Written on September 19, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

PRIDE-Final-Poster-560x825Cards on the table: having been actively involved in the banner-carrying, badge-wearing, internecine bickering of student politics in the early 80s, I am predisposed to embrace any movie that celebrates the rag-tag allegiances that sprang up across class and gender boundaries during the miners’ strike. A fondness for cute quiffs, turn-ups, and Dexys hats helps too, along with nostalgia for the time when playing Bronski Beat records really loudly could be interpreted as a political act. Add to this an enduring love of British films such as Brassed Off and Made in Dagenham, which blend hard fact with sentimental fiction, and frankly Pride had me at “Hello.” Yet even taking all the above into account, I can still say with my hand on my heart that this boisterous tale of the unlikely union between striking Welsh miners and out-and-proud gay Londoners is one of the most irresistibly uplifting films of the year – for any audience.

George MacKay is Joe, a just-turned-20 mummy’s boy on the brink of coming out who finds himself shaking a bucket for the miners in 1984 at the insistence of gobby Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) and his friends at London’s Gay’s the Word bookshop. Insisting that anyone demonised by Thatcher is a comrade-in-arms, Mark launches the inelegantly named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (“it’s a support group, not a skiffle band”) and heads off to Onllwyn, a mining village in the Dulais valley, which seems to view “gays” and vowels with equal suspicion. Cue muchLa Cage aux Folles-style culture-clashing between the macho miners and metrosexual activists, mediated by theatrical luvvie Jonathan (Dominic West), who busts some outre disco moves with oddly unifying results.

While politics today may be 50 shades of grey, actor-turned-playwright Stephen Beresford’s feelgood screenplay reminds us of a time when things were more black-and-white – when the venality of Thatcher’s government asked everyone Which Side Are You On? Yet Pride not merely acknowledges but embraces the fact that the opposition were riven with divide-and-rule disagreement. When Mark demands allegiance to the miners, his Gay Pride comrades angrily recall being “beaten up every day” by the very people they are now asked to support. Despite hefty donations, many of the miners and their wives remain frostily hostile to the incomers amid growing anxieties about Aids (these were the days of Greater Manchester police chief constable James Anderton’s “human cesspool of their own making” tirades, and apocalyptic “public health” campaigns more concerned with stonemasonry than safe sex). Yet for all the factionalism, the tone here is conciliatory and celebratory; when a breakaway lesbian separatist group (all three of them) emerges within the ranks of LGSM, we laugh with them rather than at them: Beresford and director Matthew Warchus (who helmed Matilda on stage, and willsucceed Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic) opt to respect and empower anyone willing to fight the good fight.

Continue reading in The Guardian


Riverbed by Olafur Eliasson, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Written on September 17, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Olafur_Eliasson-riverbed_metalocus_15_1280Olafur Eliasson has done it again. The Danish-Icelandic artist who lured over a million sun-worshippers to Tate Modern in 2003 with The Weather Project, and who erected four giant waterfalls in the East River around New York City five years later, has achieved another coup d’art which, in its artificial reconstruction of a natural phenomenon, combines staggering physical heft with emotional welly.

For Riverbed, Eliasson has transformed an entire wing of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark into a rocky grey landscape with a small stream meandering through it. As you trudge towards the source of the stream, a deep layer of slate-grey pebbles and volcanic rock crunches underfoot. Despite its scale (it required more than 180 tonnes of Icelandic rock), it is a less inherently dramatic work than many of the artist’s earlier installations. The way in which the stream is staged so as to trickle rather weakly from some concealed apparatus in the uppermost gallery and end in a puddle of scummy froth feels wilfully bathetic.

The drama of the work is unleashed only by the viewer’s interaction with it. When, at the official unveiling last week, I spotted two small children gleefully trundling a boulder into the middle of the artificial stream I felt a lurch of horror – and not just because the children happened to be my own. So ingrained is our expectation of the imperative to look but not touch when encountering an artwork, that there is something disorienting about a piece that so openly invites intervention. Indeed, Riverbed demands it; every visitor who walks across the unstable surface of this artificial landscape necessarily effects a transformation in it, causes damage of some kind.

In its monochromatic colour scheme, Riverbed nods towards the aesthetic severity of a Japanese garden, but there is no formality to the arrangement of the pebbles here. In the days since the show opened, visitors have taken to piling them one on top of the other, making their own miniature artworks within the artwork. It is surely only a matter of time before someone suggests a game of Poohsticks.

Continue reading in The Telegraph


cromwellHilary Mantel’s fictional accounts of the life of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have inevitably raised interest in the reality of Henry VIII’s right-hand man, and so Tracy Borman’s “untold story” follows fairly fast on the heels of David Loades’ Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII, published last year by Amberley.

That the epithet of “servant” should be attached to biographies of Cromwell is no mere coincidence. The word reminds us of his lowly position in society – the son of a fuller and brewery-owner, he rose through native wit, intelligence and sheer hard work to occupy a string of impressive jobs (vicegerent in spirituals being only the most abstruse, and most frequently misspelt). But more than that, the extent of Cromwell’s subjugation to Henry is central to any interpretation of him, and is a question over which historians continue to disagree. How much was he indeed the consummate servant, concerned only to do his monarch’s bidding, and how much was he really in control himself?

Borman plumps for Cromwell the manipulator, attributing to him the bulk of the responsibility for most of the controversial deeds of the 1530s, from resolving the king’s “great matter” so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, through to the framing of Anne for adultery and her beheading, via the imposition of the Royal Supremacy, the execution of Thomas More and the destruction of the monasteries.

This was certainly what many of Cromwell’s contemporaries thought. Borman writes of “the depth of popular anger and hatred for the king’s chief minister”, and that people believed “He, not Henry, was responsible for destroying the very fabric of England.” But this is hardly unusual for people living under an authoritarian regime in times of upheaval. One has only to think of letters written to Stalin by his victims.

Continue reading in Financial Times


“Photos on The Move” exhibition at IE University

Written on September 15, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in IE University

exporobertoarribasDuring the month of September IE University will be hosting the exhibition “Photos on the Move” featuring places and moments that reflect urban life in Segovia and academic life on the Santa Cruz la Real campus. Photos on display include a selection of 30 posts of the bilingual blog “Photos on the move” , with photos and texts by Roberto Arribas and translations by Gill Hopkin, both from IE’s communication department.

The photos are taken using a smartphone camera, tablet, and compact, and edited using applications specifically for retouching mobile photos. The diversity of the photos, which include photos in color and in black and white, is such that that they have been divided into five categories: interiors, urban life, nature, people, and details.

The exhibition, which is sponsored by IE’s Communication Department, shows aspects of life and features of the IE campus that normally go unnoticed. It also shows images of the streets, day-to-day life and famous landmarks in Segovia, as well as other places of special interest to the author.

Arribas considers the photos and texts to be inseparable. The texts are thoughts on universal issues like education, solidarity, freedom, respect for heritage, or teamwork. The aim is to provide a compact and simple view of humanistic thought processes expressed in colloquial terms, in line with IE University’s markedly humanistic approach to education.

More information: Video Photos on The Move



A Most Wanted Man

Written on September 12, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

descargaA weirdly bracing atmosphere of disillusion pervades Anton Corbijn’s superbly composed and controlled movie, adapted by the Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell from John le Carré’s 2008 spy novel, and featuring an outstandingly wintry performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final leading role on screen. The all-encompassing cynicism induces a stark kind of clarity, for the audience if not the fictional participants. This film is pregnant with ideas, and an awful kind of disquiet.

What the debacle of Burgess and Maclean was for the world of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the early 70s, so 9/11 is for the international intelligence community in this tense drama, set among quarrelling spies in Hamburg, where a decade previously the WTC kamikaze attacks had been planned. This is a world of agents arguing about the size and shape of bolts to be affixed to the barn door, strenuously competing with each other to assess the horse’s sickening absence, and yet tormented with the thought that a second horse might yet suddenly emerge from the hay.

The spycraft on offer looks modern and yet in some ways as old as the hills. USB sticks with top-secret material are gingerly removed from packs of cigarettes bought with a curt exchange of gaze-avoiding pleasantries from a trusted vendor. Chiefs have Ipcress-File-style turf spats, tumblers of scotch are gulped in the middle of the day, great big tank-like Mercs are driven around, and spies in male-female pairings pretend to be snogging while carrying out surveillance – that time-honoured device for spy movies to sneak in a bit of sexiness.

Günther Bachmann is the dishevelled German spymaster running a covert, deniable operation to root out jihadis in Hamburg; he is played with a rumpled worldliness by Hoffman, looking like a hungover panda, his great bristly eyebrows often arched up in fatigue and pain. At one stage, Hoffman emerges from a helicopter and staggers towards the camera while tucking his shirt in, a lonely, unhappy unmade-bed of a man. He speaks English with a German accent, a convention that has the effect of tamping down some of the mannerisms that this actor was perhaps a little prone to. The resulting speaking voice has something of Anthony Hopkins about it. Bachmann’s team have located an illegal Chechen immigrant and suspected terrorist called Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). He is not the usual penniless asylum seeker: Karpov has a letter of introduction to a sinister private banker, Thomas Brue (Willem Dafoe) and, to the authorities’ astonishment, this man now wishes to clean out a certain numbered account. Glowering intelligence chief Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock) wants to bring in Karpov straightaway, but Bachmann urges hanging back, because Karpov might lead them to someone higher up the command chain, and appears to have the support of a CIA operative, Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). Yet Bachmann’s perceived laxity enrages his supposed colleagues and increasingly the chief suspect, the most wanted man, could be Bachmann himself.

Continue reading in The Guardian

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