July 14, 2012

For centuries hysteria was one of the most mysterious conditions known to medical science. The ailment was exclusive to women, and is believed to have been first diagnosed by the ancient Greeks. Plato echoed the belief that its diverse symptoms were due to a “wandering womb” that floated throughout the body causing all sorts of … More

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

July 14, 2012

Once upon a time in Anatolia… a minute passed. And then another minute passed, and another. Finally, after two –and-a-half hours, the film was over. Nuri Birge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is not for those with a low threshold of boredom, but like many slow films it has a mesmeric quality. The … More

Spanish Film Festival

July 7, 2012

Spain has always been known as a land of poverty, piety and cruelty, with a dark, fatalistic streak. The great break came with the Movida of the late 1970s – the counter-cultural awakening that followed the death of Franco. In the cinema the figurehead for this movement was Pedro Almodóvar, who has gone on to … More

The Clock, Marking Time

May 12, 2012

Switzerland gave us the cuckoo clock, and Swiss-American artist, Christian Marclay, has created the most preposterous time-piece in the history of art. The Clock is such a unique artifact it defies all but the most impressionistic responses. This is obvious from Zadie Smith’s essay in the brochure published for the work’s showing at the Museum … More


March 17, 2012

King Lear has some grim moments, but I’ve always thought of Coriolanus as the bleakest of Shakespeare’s plays. Ralph Fiennes has confirmed that impression with a film adaptation which adds ultra-violence to the singularly depressing view of human nature found in this story. Not only does Fiennes play the role of Coriolanus, the Roman general … More

A Separation

March 3, 2012

One should hardly be surprised that Iranian filmmakers are the world’s best exponents of the moral dilemma. The entire country is one big moral dilemma, inhabited by charming, sophisticated, intelligent people condemned to live under a system that many find abhorrent. In Iran, as every visitor discovers, the extremist state routinely denounced by western politicians … More

A Quiet Life

September 24, 2011

Of all the national film festivals held every year in this country, the Italian Film Festival is second only to the French in both magnitude and popularity. 2011 is the twelfth anniversary of this event, which according to the publicity release includes: “31 new Italian films, including 29 features and 2 documentaries, plus 3 cult … More

The Mad Square

September 3, 2011

It happens from time to time that I fail to distinguish a cabaret from a crematorium – Joseph Roth From its traumatic birth, at the end of World War One, the Weimar Republic was an unstable experiment. The historian, Eric Hobsbawm charts its rise and fall in an introductory essay for the catalogue of The … More

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2010

November 6, 2010

In one of her detective stories Dorothy Sayers wisely observes: “For some reason, the word ‘artistic’ produces the most alarming reactions in those who know anything about art.” As such, it would be inadequate and belittling to describe Sculpture by the Sea as one of Sydney’s most eagerly awaited ‘artistic’ events. This annual sculpture-fest is an … More

Melbourne Art Fair 2010

August 14, 2010

It was not the most auspicious omen that the museum next door to the 2010 Melbourne Art Fair was hosting an exhibition devoted to the Titanic. After a year of painfully slow sales, and government initiatives mildly homicidal to the industry, the commercial galleries of Australia were hoping for a change of fortune. It helps … More