This Week – Gentry Style

The Exhibition: Vanity Fair Portraits (National Portrait Gallery)

Josephine BakerThis excellent collection has been around for a while so there’s no excuse to miss it. The NPG has been given access to the Vanity Fair archives and pulled 150 of the most iconic, revealing pictures. The exhibition features vintage prints from the magazine’s first period (1913-1936) – on display for the first time. These are combined with more popular and contemporary images from its second period (1983-present). Legendary photographers like Edward Steichen and Cecil Beaton took glamorous portraits of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson in the period 1913-1936, and these are on display. Two unseen portraits of author Virginia Woolf taken in 1924 are an added treat in this part of the exhibition. Another highlight of the exhibition is 22 images by acclaimed portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz has become the dominant image-maker of Vanity Fair. Her portraits include that of Miles Davis, Kate Winslet, Lance Armstrong, and more recently, the Queen. With subjects as diverse as Claude Monet, Cary Grant and Madonna, if you’re looking for great photographers or great subjects, or both, don’t miss the Vanity Fair Portraits exhibition. In our view, this is the hottest photographic experience in town. Go and see it!

The Album: Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple

Building on the success of last year’s St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley and producer Danger Mouse continue to expand their sound and our minds with this phenomenal experimental hip-hop/soul album. Barkley’s sound is like no other and although Outkast’s Andre 3000 has been touted as the Prince of our times, it’s Barkley who is making free, warped strides towards a fascinating maverick melting point. The pick of the new material is the razor sharp Ray Charles-like ‘Run’, a belting number that has all the punch of the never-to-be-outdone ‘Crazy’. Other demented-funk tinged tracks such as ‘Blind Mary’ and the bouncing opener ‘Charity Case’ chatter feverishly with horny, nail-biting summer promises. The real strength of Barkley and Danger Mouse is, of course, their ability to fuse their vast array of tastes and sounds, which they do perfectly here. There seems to be no ground they are not prepared to cover: from circus organs to wailing sirens to violent guitars. For a new musical experience, enjoy. Listen to a few tracks here, or and watch the new video, below.

The Film: You, the Living (Roy Andersson)

You the LivingCannes winner in 2000 for Song’s from the Second Floor, Andersson’s ambition and desire to push the form of cinema remains undimmed. This morosely comic symphony of vignettes (the action takes place before the stubborn camera in a series of slickly choreographed tableaux) is an unusually captivating piece of work. The vague selection of plots include a punk-haired guitarist, a Louisiana jazz quartet and a woman who bursts into song after a nearsuicidal rant – all with some import on the grandest of themes: the meaning of existence. The results are sometimes bitterly amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. However, make no mistake, Andersson is a rare thing: an arch-miserablist with a great sense of humour, which makes a drunken sort of sense in a film director ready to tackle the big questions. One character that pretty much sums up the mood is that of a bartender who, after describing his clientele as bunch of “homeless bastards,” calls for a last round of orders with the words, “Tomorrow is another day!” – and it’s this charming air of regretful hope that’s such a winning combination.


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