Borgen - Series 1-4 Streaming on Netflix

Borgen The Power and the Glory

Hold the front page! Borgen is back with Power and Glory Series 4 and once again, Birgitte Nyborg, Denmark's fictional first female prime minister and now foreign affairs minister stalks the corridors of the Palace of Christiansborg and shows us what life is like when there is only room for one passion: politics and winning. Babette shows us what it is like to hold power over millions of other people and what that power does to her, her family, society and the people that come into her orbit.  

The idealistic politician who accidentally became PM is gone. Will, she now be remembered as the trailblazer who ditched her stance on climate change for billions of oil dollars by agreeing to the state-sanctioned plunder of the Arctic; or will principles and ideals ultimately matter more than the glittery mirage of hanging out with queens, princes and power brokers?

Power and Glory is very good television and has a compelling sense of immediacy. Climate Change and the battle for the Arctic, versus superpower vested interests, set the scene for more internecine, dirty, double-dealing power politics and the media dissecting every move, every scandal and even the merest hint of human fallibility. What makes Borgen so compelling is that the principal characters are all back, apart from Kasper, and they are so well defined that we care deeply about what they do and when it goes horribly wrong.  

Birgitte Nyborg, Sidse Babett Knudsen, still has more chutzpah than all her male colleagues and political opponents put together, and surely she will lead the trend this autumn for the chic, elegant, swept-up walnut whip bun ( a la Maria Callas) together with the ladylike allure and power of the pussy cat bow blouse, camel coat and elegant Jackie O skirt suit.

The best news is that the fantastic man professor Soren, Lars Mikkelsen, is back as Katrine's husband with eyes I could get lost in the morning, noon and night and there's a new pretender to get under our skin in the guise of a clever, preppy, impassioned fledgling diplomat Asger Holm Kirkegaard, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard. Asger has charisma and he fills the void left by the departure of the chameleon character of Casper, Pilou Asbaek. Instead of the cheeky wide boy, we get an impetuous, career diplomat, who is good at his job but not immune to falling in love with his political nemesis, on the job, with his cool opposite number Emmy, played by Nivi Pedersen.

Borgen ten years on couldn't be more relevant. In fact, it is unmissable. The power struggles, steely politicking, dark deeds and tenacious journalism suit the darkening mood of the day.

Of course, I am biased. I am a journalist to my fingertips and to the moon and back and Borgen is an authentic, sleeplessly brilliant representation of the day-to-day machinations and tricky push and pull relationship between the media and state.

How did I live with Borgen being off the air for almost a decade? The answer is badly. Birgitte Nyborg is back as foreign affairs minister with a little more world-weary polish, sky, high, razor steel heels and ritzy ruffles and perhaps a far less liberal idealism and more of a lust for glitter and razzmatazz of power and the critical side effect of that power: cynicism and real politic.

Well, who wouldn't be corrupted by the sweet perfume of power and hanging out with superpowers?

The premise of season 4 is juicy. It's essentially capitalism and the status quo v the climate and nature. Oil is discovered in Greenland and Birgitte Nyborg has to negotiate her pledge to move away from fossil fuels whilst dealing with the competing interests that the super duper oil zillions will generate. Some elements in Greenland immediately seize the day and the get-rich-quick opportunity for oil riches and autonomy against a backdrop of poverty and high suicide rates. Given Greenland's strategic importance to America and Europe on one side, and Russia and China on the other, the stage is set for an international crisis.

If you are worried that ten years is a long time in life and politics, don't be. Series 4 works because life and politics are in a constant state of flux.  All the main characters are back. Birgitte Nyborg is superb as a politician who started out as an idealist and has steadily and believably become a steely, ruthless power broker who revels in the pressure and dangers of statesmanship and the allure of power itself. In this series, we will see our heroine tested on why she still wants to be a politician and the ride is intimate, shocking and fascinating. Will she break? Will she pull back? Will she find new ways to stay a politician and renew her ideals?

I like the way the key journalists jump between the newsroom and work as spin doctors for the politicians they are often asked to hold to account.  I particularly warm to the story of Katrina, Birgitte Hjort Sorenson, the brilliant, ungovernable young journalist of series 1-3 who accurately shows what it is like to work in a competitive, dynamic newsroom with the challenges of competing egos, the ever-changing news agenda, mercurial bosses, nightmare management and the thrill of breaking news.

Bent Sejro and Birgitte Nyborg

After the heartbreak of her tragic love for Casper, she has finally found a man who is steadfast and devoted to her son Gustav. But what happens when the star journalist crosses the divide and becomes the manager and not the person who breaks the news? Personally, I would never give up my pen. Some people are meant to write or deliver the stories of the day; others like to try and manage us and all that jazz! It is a crazy, singular existence. It is not for the fainthearted. It takes oceans of tenacity, boundless energy and the ability to drop everything for the story.  

More, please. Now that Birgitte has accepted a job in Europe, take us there too! Roll on Series 5. Oh, and please give our heroine a life as well.


Borgen - Series 1-4 is Streaming on Netflix

Funny Pages

Funny Pages Screening at Curzon Home Cinema

I really wanted to like Owen Kline's directorial debut, Funny Pages, starring Daniel Zolghadri in a wonderfully unaffected, naturalistic performance. During Kline's hundred-mile-an-hour, whip-smart Q and A with the press and audience, he declared that his film is a low-budget, free-range sort of movie. That's great. Bravo. He also told us that it is nothing like The Fast and Furious franchise, which he calls dumb. Great again. I totally agree. But that doesn't stop this film from being pointlessly nasty and downright obnoxious at times. It's a shame because, in the initial stage of the film, Robert's nerdy total obsession with living, breathing and drawing comic illustrations comes across as authentic and believable.

Some critics have fallen over themselves excitedly to declare the film 'delicious dark'. I would swap that for 'puerile' and mindless.

Daniel Zolghadri in Funny Pages, A Film By Owen Kline

Sadly, by the end of the film, Robert comes across as just a spoiled brat and a cold-hearted jerk who we don't care about. Trashing his cosy, pleasant life is just too easy. Kline told us that his parents are fine with the film. However, they did not attend the film's screening at the Curzon in Soho this evening. Kline is that comic-obsessed teenage agent provocateur.  

Ah, but I do love cartoons. Or perhaps I should qualify that statement right now. I like political cartoons and the kind of satirical, whimsical doodlings of Garland, Pugh, Scarfe and Posy Simmonds. I am not a fan of Viz or toilet humour. This film is essentially about a teenage jerk who is obsessed with becoming a cartoonist and thinks that he needs to get down and dirty, hang out with psychos and take part in bad things to be an artist.

Well, Picasso painted some of his best work when he was very rich and feted.

Funny Pages

The problem with Funny Pages is that the idea is great, but the execution falls into coming-of-age, self-indulgent cliches. Do I want to watch a fifteen-year-old boy recklessly move into a sweaty dungeon-like basement with two middle-aged men in Trenton? This horrible house has an awful lot of padlocks. That could only end one way, right? So what do we get? A masturbation scene up close and not so impersonally. Yuk! Is this taking political incorrectness too far? Is this a pervert's wet dream? Personally, I would rather watch Mr Darcy emerge from his private lake in a wet white Regency shirt that turns diaphanous.

It's good to leave the imagination to do its work.

Funny Pages is now screening at Curzon Home Cinema

Radio Highlights

The pick of what to listen to on BBC Sounds this week.

Remembering Our Queen

BBC Radio 2  - The Queen at 90 presented by Ken Bruce - A chance to listen again to the intimate,  90th Birthday programme made by BBC Radio in 2016 to celebrate the Queen's life through the music that she loved together with intimate insights and fun recollections about the queen and royal life from her family and ladies in waiting Lady Elizabeth Anson, Giles Brandreth and the Hon Margaret Rhodes. This is the soundtrack of the Queen's reign and it acts as a compelling and evocative time capsule to the political, social and cultural events of her remarkable and long life. From Dancing Cheek to Cheek with Fred Astaire to the melancholy lament Hector the Hero played by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards to the iconic The White Cliffs of Dover sung by Dame Vera Lynne. Interestingly, we learn that Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret did go out into the crowds on VE day in London to celebrate the end of WW2! Watch the film based on the event -

Did you know that the Queen randomly chose letters from the public to open every day and reply to and that she was once asked to become president of the George Formby Association? The Queen adored George Formby. She also became the ultimate diplomat and inscrutable to the very end.

Michael Mosley An Apple a Day

Native British Organic Apples

It's the season for proper native British apples. Did you know that the adage an apple a day is very true?  The skin of apples is bursting with flavenoids, vitamin c, fibre and potassium and eating one or two a day is good for heart health, cognition and your waistline. Find out more in Dr Michael Mosley's latest BBC podcast which examines the latest scientific research into why that apple a day really will keep the doctor away. Interestingly, the flavenoids have been shown to increase good bacteria and decrease harmful bacteria. But are all apples equal? While Dr Mosley glosses over the problem of tasteless, overtly sweet apples grown for the supermarkets, I urge you to buy unsprayed native apples in season from local farms, orchards and organic box schemes.

The Reith Lectures

Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall, Based on the Celebrated Novels of Dame Hilary Mantel

The late Dame Hilary Mantel discusses the role that history places in our culture in a series of five podcasts.

Can art bring the dead back to life? How does a work of fiction change when it is adapted for film, stage or television? Hilary Mantel discusses how history and culture are indelibly linked and the role of historical fiction in keeping history and events alive decades or centuries after they took place.  

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