My Desert Island Books

Robert Burton - The Anatomy of Melancholy (NYRB Classics, 2001) First published in 1621, it is still a fairly accurate medical treatise, in spite of modern advances beyond the 'four humours’. The melancholia here corresponds to modern day clinical depression, but chiefly it's a fascinating, informative and entertaining account of those afflicted, an analysis of… Continue reading My Desert Island Books


Top 3 Ludwig van Beethoven Recordings

The modern day approach of interpreting Beethoven is to perform the symphonies either with ‘authenticity’, i.e. period instruments, or with a small scale orchestra that mirrors the size of early nineteenth century orchestras, or both. And so, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner and others are lauded for their approach. Certainly there is a transparency and… Continue reading Top 3 Ludwig van Beethoven Recordings

Top 3 Favourite Landscape Paintings

Landscape painting has long since captured the imagination like no other genre. To begin with, from the rural scenes in Pieter Brueghel the Elder to the classically inspired settings from Claude Lorraine and Nicolas Poussin, mankind was always at the heart of the paintings. There were exceptions, such as Jacob von Ruisdael, who depicted mankind’s… Continue reading Top 3 Favourite Landscape Paintings

City Lights (1931): Chaplin’s Masterpiece

Charlie Chaplin’s comedies, to the juvenile and the inner child alike, are the epitome of magic in the movies. An eternally youthful hyperbole, very few artists could elicit such a sensation, from a well of tears to pangs of laughter no remedy can cure, as Chaplin did with his immortal Tramp. True, he had a… Continue reading City Lights (1931): Chaplin’s Masterpiece

Léon Morin, prêtre (1961): An Intellectual Love Story

When Léon Morin, prêtre was released in 1961, Jean-Pierre Melville’s career was at a crossroads. Whilst the film is not generally regarded as a watershed moment, it was certainly a turning point. Melville had already set up his own studios in Rue Jenner, including his own screening room, but despite, or perhaps because of, his… Continue reading Léon Morin, prêtre (1961): An Intellectual Love Story

Life as a Dream: Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986)

Thirty years after his death, Andrei Tarkovsky remains a cinematic visionary on a universal scale. His films rightly deserve be placed in the pantheon alongside those of other great auteurs, speaking to an audience beyond the confines of his own country. Despite these accolades, the limitations imposed upon his artistic spirit weighed heavily, and yielded… Continue reading Life as a Dream: Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986)

Top 3 Favourite French Films

I have always admired French cinema. There is a certain style, a sense of purpose and a playful spontaneity that the majority of Hollywood productions clearly lack. It is no coincidence that a country which holds as much claim as any to the birth of motion picture, with early pioneers such as the Lumière brothers… Continue reading Top 3 Favourite French Films

Top 3 Favourite Portraits

The portrait genre is not usually seen the most visually inventive or imaginative of genres. Indeed, the subjects themselves were often more important than the artist in question, even if some names and faces only survive to us through their painted form. The subjects of portraits were traditionally wealthy, famous and powerful, with a presupposed… Continue reading Top 3 Favourite Portraits

Top 3 Favourite Johannes Brahms Recordings

Poor Johannes Brahms, a composer who divides opinion. Ever since his war of words with the Wagnerites, luminaries ranging from Tchaikovsky to George Bernard Shaw have been keen to have a pop. He may have stuck to the old forms, and thought little of eking out every last drop of emotion in excessive operas or… Continue reading Top 3 Favourite Johannes Brahms Recordings

Top 3 Favourite Humphrey Bogart Films

Ah, Bogey, that potent mixture of world weary cynicism and dangerous charm that made up the ultimate Hollywood star. And yet, it’s hard to imagine Bogart making it today. For starters, he doesn’t have immediate physical sex appeal (smoke and words mattered more in the days when a two minute kiss was risqué); secondly, he’s… Continue reading Top 3 Favourite Humphrey Bogart Films