Thursday, 26 March 2015


Damián Szifron's Wild Tales (2014) is a ferociously dark, hilarious ride that doesn't just mock the corruption and social injustices of modern day Argentina, but also deeply relishes the resort to vigilante violence. His six vignettes' over-the-top bursts of bloodthirsty mayhem, quirky characters and O. Henry-like twists of fate in a cheerfully colourful palette, feel familiar; and no wonder, as this film was produced (and obviously influenced) by Pedro Almodóvar...More.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector

Although I was sceptical at first, I found Barbican London's latest show, Magnificent Obsessions, truly worthy of its title: appreciation for the likes of Damien Hirst, Sol LeWitt, and Andy Warhol isn't rare but a glimpse into the self-ordering of their creative cosmos is. I undertook a voyage into the minds - the subconscious, even – of 14 post-war and contemporary artists, by perusing their personal collections, which ranged from the surprisingly kitschy to the downright grotesque.
Anyone familiar with Hiroshi Sugimoto's photographs will recognise in his collection the instinct to pare down to bare essences. His 18th century French and Japanese anatomical mezzotints display a theatrical curiosity, literally peeling back the skin of a living young man or woman to examine what lies underneath: layers of muscle and bone, operating like pulleys and ropes backstage, the mechanism behind the mystery of being. The drama of looking is also echoed by a box of prosthetic eyeballs, a pair of bifocals that belonged to Isaac Newton, and a military optical surgery kit...More.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

John Sargent: A Second Look

At first glance, John Singer Sargent's style of painting might appear disappointingly staid and conventional by contemporary standards. But, like many artists working within the conventions of their time, his work requires and deserves deeper scrutiny - a second, closer look. The National Portrait Gallery's latest show provides just that. Sure, there are the iconic, larger-than-life portraits of the rich and famous that Sargent was widely feted for in his day - as of Ellen Terry playing Lady Macbeth, or of the polished aesthete Dr. Pozzi - but it’s his lesser-known, more intimate, and surprisingly idiosyncratic portraits of friends and fellow-artists that truly delight and impress...More

Monday, 23 February 2015

Brooklyn Hipsters on Film

If Woody Allen was a young filmmaker today, he would've never been able to make a masterpiece like Manhattan due to The Big Apple's altered urbanscape of gentrification. Perhaps that's why we're seeing a plethora of low-budget indies set in “authentic” Brooklyn, where the young and creatively clueless can actually afford to pay rent, while enjoying the somewhat dubiously glorified status of hipsters.

But besides the Brooklyn-based visual clichés, generic film titles, and post mumblecore walk-and-talks that this new trend has spawned, even Woody Allen would admit that some of the following films are definitely better than others:

Appropriate Behavior (dir. Desiree Akhavan)
“I'm just having problems dealing with Brooklyn parties, and everyone talking about their Kickstarter campaigns,” vexes Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) outside a New Year's Eve party. Being a hater is how twentysomething bisexual Shirin (writer-director Desiree Akhavan) bonds with her first real love.
Like many indie anti-heroes, Shirin is confused, unemployed, yet has a typically quirky girlfriend to gripe to. She even has repressively “perfect” parents – who partially fund her apartment and creative forays – and a star older brother whose reputation she can't quite seem to live up to. But what makes Appropriate Behavior stand out is its original detail and profundity in observing – and sometimes scorning – both the hipster Brooklyn and Iranian immigrant setting, as well as Akhavan's willingness to be gawky, hilarious, and exasperating at the same time.... More films.

Friday, 20 February 2015

History Is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain

Such unlikely objects as an antiaircraft weapon find their pointed place alongside more familiar artworks in History Is Now, an exhibition that scrutinises (in a timely fashion, given the run-up to the 2015 General Election) the last seventy years of British history

Seven artists of different generations and backgrounds, including Simon Fujiwara, Hannah Starkey, John Akomfrah, Richard Wentworth, Roger Hiorns and Jane and Louise Wilson, curate this sprawling, eclectic collection covering topics from post-Thatcherite society and the Cold War to protest movements, “mad cow disease,” and celebrity culture... More.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


A quirky modern folktale from the Zellner brothers, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014) is not only a testament to the transcendental powers of the imagination, but to filmmaking itself. After mysteriously unearthing a VHS of Fargo (1996), Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes increasingly obsessed with the scene in which Steve Buschemi buries a suitcase of stolen cash near Brainerd, Minnesota. Thus she embarks on an actual and metaphysical quest for buried treasure that puzzles and compels with its pervasive unreality. Although our heroine refuses to speak till quite late in the film, thanks to Kikuchi's expressive visual cues and a seething soundscape by The Octopus Project, she doesn't have to. 

But Kumiko's moody silence at the office, amidst her chatty, happily conformist colleagues, also signals subversion. Its her way of rejecting the banal lifestyle not only reinforced by her mother - who calls to demand why she isn't yet married - but her patriarchal boss, who decides that at 29, Kumiko should be replaced by "younger, fresher" substitutes. Within an increasingly decontextualised digital and movie culture, Kumiko is forced to piecemeal a personal meaning (literally hand stitching a treasure map) from whatever resources most resonate. She doesn't even watch the entirety of Fargo, but fast-forwards and replays the "treasure" scene with the possession of selective memory itself. Treading the fine line between truth and fiction, Kumiko is more than just a homage to the Cohen brothers.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Human Rights Human Wrongs @ Photographer's Gallery

Not for the faint of heart, the shocking images of The Photographers' Gallery's Human Rights Human Wrongs focus not only on wrongdoings, but how they are portrayed - even distorted - by the media. Whether documenting the US Civil Rights Movement, Middle East and South American uprisings, or the independence movements in Africa, the show looks at photojournalism's global impact on human rights.