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Waldemar Januszczak: Charles Saatchi’s New Museum, 21 March 1985

... Having had much cause to mention Charles Saatchi in my Guardian column over the past five years, I was pleased when this most secretive of men finally agreed to meet me around the time of the opening of his new private museum. I found, more to other people’s surprise than my own, that he was a nice enough chap, a Guardian reader no less ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Les Diaboliques’, 3 March 2011

Les Diaboliques 
directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.
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... turn safely to the detective who now makes his appearance. This is a retired policeman played by Charles Vanel, and said to be the model for Peter Falk’s Columbo: he smokes a small cigar perpetually, pretends not to understand half of what he hears, and has a habit of popping up magically everywhere. He wears a dark old woollen coat, though, instead of the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ghost Writer’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, 22 April 2010

The Ghost Writer 
directed by Roman Polanski.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
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... who also shot Polanski’s The Pianist, as well as Taylor Hackford’s glossy biography of Ray Charles. This is important, because the movie is mostly about the way it looks. It’s meant to be a political thriller – based on Robert Harris’s novel The Ghost (the film has that title in the UK) – but it feels as if the writer went home halfway ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, 30 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... print into plays and films almost since he was born in The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, José Ferrer, Tony Randall and many others have brought him to some sort of audio or audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet dominate most memories. None of ...

At the Barbican

Rosemary Hill: The Eclecticism of the Eameses, 3 December 2015

... most people, who have never thought of making a moral distinction between toys and scale models, Charles Eames’s schoolmasterly voiceover at the beginning of Toccata for Toy Trains (1957), sets off a chain of ideas. Real toys, model toys, toy toys, toy models, real models, each a slightly different concept, reverberate in the mind like one of ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... of them with her calm, uncreased prose – John Ashbery, James Merrill, A.R. Ammons, Amy Clampitt, Charles Simic, Dave Smith, Seamus Heaney, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham and Rita Dove. Vendler is in love with the lyric, indeed so in love with it that she befriends strangers who appear to resemble it: in her collection of review-essays, Soul Says, she converts ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘True Grit’, 3 February 2011

True Grit 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
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... was always the thing. The mode kept remembering what it was ostensibly getting rid of. Charles Portis’s funny and violent novel True Grit (1968) is the perfect pastoral of the ungallant west. It presents a world mockingly simplified to its extreme elements, as if the western’s dream of a time before the law brought order and civilisation to a ...

A Fragment of Ibykos Translated Six Ways

Anne Carson, 8 November 2012

... Brecht, where ten years of exile have left their mark, and beneath 5 copies of file 100-190707, Charles Laughton returning to the stage as Galileo, enters an elevator. On the other hand, of my name with a hyphen between Eugene and Friedrich the Bureau has no record. Nay rather, like the name of a certain Frenchman to whom ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood, 8 February 2001

East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... Andrew Maunder’s introduction to his new edition of Ellen Wood’s chronicle of scandalous goings-on among the Victorian middle classes claims that East Lynne may be ‘one of the most famous unread works in the English language’. Very possibly. Yet it was spectacularly successful in its day, and its popularity has turned out to be more durable than that of most publishing sensations ...

Do you want the allegory?

Charles Hope, 17 March 1983

Piero della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’ 
by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin.
Yale, 182 pp., £19.50, January 1982, 0 300 02619 6
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Indagini su Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg.
Einaudi, 110 pp.
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Gentile da Fabriano 
by Keith Christiansen.
Chatto, 193 pp., £35, June 1982, 0 7011 2468 7
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... scenes. Thus both artists depicted the Queen of Sheba kneeling in recognition before the wood from which the True Cross would be made, but Piero added her subsequent meeting with Solomon, and he alone showed Constantine’s dream and his victory over Maxentius. Ginzburg thinks that the inclusion of these episodes implies a change of plan on the part ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Dictator’, 7 June 2012

The Dictator 
directed by Larry Charles.
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... corruption. This line of thought actually recurs, I’m sure without any allusive intent, in Larry Charles’s The Dictator, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the evil Oriental Admiral General Aladeen. An eager American dissident says the police in her country are fascists. ‘Yes,’ our hero says, ‘but not in a good way.’ Still, in spite of the echo, there ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Irishman’, 5 December 2019

... legs to be broken), and released early because of his health. He told his story to his lawyer, Charles Brandt, who wrote the book on which the movie is based, I Heard You Paint Houses (2004). The phrase is supposed to have been among the first words Hoffa said to Sheeran when they met on the phone. Formally the film is Sheeran’s autobiography. He speaks ...

Staunch with Sugar

Malcolm Gaskill: Early Modern Mishaps, 7 September 2017

Accidents and Violent Death in Early Modern London, 1650-1750 
by Craig Spence.
Boydell, 273 pp., £65, November 2016, 978 1 78327 135 1
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... On 15 August​ 1737 Samuel Wood was working in a windmill on the Isle of Dogs, when a rope tied around his wrist became caught in the gear wheels. The gigantic brake-wheel pulled him into the mechanism, tearing off his right arm. Wood staggered a short distance before collapsing ...

The French are not men

Michael Wood: L’affaire Dreyfus, 7 September 2017

Lettres à la marquise: correspondance inédite avec Marie Arconati Visconti 
by Alfred Dreyfus, edited by Philippe Oriol.
Grasset, 592 pp., £19, March 2017, 978 2 246 85965 9
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... though. The historian Marcel Thomas uses it in his remarkable book, published in 1989, on Charles Marie Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, the man who was the spy that Alfred Dreyfus wasn’t. Thomas is thinking of Esterhazy’s acquittal in 1898. Why would a French military tribunal find a guilty man innocent? What was the point of this ‘ritual ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Detroit’, 21 September 2017

directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
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... medium and the method began. In American vigilante movies, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films or Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series, we see crimes being committed, and we see lawyers and law courts failing to exercise justice because they have not seen what we have seen. We know how feeble and wordy they are because we possess the cinematic truth. We are ...

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