April Newsletter: Without Ever Reaching the Summit, Petko and Wonder Boys


Photos: Classiq Journal


”I found violence in the first gesture, kindness in the second;
a desire to conquer as opposed to a desire to discover.”

Paolo Cognetti, Without Ever Reaching the Top





Wonder Boys, 2000
Curtis Hanson

The best comedy of the last 25 years. A movie about writers writing, character-driven, quirky, funny, poignant. I think this is my favourite Michael Douglas role (Frances McDormand does some of her finest work, too… she always does) – a college professor who had a very successful novel early on in his career and now he has been trying to reprise that with a second book he hasn’t been able to finish for years, hiding behind his teaching job and smoking pot. I think he is a character you can’t just sum up easily and that makes him a tremendous character. Words also fail me to describe the part music plays in the film. I will just say that it features one of my favourite and one of the best songs on film, Things Have Changed, which Bob Dylan composed for the movie.


En kvinnas ansikte (A Woman’s Face), 1938
Gustaf Molander

If you haven’t seen Ingrid Bergman in her Swedish films, you haven’t seen her real talent.


Hard Times, 1975
Walter Hill

Walter Hill’s directorial debut with the perfectly cast Charles Bronson, the most popular movie star of the time, as a silent loner, an authentic Depression worker-looking (his cap and his face are simple and effective enough to establish him as such – “he can throw a look and command a moment off that look,” said Walter Hill) drifter who knows how to earn some money with a punch and gets caught up in the fighting game with the help of a hustler, James Coburn (lean, sharp, suited up and charming), and his partner Poe, Strother Martin, who told Hill he wanted to play his character as if he were Tennessee Williams. It worked out perfect.


Un témoin dans la ville (Witness in the City), 1959
Édouard Molinaro

It is a lesser known French noir that has Lino Ventura as a lesser known character, that of an unsympathetic character. “I believe that what makes Lino charming is this seriousness that he has deep inside, this extremely powerful physical specificity which hides something serious and painful,” said Claude Sautet about the lead man in his film Classe tous risque. But in Witness in the City, something else drives him and his unjustifiable crimes, and Lino Ventura suddenly no longer has the viewer on his side (which he usually does, regardless of the role he plays, be it gangster, ordinary man or law enforcer), which, of course only makes us love him even more as an actor. Everything happens at night, in the streets of Paris, thrillingly shot by Henri Decaë, wringing every drop of tension you.



“I found violence in the first gesture, kindness in the second; a desire to conquer as opposed to a desire to discover,” Paolo Cognetti writes in Senza mai arrivare in cima. Viaggio in Himalaya (Without Ever Reaching the Summit), noting the difference between ascending a mountain as a goal in itself and the most important pilgrimage in Tibet that just circles the mountain of Kailash, the difference between the Christians who stab crosses on the peak of the mountain and the Buddhists who draw circles at the base of the mountain. These words say everything about what this book is about, a true travel story that I read in one sitting. I love the mountain and I have read many books on the subject, of pioneer climbers, great explorers or travel writers, but this little book sits closer to my heart, because it brings back a sense of wonder and it brings man closer to nature, not as a conquerer, but as a curious mind, eye and heart. Cognetti is the author of Le Otto Montagne (The Eight Mountains), which I haven’t yet read, but having seen the film and loving it tremendously, I was looking forward to reading the book. I found this one first instead, which he wrote after The Eight Mountains, after a journey he had always wanted to make, in a remote Himalayan region at the confluence of Nepal and Tibet, following in the footsteps of his hero, Peter Matthiessen, who wrote The Snow Leopard.


Hoinar prin America Latină , by Silviu Reuț, is another travel book that I couldn’t put down and I am sorry it doesn’t benefit from an English edition. A journey as a means of knowledge, of opening up to the world, of discovery in the true sense of the world. Each chapter title to be accompanied by the mention of a song (I, too, associate certain places and travels and feelings with certain musicians and songs). It’s the kind of travel book and personal journey (6 months, 12 countries, 40.141 km) that enriches and reaffirms… truths, feelings, beliefs, and the art of travel (that is usually done by foot and with a backpack, that seeks out that feeling of complete freedom and that sometimes leaves you unprepared in the face of the new and the unpredictable).


I caught on The Racquet’s Rennae Stubbs – Andrea Petković podcast during the Australian Open this year (in their latest episode, just out, they recap the Miami tournament) and now I am hooked forever (you’ll find it in my Regulars section at the end of the newsletter). The next thing I knew was I had to get Petko’s book, Zwischen Ruhm und Ehre liegt die Nacht. “All I know about tennis is that those who love tennis love life.”


Where the Red Fern Grows is one of the great classics of children’s literature and now a firm favourite in our home.

Next on my list: Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel



The album: Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits


The soundtrack: Wonder Boys




The art of Heather Jeanne Chontos. “Explaining abstract art would be like explaining all your emotions. […] There is no hidden meaning, there is no hidden connotation. I am not trying to send a message, and I am not trying to represent something. It is what it is. My impulse is a request to perform, to create, to make something. So therefore I do it.” The documentary film Heather Chontos is out now and you can check it on @december.artfilms.



Wim Wenders picking ten of his favourite films from the Criterion Collection. He loves film, he knows film, and he is so funny. One of my favourite directors. “If you ever make a movie and you have rain or snow or anything just don’t do it before you seen all of the Kurosawas and study and read how he produced weather. And then you can go and make a movie with rain. But just don’t do it without consulting Kurosawa.” I watched Until the End of the World exactly one year ago (and I am glad I waited so long because I saw the director’s cut version) and I still think of it often and whenever I do I see the world in that colour palette. He says it’s the best work he’s done.


On an end note

During the Indian Wells, photographer Aaron Laserna managed to capture the game and the atmosphere around my favourite sport in a different light than I usually get to see, reminding me of how I saw tennis and how tennis looked, both from close and afar (when the colours in photography were so far away from the harsh digital colours of today) in my childhood. It was the game that mattered. Classic, classy, the most elegant, the most beautiful, the most competitive sport in the world. And now we are off to the most wonderful time of the year, clay season!


The regulars: The interviews, newsletters and podcasts I turn to every week and/or every month because they are that good. Craig Mod’s newsletters: Roden and Ridgeline. Soundtracking, with Edith Bowman. Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter. Racquet’s Rennae Stubbs tennis podcast. Gone to Timbuktu, Sophy Robert’s podcast on the art of travel. Wachstumsversuche, with Sarah Schill. Sirene and Racquet, in print.


”All I know about tennis is that those who love tennis love life.”

Andrea Petković


Swedish poster for “A Woman’s Face”, 1938, directed by Gustaf Molander


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