The Week in Arts: New ideas are right under the BBC's nose

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The Independent Online

Anyone interested in, or involved in, the arts will know what I mean when I mention the moment of trauma. It is that psychologically disturbing time when you are forced to search your soul, doubt your intellect and question your judgement. It's that moment when you find yourself liking something - in this case a film - that everyone else detested, every critic, every other cultural commentator. Even the usherettes looked queasy.

Anyone interested in, or involved in, the arts will know what I mean when I mention the moment of trauma. It is that psychologically disturbing time when you are forced to search your soul, doubt your intellect and question your judgement. It's that moment when you find yourself liking something - in this case a film - that everyone else detested, every critic, every other cultural commentator. Even the usherettes looked queasy.

But I rather enjoyed The Terminal, the new movie from Steven Spielberg. I'm not totally alone. The noted writer on film, David Thomson told me he had a soft spot for it. But here, as the round-up in Performance Notes below shows, the critics thought it a stinker.

Maybe I'm a sucker for Spielberg sentimentality. Certainly, I felt I discerned an interesting study of displacement, a Kafkaesque tale of the Tom Hanks character being stuck in an airport terminal, with his country, passport and identity no longer officially recognised following a coup while he was in flight. It was an evocation of that strange mix of romance, mystery and menace that airport terminals have always been for me.

But, what to do when every paper you open tells you that you're wrong? Does that mean that you're wrong about every other cultural judgement you make? Should you enrol in film school immediately?

My view is that we should all be allowed one aberration in every art form. Who cannot admit to one CD in their record collection which they hide when guests arrive? My collection is a model of contemporary cultural correctness. The Libertines nestle up against The Strokes, Kelis and Brian Wilson. You'd have to have eagle eyes to notice Neil Diamond's greatest hits, hidden in the corner.

It isn't socially comfortable when you going against the cultural trend. Not only do you start to doubt your own taste, it also becomes harder to indulge in social intercourse. Expulsion from the chattering classes looms. All too easily one can become a cultural outcast, as anyone who liked Benny Hill when he was deemed politically incorrect will know. (Now, of course, you can't move for comics lining up to praise him.)

Allow us our cultural aberrations. It is a disconcerting feeling, being in a minority, being touched by an artist when others are not. But it doesn't always mean you're wrong. Comfort yourself with believing you are ahead of your time. Who knows; perhaps in years to come The Terminal will be re-evaluated and have screenings at the National Film Theatre. But, while it's on general release, I think I'll steer clear of dinner parties.

New ideas are right under the BBC's nose

At the Edinburgh International Television Festival the director general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, said the corporation was in need of new comedies. He should have studied the speech at the same festival by the controller of BBC1, Lorraine Heggessey.

She spoke witheringly, but with refreshing honesty for a TV executive, of the absenteeism of some of the cast members in EastEnders. Producers had been forced to string out a plot concerning the Ferreira family, she admitted, because of the off screen activities of the cast. She said: "When you have a cast where one is ill, one is pregnant, one may be in rehab and another in a car crash, that's when you end up being over-dependent on a storyline about a kidney transplant."

There was nothing more seriously wrong with the corporation's flagship soap than a spate of absenteeism, she said. So, there's the answer to Mark Thompson's prayers: the absconding actors of EastEnders, and the scriptwriters sweating to rewrite storylines when key characters go awol. It's a sitcom waiting to happen.

¿ It must be the sort of audience reaction that directors dream of. The radical staging by Graham Vick of Benjamin Britten's Curlew River at this year's Proms proved even more political than Vick could have intended.

The late-night Prom had a staging in which members of Birmingham Opera Company dressed as police rather than as the original pilgrims. For part of the performance the "police" mingled with the Prommers on the floor of the Royal Albert Hall.

A reporter from Classical Music magazine tells how he heard one woman in the audience complain: "Thirty years I've been coming to the Proms, and this is the first time police have been in the hall. That bloody Blunkett!"

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