Arts and Entertainment

Jumbo the elephant was a Victorian sensation, who between his birth in modern-day Eritrea and alcoholic death in the American circus of the incorrigible showman PT Barnum was the star attraction at London Zoo.

New biopic Gainsbourg features the untimely swansong of a young actress

Lucy Gordon didn't live to see the acclaim that she would receive for playing Jane Birkin in Gainsbourg, a biopic about the acclaimed French crooner, Serge. She committed suicide aged 28 in May 2009, just a short time after filming had completed and just before she was due to appear in Cannes to promote the film. The usual tittle-tattle about suicide notes and suppositions as to why she took her own life quickly appeared, alongside premature (the film was still some way from being completed) assessments of her talent. Now, as Joann Sfar's film hits cinemas, it's clear that, like Birkin, Gordon was set to move from mannequin to actress with aplomb.

DVD: The Unloved (15)

In the land of the dispossessed, belonging is king. Feeling loved is the antidote to the trauma of abandonment, the Holy Grail sought by Lauren Socha in Samantha Morton's The Unloved, a semi-biographical tale of children in care.

Samuel Johnson, By Peter Martin

Tackling the best known of all biographical subjects is a tall order, but Martin has achieved an enthralling and original portrait. Despite his Stephen Fry-like celebrity ("I believe there is hardly a day in which there is not something about me in the papers"), Johnson emerges as sad and afflicted, in keeping with his dark reflection shortly before death on "the general disease of my life".

Mishima: a life in four chapters (15)

Paul Schrader's 1985 biopic of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima is a brave but flawed attempt to tell a sensational story in a formalist manner. The author's last day in November 1970 – when he committed ritual suicide after addressing an army garrison – is interspersed with black-and-white flashbacks to his painful boyhood and dramatic excerpts from his novels, remarkably visualised by the designer Eiko Ishioka. Yet the cerebral cool of Schrader's perspective sacrifices emotional connection to its subject: Mishima's life will always be a mystery, but the careful layerings don't give much of a clue as to why he became an object of cult worship to the Japanese.

Gunman and guards trade shots inside US Holocaust Museum

An elderly gunman opened fire inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum today, wounding one security guard before two other officers returned fire. The assailant and his victim were both hospitalized.

DVD: Hunger, Retail & Rental, (Pathé)

The Turner-winning artist Steve McQueen turns Bafta-winning writer/director with this mesmeric film about Bobby Sands’ hunger strike. Unstintingly brutal, yet often fabulous to look at, it rejects the structure of a traditional chronological biopic.

Che: Part One, Steven Soderbergh, 126 mins, 15

Not so much a biopic as 'I'm a rebel ... get me out of here'

Knightley lined up to play Scott Fitzgerald's Zelda in biopic

Zelda Sayre was one of the most controversial literary figures of her time. Some claim that her marriage to F Scott Fitzgerald inspired him to produce the Jazz Age's best novels. Others say she stifled his creativity.

Album: Micah P. Hinson, Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (Full Time Hobby)

Even if he were to cover his sort-of namesake's "Grace Kelly", Micah P. Hinson would still sound like a backwoods mechanic hiding something in the cellar.

Thomas Sutcliffe: Spot the cultural Renaissance

Reading about the McMaster review of arts funding, headlined in one newspaper as "Britain on verge of 'new Renaissance', minister claims", I was reminded of the – possibly apocryphal – Hollywood biopic in which one artist turns to another and says furiously: "Don't you understand? You can't paint like that any more – we're in the Renaissance now." The point is, of course, that the Renaissance wouldn't even exist as a concept until some 300 years later: a renaissance isn't something that you can identify at the time.

Album: John C Reilly

Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story (Sony BMG)
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As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links