. Red Desert is a very different film, however. Antonioni's first in colour, it stars Monica Vitti (the protagonist in several of the director's films of the time) as Giuliana, a woman who appears vulnerable and disturbed.

Monica Vitti and Richard Harris in Red DesertMonica Vitti and Richard Harris in Red Desert. Picture courtesy the BFI

Drifting through a life centred on her husband and young son she meets a business associate of her husband, Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), and they are drawn to each other. What threatens to turn into the tale of a neurotic woman rescued by romance is actually much more complicated that that. By the end of the film the accommodation Giuliana comes to with her world is of her own devising.

Monica Vitti and Richard Harris are both very good (Harris despite some terrible dubbing) but the most striking thing about the film is the depiction of a landscape transformed by man. Much of the action takes place around the factory where Giuliana's husband works, in their sterile apartment and in the polluted landscape of industrial Ravenna. Despite the modern temptation to interpret the film as a work of impassioned environmentalism, Antonioni himself was resistant to this view. In an interview with Jean Luc Godard he claimed that he wished to capture the beauty of these artificial surroundings, "The line, the curves of factories and their smoke-stacks, are perhaps more beautiful than a row of trees". Whatever our reaction to polluted rivers and piles of rubbish, the tragedy of Guiliana's inability to adjust to this environment is very poignant. Before the BFI screening of Red Desert, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith gave a short presentation about the film in which he drew a parallel between the density of colour used by Antonioni in the film and that of his close friend at the time, Mark Rothko. It's an interesting point, and one that we are in a unique place to consider with the Rothko exhibition currently at Tate Modern. A restored version of Red Desert was released on DVD and Blu-ray at the end of last month.

No Man's Land

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Ellen West - web producer | 10:32 UK time, Tuesday, 11 November 2008


There have been several notable productions of Harold Pinter's mysterious and poetic 1975 play, some starring, or directed by, Pinter himself. Rupert Goold's version, currently at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, is a worthy addition to the list. Michael Gambon plays a drunken man of letters (Hirst) who arrives home one night in the company of a shabby, garrulous man (David Bradley as Spooner).

David Bradley and Michael Gambon in No Man's LandDavid Bradley and Michael Gambon, photograph by Jeremy Whelehan

What follows is Spooner's rambling meditation upon his and Hirst's lives, a fluent and fantastical series of digressions that largely meet with silence on the part of Hirst. This may sound rather dull, but in the hands of Bradley and Gambon it is very funny - the misty-eyed nostalgia of one contrasting with the stony indifference of the other to anything but whiskey. Hirst's impassivity disappears, however, as he remembers a fragment of his past, which seems to cause him terrible pain. The act finishes with the arrival of two men - Hirst's butler (Nick Dunning as Briggs) and secretary (David Walliams as Foster) who lock Spooner in the room overnight.

This behaviour must sound sinister, and certainly the way that Foster and Briggs stand about in this and other scenes looks like it is intended to be menacing, but they can't quite manage it. I wish that people would stop casting David Walliams in these sorts of roles - he's a good actor, but this was like Capturing Mary all over again; I just didn't find him at all threatening.

Despite these reservations, however, the second act has more fizz than the first, particularly the hilarious scene where Hirst confuses Spooner with somebody he knew at Oxford (intentionally or not), only for Spooner to join in the game with gusto. The final scene where Spooner attempts to break into this bleak group of men who inhabit a frozen emotional landscape is intensely moving. No Man's Land is a stark, melancholy play about memory and the traps that life sets for us, but it also has moments of humour and tenderness. Although the play is sometimes baffling, the language is a constant joy - sharp and illuminating. Pinter mixes poetry and the cadences of ordinary speech as few other playwrights can, and Michael Gambon and David Bradley do their parts brilliant justice.

Dizzee Rascal for Prime Minister

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Ellen West - web producer | 13:14 UK time, Friday, 7 November 2008


I don't know how many of you saw Dizzee Rascal on Newsnight talking about Barack Obama's victory and - I thought - making a refreshing change from the usual round of pundits.

Interestingly enough, however, there have been 45 complaints so far that Mr Rascal was not an appropriate choice of guest. What was that all about?

Who gives the greatest insight into today's America?

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Ellen West - web producer | 12:16 UK time, Friday, 7 November 2008


The item that we've just added to our website about Studs Terkel got me thinking about people who give us an insight into the US today.

Studs Terkel in 2006Studs Terkel

Terkel created a massive archive of interviews with ordinary Americans about their lives, as well as speaking to the great and the good. Is there somebody who you feel gives an invaluable insight into the United States today? It might be a writer like Philip Roth, a journalist like Malcolm Gladwell, a filmmaker like Darren Aronofsky or a musician like Kanye West. I think that I'd have to go for David Simon, a former journalist, who with The Wire has created an ambitious TV series that explores how American society functions.

Michael K Williams as Omar in The WireMichael K Williams as Omar in The Wire

Local Hero

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Ellen West - web producer | 15:53 UK time, Wednesday, 5 November 2008


We're back on Tuesday 18 November, with an item marking the 25th birthday of Bill Forsyth's classic film. This was the first time since shooting Local Hero that Forsyth had been back to Pennan, the village in Aberdeenshire where he directed the film. Mark Kermode spent two days filming with Forsyth, after which they held a screening of Local Hero for the villagers, followed by a ceilidh.

Neil Shirran (Aberdeen City and Shire Film Officer), Mark Kermode and Bill ForsythNeil Shirran (Aberdeen City and Shire Film Officer), Mark Kermode and Bill Forsyth

Much has been written about the charm of Local Hero - its warmth, humour, prescient environmental stance and evocative soundtrack - but this is an opportunity to remember the film in the company of its creator. Our director, Liam, shot much of the item in the style of the original film and Bill Forsyth was there advising him on the shots - he couldn't quite believe it! It should be a very special item.

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