DCSIMG

Not to be missed

COMEDY

Ross Noble

ASSEMBLY, UNTIL 23 AUGUST

1 Hyper-Geordie returns with the most expensive show in the brochure. This is comedy as good-natured, hi-energy jazz - a bit of a theme, some manic improvisation and the occasional hair-raising riff. The noble Ross, below right, is one of comedy’s good guys and never gives you less than 100 per cent. Over the years his shows have become more highly produced, but the great thing about him is that the heart of Ross Noble can never really be ‘produced’ ... it just escapes to run around and make people laugh for an hour.

Shelley Cooper

METRO GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT, UNTIL 25 AUGUST

2 There’s always one comic talked about for who they are rather than what they do. Francesca Martinez started last year in a blaze of publicity as "the one with cerebral palsy" … to her credit she ended the Fringe as one of its more successful comics. Shelley Cooper is transgendered, which is already the subject of many column inches and the reason for many bookings. Hopefully she’ll be funny too.

Rhona Cameron

FESTIVAL THEATRE, 18 AUGUST

3 Committing the ultimate arrogance of putting a "one night only" performance into the Fringe programme, the Musselburgher whose campfire moodswings in I’m a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! made Medea look like Pollyanna comes to the Festival Theatre to remind us that, as a comic, she is seldom less than wonderful. Her characteristic warmth, self-deprecating funniness and dry Scottish-working-class-angled observations will elide from our minds the jungle beast.

Jo Brand

ASSEMBLY, UNTIL 24 AUGUST

4 Another high-profile refugee from the miasma of Reality Television retreads her credibility with a return to the stand-up stage. If she is giving her fanbase an hour of classic Branded stand-up then that can only mean that the stand-up world’s answer to Julie Burchill will be one of the hits.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

PLEASANCE COURTYARD, UNTIL 10 AUGUST

5 The chief reason this show will be a must see is that it is Monty Python. And it’s in French. The two chief reasons this show will be a must see are that it is Monty Python and it is performed in French. And (post Gulf war), we in Britain have an almost fanatical liking for the French. Among the reasons this show will be a must see are that it is Monty Python, it is performed in French and (post Gulf war), we in Britain have an almost fanatical liking for the French. Of course, now everyone is expecting the Spanish

Inquisition … Daniel Kitson: A Made Up Story

THE POD, FESTIVAL SQUARE, UNTIL 24 AUGUST

6 Fringe- goers always line up to rubbish last year’s Perrier Award winner’s show and so Daniel Kitson takes his place in the firing line with A Made Up Story, which he describes as "not really stand up". So, whether Kitson has a deep and creatively realised desire to move on from pure stand-up, or whether he has just lost the courage of his comic convictions, if you want to score big points playing "have you seen …?" in the Pleasance Courtyard, get yourself a ticket to this and develop a sustainable opinion on it before you hit the bar.

Fascinating Aida: One Last Flutter

ASSEMBLY, UNTIL 25 AUGUST

7 They hatched at the Fringe and are finally dropping off their perch with One Last Flutter, which is supposed to be their farewell performance. They’ll be fabulous, they always are. And their frocks will be even more so. It may be 20 years on but how would you feel if you’d had the chance to see the last live Dodo and passed it by? These birds are better!

Kate Copstick

THEATRE

The Seagull

KING’S THEATRE, 11-23 AUGUST

8 Peter Stein’s deluxe English-language Chekhov is by far the most star-studded theatre show in Edinburgh this year and demands to be seen. The story vibrates with the classic Chekhovian mixture of wry comedy and terrible sadness. Stein’s top-dollar cast includes Fiona Shaw, Iain Glen, Jodhi May, Cillian Murphy and the wonderful Michael Pennington.

The Straits

TRAVERSE, UNTIL 23 AUGUST

9 After the runaway success two years ago of his electrifying first play, Gagarin Way, Gregory Burke follows up with this new show about British kids growing up around the naval base in Gibraltar during the Falklands War of 1982. Win or lose, this second play from Scotland’s newest star playwright will be a major talking-point; Burke shrewdly continues his working relationship with director John Tiffany, now of Paines Plough.

Those Eyes That Mouth

32 ABERCROMBY PLACE, UNTIL 25 AUGUST

10 After a last-minute crisis over Grid Iron’s plans to stage this site-specific show in a flat in Mansfield Place, it’s now set to go ahead in a newly refurbished block a few streets away. Cait Davis stars in Ben Harrison’s haunting solo piece about a woman learning to be alone. Another imaginative use of non-theatre space from the company who gave us Gargantua and Decky Does a Bronco.

Playing the Victim

TRAVERSE, 12-23 AUGUST

11 Russian playwrights the Presnyakov Brothers caused a sensation at the Royal Court earlier this year with their play Terrorism, now they join forces with top London touring company Told By An Idiot in this world premiere about a student who drops out of university, under a strange compulsion to play murder victims in police crime reconstructions. Richard Wilson directs.

Ladies and Gents

TRAVERSE FOUR @ YOUR CONVENIENCE, ST JAMES’S PLACE, 5-23 AUGUST

12 In a year when site- specific theatre is a hot topic in Edinburgh, Dublin group Semper Fi arrive in town with this stylish and haunting show about sexual hypocrisy and violence in 1950s Dublin, staged simultaneously in both halves of a public toilet. Producer Karl Shiels cites Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens as inspiration.

San Diego

ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE, EDINBURGH, 15-17 AUGUST

13 All eyes will be on playwright David Greig, as he takes up his third chance in a decade - after Timeless and The Speculator - to represent new Scottish theatre on the official Edinburgh Festival. San Diego is a moody modern tragedy about a divided 21st-century world and the people who fall through the cracks. Lord of The Rings star Billy Boyd plays the leading role, a nave playwright called David Greig.

Shakespeare’s Italian Job

GILDED BALLOON, EDINBURGH, 1-25 AUGUST

14 After The Donkey Show and Bombitty Of Errors, this year’s must-see new take on Shakespeare is Malachi Bogdanov’s heroic effort to rewrite The Italian Job, using Shakespearean characters and language, as well as a sexy young cast and three classic Mini Coopers. "Thou art only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" runs the headline quote, so if that makes you laugh, you should definitely give this show a whirl.

Joyce McMillan

POP

Concert for a Landmine Free World

PRINCES STREET GARDENS, 9 AUGUST

15 Country diva Emmylou Harris instigated the Concert for a Landmine Free World series following a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. She has since undertaken a number of international tours under the same banner with a revolving line-up of rootsy singer/ songwriters sympathetic to the cause. This year, her compadres are Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Chrissie Hynde.

Kelly Osbourne

CORN EXCHANGE, 12 AUGUST

16 Here’s one reality music TV star who actually exhibits some personality. The daughter of affectionately regarded veteran rock casualty Ozzy, Kelly Osbourne appears to have coped better than her younger brother Jack with the overnight fame thrust upon her. While he checked into rehab and admitted to suicidal feelings, she turned bubblegum punk pop princess. Her debut album, Shut Up, was a surprisingly adept affair and she has just completed a European stadium tour as support to Robbie Williams.

Manu Chao

CORN EXCHANGE, 19 AUGUST

17 Sure to be one of the biggest musical parties at the Corn Exchange, as French superstar Chao mixes rock, reggae, folk and Latin music influences into a musical stew that would have the producers of Later With Jools Holland salivating at the prospect of some more mainstream-friendly world music. Until recently, this former member of the "French Clash", Mano Negra, was more interested in backpacking round the world than touring in the UK, but the success of his Proxima Estation: Esperanza album and, hopefully, the reaction at this show might persuade him to visit more often.

The Polyphonic Spree

CORN EXCHANGE, 24 AUGUST

18 The good vibes will stretch all the way to Fife when the Polyphonic Spree take the stage. It has been just over a year since these 27 demented Texans in white robes brought their symphonic pop music and euphoric stage presence to Scotland for the first time, providing musical sunshine in a rainy climate. Since then, there have been many converts and many homemade robes in their wake. At this year’s T in the Park, master of ceremonies Tim DeLaughter was presented with a brand new tartan cassock. He has also cited Edinburgh as one of his favourite European cities. The Fringe might just prove to be his band’s ultimate spiritual home.

Ice T

LIQUID ROOM, 18-19 AUGUST

19 The man born Tracy Morrow, aka Ice T, below, was the original gangster rapper-turned-film star before all those young upstarts began copying him. He released a number of hip-hop albums in the late 1980s and early 90s before stirring up a hornets’ nest with the post-LA riots track Cop Killer. Since riding that controversy, he has become an outspoken critic of artistic censorship. His public image has softened over the years but this hep cat still has the capacity to roar, fusing rap and rock in a muscular show.

Fiona Shepherd

CHILDREN’S SHOWS

Dean’s Silly Song Singalong

ASSEMBLY, UNTIL 24 AUGUST

20 How silly are your kids? Silly enough for Dean Friedman and his singalong show? A pop star in the 1970s with songs such as Lydia and Lucky Star, he’s been writing songs for his own children ever since. They range from the silly Hebrew school songs for silly Jewish kids, to general advice such as That Stove is Hot! and Please, Please Don’t Tease the Bees. He also found time to invent the Honkblatts, the fantastical music machines, at the Eureka kids museum in Halifax. Friedman promises lots of audience participation, dressing up and giggling for under tens. See feature, page five.

Mum and the Monster

C TOO, 31 UNTIL 24 AUGUST

21 Remember The Gruffalo, the hit kids show of 2001? Well, its creators, Tall Stories, are providing us with a brand new treat this year called Mum and the Monster. When Tom’s mother disappears, his unhelpful Dad says she’s gone off with a monster, so Tom sets out on a quest to find her. Along the way he gets involved in magical adventures and catchy singalong songs. The show was devised with the help of 120 London school children who were asked to invent the ending - who knows what they will have come up with? For ages six and up.

The Chipolatas and Mr Boom

THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT, 4-10 AUGUST

22 The Spiegeltent is moving to a lush new venue this year in George Square Gardens, which will be a delightful oasis for people with children. As well as the lovely mirrored tent, there will be an outdoor caf/bar to encourage families to lounge blissfully under the trees listening to jazz. Kids shows include Mr Boom and the Chipolatas. Mr Boom’s gently barmy combination of music and mass audience participation is ideal for little ones, while the Chipolatas, in their trademark stripey trousers, are a combination of furious funky music, cabaret and circus for all ages.

Rumplestiltskin and the Fairytale Laundry

ASSEMBLY, 4-24 AUGUST

23 Ailie Cohen uses pegs, puppets and lots of socks to tell the story of Rumplestiltskin and the Fairytale Laundry. This Rumplestiltskin has a powerful personality, because instead of the wicked child-stealer that Cohen intended him to be, he’s metamorphosed into a friendly and mischievous chappie. Cohen’s a talented new addition to the Scottish puppetry scene and, teamed with a soundtrack by ultra-cool retro chic band Aberfeldy, she’s bound to make washday a delight for ages five and over.

James Campbell’s Comedy4kids

ASSEMBLY, UNTIL 24 AUGUST

24 Modestly billing himself as the only stand-up comedian for kids in the Universe, James Campbell is heading for stardom with a contract for a kid’s TV show from Graham Norton’s company. He says he has honed his subversive tales about very peculiar animals by practising on thousands of primary pupils. There’s nothing cutesy about his shows, which generate raucous laughter and well targeted heckles from audiences of eight-year-olds. Nothing’s sacred, he’s not afraid to squash cats flat or chop a tiger’s legs off if it suits him. With his satires on parents and school, he is the exact opposite of a traditional storyteller. No moral stuff here, just head-spinning fun for five to ten-year-olds.

Jane Ellis

DANCE

San Francisco Ballet

PLAYHOUSE, 28-30 AUGUST

25 A triple-bill from one of the most exciting young choreographers in the world today, Christopher Wheeldon. A former Royal Ballet boy, Somerset-born Wheeldon was last seen in Edinburgh choreographing for New York City Ballet, when his Mercurial Manoeuvres and Polyphonia brought the house down. This year, he’s working his magic on the equally wonderful San Francisco Ballet, with two existing works - Continuum and There Where She Loves - and a world premiere set to music by Martinu. Dance lovers please note: missing this is not an option.

Shakti

THE GARAGE, 3-25 AUGUST

26 You can’t keep a good woman down and ten years after her Fringe debut the irrepressible Shakti is back with another mammoth programme. Mixing sexuality, spirituality and, at times, surreality, the Japanese dancer has no less than seven works on offer this year - none of which are for the faint-hearted. From the sensuous Pillow Book (where she wears nothing more than some colourful paint), to the rather more sedate Dances of India, and the all-new Salome, this is one Fringe stalwart who hasn’t become jaded over time.

Revolution: Sex, Dance, Rock’n’Roll

ROCKET @ DEMARCO ROXY ART HOUSE, 4-25 AUGUST

27 Potentially, the hot ticket of this year’s Fringe, Revolution is a fiery brew of tap, flamenco, Irish dance and rock music. The show’s creators, New Yorker Mike Schulster and Canadian Joel Hanna (tap hot-shot and ex-Riverdance star respectively) are joined by acclaimed flamenco artist, Kalen Shalahan, ten energetic backing dancers and a live rock band. Premiering in Edinburgh, the guys are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Tap Dogs, with world domination just around the corner.

Picasso and Dance

PLAYHOUSE, 21-23 AUGUST

28 Painstakingly researched and staged by Bordeaux Opera Ballet, this quartet of dances is a visual feast for art-lovers and dance fans alike. A real collaborative effort, the works feature choreography by George Balanchine, Leonide Massine and Serge Lifar, music from Erik Satie and Serge Prokofiev and, most exciting of all, set and costume designs by Pablo Picasso and George Rouault. A fascinating snapshot of history, the show captures the creative buzz surrounding the great Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in the 1920s and 30s.

Kelly Apter

OPERA/CLASSICAL MUSIC

Opening concert - Glagolitic Mass

USHER HALL, 10 AUGUST

29 What a combination - Sir Charles Mackerras, the music of Janacek, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, a solo quartet that includes the wonderful Jane Irwin, and the newly refurbished Usher Hall organ in the hands of Birmingham City Organist, Thomas Trotter, all come together for a unique insight into Janacek’s heaving Glagolitic Mass. Mackerras brings us the original version, tamed down by the composer after its first performance due to claims of its excessive difficulty, and rarely heard since. However, not before Scots conductor Garry Walker sounds the first musical note of the Festival, directing the RSNO in Kurtag’s thrilling orchestral work, Stele.

Wagner’s Ring Cycle

EDINBURGH FESTIVAL THEATRE, 11-16 and 25-30 August

30 It’s been three years in the making - and sold out for months (call the box office for returns, though). Tim Albery’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle has unfolded with growing fascination over successive Festivals. With all four operas now established in Scottish Opera’s repertoire, it’s time for the big one - the chance to see it all in one go. The company’s musical director, Richard Armstrong, conducts two complete runs of opera’s greatest extravaganza over weeks one and three. His command of the music’s girth and complexity is beyond question. The cast - including Matthew Best as Wotan and Elizabeth Byrne as Brunnhilde - is magnificent. Albery’s production is thought provoking and powerfully dramatic.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

USHER HALL, 12-14 AUGUST, AND QUEEN’S HALL, 11 AND 15 AUGUST

31 Week one’s Usher Hall programme is dominated by an exclusive visit by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and its charismatic Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Edinburgh is this brilliant orchestra’s only reason for leaving America this summer and they do so for three programmes featuring the spread of repertoire that Salonen is most at home with - Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Debussy’s La Mer, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe and Salonen’s own LA Variations.

Some of the LA players can also be heard "in camera" as part of the Queen’s Hall morning series, with two concerts that include the Octets by Mendelssohn and Schubert.

Pansori

REID CONCERT HALL, 14-18 AUGUST

32 The Festival is always a time for discovery. The traditional Korean artform of Pansori offers an intriguing challenge to Western ears. Its mix of storytelling and music is presented on an epic scale in a five-day series of Sagas that last more than 18 hours in all. Emotions are more intense than high, in tales that encompass evil and goodness, happiness and horror, gods and devils. And all this performed (in Korean with English supertitles) by one actor/singer and one percussionist, though the singer is different for each performance. An obvious antidote to the opulence of Wagner.

Paul Lewis

QUEEN’S HALL, 18 AUGUST

33 Successive Edinburgh Festival audiences have witnessed the emerging talent of pianist Paul Lewis. Like his mentor, Alfred Brendel, Lewis displays a glowing intensity in his pianism that probes at every level of the music, yet never fails to communicate it in the simplest of terms. This year’s Queen’s Hall recital is wide-ranging, combining the niceties of Haydn and Schubert with the exotic impressions of Janacek’s "In the Mist", the monumental Romanticism of Liszt’s B Minor Sonata, and the adventurism of Schoenberg’s Six Little Piano Pieces. It should not be missed.

Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester

USHER HALL, 21 AUGUST

34 So many Mahler symphonies to choose from. But the one that looks especially tantalising features the orchestra that blew our minds several years ago with its unforgettable Mahler Seven under Claudio Abbado - the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. This time, the brilliant young orchestra plays Mahler Five, but under the baton of its newly appointed conductor, Ingo Metzmacher. This is Metzmacher’s debut tour with the orchestra. He has carved a reputation in Germany for his interpretations of Mahler and his contemporaries, and of more recent repertoire. Significantly, his Festival programme also includes music by Messiaen and Hartmann.

Kenneth Walton

VISUAL ARTS

Monet: The Seine and The Sea

ROYAL SCOTTISH ACADEMY, 6 AUGUST UNTIL 26 OCTOBER

35 Monet was a landscape painter first and foremost and it is because of him more than any of his contemporaries that we think of Impressionism as essentially a landscape style. This exhibition focuses on just five years, 1878-1883, when he lived at Vtheuil on the Seine. In that time, he produced some 300 paintings, 90 of them are included in the exhibition. His subject matter was provided by the river Seine, the Normandy coast and, for the first time, his garden, which was later to become the dominant motif in his art.

Winifred Nicholson in Scotland

DEAN GALLERY, UNTIL 7 SEPTEMBER

36 Winifred Nicholson fell in love with the west of Scotland when she first visited Skye shortly after the war. Over the following decade, she painted some of her loveliest pictures, inspired by the landscape that she found there, often staying with her friend Gavin Maxwell on the remote island of Sandaig. This small exhibition is devoted to her Scottish pictures and is a wonderful tribute from an outsider to the beauty of the Western Isles.

Boyle Family

SCOTTISH NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART, 14 AUGUST UNTIL 9 NOVEMBER

37 Mark, his wife Joan and their two children Georgia and Sebastian, work as one artist. That in itself is a curiosity in these days when the artist’s ego is often the only true compass of the art work, but the art they make is even more strange. It is a study in the randomness of beauty, a small square of the surface of the Earth, chosen arbitrarily and then reproduced in all its detail as a three-dimensional relief.

John Houston

SCOTTISH GALLERY, 8 AUGUST UNTIL 3 SEPTEMBER

38 One of the leading Scottish painters of his generation, John Houston’s vivid landscapes bring drama and passion to familiar views of Fife, the Firth of Forth, or stormy skies over the Bass Rock. However, his new work on show at the Scottish Galley includes in addition to these some striking paintings of the west coast of Scotland and of Venice. Some of these pictures are apparently simple in construction but they are far from simple in idea. They explore the relationship between landscape painting and the abstract language of modern art.

Duncan Macmillan

BOOK FESTIVAL

John Irving

22 AND 23 AUGUST

39 Ever since John Irving wrote The World According to Garp in 1978, all of his huge, sprawling, imaginative, novels have been bestsellers, not just in America and Britain but throughout the world. They may be riddled with coincidences, overflowing with improbability but their boisterous narrative drive usually keeps readers hooked.

Alan Ayckbourn

10 AND 11 AUGUST

40 The world’s most frequently performed playwright after Shakespeare returns to Edinburgh (he first came up as assistant stage manager with the legendary Sir Donald Wolfit in the 1956 Festival). He has written and directed 65 plays, including such comedic classics as Noises Off, Absurd Person Singular and The Norman Conquests, and a whole host of revues, adaptations and children’s plays (about which he’ll also be talking in the children’s programme). Unmissable.

Candace Bushnell

23 AUGUST

41 Go on then. Who’s going to tell you more about the glitzy world of New York celebrity than the real-life alter-ego of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw? A Big Apple A-list celeb herself long before the iconic TV series based on her columns in the New York Observer, Bushnell, below, spills the beans on the in-crowd in her latest novel, Trading Up. Slip on your Manolo Blahniks, bring Mr Big, and make a date with chicklit’s chicest superstar.

Susan Sontag

11 AND 12 AUGUST

42 Where do you start? The intellectual whose essays, at once dazzlingly clear and stylish, have changed the way we think about a host of things, from AIDS to high camp to photography? The critic and commentator, who remains a standard-bearer of radical America and the avant-garde? The award-winning novelist and short story writer? The woman who directed Waiting for Godot in a besieged Sarajevo? No other writer gets three Book Festival events all to themselves, but the sheer range of Sontag’s incisive intelligence positively demands it.

Ariel Dorfman

16-18 AUGUST

43 It was another 9/11 that changed Ariel Dorfman’s life - the coup of 11 September 1973 that rid Chile of its democratically elected president and consigned Dorfman, along with thousands of other Chileans, to exile. His writing since then - in plays such as Death and the Maiden - has explored themes such as torture, dispossession and resistance with both passion and thoughtfulness. Yet as his book for teenagers (which he also discusses in the children’s programme) shows, there’s a tender side to him too.

Mario Vargas Llosa

14 AUGUST

44 One of Latin America’s greatest living writers, Vargas Llosa’s life is almost as intriguing as his fiction. After his first novel was ceremonially burned, he worked as an undercover journalist, uncovering crime and prostitution in Lima, and scandalised his family by eloping with his 32-year-old aunt when he was just 19 (an affair he fictionalised as Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter). No other writer has come as near to becoming president of Peru; and only an ultra-select band can match his talent.

David Robinson

FILM

Young Adam

UGC, 13 AUGUST (ALSO AT GLASGOW FILM THEATRE, 17 AUGUST)

45 After the low budget horror of The Last Great Wilderness, director David Mackenzie plunges deep into cult fiction with an adaptation of Scots beat writer Alexander Trocchi’s tale of sex and crime on a barge. Ewan McGregor plays his grubbiest role since Trainspotting alongside Tilda Swinton, Emily Mortimer and Peter Mullan. Reports from Cannes were positive, though the film will disturb those who carp on about the grimness of Scottish cinema. The FT’s Nigel Andrews noted of McGregor that he "seemed more like an overstretched toyboy film star trying to show he could do Planet Camus as well as Planet Naboo".

A Decade Under The Influence

CAMEO, 17 AUGUST (ALSO AT GLASGOW FILM THEATRE, 20 AUGUST)

46 Among film bores - a swelling army, thanks to the DVD "extra" - an orthodoxy about film history has emerged in which the 1970s were years of plenty, in which a young generation of crazy geniuses let rip, producing a string of masterpieces that ended with the rise of the blockbuster in the mid-’70s. The theory was supported by Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls - itself the subject of a documentary - and gets another airing here. Watch for Julie Christie, pointing out not everything was fabulous in the golden age.

Bafta Interview: Terence Davies

UGC, 19 AUGUST

47 One of the most visionary of British film-makers in discussion, as he prepares to film Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song. Davies made his name with two great semi-autobiographical pictures, Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes, which explored what the director calls "the poetry of the ordinary". The US-set Neon Bible, was a less convincing affair, but his stately adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth was underrated and effective.

Comandante

UGC, 16 AND 17 AUGUST

48 Oliver Stone may yet appear to support his documentary about Fidel Castro, the result of 30 hours of chat in February 2002. It’s a an odd collision, as Stone uses his time to get the Cuban leader to support his conspiracy theory about JFK, before settling down to a cosy chat. Castro reveals that he hasn’t smoked for 17 years, doesn’t believe in psychiatry, God (no surprise there) or destiny. Stone does not push hard on the tough questions but does discover that Castro is a fan of Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot.

Comedian

UGC, 15 AUGUST, FILMHOUSE, 17 AUGUST

49 What do you do after you’ve been the star of the of one of the most successful sitcoms of all time? For Jerry Seinfeld, the answer was a journey back to the stand-up circuit, working a new routine from scratch. Seinfeld’s private life remains a mystery and the film, instead, captures the working conditions of the circuit, as well as the fear and self-doubt that afflicts those who enter into it. Seinfeld’s experience is contrasted with that of a young comic, Orny Adams, but the film’s best moments are among the comedy ratpack of Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling and Jay Leno.

American Splendor

ODEON 1, 24 AUGUST

50 The hit of Sundance tells the story of the comic book writer Harvey Pekar, who chronicled his own life in his work. The film is a quite dazzling mix of styles - part biography, part documentary - which inhabits the unglamorous world of comic art, where being pals with Robert Crumb doesn’t mean you can give up your job at the hospital.

Pekar appears throughout, offering a commentary on his fictionalised life, but he is almost upstaged by Paul Giamatti, playing Harvey. There’s some zippy comic art, too.

Alastair McKay

 
 
 

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