Happy New Year! May it be better than the previous one! I don’t like to talk new year resolutions, nor big plans for the year ahead. Isn’t everyone doing that on Instagram? Right. I believe, in turn, that the beginning of the year is the right time for reminding yourself of living your life the way you want it, and of the little things that can go a long way. And because here, on Classiq, I like to bring something new to the plate, especially that I do like to have a say when it comes to films, books, and to a well styled and well cultured life, here is what to watch, read, listen to and do for an encouraging start of the year.
I have written about my favourite films of 2017 here on the blog and on The Big Picture Magazine. Of course, I am talking about the ones I have seen, because there are a few I am yet to see. However, the ones I did get to watch are a great international bunch and I am sure they will remain among the most important releases of last year. But here are a few more I am looking forward to:
Phantom Thread, 2017
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. A black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. These are three incredibly capable actors, the director is Irish, and he is also a writer of remarkable ability, and I believe the film says some truths so many American films are incapable of doing, and that’s why I have a very good feeling about it.
Phantom Thread. It is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and it is about a tailor and his muse, the former played by Daniel Day Lewis in his final acting role before retirement. For that alone, it is a must-watch.
Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig. I loved Greta’s performance in 20th Century Women (one of the underrated films of 2016) and I can not wait to see her directorial debut with this coming-of-age story (one of my favourite themes in movies), with Saoirse Ronan in the leading role.
Detroit, by Kathryn Bigelow. A film that recreates one of the darkest chapters in American history. I trust Bigelow to deliver her usual clean, raw, pertinent, unflinching, unsentimental look at the 1967 Detroit riots, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Jane Fonda in Five Acts, a documentary premiering at Sundance this January
For the first time in decades, this year I am not going to watch the Golden Globes and the Oscars (yes, you’re read that right, decades, because I believe I have not missed any of the Academy Awards ceremonies for two decades, ever since I was sixteen – the Oscars night used to be my favourite night of the year). But I am truly tired of documenting the Oscars when it is clear that they are not about rewarding good movies, but about rewarding the industry of publicity and hype, so I will not be doing it anymore. The Oscars are part of the Hollywoodian promotional games the likes of Lynne Ramsey and Joaquin Phoenix don’t give a damn about, and this, I believe, is something that allows them to remain creative and have a heavy word to say in the world of cinema today – have you seen their amazing film? You Were Never Really Here is among my top movies of 2017. So, instead of watching the Oscars, I will keep an eye on a much more important event, the Sundance Film Festival: here is the selection of films this year.
Robert Redford, president and founder of Sundance Institute, said: “The work of independent storytellers can challenge and possibly change culture, illuminating our world’s imperfections and possibilities. This year’s Festival is full of artfully-told stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect, in deeply personal ways, to the universal human experience.”
Dial M for Murder, 1954
As with films, with books, too, I like to dig a little deeper and keep an eye on the smaller publishing houses, and seek out a writer I’ve never heard of before, or, why not, because I like to cover a certain range of interests here on the blog, select a book just for its title, or its cover.
Hitchcock’s Heroines, by Caroline Young. I am a declared Hitchcock enthusiast and I have repeatedly written about Hitchcock’s leading ladies, from Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, to their influence of fashion, so I am truly looking forward to Caroline’s point of view on the subject. You can read my interview with the writer, discussing one of her previous publications, here.
Introduction to A True History of Cinema and Television, by Jean-Luc Godard. An extensive and revealing account of Godard’s own work, his methods, and his critical opinions, based on Godard’s improvised series of fourteen one-hour talks at Concordia University in Montreal in 1978. I’ve never been much of a fan of the French director’s films, but after watching Le redoutable, by Michel Hazanavicius, a sharp yet humorous portrait documenting Godard’s life during his marriage to Anne Wiazemsky, this book is indeed something I’m very interested in.
There’s No Place Like Home: The Migrant Child in World Cinema, by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald. The cover, one of the stunning images in Le ballon rouge, was what drew my attention to this book, which is aiming to show how the child is a guide to themes of place, self and being in world cinema from post-war years until today. I’m intrigued.
Laurent Cantet, by Martin O’Shaughnessy. Cantet is one of the most important contemporary French directors and I love his films. It’s enough to put this book, which gives an account on all of Cantet’s works, on my list.
Shadows on the Wall, by Peter Lindbergh. “Most of the fashion-related media today prefer to take away the identity and experiences of their protagonists – your poetry and all the small imperfections, the signs of your own life supposed to be there to tell your story – and replace it with senseless perfection,” Lindbergh says in the publication, an impressive collection of un-retouched portraits of the women, especially actresses, whom Lindbergh has admired and worked with for years.
Charles James: Portrait of An Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art, by Michele Gerber Klein. Inspired by the discovery of long-overlooked interviews conducted just before his death, this is the first biography of the visionary fashion designer Charles James, one is of the greats of American fashion – you may be aware of my affinity for the classic American style.
Albums: In addition to this selection, here are a few more albums I’ve been currently listening to on repeat: Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde / Muddy Waters: Hard Again/I’m Ready/King Bee / JJ Cale & Eric Clapton: The Road To Escondido / Nirvana: Unplugged in New York (still the best unplugged album) / BB King: The Life of Riley / Essential Chess Blues / Kings of Leon: Youth and Young Manhood / Bernard Herrmann: Vertigo and Taxi Driver soundtracks
Podcasts: I am trying to be a very present mother in my son’s life, but also to keep up work, which, in recent months, except for the festivals I attended, has often left me little time for watching movies at the rate I once did, let alone tv series (I must have not watched a single show in about two years, which is why I find so unuseful all the tv shows recommendations I come across)(and if I do have 20 minutes to spare, it’s still Seinfeld I go back to), which is why I find podcasts so great. These are some of my favourites:
OffCamera. Host Sam Jones, a photographer and director, sits down for fascinating and refreshing chats with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, photographers, and writers that pique his interest. In Jones’ own words, this podcast is about creativity, curiosity and art. Right up my alley. And, as I was mentioning Sam Rockwell and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri above, I loved listening to this interview with the actor.
NoFilmSchool. This podcast features interviews with leading filmmakers and industry insiders and reports from well-known film festivals like Sundance. This is not just movie talk, but rather an educational gem, with takeaways from the experiences of filmmakers that every film lover, and every listener, can put into practice.
Fresh Air. We don’t watch tv in the house, but I still want to be in the know about the contemporary issues, arts and everything in between, and Terry Gross’ conversations with guests from all different industries and backgrounds is my go-to program.
Pardon My French. I don’t read any fashion blogs or magazines anymore and I am glad that, for a while, Garance Doré has changed directions with her website, too, ditching the fashion shows and the fashionable, and instead focusing on real women, real style and the makers of fashion on their own terms. I find her podcast very inspiring.
Carturesti & Friends, Bucharest, my favourite independent bookshop in town
We may not all get to go to Sundance, or TIFF, or Cannes, but there are so many small film festival organised in so many towns and cities around the world which run great films and also the films released and premiered at the big festivals that same year, that you are bound to catch quite a few good international movies which otherwise might not even enter the cinemas.
And, finally, visit your local bookstores and buy at least part of your books from independent bookshops. And as long as we are on the subject, why not go all the way and make it your mission to shop locally more often? Choose local artists, designers, makers. Choose to mend your own things and not throw them away. Choose to buy things that give back, especially to children. Choose your own voice and be yourself.
photos: 1,4-by me / 2-Phantom Thread (Annapurna Pictures) / 3-Jane Fonda in Five Acts documentary (HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions) / 5-Carturesti & Friends