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16 items from 2012


The films of Roman Polanski

28 December 2012 4:00 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

A world of cruelty, where men are cold-blooded and women cold-hearted … The BFI begins a Roman Polanski retrospective – with extended runs of Repulsion and Chinatown – that showcases the director's fascinating pathology

Any hopes that the BFI's forthcoming retrospective – its second in less than a decade – will turn attention away from the glum key terms of Roman Polanski's life (the Kraków ghetto, Manson, statutory rape) back to the riches of his work are based on false reasoning and certain to be dashed. To watch Polanski's films is to be reminded of what produced their dazed brutality, those early experiences of the oppression of the weak that stole his innocence and distorted his sense of things. If ever there was a body of work on intimate terms with cruelty and domination, and steeped in a vision of men as cold-blooded and women as cold-hearted, this is it.

When, in Polanski's first film, »

- Leo Robson

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Colin Cooper obituary

5 November 2012 7:49 AM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

My father, Colin Cooper, who has died aged 86, was a playwright, novelist, music critic and a champion of the classical guitar. He was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, grew up in Bridgwater, Somerset, and left school at 16 to work at the Bristol Aeroplane Company. In 1944 he trained as a wireless operator at Bletchley Park and served with the Royal Signals, witnessing the unconditional surrender of German forces at Lüneburg Heath.

Postings in the Middle East followed, which formed the basis of his comic novel of bungled espionage, Best Bent Wire (published as an ebook in 2010). Demobbed in 1947, he returned to Bridgwater and wrote several plays. By the late 60s he had moved to London, married Maureen, and had two boys, Dan and me. He submitted a play (inspired by my nocturnal screaming) about the killing of a baby to a competition in the Observer. His entry was selected and produced for »

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Daphne Slater obituary

17 October 2012 6:15 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Actor who made her name during the early years of drama on television

As a captivating young ingenue in Shakespeare on stage, and Jane Austen on television, Daphne Slater, who has died aged 84, enjoyed a brilliant career for 10 years, followed by decent television work for the next 10, before withdrawing into family life almost completely by 1975.

At Stratford-upon-Avon in 1947, she appeared as a radical (for those days) young Olivia in Twelfth Night; both mother and daughter (Thaisa and Marina) in Pericles; Juliet in Peter Brook's beautiful Romeo and Juliet set in Verona ("a miracle of masks, mists and sudden grotesquerie," wrote Kenneth Tynan); and Miranda in The Tempest. Her Juliet, said Tynan, was rightly "excitable and impetuous, and she communicates this convulsive ardour until it becomes our panic as well as hers". Her future husband, John Harrison, played Benvolio, and their offstage romance continued during The Tempest, in which Harrison played Ferdinand, »

- Michael Coveney

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John Moffatt obituary

16 September 2012 11:08 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Classical actor who graced the stage with decorum and stillness

Although perhaps best known as Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's moustache-twirling detective, on BBC radio, John Moffatt, who has died aged 89, was a devastatingly clinical and classical stage actor of irreproachable taste and valour. He seemed something of a throwback, but there are very few today who could rival his armour-plated technique, his almost uncanny empathy with comic style ranging from the Restoration to Rattigan – his trademark stillness and decorum on stage was at odds with false notions of flounce and frilliness – or his incisive articulation.

He was a beacon in his profession, greatly admired and loved, not least because he had worked with almost everyone of note in the business, from his idols Noël Coward and John Gielgud, to his best friends Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Alec McCowen and Joan Plowright, but chiefly because he was so funny and modest about his own contribution. »

- Michael Coveney

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TV review: Whatever Happened to Harry Hill? Vic & Bob's Lucky Sexy Winners; Just Around the Corner

24 August 2012 1:39 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

It was mainly a clips job, but the insane happiness of Harry Hill is as addictive as sild

Much like Kenneth Tynan and Look Back in Anger – but without the intellect, insatiable cultural curiosity and immeasurable breadth of knowledge and living in hopelessly degraded rather than fearlessly innovative times – I could not love anyone who did not love Harry Hill. He is happiness made baldy flesh.

The spoof documentary Whatever Happened to Harry Hill? was part of the Funny Fortnight celebrating Channel 4's 30th birthday. This is the channel, of course, on which Hill first appeared, back in 1997. The aptly-named Harry Hill Show was a gallimaufry of inspired idiocy that introduced us to the ever-elusive badgers' parade, a blue rubber cat called Stouffer, the sight of Bert Kwouk (formerly Cato in the Inspector Clouseau films) as Harry's lacklustre chicken catcher, Mai Sung – Harry's wife and stealer of his Abbey National book and … well, »

- Lucy Mangan

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360 – review

11 August 2012 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

A starry cast and a knowing air can't add depth to Peter Morgan's tale of blackmail, infidelity and dodgy deals

Peter Morgan made his reputation with remarkably perceptive screenplays about British people, mostly real-life ones, going through bad patches in their careers at home (The Damned United, The Queen) and abroad (Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland), and encountering some rather odd people. More recently, however, he's moved on to a larger canvas involving the mystical and metaphysical, and the results have been less satisfactory. Hereafter, which Steven Spielberg produced and Clint Eastwood directed, began with an astonishing re-creation of the south-east Asian tsunami, then proceeded with flat-footed banality to tell the parallel stories of three people from different countries (a French TV reporter, an American blue-collar worker and a south London schoolboy) mysteriously linked by their near-death experiences.

His new film, 360, directed by Fernando Meirelles, takes him »

- Philip French

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Robert Hughes obituary

8 August 2012 12:12 PM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Australian writer whose TV series The Shock of the New took modern art to a mass audience

Robert Hughes, who has died aged 74 after a long illness, dismissed the notion of Crocodile Dundee as a representative Australian figure as "macho commedia dell'arte". All the same, Hughes as the Crocodile Dundee of art criticism is too good a parallel to reject: burly ocker from the outback, tinny in left hand, confronted by New York aesthete armed with stiletto, reaches with his right hand for his own massive bush knife, commenting slyly to his terrified assailant: "Now that's what I call a knife."

I described him in the Guardian once as writing the English of Shakespeare, Milton, Macaulay and Dame Edna Everage; Hughes enjoyed the description. His prose was lithe, muscular and fast as a bunch of fives. He was incapable of writing the jargon of the art world, and consequently was »

- Michael McNay

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Gore Vidal's Italian films: Roma, Caligula and a gay Ben-Hur

1 August 2012 7:50 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

The American writer had several movie mishaps in Europe, but he toasted his collaboration with Fellini

Gore Vidal's memoir Palimpsest was written mostly in Ravello around 1994. It hasn't much to say about about Gore's life in Rome, where he and Howard Austen had moved into a penthouse apartment 30 years earlier, except for the observation: "I had never had a proper human-scale village life anywhere on earth until I settled into that old Roman street." Rather than the dolce vita crowd, Gore liked to mix with the "villagers". Among the Italians he enjoyed meeting was Italo Calvino, whom he admired greatly.

When Kenneth Tynan came to Rome, Gore enlisted me to help him and Howard prepare a guest list for a party in his honour. Among the many Italian celebrities who showed up was Federico Fellini, whom Gore had met when they were both working at Cinecittà studios – Gore on »

- John Francis Lane

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How Clive James transformed the role of television critic

23 June 2012 4:13 PM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Donald Trelford, the Observer editor who gave the writer his break as a TV critic, argues that he took the role to brilliant new heights

When Clive James joined the Observer in 1972, we didn't know what we were taking on. We had no idea that over the next decade he would revolutionise the way television was written about and also turn a rather specialised arts column into the best-read part of the paper. Almost single-handedly he invented the TV column as a comic genre.

I have to admit that, as deputy editor of the paper at the time, I was sceptical when the literary editor, Terry Kilmartin, put Clive's name forward for the job. Kilmartin was unrelentingly highbrow in his tastes, and I feared that any candidate he advanced might be far removed from the interests of the common reader and viewer. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Clive James's great talent, »

- Donald Trelford

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Andrew Sarris: the last of the highbrows | Tom Shone

21 June 2012 7:30 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Andrew Sarris, the film critic of the Village Voice, who died this week aged 83, taught directors how to be auteurs

The film critic Andrew Sarris, who died yesterday at age 83, did more than anyone else to deify the job of film director. From his perch at The Village Voice, he introduced to American audiences the French notion of the director as auteur – the author of a film, is masterfully in command of his medium as a painter his brush or a writer his pen. With his droopy face and dark-rimmed eyes, Sarris brought donnish gravitas to movie criticism, his reviews packing intellectual heft at a time when Us movies demanded to be taken seriously. "We were cowed into thinking that only European cinema mattered," recalled Martin Scorsese recently. "What Andrew showed us is that art was all around us, and that our tradition, too, had much to offer; he was »

- Tom Shone

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Victor Spinetti obituary

20 June 2012 8:42 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Actor who made his name at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and appeared in the Beatles films, making firm friends with the Fab Four

Victor Spinetti, who has died of cancer aged 82, was an outrageously talented Welsh actor and raconteur who made his name with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and found fame and fortune as a friend and colleague of the Beatles, appearing in three of their five films, and with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew (1967).

It was while he was giving his brilliantly articulated and hilarious "turn" as the gobbledegook-shouting drill sergeant in Oh, What a Lovely War! in the West End in 1963 – he won a Tony for the performance when the show went to Broadway – that the Beatles visited him backstage and invited him to appear in A Hard Day's Night (1964).

George Harrison later said that his mother would »

- Michael Coveney

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Victor Spinetti obituary

20 June 2012 8:42 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Actor who made his name at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and appeared in the Beatles films, making firm friends with the Fab Four

Victor Spinetti, who has died of cancer aged 82, was an outrageously talented Welsh actor and raconteur who made his name with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and found fame and fortune as a friend and colleague of the Beatles, appearing in three of their five films, and with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew (1967).

It was while he was giving his brilliantly articulated and hilarious "turn" as the gobbledegook-shouting drill sergeant in Oh, What a Lovely War! in the West End in 1963 – he won a Tony for the performance when the show went to Broadway – that the Beatles visited him backstage and invited him to appear in A Hard Day's Night (1964).

George Harrison later said that his mother would »

- Michael Coveney

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Joyce Redman obituary

13 May 2012 7:18 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Vivacious Irish actor best known for her role opposite Albert Finney in Tom Jones

The red-haired, vivacious and provocative Irish actor Joyce Redman, who has died aged 93, will for ever be remembered for her lubricious meal-time munching and swallowing opposite Albert Finney in Tony Richardson's 1963 film of Tom Jones. Eyes locked, lips smacked and jaws rotated as the two of them tucked into a succulent feast while eyeing up the afters. Sinking one's teeth into a role is one thing. This was quite another, and deliciously naughty, the mother of all modern mastication scenes.

Redman and Finney were renewing a friendship forged five years earlier when both appeared with Charles Laughton in Jane Arden's The Party at the New (now the Noël Coward) theatre. Redman was not blamed by the critic Kenneth Tynan for making nothing of her role as Laughton's wife. "Nothing," he said, "after all, will come of nothing. »

- Michael Coveney

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O is for Laurence Olivier

20 March 2012 9:59 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Olivier wasn't just a great actor – he was a quintessentially modern performer, who cast a powerful spell over audiences

It's a shock to realise that few people under the age of 60 will ever have seen Laurence Olivier on stage. It came as an even greater shock to be told recently that many young actors have either scarcely heard of him, or routinely dismiss him as an "old ham". Nothing could be further from the truth. I first came under Olivier's spell when, as a 15-year-old schoolboy, I saw him play Malvolio, Macbeth and Titus Andronicus in a single Stratford season. He was not only a great actor. He was also, allowing for changes of style and taste, a quintessentially modern actor.

How to explain his power? I would seize first of all on the voice. What was initially a light tenor became, through training and application, a uniquely flexible instrument »

- Michael Billington

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Nicol Williamson obituary

27 January 2012 2:37 AM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Actor whose unpredictability never undermined his electrifying talent

Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1969, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage. The experience was recycled in a 1991 Broadway comedy called I Hate Hamlet, in which he proved his point and fell out badly with his co-star.

Williamson's greatest performance was as the dissolute and disintegrating lawyer Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence at the Royal Court theatre in 1964. It was »

- Michael Coveney

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Nicol Williamson obituary

27 January 2012 2:37 AM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Actor whose unpredictability never undermined his electrifying talent

Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1969, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage. The experience was recycled in a 1991 Broadway comedy called I Hate Hamlet, in which he proved his point and fell out badly with his co-star.

Williamson's greatest performance was as the dissolute and disintegrating lawyer Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence at the Royal Court theatre in 1964. It was »

- Michael Coveney

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16 items from 2012


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