Essential Minimalism: Interview with Illustrator Sandra Suy

Sandra Suy illustration

 
Soft yet striking. Spare, sharp drawings that unveil fluent ideas and the intent of the performance. Delicate and refined yet graphic and incisive lines that render strong female portraits. Muted shades accentuated by bursts of colour. A flowing minimalism. The illustrations of Barcelona-born artist Sandra Suy have the skill to show what the subject is about without going into great detail. Her natural style evokes both a timeless elegance and a modern sensitivity, creating interest by balancing so well classic beauty with an edgy energy, simplicity with texture. Sandra Suy has collaborated with Chloé, Adidas, Zara, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour, among others, and whenever her drawing verges on other cultural areas, her artwork becomes even more interesting.

In our interview, Sandra talks about why she changed paths from fashion design to illustration and its place in today’s fashion world, about why she currently prefers digital to traditional media, about the image makers she looks up to and names some of her favourite films.
 

Sandra Suy illustration for Chloé

 
 

”I try to express the maximum
with the minimal visual information.”

 
 
What is your earliest drawing memory?

I remember myself drawing since I was a little girl… my textbooks were always decorated.

Why fashion illustration? How did it start?

I always liked to draw, and I was very attracted to the world of fashion and design. I studied fashion design, but what really appealed to me was the creative and artistic part and not so much the confection of garments itself. Later I discovered that fashion illustration was the profession that offered what I liked most, both things combined.

Your words remind me of Joe Eula, who was Halston’s creative director in the 1970s and whose sharp eye captured the essence of whatever he was drawing, and the simplicity and spare lines of his illustrations aroused from a need to seek the essence of a garment, to express it in a form that stood up to his ideal. How important do you find this crossover element in fashion illustration? Did the fact that you studied fashion design play a big role in developing your style?

Thanks!
I don’t really think so… I think it is a personal taste, a way of interpreting the world. In every artistic and creative expression there are the most minimalist or baroque tendencies, depending on the creative’s taste. Although, surely, the fact that I studied fashion has affected my way of approaching the illustration of garments, but I’m not sure in what way.

How would you describe your illustrative style?

I try to express the maximum with the minimal visual information. Minimalist?
 

Sandra Suy illustration

 
Do you have a preferred medium?

Yes. Digital. But I miss traditional media sometimes. I’m looking forward to using the brushes more often…

So you use technology a lot in your work?

Today it is a big part of my creative process. Technology helps a lot, especially since there is a big difference in the workflow at the level of time spent, especially when you are working with a client, it takes much less time to make changes and speeds up the work.

How challenging is for an artist to do commissioned work? How does it relate to your personal, freelance work?

Sometimes it is quite difficult to keep a balance and keep your style in a commisioned work. The needs of the campaign or the client’s point of view collides with your own style and sometimes it is a challenge to reach a midpoint where everyone is happy with the result. And sometimes it is really easy.

Could you tell me a little about your creative process on any given illustration?

First you have to know what to draw. This may be given by a client, for example, or you just want to draw something for pleasure. In any case, there is a stage of research or inspiration to know the creative direction to take. Once I have decided the inspiration, I make a quick sketch to see if the idea works well. The next step is to work on the final illustration.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Not really. I’m a little bit chaotic, so usually my sketches are spread over different surfaces and supports. I am not proud of it.
 

Stella McCartney portrait by Sandra Suy

 

What qualities separate illustration from photography? I am asking you this because today everybody thinks they can take a photo with their iPhone.

Well, I think that are two different ways to express an artistic point of view… The big difference is that, in an illustration, the illustrator usually decides everything, she/he is the makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, art director… In photography, the control of the entire production is not always assumed by the photographer.

What does an illustrator bring new to fashion? What is the biggest challenge? David Downton said that “fashion illustration is really about absorbing someone else’s creativity and reinterpreting it”. How would you describe the relationship between illustration and fashion, which I, for one, consider much more symbiotic than that of photography and fashion?

I think it is a good definition. Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s fashion or not, the illustrator reinterprets through his artistic vision whatever the object of inspiration is… in our case (fashion illustrators) is fashion, but on other occasions it can be flowers, or any other inspiration as the subject of reinterpretation.

Have any fashion illustrators, or image makers in general, influenced your work?

René Gruau, Egon Schiele, Ramón Casas, Japanese aesthetic in general, Kenneth Paul Block, and many more.
 

Illustration by Sandra Suy

 
 

”The big difference is that, in an illustration,
the illustrator usually decides everything, she/he is
the makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, art director…”

 
 

Sandra Suy illustrations

 

Any favourite designers?

This is very difficult! Alexander Mcqueen, Miuccia Prada, Schiaparelli, Alessandro Michele, Rei Kawakubo, Margiela…

Gaby Aghion had a visionary mind and took a revolutionary road, dreaming and shaping up a world of fashion for the woman of the present. The kind of femininity Chloé projects is chic, practical, delicate, romantic, young and free, and beautiful on the outside, but also strong, believable, independent and confident, and even more beautiful on the inside. Your Chloé illustrations perfectly captured that feeling. How was your collaboration with the brand?

Surprisingly, it was very easy working with them, they gave me absolute creative freedom to interpret the essence of the brand, and it was a pleasure and I feel very lucky to have had this kind of experience.

Do you have a dream subject? What is it that makes you want to draw something or someone?

I really want to experiment more with the abstract and traditional media.
 

Sandra Suy illustration

 

Fashion illustration has been in high demand lately and it can often be seen in collaborations between designers and illustrators, but will it ever be able to recalibrate forces with fashion photography in the high-end magazines as it once was?

I think the two disciplines are complementary, it is possible that there will come a time when they have the same representation within magazines, but it is difficult to know.

In this fast-fashion, fast-living world, there seems to be an increased interest in the hand-made, in craftsmanship, in locally-made products, in mindful shopping, in things with true value. How do you see the future of fashion?

It seems that people are becoming aware that “less quantity and more quality” is better. There is much more ecological awareness and people are more aware when it comes to consuming .. All that will have an impact on the fashion industry in one way or another, consumer habits are changing.

In this time and age, what do you wish people appreciated more?

Maybe go back to the real world and real “timings”. We are all connected to the internet, social media screens, the virtual world, the immediate information… that makes us disconnect from the offline experience.

I am a big movie lover and I would like to ask you if you happen to share an interest in cinema (in regard to your Grace Kelly and La dolce vita illustrations). Any all time favourites?

There are so many! Blade Runner, any of Sofia Coppola’s, In the Mood for Love (this is a classic of the aesthetic), Her, The Handmaiden, Where the Wild Things Are
 

La Dolce Vita illustration by Sandra Suy

 

Sandra Suy on Instagram @sandrasuyillustration | Website: sandrasuy.com

 
 
More stories: The Theatrics of Tennis: Interview with Artist Març Rabal / In Conversation with Illustrator Marianna Gefen / Interview with Illustrator Eliza Southwood

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Renaissance Woman and Dance Hall Days in the Alienated City

Fashion, music and attitude in To Live and Die in L.A.

William Petersen in ”To Live and Die in L.A.”, 1985 | SLM Production Group, United Artists

 

Special Service agent Richard Chance (William Petersen) approaches both his job and his life with reckless abandon, throwing caution to the wind whether he is chasing a criminal or base-jumping when he is off-duty. His badge and gun give him license not only to consider himself above the law, but above life and death, too. He and his partner, Jim Hart (Michael Greene), are on the trail of a group of counterfeiters in Los Angeles. When Hart is murdered two days before his retirement, Chance throws himself into hunting down the forger Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe), even if this may very well make him a criminal, too. His new partner, John Vukovich (John Pankow), is at first uneasy about Chance’s addiction to danger and living fast, but he is eventually caught in this vicious ride, and in the end, through an inspired, unexpected twist, Vukovich assumes the persona of Chance.

In To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), no character is entirely bad or good, everyone has a counterfeit motive. The distinction between good and evil, between law and crime, between duty and art tends to be eroded. It is the neo-noir, and neon-noir, attitude of William Friedkin’s anti-hero, as the filmmaker goes for the darker side of each character. We all have it in ourselves.

Los Angeles is one of the main characters of the story, and is depicted as a disquieting and faceless place, a city of towering silhouettes and factory chimneys dissolving into a misty red glow, of nameless streets and gritty neighborhoods, of paved-over riverbed and cars and highways and no souls, resembling more a waste land than a city of stars, “with no landmarks, no iconic skylines or neighborhoods,” as Friedkin noted in his memoir, The Friedkin Connection. Inspired by Gerald Petievich’s novel, who aroused Friedkin’s interest because of the “surrealist nature of the life of a Secret Service agent”, this is a film with an extraordinary atmospheric density and a dark sensibility, with unexpected things in it, uncompromising, with no guarantees of plot line or character life span.

 

From the top: 1.Renaissance Woman: Debra Feuer in ”To Live and Die in L.A.”, 1985; 2.Los Angeles, a character in itself in the film; 3.William Petersen approaches both work and life with reckless abandon | SLM Production Group, United Artists

 

The characters are observed from afar, too. Their private lives are reduced to rendezvous in neon-lit clubs and bars, or having sex in steely, impersonal spaces. We never see Chance at home, we only see him visiting his informant, parolee Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel), whom he casually has sex with, too. That may be her apartment (Friedkin let Darlanne hang out in there and even take part in decorating it in order for her to get a feel of the place), but we don’t get to see her son, whom she briefly mentions as living with his father. We never get to see any family member of any of the characters, every personal detail is kept aside, Friedkin forgoes any kind of interiority. Bodies may be shown in full display, but there is no feeling of closeness. Everything we see is a front, and beyond these whisper-thin surfaces, there is only darkness. Relationships are interchangeable, people are replaceable, it is a world out of control, a counterfeit world. Living in L.A. is portrayed as being “about counterfeit emotions, counterfeit money, counterfeit structure of the law, counterfeit relationships,” in Friedkin’s own words, “it’s a metaphor for a lot of what I’ve seen in the years that I’ve been at work in Los Angeles.”

There is nothing kitschy, and it could easily have been, about the art-heavy sequences (Masters has an artistic side which is based on German painter Rainer Fetting, whose art we see in the film, and he’s also passionate about avant-garde dance performances), the settings with flourishing lights, the synthesized soundtrack, and even the neon-hued opening credits. Instead, they all paint a world that is hypnotic, mystical and overpowering.

According to William Friedkin, the main reason he chose Wang Chung to compose the soundtrack was because the band stood out “from the rest of contemporary music… What they finally recorded has not only enhanced the film, it has given it a deeper, more powerful dimension.” They wrote and recorded every song of the soundtrack within two weeks, except for two songs, “Dance Hall Days”, the title song, and “Wait”, which Friedkin specifically required from the band’s previous album, Points on the Curve. It’s a gripping and exhilarating soundtrack that only enhances the magnetic and unreal mood of the film, a great example of how a film evokes a feeling without constantly reminding you that it is not reality that you are watching, and that’s even more enticing.
 

Debra Feuer in ”To Live and Die in L.A.”, 1985 | SLM Production Group, United Artists

 

Fourteen years after The French Connection marked the beginning of a new era of gritty, urban police dramas revolving around hard-bitten, morally ambiguous cops, Friedkin left the streets of New York and went for “something more in the unisex style of Los Angeles in the 1980s” in To Live and Die in L.A. He wanted a “feminine sensibility” for the film. Debra Feuer, who played Bianca Torres, the lover of Willem Dafoe’s artist/counterfeiter, recounted how everything she wore in the film came from her own wardrobe. Friedkin wanted her to wear the clothes he saw her in whenever she arrived on set. And it shows. How about that for an authentic feel of the time and character? The film is so much imbedded in that time, in the rebellious angst of the 80s, with its style more flea market than high fashion.

Debra’s, and therefore Bianca’s, style may very well be a mix of hand-me-downs and cast-offs, loose fitting sweaters and blouses with rolled-up sleeves, high-rise fitted jeans, biker leather jackets, cowboy boots and messenger bags. It was the supremacy of the DIY style. It was the height of individuality. This is not about power dressing, as in the style of the boardroom as status symbol of women running big business, one of the characteristics of 1980s fashion. It is about an empowered attitude that does not need brand clothes to stand out, it is about style subversion, a rugged edge to fashion, a riotous energy born in the streets.
 

William Petersen and John Pankow in ”To Live and Die in L.A.”, 1985 | SLM Production Group, United Artists

 
Style is something deeply personal and everyone holds his/her own. Richard Chance’s addiction to thrill and danger shows in his clothes: broken-in jeans, biker jacket, unbuttoned tucked-in shirts, varsity sweater, plain t-shirts, a green parka, sneakers and scuffed work boots, clothes that must afford him freedom of movement and of the mind. He packs a lot into his life (and I don’t mean clothing), as if sensing he won’t be around for too long. There is a sequence that I found very funny, clothing-wise. When he goes to see the prosecutor to ask him to bend the rules in his pursuit of catching Masters, he wears a tie. It is so out of tune with the shirt and leather jacket that it’s clear that the only message he wants to project is that he doesn’t conform even when he pretends to do it. He’s fearless and defiant. It’s in his nature. And it’s so powerful that his new partner Vukovich comes to embody it, too, making a final and definitive shift from ill-fitted blazers and unflattering trousers to leather and denim, and to an aura of danger.
 
Editorial sources: The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir, by William Friedkin / interviews and featturets with William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, Debra Feuer, John Pankow, Jack Hues and Nick Feldman of Wang Chung, and other cast and crew members of the film available on the special features on the Blu-ray edition of the movie released by Shout! Factory
 
 
More stories: The Art of Film Poster: Interview with Illustrator Tony Stella / Gloria: Gena Rowlands Means Business Dressed in Emanuel Ungaro / Kim Basinger’s Individualistic Minimalism in Nine 1/2 Weeks

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The Eloquent Screen: The Sound Sequences that Made Me Want to Re-Watch Three Films


 
In The Eloquent Screen, Gilberto Perez writes about film moments. Isn’t this what a film lover’s cinematic memory is comprised of? Moments rather than full-length features, details rather than genres, sounds and songs that take us on a journey. He explores the ways that lead to a seamless transition between filmmaker and audience by bringing into discussion such a varied film work, from Chaplin, Murnau and Renoir to Kiarostami, Malick and Hitchcock. I have singled out three films I want to rewatch after reading how Perez portrayed them focusing on one particularity: soundtracking, be it music, natural sound or voice-over.
 

”Toni”, 1935 | Les Films Marcel Pagnol

 
Toni, 1935, directed by Jean Renoir

Toni begins on that train, where migrant workers are coming to work in the south of France and singing songs of the home land they left behind. They pause to have a drink from a bottle of wine they pass among them, and we suddenly hear the loud sound of the train whistle and cut to a long shot of the train crossing the bridge leading to the station at Les Martigues. The sweet human sound of the folk songs contrasts with the harsh industrial sound recorded on the spot and a representation of the experience of peasants arriving in an alien land where they are to do alien industrial work. […] In keeping with Renoir’s preference for direct sound, there is no background music in Toni. The music is provided by the immigrants themselves singing their folk songs, which recur throughout the movie like the refrain of a ballad. […] Toni brings together and bounces off each other the modern form of realism and the traditional form of a ballad – which is the way the immigrants would tell the story themselves.”

Jean Renoir made Toni in 1934, before the emergence of the Italian neo-realism (Luchino Visconti was his assistant on Toni and the French filmmaker gave him the book The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain, which would lead Visconti to directing his first film, the first neo-realist film, Ossessione, in 1943) and Renoir, nor I, did not understand how the Italians could dub the sound in the studio after shooting the picture on location, arguing that he preferred a sound that was technically bad but authentic. Using the music of the times, along with the direct sound of the outdoors where it was filmed, is one of the elements that portray a convincing image of that time and bear the mark of the place, a place that both unites and divides the characters and which is felt through language, food, dress, custom and music. André Bazin said about Toni that it was not the best or the most perfectly constructed of Renoir’s prewar movies, but it was the film “in which Renoir pushed his personal and cinematic quest the farthest”, which makes it all the more eloquent in view of the subsequent development of neorealism and of cinematic realism.
 

”Badlands”, 1973 | Warner Brothers

 
Badlands, 1973, directed by Terrence Malick

“Visually as well as verbally Malick is an exact craftsman. And verbally as well as visually he liberates his films from the tyranny of the plot line. Voice-over is the device he uses to embroider events with musings and reflections and also to fill in narrative gaps, releasing the images from their usual subordination to the story so that they can flourish in splendid autonomy.”

The use of voice-over is a characteristic of Malick’s, along with other distinctive elements in his movies, like the poetic approach to narrative and character, the innovative editing, the collision of human suffering or violence with natural beauty, and Badlands (1973) was the film that introduced us to the filmmaker’s unique talent. It was his particular film-making style that made a story that had been told many times, of two lovers who are criminals and are pursued across America, an original. In her autobiography, Sissy Spacek said: “Nothing has ever really matched the magic of discovery we all felt that summer in the Colorado desert, when we learned how a film could be a living, breathing, collaborative work of art.”
 

”In the Mood for Love”, 2000 | Block 2 Pictures, Jet Tone Production, Paradis Films

 
In the Mood for Love, 2000, directed by Wong Kar-Wai

“This is a film of fragments rather than long takes, of repetition rather than progression, elliptical, off-centered, oblique. I found it and still find it to be very sexy in the way it dwells on the aroused possibility, the sustained expectations of the mood rather than the fact of love. This is melodrama with the accent on melody rather than drama – particularly a recurring waltz accompanying slow-motion images in a transformation of ordinary movements into a kind of mating dance. […] This is a film about the promise rather than the fulfillment of love, the promise of happiness that for Stendhal defined beauty.”

In the Mood for Love depicts sensuality through light, colour, space and music alone – that haunting, recurring refrain of Shigeru Umebayashi’s Yumeji’s Theme. It is the things that remain unworded and that are only grasped by sight and sound that say more. It evokes the essence of romantic love, while keeping everything wonderfully ambiguous. Wong Kar-Wai said in the book-length interview with John Powers that he designed the soundtrack of the film, from music to ambience, taking into consideration that in a neighborhood like that, you would hear Beijing opera and Shanghainese opera, and that he re-created the soundtrack of his childhood, hiring retired radio broadcasters to re-record radio programs and weather reports like they used to do and he conducted the soundtrack of the film like he was a radio DJ from the 60s. It is about the mood of the 1960s of Wong Kar-Wai’s childhood. Isn’t film a multi-sensory experience, isn’t it more about mood and feeling than fact?

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François Truffaut’s Heroines

Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jacqueline Bisset and François Truffaut in ”La nuit américaine”, 1973 | Les Films du Carrosse, Produzione Intercontinentale Cinematografica

 
Cinema is a woman’s art, François Truffaut used to say, and the great moments in cinema involve “the convergence of the gifts of a director and those of an actress who is being directed by him.” Just look at Jeanne Moreau in Jules et Jim and you will realise that that was one of the great moments in cinema as well – the beauty and happiness and energy of a director filming his actress! In his films, it’s his feminine characters who are more dynamic, more enterprising, it’s them who direct events. It’s them he wants to get close to and his close-ups, much more often than when filming men, show that. Even in Tirez sur le pianiste, the two gangsters who kidnap Charlie (Charles Aznavour) talk only about women. One of them even says that his father died in a car accident because “he turned his head after every woman (…) one of them must have had her skirt too short, he didn’t take his eyes off of her and was run over by a car.” And just like that, we are introduced to the precursor of Charles Denner in L’Homme qui aimait les femmes. The male characters in François Truffaut’s movies, just like Truffaut, love women. In his films, he avoided political or social concerns to focus on love and relationships, many times concentrating on character rather than plot and stimulating interest through suspense. Love was the subject of subjects for Truffaut, but it had to have something distinctive about it, never involving general consensus, never packed with artificial problems. An ardent Alfred Hitchcock admirer, Truffaut regularly played with the suspense repertoire, but parted company with Hitchcock in key moments, because François Truffaut’s cinema and style are all his own.

“I was attracted to his world, I think, a world in which women figure importantly usually,” Jacqueline Bisset, who starred in La nuit américaine, told Film Talk. “They are important is his stories and as a woman you feel that. Children are also important, so you feel the sensitivity. His dialogues are so marvellous, so fresh, so personal, cynical at times, all kinds of points of view, even if you look at Jules et Jim [1962] today, you can still recognize all of that. When I was a child I didn’t have lots of media, so when I saw one of his films I let it sit in my mind, it filled a large space with things I didn’t know about. I don’t know picking on any film nowadays when there’s so much media – it just bombards you, whether you can pick up things in the same way.” It is the magic of cinema that Truffaut believed in and made us believe in it, too, even when he made a film about making films, La nuit américaine, seemingly peeling away layers of acting and craft. Much of the mystery and fascination remains. Just as the recurrent question in his films: “Are women magic?” He regularly, eloquently demythologizes this idea, and, still, he goes back to it in almost every movie. The fascination is permanent and vital.
 

Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre in ”Jules et Jim”, 1962 | Les Films du Carrosse, Sédif Productions

 
Jeanne Moreau (Catherine) in Jules et Jim, 1962

In Jules et Jim, Truffaut wanted to depict something films had never done before: showing a woman who loves two men simultaneously, all her life. And he wanted to do it in a way in which he would keep the film from being typecast into an existing film style. Which he did with exceptional flair: calling it a love triangle would not be quite accurate, because there is a true friendship among the three of them, such freshness, simplicity and naturalness, and the feeling of the eternal present in the relationship of Jules and Jim and Catherine, somehow “the ideal image of romantic life, minus the cruelty brought about by the desire of possession that leads to jealousy”, as Jeanne Moreau explained in a comment about the film. You don’t judge Catherine and you don’t take any sides, because as Jim says to Jules, “she is an apparition for all men, but perhaps not a woman one can have for oneself.” Catherine does not cheat on anyone, she is free and open, but she is ready to punish anyone who lies.

“I believe, just like you do, that in love, the couple is not the ideal formula. You wanted to build something better, refusing hypocrisy, you wanted to invent love. But pioneers have to be humble and selfishless. No, you have to face it, Catherine, we have failed,” says Jim. Catherine is one of those Truffaut heroines who don’t like to be read or judged. Truffaut said that the character “wants to live in the same manner as a man, but that is only a particularity of her personality, and doesn’t represent a feminist attitude or a form of protest.” In fact, Truffaut later admitted that he would have been embarrassed to have made Jules et Jim during the time of the Women’s Liberation Movement. He said he would have been troubled by the similarities that have occurred between his story, in which a woman is queen, and the actions promoted at present by the MLF. Long gone are the days of pure, independent cinema, freed of social and political factors.

Catherine is admired, not loved. Truffaut didn’t seek popularity with his characters. But his film depends heavily on the luminous femininity of Jeanne Moreau, as her character Catherine embarks on a dangerous liaison with bohemian best friends Jules and Jim (Oskar Werner and Henri Serre). Inquisitive, spontaneous, iconoclastic and capricious, the free-spirited Moreau refuses to be understood and she slips between affection and cruelty in her bid to live for a moment forever on the verge of being snatched away. “Her qualities as an actress and as a woman made Catherine real before our eyes, made her plausible, crazy, possessive, passionate, but above all, adorable,” said the director about Jean Moreau, whom he was in love with at the time of making Jules et Jim. “Through me, François learned about women, and through him, I learned about cinema,” Moreau would confess.

Catherine is intensely feminine and sexually provocative even when she disguises herself as Thomas, surprising herself too of how she gets away with wearing men’s clothes and a mustache in a scene of shared dandyism. It was the character’s tomboy fashion that became iconic. The French New Wave invented a whole new cinema style, from experimenting with new film form, to costume approach, embracing an openness to seize whatever happened during filming and using it in the film. As Jeanne Moreau said in an interview, “I was at that age where one lives very egocentrically; I saw it as the chance of a lifetime a chance to escape the ‘star’ style… all of a sudden we were filming in the street with very little makeup, costumes you found yourself. No one was telling me anymore ‘you have circles under your eyes, your face is lopsided’, suddenly it was life.” A lot of the clothes Catherine is wearing in the film, especially the modern clothes she wears after the war (the oversized cardigans and striped sweaters – there are stripes of every kind in Catherine’s wardrobe: from mariniere tops to a single stripe detail around the neckline or sleeve edges of a sweater -, the pleated skirts, the suede mid-calf boots, the espadrilles, the preppy checkered skirts and ties with white shirts, the newsboy cap), belonged to Jeanne. It’s so effortless, but let’s not forget that the dandy woman loves showing off her most hidden feminine side. It’s the male/female puzzle that so much fascinated in those days as it does today.
 

Delphine Seyrig in ”Baisers volés”, 1968 | Les Films du Carrosse, Les Productions Artistes Associés

 

Delphine Seyrig (Fabienne Tabard) in Baisers volés, 1968

“I was thinking of Delphine Seyrig for Baisers volés. The role was written for her. […] Part of the role depended upon the glamour she had gained from her role in L’Année dernière à Marienbad; my film had to have an actress who had made that earlier film – it couldn’t be anyone else.” In Alain Resnais’ film, Delphine is wearing Chanel and the baroque decors (the filming took place at two castles outside of Munich, Nymphenburg and Amalienburg) served as an impressive frame for the elegance and exactitude of Chanel’s dresses, which, in turn, played a crucial role in capturing the restrained passion of A (Delphine Seyrig) but also to piece together a sense of time in a story that constantly misses reality and imagination. Delphine’s wardrobe is so sophisticated, yet so light in details: layers of tulle, wisps of chiffon, delicate lace and dramatic feathers (those sensational white feathery peignoir and black cape), as if especially created to drift unnoticed through the sumptuous corridors and gilded rooms and the architectural, majestic gardens in Resnais’ unconventional and stirring movie. It is in fact a wardrobe that evokes a modern, timeless allure, as Resnais did not want Delphine to wear costumes specifically created for the film. And that, designing clothes that appealed to every woman, Coco Chanel could do better than anyone else.

Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses) is about learning to love, shot with a comical and melancholy tone, with enough acting improvisation which reinforced the unpredictable quality of the scenes. We meet Delphine’s Fabienne Tabard as she enters in the middle of the night the shoe store where Antoine Doinel works because she is in the mood for a pair of Chanel shoes. She wears Chanel, naturally, throughout the film, just as she has in Last Year at Marienbad. And that’s how Doinel discovers this glamorous dream apparition, a graceful silhouette in a black dress wrapped in a white fur and trying on a shoe. She presents herlsef as Mrs. Tabard, the owner’s wife. The inaccessibility occurs. But Truffaut wants to demythologize the concept of “magical woman”. Antoine places her on a pedestal, and when he is invited to her house for lunch, he gets uncomfortable and spills a cup of coffee and runs away, as he always does when he is uncomfortable. But she steps down from that pedestal, goes to his house and joins him in bed. “I am not an apparition, I am a woman. […] For example, this morning, before coming here, I dressed up, I powdered my nose… I made up my eyes and .. crossing Paris, I realised all women do the same thing, for their own pleasure or out of politeness… You say I am exceptional. That’s right, I am, all women are exceptional, everyone in their own way, you are exceptional, too… Your fingerprints are unique… Do you know that? You are unique. We both are unique, unique and irreplaceable.” Unique yet accessible, that could describe perfectly well Coco Chanel’s own style philosophy.

Truffaut admitted he cast Seyrig on account of her reputation, but in a comic way, something she had never attempted but was perfectly capable of delivering. It is the Léaud-Seyrig couple that makes one laugh, because there is indeed an enormous contrast between her and him. And yet… “Moments in which one shouldn’t be afraid to linger – like Delphine Seyrig in Jean-Pierre Léaud’s bedroom, for instance. She can take her time, allow silences to occur – I know that we are going to listen to her.” And we do, because she speaks a tough and profound truth, but which Truffaut had the skill to present as lighthearted.
 

Jeanne Moreau in ”La mariée était en noir”, 1968 | Les Films du Carrosse, Les Productions Artistes Associés, Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica

 

Jeanne Moreau (Julie Kohler) in La mariée était en noir, 1968

Having declined Mike Nichol’s invitation to play Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), Jeanne Moreau reunited with François Truffaut in this homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Moreau, as Julie Kohler, a widow wreaking vengeance on the five men linked to the killing of her husband on their wedding day, eschews tragedy and takes Truffaut’s advice to play the character “like a skilled worker with a job to do, conscientious and obstinate”. Moreau impressed Hitchcock with her performance, who wished she had given poison victim Coral (Michel Bouquet) a pillow “so that he could die with more comfort”.

The Bride Wore Black is actually a film about love that is grounded in a pure feeling, because, for Julie, it involves a love from the past. She herself, on the screen, incarnates a kind of living death. She lives on after her husband only for the sake of avenging him,” Truffaut explained. “I stayed awake at night counting the minutes and seconds that separated me from the moment when I would see him again,” is Julie Kohler’s final confession.

There is no emotion, no guilt in her, and you are not appalled by her actions, because they are part of a necessary plan. And nothing deters her from her goal. Truffaut wanted no artifice, he wanted Jeanne to play the role simply, in a manner that would render her actions believable and human. “No laugh, no smile, no sulking, no bitter expression. I wanted her face to be neither open, nor closed, but normal, determined. I asked her to act without any flirtations, like a man, a man who is thinking about a job he needs to get done. I wanted Jeanne Moreau to remind one less of a goddess of revenge than of someone who is purposeful and efficient. I asked her to act like a skilled craftsman.”

Throughout the film, despite the title, The Bride Wore Black, Julie wears black as well as white (her costumes were fashioned by her ex-lover Pierre Cardin), and Truffaut explained that by dressing her only in black and white in a colour film, she gave the impression that “rather than entering into the setting or leaving from it, one would say that she simply appears or disappears.” We never see her arrive or leave. She is like an apparition, but her presence is less dreamlike and more shocking, foreseeing the worst. White as a validation of her absolute motives, black as a testimony of her preordained fate rather than a punishment for her actions. This duality comes in full play in the sequence where she comes after Fergus (Charles Denner), her fifth victim. He is an artist and she goes to his studio to pose for him as his model. He asks her to dress as Diana the Huntress, in a white dress, with a bow and arrow. Goddess? Huntress? Both. But dressed like that, she’s only playing a role. She doesn’t need a disguise, because she has come dressed in a white dress with a black pattern resembling a grabbing fateful hand (image above).
 

Catherine Deneuve and Jean Paul Belmondo in ”La sirène du Mississippi”, 1969 | Les Films du Carrosse, Les Productions Artistes Associés

 

Catherine Deneuve (Marion Vergano) in La sirène du Mississippi, 1969

François Truffaut attributed part of the failure of La Sirène du Mississippi (the film was poorly received) to the difficulty he had persuading the public to accept an actor like Jean Paul Belmondo in the role of a defeated, desperate man: “It’s not hard to understand what shocked the Western world. La Sirène shows a man who is weak (despite his looks) captivated by a woman who is strong (despite her appearance).” What did Truffaut do? He switched the male and female roles, imagining Catherine as “a boy, a hoodlum who’d been through hard times”, and Jean Paul as “a young girl who was expecting everything from marriage”. Catherine’s Marion is an orphan, a prostitute, accomplice to murder and attempts murder. She is streetwise, cynical, an usurper. Jean Paul’s Louis Mahé, a plantation owner on Reunion Island, is rich but naïve, trusting and indifferent to his wealth, still a boy.

The film was based on William Irish’s novel “Waltz into Darkness”, but Truffaut felt he had to bring it to contemporary times, precisely because gender roles had begun to interplay, and because the contrasts between the good and the bad were considerably reduced. The villain was not entirely bad and the victim wasn’t entirely good anymore, there are much more understandable, regardless of their flaws and mistakes, things were not black and white anymore, they had become grey. It is again a love story. The story of a man who marries a woman who is the exact opposite of what he was expecting. But he falls in love and accepts her as she is. At the same time, he becomes a man, finally learning about life. It’s again the subject most dear to Truffaut, because the film is less a thriller than a study of love, of a couple, of real characters in intense situations, which makes them react in a genuine way.

Beautiful and mysterious, hidden behind her opaqueness and inaccessibility, with her crisp, realistic acting, Catherine Deneuve’s femme fatale taps into that “paradox between the inner fire and the cool surface”, as Truffaut himself put it, categorization that defined Hitchcock’s blondes. In fact, throughout her entire career, Deneuve has not been afraid of taking complex roles that ruffled and darkened the surface of her beauty. Deneuve’s icy, mysterious cool blonde look would have been indeed perfect for an Alfred Hitchcock noir or thriller – Catherine reportedly admitted that she would have loved to make Marnie with Hitchcock. I like that Mississippi Mermaid is an unusual noir, capturing the dark spirit of classic noir and putting it into a setting that is rotting and tropical, the decaying colonial backdrop of Réunion Island.

Catherine is dressed in Yves Saint Laurent and some of her outfits were part of the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Spring-Summer 1968 collection. Catherine Deneuve “was the woman he was waiting for, the one who is his style”, the modern woman who saw beyond haute couture and embraced the times, life, the street wise, a new kind of luxury that had nothing to do with made-to-measure and everything to do with ready-to-wear. The first act of the film takes place on the island and the clothes perfectly fit the exotic scene. The designer made great use of his safari styles, like a mini-dress version of the safari jacket, reminiscent of the iconic deep lace-up neckline design Saint Laurent had created in 1968, which was immortalized by Veruschka in a series of photographs by Franco Rubartelli, or a safari skirt suit with a jacket that respects the sketch of the designer’s first safari jacket, from his Spring/Summer 1967 haute couture collection.

In the second act of the film, set in a few locations in France, like Aix-en-Provence and Lyon, Catherine’s wardrobe is just as simple, with clothes that denote the practicality the designer’s creations came to embody, but which nonetheless serve the plot beautifully. I am particularly speaking about the little black dress towards the end of the film, first worn with a trench coat and then with the black feathered Rive Gauche beau manteau, the most ornate wardrobe item in the entire film, a counterpoint between realism and the imagination, between the classical and the baroque. The eccentric ostrich feather collar could easily cause Marion to be spotted by the police. When the cops arrive in the apartment in Lyon and Marion and Louis have to try to recover the money they have left upstairs, Louis stops Marion because her coat could give her away. And she answers: “Are you crazy? What’s wrong with this coat?” They are as much lovers on the run as they are an ordinary married couple going about the little everyday life things. There’s Truffaut’s counterpoint between the ordinary and the extraordinary, between reality and fiction.

Of Yves Saint Laurent, François Truffaut said he was the greatest cinephile among the fashion designers. He “really understood what cinema costumes had to be like, and he designed them both for their movement and style. The little feather coat at the end, which caused me a lot of worry as far as its execution was concerned, thanks to him, turned out to be a character in the film” in that ending that was a final indirect homage to Renoir and his La grande illusion.
 

Brigitte Fossey and Charles Denner in ”L’Homme qui aimait les femmes”, 1977 | Les Films du Carrosse

 

Brigitte Fossey (Geneviève Bigey) in L’Homme qui aimait les femmes, 1977

I had to laugh when I read about The Man Who Loved Women being categorized as anti-feminist (it isn’t even worth mentioning where). Bertrand Morand is not a chauvinist, just as Truffaut’s film is not anti-feminist. “The immense sadness of films without women,” the director used to say. “I hate war films, except for the moment when the soldier takes out of his pocket the photo of a woman.” Truffaut said that he simply wanted to tell a story in L’Homme qui aimait les femmes. “This is a feminist film made after my fashion”.

He also wanted to investigate further the character of Ferguson that he and Charles Denner had created in 1968, in La Mariée étairen noir. Denner thus followed in the footsteps of Jean-Pierre Léaud, becoming another alter ego for Truffaut. The film-maker said he chose Denner because he had “a natural seriousness, he rarely smiles – he has something fierce, wild about him”. Bertrand Morane is a seducer. He is obsessed with women’s legs, he loves to see them walk, nothing is more beautiful to him than a woman in motion, because seeing her walk is seeing her walk into his world. His world is formed of women and it takes all these women to make up a world. “Bertrand is not however portrayed as the conventional womaniser. Truffaut makes no apology for him, he is not presented sympathetically,” concludes Robert Ingram in the book “François Truffaut: The Complete Films”. We see him as he is. “He is not arrogant, nor does he force his attention upon women,” Ingram continues.

He is the natural seducer, he does not idolatrize some women in the detriment of others. He generously recognises the attractive potential in every woman. They are all unique and irreplaceable. He is capable of traveling hundreds of kilometers to find an unknown woman he barely saw, as if his life depended on it. He is a loner, he has no family, no friends, he is happy in the company of women. And by responding to every look a woman gives him – the look of a married woman he sees in a restaurant, the look of a young woman who comes to the window with a book in her hand – he is confronted with his raison d’être. It is only this way, by responding to every woman, by delaying solitude, that he has the illusion of vitality.

“Who are all these women, and where are they going? Who are they meeting? (…) I will tell you the truth: they all want the same thing as me, they want love …” At the very end, at his funeral (he was badly injured when he was chasing a woman in the street, then died at the hospital falling from his bed while trying to look at the legs of a nurse – yes, Truffaut saw the humour in the tragic), Geneviève Bigey (Brigitte Fossey) says: “Bertrand looked for happiness in quantity, in the multitude.” She is the only one who got it right. Geneviève is the editor of the book he had written and which is about to be published, “L’Homme qui aimait les femmes”, which he wrote as a tribute to all the women in his life, because otherwise “I am afraid I will forget”. But maybe he is also afraid of him being forgotten if he doesn’t write the book. A book ensures its writer timelessness, too. And that’s where the idea of Truffaut’s alter ego comes in full play. “It was inevitable,” Truffaut said about the ending. “I was working on something that was mythic. You have to respect the law of myth.”

But let’s return to the character of Geneviève. She is the only one who is given enough screen time for us to be acquainted with her, we get to know what she does, what she likes. Even the costumes seem to be more carefully chosen for her: the elegant camel coat, the high boots, the knee-length skirts, the knitted cardigans. It’s like we are let in not only on her outer world, but on her inner world as well, and on a could-be relationship, could-be life together of the two. She is, after all, the one Bertrand gets to make plans with, only he doesn’t get to honour them because he dies. But, most importantly, she is the only one who has the exact intuition, and isn’t this saying a lot again about Truffaut’s female characters? The director gives the narrative control of the film to a woman.
 

Catherine Deneuve in ”Le dernier métro”, 1980 | Les Films du Carrosse, Sédif Productions

 

Catherine Deneuve (Marion Steiner) in Le dernier métro, 1980

In Le dernier métro (The Last Métro), Truffaut approached a subject he has never attempted before: the war and the Occupation. But this is not a political film, as this wasn’t in Truffaut’s nature, he wanted to focus on characters and feelings, especially characters in an exceptional atmosphere. The war is simply a background. This is once again an intimate study of a complicated love triangle. The idea of the film came to him and Suzanne Schiffman, his trusted collaborator, after reading Jean Marais’ autobiography and the memoirs of other actors from the period. He wanted to make a film about theater on the backdrop of the Occupation, a time when creativity flourished despite the tragedy in real life, a time when many theaters in Paris remained open and run by women, as is the case in Le dernier métro. “The world was living through a tragedy, but as far as artistic life was concerned, this was a great period, especially for theater. Television did not exist, people were living in solitude, cold, with restriction, anxiety. Theater could provide a rare form of escape.”

Lucas Steiner, a famous Jewish playwright and director of Montmartre Theater has supposedly fled Paris and his wife, Marion (Catherine Deneuve – she had the same name in Mississippi Mermaid), has taken over the theater business. She is also the star of the ensemble. Gérard Depardieu (Bernard Granger – Depardieu‘s character in the following La femme d’a cote will also be named Bernard) is a talented young actor who is hired for the play Steiner has written and which now, in his absence, is staged by Jean-Loup Cottins (Jean Poiret). Both Deneuve and Depardieu embody a sort of anti-heroes, compromising characters. They are human, more so, they are humans in harsh times, during the war, when people had to live with compromises, and for good reason. “I didn’t make a dark film, but I think that I am also speaking in it of the cruelty of everyday life. […] More than anything else, my film embodies a notion of compromise and tolerance. Instead, my characters have obsessions. They do not necessarily achieve their goals, but they keep on pursuing them nonetheless.”

“Le dernier métro” alludes not only to the curfew during the war and to the fact that Parisians had to make sure to catch the last metro home, but it’s also an illustration of the American slogan “The show must go on.” Serge Toubiana remarked how Truffaut considered that a film taking place during the Occupation should occur at night, in enclosed spaces, suggesting the idea of confinement, frustration, danger. They used an old factory as main set, a “studio” element rather unusual for Truffaut. But this did not take away from the authenticity and vitality of the story (great attention was given to the smallest of details, like, for example, to the music and the radio programmes of the time portraying a convincing image of everyday life in the 1940s) and it was the perfect backdrop for the enigmatic progression of the story and the rising tension in the third act (the historical events may not have been the central subject, but the film presents a complex and clever portrait of the time and the thin line between resistance and collaboration).

Truffaut wrote the role for Catherine Deneuve. “I was thinking of her natural authority, and also of her age: she is now thirty-five and it is time she give up playing young women with hair down to their shoulders. It was during the war and women began to manage theaters. […] Catherine Deneuve is both feminine and energetic, in a plausible way. I like the way that she always seems to project on the screen a double life: an apparent life, and a secret life. One gets the impression that she is keeping her thoughts to herself, and that her inner life is at least as important as her outer life.” In one of the sequences with her husband, the camera is placed somewhere above their heads and as she get close to Lucas to kiss him, the camera zooms in on her hair, that perfectly coiffed blonde hair, and that camera movement reminded me of Hitchcock’s shot of Kim Novak in Vertigo. The double life.

François Truffaut recalled how Chanel No.5 was almost part of the character. At the beginning of the film, Marion is talking about how her husband came to know her, and says he has kidnapped her from the world of fashion and that he said that if she had refused, he would have asked Mademoiselle Chanel to fire her. Of course, Catherine Deneuve has been a model for Chanel No. 5 in the 1970s, and Truffaut knew how to make use of this social reality that actors have and that you can’t get around very easily. “All the roles that an actor has performed accumulate to give him or her an image that it is impossible to overcome entirely. It is better to go with it.” But the beauty of Catherine Deneuve in this film, as a woman torn between two men, is that she displays a humanity and versatility she rarely lets surface from her icy, enigmatic blonde beauty that consecrated her. In Truffaut’s film, the film that truly made her shine through, she is an actor, not a star, not an icon, and that’s his homage to her.
 

Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant in ”La femme d’à côté”, 1981 | Les Films du Carrosse, TF1 Films Production

 

Fanny Ardant (Mathilde Bauchard) in La femme d’à côté, 1981

La femme d’à côté is one of my favourite Truffaut films, a beautifully composed film, stylized and harmonious, conceived by a film-maker in full possession of his craft. Truffaut wanted to bring a man and a woman who had loved each other in the past face to face, something he had been taking notes on, but, because he was a director who liked complications and detours and had a Hitchcock affinity, he wanted to do it in his own singular style. He went for the theme of “the conjugal thriller, a thriller without gangsters where the police remain in the background and the action is led from start to finish by the imagination of a woman.”

Fanny Ardant is Mathilde Bauchard and Gérard Depardieu is Bernard Coudray. He lives with his wife and son in a little provincal town near Grenoble, France. Mathilde moves with her husband next door. We soon find out that Mathilde and Bernard were lovers in the past, a relationship that ended bad. But soon after they meet again by chance as neighbors, Mathilde knows right away, before he does, that their encounter can not remain innocent. She takes the reins, right to the end.

“I immediately spotted and appreciated in Fanny Ardant the qualities I most frequently look for in the protagonists of my films: vitality, courage, enthusiasm, humour, intensity but also, to counterbalance those, a taste of secrecy, a wild side, a touch of savagery and, above all, something vibrant. […] She reminds me of the Brontë sisters, she’s like all three Brontë sisters rolled into one.” For La femme d’à côté, her first movie role, he wanted her very beautiful, said William Lubtchansky, Truffaut’s cinematographer. Truffaut was worried that Fanny, tall and well-built, might appear too masculine, so they had to choose the costumes and hair styles very carefully. She is “the unintentional femme fatale”, says Véronique Silver, who played a crucial character in the film, one of those supporting roles that make a film come full circle, Madame Jouve. “There is a mystery about Fanny Ardant, in her smile and poise”. Gérard Depardieu recounted how he himself felt during filming, saying that he sensed that they were making a scary film about love, very Hitchcockian. That dangerous, permanent attraction neither of them can escape is felt throughout the film. Their tragedy is that they can not love or suffer at the same time, but they can’t live apart either.

There is something different about Mathilde’s clothes, too, from the opening costume, the way she is filmed, from the back and from the feet up, in a grey suit that made me think again of Vertigo and Kim Novak, the trench coat, the white shirt, the two pieces Chanel-like looks, her clothes are definitely femme fatale, unlike Bernard’s wife’s (played by Michèle Baumgartner), which are more feminine, in floral patterns and very innocent. Truffaut wanted the two women to be very distinctive and had Michèle’s hair, a natural brunette, cut short and dyed blonde in order to seem more anchored in everyday life. Truffaut knew how to punctuate a scene not only through dialogue, but through details, too. In the most disturbing scene in the film, when Bernard becomes violent, an act of physical violence without precedent in Truffaut’s cinema, Mathilde is wearing a green dress. Commenting on the film, Véronique Silver jokes that “Green is a colour you shouldn’t wear, in theater is the colour of death.” It suggests both attraction and the potential for harm.

Towards the end of the film, when her husband brings her the clothes she had asked for before getting out of the hospital after her breakdown, Mathilde goes through them and picks the white blouse between the two in her suitcase, clearly underlying her choice: “This is the one I want.” The trench coat is also clearly stated out. It’s for the final sequence and, as in all great films noir, the end can not be but one.
 
Editorial sources: Truffaut on Cinema, compiled by Anne Gillain / François Truffaut at Work, by Carole Le Berre / François Truffaut, bãrbatul care iubea filmele, by Magda Mihãilescu / François Truffaut: The Complete Films, by Robert Ingram / The Films in My Life, by François Truffaut / Yves Saint Laurent, published by Foundation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent / audio commentaries with Serge Toubiana, Fanny Ardant, Gérard Depardieu and Véronique Silver on The François Truffaut Collection and The Adventures of Antoine Doinel, released by Artificial Eye / interview with Jacqueline Bisset for Film Talk
 
 
More stories: Hitchcock Style: Grace Kelly in Rear Window / The French Noir Anti-Hero and the Trench Coat / Catherine Deneuve in Belle de jour


 

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The Culture Trip: February Newsletter

”Western Stars”, 2019, directed by Bruce Springsteen and Thom Zimny | Warner Brothers

 

A regular round-up of the latest talks, films,
music, books, interviews and cultural news.

 
 
In The Atlantic, George Packer writes about the enemies of writing. “A writer who carries the thought police around in his head, who always feels compelled to ask: Can I say this? Do I have a right? Is my terminology correct? Will my allies get angry? Will it help my enemies? Could it get me ratioed on Twitter?—that writer’s words will soon become lifeless. A writer who’s afraid to tell people what they don’t want to hear has chosen the wrong trade.”

Who is a writer today in the true sense of the word if everyone is afraid to stand alone, to abide by his/her principles, to tell the truth, to write as if he/she wrote just for himself/herself without considering the risks, without constantly being afraid you might offend someone or you may be ostracised by that movement or that editorial power, or, worse, by your “followers”? A fellow editor has recently confessed to me that he had doubts about giving Roman Polanski’s new film, An Officer and a Spy, editorial space of any kind because of the media scandal the director has been facing, even if he highly regarded his film, which, by the way, has been nominated to 12 César Awards, despite its being overlooked by any other international recognition. This is not right. The same editor further admitted that a while ago he refrained from posting on Twitter the news about Anjelica Huston defending Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, because he was afraid of a backlash from his followers.

Another publication has recently written about the most promising movies premiering at Sundance. They are all directed by women – yes, all the movies released at the festival deemed most worthy of our viewing are ALL directed by women. Objectivity based solely on cinematic achievement? Let me have my doubts. Political correctness disguised as openness to diversity? Much more likely. Artificially misinterpreting women directors’ merits (who, by the way, are considerably fewer than male directors, hence the number of movies directed by women are less likely to be taken into consideration for awards – but why bother explaining when everyone has such obtuse view on the matter?), or any artist’s, for that matter, does them no favour. Where does this leave us? It is a dead end, from where you can only fall deeper into a hole of ignorance and fear and do-what-you-are-told and think-as-you-are-told.

George Packer continues: “As for the notion of standing on your own, it’s no longer considered honorable or desirable. It makes you suspect, if not ridiculous. If you haven’t got a community behind you, vouching for you, cheering you on, mobbing your adversaries and slaying them, then who are you? A mere detached sliver of a writing self, always vulnerable to being punished for your independence by one group or another, or, even worse, ignored.”
 

Left: ”An Officer and a Spy”, 2019, directed by Roman Polanski, Légende Films/Gaumont | Right: “The Crown”, 2016, Netflix

 
 
Remembering Kirk Douglas in his own words. “Don’t crucify me because of what your idea of a movie star is. I didn’t start out to be a movie star. I started out to be an actor.”

You know how the saying goes, better late than never. The Crown (2016-) is the first series I have watched since Breaking Bad. I have finally watched all three seasons over the past couple of months (I don’t binge-watch Netflix). I was totally immersed in the first two seasons, loving Claire Foy’s extraordinary performance as Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the entire cast, the screenplay, the love story, historical facts, score, set design and cinematography, with everything so beautifully crafted and executed. Then, after initially finding it hard to overcome the complete change of cast in the third season (Olivia Colman took over as Queen Elisabeth in middle age), I was eventually won over, except for Helena Bonham Carter.

Illustrator Malika Favre about the link between her work and cinema.

Bruce Springsteen has co-directed his first film (with Thom Zimny), Western Stars. In it, Springsteen performs his 19th studio album, Western Stars, released last summer, live in his 100-year-old barn, interspersed with short films musing on his music and life.

The Staggering Girl, the short film of Luca Guadagnino produced in collaboration with Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, featuring Julianne Moore and Kyle MacLachlan, will be released on MUBI this February. The film follows a writer, Moore, attempting to complete her memoir, who travels from New York to Rome to visit her mother. The film’s costumes, an important element in all Guadagnino’s movies, bear the signature of Pierpaolo Piccioli (the filmmaker’s collaborations with fashion designers for film costumes are among the most fruitful and effective in the world of cinema) and are based on the haute couture designs of the fashion house.

Life Cinematic explores the art of film-making in a completely new way, featuring an interview with a renowned film-maker alongside a mix of classic clips that have influenced them.

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys talks about his former band and old demons, about the great guys of rock and roll and the biographical movie Love & Mercy (2014), starring Paul Dano and John Cusack, and his advice about making it in the music business.

Diane Keaton has just released an autobiography, Brother & Sister: A Memoir, “a heartfelt memoir about Diane Keaton’s relationship with her younger brother, and a poignant exploration of the divergent paths siblings’ lives can take” (Knopf publishing group).

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) talks about the cinema of William Wyler, a filmmaker whose work has long captivated and inspired him.

Posted by classiq in Books, Culture, Film | | Leave a comment