Read Instead…in Print


“Film is the only art, apart from music, that can exist in time.”


Read instead…in print #20

Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More brings to light more than seventy essays on film making, screenplay writing, rare autobiographical pieces, photographs and manuscripts, from one of cinema’s true auteurs and one of the world’s greatest creatives – Satyajit Ray also wrote and illustrated stories for Sandesh, the defunct children’s magazine that his grandfather had founded and which Ray revived in 1961. Satyajit Ray started out in advertising and, in 1953, began working on his first film, Pather Panchali, shooting largely on Saturdays and Sundays. Only after the film’s release, in 1955, and its success, did he quit his job and dedicated himself entirely to filmmaking. Filmmaking was a deeply personal affair for Satyajit Ray. His vision of making a film was drastically different than that of other filmmakers’ and he made all his films according to his own mind and skill. He wrote his own dialogue (scored his films and often designed their publicity materials as well), but his films rose above the words, as he believed a film should be conveyed in images as much as possible. Satyajit Ray’s films are like that, striking this incredible balance between sound and image and containing moments of purely visual significance. He was a director who did filmmaking as he understood it, appreciating the medium and experimenting with elements that are only specific to film. These unique ideas of film-making are expressed in these essays, which is why they are invaluable.

“The fact is that a children’s film which has all the qualities of
simplicity, spontaneity and universality is perhaps the hardest
kind of film to make. This is not surprising, since literature too
shows the same kind of dearth. It is indeed a rare gift to be able to
tell with the heart of a child while creating with the mind of an adult.”

Read instead… in print is about a good book about cinema or filmmakers. No discursive, pretentious analyses, no verbose scrutiny. Because the idea is to invite you to read the book, not read about it here. But instead of using social media, I use my journal. Back to basics. Take it as a wish to break free of over-reliance on social media (even if it’s just for posting a photo of a good book) for presenting my work, cultural finds and interests. These are things to be enjoyed as stand-alone pieces in a more substantial and meaningful way than showing them in the black hole of Instagram thronged with an audience with a short attention span. This is also a look through my voluminous collection of books about film that I use as research in my adamant decision to rely less and less on the online and more on more on print materials.


Read instead…in print #14: Cassavetes on Cassavetes

Real emotion and visual power: Interview with film poster designer Matt Needle

Read instead…in print #11: Picture, by Lillian Ross

Posted by classiq in Books, Film, Read print | | Comments Off on Read Instead…in Print

February Newsletter: Gone to Timbuktu, Yamamoto and The ‘59 Sound

Left: Photo © Aiayu 2023 Vol.1 | Right: Photo © Classiq Journal


”To me, it reminded me of my grandmother and a time
where simpler things were valued more. Friendships, relationships,
and that kind of thing. There weren’t so many distractions. You didn’t
have so many goals. Now, a kid grows up, and he could be anything.
That’s great, but it’s also very daunting.”

Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem


Photos: Classiq Journal


Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Wim Wenders

This “diary film” as Wenders called it, investigates the similarities of his craft, filmmaking, and that of the Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto – I say fashion designer, although I should say dressmaker, because that’s how Yamamoto calls himself and I say Japanese to refer to his nationality, although he doesn’t like his clothes to be referred as such, saying that his clothes have no nationality, but confessing that, when he came to Paris, he realised, or he was pushed to realise, that he was a Japanese.

When he was contacted by the Centre George’s Pompidou in Paris to make a documentary about a fashion designer, Wenders, who had no real interest in the industry of fashion, knew exactly who he wanted to make it about: Yohji Yamamoto. And it all started with a shirt and a jacket. “My first encounter with Yohji Yamamoto was in a way an experience of identity. I had bought a shirt and a jacket. You know the feeling. You put on new clothes, you look at yourself in the mirror and you are content, excited about your new skin, but with this shirt and this jacket, it was different. From the beginning they were new and old at the same time. In the mirror I saw me, of course, only better. More me than before. And I had the strangest sensation. I was wearing, yes, I have no other words for it, I was wearing the shirt itself and the jacket itself. And in them, I was myself.”

Wenders shot the film mainly on his own as a one-man team. He also narrates it. During the shooting, which stretched over the course of a year, Yamamoto and Wenders became friends. Wim Wenders is a great documentary director and here he interestingly links cinema with clothes, cities, mobility and motion. But at the center of it all stands Yohji Yamamoto. He talks slowly, he takes long pauses when he speaks, and he makes you ponder on his words. No word is in vain. The abundance of less – this is a phrase that best describes the wealth of lessons he teaches the viewer by using so few words. This is a man who has a strong set of values and a strong sense of his worth, without any trace of pretentiousness. Watching him at work in his studio in Tokyo, or among photography books of decades past (Sartre’s colour coat from a Bresson photo, James Dean, women in working uniforms) for inspiration, and in Paris for his presentations, Wenders frames the portrait of a dressmaker, an auteur amidst a gigantic industry – “I could understand how Yohji’s tender and delicate language could survive in each of his creations,” concluded Wenders. It’s humbling and liberating.

Claude Chabrol’s Inspector Lavardin movies

A small town in rural France. Quiet, charming, sheltering a respectable middle class that hides big secrets and mysterious deaths. In Poulet au vinaigre (Cop au vin), 1986, Claude Chabrol peels off provincial life right to its rotten core with the help of laconic Detective Inspector Lavardin. Therein lies the appeal of Chabrol’s first policier film. Jean Poiret proved so compelling as the detective that he reprised the role in the sequel that would be named after his character the following year. It’s thrilling to have him back in Inspector Lavardin. Trademark trench coat, tranchant humour and immeasurable charm intact, Lavardin has to investigate another murder in a Breton coastal town and he resorts to his usual reproachful, unorthodox methods to elucidate it. Lavardin brings something new to the universe of Chabrol, giving a comical treatment to one of Chabrol’s favourite themes, the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie that Chabrol so virulently and often attacked in his films. “I detest the bourgeoisie, but I am one of them. That’s why I revenge myself on them, I want to make them feel sick, sick at heart,” Chabrol confessed.

Piper, 2016
Alan Barillo

The short film is a space for infinite freedom, as filmmaker Nicolas Bianco-Levrin said in our interview. For a while now, I have experienced more joy in watching short films than I have in watching all these new feature films that have stopped being creative and free-willing. Alan Barillo’s Piper is a new favourite in our home. Life is very simple once you overcome your fears and become self-sufficient. This short film about a little sandpiper offers an invaluable life lesson in just 6 minutes, with no words, and it does it with an incredible sense of humour, too. And it made both my son and me happy when we watched it.

Far from the Tree, 2021
Natalie Nourigat

Far from the Tree is another short that takes place in the animal world. Isn’t it interesting how easily viewers of all ages relate to animal characters? Another one of my interviewees, children’s book author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc had a straightforward and logical explanation for it: it is easier to have more readers identify with a cat than with a human being who looks different from you. “The freedom of interpretation that is so important to me can be helped with animal characters, since they give a broader answer to culture, identity, etc,” she said. Returning to Far from the Tree, we are again served a life experience that is however different in approach. Darker, allowing difficult questions about the real world, and, yes, about the dangers of life, be answered sensitively.


Left: Photo © Aiayu 2022 Vol. 1 | Right: Photo © Classiq Journal



Finishing off Satyajit Ray’s On Life, Cinema, People, & Much More, which I will soon include in my Read instead…in print series, making a reading list of every book Sophy Roberts and her guests talk about in her new and so very, very, very good podcast (more about it below, in the Exploring section of this newsletter), and this:

Fifteen years ago, a fledgling punk rock band out of New Jersey, The Gaslight Anthem, migrated to Los Angeles to begin work on their second album. This is the oral history of the making of their masterpiece: The ‘59 Sound. It is one of the best stories about recording a musical album. It’s about so many things, not just about making music and making it in the industry of music without the anxious intention of becoming a rock star. I am of the opinion that you don’t have to explain the music, the films, the art that you like. I loved this album the moment I heard it, years after its release. I loved it because I loved it, how it sounded, the lyrics, the lead singer’s voice. Period. I didn’t need to know anything about its making, the inspiration behind it. But I do believe that listening to it I had the feeling that this music defined the ones who sang it without letting others define them (all music should be that, yes, but it isn’t), but was also music that mattered to other people. You kind of sensed all that. “I’m not trying to invent something here. I’m trying to carry on a tradition of songwriting.” – Brian Fallon (lead singer)

That being said, reading about how all the creative forces behind it came together to make this album, is simply a fine piece of storytelling.

Brian Fallon: The first thing you see is that Flogging Molly has a gold record. How does Flogging Molly have a gold record? Flogging Molly’s not on the radio. Flogging Molly’s not on MTV. Flogging Molly’s not a band where you could go to the mall and ask 20 kids, and they’d know who they are. We thought that was awesome. I’m not the sort of person who longs to be a rock star and hear Wembley Stadium cheering my name. I just want to make music that makes people feel good, and I’d love it if I could pay my bills off it too, while never losing that balance. Walking into SideOne, we saw that the balance was possible for the first time.

Alex Rosamilia (guitar): [It] caught that thing that bands in the punk genre are kind of looking for, that sense of urgency mixed with a sense of nostalgia. I don’t think we were intending for it to do what it did. More than us made it what it was. I’ve always wanted to write something that mattered to other people. I never thought I’d actually do it.

Bruce Springsteen: It had all the markings of a classic. Every song was great. There wasn’t any weak spots on the record. It was fresh and rich and newly discovered. A lot of spirit, a lot of soul. Those things have a tendency to last. The record is as fresh as it ever was.

Fallon: [The amp was] the material version of what it meant to me. The intangible thing of “The ’59 Sound,” it didn’t mean anything about the ’50s. I didn’t imagine people banging on jukeboxes and Fonzie and all that. I’m not interested in any of that. To me, it reminded me of my grandmother and a time where simpler things were valued more. Friendships, relationships, and that kind of thing. There weren’t so many distractions. You didn’t have so many goals. Now, a kid grows up, and he could be anything. That’s great, but it’s also very daunting. Because which one of the anythings do you be?

Dicky Barrett (frontman, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones/backup vocals): I think if I was a 20-year-old or an 18-year-old guy and that record came out, that would be my The Clash, London Calling. That would be the important record of my life.



The album: The ‘59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem


In 2005, Danish design and Bolivian skilled hand-knitting were combined to create the knitwear label Aiayu, which means “Soul” in the language of Bolivia’s indigenous Aymare people. Combining typical Scandinavian style (simple, relaxed and timeless), llama wool from La Paz and traditional Bolivian knitting patterns in natural colours, founder Maria Høgh Heilmann created a brand rooted in a love for nature’s best materials and unwavering respect for traditional craftsmanship and local manufacturers. Beautiful clothes that come with a story, ready to become part of your own story.


You don’t just listen to Sophy Roberts’ new podcast, Gone to Timbuktu, you explore it, you live it, and spread the word about it.

“There are two Timbuktus. One is the administrative centre of the Sixth Region of the Republic of Mali… And then there is the Timbuktu of the mind — a mythical city in a Never-Never Land, an antipodean mirage, a symbol for the back of beyond or a flat joke. ‘He has gone to Timbuktu,’ they say, meaning ‘He is out of his mind’.”

— Bruce Chatwin, Anatomy of Restlessness

In her podcast, Gone to Timbuktu, author and journalist Sophy Roberts explores the art of travel, and the space between these two Timbuktus, with writers, poets, photographers and filmmakers. I have listened to the first episode, with Anthony Sattin, the author of Nomads: The Wanderers who Shaped Our World, and all I can say is that it is such a wondrous conversation, transporting me to a different world while harking back in my fundamental way of life. Sophy and Anthony (“Humans are not wired to live in four walls!”), you are brilliant, and this podcast is indispensable!

I have read Sophy’s book, The Lost Pianos of Siberia, and many of her travel articles, but one of my favourite pieces of her writing is something she wrote for photographer Bill Phelps. I interviewed Bill a couple of years ago and when he kindly sent me a New Year’s card and a photograph booklet, he also included this note that Sophy, whom he had more than once collaborated with, wrote about his work. Here is a part of it: “‘In the end, the bedrock of existence is not made up of family, or work, or what others say or think of you, but of moments like these when you are exalted by a transcendent power that is more serene than love. Life dispenses them parsimoniously: our feeble hearts could not stand more.’ These are the words of one of the great European travel writers of the 20th century, Nicolas Bouvier – words which I have pinned to my wall next to a Bill Phelps photograph. I wish I owned more. Bill’s images carry such intimacy and sincerity, you wonder how he manages to experience so many more transcendent moments than the rest of us. Then you encounter him in the field, as I have done in numerous collaborations, and you realise it’s because Bill is a photographer with more than a questioning eye: he strips the fat off the soul in images that speak to his profound capacity for empathy. His approach is as immersive and fluid as the water he loves. He sees light with the intuition and depth of an Old Master.” That’s the kind of amazing writer that Sophy Roberts is. And now I have her words pinned down on my own wall next to the Bill Phelps photo booklet.

To have now the opportunity to listen to Sophy and her no less incredible guests is a privilege for everyone who still gives a damn about culture, education and the art of travel, and has the courage to explore those two Timbuktus.

Bonus: For each episode, there is a listing of the authors and books discussed, which can be ordered from an independent bookshop.

Yohji Yamamoto filmed by Wim Wenders for “Notebook on Cities and Clothes”, 1989. Centre Pompidou

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.

Posted by classiq in Books, Culture, Film, Newsletter | | Comments Off on February Newsletter: Gone to Timbuktu, Yamamoto and The ‘59 Sound

Closer: Marie Trintignant in Claude Chabrol’s “Betty”

Marie Trintignant in Betty, 1992. CED Productions, Canal+


When we see Betty in the opening scene entering a shady bar, her disheveled face, the void in her look, the bags under her eyes show us a woman at a very low point in her life, yet her white Chanel-style deux-pièce immediately hints at the good life. We already ask ourselves who she is and what’s happened to her. She chain-smokes and binge-drinks and when she is picked up by someone pretending to be a doctor, he drives her to Versailles, to a bar called Le Trou (The Hole), another dingy place frequented by all sorts of strange characters. She keeps on smoking and drinking, deliriously harking back to the moment that brought her to this state – Chabrol doesn’t let in on very much, he doesn’t give us the whole picture, just Betty’s face in close-up and snippets of dialogue, on the recurring music of Jonasz, and then cutting from a beautiful, made-up face in the flashback to the wreck it’s become of it in the bar – the clothes however are the same. Marie Trintignant’s face becomes one incredible character. Eventually, a glamorous middle-aged woman, Laure (an Yves Saint Laurent-clad Stéphane Audran), steps in to save her from the doctor, who turns out to be a junky. Unable to bear the painful memories anymore, Betty passes out and Laure takes her to her suite in a luxurious hotel. When Betty wakes up, Laure offers her accommodation for as long as she needs it, taking her under her wing. In fragmentary flashbacks, Laure and the viewers slowly get to know who she is.

Marie Trintignant in Betty, 1992. CED Productions, Canal+


Chabrol has a strong stamp of individuality on his films. Hitchcockian and thriller impulses, shrewd humour, bourgeois mores… these are cinematic phrases that Chabrol prefers and which we encounter here as well. But through the character of Betty, closely inspired by Georges Simenon’s novel by the same name, and making the viewer see her story through her own eyes, the filmmaker throws the audience into the unknown.

We get to know that Betty married into wealth only to find out she was trapped in a world of domesticity by her handsome husband and his domineering mother. And as soon as she becomes pregnant with the couple’s first child, she is no longer seen for what she is, but just as the bearer, and then the mother, of her husband’s children. As a pregnant woman, she is advised by her family to stay in bed, and her mother-in-law and husband are always right there to watch over her. Even the role of mother is in name only, because the children are exclusively taken care of by the nanny: they are nursed, fed and only brought in to their parents for a good-night’s kiss. In the bourgeoisie world, the role of wife and mother is stifling. In fact, Betty had worn Guy (Yves Lambrecht), her husband, about her unruly nature, about the kind of libertine life she’s led, when he proposed to her. “You don’t understand,… that life, I enjoyed it,” she had told him. He said he understood and that they would start a new life together. She agreed to marry him, at first believing it could work, but soon realising she got trapped in an existence she had already felt she wasn’t cut out for and there was nothing she could do to change anything.

There are several shots that are incredible in establishing how disabled the bourgeoise role of a mother is: one is when Betty looks from her remote dinner table seat through the kitchen door where the children have their meal at the children’s table. Some of them are crying, yet no other adult seems to be aware of or bothered by that. Another moment is when the nanny brings the girls to the living room where Betty, Guy and his mother are, and when the older girl expresses to her mother her wish to stay a little longer with her parents, the mother-in-law steps in saying they should never give in to the children’s demands. Any close or prolonged contact between Betty and her children is forbidden. This realisation is so striking for Betty, that she becomes impassive to everything happening around her and takes refuge in drinking and carrying on affairs. It’s a return of sorts to her old life.

When she is caught in flagrante by her husband and mother-in-law, she is forced to sign a contract stating that she abandons her children and disappears from their lives. That is the moment that provokes her downfall, her inner turmoil reaching the highest depth, the moment before we meet her.

Betty, 1992. Directed by Claude Chabrol. CED Productions, Canal+


“I remember two long conversations with George Simenon that went on into the night,” Claude Chabrol recalled in the production notes that appeared during the theatrical release of Betty. “For Simenon, it was not our intelligence that proved the superiority of the ‘human animal’ (he loved this term). At this time – this was in the sixties – he was more fascinated with man’s survival instinct, a topic which greatly inspired him. It was during this time that he wrote Betty.” Betty’s thoughts turn from animal to social (when she marries and takes on the role of mother and wife), to moral and human (when she has remorses for sacrificing her daughters), then to animal again (when she resurfaces in the end), Chabrol explained in a commentary on the film. Betty gets away with her true nature. She is untamed. Her husband and her mother-in-law try to tame her, but they don’t succeed. Chabrol doesn’t try, he lets her be. Is she the victim of what Laure calls the “dead weight of society” or a monstrous and unworthy wife and mother? Chabrol doesn’t answer. Instead, he masterfully, through the very precise succession of the story, makes the viewer look a little closer and forbearing, through her own eyes, at Betty. And he does everything in his power to save her, even if it is at the expense of another woman.

Stéphane Audran and Marie Trintignant in Betty, 1992. CED Productions, Canal+

Stéphane Audran’s Laure is the one who lets Betty live. She is a former nurse, as she tells Betty, who, after being married to a doctor for twenty years, until his death, left her home in Lyon and retired to Versailles, where she lives in a grandiose hotel suite and frequents Le Trou, whose owner is her younger lover, Mario (Jean-François Garreaud). Laure dresses in Yves Saint Laurent, and I think her wardrobe could be well described by the words Marie Colmant and Gérard Lefort used in Libération, in 1991, for Saint Laurent’s latest collection: “There is not an ounce of bluff or showoff, not a line that doesn’t fall exactly where you least expect it, not a colour that is not a perfect red or faultless cobalt. In short, it’s cool, controlled, imperial.” She is still the tall, cool, stunning Stéphane Audran, with imperious looks and detached manner that dominated the earlier films of Chabrol, from Les Biches and La femme infidèle, to Le boucher and Juste avant la nuit (often dressed in Karl Lagerfeld or YSL).

But whereas in those films she used to be the unconventional burgeoise woman, the kind that men committed adultery or murder for, in Betty she is a lost soul, too, a woman who dedicated herself entirely to her husband and who has never found out who she is. Betty and Laure share their stories as they keep the hard liquor coming, but what Laure doesn’t realise is that Betty, by recalling and confessing in Laure her descent, she starts to build up the strength to resurface again. And what Laure doesn’t also realise is that she will be the final piece in the puzzle that will enable the undomesticated bourgeoisie young woman to be free.

Yves Lambrecht and Marie Trintignant in Betty, 1992. CED Productions, Canal+


Throughout the film, we often see Betty dressed in white (Gilles and Papy were the costumers for Marie Trintignant’s character). Sometimes it’s black and white, as if a reaffirmation of high-class elegance and status, but somehow the white always stands out. It’s white when we meet her, a philandering soul on the streets of Paris, it’s white when Guy proposes to her and she warns him about her tue nature and former life, it’s white when we see her with her daughters, warned not to give in and tend to them (that’s nanny’s business), and it’s white again when she leaves with Laure’s lover. It’s always white, but somehow different. Because there’s a striking contrast between her constraining two-piece suit, the only clothes we see her in in the present (everything else is in flashback) and the only clothes Laure sees her in, and the feminine, girly, flowing white dress she puts on when she leaves the hotel with Mario. She doesn’t wear that dress because it is a triumph of love over despair, but because it is a reaffirmation of the survival of her animal instinct. She hasn’t changed, she has just found a way to be what she wants to be.

Laure is wearing black when she sees Betty and Mario leave together from behind the curtains of her glamorous hotel room. “I love black because it affirms, designs, and styles. A woman in a black dress is a pencil stroke,” said Yves Saint Laurent. Dressed in black and just through body language – the stone look in her eyes from behind the curtains, discretely pulling the curtain – Laure pens the closure even before the film ends.


Betty, 1992. Directed by Claude Chabrol. CED Productions, Canal+


“In many of Simenon’s novels, the central mystery, and the one that is never completely resolved, is the human spirit,” Chabrol concluded. “This is consistent with his creation of Betty, the character and the novel: a human being to be explored, yet whose secrets could not be full known or understood.”

Immediately after Betty and Mario leave, Laure checks out of her hotel. We soon thereafter find out that she has suddenly died at her home in Lyon at the age of 49. The end credits roll on the background of a Betty wearing black, taking dead fish out of the aquarium in Mario’s bar. And now we remember the first moment Laure and Betty met in the bar, Laure pulling a chair to sit at Betty’s table, with her back at the aquarium, lending her a helping hand. Every time they were in the bar, there was a view of the aquarium. And we also remember the moment Betty recounted to Laure about Thérèse, a girl from her childhood that Betty looked up to. Thérèse was a little older and sexually initiated and Betty wanted to grow up faster and be just like her. “She was always in black, she only wore a black dress,” Betty had told Laure. We hear Chabrol’s own words narrate: “Laure had died because Betty had to survive. It was one or the other… And Betty had won.” Jonasz’s Je voulais te dire que je t’attends starts to play again as we are still trying to unfold the secrets of the human spirit.


Marie Trintignant and Jean-François Garreaud in Betty, 1992. CED Productions, Canal+



Ètude in black: Romy Schneider in Yves Saint Laurent in Innocents with Dirty Hands

”The process is the same. You build the character!”:
Interview with Avatar costume designer Deborah L. Scott

Bring back a sample of dirt: Costuming Once Upon a Time in the West

Posted by classiq in Film, Film costume | | Comments Off on Closer: Marie Trintignant in Claude Chabrol’s “Betty”

Read Instead… in Print

Read instead… in print is about a good book about cinema or filmmakers. No discursive, pretentious analyses, no verbose scrutiny. Because the idea is to invite you to read the book, not read about it here. But instead of using social media, I use my journal. Back to basics. Take it as a wish to break free of over-reliance on social media (even if it’s just for posting a photo of a good book) for presenting my work, cultural finds and interests. These are things to be enjoyed as stand-alone pieces in a more substantial and meaningful way than showing them in the black hole of Instagram thronged with an audience with a short attention span. This is also a look through my voluminous collection of books about film that I use as research in my adamant decision to rely less and less on the online and more on more on print materials.

“It takes a magnificent filmmaker to thoroughly corrupt an audience.”


Read instead…in print #19

Quentin Tarantino didn’t go to film school. But he went to the movies. He has been going to the movies from a very early age – “Quentin, I worry more about you watching the news. A movie’s not going to hurt you,” his mother said when Quentin asked her how came that she took him with her to see movies other parent weren’t allowing their children see. And now he has finally written a book about some of the films he grew up with. Movies from the 70s, the greatest film decade the American cinema has ever had. But these are not all movies you usually find on look-alike listings, but movies Tarantino was drawn to and appreciates from various reasons; they are his personal choices. Watching movies is a deeply personal experience. In this fake, politically correct, meritricious medium that cinema and society are struggling in at the moment, Tarantino has the guts (just like he does with his movies) to inspire to think by ourselves and watch every movie with an open mind and with our own eyes, to let ourselves be surprised, to look a little closer.

In Cinema Speculation, he observes, reflects, wonders, speculates. It is asking the questions, rather than answering them. Tarantino loves to talk about movies, characters, specifics, different scenes the way only a true film passionate does. Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker in complete control of his art, yet when he writes about his favourite films, he does it without the pretentiousness of the deep knowledge he masters. He gets the reader interested in the film somehow, without following a certain line. He carries you away, he expands your vision, he makes it fun and exciting. It’s a breath of fresh air, … vital, I might even add.



Read instead…in print #8: Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: Everything I hoped it would be and more

Read instead…in print #4: The Birds, by Camille Paglia

Posted by classiq in Books, Film, Read print | | Comments Off on Read Instead… in Print

Cate Blanchett Is the Lead, but Nina Hoss Is the First Violin in Tár

Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss in Tár, 2022. Focus Features


Tár tells the story of (fictional) renowned composer and conductor Lidya Tár, who, on the brink of recording the symphony of her life, has to face the consequences of her past actions. Tár is a wonderful piece of cinema, the way it is filmed, the way it takes its time to tell the story, the way it makes you part of this classical music world without demanding your speciality knowledge, the way Hildur Guðnadóttir‘s music and lack of music guide you through… Everything forms this perfect synergy. It’s probably the film of last year that made me feel the most that immersive power of cinema while watching it. This is a film that takes the audience seriously. Surprising, free in its thoughts, precise in execution. Cate Blanchett is remarkable as Tár. She is Tár. Domineering antiheroine, brilliant, intense musician, ruthless and authoritative in her pursuit of power. But the surprise came from somewhere else: Nina Hoss. Not because I was surprised by her performance – I’ve long admired her films – but because realising she was in the film, I hoped this film would surprise and take you on a ride without your knowing much what to expect.

Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss in Tár, 2022. Focus Features


It has much to do with Nina Hoss’s screen presence. I love watching Nina Hoss on screen. Her presence is magnetic, her face a mystery. Of a scintillating quietude, of a pensive livelihood. There is always a depth you search for in her characters. You won’t get all your answers, you have to dig deeper, you have to go back and watch it again.

I first saw Nina Hoss in Homeland, and when I did, I had the same feeling I had when I watched her in Tár. Clare Danes was the lead there, and she was amazing, but it was Nina Hoss that brought something else to the plot, a little bit of the unknown. Then I discovered Christian Petzold’s films, many of them with Nina Hoss as protagonist. And what a revelation she was! Petzold both writes and directs his movies, and he is very good at creating microcosms with his films. In Barbara, she is a doctor who works in a hospital in a small provincial town, in 1980. This is her punishment for attempting to emigrate to the West. She used to work in the biggest hospital in Berlin. Now she is kept under constant surveillance, secluded in the country, with nobody to trust. She does her job systematically, patiently, and she waits. We are waiting, too, patiently, as the tension builds. You can’t see past her inscrutable face. She never shows fear, or her inner turmoil. “It was a role where I knew there would be no possibility of talking much, to explain her,” Nina Hoss revealed in an interview for Film Comment after the film’s release, in 2012. “I would have to do a different kind of work, to make it interesting, her being silent, but always being present. I had to create a backstory. It was very crucial for this part, that I knew why she tries to hide her true self. I thought she was [originally] a very lively, positive person.” You don’t see but feel the threat she faces through the subtleness of her fear. And that’s a pretty mighty feel to project on screen.

In Phoenix (2014), Nelly (Nina Hoss) is a German-Jewish cabaret singer who survives the concentration camp but her face gets disfigured and has to undergo reconstructive surgery, then tries to return to her old life in Berlin. Her husband, who is the one who might have turned her in, doesn’t recognise her and “hires” her as his wife so that he can claim her inheritance. Christian Petzold skillfully merges suspense, revenge, trauma, desperation, destruction, and, under his direction, a subject that has been (much too) often approached in cinema, upends convention, and that has much to do with the way it is told and with the way Nina Hoss carries the film, a wounded human being in the aftermath of a disaster who has the grace to pull off that sublime ending scene. And to think that a perfect ending is not that easy to come by in cinema…

Nina Hoss in Tár, 2022. Focus Features


In Tár, Nina Hoss plays Sharon, Lydia Tár’s partner. They share both a personal and a professional life together. Sharon is the concertmaster in the Berlin orchestra conducted by Tár. It is the most sought after position in a philharmonic (something I wasn’t aware of but subsequently found out from an interview with Nina Hoss in Vanity Fair), even more than than that of a conductor – and it’s even more unlikely to be held by a woman. The concertmaster is the true musical leader, the conductor’s translator to and liaison with the orchestra, the one with very wide responsibilities, the one who must know when to act with authority and when to act as the orchestra’s voice. Not only that, but this is a position that is constantly challenged, everyone is after it, so one must always prove one’s worth, as Nina Hoss further explained.

Sharon is the first violin. And the fact that she fills that chair says a lot about her character even if it isn’t articulated in words – and although the viewer may not be familiar with the exact workout of an orchestra, as I wasn’t, the importance of her position is obvious. And it tells just about everything about Sharon and her tenacity and skills. Restrained and calculated, she is the steely enabler. Sharon knows and understands more than she lets us see. Yet, she makes sure she is seen. She does not have much on screen time, and yet, with just a gaze or a raised eyebrow, she exerts power over everyone, including Lydia. She knows, and lets it happen. She is the key element of the film. Sharon and Lydia are not that different. Behind a powerful woman, there is a more powerful woman.

Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss in Tár, 2022. Focus Features



Very, very natural and herself: Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby

Talking film costume: Nina Hoss in Barbara

“The process is the same. You build the character!”:
Interview with Avatar costume designer Deborah L. Scott

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