Arts: The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS

Following his debut In The Company Of Men, director Neil LaBute offers a brutal antidote to Valentine's Day with his account of sexual depravity and fractured relationships.

"LaBute is so much in love with the idea of people's selfish, despicable ways that he has overreached his means of attack; he has all the poison, but no darts," reported Anthony Quinn. "Heartless, hollow and only sporadically funny," wrote Time Out, adding "It's hard to commend a film that's so insistently, even arrogantly, in love with the idea of hating humanity." The Daily Mail deemed it a "nasty satire on nasty people", but the Daily Telegraph were impressed: "The film has the concentration of a stage play... Labute's dialogue has vitriolic force, and his actors deliver it well." "A state-of-the-art bulletin on the sex war," cried the Financial Times.

LaBute's loathing of humanity extends to women as he reveals them to be as heartless between the sheets as men. But their turpitude may be too much for even the most hardened viewers.

Your Friends and Neighbors is out on general release, certificate 18.

THE PLAY THE TEMPEST

In the final phase of the West Yorkshire Playhouse's season with a resident company, Jude Kelly directs Sir Ian McKellan as Prospero in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

"The production exerts a potent, if studiedly uncharming, spell," wrote Paul Taylor, commending McKellen's "exquisitely calibrated, low-key performance". "A brooding vision simmering with dangerous magic," said The Stage, adding that it was "an absorbing Tempest, a Tempest charged with excellence". "A strong start, but nothing that follows quite matches it," complained the Financial Times, while The Times was not convinced: "The production strikes me as irredeemably second-rate, and though McKellen's performance is sometimes weirdly mesmerising, it isn't the illuminating Prospero one had hoped for." "Not wholly satisfactory," concluded the Daily Mail.

McKellen skilfully conveys Prospero's struggle between rage and culpability in this stylised version of Shakespeare's play, though the magical isle as a correctional institution may aggravate purists.

The Tempest is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 27 February. For bookings and enquiries call 0113-213 7700.

THE ALBUM BLONDIE

16 years after their split and after a fluctuating solo career, Deborah Harry reforms Blondie, marking their return with a new album No Exit and a No 1 hit Maria.

"A powerful comeback... as much due to Jimmy Destri's ear for a surefire pop classic as it is to Debbie's bewitching revivification," exclaimed Andy Gill, adding: "Even at a time when No 1 hits are as forgettable as ants, "Maria" already sounds like you've known it for ever." "If the band sometimes wallow in nostalgia, theirs is a heritage worth re-exploring," pronounced the Daily Mail. "This merits cautious rejoicing... a pop goddess is still a pop goddess, after all," remarked The Guardian, while The Times observed: "a firm artistic rationale for the group's return to active duty." "No Exit may break your heart with its so-so, that'll-do, OK-ness, magic doesn't do encores," murmured Uncut.

After an embarrassing series of comebacks from Eighties icons, expectations were decidedly low. But Harry's band have created a contemporary sound that still bears all the hallmarks of classic Blondie.

Blondie's No Exit will be available in record shops from Monday.

THE BOOK CHARLES BUKOWSKI

Biographer Howard Sounes tells the story of cult writer Charles Bukowski's colourful life, from early childhood in Los Angeles to his death in 1994 from leukemia.

"This biography is a thorough introduction that will not be rivalled for quite some time. Its effect is to revitalise rather than reduce Bukowski's work," decided Guy Mannes-Abbott. "The author does not neglect the solvent, humorous, sometimes sober, figure who eked out a living working as a mail- sorter rather than turn to crime," noted The Times, while The Guardian were impressed: "This biography can claim to be the most definitive to date." "Bukowski's America is particularly well explored, with Sounes careful to dispel all lazy comparisons with Hunter S Thompson," wrote The Observer. "Powerfully researched" muttered the Times Literary Supplement.

Sounes refrains from indulging in the well-documented peculiarities of Bukowski's psyche, instead offering a straightforward account of the writer's life from birth to death.

Charles Bukowski: Locked In The Arms Of A Crazy Life by Howard Sounes (Rebel Inc) is available in bookshops.

THE TV PROGRAMME VICIOUS CIRCLE

Kieran Prendiville's BBC drama, starring Ken Stott, follows the nefarious exploits Martin Cahill, the Dublin gangster known simply as "The General".

"Once or twice the film trod too heavily - at one point, we saw Cahill poleaxed by the beauty of a Goya portrait. But, by and large, Kieran Prendiville's script showed a commendable reluctance to draw morals... cool, intelligent, entertaining, and very welcome." "Stott made a convincingly unpleasant Cahill, a cruel, clever, but dangerously vain man," revealed The Times, while The Mirror considered it: "a cops-and-robbers thriller with witty one-liners thrown in for light relief." "If it hadn't been based on real- life events it would have been totally unbelievable," cried The Sun. "As a thriller, Vicious Circle failed in its first duty - to thrill," grumbled the Daily Mail.

Though occasionally lacking in subtlety, Prendiville's script avoided moralising, while Stott's crook was so likeable that the plot could be seen as unbelievable, were it not true.

The BBC has no plans to repeat Vicious Circle at present.

Exit Poll

VISUAL ARTS

MONET IN THE 20TH CENTURY ROYAL ACADEMY LONDON

DAN CLANCY

18, student, High Wycombe

"The early work was new to me, and I enjoyed the large paintings impressively placed in a large room. They illustrated Monet's style, especially the detail that can look blurred from a distance or on the smaller paintings."

RACHEL

BENNETT

16, student, Merseyside

"I especially noticed how there are many more colours than you can see on a poster. It was a good opportunity to get a grip on how his work developed. We are here on a school trip, but because it was busy, it was hard for us to make proper notes on the paintings. But it was very exciting."

INGEBORG CUTTS

69, retired, London

"It was interesting to see the paintings when Monet couldn't see properly - suddenly the colours are incredibly vivid, the brush strokes more emphatic. I think he adapted remarkably well. As a whole, the exhibition doesn't show a new Monet: it is how I have always imagined; the waterlilies, his garden. But I was overwhelmed by his work as an old man."

DL SUTHERLAND

56, teacher, London

"Being art illiterate, I found the head set lecture very informative. It is excellent to see all these paintings in one place. But you need time to look at them, and I found it far too busy. And the busy atmosphere was too much of a contrast to the paintings that are soothing and reflective. It would have been lovely if a little more quiet."

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