‘The Art of Japanese Life’

A long time ago, in a country far far away, I had a Japanese roommate. Manabu was lovely, a total gentleman, but not very chatty. I blame the language barrier, or maybe we just didn’t have that much in common. Eventually we bonded over injuries (his sporting, mine alcohol-related), microwave breakfast burritos (he loathed them, I loved them) and our two crazy little island homes. Comparing the UK and Japan is not as odd as it first sounds. Culturally and geographically we have a lot of shared aspects. We’re wilful independent island nations, who revere our daring histories of medieval knights and samurai warriors. Other countries are somewhat nervous around us as if you give us a flag and a gun we tend to get a little carried away and decide to go off and be a colonial invading force. Small countries, big ideas. Despite our macho military history, our national characters are reserved and polite, and we like to know our place in the social hierarchy. We’re the worlds best queuers!

Art historian Dr James Fox seems the similarities in our two nations, although sadly in this series on aesthetics and art in Japanese life, we are yet to hear his opinion on the breakfast burrito. This BAFTA nominated broadcaster has a day job in Cambridge University’s Art Department and first came to my attention presenting Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art? on BBC4 in September 2016.

He’s an engaging, enthusiastic, and quite cheeky presenter. His trademark seems to be a sharp black suit and tie, ever ready for a funeral or a cocktail party. He’s really good at breaking down complex ideas about art, religion and society. These big ideas are discussed in simple terms. His passion for the subject shines through. And, pleasingly, as you’d expect from a BBC4 art show, this whole episode is beautifully shot and framed.

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‘Dicte: Crime Reporter’ – On the Box

Another slice of Danish pastry from Walter Presents project on Channel 4. Strong female lead – check. Horrific crimes – check. Beautiful Scandinavian interiors that’ll make your house look dingy in comparison – check. You may think you’ve already got the measure of Dicte – Crime Reporter but this one is a bit left-field for Nordic Noir fans and subverts our expectations.

The Guardian suggest this series will be yet more “grey dramas about the exhausted life of a crime-solving woman” but this isn’t the case. Yes, the subject matter is very dark (people trafficking, illegal immigration, selling babies, dead babies, religious fanaticism, illegal organ trafficking – you name it, it’s all awful) but deftly handled with the themes of the crimes echoing through the lives of the lovable main characters. Sure, this show shares some of its make-up with The Killing, but also, surprisingly Sex and the City. And the theme tune is just so peppy and cheerful!

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