Editorial: Easy to Photograph

Editorial - Easy to Photograph - Grace Kelly - To Catch a Thief 

The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema

Can anybody deny Grace Kelly’s beauty? It’s also true however that her beauty was the kind of ice-cool beauty that had nothing from the warm aura of Romy Schneider or Marilyn Monroe. “A photographic beauty,” is how Cecil Beaton described her, someone who simply photographs well. Yes, she was a classic beauty. And she was refined, elegant, distinguished, good-looking, with unusual good taste. “But if she did not photograph well, we would scarcely stop to look at her on the street,” the photographer argued.

Alfred Hitchcock however favoured this type of icy blonde, the ideal leading lady for the director. In To Catch a Thief (1955), for Kelly’s first appearance, Hitchcock wanted Edith Head to use cool colours to play up the idea of Frances as an ice princess. Head dressed her in a powder blue chiffon dress. “I deliberately photographed Grace Kelly ice-cold and I kept cutting to her profile, looking classical, beautiful, and very distant.” Hitchcock certainly knew how to photograph Grace, too, and capture her beauty. Easy to photograph or not, it is an unanimously accepted beauty.

photo: movie still from To Catch A Thief | Paramount Pictures

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Shirt Stories: Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts in A Bigger Splash

Style in Film - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash 

You always notice the person wearing a great shirt.
A classic that holds just as much appeal as a perfect
pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about the men and
women who wear it well, in movies or in real life.

I have talked about A Bigger Splash (2015) and its clothes before. But the characters in Luca Guadagnino’s film – a sexually charged psychological thriller remotely inspired by Jacques Deray’s 1969 La piscine – have such great rapport with their clothes, while providing great style reference for the modern day, that I have found myself gravitate once again towards the wardrobes in this movie. Tilda Swinton’s Marianne Lane is a rock star who’s had vocal surgery and is now convalescing on the island of Pantelleria, Italy. She is there with her boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), a filmmaker recovering from a crisis of his own. Their idyllic holiday is brought to a halt by the arrival of Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), an old flame of Marianne’s, and his Lolita-reminiscing teenage daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Trouble comes to paradise.

Marianne can’t speak, so she expresses herself through other senses and her clothes are one of the means she uses. Swinton joined A Bigger Splash quite late but reinvented her role when she did. “Marianne was to be an actress and pretty talkative,” she told Vogue. “It occurred to me that it might be interesting – in this claustrophobic atmosphere between these characters, where the struggle to communicate is paramount – if Marianne, positioned as a hinge between the others, could not speak. And if she were a musician whose voice had brought her and Harry together. There is something pagan about her state here, uncharted and capable of lawless instincts.”
Tilda Swintonand Matthias Schoenaerts in A Bigger Splash

Shirt Stories Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash

Style in Film - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash 
Guadagnino and costume designer Giulia Piersanti, who joined forces with Raf Simons, the artistic director at Dior at that time, tried to capture the iconic resort style from another era, but making it more Mediterranean, more natural, more modern. Shirts make up for a big part of the wardrobes. Marianne wears only white (with stripes) and blue shirts. “Some of the fabrics and colors … linens, stripes and poplins were inspired by the Sicilian setting,” Piersanti told The Hollywood Reporter about Swinton’s relaxed, cool style.

Marianne Lane had to be however a bit more elegant than her surroundings. It was important for her to stand apart. Her clothes, especially the most elegant ones, are used to great effect to remind her, and us, the viewers, that she is still a rock star. Even her shirts, despite the simplicity that defines them, have elements of glamour and unpredictability, evocative of her character. One of her shirt-dresses, white with blue stripes, is an open back (without losing the classic collar) asymmetrical piece. Marianne does wear oversized, men’s shirts, too, which come in blue and are usually paired with shorts or swimming suits, but even those benefit from a hint of sophistication, largely thanks to her attitude.
Shirt Stories - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash

Shirt Stories - Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash 
Matthias Schoenaerts’ character, on the other hand, doesn’t show anything through his clothes. He doesn’t want to reveal anything about himself. He sticks to a uniform of t-shirts (sometimes topped with a denim shirt), shorts and jeans. He is maybe like so many artists, be it photographers, filmmakers or designers, who find a uniform, usually as inconspicuous as possible, and go with it so that it doesn’t distract them from their work. It’s all about practicality for him. It may also suggest that “he’s trying to disappear in a way, and survive,” as Giulia Piersanti told i-D, alluding to his own issues that he faces. Regardless of his own reasons however, the truth is that, for the rest of us, Paul’s clothes bottle some of that languid, effortless and easy-going summer attitude that we try to hold on for the rest of the year.
Matthias Schoenaerts in A Bigger Splash

photos: movie stills from A Bigger Splash | Frenesy Film Company, Cota Film, StudioCanal

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Interview with Photographer Christophe Jacrot

Man and girl - India - Christophe Jacrot

Man and girl, India

Christophe Jacrot has created a cinematic, poetic visual world through his photographs. Always shot in bad weather, his photography rings with immediacy and intensity, and awakens a feeling of romantic fiction in the viewer, making us aware of both the beauty and ephemerity of life and of the fragile equilibrium of the world we live in. His photography reminds me of Henri Cartier Bresson’s words: “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” In a time when one can easily feel exasperated by and bored with the interminable quantity of less-than-inspiring and forgettable images one is exposed to (voluntarily or not) on a daily basis, Christophe’s photography stays with you, it invites to reflection, to grasping each of life’s moments, to living in the present.

Christophe Jacrot’s work has been shown in many exhibitions in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, London and New York, and he has published three books: Météores (a selection of 90 images portraying big cities in the Northern hemisphere in rain or snow), New York in Black (a series of photographs shot after Hurricane Sandy, when the whole of Lower Manhattan suddenly plunged into total darkness, transforming New Yorn into an eerie, ghostly city) and Snjór (more about this book below). I have talked to Christophe about his visual stories, about photography in the digital age and about why he thinks his master pieces are still in his head.
Christophe Jacrot photography - India

Dame du lac, India

Do you always carry a camera with you?
No, only when I decide to “work”.

What led you to photography?
Long strory… I did photography when I was 15 years old. Then I stoped during my 20s, to make movies (shorts and one long feature). The inherent financial and profitability constraints of the movie industry led me to come back to my first passion. I launched an artistic project on cities in extreme weather conditions, with the first series set in Paris, which culminated with an exhibition in Paris and the publication of my first book, Paris sous la pluie (Paris in the Rain, Éditions du Chêne). I continued his exploration of major metropolises in the Northern hemisphere in the rain and snow in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Macao, and cities in India.

Is it make or take a photograph?
Make, like a painter.

Are there times when you simply witness the moment without shooting any picture?
Unfortunately, yes! My master pieces are still in my head.
The farmhouse - Snjór - Christophe Jacrot

The farmhouse, Iceland

Snjór Christophe Jacrot

The white factory, Iceland

Christophe Jacrot - Iceland

The beach, Iceland

“While for a long time global warming has seemed a little abstract, its effects are becoming increasingly palpable to us all. I have spent the past three years despairing over the impossibility of being able to photograph a European winter!

In search of a snow-covered but peopled landscape, I ended up in Iceland, where, thanks to a “cold temperature anomaly” in the North Atlantic Ocean, the winter season in the past two years has actually resembled winter.

This country gave me the opportunity to get away from the great metropolises that I have spent so much time exploring, and to rediscover wide open spaces.

Iceland is less wild and untouched than it first appears—there are major highways, huge tunnels, villages, ports, churches, cities… and WiFi access everywhere.

I reveled in this ocean of white, seemingly so empty and yet so “inhabited.” A precious world…”

Christophe Jacrot about his book Snjór (which means “snow” in Icelandic)

Greenland - Christophe Jacrot

The yellow house, Ilullisat, Greenland

Most of us run for cover in rain and snow. But that’s the moment you wait for to go out and shoot. Why did you choose bad weather as the ground for your photography? What do you want to communicate through your photographic stories?
I started photographing the rain by accident. I had an order for a travel book about Paris, and sun was a pre-requisite for all the photos! But the weather was desperately rotten, and that is how I had the idea of starting the Paris in the Rain series. It was a sort of contradiction… After “Paris in the Rain”, I was looking for a very different city to shoot, but also very urban. Hong Kong quickly became my number one choice because of its raining season and its crazy urban life.

Do you ever take photos in beautiful weather?

Man is often present in your photography, but almost always as a solitary figure. Is it an evocation of one’s unique place in the world?
Not really, just to remind that people live there, and make us feel our fragility.
Hong Kong in rain - Christophe Jacrot

Elle court, la hongkongaise

The market - Hong Kong - Christophe Jacrot

Market in the rain, Hong Kong

You travel to different parts of the world for work. What is the most important lesson your travels have taught you?
I would prefer to come back 2 or 3 times to the same place; your eye evolves, becomes more demanding. I like to become intimate with the place.

In this time and age, you wish people appreciated more:
My work …

Indeed, photography has become ubiquitous. Everyone seems to take and view insane amounts of images every single day. But that does not make everyone a photographer. Do you see your photography as a much-needed response to social-media generated images?
I am rather afraid that my photos are drowning in the mass of social networks. But social networks are not everything!
Sun set - Christophe Jacrot

Sun set

Blizzard Christophe Jacrot


You live in Paris. What is the best thing about living in Paris and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
In fact I do live half the time in Paris and half the time in the South of France, close to the mountains. Paris is becoming just a polluted, expensive and stressful city for me. Except the unique cultural offer, and business…

Would you say you feel more at home in the South of France than in Paris?
I’m just an urban guy who lives in the country side.

So what is the best view of Paris in the rain?
Everywhere (just avoid the top of the Eiffel Tower, you won’t see anything!)

If you could be anywhere in the world right now (old or new location), preparing to make a photo, where would you want to be?
Good question… Probably Siberia again.
Norilsk Siberia - Christophe Jacrot

Lénine, Norilsk, Siberia


Christophe Jacrot’s books are available here

Christophe Jacrot photography books 

Website: christophejacrot.com | Instagram: @christophe.jacrot


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Gloria Grahame in Noir Films

Gloria Grahame in In A Lonely Place 
One of film noir’s most defining actors, Gloria Grahame brought her femme fatale characters a raw, vulnerable sensuality. She was not simply pretty. Her glamour and sexuality hid surprising, unexpected emotional registers. Her bad girls were human. Her characters were smart, daring, warm. I can never quite figure out Gloria Grahame on screen. Isn’t this one of those qualities that make you want to watch a film over and over again?

I have gathered here six of Gloria Grahame’s best performances, all in noir films, benefitting from François Truffaut’s assistance – he wrote often about her and it is easy to see that he had an affinity for her. “The beautiful eyes of Gloria Grahame make you die of love, then wait a little longer, until another movie is released.” That kind of screen magnetism is lost today.
Gloria Grahame in In A Lonely Place 
In A Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray

Nicholas Ray pursued a strong narrative and visually overwhelming obsession in his film-making, which was very much against the Hollywood studio system, and this was most obvious with the films Knock on Any Door (1949) and In A Lonely Place (1950). François Truffaut named them Ray’s masterful films. And it was with these two films that Ray definitely made Humphrey Bogart the appealing hero, much more than an actor, a personality. Bogart wanted Lauren Bacall for the female lead in In A Lonely Place, but Warner refused to release her from her contract. Gloria Grahame was given the part instead and she excelled in the role, probably her best acting performance.

Grahame plays no femme fatale in A Lonely Place. She’s not the one who brings to Dix his doomed fate, as it often happens in noir films. She is the right kind of woman, the only one capable of taking him out his darkness. The fact that she fails, the profound breaking-apart at the end is what gives the film its long life and one of most haunting endings in the history of cinema. Nicholas Ray did not want to make Dix the murderer, as it turns out in Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel, where the character strangles Laurel to death in the climax scene. Ray’s vision paid off: the ending is actually bleaker in that it doesn’t matter that Dix is innocent, but that he could easily not be. “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. Romances don’t have to end that way. Marriages don’t have to end that way. They don’t have to end in violence,” the director argued. A broken heart can be the worst kind of ending though. “Whether you’ve had your heart broken, or broken somebody else’s heart, Ray has here made room for every heart to relate to this film’s haunting outcome,” F.X. Feeney concludes in the book Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites.

Laurel Gray is Dix’s beautiful new neighbour, a failed actress, who seems to have a great influence on him. “She’s not coy or cute or corny. She’s a good guy, I’m glad she’s on my side,” says Dix of her. Now that’s a compliment I would take any day. She is his match. Cool and composed, she strides down the courtyard in a straight-lined skirt and turtleneck – simple, stylish, yet revealing a buttoned-up, controlled character. I have always admired the subtle, yet optimum effect of Gloria’s costumes in this film. In fact, every piece of clothing she wears (designed by Jean Louis) is buttoned up, from rollernecks, to even an evening gown and her fur-cuffed robe. Because she isn’t in control after all, and whatever hopes and dreams Steele and Laurel might have had, they are crushed too soon and too radically.
Gloria Grahame in Crossfire 
Crossfire (1947), directed by Edward Dmytryk

The film addressed racial discrimination and anti-semitism, one of the first Hollywood movies to do so. Most of Dmytryk’s noirs are psychological noirs. Gloria Grahame earned her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Ginny, a drinking dance hall hostess who holds the answer to a key alibi. Her presence on screen was succint, but it was the first time she portrayed a shadowy woman of questionable morality in an atmospheric noir. “It is permissible to have forgotten Crossfire,” Truffaut would write, “but not a young blond woman who was better than an intelligent extra. As a prostitute, she danced in a courtyard. Even professional critics noticed the dancer.” Truffaut might have dismissed Crossfire, but it was a film that showed that film noir is defined not just by design, cinematography and presentation, but especially by themes, issues and characters, and was the first so-called B-movie to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars.
Gloria Grahame in The Big Heat 
The Big Heat (1953), directed by Fritz Lang

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.” Debbie Marsch

It is one of my favourite and one of the best all-time noir films, and it gets better as it unreels. On her first collaboration with Fritz Lang (and the first time she teamed-up with Glenn Ford in a Lang film), Gloria Grahame plays Debby Marsh, whose goal in life is to get a fur coat. Her Jean Louis costumes show that she has reached her aim. But not without consequences. She finds herself the victim of her gangster boyfriend (Lee Marvin), who sadistically throws a pot of boiling coffee in her face, believing her to be an informant to the police. “One of the definitive figures in the Lang universe, and she stands sanctified as the most hieratic of Lang’s American heroines,” Richard T. Jameson remarks in the book Film Noir: The Directors. One thing that set Grahame apart from other actresses was her willingness to go there — to show the ugly parts of life, physical or otherwise. In The Big Heat, she goes all the way.

In an interview with Silver Screen, Grahame once said, “I dote on death scenes, or any kind of Spillane-type manhandling, because it is those scenes which linger in an audience’s memory. I don’t want to be typed as a woman with a face nice enough to look at, but I am interested in roles that sometimes turn a cinema-goer away in horror. So I didn’t mind having my face horribly scarred because my gangster boyfriend threw a pot of boiling coffee over me. Being glamorous in movie roles all the time is not only artificial but horribly monotonous… So far, no one has offered me the role of the Hunchback of the Notre Dame. Believe me, I’m the girl who would play it.”
Gloria Grahame in Human Desire 
Human Desire (1954), directed by Fritz Lang

“It seems that Jean Renoir and Fritz Lang had in common a taste for the same theme: an old husband, a young wife, a lover (La chienne, La Bête humaine, The Woman on the Beach for Renoir; Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, Human Desire for Lang). They also have in common a predilection for catlike actresses, feline heroines. Gloria Grahame is the perfect American replica of Simone Simon,” writes François Truffaut in his book, The Films in My Life.

Human Desire is the second screen adaptation of Émile Zola’s novel, after Renoir’s great La bête humaine. I am not considering it a remake, because I believe this is one of those films which should be considered on its own, not in relation to previous adaptations. Because it is a good noir – actually I loved it more now, the second time I watched it, than the first time around. Lang’s noir has a spare, uncompromising visual style and direction reminiscent of his German expressionism period. Grahame plays Vicki Buckley, the persecuted wife of brutal and insanely jealous railroad courtyard boss Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford). She is classic scheming femme fatale, one of the closest to classic femme fatale that she played in noirs. But even here, her character touches other sides, too, as she is not only seductive pretty blonde and conniving temptress, but also lady in distress, disturbed and abused wife. Trailing on Truffaut’s comparison between Simone Simon and Gloria Grahame, Grahame is more devious, more rotten and more desirable, but also more human than Simon. That’s because we like Vicki in the beginning. Whatever her past, she’s left that behind when she married, and it is her husband who forces it on her again and pushes her towards the dark side of the tracks. And when she meets Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford), she seethes with desire and lust and she is prepared to do something about it – “You’ve killed before, haven’t you?”. She is more than good at being bad.
Gloria Grahame in Naked Alibi 
Naked Alibi (1954), directed by Jerry Hopper

Naked Alibi “perfectly corresponds to the need for a drug that any lover of American films irresistibly experiences,” wrote Truffaut. Much of the narcotic allure of this hard-hitting B-noir about two relentless and ruthless characters, on each side of the law – a virtuous police officer (Sterling Hayden as Joe Conroy) who conducts an investigation of his own to catch a vicious thug and cop killer (Gene Barry as Al Willis) – is due to Grahame’s magnetic performance as Willis’ bar-singer mistress, Marianna.

In the hands of another actress, this part could easily have been a fill-in role, but with Gloria, the film seems to rearrange itself around her. Dressed in a revealing lingerie dress (gowns by Rosemary Odell), Marianna performs a sexy number that rivals that of Rita Hayworth in Gilda. When she realises Willis has been two-timing her, she throws in her lot with Conroy on Willis’ tail.
Gloria Grahame in Sudden Fear 
Sudden Fear (1952), directed by David Miller

In his early film criticism, Truffaut said that outside of two short sequences in Sudden Fear, “there is not a shot in this film that isn’t necessary to its dramatic progression. Not a shot, either, that isn’t fascinating and doesn’t make us think it’s a masterpiece of cinema.”

“Gloria Grahame’s acting is all in correspondence between cheeks and looks. You can’t analyze it, but you can observe it,” the same Truffaut would write about the American actress in Sudden Fear. Grahame is Irene Neves, the ruthless old flame of Lester Blaine (Jack Palance), the gold-digging husband of playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford). But unlike in Human Desire, Grahame brings no edge of wounded vulnerability to her part here. She is unquestably cruel, greedy, venal, unremorseful in plotting against her lover’s wife. First seen in veiled virginal white and then in vampish black (costumes by Sheila O’Brien), Grahame reeks of malevolence, even while scheming murder on a dictaphone disc. This noir is largely remembered because of Joan Crawford, but I disagree. There are many attributes Sudden Fear has: Hitchcock-style suspense, it’s directed and photographed to great effect, and, as Truffaut argued, it has “an ingenious screenplay with a fine strictness, a set more than respectable, the face of Gloria Grahame and that street of Frisco whose slope is so steep”. Indeed, San Francisco was made for film noir. And so was Gloria Grahame.
photos: 1,2- Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in A Lonely Place, 1950 (Columbia Pictures, Santana Pictures) / 3-Gloria Grahame and Jacqueline White in Crossfire, 1947 (RKO) / 4-Gloria Grahame in The Big Heat, 1953 (Columbia Pictures) / 5-Gloria Grahame and Glenn Ford in Human Desire, 1954 (Columbia Pictures) / 6-Gloria Grahame and Sterling Hayden in Naked Alibi, 1954 (Universal Pictures) / 7-Gloria Grahame and Jack Palance in Sudden Fear, 1952 (Joseph Kaufmann Productions)

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

One Day That Summer: Sassi di Matera

Can you think of a better time than summer to go off the beaten road, on mountain trails, or to visit old towns and villages? There is nothing quite like the long, sun-drenched summer days that ignites one’s adventurous spirit and induces travel vibes. This is to say that it’s time for a new photographer story from behind the lens: Sassi di Matera, Italy. Kate Holstein splits her time between Aspen, Colorado, and the island of St. Barth, and travels the world to tell stories of moments and places through her filled with light and wanderlust inspiring photographs. Often times, a photograph speaks for itself. But the truly special photographs are those that awaken in you a desire to discover the entire experience behind them, which will undoubtedly open up new meanings, feelings and perspectives. Kate’s story from Matera certainly does that.
One Day That Summer-Sassi di Matera 
“That’s from Matera, Italy. Matera is a challenging place to put into words, but it’s certainly one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. It’s surprising that this ancient city is located in the relaxed southern countryside of Italy. When you come upon it, it almost feels like a mirage, or as though you took a wrong turn and ended up in an entirely different country.

From the moment you drive into the historical center, called the Sassi Di Matera (cars of non residents not allowed so there is very little traffic on its ancient streets), you feel as though you’ve left Italy all together and time-traveled to some exotic place from the past. The Sassi Districts (there are 2) feel like a country all its own, untouched by time, with a history going back to the very, very beginnings of human kind.

The historic city is located on hillside overlooking a deep, lush ravine. Across the valley you can see ancient caves which are thought to be some of the first ever human settlements of Italy. The ancient city started with these caves and, over time, more and more caves were carved out of the natural rock making for an organically shaped city that is a feast for the eyes. The marriage between man and nature is displayed in a way that touches the soul on a deep level. We spent hours gazing out on the city in a meditative state, noticing new details, interesting shapes, and visible layers of time.”

kateholstein.com | Instagram: @kateholsteinphoto

One Day That Summer - Classiq Journal

More One Day That Summer stories: Classic Americana / Linh, Northern Vietnam / Torres Del Paine, Chile

Posted by classiq in One day that summer, Photography | | 2 Comments