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Angela Lewis on pop

The Reading Festival serves as a curtain-raiser for the autumn when the bumper harvest of new albums brings all the major tours of the year. And one woman who'll be doing the rounds with a snatch of dates is Tracey Bonham (below right), currently picking up accolades for her pop metal sizzler of an album The Burdens Of Being Upright. She'll be compared to Alanis Morissette (She's female. She writes feisty lyrics. She plays guitar.), but Tracey is more raw, with tunes leaning nearer to Nirvana's Nevermind than anything else. Hers has the rare distinction or being an album so well conceived and clear (maybe something to do with Tracey's classical music training), there's not a duff track on it. But many of the album's sentiments, notably the single Mother Mother, belong to a younger, more scrambled Tracey. When you hear the lines: "I'm hungry, I'm dirty, I'm losing my mind, EVERTHING'S FINE!" screamed deliriously, remember, she's changed.

Decca Aitkenhead on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, Europe's biggest gay celebration, takes over Manchester's gay village this weekend for three days and nights of the finest camped- up carnival. Among the many eclectic entertainments lined up (this is, after all, an event whose own theme tune features a line-up ranging from Cindy Beale to Margarita Pracatan), are two nights offering something old and something new from the best of the city's gay clubbing tradition.

Ryan Gilbey on film

Is Anjelica Huston the best actress working today? Yes, she is. She has two new films out: Sean Penn's grim and disappointingly sentimental drama The Crossing Guard, and Mira Nair's messy but endearing The Perez Family. She is outstanding in both - fragile but somehow indomitable, and fierce, and sad - but I think her power is most evident in The Perez Family, where she has more screen time and actually holds together an entire film which might otherwise fall to pieces. (The Crossing Guard is a lost cause which even Huston can't fully redeem.) She plays Carmela (right), a woman waiting in Miami for her husband (Alfred Molina), a political prisoner of 20 years. But he doesn't arrive, or rather he does, but a series of comic misadventures result in him being elbowed into a bogus marriage with another woman.

Film of the week: The Perez Family

Juan (Alfred Molina) has been in a Cuban prison for two decades, and on his release, he meets the vivacious Dottie (Marisa Tomei) on the boat to Miami. There's a mistake at immigration. Dottie is listed as Juan's wife. Juan's brother-in-law, there to bring him home to his real wife, Carmela (Anjelica Huston), doesn't recognise him. It's a mess. But out of this tale of separation, betrayal and longing, director Mira Nair weaves a likeable blend of dizzy comedy and aching romance. The photography is fizzy and fruity, like the performances, and Huston in particular is excellent.

The 24 Seven Guide: Always on my mind

On the 19th anniversary of Presley's death, it's now or never for the enormous band of Elvis tribute acts. Anthony Clavane tiptoes around the blue suede shoes

Television & Radio: On the box

The recent repeats of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? reminded us of the marvellously comic lugubriousness of James Bolam (right). No doubt it will be on show again in The Missing Postman, a new two-part drama for BBC1 which starts filming this month. Mark Wallington's screenplay casts Bolam as Clive Peacock, a postman who refuses to take early retirement and resolves to give his employers what-for by hand-delivering his last collection. The police chase him up and down the country as he cycles around in imitation of the Pony Express. The media latches onto the story and dubs him "the people's postman". Postmen just can't keep out of the news at the moment.

Television & Radio: Old habits die hard

Returning to the small screen as Cadfael, a 12th-century monk detective, was a spiritual experience for Derek Jacobi. James Rampton reports

Angela Lewis on pop

At the V96, where Paul Weller headlines in Chelmsford on Sunday, one thing is guaranteed - The Cardigans will be the politest band on the bill. When the Swedish smilers were on the road earlier this year, part of the amusement was concentrating to hear whether vocalist Nina Persson slipped up and forgot to deliver one of her ever-so-gracious thank-yous at the end of a song. She never did. You almost expected her to curtsey along with it. With the help of fellow Swedes the Wannadies, The Cardigans (right) have given Euro indie pop a good name. Maybe sometimes their music is so neat it could be the result of a laboratory experiment, but the tacky glamour - Barbie Doll vocals, slinky Abba-meets-The-Smiths melodies - are getting more irresistible all the time.

Iain Gale on exhibitions

Old habits die hard. In post-empire Britain we still tend to characterise Indian painting solely in terms of those exquisite miniatures on view in the V&A and the British Museum. Elegant and passionate images of religion and folklore, history and warfare, of the type famously collected by Howard Hodgkin. That there is much more, however, than these to the artistic creativity of a continent is immediately evident on entering a recently opened gallery in London's Mayfair.

David Benedict on theatre

"What was my crime?" asked a faux naif Michael White in the Evening Standard last week. "To put on a fun musical that doesn't have a plot, has lots of beautiful girls and a great soundtrack and which threw the theatre critics who are steeped in the tradition of Rodgers and Hammerstein." Come, come. I can hear the sound of eyelids fluttering from here. The reason for the less than fulsome praise of the meretricious Voyeurz was hardly its lack of closely plotted uplift, gingham or curtain costumes and other staples from Oklahoma or The Sound of Music.

Ryan Gilbey on film

The young actress Emily Watson sometimes looks startled or terrified, and sometimes paralysed with glee. She has twinkling button-eyes pressed into her face like currants in dough, and a nose that seems in a permanent state of wrinkle-ment. She's a newcomer, and I think it shows in her performance in Breaking the Waves, the extraordinary new film from Lars Von Trier, director of The Kingdom. That's not to say that there's anything unconvincing or slack about her. Just that she seems untouched. By what? By technique or contrivance. By anything. That's fitting. She plays Bess, a woman on the Isle of Skye who falls quickly and passionately in love with an oil- rig worker. Their marriage (right) - of which the repressed, buttoned- to-the-collar elders disapprove - is a rollercoaster ride on a broken track. After a period of elation, tragedy strikes. The picture changes gear.

BBC Proms 96

Tonight's Prom

James Rampton on comedy

Jack Dee achieved what very few people thought was possible: he made stand-up work on television. From his Channel 4 show flowed projects of varying advisability (Jack Dee's Saturday Night, Jack and Jeremy's Real Lives) and a highly-lucrative advertising campaign for beer. Dee (below) has become so busy with all these television vehicles that live appearances are now something of a rarity, an event, even.

16 -22 August day planner


Julian May on folk

The Queen Elizabeth Hall is more a lecture theatre than a dance venue. Even the most effervescent performers have difficulty stirring the frigid gloom of the place - last time Salif Keita sang there, he actually knelt at the front of the stage appealing to his audience to get up and move. This adds to the allure of the big gig on Sunday of this year's excellent South Bank Folk Festival, the only appearance in England of La Bottine Souriante, who have been blasting their traditional Quebecois cajun celtic salsa jazz around the world for 20 years. The cover of their new CD, La Mistrine, makes their intention clear: in Bruegal's Peasant Wedding, cunningly dotted among the dancers strutting, codpieces akimbo, is the band. Here a shaven-headed accordionist in shades, a fiddler, double bass, mandolin, there a singer in pork-pie hat and matching paunch, and, jamming alongside Bruegal's piper, a sax player and a trombonist, half of their horn section. Le Bottine Souriante look quite at home.
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