Saturday Review - 01/08/2009

Logo for Saturday Review - 01/08/2009

Tom Sutcliffe is joined by writer David Aaronovitch, historian Frances Stonor Saunders and director of the ICA Ekow Eshun to discuss the cultural highlights of the week, featuring a subway train, a streetcar and a stoner shamus. The Taking of Pelham 123 is Tony Scott's remake of a 1974 film which starred Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau. This time the roles of hijacker and train dispatcher are played by John Travolta and Denzel Washington respectively. It is a shinier, noisier affair than the original, but there is still a subway carriage full of hostages who are going to get it if the money doesn't arrive on time. More than 60 years on from its first performance, Tennessee Williams's landmark play A Streetcar Named Desire has lost none of its atmospheric power. The arrival of Blanche Dubois at her sister Stella's home in New Orleans turns the tiny apartment into a claustrophobic powder keg in which the most explosive element is Stella's husband, Stanley. In Rob Ashford's production at the Donmar Warehouse in London, Rachel Weisz plays Blanche, opposite Elliot Cowan's Stanley. Thomas Pynchon is one of the most mysterious figures of the literary scene. He has spent his career carefully avoiding the media circus, prefering to allow his work to speak for itself. Inherent Vice is his seventh novel and sees Pynchon taking an unxpected excursion into the world of noir-ish detective fiction. His protagonist is hipster gumshoe Doc Sportello, chasing a slippery and occasionally hallucinatory plot through the mean streets of 1960s LA. Think Raymond Chandler meets the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Rankin Live! is an exhibition of two parts. On the one hand, there's a retrospective of the photographer's work - celebrity portraits, fashion shots, a bit of verite - but he has also invited members of the public to apply to have their portraits shot. During the course of the exhibition he will immortalise 1,000 lucky applicants in an open studio at the gallery. After she came to the throne in 1953, the Queen embarked on a tour of the Commonwealth. Over 18 months she travelled 44,000 miles and visited the 11 countries which made up the Commonwealth at the time. In his Channel 4 series On Tour With The Queen, playwright Kwame Kwei Armah has followed in her footsteps to find out how feelings in those countries towards Queen and Commonwealth have changed in the intervening years.