Arts: The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture

David Leland's wartime romp follows the fortunes of three feisty girls who are sent to work on a Devon farm. Starring Rachel Weisz, Catherine McCormack and Anna Friel.

"McCormack's rootless, slightly haunted performance makes the film more than just a wartime shaggy dog story," applauded Ryan Gilbey. "The film swiftly turns novelettish, its potential disappearing into a quagmire of cliches," grumbled The Guardian, while the Financial Times said "Leland's treatment of potentially fascinating material is wishy-washy, merely hinting at the social changes simmering beneath the surface and opting instead for lazy cliches".

Leland's well-intentioned drama overly concentrates on the romantic plot rather than the social and political background, though draws fine performances from all the cast.

The Land Girls is out on general release. Certificate 12. 111 minutes.


First-time buyers, eccentric sellers and inexperienced trainees are put under the microscope in ITV's latest docu-soap which explores the nefarious world of estate agents.

"A reaffirmation of the unvarnished grotesques would have been more entertaining," observed Jasper Rees. "More arresting than the goings-on at the estate agents are their clients who agreed to let the cameras into their houses," informed The Times, while the Daily Telegraph confessed. "My heart bled for (the) young trainee agent... though why I can't imagine."

Yet another in a long line of docu-soaps, though ITV must be congratulated for managing to elicit feelings of sympathy for these agents of the devil.

You can see the next instalment of this six-part series, `The Estate Agents', on ITV on Wednesday night at 8.30pm.


Familiar themes of infancy and denial shape Edward Albee's latest offering at North London's Almeida Theatre which sees a young couple suffering the loss of a baby.

"An artful mix of skittishness and seriousness, elements beautifully balanced in Davies's production," approved Paul Taylor. "But it is also sealed off in its own theoretical dramatic universe, where a couple can go through the harrowing business of losing a baby without once indicating what sex it is." "Terminally and irritatingly arch from start to finish," spluttered the Financial Times, continuing, "Its title is a misnomer. This is a play about reality and illusion... but there is no depth to his illusion and no poignancy." The Guardian observed "more a treasure trove for Albee scholars than something of universal concern... (it) gives the impression that Albee is cannibalising his own earlier work".

Edward Albee's plundering of his earlier work makes for an unrewarding experience. Howard Davies's production is wonderfully acted and full of dark humour but remains disappointingly superficial.

Albee's The Play About The Baby is at London's Almeida Theatre, N1 until October 10. For bookings and enquiries call 0171 359 4404.


The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company perform Gilbert and Sullivan's light-hearted operetta, which tells the story of a tailor turned executioner in an imaginary Japanese city.

"This show is quite simply a throwback to pantomime. Eric Roberts's Ko- Ko is pure Northern panto, completely at variance with the comedy's graceful urbanity" cried Michael Church. "All good, undemanding fun" disagreed The Guardian, "the whole cast fly about the stage in a state of ceaseless hyperactivity, eyes and teeth glistening," while the Evening Standard maintained "Gilbert and Sullivan traditionalists will relish the gentle routines". "The women's costumes are dreadful," declared the Daily Telegraph "and some anarchic gremlin was busy having fun in the lighting box. Still the staging had a certain brash elan, and I wouldn't knock it too hard."

Illustrative of the scant state of the D'Oyly Carte's coffers after the Arts Council pulled the plug on them, this downmarket production of this famous operetta is clumsily executed though bursting with brash energy.

Today is the last day of D'Oyly Carte's The Mikado. The matinee is at 2.30pm and tonight's performance is at 7.30pm. For bookings and enquiries call 0171 960 4242.


The US indie outfit, headed by singer, actress and now Versace model, Courtney Love, follow up their controversial Love Through This with this treatise on the rigours of fame.

"On Celebrity Skin (Love) comes closer than ever before to real music," enthused Andy Gill. "It's not so much the music as the lyrics that impress here and... Courtney has pointedly claimed sole responsibility for all of them." "This might be the last time we hear Love so humbled... A total pop masterstroke," reported Time Out while The Mirror was disappointed by the "cosy, comfy power-pop framework. It's all rather sanitised and safe, and a major let down. The new Joan Jett anyone?" "Aesthetically, there's nothing to say that such wilful self-absorption can't make for great art - but Love's all-consuming narcissism eventually becomes tiresome," sighed The Times.

As ever, Courtney Love's baggage trails noisily behind, though this Celebrity Skin is a significantly more polished, human and reflective affair that reveals a primal search for redemption.

Celebrity Skin will be in the record shops from Monday at pounds 13.99. Live Through This is currently available in the shops at pounds 16.99.


A pair of blissed-out publishers, played by Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale, while away their evenings dancing in Manhattan discos in Whit Stillman's third comedy of manners.

"Stillman's analytical distance from the disco scene opens up possibilities denied by the heightened identification of Boogie Nights or Saturday Night Fever," remarked Ryan Gilbey. "This is the first disco-revival movie that makes you want to get up and dance just about all the way through," cried The Guardian, while Time Out complimented Stillman's "expertise with naturalistically articulate dialogue whose idioms, ironies and absurdities provide astute insights into... the young, privileged and, mostly, pretty ineffectual."

Whit Stillman's sparkly take on the early Eighties disco scene is refreshingly unpatronising and keenly perceptive, while its snappy soundtrack will have you shaking your popcorn with delight. Not to be missed.

The Last Days Of Disco is out on general release. Certificate 15, 112 minutes.


Hungarian novelist Gyorgy Dalos's account of the repercussions of Oxford scholar Isaiah Berlin's brief meeting with Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in St Petersburg.

"This sharply written and elegantly translated book establishes that there was nothing paranoid in (the) belief that this meeting led to a succession of misfortunes" reported Elaine Feinstein. "Dalos's account of Soviet methods of repression is detailed and accurate, yet somehow the reader may feel he has heard it all before" surmised the Literary Review.

The Guest From the Future throws new light on the conflict between the dissident writer and the Soviet state and offers a compelling account of this extraordinary encounter and its terrible consequences.

Gyorgy Dalos's The Guest From The Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isiah Berlin, translated by Antony Wood, is available from all bookshops. John Murray publishers. pounds 17.99



29, artist, Amsterdam

"This is the first time I have seen the Chagall paintings live. I was really impressed, especially his techniques in how he uses the ink in the drawings."


30, management consultant, New York

"They are lovely, peaceful pictures: also some are erotic and dark - all the different types of interaction that a young or new couple could have together."


17, art student, Somerset

"This is the first time I have seen some of his work: some of it was excellent but some of it I didn't find very interesting, like the prints."


17, student, Somerset

"I don't think the way it was laid out was very intimidating. You could go round and look at the paintings with ease and you weren't over-powered by any of them. Some of the comments on the wall helped you to understand the paintings."