March Newsletter: Hipgnosis, Joy Division and Perfect Days

Photos: 1. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (Peter Weir, 1975) new cover art by Eric Skillman for The Criterion Collection. 2. Classiq Journal



is the Japanese word for the shimmering of light and shadows
that is created by leaves swaying in the wind.
It only exists once, at that moment.”

Perfect Days, directed by Wim Wenders


Photos: 1. Film poster for “Perfect Days”, 2023, directed by Wim Wenders. 2. Classiq Journal



Perfect Days, 2023
Wim Wenders

There are some filmmakers whose films you enter knowing that you are going to be inspired, moved, changed by what you are going to watch. For me, Wim Wenders is one of those directors. An ode to the beauty of life, to the ordinary yet extraordinary everyday, where books, music, nature, photography will always have their place. It’s incredible how an actor – marvelous Kōji Yakusho as Hirayama – can carry a film, uttering almost no words for almost three quarters of the film, so quietly, so elegantly, so powerfully. His daily routine and facial expressions are what mostly informs us. It’s my favourite role in a very long time. Watching his character you feel you are in his presence, you are fully immersed in what brings him peace, joy and sadness. You feel comfort, as a viewer, in his own physical and imaginative shelter… Him in solitude in his room, reading a book by the lamp; his modest, in means, way of living yet rich in meaning (he lives simply yet he is not a simple man – his room is lined with music cassettes and books and he has reached an understanding of the meaning of life that escapes the majority of people); Tokyo playing as a character in itself; the film opening with The Animals singing The House of the Riding Sun (Hirayama plays his cassettes every time he drives his van) and ending with Nina Simone’s Feeling Good (part of an amazing soundtrack that also includes needle drops from Lou Reed, Patti Smith and a Japanese version of The House of the Rising Sun); the black and white dream sequences that bring new sensory feelings… This is a film to return to again and again, in your mind and in viewing.

Every day, Hirayama goes to have lunch in a park. He always has his film camera with him and takes photos of the trees and their leaves in the sunlight. He often does not even look through the viewer, he just points the camera from different positions and pushes the button. Every week he develops the film and buys a new one to use. He keeps just a couple of the photos he takes every week (the rest he tears apart) and puts them into carefully stored boxes of photographs he keeps in his closet, each numbered by day or week. “KOMOREBI is the Japanese word for the shimmering of light and shadows that is created by leaves swaying in the wind. It only exists once, at that moment.” This quote appears after the ending credits, and the thing is if you had skipped the ending credits (I hate it when people do that) you would have missed it.


Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, 1999
Jim Jarmusch

Ghost Dog, Forest Whitaker, lives above the world – in a self-built hut on the roof of an abandoned building. He is a professional killer and wanders through the city silently and unseen, becoming one with the night, his steps traced only by the sublime score by Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. He abides by an old code of conduct of the Japanese warrior caste of the samurai. When his life is threatened by a dysfunctional mafia family, he reacts strictly according to the code: the way of the samurai. There is no character like Forest Whitaker’s Ghost Dog in the American cinema. Jarmusch brings the code of gangster film to its essence, ritualising and stylising the criminal action according to his own singular vision. “Laughter is good for your spirit,” Jim Jarmusch said in an interview. ”In Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, there’s a quote from Hagakure, a Japanese text, written by an old samurai, and one of them has to do with how things of great concern should be treated lightly, and things of small concern should be treated seriously, that kind of contradiction was something I really like when it is embraced in that kind of philosophy.”


Helsinki Napoli All Night Long, 1987
Mika Kaurismäki

Berlin. A Finnish taxi driver, Kari Väänänen, who is married with an Italian, Roberta Manfredi, whose father is a former Mafia member, crosses paths with an American gangster and a bag stacked with money. Samuel Fuller is the American gangster. Wim Wenders is a friend of the taxi driver. Jim Jarmusch plays another character. That certainly sounds like a fun film to make, and Samuel Fuller did attest to that in his book, A Third Face (Samuel Fuller was friends with Mika Kaurismäki, Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders, and he even ended up making a documentary/road movie, Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made, with the help of the first two). Helsinki Naples All Night Long is a crazy, over the top comedy that just works because it feels so free-willing, so independent, so 80s.


La règne animal (The Animal Kingdom), 2023
Thomas Cailley

A fantasy and completely rooted in our time at the same time, La règne animal stares right into the eye of the 21st century mankind and says that man is not exceptional, and that believing man was exceptional opened the abyss of extinction. The story speaks volumes about our world in crisis today, about past, present and future, about the world we make for ourselves, about an entire world that is yet undiscovered and that could be right here on Earth. And it does it through a very personal story of a boy and his father (Paul Kircher and Romain Duris).


Broker, 2022
Hirokazu Koreeda

There is this character, Soo-jin, played by Bae Doona, a detective on the trail of two men and a young woman thrown together over a scheme of selling the woman’s baby on the South Korean adoption black market. The simple description of the plot can easily give you a very clear standing point on the subject. Which is why I found Soo-jin such an important character, this very layered character and the way she subtly unfolds as the film progresses shows you how there can be so many layers to everyone’s story, regardless of how unethical that story may appear to be. And, truly, what has stayed with me is not some monstrous act (it is by no means depicted as such) but the love and warmth the baby and the other child who joins this unlikely family receive at all times.


Photos: 1. Classiq Journal. 2. Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art. The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue (Thames & Hudson)



Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue. I bought the book after I watched Anton Corbijn’s documentary Squaring the Circle. In the 1960s and 1970s, Hipgnosis were the most influential record-cover design company in the world. They believed that “art and advertising didn’t belong in the same bed”, as Peter Gabriel writes in the introduction, but their art sold the albums. They had an unparalleled vision, and this book attests to the boundless curiosity of art-making.

“Spare in detail, yet creating a context with scope for the imagination,” Allegro is the kind of photography book that I prefer. It showcases a selection of photographs of Anton Corbijn, the outsider who did not come from an artistic environment, and who, with no formal training, became the revered photographer of the world’s greatest musicians. He’s also been the decades-long artistic director of bands such as U2 and Depeche Mode, has created music album covers, and directed music videos and feature films, and his 2023 documentary Squaring the Circle (which I mentioned in last month’s newsletter) about none other than the aforementioned Hipgnosis, is one to watch. Now I am looking forward to seeing his documentary Joy Division.


Next on my list:

Directed by Yasujirō Ozu, one of the most influential books on cinema written in Japanese, first published in 1983 by Shiguéhiko Hasumi and translated now for the first time into English by Ryan Cook.



The album: Closer, Joy Division


The soundtrack: Perfect Days (2023), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).


The podcast: The Better Known episode with Alexandra Tolstoy, where she discusses with Ivan Wise, the gist, six things that should be better known. Just listening to her gives you a different perspective on so many things.



William Grill’s drawing workshops for children, something the illustrator does every March and October. Budding creativity and imagination.

Here is what Will told me I when I talked to him about educational alternatives for children: “I try and visit schools every March and October – it’s a great thing to do for me as much as it is for them! I get quite inspired by what they make, often wishing I had the same energy and freedom that some of their drawings have. I hope that my visits encourage those who like to draw, or those who are maybe less academic (like myself). It’s a shame children don’t get much time to make or draw at school, and those who don’t draw neatly aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ at art or being creative – I get a lot of pleasure seeing those come out of their shell or being proud of a drawing they’ve made.”

You can read my full interview with William Grill here.



Festival de la Cinémathèque française, 13-17 March. Around a hundred films from around the world, most of them in magnificent restorations, to be rediscovered on the big screen – at the Cinémathèque and in several cinemas in Île-de-France. This year’s guest of honour will be filmmaker Peter Weir. His first films, poetic and aerial, electrified his native Australia and put Australian cinema on the map again in the early 1970s with The Cars That Ate Paris, Picnic at Hanging Rock or The Last Wave . He continued to make acclaimed films in Hollywood (Mosquito Coast, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) without his art ever losing its singularity. Because Peter Weir is the kind of filmmaker who will not conform, as his approach is always about “the precious desperation of the art, the madness, the willingness to experiment”.

A fully restored Criterion Collection edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock with a beautiful cover art is coming out next month, but I would still very much prefer the opportunity to see the film in cinema (which movie goers will have the chance to do at the Festival de la Cinémathèque française). In that regard, I will leave here a few thoughts I wrote a few years back about the film: We do not wish Miranda to be explained, just as we do not wish the film, and what happened to the girls, to be explained. The film has endured by not answering our questions, and Miranda remains somewhere out there, this eternal youth to be dreamed about, by not being found. Gheorghe Zamfir’s haunting Miranda’s theme, “Doina: Sus pe Culmea Dealului”, takes us on this journey into the mystic, seducing us into this Neverland only accessible to those who truly believe, touching the depths of our human existence and of the mystery of life.


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, Racquet, and Yolo Journal, all in print.


”It’s the idea of taking off somewhere with your camera
and coming back home, developing your stuff in the darkroom –
and that’s your day’s work, you encounter.”

Anton Corbijn



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