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Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s latest book is Four from the Forties: Arliss, Crabtree, Knowles and Huntington, Manchester: MUP, 2018. He has had three overlapping careers, as teacher, academic, and writer. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and hundreds of articles and reviews on film and literature and related matters. He co-edited The Oxford Companion to Australian Film and was compiler, editor and chief author of The Encyclopedia of British Film. His most recent books include: Twenty British Films: A guided tour, Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum, and The Never-Ending Brief Encounter. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.


ABR Arts 20 November 2018
What I’ve come to expect of a new Mike Leigh film is, above all, the unexpected. His first feature, Bleak Moments (1971), of which there were quite a few in that contemporary study of urban, lower-middle class life, made him a potent force in British film. Think of Naked (1993) and Secrets & Lies (1996), unnerving studies of difficult relationships that almost re-defined realism. Then came T ... (read more)


ABR Arts 01 May 2018
In Simon Baker’s film, there is a visually stunning moment – one among many – of a giant curving wave on the verge of breaking that recalls the Japanese artist Hokusai’s famous ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’. What these two images share is the sense of rapturous beauty that doesn’t underestimate the challenge it offers. It seems appropriate to start on this note as the cinematography ( ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Anthony Powell: Dancing to the music of time' by Hilary Spurling

January–February 2018, no. 398 21 December 2017
Readers of this review are warned that they are in the presence of an addict. Having read Anthony Powell’s monumental twelve-volume Dance to the Music of Time three times, I had been trying not to succumb to a fourth. Then along comes Hilary Spurling’s brilliant biography and will power has suffered total defeat. Anyone who has read Spurling’s magisterial ‘lives’ of, among others, Henri ... (read more)

Darkest Hour

ABR Arts 08 January 2018
Who knows why, but there have been at least three films in recent months focusing on the Dunkirk evacuation: Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest, Christopher Nolan’s magisterial Dunkirk. and now Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour. Unsurprisingly in view of this, we have also seen a lot of Winston Churchill on our screens. It is a role that attracts formidable acting talents. Wright’s film juggles the pers ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Balancing Acts: Behind the scenes at the National Theatre' by Nicholas Hytner

November 2017, no. 396 27 October 2017
One of the most appropriate titles since Pride and Prejudice, Balancing Acts adroitly captures the drama and appeal of Nicholas Hytner’s account of his twelve years as director of London’s National Theatre. There have been several different takes on this often-controversial site of some of the world’s most riveting theatrical fare. Previous directors Peter Hall and Laurence Olivier have both ... (read more)

My Cousin Rachel

ABR Arts 02 June 2017
Does anyone read Daphne du Maurier (1907–89) these days? An immensely popular novelist for some decades, she was much filmed, for screens large and small, most famously by Alfred Hitchcock, who filmed Jamaica Inn and Rebecca in 1939 and 1940 respectively, and, even more famously, The Birds in 1963. Clearly there was plenty to attract filmmakers to her work. As one who had not read her for severa ... (read more)

The Light Between Oceans

ABR Arts 31 October 2016
If you’ve just read a novel prior to seeing the film derived from it, you tend to know what to expect in the way of major plot manoeuvres. Attention is then apt to focus on how the filmmaker has responded to the original, and the ‘what’ can then often be seriously challenged. As one who believes fidelity to be great for relationships, I favour playing around for adaptations. Where then does ... (read more)

Sunset Song

ABR Arts 05 September 2016
It is possible that the remainder of 2016 may produce a more memorable film than Sunset Song, but I doubt it. None so far has moved and enthralled me as Terence Davies' latest has. How I wish he didn't keep us waiting so long between films. It was the semi-autobiographical Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) that established him as a major figure, and in the new century there was the brilliant, pai ... (read more)

Othello (Bell Shakespeare)

ABR Arts 18 July 2016
Whatever else Peter Evans's production of Othello has going for it, and it has indeed much, the speaking of Shakespeare's verse is outstanding. It is never declamatory, in the way that some famous actors of earlier decades dealt with it. The verse emerges entirely intact, but is always made to sound at the same time conversational, as if the thoughts it articulates, whether in dialogue or soliloqu ... (read more)


ABR Arts 24 December 2015
'Meditative' is not perhaps the epithet that comes to mind in relation to most films, but it is entirely apt when applied to Paolo Sorrentini's new film, Youth, which will no doubt be fallen upon avidly by the many admirers of his previous film, The Great Beauty (2013). Several minutes before the opening title, Youth begins with a young woman singing 'You've got the love I need to see me through'; ... (read more)