Review

Great Moments in Aviation (Sat BBC2), a shipboard romance by Jeanette Winterson, began by taking on fabular cargo. Nothing was missing from the inventory - the valedictory family banquet, the picturesque flambeaux, a white horse, blessings and predictions, dreams of flight, even a bloody elephant, doing its pachydermic bit to increase the sense of wonder. How the spirits sank at the prospect of this voyage, and they didn't perk up much when you heard what was lined up for the ship's amateur dramatics. On Winterson Lines you don't get Ayckbourn or Agatha Christie, you get Massinger's The Temptation.

Jonathan Pryce and Rakie Ayola meet cutely in their cabin, thrown together by a booking error. It is the premise for a screwball comedy, but it is soon clear that screwball is not one of the shots in Winterson's repertoire - she is too busy arranging brightly-coloured balls into pretty patterns. Pryce plays Duncan Stewart, a forger who may also have forged himself, while Ayola plays Gabriel Angel ("tighten that gag, nurse. I can still hear the moans"), a young girl who dreams of learning to fly, like her beloved grandfather. In the next cabin are Doctor Angela Bead and her companion Gwendoline Quim ("tighter, goddamn it, tighter!"), two returning missionaries. John Hurt prowls around as nemesis, in the shape of an art historian who has unfinished business with Duncan: matters of murder and the forgery of a Titian. There is much talk of truth and flight, art and life, and enough gravid symbolism to sink a battle-cruiser.

But while flight is the sustaining theme, the film never soars. The characterisation is Cluedo with pretensions, and the dialogue suspends the actors in that ungainly, undignified dangle which you associate with stage flying, the wires robbing them of all powers of independent movement. There are a couple of moments when characters manage to get their feet to the floor, when some sense of real weight returns to the story - as in a radiant scene when the two missionaries cautiously declare their mutual love after 32 years of decorous containment (beautifully acted by Vanessa Redgrave and Dorothy Tutin). But, for the most part, these people are simply Winterson's puppets, jerked around by the symbolic demands of the plot.

Beeban Kidron's direction appears to be a kind of surrender, dutifully sup- plying visual equivalents for Winterson's sterile symmetries but despairing of any greater vivacity. It would have been impossible, anyway, such is the pomp of the story's advancement - everything unrolls at the same stately pace, a religious procession bearing the reliquaries of Winterson's prose. It's as though the author thinks every word is infinitely precious. She's right, though perhaps not in the way she imagines.

The physicist Niels Bohr once snapped at Einstein: "You are not thinking. You are merely being logical". The same charge could be levelled against Enoch Powell, the subject of Odd Man Out (Sat BBC2), an engrossing profile by Michael Cockerell. Old age has transformed Powell into Blakey from On The Buses, but a Blakey possessed of fearsome clarity of mind and economy of expression. "I was not satisfactory," Powell said flatly, explaining what had gone wrong with his first love affair. His conversation throughout was uncannily grammatical, issuing as a string of philosophical premises or textbook sentences.

Cockerell had wonderful material with which to evoke the icy blaze of his life, including a photograph of Enoch in the bath, eyes staring wildly, and an interview with Mrs Thatcher in which she recalled Enoch's physical charisma in Cabinet. So that's where she got the eyeballs from, you realised.

The mystery of how such a fastidious intellect could bring itself to dabble in the gutter of racial hatred remained unsolved, but you were given clues. This was a tragedy of intellectual vanity, it seems, the story of a man who could not change his mind because he simply couldn't bring himself to believe that such an exquisite machine might have malfunctioned in the first place.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice