Bingeing on Bach

Coined in 1944, ‘completism’ is a modern term for a modern-day obsession. What began as a phenomenon of possession — whether of comic books, records or stamps — has evolved in the age of Spotify, Netflix and cloud computing. No activity defines current cultural trends better than binge-watching, completism taken to its logical extreme: art

Secrets and spies

Spare a thought for Emil Gilels, still revered today by Russians as the foremost pianist of the Soviet era. The first to win a competition abroad (Brussels, 1938), Gilels was also first to be let out after Stalin died to reconnect cultural ties and earn hard dollars for the state coffers, of which he got

Arts feature

Animal magnetism

‘I frequently went to bullfights with Picasso,’ Sir John Richardson remarked, quite casually, as he showed me around the exhibition Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors, which he was installing at the Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill. He mentioned this by way of explaining why a large and splendid linocut was inscribed to him by the artist: ‘à

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Blondie: Pollinator

Ah, Blondie. Those happy days of glorious power pop, chilly disco and rich, fruity vocals — Debbie Harry yearning away like a very bad alleycat on heat. ‘X Offender’, ‘In the Flesh’, ‘Picture This’ and that one where she’s in the phone booth, apparently gagging for it. People knock it, but the late 1970s wasn’t

Remembrance of things past | 11 May 2017

If you want to appreciate why the return of Twin Peaks is so significant, then you need to know something of the background. And, no, not the background of the show itself, which rose and fell through two series before coming to a stop on 10 June 1991. Nor the background of its story, which


Sins of the flesh | 11 May 2017

Obsession at the Barbican has a complicated provenance. The experimental Belgian director Ivo van Hove adapted the show from a Visconti film based on the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. This version originated in Amsterdam and was rendered into English by a London playwright. The story mixes surrealism with torrid carnality. Sexy Hannah is


Mild things

English Touring Opera is playing safe this spring, with Tosca and Patience, and was rewarded, in Cambridge at least, with full houses. Its Tosca has been moderately reviewed, and that is about what it deserves. There is only one set, designed primarily with the tableau of chorus and soloists at the end of Act One


Serial offenders

Since completing season two of the brilliant Narcos, I’ve been unsuccessfully looking for a replacement serial drama that is more appealing than a bath and early bed. But the problem with TV these days is that series like Breaking Bad have set the bar so high that one ends up like a jaded emperor, forever


Farming today

There are bigger entities landing at your local multiplex this week. An ancient indestructible franchise is re-re-(re-)booted in Alien: Covenant. In Jawbone, it’s seconds out for yet another boxing movie. Miss Sloane is that non-staple of the repertoire, a glossy feminist thriller about public relations. Something there for almost everyone. But there’s also a low-budget


Teenage kicks | 11 May 2017

Imagine living in a country where the average age is under 16 (in the UK it’s currently 40 and increasing) so that everywhere you go you’re surrounded by teenagers. It sounds exhilarating. Such optimism and energy; the sheer vitality of young blood coursing through the streets. How brilliant, too, for a country to be unfettered