Summer Reading List N°1

Summer has (unofficially) just begun, but that doesn’t mean we should waste any moment of it with light beach reading. In summer, just like in any other time of the year, I look for books that are less about providing a mere escape and more about involving you in life stories, immersing you in fantastic worlds, about enriching you and opening your mind. A celebration of storytelling in so many different forms.
Summer Reading List - Classiq Journal 

A few words on my favourite place to shop for books: Cărturești & friends (it’s also where I discovered the extraordinary universe of William Grill’s illustrations and his books, The Wolves of Currumpaw and Shackleton’s Journey – I am working on something special about the latter, soon to be revealed on Classiq). In May, Cărturești & friends was chosen Indie of the Month by The New York Review of Books, the first ever bookshop outside the US to have been featured in their newsletter. Deservedly so. For a look inside and a good talk about books and the art of bookshop keeping, you can read my interview with the man behind this wonderful world of books, discovery and dreaming. I hope you can all find a good independent bookstore near you and visit it often.
More book recommendations: Just Kids, by Patti Smith / The Measure of A Man, by Sidney Poitier / Akira Kurosawa: Something Like an Autobiography

Classiq Journal Reading List

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Where Are the Male Heroes of Today?

In a time when feminism and gender gap seem to permeate every single discussion, every single film festival and every artist’s work, there is one crucial thing that I would like to become an important part of the conversation again: masculinity.
Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair 
I have previously brought up the subject here on Classiq, but what prompted me to do it again was the title of an article appeared in The New York Times about Philip Roth after the novelist’s recent passing away: What Philip Roth Did Not Know About Women Could Fill A Book. I don’t think I have to go further into detail to explain what it was about. But I have to have my say. I don’t understand why it has become necessary for every artist to accommodate every perspective. That’s not what art is about and it is absurd that I have to spell it out. What is happening is outrageous and the NY Times article is an affront to the work of every artist.

Since when must art and literature and every opinion be politically correct? “Speak up” has tragically transformed into “think alike”. To voice your opinion has no value unless your opinion is tasteless, in tune with everyone else’s. Freedom of thinking and originality are sacrificed for the sake of social correctness. It is terrifying. Philip Roth and any other writer’s or artist’s work do not owe anyone anything. Take it or leave it.

That said, what I wanted this article to be about was masculine role models. Yes, the kind of men I would like my son to look up to when he grows up. Because I really can’t think of any famous contemporary figure who can take the place of Steve McQueen, for example. Can you? Can you really think of anyone else who has looked better in chinos and t-shirt? Of course it’s not just about the way he dressed. It is about how good and comfortable he looked in his own skin. It’s about the roles he played and how men wanted to emulate him, learn from him, avoid his mistakes. That’s style, that’s personality, that’s a role model.

And the same goes for Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant. They taught men how to play the role of man. This is not to say that we should not think beyond a society ruled by a constrictive masculinity, but I do want Steve McQueen to still have an important and necessary place in masculine identity. “Stars then were individuals. Now it’s like they all come out of the same factory”, Terry O’Neill said. Everybody is talking about individuality these days, but nobody seems to have it anymore. That’s what this is all about.

photo: Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair

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Tennis As Art

There is Roger Federer – What is tennis if not the art of movement? There is Rafael Nadal – What is la terre battue if not the canvas brushed across by the strokes of the master of his art, the king of clay? And there is, of course, the Roland Garros poster art, 38 years of it, as I was talking in Monday’s editorial.
Roland Garros poster 2018 
The French have made art part of the majesty of the French Open. The official posters have become a fascinating part of the tournament and have ranged from abstract images that one might never associate with tennis if it weren’t for the words Roland Garros, to very tennis-specific images. This year, Fabienne Verdier was the artist commissioned to do the French Open official poster. She chose to focus on the bounce of the tennis ball. She said: “I tried to portray the lightning speed of the player’s movements. The energy that they transmit to the ball in a movement full of spontaneity, vitality, power, precision and slide. And I imagined one of those unexpected bounces that take the opponent by surprise and force them, in the following rally, to surpass themselves once again in order to get one step closer to victory in Paris.”

But there is something more to it. Ever since I have been watching the tournament (it must be about 20 years), I have associated it with the beginning of summer. The entire clay season (my tennis surface of choice), culminating with the French Open, is like a prelude to my favourite season, preparing me for the magnificence of summer. Fabienne’s following words resonated so well with my feelings: “For me, Roland-Garros evokes those first warm days that herald the arrival of summer in Paris, when the intense light of May and June makes the ochre clay sparkle. As the sun races across the sky, the courts turn from amber to tobacco, from saffron to sepia, from ochre to red, from sienna to brown. During every rally, the balls collect this multicoloured dust and, like comets, leave enchanting lines of energy in their wake.”

But here are some of my all-time favourite French Open posters.
Roland Garros poster 1984
1984: Gilles Aillaud. The perspective of the crowd in the stands.
Roland Garros poster 1995

1995: Donald Lipski. “The magic of forms.”
Roland Garros 1987 poster
1987: Gérard Titus-Carmel
Roland Garros poster 1981

1981: Eduardo Arroyo. The spirit of Roland Garros captured in just a few pencil strokes – a headband in the colours of France that tames the blonde hair as seen from behind of one of the world’s legendary tennis players and French Open winners, Björn Borg. This image from behind forces the eye to look at the horizon, which made the poster even more suggestive after the tournament ended as it marked the beginning of the end of Björg’s career, as the Swedish player won his last of his six French Open titles in 1981.
Roland Garros 2017 poster

2017: Vik Muniz. It was one of the few times in the history of the tournament when the poster was based on a photograph, that of Gustavo Kuerten serving on clay, celebrating 20 years since the Brazilian’s win at the Roland Garros. However, the process was very interesting. “I started focusing on the colours, and I had to mix several pigments to finally get the precise shade of the clay. The colours truly are from all over the world, as the pigments come from Africa, Asia, and Australia. And since Roland-Garros is an international tournament, you’ve probably got elements in this clay from every nation represented here,” said Muniz. Once done, it was photographed, enlarged and then destroyed. “I see in this a similarity to the fact that a tennis match, the minute it is over, becomes part of our memory. […] And there is also a parallel with the drag net that sweeps away the marks on the court after every match.”
Roland Garros poster 2016
2016: Marc Desgrandchamps. “I created this poster based on photos of players over the past 60 years because it seems to me that tennis was perhaps more artistic. I found a tone and a color that interested me. It really has given the idea of restoring the attitude of the whole body in the shadow. The shadow carries in itself the representation of the body with the movement of the arms which is very important in tennis and the upper body.”
Roland Garros 1996 poster
1996: Jean-Michel Meurice. “The surface of play.” The poster features a recurring theme in the artist’s work, the leaf. In the early 1980s, Maurice changed his manner of painting, basing his work on the imprint of a leaf used as a stencil.
Roland Garros poster 2004
2004: Daniel Humair. “Abstract narration.” The pulse of the French Open captured on musical rhythms by jazz drummer and composer Daniel Humair.
Roland Garros poster 2003
2003: Jane Hammond. “Rock, paper, scissors” were the starting point to develop a “very textured” image, Hammond told Tennis Week magazine in 2003. She made a wall of red clay, placed crumpled pieces of paper on it and attached cutout tennis figures to those. The words Roland Garros were also made of clay. “I wanted to associate two ideas: one, the red earth, which is a subject that I call ‘slow’, the other, the image of tennis, a game where speed is paramount. On the very tactile clay, these additions of movements look like a journey in time.”
Roland Garros poster 1993
1993: Jean Le Gac. The artist drew on a photograph taken from the magazine Vue, from 1930, showing John Van Ryn, an American Davis Cup player, during a break.
Roland Garros poster 1982
1982: Jean-Michel Folon. “A poster has no time, it needs to speak fast and hard on the walls of cities.” Surrealism inspired: a tennis ball is looming on the horizon like the sun through an opening window that is reminiscent of a clay tennis court.
Roland Garros 1994 poster
1994: Ernest Pignon-Ernest. “RG is above all the land, so I preferred blood, which conveys a certain sensuality. The universal feelings expressed by this hand are interesting. Open and tense, this hand expresses the stake, but also the fight against weightlessness and self-transcendence.”
Related entries: A Sporting Life: Rafael Nadal / Editorial: Set Point / A Sporting Life: Björn Borg

A Sporting Life - Classiq

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Editorial: Set Point

Editorial-Call Me By Your Name-Roland Garros 

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

It’s clay season, it’s the Roland Garros! So let’s talk movies.

Regardless of plot, there are two things I always pay special attention to in movies: costumes and settings. And in Luca Guadagnino’s coming of age film Call Me By Your Name, placed in Northern Italy in 1983, the set design is surely a point of focus. Production designer Samuel Deshors and first-time set decorator Violante Visconti di Modrone (Luchino Visconti’s grandniece) looked for a nostalgic yet eclectic and lived-in look and feel of the 17th century Lombardian villa that acted as the main set – the Italian director’s intimate knowledge of the region was what led him to Villa Albergoni in Moscazzano, near the town of Crema. The villa was basically empty when they first went in, Visconti recollected in an interview for The Spaces, so she had to give the house life and each room a story of its own. In the film, the entire villa is filled with antiques, books, music, paintings, objects of art, furnishings found in antiquarians or taken from other Italian houses, blending cosiness with grandeur; it looks like a family home with history. “Not everything has to sparkle, but everything must feel like it belongs,” the set decorator reflected.

That said, my being the tennis fan that I am, one of the first things that I immediately spotted was the official poster of the 1981 French Open on a wall in Elio’s room. I simply loved how that single piece of tennis memorabilia (although there are various ’80s references in the room) was able to set the film in time so easily. Speaking of which, starting with 1980, the grand slam tournament has entrusted its official poster to an artist every year. It’s a cultural symbol, just like the Cannes Festival poster. The 1981 drawing featured in the film was designed by the Spaniard Eduardo Arroyo. In just a few pencil strokes, he captured the spirit of the Roland Garros – a tricolor headband that tames the blonde hair as seen from behind of one of the world’s legendary tennis players and French Open winners, Björn Borg (he was the previous year champion and would be the winner again in 1981, setting his overall Roland Garros titles at six). Simple. Effective. Unforgettable.

photo: Guilio Ghirardi | movie set from “Call Me By Your Name

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Listen to All This Jazz

And have a look at it, too. Because music used to not just sound, but look different, too. Just think of Miles Davis’ own creativity in everything he did – his music, his paintings, his album cover art, his clothing. His style was essential to his substance. Miles Davis was one of the greatest jazz musicians and one of the greatest music pioneers, and he remains a beacon of cool to this day. In this same regard, the presence his music had in movies is no less impressive.

Miles Davis composed the score for Louis Malle’s L’Ascenseur pour l’échafaud while he was in Paris for a run of shows in the November of 1957. Just under half an hour in its original form, the soundtrack, one of the best parts of the film, was composed and performed by Davis and his local pickup quintet (featuring three French musicians and the great American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke), and it is worth hearing entirely on its own (click on video above to listen).
Miles Davis Blue Note Vol.1

Miles Davis, The Blue Note Years, recorded at Blue Note Records, a symbol in jazz imagery:
the label’s album covers basically reflected what you were going to hear.
Photographer Francis Wolf, co-founder of the company, once said of the label:
“We established a style, including recording, pressing and covers. The details made the difference.”

Here is what Miles said in his autobiography about his experience on the film: “I went to Paris to play guest soloist for a few weeks. And it was during this trip that I met the French filmmaker Louis Malle through Juliette Greco. He told me he had always loved my music and that he wanted me to write the musical score for his new film, L’Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows). I agreed to do it and it was a great learning experience, because I had never written a music score for a film before. I would look at the rushes of the film and get musical ideas to write down. Since it was about a murder and was supposed to be a suspense movie, I used this old, very gloomy, dark building where I had the musicians play. I thought it would give the music atmosphere, and it did.” The music score was later released by Columbia and the album was called Jazz Track.
Listen to all this jazz - Classiq

A collage with some of Miles Davis’ best albums and most creative album covers

“Miles Davis is the only musician who has captured the power and essence of Spanish music”, said Pedro Almodóvar in his autobiography, Almodóvar on Almodóvar . For the title sequence and one of the scenes in his film High Heels, The Spanish director used pieces composed by Miles in the sixties that were inspired by flamenco. “They’re very strange,” Almodóvar confessed. “The first piece, which we hear while Rebecca’s alone waiting for her mother is called “Solea”, meaning “solitude” in Andalusian.” Almodóvar used another Miles Davis piece, “Saeta”, from the musician’s album Sketches of Spain for another sequence, when Rebecca goes to the cemetery to throw a handful of earth on her husband’s coffin. “During Holy Week processions, penitents sing for the Virgin Mary. Their cries are called a salta. It’s a cry of pain, recalling the death of Christ and sung a capella. Miles Davis recaptured with his trumpet this form of the human voice. It’s an extraordinary achievement. Such a musical cry of pain is perfect for Rebecca.”

Elsewhere on screen, Miles Davis’ rendition of the Eden Ahbez masterpiece “Nature Boy” can be heard under Mediterranean skies in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

If you are in the mood for more jazz, here the playlist that’s been currently on repeat in our home:

Miles Davis – Lift to the Gallows (full album) / Miles Davis – So What / Ella Fitzgerald – Dream A Little Dream of Me /
Etta James – I Just Want To Make Love To You / John Coltrane – Giant Steps / John Coltrane – Moment’s Notice / 

Dave Brubeck – Take Five / Billie Holiday – All of me / Buena Vista Social Club – Chan chan/ Bueno Vista Social Club –
Pueblo nuevo / Hubert Rostaing & son Orchestre – Oui, C’est ca / Barelli & son Orchestre – Riviera

 / Chet Baker –
Almost Blue / Duke Ellington – Rockin’ In Rhythm / 

Ray Charles – Ain’t That Love

 / Ray Charles – This Little Girl of Mine


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