I’m just coming to the end of The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser – Jerome Loving’s critical biography of my favourite writer. Loving weaves together three narratives – Dreiser’s personal life; his literary development; and the history of early-Twentieth Century America – to create the definitive account of the genius behind Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. As the best literary biographies always do, it’s got me once again reaching for its subject’s work.
There’s a lot of interesting Turkish cinema around at the moment; much of it dealing with that country’s place in the world, and the tug between East and West. A case in point: Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven, which bounces freely between Turkey and Germany to tell a tale of crossed-wires, chance meetings and cultural tensions. It retains the effervescent style of the director’s earlier Head-On (2004) and Crossing the Bridge (2005), although it benefits from an added dash of emotional maturity. In short: one of the finest studies of our globalised age.
In preparation for a screening of Barbet Schroeder’s latest documentary (Terror’s Advocate), I recently revisited his 1974 effort, General Idi Amin Dada. It’s astonishing that this "Autoportrait" was made with the African dictator’s full co-operation. The end-product merely shows him up as buffoon; drunk on the camera’s attention. Amin’s on-screen bravado would almost be comical, were it not for the fact that his brand of madness spelt suffering for millions.
The DVD of General Idi Amin Dada is part of Eureka’s indispensable Masters of Cinema line. They’ve also just released Visconti’s masterwork Rocco and his Brothers - a copy of which still lies unopened on my desk, although I’m looking forward to watching it shortly.
For some reason, Kala - the second album from M.I.A. - completely bypassed me when it was released in August last year. I downloaded a copy only a few days ago, and I’m very glad I did so. Its infectious blend of world music, hip-hop, dance and electronica is quite unlike anything else out there. What’s more, all the musical invention is underpinned by a serious message: a kind of call-to-action for the Third World. As M.I.A. puts it: "I put people on the map who have never seen a map". It’s a happy side-effect that she’s now on the map herself.
I enjoyed my visit to the Camden Town Group exhibition at Tate Britain. A carefully-curated insight into a bygone London and the artists who invested it with significance.