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Napoleon dynamite

I shall never forget my first encounter with Abel Gance’s Napoleon. I saw it under the most unpromising circumstances — fragments of the great original, shown on a home projector, 25 years after its original release. Yet those fragments changed my life. I was 15, still at school in Hampstead, and already obsessed by the

Mistaken identity

The Romanovs were a hot topic in 1967: it was the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, memories of Ingrid Bergman’s Oscar winning Anastasia were still fresh and Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra was on every bestseller list. Kenneth MacMillan was ‘sick to death of fairy tales’ and his one act treatment of the Anna


Just kidding

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer is haunted by its own antecedents. Viewers are apt to feel that a new production lacks the beauties they’ve seen, or believe they’ve seen, in previous versions. Director Michael Longhurst opens with a fusion of time zones. The courtiers are attired in silk curtains like proper 18th-century toffs, while the musicians


Buried treasure | 3 November 2016

Wexford is to opera-goers what casinos are to gamblers. The uncertainty, the hope, the exhilaration — they’re all a crucial part of a festival that annually rolls the dice, plucking three obscure, often all but unknown, operas from the repertoire and giving them a staging. Dealing the cards is David Agler, the artistic director whose


Losing heart | 3 November 2016

In 2015, the first series of Humans (Sunday) was apparently Channel 4’s most watched home grown drama since The Camomile Lawn: a programme broadcast when Neil Kinnock was still the Labour leader and given a obvious ratings boost by the tabloid outrage about its many nude scenes (and by its many nude scenes). In the


Enigma variations | 3 November 2016

On 2 August 1933 one of the more improbable meetings of the 20th century took place when Albert Einstein had lunch with James Ensor. Apparently, Einstein attempted to explain his theory of relativity to Ensor, who doesn’t seem to have understood it. That evening the painter gave a speech, entitled ‘Ensor to Einstein’, ending with


Heaven knows they’re miserable now

The Light Between Oceans is one of those films that comes issued with a handy how-to-use manual. Shudder as hero arrives on remote Australian island to man lighthouse. Cheer when in swift dash to mainland he secures hot bride to join him. Grimace when her womb proves incapable of holding anything in for a whole


Music matters

There’s nothing new about Radio 3 tearing up the schedules, temporarily abandoning regular favourites such as Private Passions, The Early Music Show, Choral Evensong in search of creative freedom. Its first controller was not just given permission but instructed by the director general, Sir William Haley, to ignore the demands of Big Ben and the