July Newsletter: On Christmas in July and My Summer of Jackie Brown


 

Photos: Classiq Journal

 
 
If I were to choose a film of the last ten years to watch in cinemas for the first time this summer, then it would be Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Two years on after its release and it’s still on my mind. Few others (I am writing about another one further down in the newsletter) of the last decade have stayed with me. But if I were to pick just one, I would choose Tarantino. I would choose it because, as I have written before, it’s delirious, funny, shocking, exhilarating, beautifully crafted around movie lore and history, blending fiction with reality, brimming with pop culture detail and an idiosyncratic soundtrack that takes you to another time and another Hollywood. That’s the Hollywood of my mind.

Because the Hollywood I would have loved to see is not the Golden Era Hollywood, nor the modern day Hollywood, but that very Hollywood depicted in this film. A Hollywood trying to make peace with itself and move forward, a Hollywood that reflects the changes taking place in those times, in America and in the film industry, a time of changing identities and manhood perceptions, a time of decline for the old studio system and of rise of the independent cinema. But also a Hollywood that for sure is not just one of reality, but one of Tarantino’s imagination as well. And I find that even more fascinating. Another incredible thing about this Hollywood is that the two main characters, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, are themselves voyeurs of the glamour of Hollywood. They are like you and me.

I would choose this film because Quentin Tarantino is one of the last purveyors of movie making. He loves cinema. He showed that artistic freedom is still possible, that you can still think in terms of making movies just for yourself, that he puts every thought and every sense and every emotion into making a film, that, yes, he can do what he likes and say what he likes – it’s his story. And he transports you to another time with the kind of film that requires the luxury of taking the time to watch at the cinema, as one should. That allows you to lose yourself in the story and watch it unfold on the big screen. And just see where it goes. Nothing else matters. Nothing else matters while you are watching a film on the big screen.

As I am writing this, I am waiting for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, the book, to arrive. If I can’t have the film again in cinemas, this will be the next best thing. It would be like Christmas in July.

There is another Tarantino film, Jackie Brown, that I watched on repeat one summer years ago with my brother. It used to be my favourite Tarantino film until Once Upon a Time came along. When we used to watch it all these years ago, when I was about twenty, a few years after it was released, Tarantino had made only these three films, and Jackie Brown felt different – seven more movies and twenty years later, it still does. I don’t remember what it was that made me love it so much (do we really need an explanation for that?), I just know that I did, and that at university and in our group of friends it soon became the movie by which your taste in movies was judged. I remember how quickly I made friends with a colleague I had barely spoken to before when we both found out that Jackie Brown, not Pulp Fiction, was my as well as his favourite Tarantino film.

If I think of what I feel about it now, there is something about the vintage tunes playing perfectly over the film’s scenes, even more impeccably than the other perfectly chosen soundtracks of his films, and the snappy dialogue that’s a little different than, and not as gimmicky as in other Tarantino films. It feels much more realistic, with an uncharacteristic linear narrative, with a great, real, middle-age love story between Max (Robert Forster) and Jackie (Pam Grier), with a perfect balance between believable characters, with very much feeling and life experiences and failures in them, and you end up having some sort of affection for each of them, even if each of them is flawed. The shot that follows Ordell driving around to kill Livingston is still one of my favourite scenes in a Tarantino film. I just love how reluctant Beaumont is and low long it actually takes him to get in that trunk, then Ordell tactfully putting on his gloves when he is finally behind the wheel and turning on the radio on the sound of Strawberry Letter 23 and the car driving off in a long shot just to see it making a short, first turn to the left, and then, full stop. Perfection.

Maybe sometime in the future, Jackie Brown will turn out to remain my favourite Tarantino film. But right now, this summer, I will have to choose Quentin Tarantino’s black comedy crazy bravura and auteurist excursion, by way of his liberal take on history and freeing visionary mind. This could be a perfect summation of summer.
 

“The inspiration behind Le Kasha’s aesthetic is sourced from my own travels… and the ones I’m dreaming to do…,”
says Mali Marciano, above, about her brand, Le Kasha. Photo to the left: Le Kasha

 
 
Viewing

The Letter, 1940

I have recently rewatched The Letter on what was one of the summer’s first hot nights. It was perfect. Actually I may make it a summer tradition, to watch on an unbearably warm night. Because noir is the genre that offers the perfect contrast to my favourite season, to the bright and euphoric summer days. Watching noir films during summertime keeps me grounded: “Don’t kid yourself that this will last forever.” Because you almost do, don’t you, believe in an endless summer? The Letter is perfect from its great opening tracking shot to the very end. The effect is striking. So is the atmosphere of the entire film, mainly shot at night, the moon light casting dramatic shades – and a spell, it feels, on the main protagonist, Bette Davis’ Leslie Crosbie, who always seems to be driven by its presence – through the shutters of the beautiful island home of the Crosbies or through the leaves of the jungle trees. You are in the heart of darkness, where evil inner forces can take control over your life, like a force of nature, or the moon, that disconsiders man entirely, distort your reason, and thrust you into ruin. I have recently written about Bette Davis as the most audacious white-wearing film noir heroine here.
 
Le sauvage, 1975

They meet in Caracas by chance. Nelly, Catherine Deneuve, is a young woman who is about to marry Vittorio, but realises she doesn’t want to and runs away from him. Martin, Yves Montand, is a middle-age man who left behind his career as a famous perfumer to seek out a more tranquil life on an island, off the coast of Guaira, Venezuela. He gets her out of trouble, she gets him into more trouble. Young, free-willing and beautiful, with energy to spare and perfectly articulated rapid-fire speaking, Deneuve out-runs and out-talks Montand. These screwball moments are in beautiful contrast with the quiet moments when she is alone that look like she has just stepped out of a painting or when she quietly tells him she wants to stay on the island with him. Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Le sauvage feels like the movie that liberated Deneuve’s own personality on the screen. “I am shocked when people talk about me and sum me up as: blonde, cold, and solemn,” she would say about her image of porcelain beauty imprinted in the viewers’ collective memory.
 
Le dos au mur (Back to the Wall), 1958

There is something about the opening shot of a film that has a defining imprint on my movie experience. The almost 20-minute long opening sequence of Édouard Molinaro’s Le dos au mur is wordless, pure visual style. After so many noir films watched, I was still taken aback by the striking black and white shots and sharp angles that made me register every single detail and object, especially when the story is filmed inside the apartment in the beginning, which connects to my love of design. Starring Jeanne Moreau as Gloria, the infidele wife of industrialist Jacques Decrey (Gérard Oury), the film is a classic noir story, where deceit, betrayal, jealousy and revenge drive the narrative. On Mubi, Adrian Curry writes about the exceptional poster of the film designed back in the day by Clément Hurel.
 
Pouic-pouic, 1963

There are few things that can lift my spirit as quickly as a Louis de Funès comedy can. Pouic-pouic is one of them. It also offers one of those great supporting roles, Christian Marin as Charles, the sees-it-all, knows-it-all valet de la maison.
 
A Quiet Place, 2018, & A Quiet Place: Part II, 2021

A Quiet Place is the other film I was mentioning above and which I would watch for the first time this summer. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where sightless alien creatures hunt their prey on even the faintest sound, this is a world in which only very few and the most quiet and careful humans survive. There is not much that can be invented in cinema anymore, but that concept felt new and thrilling in A Quiet Place. Silence never sounded so terrifying. Emily Blunt and her real life husband, John Krasinski, who also directed, play a loving couple with young kids and they have to speak in sign language and walk with bare feet and even the vaguest sound can mean almost instant death. It’s clever, nerve-shredding and beautifully executed, and I kept telling myself that this can’t be so good until the end. But it absolutely is. And it also feels like a great yet trying adventure of this wonderful family who only have each other. This is a film that I love so much that I have kept postponing watching A Quiet Place: Part II, recently released in cinemas, and I have to admit that I still wish they never made a second part. But I eventually did watch it. The element of new is gone, which was to be expected, but the film is good, it keeps the suspense, the completely silent scenes are unbelievable and Regan, the Abbots’ eldest daughter, played by Millicent Simmonds, beautifully leads the story and her family.
 

 
 
Reading

“How can you know anything about literature if all you’ve done is read books?” Geoff Dyer was determined to write the ultimate study of D.H. Lawrence. Out of Sheer Rage should have been it. It isn’t. Actually, the book defies categorization, and that’s why I find it so… different. Dyer writes about himself, about his personal life, about his travels, and, yes, occasionally and profoundly about D.H. Lawrence. But, thank God, it’s not an academic study. “That is the hallmark of academic criticism: it kills everything it touches,” says Dyer. It is the constant relation, and the constant yet unforced relation of Lawrence, to Dyer’s own life that lends the book an immediacy, and everything seems written as it is experienced, often times hilariously.

If I am to read books about films, I always prefer to read about them from their makers, and at the moment I am enjoying Jacques Deray’s J’ai connu une belle époque. He talks about everyone from Lino Ventura and Charlotte Rampling, to Jean-Paul Belmondo, Romy Schneider and Alain Delon, and about their experiences together. A beautiful journey into one of the most beautiful times in cinema history. The book is not currently available from the publisher, Christian Pirot, and because I only support artists and independent publishers and bookshops, I unfortunately can not link to it, leaving you the choice to find it at your bookstore of choice.

Travelling wider into the movie world with Christopher Willoughby in my recent interview with him, where we talked about the Hollywood photographer who was a great as the stars he shot, his father, Bob Willoughby.
 

Listening

Alessandro de Rosa’s playlist*, La chitarra sopravisduta al desserto, inspired by his book by the same name, that was in turn inspired by the communal experience of watching Rear Window in a square in San Francisco.
 

 
 
Exploring

The art of reportage illustrator George Butler. When for so many travel is still driven by wanderlust and a sense of selfish adventure, George Butler goes to places everyone else is leaving, or trying to leave, from war zones to refugee camps. And instead of photographing, he draws the stories he sees, which I find extraordinary powerful, telling and moving. Illustration is a conveyor of the times, much more so than photography, I believe, as it requires a different mind set, therefore showing the viewer something much more personal and effecting reflection and reaction on a different scale. In his new book, Drawn Across Borders, the artist has gathered true, sensitive and powerful stories of migration.
 

Making

Le Kasha, the family-owned cashmere brand founded in 1918, respects its storied past and challenges contemporary creatives to channel classic influences into their designs while perfecting what essentials mean for the modern woman. Almost a century later, Mali Marciano set out to carry on her family heritage and revive the brand with the launch of her first Cachemere de Voyage collection in 2016. The Le Kasha collections are infused with the stories of Marciano’s travels which not only create a beautiful narrative around each piece, but says a lot about how she and her brand want to approach the future of fashion: with intention. I have recently talked to Mali Marciano about the brand.

Le Kasha is a brand with tradition, it was an innovator, a road opener at the beginning of the twentieth century. Somehow, I sense that your line Cachemere de Voyage is doing the same. Free of other fashion influences, it’s doing its own thing, it’s more about a way of being than about fashion. What do you want Le Kasha to represent?

I would like Le Kasha to represent a lifestyle instead of just being a «fashion» brand. Indeed, Le Kasha is a brand which provides pieces that our client always keep with them, our clothes are generally full of memories from travels… Our collection are infused with the spirit of freedom. In my conception, Le Kasha is a timeless lifestyle brand and I would like to be part of people’s essentials.

Has this last year changed in any way the way you see your brand and its place in the modern woman’s wardrobe?

It didn’t really impacted Le Kasha. People need to feel comfortable and elegant; look and feel great.. no matter what happens, if they stay home or not. Our pieces can be worn anytime and everywhere.

Cachemire de Voyage is inspired by the spirit of travel and adventure. Do you have any great traveller or adventurer as inspiration, or is it in your own travels that you find the greatest source of creativity?

The inspiration behind Le Kasha’s aesthetic is sourced from my own travels…and the ones I’m dreaming to do… As a child, I was always obsessed with the idea of travelling the world; my room was full of globes and maps, travel magazines… Those insights are empowered by movies, books.. that feed me with images of strong characters living exciting adventures and discovering places beyond imagination.

Today, I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity of discovering those places by myself, to meet the people living those extraordinary places and nourish myself with inspirations from everywhere. I want all these elements to be present in Le Kasha’s collections and DNA, our aim is to produce clothes in which people feel like they’re travelling and adventurous.

 
 

”Often times, at nightfall, Alain and I would find ourselves in the shade
of this divine house with a swimming pool. The disappearance of the sun
scattered the film crew, who left the set for the attractions of the French
Riviera. Privileged moments of complicity made up of silences and gazes
on the horizon. I remember one evening, in this abandoned place, our
conversation which was to give birth to another great adventure:
Borsalino.”

Jacques Deray, J’ai connu une belle époque (photo above)

 
 
The regulars: The interviews, newsletters and podcasts I turn to every week and/or every month because they are that good. Craig Mod’s all three newsletters: Roden, Ridgeline, and Huh. Wes Del Val’s book-ish interviews. Soundtracking, with Edith Bowman. Here’s the Thing, with Alec Baldwin. Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter. Sophy Robert’s The Art of Travel. Monocle magazine, in print.

*Note: As Alicia Kennedy writes in one of her newsletters, “I’m also aware that Spotify is terrible, which is why I purchase albums, concert tickets, and merchandise as much as possible to support the artists I love”. So I hope a Spotify playlist is just the starting point and that you opt for the whole, immersing experience of listening an album on the turntable or on a CD and watch a film uninterrupted on a big screen or at least in the player at home on a big enough screen.

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