Sunday links

11th December 2016

I failed to post the past two Sunday links, and nor have I contributed general entries across the past three weeks. Although it’s no excuse it has been an exceptionally busy time for the company, mostly because we have been preparing a new performance recording which will be announced shortly. We got the first part of that in the digital “can” yesterday, and can now start to breathe again. I also spent a few days in Paris and I go to Munich tomorrow.

But it’s back to the blog today, with notes on my travels to come next week, together with exciting news of our latest DVD release, Richard II. For now, here is an extended edition of Sunday links (to be created through today), accompanied by the usual apology for not crediting those who brought many of these great articles and videos to my attention. And I don’t see how I can avoid starting with a handful of Trump-related pieces; if nothing else the crisis in the States is prompting some exceptional writing (and I make no excuses for including several pieces from New York Review of Books).

Trump – the choice we face: a fascinatingly personal NYRB piece by Masha Gessen about compromise and resistance and the way forward.

Donald Trump is gaslighting America: a brilliantly coruscating analysis by Lauren Duca for Teen Vogue:

Civil rights are now on trial, though before we can fight to reassert the march toward equality, we must regain control of the truth. If that seems melodramatic, I would encourage you to dump a bucket of ice over your head while listening to ‘Duel of the Fates’. Donald Trump is our President now; it’s time to wake up.

The real Trump: for NYRB Mark Danner reviews Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power.

• The dangerous myth that Hillary Clinton ignored the working class: Derek Thompson for The Atlantic.

• Why Time’s Trump cover is a subversive work of political art: a brilliant close reading by Jake Romm for Forward.

On optimism and despair: Zadie Smith’s talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

… and trigger warning: more Trump-related articles follow.

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Sunday links

21st November 2016

The weekly round-up of links to things that I’ve found interesting and stimulating over the past few days, with apologies to those who I failed to credit for bringing them to my attention.

Obama reckons with a Trump presidency: remarkable reporting by editor David Remnick for The New Yorker.

Shirtless Trump saves drowning kitten: one of the best analyses of ‘fake news’, from Brian Phillips at

How fake news goes viral – a case study: a fascinating New York Times piece by Sapna Maheshwari.

• Donald Trump isn’t just benefitting from ‘fake news’ websites — he is one: Max Read for New York magazine:

…“fake news sites” aren’t a vestigial artifact of an awkward transition from print to digital — they’re the very future of politics itself.

How tech and media can fight fake news: Ben Smith for Columbia Journalism Review.

Is this how democracy ends?: David Runciman for London Review of Books is not optimistic.

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18th November 2016

Last night, for the London opening of the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Half a Sixpence, the production’s publicists employed an up-to-the-minute medium in a manner that mimicked the early years of television. Working with Facebook Live, Half a Sixpence first of all streamed a half-hour or so of red carpet intro before curtain up. And then from late on in the performance itself, the closing minutes were shown live online, from ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’ to the curtain calls.

Rights restrictions, I assume, account for why there’s no available recording of the second part of the stream, but you can see here Michael Underwood valiantly trying to whip up some excitement in front of the Noel Coward Theatre. All of which is pretty much exactly what the BBC television service did from the Palace Theatre nearly 80 years ago. read more »

Sunday links

13th November 2016

I was going start by committing to a boycott this week of Trump and Brexit. After all, and especially after this week, what is there to say? But I have included a couple of exceptional pieces, before I get to links to other things that I’ve found interesting and stimulating over the past truly hideous few days.

• Autocracy – rules for survival: Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books – essential.

• The forces that drove this election’s media failure are likely to get worse: Joshua Benton for NiemanLab is also good on what we might do next.

The nightmare begins: Adam Shatz, London Review of Books, a really good analysis – and do also read Joan Scott’s response in the Comments.

And then there’s this, from Saturday Night Live, with Kate McKinnon as Hillary performing the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. You’ll have seen it already, but watch it again – and weep.

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Raoul Coutard, R.I.P.

10th November 2016

Raoul Coutard, the cinematographer best-known for his radical work on many of the key features films of the French new wave, has died at the age of 92. Coutard shot many of the films (including the heart-breakingly beautiful Pierrot le fou, 1965, above) that meant the most to me as I was discovering cinema in the 1970s and ’80s; below I have embedded a dozen of these. The Guardian obituary by James S Williams is here. ‘Light of day: Raoul Coutard on shooting film for Jean-Luc Godard’, a 1965 text by Coutard edited Michel Cournot, has been republished as a tribute on the Sight & Sound website. And Film Comment here has a 2012 interview with the cinematographer.

A Bout de souffle, 1959

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8th November 2016

A song for today.

‘The greatest song ever written about America… and what’s so great about it is, it gets right to the heart of what our country is supposed to be about.”

Live at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, 30 September, 1985.

French noir

7th November 2016

In this week’s Sunday links I highlighted a recent audiovisual essay by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin about the cinema of Roman Polanski. Today, I want to give slightly more attention to their latest creation, the 12-minute ‘A tour through French noir’, commissioned by Sight & Sound. This is a gloriously evocative, allusive and elegant engagement with the Gallic tradition of cinematic fatalism, desperate passion and doomed love that distinguishes many of the best French films from the 1930s to the 1960s. The video essay is linked to the season French noir at BFI Southbank and Ciné Lumière, and can very profitably be watched alongside Ginette Vincendeau’s complementary Deep Focus essay for Sight & Sound, ‘How the French birthed film nor’. For more on Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s practice, see below.

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Sunday links

6th November 2016

Posted slightly late, here’s my latest list of links to interesting articles and videos. As usual, many of these have been highlighted on Twitter and a few have been kindly sent to me as recommendations.  The list appears three days before the US Presidential election and in the midst of a peculiarly febrile time in British politics, as the first couple of links indicate.

• The Brexit war can still be won, but we must start fighting back: Will Hutton for the Guardian expressing so eloqueently what I feel passionately:

Britain stands on the verge of a great unravelling with untold consequences for its economy, society, place in the world, and its people’s souls. The standard must be raised: fire must be returned. We need to make the case for a reimagined Britain and its membership of the EU. We say not what we are against, but what we stand for. We want our country back. And we want it now.

Disciples of distrust: in a powerful piece for New York Review of Books Garry Wills asks what has caused the crisis of ‘the shuddering distrust of every kind of authority—a contempt for the whole political system’; his answer, encompassing both Brexit and the Donald:

What has caused this bitter disillusion? It is the burrowing and undermining infection of the Iraq war—the longest in our history, one that keeps upsetting order abroad and at home. The war’s many costs—not just in lives and money but in psychic and political damage—remain only half-visible in America, as hidden as the returning coffins that could not be photographed for years.

Moreover, this:

America and the abyss: Andrew Sullivan, New York magazine.

And this:

Why Trump is different – and must be repelled: Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker.

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‘The Birth of Television’

5th November 2016

To round off a few days devoted to the 80th anniversary of the start of the BBC television service from Alexandra Palace, here’s how the BBC marked the 40th anniversary. This lavish programme, produced by Bruce Norman, includes archive material, interviews with many of the pioneers, a reconstruction of Baird’s ‘flying spot’ camera and modest dramatisations. It’s a fascinating document, and for my money stands up remarkably well.