Kumiko, Fargo and what is real and what is not

<em>Kumiko, Fargo</em> and what is real and what is not

All through the autumn I was gripped by the brilliant second season of Fargo as it went out on Channel 4. The body count by the end was colossal, but the strength of the writing never left you in any doubt about the cost of all the killing, while the black humour and post-modern wit constantly brought a smile to my face – only for it to be quickly wiped away by the next murder.

So when I got an email from Curzon Home Cinema, inviting me to take a look at Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a film about a young Japanese woman who is obsessed with locating the case of money buried in final scene of the Coen brothers’ original film, I was ready for it. Watching it, I had the curious sensation that I was seeing an epilogue to season two as Kumiko, the main character, forms the disastrously wrong idea that the Coen brothers’ film is real: it does, after all, start out with the words ‘This is a true story’. Continue reading Kumiko, Fargo and what is real and what is not”

Leningrad and the Orchestra That Defied Hitler: BBC at its best

<em>Leningrad and the Orchestra That Defied Hitler</em>: BBC at its best

Thanks to historian Amanda Vickery and Radio 3 presenter Tom Service for an outstanding documentary on BBC 2 last night in which they told the story of the siege of Leningrad and the symphony that Dmitri Shostakovich began to compose while working as a fireman during the German blockade and bombardment. Completed after his evacuation and dedicated to the besieged city, a group of starving musicians who could barely carry their instruments assembled to perform the Seventh Symphony there on 9 August 1942. It’s one of the great stories of human endurance and of the power of music as a symbol of resistance and humanity. The film truly did it justice. Continue reading Leningrad and the Orchestra That Defied Hitler: BBC at its best”

Antony Gormley: Being Human

Antony Gormley: Being Human

Alan Yentob’s film for the BBC’s Imagine strand last week made a powerful case for Anthony Gormley being one of the most original and profound of British artists at work today. In Antony Gormley: Being Human, Alan Yentob followed the sculptor to recent exhibitions of his work in Paris and Florence, and explored the influences that have shaped his life and work. Continue reading “Antony Gormley: Being Human”

The Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor

The Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor

A quick shout-out for Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor, shown on BBC 4 this week (and available for another 25 days on iPlayer) – a 90-minute documentary detailing a year-long study of a single 400-year-old oak in Oxfordshire. The film was presented by entomologist George McGavin, who promised that ‘You’ll never look at an oak tree the same way again.’ Too true: McGavin took us on an engrossing tour of the oak (literally so, by climbing the tree, and even sleeping in its uppermost branches!), guiding us through its biology and cultural significance. Continue reading “The Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor”

The Atlantic Records Story: the music in my head for sixty years

The Atlantic Records Story: the music in my head for sixty years

I’ve been listening to The Atlantic Records Story, a BBC Radio 6 documentary series narrated by Johnnie Walker that tells the story of the Atlantic Records label (just one example of the gems you can discover via the updated iPlayer Radio app which now allows you to download programmes to your phone, where they remain until they self-destruct, usually after 28 days). Continue reading “The Atlantic Records Story: the music in my head for sixty years”

The enigma of Frederick the Great

The enigma of Frederick the Great

Berlin again. A little over a week after our return from Berlin, another coincidence: this time it’s a discussion about the life and significance of Frederick the Great on In Our Time this morning. Continue reading “The enigma of Frederick the Great”

Chris Packham’s Natural Selection: designed to be intelligent

Chris Packham’s Natural Selection: designed to be intelligent

For an hour on Thursday evening it felt as if I’d been transported by time machine back to 1984 or thereabouts, and that I was watching the freshly-launched Channel 4. But no, it was 2015 and I was watching Chris Packham’s Natural Selection on BBC4, a one-off chatshow in which Chris Packham of Springwatch fame hosted a discussion in which his guests were the conceptual artist Jeremy Deller and activist George Monbiot. Continue reading “Chris Packham’s Natural Selection: designed to be intelligent”