My San Francisco, with Nadya Zimmerman

San Francisco through the lens of Nadya Zimmerman 
I go to sleep and and wake up to this breathtaking view of San Francisco every day. Let me make myself clear. There is still an ocean between us, but this view is now adorning one of our bedroom walls. I fell in love with this photograph taken by Nadya Zimmerman and she surprised me with sending it to me. It’s a little painful to admit this, but Hitchcock went down and San Francisco viewed from Twin Peaks took its place. But it’s okay, Hitchcock loved San Francisco, too.

Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to ask Nadya to show us more of her San Francisco and walk us through it. Originally from Riga, Nadya has been living in the Bay Area for nine years. I discovered her photography through her beautiful blog, Nadya’s Side of the Road, which is about the lifestyle of living slowly in California and appreciating the beauty, elegance and magnificence of life through travel and photography. Passionate about photography, people, art and culture, Nadya loves discovering the relatively unknown corners of the places she visits and capture them in photographs that tell stories. She is also the founder of The ARTBO magazine, and her short film, Eyeball, was presented at Castro Theater in San Francisco. My kind of person! Her areas of interest, place of living and beautiful photography were bound to make this a very inspiring conversation, but what I probably liked the most about Nadya’s description of her life was her honesty and the reality check of life in San Francisco today. The good, the not so good, and the beauty of it all.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
Could you describe San Francisco in three words?
It’s hard to describe San Francisco in three words, but I’ll try… Fog, Brunch, Technology. I know, most people still think about San Francisco as a city of hippie, art and freedom, but it’s less true now. The artist community is being squeezed out by the tech generation of young people in flannel shirts, eyes stuck to the screens of their phones or laptops, who worry about their projects and have no time to live. In the last few years the city has transformed into a playground for the young and wealthy. This is a sad reality of the most beautiful city (now the most expensive city) in the US. The city’s fabled quirks and collections of oddballs are definitely bleeding out from San Francisco. Once the Bohemian capital of the West Coast, ‘Fog City’ is becoming reduced to the very wealthy and the homeless.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
Looking at the good side, what do you love the most about living here?
I love a lot about my life in San Francisco. I love people. We have here so many people from so many corners of the world, it’s amazing. The food is great partially due to the variety of people. I love being so close to the ocean. I love the hills of San Francisco and the old, colourful houses. San Francisco reminds me a lot of Europe. I don’t think I would love any other American city as much as I love San Francisco. It feels like home.

What is your one favourite thing to do in San Francisco and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
I love going to museums in San Francisco. We have a few of them and there are always a lot of new things to see.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
While in San Francisco, early mornings are best for: Photography. I am a huge fan of shooting my favourite city at dawn. The city looks truly magical when the first rays of sunlight touch its roofs and empty streets. At those moments I am always thinking about my luck living in this city.

How do you get around in SF?
I don’t drive. So I walk a lot. My sister and I love walking in San Francisco. We always find new charming streets, views, or cafés. This city never stop surprising me and I think people miss out on a lot when they don’t walk all these hills.

What is your favourite spot in the entire city?
Ah, that’s a really hard question. But I am forever in love with the Golden Gate Bridge. When I first came to California, it’s what I saw right away after the airport and I was so blown away by the beauty and size of the bridge, by the surreal views. I knew immediately it was my place.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman

California Street with a view to Bay Bridge

Describe your kind of perfect day in San Francisco: Well, I would start my morning with a cup of coffee at Rose’s Cafe on Union Street. Then, I would wander the evocative ruins of Sutro Baths and explore the nearby Sutro Heights gardens. I would hope for the morning fog as, believe it or not, from this once upon a time fog hater, I am now in love with fog. Fog is also perfect for my photography. Ocean in fog is simply breathtaking.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
The most unexpected thing about the city: There is no summer. Sometimes we get a warm September and October, but, overall, there is no summer and I love it even when I complain about it.

What is the best time to visit San Francisco (best weather, few tourists)?
Best weather is definitely in September and October. In terms of tourists… they never leave. San Francisco is always full of tourists. Always. If you are not afraid of cold winds, April and May are beautiful because of the wild flowers.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
Where should one go if they want to feel less like a tourist and more like a local?
Well, we have so few spots, locals are very protective of them and so am I. But I would visit Union Street, Castro, and I would let myself wander around without any map. That’s the best way to end up in some odd and truly San Franciscan spots. Let your heart and the wind in your hair lead you.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
And what is one touristy place one must see?
Twin Peaks. Go there early for sunrise. It’s a magical view. Twin Peaks is ideal to see the 360 degree version of San Francisco. The view is so beautiful. Downtown, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Port, the whole Peninsula is right in front of your eyes. I think Twin Peaks should be the number one destination to visit when you arrive in San Francisco for the first time, well, unless you are afraid to leave your heart in San Francisco or to be carried away by the freezing wind.

Sunrise above San Francisco Bay, Twin Peaks

Favourite moment of the day for taking photos: Sunrise!!! Love that first light of the day.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
One thing/spot you never get tired of photographing: The Golden Gate Bridge. It’s the place where my new life started.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman

San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
Best coffee in town: I am a big fan of Philz Coffee. They are local to San Francisco and a must try. But I also would recommend to visit Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club Cafe. They have not just good coffee, but the most amazing cinnamon toast! The café itself is super tiny, stylish and friendly. It has a little bar inside and a very unusual outdoor seating area. There is a wooden bench under the window and a little section made of a fallen tree. Hippie/hipster looking locals are always sitting on that tree enjoying their coffee and toasts.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman

Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club Cafe

San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman

Ocean Beach

Favourite place to eat: I have so many, but there’s nothing like heading down to that little café on the corner for breakfast and a morning cup of coffee. You know the one – the one you visit rarely but is always on your mind when you are in the area. Rose’s Cafe is one of those for me. It’s a very charming, cozy, Europeanish little café on a corner on the western end of Union Street. Locals love it.

Favourite bookstore in town: I buy all my books on Amazon… but, still, I read only real paper books.

Most beautiful scenic hike: I love the hike from Muir Beach to Pirate’s Cove. Who doesn’t like little hidden pocket beaches? It’s not an easy hike. What looks to be an innocent curvy little path with breathtaking views of the coast is a very impressive incline. The views are breathtaking!
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman

The hike from Muir Beach to Pirate’s Cove

Best Bay Area beach: Cowell Ranch Beach is easily my favourite beach on the Northern California coast. It’s my secret place, my private getaway. It’s funny, even though we have been living in the Bay Area for the last 9 years or so, we discovered Cowell Beach a couple of years ago during the location scouting for one of the short films directed by my husband. Since then, if it’s a great day to get some sun on the beach, we go to Cowell Beach. We also simply love to have a walk along the cliff. Even on a cloudy day, it’s a scenic walk or bicycle ride. I believe one of the reasons why the Cowell Beach isn’t more popular is that there’s a 1/2 mile walk on a gravel path to the beach across some farmlands. The other reason might be the hidden small parking lot (maybe enough for just 10-15 cars?).
My San Francisco with Nadya Zimmerman Cowell Ranch Beach

The Cowell Ranch Beach

My San Francisco with Nadya Zimmerman 
Best out-of-town escape: I must say, our little house we rented in Sea Ranch lived up to every dream I had of what life in the forest with an ocean view would be like. Honestly, on our first day there, I frequently had a feeling of being deaf, not that I know that feeling, but I imagine it’s how it’s supposed to feel, just not hearing anything. Anything at all. Sometimes I could hear, slightly, a sound of surf or a bird. I did enjoy the way the sun was coming out for a moment in late afternoon before again being blinded by the always creeping fog – my idea of perfect weather.
San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman 
Best place to watch a movie: Castro Theater. Sometimes they have film festivals or international movies. My short film, Eyeball, was also shown in Castro Theater.

Now you’ve made me curious. Could you tell us more about your short film?
Eyeball (you can watch it here) is all about the difference between human interdependence and ‘virtual’ interdependence. We crave experience, but increasingly we seek that experience through the flat screens which we carry in our pockets, our purses, that surround us in our homes; screens that seem to follow us everywhere we go. Television, laptops, tablets, phones and now eyewear have seduced us into a reality that has nothing to do with the touch of a hand, a whisper in the ear or a simple kiss on the cheek. We want people to realise progress has never been a simple bargain – there are always hidden costs!

Part of my inspiration for Eyeball comes from my favorite books: 1984 and Brave New World. Another part of my inspiration comes from my own experience with the world around me. Every time I go outside I see people on the streets, in the restaurants with their phones, tablets and they are so consumed by them. I always thought it looked kind of ugly. And one day I realised I had started to become one of these people. I was scared of my own willingness to become sucked into something so disconnected with the physical world. So I wrote a script to express my idea of what’s going on right now with humanity and how technology influences us and changes us into something ‘less than.’ It’s actually interesting that with any technological progress we enclose ourselves more deeply into a box, more separated from ourselves and the physical world.

When I was 7 years old I knew so many names of stars and constellations of stars, I knew where to find them in the sky. To look into the night sky and talk with my relatives or friends about what is out there and how infinite the Universe is was a totally normal thing for so many young people. And my imagination was huge! Now this knowledge has been washed from my mind. Today I’ll bet if you ask teenagers when it was the last time they looked into the sky and asked THEMSELVES (not Google) a question about the universe, stars, etc…. their answer would be NEVER.

I hope our film Eyeball will make at least a few people stop, think and come out of their boxes to experience the real world just a bit more.

Don’t remember who said it but… Just as air in the atmosphere of the body, so time is the atmosphere of the mind. Who owns your time, owns your mind. Own your own time and you will know your own mind.

And, finally, I’d like to add about the film that it’s very much San Francisco today.
My San Francisco by Nadya Zimmerman
More travel interviews: Into the World: Ana Hogas and Ionut Florea / Paris in Spring with Georgianna Lane / Interview with Travel Writer Francisca Mattéoli

photos: Nadya Zimmerman

Posted by classiq in Interviews, Photography | | Leave a comment

Shirt Stories: Jennifer Neyt

Shirt stories Jennifer Neyt 

You always notice the person wearing a great shirt. A classic that, for me, holds just as much appeal as a perfect pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about others who feel the same, women and men, and who wear it well.

Among the skinny jeans uniformed French fashion editors (Emmanuelle Alt is still a favourite though), there is someone who refreshingly goes against the trend.’s editor-in-chief Jennifer Neyt is no stranger from the skinny denim, but just as often she embraces a wide legged nautical pair of trousers, a leather skirt, and even a floral dress sometimes. Everything remains in the simple, classic lines, but she approaches every outfit as an opportunity to make it her own.

It’s obvious that she also loves shirts, and, frankly, she’s one of those who wears denim on denim best. But I myself really took a liking to the way she wears the white shirt: A-shape black leather skirt (a much more inspired choice than a pencil skirt) and black pointed-toe pumps. Nothing revolutionary – quite the opposite, as black and white can so easily fall into a blunt look – but infused with so much more personality than the old white shirt-jeans pairing. I guess it’s also a matter of the wearer’s personality. She just knows how to make it work.
Shirt stories Jennifer Neyt 
Related Shirt Stories entries: Francisca Mattéoli (interview) / Robert Redford / Charlotte Rampling / Ralph Lauren / Heidi Merrick

photos: 1-Mitograph / 2-Sandra Semburg

Posted by classiq in Style | | Leave a comment

Suit Acting and Android Fashion in Metropolis

Costumes in Metropolis 
January 10th, 1927. It was on this day, 90 years ago, that Fritz Lang released Metropolis, not only a key film of the German expressionist movement, but also the primordial science fiction movie. A drama of the future set in the year 2000, whose theme and design forged new paths. It is impossible to imagine a retrospective of classic silent films, science fiction films, any visual portrayal of the city of the future, or cinematic architecture without Metropolis.

“For the architectural style of the futuristic city of Metropolis, a solution could only be found in the imagination. A “modern” style, able to serve as a guide, doesn’t exist in this period. Today’s period lacks a true style of its own to begin with: in the area of architecture, it merely wrestles with new means of expression,” Otto Hunte, the set designer, was describing the great challenge they faced in 1926. Luis Buñuel praised it as being “of such a technical perfection that it can stand a prolonged analysis without for an instant betraying its model. From the photographic angle, its emotive force, its unheard-of and overwhelming beauty is unequalled.”
Metropolis 1927 
Fritz Lang’s vision and genius went way beyond innovative technique, photography and design though. Metropolis describes a society where the “new world order” has been implemented and a select elite live in luxury, while a dehumanized mass work and live in a highly monitored hell. It not only acknowledged the class divisions within society, but the lack of mutual agreement between nations as well. It was a sci-fi aspect of the plot that today, in 2017, has become very close to reality. As Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, “in its own time, Metropolis was clearly more of an event than Kubrick’s masterwork was in 1968. […] The astonishing thing is that Metropolis seems much more relevant to current events than 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Metropolis is set in a futuristic dystopia divided into two separate classes – the thinkers and the labourers, the elite and the working class — and costume designer Aenne Willkomm had to capture the contrast between the two entities through clothing. She described how the heavy, earthbound dullness and the anonymity of the workers chained to their machines were conveyed through the use of dark and heavy material, shoes with leaden soles, and the overall uniformity of their clothing, while the wealthy were easily recognisable through their sheer, silk suits of an effectively youthful cut, suggesting their carefree and light existence.
Costumes in Metropolis 
It is, however, the character of Maria, an android programmed to corrupt the morals of the workers and to incite a revolt, giving the elite an excuse to use violence repression, that I would like to focus on. “Metropolis emphasizes not merely class divisions, but the emotional confusion underlying the creation of androids – also a major theme of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, continues Jonathan Rosenbaum, also bringing into discussion that 2001 dramatizes some of the same confusion.

One of the earliest and most memorable examples of suit acting, Brigitte Helm’s performance as Maria and her robot double in Metropolis, represents a valuable piece of sci-fi history. The robot, whose construction took weeks, was made of “plastic wood”, a kneadable substance made of wood, hardening quickly when exposed to the air, allowing itself to be modeled like organic wood. They first took a plaster cast mould of Brigitte Helm from head to toe. Parts resembling a knight’s armour, cut out of Hessian, were covered with 2 mm substance, flattened by means of a kitchen pastry roller. This was then stuck on to the plaster Brigitte Helm, like a shoemaker pulls leather over his block. When the material had hardened, the parts were polished, the contours cut out. This was the rough mechanism of the machine creature which made it possible for the actress to stand, to sit and to walk. The next procedure was the furnishing with detail to create a technological aesthetic.

Finally, cellon varnish mixed with solver bronze, and applied with a spray gun, gave the costume its genuinely metallic appearance which even seemed convincing when looked at from close range. Helm’s costume was cutting edge for its time and it inspired some of the most influential science fiction movies to come, while still continuing to permeate every aspect of pop culture, from fashion design to music.

Note: This article has also appeared on The Big Picture magazine.

photos: 1,2:movie stills: Universum Film (UFA) / 3-film poster by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm/ 4-film poster by Kurt Degen

sources: Metropolis booklet, available in this Fritz Lang collection / Fritz Lang by Lotte Eisner / My Last Sigh by Luis Buñuel

Posted by classiq in Film, Style in film | | Leave a comment

Talking Movies before the Golden Globes

Talking movies before the Golden Globes 
As far as I’m concerned, the Golden Globes are just one more pretext to talk about films. By the time the event rolls in each year I have hardly had the chance to watch a few of the films released the previous year which I would be interested in. This year is no different. I have watched some of the movies nominated in various categories, but not many, so I will only remotely approach the subject of the nominations. I would rather talk about the films of 2016 that I liked. Many of them would deserve more recognition, not necessarily on the awards circuit (who cares about that anyway besides producers and distributors?), but in general. They should be made more available for people to see them.

So far, one of my absolute favourite films of last year is American Honey. Andrea Arnold has a way to tell stories that stays away from clichés. In American Honey, we find recurrent elements in her films, like social inequality, rebellious spirits, dangerous attractions. Both road journey and coming-of-age story, Andrea Arnold’s film captures the midland-American youth culture with electrifying energy. It feels real (the non-professional actors help achieve that), authentic, alive, there is always the promise of tomorrow hovering over. I also have to mention the performances of Sasha Lane (her feature debut), Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough – all very good.

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente, Colombia) is another great movie. Directed by Ciro Guerra, it is visually astonishing (filmed in black and white), impassioned, honest, a bold criticism of colonial imperialism and a powerful, honourable portrayal of disappearing cultures.

Isabelle Huppert is nominated for Elle (I hope she wins), but in Mia Hansen-Løve’s L’avenir (Things to Come), she delivers another great performance. And what I probably love more about the latter is that Isabelle is even more commanding on screen in this understated, note-perfect, warm performance than she is in her more controversial roles. I still don’t get the attention around Verhoeven’s Elle and I was expressing my opinion of it being a movie with problematic implications here, hence my reticence towards it and towards the appreciations it has constantly gained. L’avenir, on the other hand, is subtle and intimate and graceful and it left me with a smile on my face.

I was pleasantly, but not unexpectedly, surprised by Tom Ford’s second movie, Nocturnal Animals. Strangely seductive, beautifully constructed, cautiously glamorous. I also talked about Amy Adam’s costumes in a previous blog post. She did a great role, too, but deserves to be nominated for Arrival. The actor that did deserve a recognition for Nocturnal Animals is Michael Shannon. Instead, another supporting actor was nominated, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, which is beyond my understating.
Talking movies
Talking about Arrival, while I still believe it was a good film, I keep thinking that it could have been extraordinary. If only Dennis Villeneuve had concentrated on the original idea and left all the politics and real world international tensions out of the plot. If only he didn’t compromise. As my husband bluntly put it, this film had the potential to become the most original science fiction film since Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Furthermore, it’s not often that a film has the courage to approach the element of time in such a way that reminds of Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Again, it was this close to being a truly great movie.

Other notable mentions: Certain Women, by Kelly Reichardt, Emily Blunt’s performance in The Girl on the Train, Ben Affleck in The Accountant (that was a nice surprise). I had highly anticipated Pedro Almodóvat’s Julieta, and while it’s not a bad film, and most certainly not a bad cinematic experience, it left me with the impression that something was missing. The two leading actresses, Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, and Rossy de Palma, in a supporting role, all did great though.

Of what I haven’t yet watched, what I am looking forward to the most is Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Also, Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, and Hell or High Water, by David Mackenzie. What else? Yes, the Golden Globes nominees. Let’s have a little talk about them, too. Moonlight has been gaining much momentum. I am yet to watch it, and although my instinct tells me it probably is good, I can not shake off this vague feeling I have that some of the interest it has sparked is driven by the unspoken resolution of the Americans to avoid the risk of other discrimination issues as it was the case last year.

“Are they going to forgive Mel Gibson?” “Are they going to leave his mishaps behind?” I have repeatedly read this kind of thing in the media. For the record, Gibson’s film, Hacksaw Ridge, is a contender in two important categories, best picture and best director. I haven’t yet seen it, but what kind of talk is that? Did he make a good film? Then, damn it, give credit where it’s due! Leave the politics and political correctness aside. It is so pathetic what the movie industry has largely become, plain and simple, a business, dictated by people who, most times, don’t know and don’t give a damn about films. And I just have to quote Jim Jarmusch here, from an interview for The Talks. “My French distributor is a business, but he is also a cinephile. So if I mention Dziga Vertov’s films to him, he knows exactly who I am talking about. If I mention Dziga Vertov to someone in Hollywood, they go, “Is she a Russian model?” They don’t know what movies are. Sam Fuller told me once: “These people in LA, they used to run underwear factories, and now they tell us how to make movies.” What kind of thing is that?”

Update (07.01): I’ve just seen La La Land and it made it to my list of favourites. I didn’t expect to like it, from the simple fact that I rarely like musicals, even classics, but I absolutely loved Damien Chazelle’s modern classic. The leads, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are just perfect, singing and dancing, and Gosling also playing the piano. La La Land offers the kind of escapism and dream-chasing optimism that do you good. I wasn’t a fan of the opening scene, but the rest of the film made up for it and I really liked the bittersweet ending – I am so glad they didn’t mess it up as they usually do in Hollywood.
Talking movies 
photos, from top left, clockwise: 1-L’avenir (Detailfilm/Arte France Cinéma) / 2-Embrace of the Serpent (Buffalo Films/Buffalo Producciones) / 3-American Honey (Parts and Labor/British Film Institute) / 4-Nocturnal Animals (Artina Films/Fade to Black Productions)

Posted by classiq in Film | | Leave a comment

Truffaut, Kar Wai, Film Noir and …

The Films in My Life Francois Truffaut 
… Mistletoe. Happy New Year everyone! May it be a good year! Now, this being the week of the Golden Globes, let’s talk movies, shall we? Or better said, books about film (the newest additions to my alarmingly fast growing collection) for today, followed by a blog post later in the week, covering my favourite films of 2016, at least those I’ve had the chance to see so far.

First, I would like to say that these are not actual book reviews, from the simple fact that I seldom read film books da capo al fine over a short period of time, especially, surprisingly, good film books, unless it is a biography. I like to take my time with them, pick them up from time to time, let the information sink in in between. It can also be about the mood I am in or about the films I am watching. Truffaut’s The Films In My Life, for example – it’s the kind of book I like to pick up after I have watched a film that intrigued me in search of a trusted opinion to compare mine with, or to check out film titles I haven’t yet watched. But, of course, it is much more than that. This is one of the best books on film ever written (and let’t not forget that Truffaut was the author of yet another one of the best, Hitchcock). I love his pragmatism, his intelligence, reasonable enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for making, watching and talking movies. A fascinating read.
Film Noir book 
Film Noir. 100 All-Time Favorites, by Paul Duncan and Jürgen Müller, is a book I didn’t expect to enjoy that much (I am very particular about film noir, it being my favourite genre). But the truth is that this is a great book and what I probably like the most about it is not the plot descriptions and the reviews (no complaint, I just prefer my own), but the fact that this is indeed a great and very varied selection of films noir. European, American and Asian. Because film noir did not originate in Hollywood (appearantly, this still has to be reminded) and does not resume to Hollywood. It is obvious that this is the work of true movie lovers with an open mind. And, finally, I do prefer flipping through a book when I want to check out something instead of browsing online.
Film Noir book

Film Noir book
WKW : The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai is another wonderful book. One of those books that are the exception from the rule I was talking about above, because once I started it I wanted to keep reading and finish it in one standing. What I love about Kar Wai’s films is that they are beautiful, emotional, distinctive and cinematic. As the author, John Powers, says in the first part of the book (the second part is a lengthy interview he conducted with Kar Wai, going through each of his movies – such an impressive and valuable look into the director’s filmography and into cinema making, that kind of cinema that is meant to last),

“Yet, in trying to explain why I love his work so much, I find myself beginning with beauty and ending with emotion. These qualities only lay at the heart of the cinematic experience, which was designated to pull us out of ourselves and take us into a world richer and more magical than our own. […] Wong understands the romantic appeal of movie stars, and knows how to capture their aura on screen; yet he also has a forward-looking belief that cinema isn’t ultimately about plots and dialogue but about capturing evanescent moments of poetry, truth and emotion, about expressing that which can’t be reduced to words – spring light piercing through the ordinary and leaving it transfigured.”

The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai

photos by me

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