August Newsletter: Summer Rain, The Lagoon and Bottle Rocket

 
 

Photos: Classiq Journal

 
 

“He stood lonely in the searching sunshine;
and he looked beyond the great light of a cloudless day
into the darkness of a world of illusions.”

Joseph Conrad, The Lagoon

 

 

Viewing

Bottle Rocket, 1996
Wes Anderson

Still my favourite Wes Anderson film. Pure indie, so fresh, so free flowing. I have in mind the photo taken by photographer Laura Wilson (and the mother of Owen, Luke and Andrew Wilson) and which she shared in our interview, of Wes and Owen Wilson right after getting the green light from Paramount for their movie, giddy with excitement. Their joy is simply felt through the enthusiastic creativity of the film.

 

Maigret tend un piège (Maigret Sets a Trap), 1958
Jean Delannoy

It took me a long time to watch the films based on Georges Simenon’s Maigret books, I don’t really know why… And yet, maybe I do, and that’s because I believe nothing really compares to Jean Gabin’s films of the 1930s and 1940s (Pépé le Moko, La grande illusion, Le jour se leve, Le quai des brumes, La bête humaine). But I found this to be a very good film. First, it’s the striking black and white cinematography. Watching the film, I kept thinking that, to this day, there are so very few colour films that are more expressive than black and white. Then it’s the style of filming chosen by Jean Delannoy, who came up with the idea of adopting the point of view of the killer by using a subjective camera showing hands gloved, a style figure that will become emblematic of a genre, the Italian giallo. And, naturally, it’s Jean Gabin as Maigret, who makes the character his own. Since as early as 1937 had Simenon expressed his wish to see the actor embody his characters. He finally got his wish in 1950, when Gabin appeared in Marcel Carne’s La Marie du port. When Gabin impersonated Maigret for the first time in 1958, Simenon was so impressed with him that he said he would no longer think of Maigret except through Gabin and Delannoy. He would reconfirm this feeling later in his opinion that the best Maigrets on screen were “Pierre Renoir, Michel Simon, and, of course, Jean Gabin, who had, I think, never seen a commissioner in action and was a little too negligent in his appearance with his crooked tie, but which gives the role his own authority.”

 

Pile ou face (Heads or Tail), 1980
Roberto Enrico

In Bordeaux, inspector Baroni (Philippe Noiret) suspects Édouard Morlaix of having murdered his wife, who fell from the fifth floor after an argument. His relentlessness is such that he neglects another important file, with harsh consequences. From Coup de torchon to Ripoux and Les Aveux les plus douces, Noiret is linked to policier roles, which he admitted he always had fun playing. In each one, he brings something new to the part. This time, it’s some sort of melancholy and disillusion that come from some hidden secret from the character’s past but also something that reverberates from Noiret’s personal life at the time – the filming was delayed for one year because he had fallen ill and had to give up alcohol and smoking. I like how the ending has the subtle power to take us by surprise and rethink, with much precision, a few of the early scenes – the devil is in the details.

 

Le 4ème pouvoir, 1985
Serge Leroy

Another Philippe Noiret film, this time in the role of a journalist for a daily newspaper, who is taken hostage by a criminal on the run and then unexpectedly released. But one of my favourite parts of the film is seeing Nicole Garcia in the role of Catherine Carre, a successful television presenter who comes into the possession of proof of a political assassination and has to navigate through the entire spectrum of professional values and personal feelings, from journalistic integrity to choosing between rediscovered love and the desire to move up in career. Catherine’s 80s power dressing is worth a special mention.

 

Hidalgo, 2004
Joe Johnston

An adventure film in the realm of the classics, with Viggo Mortensen and Omar Sharif perfectly cast – “it has the purity and simplicity of something Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn might have bounded through,” wrote Roger Ebert. “Whether you like movies like this, only you can say. But if you do not have some secret place in your soul that still responds even a little to brave cowboys, beautiful princesses and noble horses, then you are way too grown up and need to cut back on cable news.” Enough said.

 

 

Reading

The Lagoon, Joseph Conrad

 

A brilliant interview with Jean-Luc Godard, conducted by Cahiers du Cinéma, from the book Godard on Godard. “I like to be surprised. If you know in advance everything you are going to do, it isn’t worth doing. If a show is all written down, what is the point of filming it? What use is cinema if it trails after literature? When I write a scenario, I too want to write it all down on paper, but I can’t do it. I’m not a writer. Making a film means superimposing three operations: thinking, filming, editing. Everything can’t be in the scenario; or if it is, and people laugh or cry while reading it, then why not just print it and sell it in bookshops.” And another one with Jean Renoir, conducted by Godard. Quite frankly, all the interviews in the book are great reading.

 

Mike Nichols: A Life, by Mark Harris.

 

Listening

The album: Electric Trim, Lee Ranaldo


 

 

Making

Rag of Colts is a handmade, repurposed leatherwork studio in Bruton, Somerset, England. Founder Caroline Strecker started Rag of Colts in 2016, from a love for well worn leather and a passion for sustainability that lead to the repurposing of old saddles to make handbags, belts and other leather accessories. Each piece is made from wonderful old saddlery leather which has been worn and aged to perfection over decades of use, each with its own rich character, depth of colour and distinct look.

“Designed and constructed to be worn day in, day out and taken on adventures -these hand stitched saddle leather bags are pretty much indestructible and will only improve with age and use.

Accept no imitations.”

 

 

Exploring

The vinyl shops of Firenze on a rainy summer day. Remember the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack’s Rob claims he can sell five EP copies of the Beta Band just by playing “Dry the Rain” to the customers in the shop? And then he drops the needle and he gets the reaction he was waiting for. It’s great experiencing a needle drop in a record store, namely Move On, with a view to an overcast Piazza Duomo, void of tourists even if for only a couple of hours.

 

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. Gone to Timbuktu, Sophy Robert’s podcast on the art of travel. Wachstumsversuche, with Sarah Schill. Sirene, Racquet, and Yolo Journal, all in print.

 
 

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