Tolstoy’s War and Peace as BBC TV series


This video series says about itself:

The BBC’s War & Peace

Twenty part drama of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. The Rostov family prepares to celebrate the name-day of Countess Rostova and her younger daughter, Natalia, nicknamed Natasha.

First broadcast in 1972/3 this was one of the BBC’s earliest historical drama series for colour television. Stretching into a mammoth 26 episodes if memory serves, it received only a luke-warm reception and never really garnered much interest from the viewing public. The original series was heavily edited into 20 parts and re-broadcast a few years later, but it never really caught on.

This upload is the 20 episodes version. Very much a novelty at the time, colour TV across our measly three television channels in the UK was all the rage. The broadcast of episode 1 coincided with the arrival of our first colour TV at home. War & Peace became something of an obsession with me at the time and I could never understand why it had such a dismal reception. The modern viewer might spot a few familiar faces and wonder what ever happened to them. There might be one or two faces that went on to find greater fame and fortune.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dramatized in a new television series

11 February 2016

Leo Tolstoy’s titanic novel War and Peace has received a new adaptation by the BBC and is now airing globally. Directed by British filmmaker Tom Harper, the serialized television production stars American actor Paul Dano and British actors Lily James, James Norton, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea in leading roles as part of a large, predominantly UK cast.

This video from Britain says about itself:

Lily James: New BBC drama the best adaptation of War and Peace

14 December 2015

Former Downton Abbey star Lily James has swapped one period drama for another, as she plays Natasha Rostova in what the Cinderella actress describes as the most truthful and faithful adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lily stars alongside James Norton and Jim Broadbent in the six part drama of the Russian writer’s depiction of the Napoelonic wars.

The Joanne Laurier article continues:

Tolstoy, one of the greatest of the great Russian fiction writers of the 19th century, was born in 1828, three years after the Decembrist Revolt in which a group of officers rose up in one of the first open struggles against tsarism. He died November 20, 1910, five years after the 1905 Revolution in Russia and seven years before the October Revolution. Tolstoy’s other great works include Anna Karenina (1877) and Resurrection (1899).

His epic War and Peace, first published in its entirety in 1869, is set during the period of the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) and the French invasion of Russia. It follows the members of several Russian aristocratic families as they seek to survive the confusing, frenzied, bloody times.

The eight-hour miniseries opens in 1805 in St. Petersburg, as Napoleon’s victories and his army’s conquest of significant portions of western Europe are having an increasing impact on Russian life. Many of the central characters are introduced at an upper crust social gathering. Among them is Pierre Bezukhov (Dano), awkward but amiable, and initially a supporter of the French leader: “Napoleon’s a great man! He stood above the revolution, he put an end to its abuses and kept all that was good about it! You see good in revolution, sir? The equality of all citizens, freedom of speech, liberty, equality, fraternity, these are ideas we could learn from in Russia.”

Pierre looks on with disgust at the room’s “overfed aristocrats.” The illegitimate son of a wealthy count, he will soon become the object of intrigue for the sinister Prince Vassily Kuragin (Rea), who makes an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the will that names Pierre the inheritor of his father’s vast estate.

Another guest at the party is Pierre’s friend Andrei Bolkonsky (Norton), the intelligent and ambitious son of retired military commander Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky (Broadbent). Also present are the Rostovs, a noble, but down-on-their-luck Moscow family that includes a vivacious daughter Natasha (James), a quiet niece Sonya (Aisling Loftus) and a son Nikolai (Jack Lowden), who has just joined the army commanded by the veteran General Kutuzov (Brian Cox) (“He’s about the only man in Russia who knows what the war’s about and that includes our glorious Emperor.”). Nikolai’s parents (Greta Scacchi and Adrian Edmondson) are depending on their son to reverse the family fortunes.

Russia is in alliance with the Austrian Empire at this point (in the Third Coalition against Napoleon) and a restless, unhappy Andrei (“I can’t bear this life”)––whose young wife is pregnant––and Nikolai set off for the front. Meanwhile, Kuragin maneuvers Pierre into marrying his morally loose but beautiful daughter Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Her incestuous relationship with her dissolute brother Anatole (Callum Turner) is one indication of her manipulative, deceitful character.

Thus the stage is set for the various personal and political stratagems, unions and disunions, as the epoch of war heads toward its denouement following Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia in 1812 and the declaration of war by a reluctant Tsar Alexander I (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). On the eve of the invasion, Napoleon (Mathieu Kassovitz) brags that he has 600,000 men while the Russian army has only one-third that number and lies in shambles.

The mini-series

War and Peace has been adapted by Andrew Davies, best known for his reworking for television of such classics as Pride and Prejudice (1995), Vanity Fair (1998) and Sense and Sensibility (2008). He also wrote the popular British political thriller serial House of Cards (1990). His work on the current production results in a credible condensation of Tolstoy’s massive, complex story, some 1,400 pages and more than half a million words long.

Visually graceful and aided by numerous accomplished performances, this large-scale, high-quality production is, on the whole, a gripping experience.

The series paints a picture of a Russian aristocracy in which petty and selfish motives predominate. Andrei Bolkonsky goes off to war primarily to escape a vapid, stuffy life. Nikolai Rostov has other motives: his gambling debts have nearly bankrupted his family. He considers it more honorable to turn soldier than remain in the clutches of a nasty, egotistical mother and kindly, but ineffectual, father. In the end, under pressure from his parents, Nikolai breaks his engagement to the impecunious Sonya in favor of a more advantageous liaison.

Andrei Bolkonsky’s sister, the modest Marya (Jessie Buckley), shows her spiteful landlord coloring when she deals with the serfs on the family estate who refuse to help the household escape from the invading French army. Bellows one angry peasant: “The French will set us free and give us land! What have you ever done for us?”

Unfortunately, the production seems to side with Marya and her self-centered concerns. She is soon rescued from the legitimate wrath of the peasants by the timely appearance of Nikolai and his regiment. It is the one major scene that points to the fact that this parasitical social layer lives off the exploitation and enslavement of the peasantry.

Pierre, the moral conscience of War and Peace, tries to be honest when he sadly admits that “my life is one mistake after another … I wanted to change the world for the better, help my fellow men and look at me a fat, drunken aristocrat who makes a bungle out of everything.” To make amends for what he considers his mistakes, Pierre becomes obsessed with assassinating Napoleon.

In a relatively modest way, the mini-series does provide some sense of the great events that shaped the Tolstoy novel—namely, the aftermath of the world-altering French revolution. The depiction of the Battle of Borodino in September 1812, the bloodiest single day of the Napoleonic wars, with some 70,000 Russian and French casualties, is one of the series’ strongest sequences. Here, at least for a moment, the aristocratic lifestyle is left behind and we see something of the horror of war: men cut in half, doctors sawing off legs, the misery of the wounded and dying. And later there are the horrific consequences for Moscow’s population.

A duality exists in Tolstoy’s work between sharp condemnations of the aristocratic life and his acceptance of the inevitability of that life. In his remarkable 1908 tribute to the novelist, Leon Trotsky observed that, despite everything, Tolstoy continued to place in the center of his artistic attention “the one and the same wealthy and well-born Russian landlord” as though outside this universe “there were nothing of importance or of beauty.”

The mini-series tends to adopt the same standpoint, which is far less defensible given the subsequent course of Russian and world history. Trotsky noted that at the end of the novel, Tolstoy showed Pierre Bezukhov, “the restless seeker of truth,” as “a smug family man,” and “Natasha Rostova, so touching in her semi-childlike sensitivity,” as “a shallow breeding female, untidy diapers in hand.” The present series does the same, only more so. The final scene grates with its complacency and suggestion that contented family life offers some consolation for the massive destruction and loss of life.

That being said, Davies is genuinely skilled at choosing and adapting enduring, classic works. True, his genre of intelligent costume drama is not the be-all and end-all of artistic effort. One might even say that stylish adaptations like War and Peace have a certain soothing effect on an audience (with the exception of the battle scenes). If we were currently flooded with challenging artistic evaluations of the status quo, it is unlikely that such series would receive quite the attention they do. However, given the actual state of cultural affairs, this version of the Tolstoy epic attracts attention for its general intelligence and pleasing aesthetic qualities.

To their credit, the makers of the miniseries have tried to capture certain crucial features of the novel. A naturalness and elegance underscore and heighten the emotional intensity. As in Tolstoy’s narrative, there is truthfulness, a lack of pretension and artificiality: the viewer is engaging with real people, who have real, complex lives and feelings.

In dozens of essays the leading Russian Marxists, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and others, pointed to the great contrast between the immortality of Tolstoy’s artistic achievement and the poverty of his philosophical and social ideas. …

Nonetheless, as an indefatigable social critic, an enemy of cruelty and oppression, Tolstoy played an enormous role in undermining the tsarist regime and the entire Russian social order. Reactionary forces in the former Soviet Union have not forgiven him to this day.

In an obituary, Trotsky magnificently paid tribute to the great writer: “Truth in and of itself possesses a terrible, explosive power: once proclaimed, it irresistibly gives rise to revolutionary con­clusions in the consciousness of the masses. Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly… seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed. Although not a revolutionary, Tolstoy nurtured the revolutionary element with his words of genius. In the book about the great storm of 1905 an honorable chapter will be ded­icated to Tolstoy.”

It would be misleading to suggest that Tolstoy’s fierce indictment of Russia’s institutions is sufficiently present in the War and Peace mini-series. However, its honest presentation inevitably communicates elements of the social critique, and also may lead the viewer to investigate Tolstoy’s work further. That would be all to the good.

Donald Trump, satiric film, and women


This video from the USA says about itself:

Funny Or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art Of The Deal: The Movie Trailer

10 February 2016

See the full movie here.

Donald Trump has it all. Money, power, respect, and an Eastern European bride. But all his success didn’t come for nothing. First, he inherited millions of dollars from his rich father, then he grabbed New York City by the balls. Now you can learn the art of negotiation, real estate, and high-quality brass in Funny Or Die’s illuminating made-for-TV special feature, Donald Trump’s The Art Of The Deal: The Movie.

From UltraViolet Action in the USA today:

Trump–in his own words

It’s official: Donald Trump won New Hampshire. And no, this isn’t a TV show–Donald Trump is a real candidate who just walloped the Republican field by 20 points in New Hampshire. And he’s leading the polls by similar margins in the next two primary states, too.

While people know he’s a bully, fewer people know just how scary Trump is for women. That’s why we need to spread the facts about Trump now, not later. Can you get started by sharing this today?

Click here to share on Facebook.

Not on Facebook? Here are other options to share.

Donald Trump on women

Sources:

1. 18 Real Things Donald Trump Has Actually Said About Women, Huffington Post, August 24, 2015

2. Lawyer: Donald Trump called me ‘disgusting’ for request to pump breast milk, CNN, July 29, 2015

3. The Dumbest Stuff Donald Trump Has Ever Said, The Daily Beast, June 30, 2015

4. ‘Schlonged’: Watch Trump’s Astonishingly Sexist Attack On Hillary, Think Progress, December 21, 2015

5. So which women has Donald Trump called ‘dogs’ and ‘fat pigs’? Washington Post, August 8, 2015

Only four days after his public defense of torture and “a hell of a lot worse” in US military-intelligence interrogations, billionaire Donald Trump added assassination to his foreign policy arsenal as well. Speaking Wednesday on the “CBS This Morning” program, Trump said that his solution to the US conflict with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program would be to eliminate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: here.

New tarantula species named after singer Johnny Cash


Aphonopelma johnnycashi. Image credit: Hamilton C.A. et al.

From Sci-News.com in the USA:

Aphonopelma johnnycashi: Newfound Tarantula Species Named after Johnny Cash

Feb 5, 2016 by Enrico de Lazaro

A team of researchers, directed by Dr. Chris Hamilton of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula that lives in the plains and foothills of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains, the United States, and named it after the famed American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author Johnny Cash.

The newly-discovered species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, has a distribution running along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and can be found inhabiting the following regions: Sierra Nevada, Central California Foothills and Coastal Mountains, and Central California Valley.

“The specific epithet, johnnycashi, is in honor of the country music legend, Johnny Cash,” Dr. Hamilton and co-authors explained in a paper in the journal ZooKeys.

“This species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California (famous for Cash’s song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’), and like Cash’s distinctive style of dress, where he was referred to as ‘the man in black’, mature males of this species are generally black in color.”

The breeding season of Aphonopelma johnnycashi, when mature males abandon their burrows in search of females, occurs during the fall (generally September-November).

“More than 50 different species of tarantulas had been previously reported from the United States, but that many of them were poorly defined and actually belonged to the same species,” Dr. Hamilton said.

To gain a better understanding of the diversity and distributions of these spiders, he and his colleagues spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout scorching deserts, frigid mountains, and other locations in the American Southwest.

The team studied nearly 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever performed on a group of tarantulas.

Because most species of tarantula in the United States are very similar in appearance and cannot be distinguished from each other using anatomical features alone, the researchers implemented a modern approach to taxonomy by employing anatomical, behavioral, distributional, and genetic data.

Their results indicate there are 29 species in the United States, among which Aphonopelma johnnycashi and 13 other species are new to science.

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Johnny Cash – Man in black with lyrics

Recorded February 16, 1971; Nashville, Tennessee

Calais refugees attacked with rubber bullets


This video from London, England says about itself:

Developers board up new Banksy criticising Calais ‘Jungle’ teargas treatment

25 January 2016

Banksy has created a new artwork criticising the tactics used in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais – but it was covered up with wood shortly after developers discovered it. The latest mural was drawn opposite the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, west London, and depicts the young girl from the musical Les Miserables with tears streaming from her eyes as a can of CS gas lies beneath her. The artwork includes an interactive QR code which, when scanned, links to a video of teargas and rubber bullets allegedly used in a police raid on migrants and refugees in the camp on January 5.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

French cops ‘use rubber bullets on Calais refugees

Thursday 4th February 2016

FRENCH police are using tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees living in the notorious Jungle camp outside Calais.

Manchester-based Refugee and Asylum Participator Action Research (Rapar), which has visited the camp to deliver vital humanitarian aid, released evidence of the attacks yesterday.

The camp contains 6,000 refugees living in appalling conditions of mud and squalor. Refugees in the Jungle sent some of the visiting groups photographic evidence of the injuries inflicted by police, including pictures of spent baton rounds.

Rapar member Rhetta Moran said: “Mohammed, an Afghan father of a toddler girl, sent Rapar photographs of rubber bullet wounds that he described as sustained by Calais refugee camp residents.”

Labour MEP Julie Ward has visited the camp, where French riot police tried to prevent her from getting in.

She said: “The use of tear gas, rubber bullets and physical force, such as I experienced, is insupportable when dealing with people who are dispossessed.

“The refugees should be protected from the extreme right-wing who lurk on the fringes of the camp, and vulnerable camp inhabitants should be given the humanitarian assistance they need.”

London-based Umjum Mirza, an assistant branch secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, also visited the camp.

“We need to learn the lessons of history and let the refugees into Britain immediately,” he said.

Calais Jungle refugees targeted by armed far-right militia in brutal campaign of violence. Exclusive: Migrants accuse local police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and carrying out their own assaults: here.

Imperialist Cecil Rhodes, anti-imperialist Oliver Tambo statues in England


This 2015 video series from Oxford University in England is called Why must Rhodes fall?

By Keith Flett in London, England:

A tale of two statues

Monday 1st February 2016

History collides in north London

DISCUSSION about the statue of British-born imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University and what should be done about it, if anything, continues despite Oriel College’s decision to keep it.

Statues surely exist to be taken down — most often in the context of wider movements for social change. Otherwise one might think that a statue of Rhodes serves to remind us of Britain’s inglorious imperial past. It is undoubtedly something that David Cameron would prefer us to forget, assuming he ever knew much about it in the first place.

Cecil Rhodes was the son of a Bishop’s Stortford vicar who packed him off to South Africa at the age of 17 as he had been a sickly child. Reverend Francis William Rhodes thought that the South African climate would be good for the young Rhodes’s health, and this at least was correct.

Rhodes’s ancestors had been brick manufacturers. They were, in short, part of the industrial class that built early British capitalism, if you like, from the bottom up.

They owned substantial areas of land including some in north London such as Tottenham Wood and areas of Muswell Hill.

I went to school in the same area of north London in the 1970s at Alexandra Park Comprehensive School. It was a school with a left-wing reputation, although perhaps not quite as well-known as the nearby Creighton School where the head teacher was Molly Hattersley, at that time the distinguished partner of Roy Hattersley.

Alexandra Park School was on the corner of Alexandra Park Road and Rhodes Avenue — named to mark the Rhodes family’s holdings in the area. Cecil Road is nearby.

This being north London in the 1970s we knew well enough who Cecil Rhodes was and the role he had played in the development of British imperial endeavour in Africa. But we thought little of the matter beyond that.

Street names that recall Britain’s imperial past are hardly unusual but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The African National Congress had emerged as the leading force opposing the apartheid South Africa of which Cecil Rhodes had helped to lay the foundations.

One of the leaders of the ANC was Oliver Tambo who fled South Africa in the early 1960s, partly to evade arrest by the apartheid government but primarily to make sure that the work of the ANC could continue in exile.

In due course he made his way to London, the centre of the old imperial power.

Money was short but Muswell Hill at that time was not the area of super-expensive property it now is.

Tambo and his wife lived in a house in Alexandra Park Road, with other ANC sympathisers living nearby.

His house was less than five minutes’ walk away from Rhodes Avenue.

As the struggle against apartheid intensified and Tambo became an international figure, Nelson Mandela visited Muswell Hill and the local Tottenham MP Bernie Grant was also a visitor.

After Tambo’s death in 1993 the story of his north London years became increasingly well known. In 2007 a bust of Tambo was erected on Albert Road recreation ground, again just a few minutes’ walk from his old home and from Rhodes Avenue.

Imperialism and the man that helped to end its rule in South Africa are marked within a few hundred yards of each other in Muswell Hill.

Whatever the fate of the Oxford Cecil Rhodes statue, the bust of Oliver Tambo continues to stand proud.

Keith Flett is secretary of Haringey TUC.

This video from London, England issays about itself:

6 December 2008

Tribute to Oliver Tambo in Albert Road Recreation Ground & Play Area by ex members of the Anti Apartheid movement in the UK.

Trump, stop abusing my music, Adele says


This 2010 music video from Britain is called AdeleRolling in the Deep.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Adele didn’t give Donald Trump permission to use her music at rallies

Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent

Adele has told Donald Trump that he does not have permission to use her songs at campaign rallies after fans expressed their anger that the Presidential hopeful was using the singer’s hits as his warm-up music.

The Republican frontrunner has consistently played Adele’s smash hit “Rolling In The Deep”, with its “we could have had it all” refrain, to stoke up the atmosphere at campaign events before his appearance.

Trump, an Adele fan who attended her New York concert last year, has also played Skyfall, the singer’s James Bond theme (“when it crumbles, we will stand tall, face it all together”) after delivering his apocalyptic stump speech about America’s future.

Adele’s fans have expressed anger at Trump’s appropriation of her music for his campaign. “Don’t suppose he asked for her endorsement. Hopefully she’s objected,” tweeted one.

“Noooooo!! Not Adele!! Must Trump ruin that too?!,” asked one fan. “I think she’s cringing as much as we are … wish he would drown in the deep. The bigot,” wrote another. Others asked if Adele was being paid for the use of her music by Trump.

Adele has now broken her silence over the association and made it clear that she does not endorse Trump’s use of her music. …

Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination, Mike Huckabee, has also tried to cash in on Adele’s popularity. Huckabee, trailing the field, posted a cover of Adele’s “Hello” on Twitter and YouTube, featuring lyrics about the Iowa caucus and his rivals. Due to a claim from the copyright holder of the song, the audio for the post has been muted.

Adele has preferred to stay out of political debates, since making a 2011 statement that she was a “Labour girl.”

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler has ordered Trump to stop using the power ballad Dream On at campaign events.

Attorneys for Tyler sent a second cease-and-desist letter to Trump’s campaign committee. It said that Trump does “not have our client’s permission to use Dream On” or any of Tyler’s other songs and that it “gives the false impression that he is connected with or endorses Mr Trump’s presidential bid”.

Adele has yet to go that far. Fans noted that her songs were hardly appropriate for the Trump campaign. Some noted the “You’re gonna wish you never had met me” line in Rolling In The Deep. “This is the end,” quoting the opening line of Skyfall, wrote one Twitter user, after the song was played at Trump’s Iowa event.

Trump previously annoyed Adele fans after he “cut the line” to get to his seat, when he attended her exclusive performance at the Radio City Music Hall last November.

Musicians have frequently had cause to complain over politicians hijacking their music. REM frontman Michael Stipe objected to the use of the band’s 1984 song It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by Trump and the Texas senator Ted Cruz, another 2016 candidate. Bruce Springsteen objected to Ronald Reagan’s use of Born in the USA in 1984.

Meanwhile indie band Vampire Weekend have publicly endorsed the Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders. The group joined Sanders on stage at an Iowa students rally and sang a cover of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land with the left-leaning Vermont Senator.

The Huffington Post writes:

Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.