Arts: The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM AFFLICTION

Paul Schrader's bleak study of fatherhood and fatalism, based on Russell Banks's novel, stars Nick Nolte as a man struggling to escape his violent father's influence.

"Nick Nolte gives a performance of such rage and sorrow the screen seems hardly big enough to contain him," observed Anthony Quinn. "The heaviness is a little stifling, but not inappropriate; Schrader's American tragedy has a dull finality that is determinedly depressing," opined Time Out, while The Guardian declared: "Nolte has rarely been better." "Schrader's austere direction and Nolte's raw portrayal of a man cracking up keeps Affliction firmly on track," decided the Financial Times. "Schrader's lapses of judgement come close to making the whole thing a travesty," spluttered The Express. "Infuriatingly slow and sloppy," yawned the Daily Mail.

Those who were moved by The Sweet Hereafter - also based on a Banks novel - will be spellbound by Affliction. Nolte turns himself inside out in a performance that has been hotly tipped for an Oscar.

Affliction is on general release, certificate 15. 113 minutes

THE PLAY LE CID

Declan Donnellan directs Corneille's 1637 tragi-comedy in this modern-dress staging. It follows the story of a young man who slays his lover's father.

"Donnellan is a master at creating a shifting diagram of the psychological forces operating at any one point... A lucid and passionate staging," wrote Paul Taylor. "Donnellan's achievement is to make old Spanish values seem passionately significant rather than antique absurdities," noted the Evening Standard. "Superbly fluid and intelligent," said the Financial Times, adding "Donnellan's production rarely stops moving, swirling from scene to scene like an elaborate dance." "Spare staging, narrative clarity, incisive acting," reported The Times. "Le Cid is a triumph," pronounced The Daily Telegraph, and Time Out deemed it "remarkable".

The constant shift of passion and power is magnificently represented under Donnellan's direction, while the potentially risible Spanish code of honour is brought up to date. A resounding success.

Le Cid is at the Riverside Studios, London W6 until

26 February. For bookings and enquiries call 0181-237 1111

THE ALBUM JIMI TENOR

Finnish synth-master Jimi Tenor returns with a second UK release, Organism, which includes the forthcoming single "Year of the Apocalypse."

"Quirky and quixotic, it's bags of fun, and aptly titled too, Tenor blending his beats and samples to produce a warm, organic sound that's light years away from the more glacial tones of techno purists," decided Andy Gill. "Moroder-esque Moog eruptions, Money Mark funkadelia and spooky Dalek vocoders - sleazy listening indeed," remarked Uncut. Time Out was ecstatic: "One fabulous, spangled journey from start to finish", while The Face found it "A stylish revelation". "Surprisingly down-tempo, invariably cheesy and strangely soulful," reported the NME. "More than enough to command attention," mumbled The Times.

Tenor brings together cheesy synths, complex jazz and swing arrangements and his kooky subject matter in this impeccable album. The end of the world has never sounded so much fun.

Organism is available from record shops on Warp. Jimi Tenor will be performing at the Improv Theatre, W1 on 25 February. For enquiries call 0171-387 2414.

THE OPERA PARSIFAL

Nikolaus Lehnhoff's production of Wagner's Parsifal at the ENO sees the action stripped of religious imagery and set in a post-nuclear wasteland.

"This provocative, intelligent and very moving production of Wagner's perplexing masterpiece dares to ask questions for which there are no easy answers," decided Edward Seckerson, adding, "It is the agnostic Parsifal. It wants to believe, but it needs to know." "Moving and profound," wrote The Spectator. "Thoughtful and satisfying," opined The Times. "The casting is from the ENO's top drawer... but the production is desperately short of theatrical bite," noted the Financial Times, while The Daily Telegraph confessed: "I can't help thinking that Wagner would have been exasperated by the ugly and nihilistic interpretation foisted on it."

Wagner purists may be distracted by the stripped-down nature of Lehnhoff's interpretation, but the splendour of the ENO orchestra and the fine cast cannot fail to impress.

Parsifal will be at the Coliseum until 19 March. For bookings and enquiries call 0171-632 8300

THE TV PROGRAMME JOURNEYS INTO THE OUTSIDE

Jarvis Cocker revisits ideas he explored in his college thesis - which got one of the lowest marks in the year - the state of "outsider art" around the world.

"The unwillingness of the programme to risk an explanation was a flaw, but perhaps it was a necessary price for the enthusiasm Cocker brought to the subject. The film was an eloquent argument in favour of art which may not be pretty, but is chock full of life," revealed Robert Hanks. "If a dead sheep can do it, so can a lorry-load of smashed Villeroy and Boch," quipped the Daily Mail, calling the series "fascinating". "Cocker was out to prove a point, or rather to get a better grade for his theories about Outsider Art," revealed the Evening Standard, while the Daily Telegraph decided "The choice of pop star was the key." "An unusual take on life and art," said the Daily Record.

Despite his low college grade, Cocker showed a genuine interest in Outsider Art and uncovered some interesting work, though he failed to offer adequate critical appraisal.

Journeys into the Outside With Jarvis Cocker continues next Tuesday at 11.10pm, C4

Exit Poll

TOSCA ROYAL ALBERT HALL LONDON

NILS WEISE

33, theatre agent, London

`I thought it was really good. Susan Bullock was fantastic and the staging really worked. I have seen Tosca lots of times, but the stand-out quality for me was the sound. This time it sounded really spectacular and all the voices were great.'

JEAN QUADLING

64, housewife, Gravesend

`It was very good. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the idea of it being in the round. And having the actors constantly walking through the audience and on to the stage. It was slightly scary, looking around and seeing dark figures come down the stairs. The only downside was that I thought the orchestra drowned out the singers in the star, but as it progressed this balanced itself out.'

JULIE SKINNER

26, medical sales rep, London

`I thought it was really good and very emotional. It's the second time I have been to the opera, but it was different because it was a much bigger place to fill. And because this was in the round, there was a different atmosphere. I thought it was fantastic and Susan Bullock was excellent. Her voice is beautiful, really really nice. I thought she made it.'

WILLIAM CHESSHYRE

55, livery company clerk, London

`What I particularly liked was the very dramatic setting, and a good use of the open space. The floor clock was beautifully styled, and made you think of a church. And the props in general were simple, but highly effective and atmospheric. Which is really how it is supposed to be set.'

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