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Unfrozen Sea

Michael Byers: The Arctic Grail, 22 March 2007

... the fore. Canada claims that the passage constitutes Canadian internal waters. In 1986, it drew ‘straight baselines’ around its Arctic islands. Under international law, straight baselines may be used to link the outer headlands of an archipelago or fragmented coastline. Provided the lines are of a reasonable length, the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Some Like It Hot’, 22 November 2018

... gently playing ‘Ave Maria’. Again, death is only a front, and a discreetly hidden door leads straight into a speakeasy, with dancing girls, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ rather than Gounod (some like it hot), and various coffees served under the names of various whiskeys. Or rather the reverse: any whiskey you want as long as you call it coffee. The place is ...

Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann, 15 August 1991

Seeing things 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 113 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 571 14468 3
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... practice of his art. Seeing things has a similar geometrical leitmotiv or schema, and that is the straight line, or pattern of straight lines, dazzling as op art, and producing the sensation of depth. The lines are not adduced from such obvious sources as waves, layers of rock or clouds at sunset; they are rooted in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The Devil and Robert Bresson, 5 June 2008

Le Diable, probablement 
directed by Robert Bresson.
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... the pretence that they have psyches and the abandonment of everything except getting their lines straight. An irreverent viewer is going to think of Monty Python every five minutes. And yet. The sheer anguished seriousness of the work, the sense that human beings might well be reduced to the bare essence of their distress, and that a camera could catch them ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, 12 February 2009

Slumdog Millionaire 
directed by Danny Boyle.
January 2009
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... It is written. In a very fine joke on its own status the movie explicitly settles on D, and goes straight into the rousing musical credits. The uncertainty and embarrassment of the film’s direction have to do with the sheer misery it dives into and flies over. In the early sections, everything happens too fast and is too brightly lit: it feels like tourism ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Boyhood’, 21 August 2014

... this regularly as a matter of narrative efficiency: you cut out the ‘and then and then’ and go straight to the next chosen moment, from the take-off to the landing say, without the details of the long flight. But they don’t always invite you to ponder the missing minutes or years, as Richard Linklater’s films do. There is a brilliant elision of this ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... on his family and no one else, and to permit himself even murder in the name of fidelity and straight dealing. He has inherited a crime empire from his boss and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, who dies at the start of the film. Lucas was his driver, collector and hit man: in a shocking brief pre-credit sequence, still working for Johnson, he soaks a man in petrol ...

Thoughts about Hanna

Gabriele Annan, 30 October 1997

The Reader 
by Bernhard Schlink, translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
Phoenix House, 216 pp., £12.99, November 1997, 1 86159 063 6
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... female guards captured by the Allies stood in line, middle-aged and grim. Then a younger one spoke straight to camera. She was blonde and dishevelled; she said her name, her age – 24 – and that she had been at Belsen two months. She looked terrified. I felt sorry for her, and shocked that I was. This novel is about someone like her, and examines the ...

Four Thousand, Tops

Michael Wood: Headlong by Michael Frayn, 14 October 1999

Headlong 
by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 395 pp., £16.99, August 1999, 0 571 20051 6
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... In Michael Frayn’s first novel, The Tin Men, there is a character who is supposed to be writing a novel, but mainly concentrates on devising the blurbs and reviews for the as yet unstarted book, as if the work itself was merely the plodding cause of a glittering celebrity effect, and ideally could be dispensed with altogether ...

Splashing through the Puddles

Michael Hofmann: Amis in Auschwitz, 23 October 2014

The Zone of Interest 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 310 pp., £18.99, August 2014, 978 0 224 09974 5
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... I read​  The Zone of Interest straight through twice from beginning to end and it feels like I’ve read nothing at all. I could read it again, if I thought it would make any difference. Perhaps in some strange way it’s a compliment to the book – this love story set among Germans in Auschwitz: good idea? waiting world? story whose time has come? yes? – or to its calculation, its finely calibrated scales, that what survives of it is (pace Larkin) nothing ...

Short Cuts

Michael Wood: Delete!, 24 September 2009

... back’, but only because there are so many questions we can’t answer by looking straight at them. And Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, in a new book called Delete (Princeton, £16.95), thinks what he calls ‘biological forgetting’ (‘built into our human physiology, down through the millennia of human evolution’) is a ‘perfectly ...

Wharton the Wise

D.A.N. Jones, 4 April 1985

The Missing Will 
by Michael Wharton.
Hogarth, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2666 3
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... For 27 years Michael Wharton has written the ‘Peter Simple’ column in the Daily Telegraph. He was only 43 when he secured this good, steady job and now he has published an autobiographical account of his 43 apprentice years – dissident, drifting, bohemian years, marked by a lack of will-power, what the Greeks called aboulia ...

Dangerous Liaison

Michael Howard, 27 January 1994

Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito’s Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia 
by Franklin Lindsay.
Stanford, 383 pp., £19.95, October 1993, 0 8047 2123 8
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... case, when I rang my commanding officer to ask for instructions, that admirable man told me to go straight back to bed unless I wanted to start a Third World War. So I did, and, thankfully, a few weeks later left the region for good. If that was what the peace would be like, I reflected, there was more to be said for war than I had previously realised. I was ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Time’, 19 November 2020

... shifts usually aren’t flagged. She looks very young, then she is almost middle-aged; she has straight hair, then it is curly. She speaks modestly and penitently in public; and then in front of a different audience she is like a rock star, expertly performing her grief. She looks after the children; we see them growing up and then shrinking to a younger ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Annette’, 23 September 2021

... character does at the start of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when he steps from his drawn universe straight into a studio of chairs and cameras and wires. And when we see Ann in close-up we realise that her white dress has been marked by long, stylised lines of blood, and that she is dying, as in a vampire movie. She will do the same thing again the following ...

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