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Hans Zimmer – Film Music Genius

Fascinating documentary about a musical genius

Hans Zimmer is the most successful composer of film scores this century. His story was told in a recent BBC2 documentary which can now be seen on BBC iplayer or downloaded from the internet at

It tells how he was expelled from eight schools in Germany before his mother brought him to England where his creative talent was tolerated or even encouraged. He has had a fortnight formal music education.

He began his music career playing working men’s clubs in the north of England before working with synthesisers and computers in a backstreet studio in London and being discovered by Hollywood.

The documentary explores Zimmer’s approach to creating a film score. He has been astonishingly successful.

Next year, with a full orchestra he is doing a European tour appearing in Europe’s major arenas including the O2 in London.

The BBC documentary tells his fascinating story. iplayer Link

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A witty, insightful and entertaining film about a mature woman with problems with work and romance

French Film, Aurore, I got Life

A witty, insightful and entertaining film about Aurore, a 50 year-old woman looking for love and struggling to cope with men, work and other stresses.  

I Got Life

Aurore with her friend

Aurore meets her daughter's boyfriend

Aurore is divorced, looking after her two teenage and maturing daughters and being plagued by hot flushes. She walks out on an obnoxious employer and then finds it difficult to get new work. She has plenty of advice from her friends, one of whom is a feisty feminist who puts real fear into men who make unwanted personal remarks in the street. It’s quite extraordinary to see one such man running away from this wild woman.

The film is very sympathetic, touching, and occasionally hilarious. It’s a great film and we will certainly watch it again

French with English subtitles. Currently it’s available on BBC iPlayer. Google play, YouTube, Apple TV, etc.
(15) 89 minutes, 2017. Stars Agnès Jaoui; and Thibault de Montalembert; directed by Blandine Lenoir.

David Roberts    25 October 2021

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Welcome return of that positive, inspiring and cheerful programme about a couple raising 1000 sheep and nine children – OUR YORKSHIRE FARM. New series. 9pm Tuesday 5 October 2021, Channel 5. We are gradually catching up on all the previous programmes using the watch-again facility, “My5” via my phone and Chromecast. Brilliant people, brilliant family. Great TV.

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Great TV – Our Yorkshire Farm on My5 Watch Again

Great TV - Our Yorkshire Farm on My5 Watch Again

Our Yorkshire Farm

A TV programme that is truly positive and life-enhancing. You may not be interested in sheep farming as a topic but it is hard not to find the events on this particular farm really interesting – especially if you have ever tried to bring up children.

Yorkshire model Amanda decides that modelling is not for her and that she would prefer the outdoor life of a shepherdess. She meets Clive Owen, a sheep farmer 20 years older than she is, and marries him.

Nine children

The story picks up for TV viewers some years later when the couple have 9 children who are all involved in the activities of a 2000 acre remote sheep farm in Yorkshire with its approximately 1000 sheep, plus cattle, horses, dogs, chickens, and wild, challenging landscape.

The children are keen workers

The oldest of the children is at university and helps around the farm during the holidays and the enforced covid break.
The youngest are just toddlers but even they are involved in the life of the farm and help to bottle-feed orphan lambs. Girls just a little older are involved in helping sheep to give birth by hauling lambs out of the back end of struggling ewes.

Remote and isolated farm

The school age children are picked up by minibus for a one-hour journey to school. The nearest hospital is 70 miles away.

The two youngest with an orphan lamb

We have watched about half a dozen programmes but there are four series that you can look at on My5 watch again. We couldn’t help but be impressed by the enthusiasm of the children and the amazing coping ability of the parents. Each programme has been fascinating and impressive.

David Roberts

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Philharmonia – psychological thriller on All4, on demand

Philharmonia - psychological thriller on All4, on demand

Philharmonia is a French six-part psychological drama. We are watching it on All4 via our phone and chromecast but there are other ways to access All4 free on demand series.
The story is set in Paris, mainly in the concert hall of a top French orchestra. The cast comprises mainly members of the orchestra as they try to cope with a difficult new female conductor, Hélène Barizet.

Ruthless musical director

 Hélène begins her relationship with the orchestra by firing the top player, the “first violin”. By doing this she immediately turns the whole orchestra against her, so the scene is set for many conflicts.
Added to this problem, the French horn player is having an affair with her husband and Hélène is stressed because she fears she may have the same incurable degenerative disease that her mother has. Further anxiety is caused when a super-rich financier is called in to bail out the near bankrupt orchestra. It appears that this individual had an abusive and frightening relationship with Hélène sometime in the past.

Common human problems

So the drama is not simply gripping but it does explore human problems, including the difficulties of managing a creative team.
One critic (in The Guardian) describes the drama as over the top. Perhaps it is, but if it were just everyday real life it would not have the same excitement. Hélène’s conducting is not very convincing either, but that’s not the main point.

Orchestras, with their extraordinary collection of huge musical talent and their astonishing cooperation in the pursuit of sublime music, are wonders to behold.

For me, seeing and hearing the orchestra at work and struggling with relationships and personal problems on and off stage makes for fascinating and rewarding viewing.

David Roberts 11 August 2021

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Montalbano – the last ever book and film

Montalbano - last ever book and film

Have we seen the last of Montalbano?

One episode has not been shown on British television. This episode is called Beloved Salvo, My Livia. It was shown on Italian television on 8th of March last year, 2020, and viewed by 9 million Italians. It has still to be shown in the UK, I believe.

I’ve got a trailer for this episode in Italian lower down this page.

Montalbano book still to be seen in UK

There may be yet another Montalbano film episode after this “final” episode because the author, Andrea Camilleri, wrote the book he wanted to be his last about Montalbano years before he died. He instructed that it was not to be published until after his death.

In fact Camilleri died in July 2019 and the final book, which was called Riccardino, was published in Italy in July 2020.

The English translation will appear on 14 of October 2021. I hope RAI TV in Sicily will make a film version of this final novel. More details about the book in translation from the Amazon link.

Trailer in Italian of the last film in the series about Montalbano Beloved Salvo, My Livia

David Roberts, 10 August 2021.

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All About Montalbano – the international TV and literary hit

All About Montalbano - the international TV and literary hit

Montalbano and The Young Montalbano

Montalbano and The Young Montalbano are two crime series set in Sicily.
They have enjoyed huge worldwide success. And in Italy, when the series were running on tv, 45% of the Italian population viewed the dramas.

The title roles are played by two different actors, Luca Zingaretti and Michele Riondino.


Michele Riondino

Obviously the idea is that when you watch the young Montalbano it’s the same person as the older Montalbano 10 or 15 years prior to the main series. The two actors do not have a similar appearance but they do have characters which are recognizably the same. The young Monalbano looks like a saint painted by El Greco.

We are hooked on the Montalbanos

We’ve been watching young and mature Montalbano dramas, on and off, for over a year on BBC iPlayer. They make a refreshing change from the gloom of scandi-noir crime series.

The stories involve the police team in Vigata, a fictional town in Sicily based on Porto Empedocle where the author, Andrea Camilleri was born. A typical programme, like the majority of crime stories, would be based more often than not around a mysterious murder. Several things help to make these TV programmes a bit different, and more appealing than the average crime drama.

For a start, each programme is complete in itself and therefore there is a sense of closure at the end of a programme. One isn’t compelled to keep following the story night after night or week after week. It gives us, the viewer, a more relaxing approach to watching the programmes.

Sicily is a visually stunning island

All the events take place in Sicily which is visually a stunning place with remarkable hills and coastline, fantastic looking old villages and towns, and amazing mansions with extraordinary interiors. Much of it shows signs of having seen better days. The grandeur is faded but no less appealing for that.

Film crew at work in Sicilian street

The key characters, Montalbano and the young Montalbano, are very interesting men. They are mavericks, highly intelligent, and operate outside the normal rules of engagement or even what is legal.

Montalbano has an interesting and complicated romantic life with his girlfriend, Livia, who is usually staying in Genoa rather than living in Sicily. In her absence Montalbano has brushes with romance, almost always with stunningly beautiful Italian young women. Most of these are are people he has to interview in the course of his work and even maybe murder suspects.

Italian temperaments and direct speaking

The fiery nature of the temperaments of Montalbano and some of the other Italian characters often lead to interesting arguments and problems with colleagues and superiors. Montalbano has a love/hate relationship with his deputy, Mimi Augello and many furious spats.

The forensic pathologist, Dottore Pasquano, pretends to hate Montalbano and always has some abuse ready to hurl at Montalbano “for bothering him”.
The two have a shared passion for a Sicilian pastry called cannoli. Their is more about cannoli below this article and a link to a recipe.

Sadly the actor, Marcello Perracchio, who played Pasquano, died in 2017. His funeral has been written into one of the last Montalbano episodes which I believe has still to be shown in the UK.

Witnessing Sicilian life

There is a a certain amount of humour in the programmes.

One character, Catarella, who mans the telephones and front desk in the police station is clumsy and gets names wrong much of the time. The character is over-written and made worse by over-acting. For me it is the one weak element in the programmes, but I have got used to him and he becomes quite an endearing buffoon after a while.

One has a sense of seeing day to day life in Sicily, domestic scenes, life in cafes, occasional feasts and celebrations, the lives of peasants, fishermen, bank workers, the mafia, and so on.
Montalbano loves food and wine, and swimming in the sea.

Montalbano often exhibits great perception and understanding of human nature. He is sometimes very humane and sympathetic at times when when his work does not call for this.

The stories usually give you some insight into to life and social problems in Italy. For example, there are often problems with the mafia and it is interesting to see how the police handle this issue. One programme dealt with immigrant boat people and a horrible exploitation of young boys; another with the exploitation of immigrant young women.

Uneven quality

Not all episodes are truly excellent. We have just watched a very disappointing episode, The Treasure Hunt, in which Montalbano makes stupid decisions and plays for laughs  –  completely out of character.

Origin of the stories

Each of these dramas is based on a story or novel by Andrea Camilleri.  Usually he is a co-author of the screenplay along with two or three other writers.

Andrea Camilleri - author of the Montalbano books

About Andrea Camilleri

Camilleri was born in Sicily and had a successful career as a television and theatre director as well as writing occasional novels. He started writing the Montalbano books a little before his 70th birthday and then completed 28 novels about Montalbano and 9 collections of short stories about him.
Camilleri was a keen observer and critic of Italian life and especially political corruption and the activities of the mafia. Some of his observations on Italian life are apparent in some TV episodes of Montalbano.

25 of the Montalbano novels have been translated into English and many of the thirty or so Montalbano short stories also.

Andrea Camilleri died at the age of 93 in July 2019.

Montalbano on TV and DVD

The television programmes which were first shown on BBC4 in the UK are available on BBC iPlayer. They are in Italian with some Sicilian dialect and accent – which accounts for some unfamiliar pronunciations of some words. With English subtitles.

Montalbano titles

I still enjoy the opening titles of the episodes with the views of the amazing towns and villages as a plane flies along the coast of Sicily. At this point I do find some music a little too harsh and scratchy for my taste.

On the other hand the title music for The Young Montalbano series with the singer Olivia Sellerio is is beautiful with her earthy, haunting singing. I’ve added a sample at the end of this.

View on BBC iPlayer or buy DVDs. The BBC has 36 episodes of Montalbano and 12 episodes of The Young Montalbano.
Read many of the stories that are translated into English. Some links to Amazon books and DVDs are lower down this page.

David Roberts, 9 August 2021.

Olivia Sellerio, the singer heard on The Young Montalbano title track

Cannoli ingredients and link to recipe 

Cannoli consists of  a pastry shell with a filling which is always made with ricotta and usually powdered sugar to sweeten it. Filling will usually include mascarpone and whipped cream for a lighter filling. You’ll sometimes find orange zest or nutmeg in there for extra flavour.

For more information click any of these Amazon links . The fourth link is to a box set of DVDs

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Ernest Hemingway – Fascinating BBC Documentary on i-player

Ernest Hemingway - 1899–1961 - Fascinating Documentary on BBC i-player

We have just started watching a fascinating BBC iPlayer documentary about the life of Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway was one of America’s most celebrated novelists and short story writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

He was a war reporter and himself a victim of war, being seriously wounded when he was an ambulance driver in Italy in the First World War.

My own attempt to read Hemingway as a teenager was not a happy one. I found his pared-down, colourless style barren and tedious to read. Perhaps I had chosen the wrong story to start with or maybe it was just my immaturity or maybe it was a very poor piece of Hemingway’s writing.

Hemingway’s colourful life

However, Hemingway certainly had a full, difficult and interesting life, and in his lifetime relished his macho image as a hunting, fishing, heavy drinking womanizer who married four times.
After a period of severe depression and ECT treatment he ended his life by shooting himself at the age of 61. His father, his sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also killed themselves.

First episode

I have watched only the first episode of the documentary. Hemingway’s story is told with thoughtful, intelligent detail and remarkable black and white footage to accompany the account of his prosperous but difficult childhood and his first world war adventure which led to him being seriously wounded in Italy. This first episode also covers Hemingway’s first marriage and his time in Paris when he met a number of well-known 20th century writers.

His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, depicts life among the dissolute thinkers and drinkers in Paris at this time, the early 1920s.

The programme has tempted me to take another look at some of Hemingway’s writing.


Each of the six episodes lasts for 50 minutes and is available on BBC iPlayer.

The series will be available for the next 11 months which will take us up to May or June 2022.

Accessing i-player with Chromecast

There are obviously several ways of accessing iPlayer but our own method is to find the programme on my Android mobile phone (about £150, which I have had for three years). Then, by pressing the “Cast” icon we send the programme to our telly. This happens with the aid of the very cheap but very effective Chromecast dongle (about £40) plugged into the back of the telly. The programme plays with great picture detail and sound quality. Our internet connection is part of the system and the phone is acting as a sort of remote control.

You can see what Amazon has to offer by clicking a link below.

David Roberts

30 July 2021

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Two witty, thoughtful and entertaining films about mature women with problems with romance

Two witty, thoughtful and entertaining films about mature women with problems with romance

The films, one English and the other French, are about two mature women looking for love and struggling to cope with men, work and other stresses. – Bridget Jones’s Baby (not about the baby) and Aurore/I Got Life.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is actually about Bridget Jones at the age of 40, still not married and still trying to find the ideal man after many false starts and often hilarious mishaps on the way.

The film begins with the funeral of ex-boyfriend/philanderer, Daniel – played by Hugh Grant in previous films. His plane had crashed and he had come down in the bush. Amongst the mourners are many young women and when Bridget addresses the packed church she says,very solemnly, “Daniel has touched many of us here today”.

Fans of the Bridget Jones films will enjoy and maybe identify with her life, her many slips of the tongue, her valiant struggles against her lack of self-confidence and the many embarrassing situations she gets herself into.Which lover is the father of the expected baby?

But the big question is, will Bridget make it in the end with one of her first loves, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth)?

The film is full of sympathetic humour and Renée Zellweger is as brilliant as ever as Bridget, as is the script by Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson and direction by Sharon Maguire. A very enjoyable film.
(15) 2016 123 minutes. Widely available.

Renée Zellweger as Bridget

I Got Life

Aurore (right) with her friend

Aurore meets her daughter's boyfriend

The second film is a French film with the original title of Aurore. It appears with English subtitles as, I got life.

The heroine of this film is a 50-year-old woman, divorced, looking after her two teenage and maturing daughters and being plagued by hot flushes. She walks out on an obnoxious employer and then finds it difficult to get new work. Like Bridget she has plenty of advice from her friends, one of whom is a feisty feminist who puts real fear into men who make unwanted personal remarks in the street. It’s quite extraordinary to see one such man running away from this wild woman.

The film is very sympathetic, touching, and occasionally hilarious. It’s a great film and we will certainly watch it again

Currently it’s available on BBC iPlayer. Google play, YouTube, Apple TV, etc.
(15) 89 minutes, 2017. Stars Agnès Jaoui; and Thibault de Montalembert; directed by Blandine Lenoir.

David Roberts    20 April 2021

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A United Kingdom – true, political, social, romantic drama

A United Kingdom - a moving and important film

Romance / drama, 2016, 1-hour 51 minutes
Directed by Amma Asante
Seretse Khama – David Oyelowo
Ruth Williams – Rosamund Pike

Currently (April 2021) available on BBC iPlayer, Amazon, etc 

This powerful, and impressive love story concerns Seretse Khama, a black, Oxford educated law student in London in 1947 who falls in love with Ruth Williams, a young white woman who works for Lloyd’s of London. They share a love of jazz and dancing and become deeply committed to each other. However, Seretse decides he wants to marry Ruth and tells her that he is an African prince, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, a country in Africa the size of France with a population of only 10,000 people.

An incredible statement

It was an incredible statement to make, but this film actually tells a true story. Unsurprisingly, for the mid 20th century, Ruth’s father is absolutely opposed to the idea of his white daughter marrying a black man.
At this time Bechuanaland was a British protectorate where Seretse’s uncle,Tshekedi, was acting as regent until Seretse became able to take over as King.
Seretse sent a message to his uncle telling him of his intentions to marry a white girl. Tshekedi was outraged by the thought of a future king of Bechuanaland marrying a white girl rather than a member of his own tribe. He thought he could stop the marriage and sent a message to the British Missionary Society in London pressing them to intervene to stop the marriage. The story was making headlines in the British press.
Seretse decided to defy his uncle’s wishes and brought the date of his wedding forward in order to to ensure that it went ahead. The wedding was booked to take place at St. George’s Church, Campden Hill, London, but there had been fierce condemnation of the marriage in parliament and headline stories in the British press which caused the vicar to fear that he might be doing the wrong thing. He therefore referred the matter to the Bishop of London for his decision. The bishop decided that the marriage should not take place without the approval of the British government. Seretse and Ruth therefore decided not to wait for a government decision but to have a civil wedding.
This did not calm the the political and media frenzy. In fact their troubles were just beginning.

Seretse and Ruth arrived in Bechuanaland to encounter a great deal hostility to Seretse’s choice of wife. In a powerful scene his sister, Nakedi, confronts Ruth and demands to know how she can possibly imagine that she could be a suitable queen of an African tribe.
Seretse makes his case to heated meetings of the tribal council and his uncle presents opposing views. Initially the tribe is against the marriage.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring country of South Africa apartheid was being developed and the idea of a mixed-race marriage of rulers in the neighbouring state with the king and queen speaking out for the idea of racial equality was something South Africa could not tolerate.

Britain was commercially dependent to a significant extent on South Africa. For this reason the British government did not want to upset South Africa’s government and decided to do what it could to break up up.the marriage in Bechuanaland.


Seretse was summoned to London by the British government and an enquiry was set up into his ”suitability for the role of King of Bechuanaland.”

What ensues is a shameful story of British Governmental lying and cheating in order to force its will on a relatively weak country. Seretse was prevented from returning to his country, Ruth being in Bechuanaland at this time. Initially his banishment was to last for five years.

The film continues to tell the story of how Ruth and Seretse fight to live together in Bechuanaland – a story of the triumph of character, determination and love over seemingly all-powerful opposition. Eventually Seretse becomes the first elected president or Bechuanaland which is is now renamed Botswana. AND Seretse is knighted.

Happy ever after?

At the end of the film we are left with a feeling that it was a happy-ever-after story. Ruth and Seretse certainly succeeded in living happily together after a long struggle and he succeeded in leading his country until he died of cancer at the age of 59.

Sadly, as time went on, Botswana was exploited by powerful mining companies supported by South Africa and western powers. It  is both shameful and tragic that Botswana developed into a cruelly unequal society.

By the beginning of the 21st century Botswana, in spite of being rich and  having a remarkably fast growing economy as a result of its mineral wealth, had a desperately inadequate healthcare system and the the largest proportion in the world of its population suffering from HIV AIDS.

A New Internationalist report in 2018 stated, “Unemployment continues to rise, with only 1,000 jobs available in the formal sector for 10,000 graduates each year. It is now common for the words ‘Botswana’, ‘tax haven’, ‘money laundering’ and ‘corruption’ to be said in the same breath. The amassing of wealth by a few has widened the chasm between the haves and those who are barely surviving – Botswana is now among the world’s most unequal countries.

But note: if you read about Botswana in Wikipedia you will read how well administered and prosperous the country is. The Wikipedia article was, I suspect, provided by the government of Botswana or a friend of the administration.

Today Botswana is a country with a population of almost 3 million people.

See the film. It is a great story.

David Roberts
7 April 2021

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Brilliant French psychological tv drama on All4 – in French

Bruno Debrandt and Julie Gayet as Florent and Victoire in French drama, "Torn"

This 6-part French tv drama has recently arrived on the All4 free streaming service.

In French with English subtitles it is called Torn in English. Its French title is  Soupçons, (Suspicions) which I think is more fitting. Also, there was a mini-series filmed around Slough in 2007, so don’t get the wrong Torn.

Brilliantly written it is gripping to the very end. It is set in south east France. The setting is cheery and inviting. There is sunshine, a nice change from Nordic noir towns which are so gloomy, threatening and where it is almost always night.

An affair goes so very badly wrong. Love quickly turns from joy, to anxiety, to tragedy in this complex and very human story. Such is the power of the writing and acting you feel intense sympathy for almost everyone involved. 

I’d be interested to hear what you thought of it. Please use the comment box below. If you use facebook you can use the second comment box without any formalities, and could share your views on facebook too, if you wish.

David Roberts

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The Bridge, Saga Noren and the pornography of violence

The Bridge, Saga Noren, and the pornography of violence

The Bridge, Swedish/Danish crime series, is addictive (We’ve watched 29 episodes, almost at the end of series 3.) but isn’t there really too much of the pornography of violence?

Our addiction

We started watching The Bridge near the beginning of lockdown in March 2020 and after one series we knew that, although it was so gripping, it was also so gruesomely terrible that we had to take a break from it for a while. The crimes are not just murders but usually involve some gratuitous cruelty or perversion. Why, I ask myself, would anyone want to watch something so horrible?

But then we tried it again and watched series 2 (not quite so good, repeating some ideas from series 1. It seemed to be plotting to a formula).

After that we took a long break from The Bridge but friends said how good series 3 was and so we were tempted again and have found it again truly addictive. We are now near the end of series 3 and like true addicts cannot wait for the next fix.

I’m not sure we are being wise to watch it. In my opinion its violence is pornographic and although it will have no influence on my behaviour I think it might on someone with a less stable mind.

The troubled characters

For me and Julie the main fascination is not the crimes. It’s partly trying to work out who the criminal might be, but it’s mainly about the team of police officers, their personalities and their problematic interactions. It’s also about how they struggle to cope with their personal problems whilst grappling with challenging investigations. And now, in series 3 we have a further complexity with a difficult, critical and undermining senior member of staff.

Saga Noren

Saga Noren, the lead investigator who has the asperger mental condition, is brilliantly played by Sofia Helin. This asperger syndrome leads her to be blunt and ruthlessly honest in response to questions and this often results in surprising or shocking answers. She doesn’t have a normal person’s inhibitions and doesn’t understand other people’s feelings. She tries very hard to act like a normal person but she is very tense and has an icy cold stare, something that would be very disconcerting in real life.

Difficult or easy to like?

In a way you would expect such a person to be an unsympathetic character but in fact one becomes very involved in her world and her problems. I think I can remember being an obnoxious teenager who gave answers that were lacking in consideration for the feelings of others. Probably most of us have had to do jobs when personal problems were weighing heavily on our minds and it has been a challenge to “act normal”. That may be part of why we connect so readily with her behaviour.

Also, working with a boss who doesn’t seem to like you or who is “not on your side” is a common experience, so I, at least, can identify with that.

Sophia Helin

It’s interesting to see pictures of Sophia Helin as a smiling young woman. She is in fact now (2020) 48 years old, and married with a 17-year old son and 12 year old daughter. Her husband is a priest.

I have always assumed that the scar on her lip was studio makeup devised to give Saga a tougher appearance, perhaps to make it seem as if she had been in a knife fight. But in fact the scar is real and the result of a serious cycle accident when she was 24 years old and broke her jaw and resulted in the need for plastic surgery. An event which must have been particularly devastating as a young actress..

We have now only episode 10 of series 3 to watch and we are hoping that everything will be resolved and that we won’t be left with a cliffhanger tempting us to watch series 4.

I don’t think The Bridge enhances my sense of well-being or improves my thinking. I’ll try to resist watching series 4.

Is The Bridge suitable for public viewing? How has it affected you?

The Bridge started filming in 2011 and series 4 finished in 2018. All four series of The Bridge are available on BBC i-player.

David Roberts, Written December 2020.

I’d be very interested in your take on The Bridge series. Please consider leaving a comment and sharing this post.

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The Announcer – great little drama on All4 – in French

The Announcer  -  great little drama on All4 

We really enjoyed and would strongly recommend this powerful story. 

Described as a period drama The Announcer is set in 1962 in de Gaulle’s France and the time of the Algerian fight for independence from France’s colonial rule. French youths are dying in a fight they cannot win. The guillotine is still used to execute murderers. Women are mainly expected to stay at home and be good mothers rather than have careers. The drama is partly a study of French society under the pressure of change.

The announcer is Christine Beauval who is a rare woman of the time in that she has a very successful career, something her conformist husband finds difficult to accept. She is a feminist icon who, in spite of her success, struggles in her attempt to be both mother and career woman.

Christine receives murder threats, her 18 year old daughter has an affair with a government minister, her son joins a terrorist group. She becomes aware that an innocent youth has been set up to take the blame for the murder of her daughter’s friend. Her life is crumbling around her yet she must retain her dignity and poise in front of the TV cameras.

Political corruption, the censorship of journalism and police corruption complicate the situation.

The story is grippingly told in a manner reminiscent of a Greek tragedy where violent crimes are not seen happening. Instead we witness the psychological torment and downfall of the suffering humans who are victims of not only bad luck but also their own characters.

It’s a pity that part of the ending in episode 6 is so disappointingly written.

The drama has been issued by All4 as a “box set”. If you don’t have All4 you can download the app. We accessed the series on a smartphone and used Chromecast to view it on our tv. It’s a great system which we often use.

The principal drawback to All4 is the adverts that interrupt the episodes. As an alternative you can sign up for the paid version of All4 for £3-99 a month and have the pleasure of no ads. We manage by just muting them.

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Shoplifters  – A film I highly recommend

Scene from film, Shoplifters

Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2018)

Winner at Cannes of the Palme d’Or.

This is a deep, fascinating, absorbing film that you may find yourself thinking about long after it is finished.
Father and son shoplifters returning home on a cold winter night in Tokyo  come across a small girl shivering outside her house having been ejected by abusive parents. They take pity on the girl and take her home to keep her warm and save her from her quiet suffering.

Home consists of a family which isn’t what it appears to be, living in quite squalid and very cramped accommodation.

The family, especially the women, feel great affection and sympathy for the tiny girl, and it becomes clear that the little girl likes them too. They find scars of burns on the girl’s arms. The “family” decides to keep the little girl which is where we begin to realise that this “family” doesn’t understand the normal rules of society. Also, like so many people, they have very little ability to foresee the consequences of their actions.

They are on the lookout for quick ways to get cash or gain other benefits, but there is no long-term planning or preparation for careers, or legitimate enterprises. 

When they see a news item on television about the missing child they are shocked to discover that the girl’s parents have been accused of killing the child. They realise they have to take further action. Instead of returning the girl that they have grown to love to her parents they decide to disguise the girl by cutting her hair and changing her name. Morally and legally they are absolutely wrong to keep the child, but on the other hand they argue would it really be right to return her to parents who have abused her?

Undoubtedly this “family” has a very challenging life situation. They are a group of people who are ignorant, uneducated, impoverished outsiders at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Unfortunately their answers to their problems become increasingly dangerous.
In spite of their seriously illegal and immoral behaviour they nevertheless possess great warmth, kindness and charm. 

Ultimately, of course the authorities do catch up with their crimes and the officials are portrayed as sympathetic people who understand  the difficulties of their clients. 

In my opinion this quiet and understated film is brilliant and a masterpiece.

Available now

We watched Shoplifters on BBC iPlayer. It was broadcast only very recently at the end of November 2020. Apparently it is also available on All4 (Chanel 4’s “watch again” channel) and Amazon Prime. It can also be bought as a dvd from Amazon. Link below.

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Film – Julie and Julia

This is a frothy, light-hearted, witty intelligent and very entertaining film which also happens to be true. It concerns two characters. The first is Julie Powell who is a young New Yorker, stressed out by working in a call centre. She has the idea of cooking her way through Julia Child’s famous French cookbook and writing about her experiences on a daily blog. This becomes a big success. The other person is one of America’s most celebrated cooks, Julia Child who wrote the book (now available in two volumes).

Meryl Streep plays Julia Child and Amy Adams plays Julie Powell. Stanley Tucci is Julia’s husband, Paul. The film was directed by Nora Ephron.

It was Julia Child’s landmark book of French Cooking that the story revolves around. Just after the second world war this very tall lady (6’ 2”) who had recently married late in life found herself in Paris with her husband Paul who was working for the American Embassy. At first she is at a loss as to how to spend her time. She went on a hat making course but found this boring.

She said she had no strong interests in life apart from eating. With this in mind her husband suggested that she might enrol for a cookery course with the famous Cordon Bleu School of Cookery in Paris.

She was the only woman and the only foreigner on the course and had to work hard to convince others that she was capable of mastering the skills and knowledge needed needed to become a top French chef.

She fell in love with French cooking and developed an obsession which led her to begin the task of writing an enormous compendium of French recipes written for the American market.

Later, back in America she became the first TV chef making her very famous and her book a huge success.

Part of the interest of the film lies in seeing Paris as it was just after the war and how French society behaved.

The film was largely based on a collection of Julia child’s writings called, My Life in France. Julie (my wife) has read the book and found it fascinating.

See the film, read the book, or try the recipes

You can stream this film on Amazon, rent it on DVD, read Julia Child’s book about her life in France, or her Mastering the Art of French Cooking which is still hugely popular. Clicking on any of the links below will allow you to explore what Amazon has to offer of these items. 

Rent from Amazon Prime
Ultra High Definition DVD
My Life in France by Julia Child - paperback
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume one
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A Late Quartet, film by Yaron Zilberman

A study of a quartet of stellar classical musicians who, for twenty-five years have toured the world’s top musical venues as a harmonious, finely honed and perfected musical team but are now facing a crisis. One of the members of the team, cellist, Peter Mitchell, is facing retirement on health grounds and the break-up of the group releases emotions and conflicts suppressed for all their years together. Then there is the added excitement and tension created by the choice of a possible replacement musician, the young, beautiful, talented, desirable and desiring Alexandra Gelbart.

Consummate and sometimes electrifying performances and playing. Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir, Imogen Poots. The film is based around Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14, opus 131 which is actually played by The Brentano String Quartet. Filmed in New York. Script co-written by Yaron Zilberman and Seth Grossman.

Available on Amazon Prime, DVD and Bluray.

Christopher Walken

Imogen Poots

Philip Seymour Hoffman

 Mark Ivanir and Catherine Keener

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Quartet, a witty film about old musicians in a retirement home

Quartet is a feelgood film that can be seen on BBC One this Sunday (16 August 2020) at 10.30 pm with another opportunity to catch it on BBC Four on Thursday at 9 pm. After that it should be available on BBC i-player. Also available on Amazon Prime Video and DVD and Bluray.

The subject of this film may not appear to have much potential for entertainment – a retirement home for old musicians preparing to celebrate Verdi’s birthday with a special concert, but the frictions, jealousies, and personalities and vitality of the old-folk bring this subject to life.

The witty script is by Ronald Harwood and is based on his play. Quartet is the first film to be directed by Dustin Hoffman. It has a star cast including Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtney, Pauline Collins and Sheridan Smith. We enjoyed years ago and will watch it again.


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The White Crow – Nureyev’s sensational defection

This film tells the story behind an event that made headlines around the world in June 1961, the defection of ballet star, Rudolf Nureyev.

It was at the time when the Soviet Union, whilst still holding a tight communist grip on its populations wanted to present itself to The West as culturally sophisticated. Indeed it had the world-famous Kirov Ballet Company so Soviet leaders decided to send a company of its top dancers to Paris to perform, not just to Parisians, but also to the world media. Its star dancer at that time was 23-year-old Rudolph Nureyev, a formidable personality and widely reckoned to be one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time. The troupe was dispatched to Paris with accompanying KGB minders.

The trip was an artistic success but a diplomatic disaster for the Soviets: Nureyev found an unexpected opportunity to escape his minders and get political asylum in France, an act rated as treason in Russia.

How he progressed to the top as a ballet dancer is an astonishing story. Incredible talent, energy, intelligence and determination is part of the story, but so often Nureyev behaved in ways that would seem calculated to destroy his career. He was supremely arrogant and obnoxious, rude even to those who had power over him. Only his talent saved him.


Brilliantly written, directed and performed this film tells the story of his rise as a young ballet dancer, his arrival in Paris and how he developed friendship with some of the cultural elite in Paris. Amongst the small group he got to know in Paris was a young woman, Clara Saint, the 19-year-old daughter of the Chilean ambassador to Paris who by chance became one of the key people in making Nureyev’s defection possible.

I am not a great fan of ballet but I found this film fascinating and was truly impressed by the performance of the Ukrainian actor, a dazzling dancer in his own right, Oleg Ivenko.

Director: Ralph Fiennes. Screenplay: David Hare based on the book by Julie Kavanagh Rudolf Nureyev: The Life.
Principal actors Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Chulpan Khamatova.

“White crow” is a Russian expression used to describe someone who is completely outside the normal. It’s an expression used to describe Nureyev from childhood.

AVAILABLE on DVD, Bluray, and Amazon Prime.

David Roberts 3 August 2020

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I Am Not Your Negro – Impressive film about the treatment of black people in America

This is a film the whole world should see. It demonstrates so clearly what has been happening to black people in the US over a long period and up to the present time and goes some way to explain the strength of feeling that has erupted in the USA and around the world since the killing of George Floyd. It is compelling and sometimes shocking.
I Am Not Your Negro is based on writing by the black American writer and intellectual, James Baldwin. His novels include Another Country 1962), Giovanni’s Room (1956), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974). He was an essayist, too, and a campaigner for black rights.
The film is about the brutal treatment of black Americans and the assassination of three of Baldwin’s friends. There are interesting scenes of Baldwin himself speaking and debating with great eloquence.
It’s hard to understand how so many people can have so much hatred within them. Tragically some of the scenes of violence were of recent events. The shame of the behaviour of parts of American society continues to the present day.

Available to stream from BBC i-player, YouTube and Amazon and no doubt elsewhere.

David Roberts, 23 June, 2020 Please share.