Culture

There's nowt so queer as film crews

Apparently inspired by the bizarre behaviour of former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, Cutting Edge (Channel 4) took itself down to Clapham Common in south London and hung around shiftily, hoping to spot prominent people ruining their careers in a moment of insanity. However, Ron's example seemed to have frightened everybody else off. As time ticked away and very little happened, I began to wonder if I was missing something. Perhaps somebody had left the commentary off my preview copy, or maybe there was another version of the film that included some interesting bits. Nope. This was it - the acme of the content-free documentary.

By Adam Sweeting

16, Feb, 1999 @2:24 AM

ACE rhetoric, pity about the grants
When the redoubtable figure of Sir Peter Hall lumbered on stage at the Royal National Theatre last week to receive a lifetime achievement award, the glint in his eye suggested he was enjoying the occasion for a reason other than recognition from peers gathered in the stalls. Sir Peter used the event to announce the existence of a 'secret body', a forum to air criticism and defend the arts. The so-called Shadow Arts Council, of which Sir Peter is the first chairman, would wage 'guerrilla warfare'.

16, Feb, 1999 @2:24 AM

Radio

Once again, as Geoff Watts discovers, size does matter. This week's episode of his excellent series Behind The Brain (Radio 4, 9.00pm) traces the development of the hominid skull over the past three million years. Many of the creatures which crawled from the primeval slime jogged on through evolution with just a nervous system. But swollen-headed homo sapiens needs three times the cranial capacity of its australopithecan ancestor Lucy.

By Harold Jackson

16, Feb, 1999 @2:24 AM

Dish of the Day

When we read a biog of gossip-columnist Walter Winchell, we re-evalued Alexander Mackendrick's 1957 Sweet Smell Of Success (FilmFour, 8.00pm); Burt Lancaster's newspaper bully no longer seemed an exaggeration - he wasn't even paranoid enough - and Tony Curtis's servile legman plausible. Of course, the power of the real Winchell was way in decline by the time the film was made, but his personal blend of sexual prurience and persecution (which the movie gets, you smell the fear-sweat) was about to inspire the new, international tabloid market.

By Vera Rule

16, Feb, 1999 @2:24 AM

Television Tuesday

The Coroner (C4, 9.00pm) The people who work for a Coroner's office - Birmingham's has eight investigators and its own pair of undertakers - are efficient, tactful and polite, but inevitably they appear callous in their detachment. Much the same can be said of this four-part inquest into the workings of a strange profession: we're spared any images of the charred, hanged, alcohol-poisoned bodies on tonight's agenda, but the histories behind those sad lives and deaths are exposed in what seems like indecently intimate clinical detail.

By Sandy Smithies

16, Feb, 1999 @2:24 AM

Television Monday

Forgotten
(ITV, 9.00pm)

By Sandy Smithies

15, Feb, 1999 @2:48 AM

What's love got to do with it?

Here's a bit of the commentary from last night's Love Town (BBC1), a programme about Gretna Green: 'Back at Gretna Hall, Jim's finished the coach tour and he's ready for the next wedding party. The trouble is the coach tour went in first and now the couple have disappeared...'

By Sam Wollaston

15, Feb, 1999 @2:48 AM

Dish of the Day

We love old theatres. So although the David Mamet adaptation of Chekhov in Vanya On 42nd Street (FilmFour, 10pm) is amazing - quietly laden phrases unlike his usual writing, and Louis Malle's direction of the film and Andre Gregory's direction of the play within are equally calm, the star is the New Amsterdam Theatre. Built when New York theatres were, with churches and synagogues, the crowded city's public spaces, it has staged everything from showgirls to The Method, and in decline is the perfect NY equivalent of a decaying Russian country estate.

By Vera Rule

15, Feb, 1999 @2:48 AM

Listening Brief

It's just 50 years since the violinist Harry Blech founded the London Mozart Players as the first chamber orchestra to specialise in the Viennese classics. The anniversary is celebrated in a special gala concert for Performance On 3 (Radio 3, 7.0pm). It's mostly Mozart, of course, but there's also the first performance of John Woolrich's Concerto for Orchestra.

By Harold Jackson

11, Feb, 1999 @5:23 AM

Anything I say may be taken down...

While the makers of Mersey Blues (BBC2) were filming Detective Chief Inspector Elmore Davies of the Merseyside murder squad, they had no idea he was also being filmed by a covert police team.

By Nancy Banks-Smith

11, Feb, 1999 @5:23 AM

Dish of the Day

Until Jack Clayton's The Innocents (11.45pm, FilmFour), cinematic ghosts were mostly spirits of German expressionism; they hung out indoors at night. But the scariest sequences of this version of Henry James's The Turn Of The Screw were filmed by Freddie Francis in broad summer daylight and often at a long shot distance in the open air - Clayton wanted sensations of unease, overheard conversations between two governess'ed children who might be possessed by the ghosts of dead servants. Repressed sexuality, boredom, hysteria, but all delicately done.

By Vera Rule

11, Feb, 1999 @5:23 AM

Watching brief

Horizon Elephants Or Ivory (BBC-2, 9.30pm) This hard-to-watch film is nevertheless compulsory viewing for anyone with an opinion on elephant conservation, and how to answer painful questions like: is culling crucial to maintain bio-diversity, and should poor, ivory-trading humans be allowed to treat these wondrous creatures as a sustainable resource?

By Francesca Turner

11, Feb, 1999 @5:23 AM

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