In this week's programme presented by
Into the Wild
John O'Farrell |
John Harris |
Comment on this programme
Sean Penn has carved a respectable career as a director and producer since his days as a founding member of the 80s acting Brat Pack, with films like The Indian Runner, The Pledge, and now Into the Wild.
It tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who walked out on his middle-class life and into the Alaskan wilderness after donating his college fund to Oxfam, only for his body to be found in an abandoned bus two years later.
When his body was discovered it had with it diaries and undeveloped photos that told his story. These were put into a best selling book by Jon Krakauer who also tracked down the varied cast of characters Christopher encountered during his meandering journey across the States.
Christopher, or Alexander Supertramp as he called himself on the road, is played by Emile Hirsch and the film leans towards a more sympathetic portrayal of his actions than the book. His quest for a life free from what he saw as the sterility and hypocrisy of capitalist society make for a moving tale.
Christopher died in 1992 and it took Sean Penn almost a decade to persuade the family to agree to a film based on his life. The irony is that had McCandless lived, his story would not carry the same resonance, but as such, is it exploitative for the book, the film and the audience to enjoy what is, essentially, a real-life ghost story? The panel discuss.
INTO THE WILD IS ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 9 NOVEMBER, 2007
Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary
Stephen Poliakoff's films have very identifiable conventions: richness of location, abounding beauty of people and place, and the tone of loneliness.
In Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary he has set himself a new challenge: to tell two very different stories bound by one place, in this case a central London townhouse.
In Joe's Palace, the Joe (Danny Lee Wynter) of the title is the caretaker, employed by billionaire owner Elliot Graham (Michael Gambon) to look after the house, which Graham keeps empty but immaculate. The house employs Joe but haunts Elliot; meanwhile, Richard (Rupert Penry-Jones) uses it to conduct an affair with Charlotte (Kelly Reilly).
In Capturing Mary, Maggie Smith and Ruth Wilson play Mary as an older and younger woman respectively. Mary is on the brink of literary greatness when an encounter in the house with the mysterious Greville, played by David Walliams, changes the course of her life and career. Decades later she visits the house and tells her story to Joe as they tour the building.
The rooms link the characters and the interweaving stories. To have a house as a central character, along with the narrative covering multiple decades, make these pieces both technically and dramatically difficult to pull off. Does Poliakoff succeed?
JOE'S PALACE IS ON BBC1 ON SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER AT 9PM
CAPTURING MARY IS ON BBC TWO ON MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER AT 9PM
A THIRD DRAMA, SPECIALLY COMMISSIONED BY THE CULTURE SHOW, AIRS ON 10 NOVEMBER AS PART OF A POLIAKOFF NIGHT ON BBC TWO
Poor old Britney Spears - from Disney sweetheart pop princess to broken marriages, children taken away, hair extensions falling out, a torrid time at the wheel and that performance at the MTV Video Awards.
From the soap opera life however, has emerged a new album, Blackout, which has been attracting praise on both sides of the Atlantic.
Her last album, In the Zone, released in 2003, was overshadowed by her off-stage antics - despite spawning the massive hit Toxic - so it speaks for itself that the actual music on Blackout has managed to gain any attention at all.
Employing a range of producers from The Neptunes to Danja to Bloodshy & Avant, as well as liberal use of the vocoder, Blackout muses on Britney's celebrity existence in a haze of electro beats. However, can it sustain what might be the ultimate pop resuscitation?
BLACKOUT IS OUT NOW ON ZOMBA RECORDS
The Book of Other People
Edited by Zadie Smith
A bitter film critic, a monster, a 13 year-old boy and Jesus are just four of the characters among the 23 in The Book of Other People.
Zadie Smith challenged herself and 22 other authors and graphic artists to "make somebody up" for an anthology of short stories about character. There were no rules outside this brief and the stellar list of contributors have responded in the imaginative ways we would expect from the cream of contemporary English language writers.
The profits from the book are going to 826NYC, Dave Eggers' creative writing charity for children. Eggers and Smith are regular collaborators having worked together before on McSweeneys, Eggers' boutique publishing house and Eggers himself has contributed a story about a giant, Theo, to this anthology.
Other contributions include David Mitchell's story about a middle-aged lady pursuing a reluctant lover, Andrew O'Hagan's thinly disguised portrait of the Prime Minister, Gordon, and Jonathan Lethem's eccentric Perkus Tooth.
The stories by graphic artists Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware add another welcome dimension to the anthology and Posy Simmonds illustrates Nick Hornby's tale of author J Johnson.
Zadie Smith's aim was that the book be "a lively demonstration of the fact that there are as many ways to create 'character' as there are writers." The panel discuss whether she has succeeded.
THE BOOK OF OTHER PEOPLE IS PUBLISHED BY HAMISH HAMILTON
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