Photos: Classiq Journal
“There are so many unknowns and possibilities out there,”
said Tiny Dragon.
“Well then,” said Big Panda, “let’s see how many we can try.”
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon: The Journey
Triangle of Sadness (2022)
Ruben östlund is one of the most original European cineasts. He likes to provoke his public, to make them discomfortable. Either in a subtle (Force Majeure – still my favourite) or a more brutal, biting, even grotesque way (The Square and now The Triangle of Sadness), he likes to make fun of class order, bourgeoise pretentiousness and the fragile structure of our modern society. Watching Triangle of Sadness with my husband, he remarked that it reminded him of Buñuel, namely The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. About Buñuel’s films, Roger Ebert said: “All movies toy with us, but the best ones have the nerve to admit it. Most movies pretend their stories are real and that we must take them seriously. Comedies are allowed to break the rules. Most of the films of Luis Buñuel are comedies in one way or another, but he doesn’t go for gags and punch lines; his comedy is more like a dig in the ribs, sly and painful.”
That’s certainly what you feel watching Östlund’s satire. In Triangle of Sadness, a couple of fashion model influencers, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited to a luxury cruise for the rich, whose captain, Woody Harrelson, is an alcoholic Marxist. What starts as a totally Instagramable trip ends up catastrophically, casting the survivors away on a desert island. Social hierarchy is turned upside down, appearances are destroyed, registering with a caustic humour the fake power of beauty, money and class. It’s absolutely thrilling to watch what happens to the rich and famous characters when disaster hits. Image proves to be so much more impactful than words, that’s what Östlund wants and that’s what he masterfully does. It’s incredibly amusing and liberating to watch the change in human behavior, and how he deconstructs a character’s self-image, testing the ideological limits of the western society.
Chaos erupts in the banlieue community of Athena, France, after the tragic death of a young boy under suspect circumstances. His three older brothers seek out justice, come what may. Combining political themes and electrifying action scenes, Romain Gavras delivers an uncompromising piece of cinema – the opening single take single-handedly wins your undivided attention. And, what’s more, you can feel, in a very pronounced way, the inequality, racism and rage that come across in this film. Because it is about what people will do for their families, for their clans, in order to protect them. But what I want to stress out is that we talk so much about what a film is about when in fact I believe we should pay more attention to the way it is filmed. And I just love how Romain Gavras leads his story through the moving camera.
Official Competition (2021)
Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn
I watched this film without even seeing the trailer first, and simply because I wanted to see Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas together on screen again. It is such a good film! It’s a film within a film, where a billionaire business man wants to make the greatest film ever made to be reminded by and hires the best to make it happen: director Lola Cuevas (Cruz) and two famous actors, Hollywood star Félix Rivero (Banderas) and legendary theater actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martinez). This film reminded me of how it used to be going to the cinema, without knowing much what to expect and being surprised. Both Penelope and Antonio have some brilliant moments in the film – such as the scene of them together in front of the mirror, when Penelope attends to a scratch on his face after Iván had hit him with a chair – it’s so hilarious and natural that you just marvel at it. And the best thing is that the film gets better and better by the end. And the festival press conference is the best I have seen on and off screen.
3 Faces (2018)
The Iranian cinema has something of its own. Abbas Kiarostami’s films have always marked me. Then there are the films of Asghar Farhadi. I have recently watched 3 Faces and the same simplicity and realism, humour and universal truths found in the most ordinary things and people that we usually encounter in Kiarostami’s films permeate the story. Actress Behnaz Jafari (playing herself) receives by phone a young girl’s video plea for help after her family prevents her from taking up her studies at the Tehran drama conservatory and threatens to marry her off. Distressed, Behnaz abandons her shoot and travels with a colleague filmmaker (director Jafar Panahi himself) to find the girl and make sure she is alright. I am so glad that world cinema films are so different from American movies. They still have the power to surprise you and reveal a whole new world within each one of them.
One of the best thriller series of the last… many years, maybe since my favourite of them all, “24”, season 1. Agent Fatima receives a tip that a terrorist attack is planned on Sweden and her only lead comes from a young mother and the wife of an ISIS member in Raqqa. With a great ensemble cast and void of the kind of nationalist stuff that affected Homeland, this Swedish series surprises you with unexpected turns all the way until the very end and is reportedly very authentic to the tiniest detail. But what impressed me the most was the portrayal of the radicalisation of young minds, and so much of it is done with the help of social media.
Cinema du Look magazine, where I am very happy to be a contributor writer to the launch issue, hot off the press! Cinema du Look, founded by Dorit Oren, is a new publication that exists as a magazine, a reference book and a keepsake, and was conceived out of a desire to create something tangible that was dedicated to stylish cinema and all its accompanying splendour. With a curatorial approach to storytelling, it draws on the rich history of the moving image to explore the widespread impact of cinema’s visual language and use of aesthetics. In the same breath, it spotlights film’s symbiotic relationship with other visual arts, all of which have collectively shaped our cultural landscape. You can order your copy here or you can also pick up a copy at the ICA bookstore and at the BFI shop very soon. More stockists will be announced shortly.
The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon
I guess this is one of those illustrated books that we can place in the category of illustrated children’s books that are not written and illustrated for children, as publisher Ileana Achim remarked in our interview. And this is actually I bought for myself, but which is also a great gift to give. Because I do agree with Sendak, that there is no children literature – just literature. The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon made me think of Winnie the Pooh, but it also reveals the kind of wisdom that one hopes to acquire as we advance in age. Some children have that from early on.
Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life
I am savouring this book at the moment after illustrator Tony Stella and I talked about our mutual fascination with Columbo a little while ago. Just One More Thing “is pure Peter Falk, and reads as if he’s sitting next to you, chuckling as he recalls his remarkable past”.
Pettson and Findus
We read. A lot. The shelves in our favourite bookshops are the limit. But Sven Nordqvist’s Pettson and Findus remains, hands down, our favourite family reading. The mother of a two-year-old recently asked me for recommendations while we were both exploring the isles of one of the aforementioned bookshops, after confessing she found too many children’s books for a young age too odd, pretentious, serious and politically correct. I agree to all that. For picture books, I recommended Eric Carle’s. Then, of course, Pettson and Findus. It always makes us laugh and feel good. That’s all it takes to make a child enjoy reading from early on.
The album: Bloor Street, Kiefer Sutherland
The talk: Cate Blanchett and Todd Field’s pick their favourite films. There are some great titles in there! I haven’t yet seen Tár (starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Todd Field), but it is one of the film’s I’ve been waiting for all year long.
The podcast: The Adventure Podcast. There are only two podcasts I listen to religiously and they are both monthly mentioned in the newsletter as part of The regulars section. But every once in a while I want to highlight them, because they deserve it. The Adventure podcast is one of them. An ongoing series of long-form conversations with pioneers of exploration and discovery, filmmaker Matt Pycroft speaks to the most knowledgeable, accomplished and respected voices in the field. From mountaineers to Arctic scientists, tree climbers and polar explorers, The Adventure Podcast is a unique podcast that allows you to get up close with those who live extraordinary lives.
Our own magical set of postcards available in the shop. The idea for these illustrations came to me precisely from the desire of celebrating and encouraging play and imagination, and were brought to life by an illustrator who is a craftsman, a dreamer and a visual poet, and I know that the story she envisioned is bound to fascinate children and grown-ups alike.
I am fascinated with and live vicariously through the covers of Yolo Journal magazine and this latest cover is my favourite of theirs so far. I love how this travel magazine feels like journaling the world, one great stop at a time. An act of class.
On an end note
Planeta Tangerina is a highly innovative publishing house in Portugal. Their readers are children, parents and every adult who likes picturebooks and their unique way of telling a story. Their motto is “not falling for formulas and challenging our readers (they deserve it!).” One of the books they published is Draw Whatever You Want, by Madalena Matoso. “In this book you can draw whatever you want. For example, if the house is already there, draw the landscape, if the landscape is already there, draw the house… Seen from the outside or the inside? Tidy or messy? Full of real things or inhabited by imaginary beings? Do you prefer to draw things in all their detail or just a quick sketch? Using various colours or just one? In pencil or felt-tips? We’ll give you some ideas, but in this book, from now on, it’s all up to you. Draw whatever – anything and everything – you want.”
And that, I believe, is the most important lesson in drawing and the door to creativity. Let’s ask more questions, and aim for everything you dream of. Children and grown-ups alike.
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. The Adventure Podcast: Terra Incognita. Sirene magazine.
Cinema du Look magazine is out now and you can order a copy here