Social realism

Four dangerous visionary writers

‘The production of souls is more important than the production of tanks… And therefore I raise my glass to you, writers, the engineers of the human soul.’ The quote is usually attributed to Stalin, though the phrase ‘engineers of human souls’ most likely came from someone else. Who’s to argue? Purges, executions, deportations – what’s a little light plagiarism in comparison? Whoever coined the phrase, it certainly struck a chord and indeed continues to ring various alarm bells whenever one comes across writers who deliberately set out to influence politics and ideas – and not just the big beasts, the Nobel Prize winners, say, or the shopfront-filling non-fiction authors hawking

Colourful, tender and sweet, grounded in magical rather than social realism: Scrapper reviewed

Scrapper is a film about a working-class kid who, after her mother dies, has to look after herself. I know what you’re expecting. It isn’t that. It’s not an earnestly grim wrist-slitter. It’s not an indictment of modern Britain with no shred of hope. It’s not Ken Loach. It’s not even desaturated and grimy. Instead, it’s colourful, tender and sweet with quirky moments that are grounded in magical rather than social realism. And it’s just 84 minutes long, which is a boon. (‘A boon,’ confirms bladders everywhere.) When child actors are rubbish I tend not to say anything as it’s like kicking puppies This is the first feature from writer-director

Joan Eardley deserves to be ranked alongside Bacon and de Kooning

Painting is a fight and few artists demonstrate this more emphatically than the volatile and complicated post-war master, Joan Eardley. Scotland’s great English artist or England’s great Scottish artist, box her as you will, she’s revered north of the border, but often oddly dismissed south of it. The Scottish public have been enthralled by her work for decades, and spoiled in their access to it, with 60 or so pieces in the National Galleries of Scotland collection alone (the Tate has just one). You’re rarely far from an Eardley here, and never more so than in this, her centenary year, which sees some 20 shows and events lined up to

A hard watch, but ultimately a rewarding one: County Lines reviewed

County Lines is the kind of social realism that the British do so well, if not too well. In other words, a hard watch. In fact, at times it’s so unbearable you might find yourself pressing pause because you’ve suddenly remembered the fridge needs a clean, say. Or the hall: couldn’t it do with a tidy-up? But this tale of a young boy caught up in transporting drugs has to be tough. And there is sympathy, tenderness and hope, too. As for the kid, who is a sort of modern-day Billy from Kes, you will certainly take him to heart. The film is written and directed by Henry Blake, a