Norwegian Good II: Bjarte Eike and Jon Balke

For many years now I’ve been taking an enthusiastic interest in Scandinavian music: not just that of my long-term favourites Sibelius and Nielsen, whose work I’ve adored since I first discovered it in my teens, but more contemporary fare, particularly in that fertile territory situated somewhere between jazz, folk, chamber music and experimental improvisation. It’s … Continue reading Norwegian Good II: Bjarte Eike and Jon Balke

My Best Moments of 2017: films, music and other stuff…

What with the depressing political mess we found ourselves in throughout 2017, which tended to privilege prejudice over reason, brazen deceit over factual truths, personal profit over compassion for others, and the short-term gains of the present over the long-term requirements of the future, it could be difficult to find cause for hope. But that … Continue reading My Best Moments of 2017: films, music and other stuff…

Movies for Christmas… or any time

With Christmas imminent, you may be wondering what to buy for your loved ones (or even, let’s face it, for yourself). Movies on DVD or BluRay can be useful, and there have been a fair few very fine films released over the last year. I’m not one of those people particularly bothered about masses of … Continue reading Movies for Christmas… or any time

Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

When the news broke a few days ago that ECM, the illustrious and proudly independent Munich-based music label founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969, was making its remarkable back catalogue available to major streaming services, a film critic friend sent me a piece in the New York Times which singled out 21 ‘essential’ ECM albums. Knowing … Continue reading Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

A Matter of Death and Life: the Films of Ingmar Bergman

The following piece – an introduction to the work of Ingmar Bergman – was written for the website of the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, which last November mounted a brief season of his films. But this slightly amended version might serve equally as a taster for the current, comprehensive Bergman retrospective playing at London's BFI Southbank … Continue reading A Matter of Death and Life: the Films of Ingmar Bergman

Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

I first became properly aware of the musical genius of Anouar Brahem back in 1998, and like most revelations it was accidental. I had, as it happened, already heard the Tunisian playing his oud – a North African lute-like instrument – first, unconsciously, on the soundtrack he composed for Moufida Tlatli’s 1994 film The Silences … Continue reading Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov

Of the many fascinating composers who began their careers under the artistically reactionary regime of the Soviet Union and later found fame in the West – besides the obvious example of Arvo Pärt, I’m thinking of figures like Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Tigran Mansurian, Alfred Schnittke and Galina Ustvolskaya – one of the most distinctive … Continue reading The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov

Four More Discoveries: An Update after the London Film Festival

Some of you may have already read my recent blog in which I recommended a number of films in the BFI London Film Festival, films which I’d already seen at other festivals earlier in the year. For much of the LFF I was involved in introducing movies and hosting Q&As, but I did, fortunately, find … Continue reading Four More Discoveries: An Update after the London Film Festival

The 2017 BFI London Film Festival – some personal recommendations

With this year's edition of the London Film Festival due to begin in a few days, I thought I'd suggest a few titles to look out for. There are many movies in the Festival, of course, which I haven't yet seen, but of those I have managed to catch already – in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, … Continue reading The 2017 BFI London Film Festival – some personal recommendations

A new jewel discovered in Venice: ‘Custody’ (‘Jusqu’à la garde’)

A few months ago, I received an email from Alberto Barbera, artistic director of the Venice Film Festival, asking (to my considerable surprise) if I'd be interested in being a member of the ‘Opera Prima’ jury for the upcoming 74th edition of the event. Needless to say, I replied that I'd be more than delighted … Continue reading A new jewel discovered in Venice: ‘Custody’ (‘Jusqu’à la garde’)