Last night's viewing - Imagine: Jeanette Winterson – My Monster and Me, BBC1; Murder Files: The Haircut Killer, Channel 5


A young, clever, troubled girl finds solace from an oppressive mother in the local library, where she begins to read through the fiction stock in alphabetical order. Which end of the alphabet would you suggest she started at for maximum consolation? In this (though in almost nothing else), the young Jeanette Winterson took the conventional route, beginning at A.

According to Alan Yentob in his Imagine film about her, she'd reached the letter M by the time she was 16, and was being thrown out of her home for a love affair with another girl. Which meant that she'd passed Austen and Eliot and the Brontës, and so had a perfect literary model for her vigils on a nearby hilltop, where she could stand windswept and dream of somewhere beyond Accrington. "Of course, I felt like Heathcliff," she said as she revisited the spot. What if she'd got to Virginia Woolf a little earlier though, and the seductive transgression of Orlando and of Woolf herself?

In fact, Winterson only got to Woolf when she went to Oxford, the first time she had a "room of her own" (unless you count the Mini that became her temporary home). But by then she already seemed to have identified literature – or stories – as a sovereign remedy for an unsatisfactory life. They could substitute for the disappointments of reality, but they could also shape what actually happened to you into a better, more satisfying tale. Winterson effectively wrote herself into being, and Imagine's film captured the charm and exhilaration of that success, and the darkness of the depression that engulfed her when the trick didn't work for a while.

She's a very obliging subject for a television profile, a form of portraiture that even the most patient writers can find tiresome. Taken to visit her old terraced house in Accrington, the site of Mrs Winterson's more extravagant excesses, she appeared to sit down without prompting on the stone threshold, re-enacting the punishments of her childhood. And she knows, as a storyteller, what works well. Her recollection of weeping over Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral for the camera here was, almost word for word, the same as one she published in a newspaper in 2008. This isn't a criticism, incidentally. The story is part of the narrative of who she is, and there's no point telling it less effectively for the sake of novelty.

She also knows, I think, what makes a good picture on screen and will supply the words that make it work. So when this film opened with a lovely shot of her looking out over a city at twilight from a high window, she effortlessly knitted the prospect into her own story, stitching it to memories of youth and the vertigo of fame: "It's the temptation of celebrity to throw yourself off the roof of your own life," she said. I'm still not entirely sure what she meant by that, to be honest, but at the time I was distracted by her knowing pastiche of a tent revival preacher for a book festival audience, very neatly elided here with a similar scene from the television version of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. An engrossing story, nicely told at every level.

Murder Files: The Haircut Killer was as briskly knocked together as Imagine was well crafted, full of true-crime clichés and marked by a melodramatic voiceover. But these things have a way of getting through to even the most disapproving of us (Winterson's adoptive mother was a murder-mystery addict) and Danilo Restivo, the killer profiled here, was a murderer straight from central casting. Five's film was also given a grisly fascination by a police video of Restivo prowling a local beauty spot looking for victims. He said he was collecting insects for his lizard. But his bag turned out to contain a filleting knife, a black balaclava and gloves. He also had a taste for true-life crime stories, which made you think.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower