The Thief (Vor) [Film]

The Thief or Vor is a Russian film directed by Pavel Chukhrai. It was released in 1997.

The author of this review is not a film buff. Films, it seems, to this author, rarely reach the level of art. Art demands a certain perfection. In the course of 25 frames per second over 120 minutes (or thereabouts) with the camera swinging around taking n heaven knows what it is impossible to maintain that perfection. For this reason most films remain at the level of TV. Emotional slush.

This film is an exception. It is a song, a poem, an orchestral piece.

The setting is 1950s Soviet Union. A young widow takes up with a soldier. The soldier becomes as a father figure to the woman’s six year old son. The soldier turns out to be a thief albeit one with a certain glamour. He draws both the woman and the son into his thieving adventures. The woman hates him but loves him. The boy finds in him a father but is also disappointed and feels betrayed.

The settings are meticulously created. The opening scene on a train, some of the scenes in collective apartments, a stage show by the Black Sea, are all mesmerising. The acting is superb. A scene where the now adolescent son of the widow meets the soldier 10 years later is notable. The acting from Vladimir Mashkov who plays the somewhat sozzled former soldier now with just a reflection of his former glamour is superb.

It is a romance and a tragedy. The story is told in a sparse way, free of sentimentalising of any kind.

It may also be taken as a kind of reference to the collective values of the Soviet Union. Though what the director’s position is towards these times is not something which emerges. This is more a documentary of life than a personal emotional statement.

You can buy the Region 2 DVD from Amazon for about £20.00. It’s in Russian with English sub-titles.


Review: Chemistry at the Old Fire Station, Oxford


This is an exhibition of photographs by Dulcy Lott and Imran Uppal. They have worked with a dance troupe, Joe Lott Dance.

The exhibition is quite small, less than 15 photographs, and a small video piece. Some of the photographs are by Imran Uppal who is a professional photographer. Some are by Dulcy Lott, a fine art photographer. The photographs are of the dancers.

Overall this is a nice collection of images. The theme is the chemistry of relationships. That ‘chemistry’ includes the theme of alchemy. The video piece includes a nicely choreographed dance sequence (set in an upstairs room at a pub in Oxford). This shows (in my interpretation) a group of people meeting and interacting in a pub, in dance form. It is fresh, short (always a blessing in any art-form), and holds the attention well. It is very pleasant to watch, basically. And, while I know zero about dance, seems to be well performed.

The images by professional photographer Imran Uppal are in colour. They are based around two dancers, one dressed in a gold sequin suit and the other in silver. The photographs show them interacting. Using ghosting and (less successfully in my view) superimposing one image over another, a certain sense of dynamism is created. The images show a good level of technical control. I just wonder what Imran is trying to say? I don’t have a strong sense of any personal meaning being communicated. That said one or two of the images definitely do convey an idea of certain interpersonal reactions, so it may just be me. (But there is no doubt that the images are well controlled and executed).

The images by Dulcy Lott are in both colour and black-and-white. I find the latter more successful, though this may just be a personal bias towards the medium. The strongest image for me is a simple portrait of one of the male dancers. I like this because it is simply a good portrait, really conveying something of the soul of this person. The other photographs are more complex, attempting to show interactions or relationships between the dancers. One of note is a quality black-and-white print of a couple at an old kitchen table, with a diagonal of light on them and splashing onto some kitchen items behind them. Another one of note is a colour print called ‘Tungsten’ which uses a nice warm tungsten light to good effect. Overall I found the images by Dulcy Lott slightly more inspiring than those by Imran Uppal.

So. While quite a small exhibition, if you are in Oxford, it is well worth a look.

The exhibition ends on Friday 1st February.

Review of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed

First published in 1968 this is a world-famous work on pedagogy in the context of a struggle for liberation. The educational criticism and theory is developed in the context of a Marxist dialectic. Even outside of that political context the book still has huge value as a pointer to an approach to teaching which is based on solidarity and not manipulation and oppression.

Original Publication Date: 2010

A review and evalution of the relevance of this work to contemporary education and youth work

Continue reading “Review of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

A review of The Dangerous Rise in Therapeutic Education by Ecclestone and Hayes

The book is about the trend in education, at all levels, from primary through secondary to
FE and University towards a new prioritisation of the emotions in learning. Overall a very good depiction of how the folksy, unscientific, notions of psychotherapy are being used to build a new and disturbing kind of ‘education’ in Britain’s state funded schools.

Original Publication Date: 2009

Continue reading “A review of The Dangerous Rise in Therapeutic Education by Ecclestone and Hayes”