Wunder Workshop: Interview with Zoe Lind van’t Hof

Zoe Lind van’t Hof, co-founder of Wunder Workshop | photo: Jutta Klee

 
Food as medicine. Nature as the source of our wellbeing. Mindfulness as the pathway to happiness. These practices have become an important part of the conversation at the moment. And with good reason. Because I believe it is always the simplest things and our view on things in the simplest ways that hold the answer to a life well lived: healthy, balanced, purposeful, fulfilled. By returning to nature and its natural ingredients and to seeing good in our surroundings, we take care of our individual selves and of those around us. And we must respect nature in order to respect ourselves and become the best versions of ourselves.

Wunder Workshop, a functional food brand making organic and ethically sourced turmeric based products, was created in this same philosophy. Ayurvedic inspired, Sri Lankan sourced and London made, it focuses on consumption with purpose, by harvesting the power of plants for the ultimate wellness ritual. Wunder translates to miracle, and they focus on plants that have a quality that can be classed as such. It is as much about food for the body as it is about food for the mind. But what ultimately sets Wunder Workshop apart is that it combines good ingredients with good intentions, and therein lies their products’ nurturing power and beneficial effects. And that simply makes the world a better place.

I have talked to the Wunder Workshop co-founder, Zoe Lind van’t Hof, about Ayurvedic medicine, about her very special and boundless daily source of inspiration, about personal style and finding balance, and about her go-to pick-me-up in the afternoon.
 

Wunder Workshop – The Turmeric Brand
photo: Wunder Workshop

 
 

”We believe that prevention is better than cure
and we believe in the uniqueness of every individual.”

 
 
Tell me a little bit about the story behind Wunder Workshop. How did it come to be? What sparked your interest in wellness?
My biggest inspiration to start Wunder Workshop was my late mother who had been very passionate about health and wellbeing since her early twenties, so by the time I was born she had nearly 20 years of experience. This meant I was surrounded by interesting books about traditional medicine, the power of plants and how to create all kinds of natural remedies from an early age. I grew up eating organic and locally sourced vegetarian food, we grew many of our own vegetables and herbs and we used to go to very down-to-earth Ayurvedic health retreats in Sri Lanka.

After dabbling in different career paths (from politics to interior design), I realised that my true purpose lay in what was around me all my life: health and plants. This is when I decided to go back to Sri Lanka and find an organic farm that uses sustainable and ethical farming techniques with whom I could work together to bring some of their incredible plant knowledge in the form of herbs and spices back to London and started Wunder Workshop – focusing on turmeric and consumption with purpose.

Could you explain to the readers more exactly what does Ayurveda mean?
Ayurveda means translated “the science of life”… It is believed that Ayurvedic medicine was the first health system, from which Chinese medicine was developed and consequently the medical system as we know it in the Western world. So, it can be argued to be the root of all modern medicine. Our brand’s ethos (Consumption with purpose) is founded on Ayurveda’s principles as we believe that prevention is better than cure and we believe in the uniqueness of every individual. Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health rather than seeking one drug to cure illnesses, it assesses the balance between all aspects of one’s life. In Ayurveda, disease is a sign of unbalance in your personal constitution, so one has to go to the very root of this issue. By adding a bit of Wunder daily we hope you can create a routine that forms one piece of the bigger picture.

Your products are focused on turmeric. What is the one thing everyone should know about turmeric? And how do you personally include it in your diet?
The list is endless, but I would say its anti-inflammatory benefits are the most impressive. Inflammation is very common in our modern-day society, and very much interlinked with stress. Also, it’s essential to have turmeric with black pepper, a fat such as coconut milk and ginger – they all increase the bioavailability (which is why you find these in our products too). I include it daily in a morning and afternoon potion, or as my bed time Golden Turmeric tea.
 

”I include turmeric daily in a morning and afternoon potion, or as my bed time Golden Turmeric tea.” Zoe LVH
Golden Turmeric tea | photo: Wunder Workshop

 
 
Where do you source the ingredients for your products?
The majority of the ingredients that we source are from small community and family run farms from Sri Lanka. We go out there once a year to either be there for the harvest or sewing season. We only work with organic farms and prefer to work with non-monocultural forest gardening farms. This means that the natural biodiversity of Sri Lanka’s fauna and flora is kept in order, by planting crops like turmeric and ginger in the shade of cacao or jackfruit trees, which keeps the soil full of its nutrients. We have also started to work with small farms in other countries, and are currently speaking to farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Slovenia, China and even Afghanistan which we are very excited about.

We live in a hectic world and more and more people are trying to go back to basics, to find a balance, to live mindfully. How do you find balance every day?
This is essential to me and I am all too familiar with this feeling of being consumed by busyness and our hectic surroundings in places like London. I used to just brush it off and ignore it, but I have become more and more sensitive to the sensory overstimulation. I am an introvert and an empath, so I find it incredibly difficult at times to be surrounded by lots of people. It is as if I can feel everyone’s emotions and sometimes I need to learn to turn this off as it can be very overwhelming. For me, the best thing is to bring my energetic vibrations back into equilibrium and I do this through sound healing and visiting a flotation tank a couple of times a month. Twice a week I go for an infrared sauna, which feels so healing just being in stillness and warmth. I also do breathwork every morning to really check in with myself and go to yoga once a week. This routine enables me to be calm and have inner balance in a busy place like London.
 
 

”I think the most important thing is
to be kind to yourself and have patience.
A healthy mind is equally important as a healthy diet.”

 
 
What is your advice to someone starting out on the path of healthy eating?
I think the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and have patience. A healthy mind is equally important as a healthy diet. One cannot work without the other. Denying yourself things can lead to negative emotions associated with your diet, so I always believe we should integrate nutritious ingredients and slowly wind down from the “bad” ingredients. I decided to stop eating sweet things 12 years ago at university, and the first 3 months I would still crave sweet things occasionally, but after that I never looked back and whenever I try something sweet, now I literally don’t like it and am glad that my body has understood that. We can’t force ourselves to do these things quickly and we need to wind our body and our minds away from them slowly and listen to our intuition as to what works well for us.

Why did you stop eating sweet things altogether? Does this mean your diet does not include any natural sweeteners either, like honey, dates or agave syrup? I am asking because I have been using only these natural sweeteners for years in very small proportions and whenever I try to stick to one recipe (I always make them much less sweet), I can not eat them. And I think I would have no problem if I gave them up entirely. And I think you are so right that if you educate your body in a certain way, it will naturally follow that path.
Yes, that’s correct, there simply isn’t a healthy sugar. Especially agave, which is so widely used within the “health food world”, is very high in fructose and creates havoc for our metabolic system. I had been reading a lot about the effects of sugar on our body and decided that I didn’t want to consume it any longer. Also, when we say we have a “sweet tooth” and are craving sugar, it’s usually our body signalling that we are missing essential nutrients/minerals such as magnesium for example. When I travel to tropical countries, or when it is summer in England, I will however eat seasonal fruits as it’s a wonderful way to tune in with nature and the season. In Ayuverda, honey is considered a medicine and I treat it this way too. We have a Golden Turmeric Honey, and I only use it when I have a cold and blend it with hot water and lemon which is very soothing for the throat.
 

Golden Balance, Adaptogen and Turmeric blend | photo: Wunder Workshop

 
 
What are the perks and challenges of running an ethical food brand?
The perks are the feeling of purpose. I wake up every single day excited about what lies ahead of me and that I am doing something that hopefully has a positive impact. I believe in small steps, and, as a small brand, we are hoping to raise awareness for a transparent spice and food supply chain. Moving away from the old patterns of the tea and spice trade, from colonial times, and we want to bring the attention to the farmers and the growers. The challenges are the red tape surrounding importing and sourcing ingredients abroad, and the fact that customers are often not aware of the importance of eating organic over conventional spices, or the fact that conventional spices contain numerous additives and heavy metals. Or that it is better for our soil to avoid mono-culture farmed ingredients. We are trying to educate along the way, whilst being transparent. But it is hard sometimes to get to the source of things. Also, as a female brand owner, there are plenty of challenges in the food world which is heavily male dominated. But all these things just spur me on!

You have also written a book with Tom Smale, the co-founder of Wunder Workshop, called Super Root Spices. Could you tell me a little bit about it?
This was really inspired through my upbringing and all the interesting ingredients we have come across during our travels. All the recipes include at least one interesting medicinal root and we have made these recipes as accesible as possible.

How important is food in changing people’s attitude from curing disease to preventing disease?
I think this is very important, if not fundamental to our lives. Let food be thy medicine, as Hippocrates famously stated. The main issue is that the current education system doesn’t teach medical students more than a term on nutrition, whereas that is a leading cause for many diseases. Once we come to understand that what we put into (and onto!) our bodies effects our wellbeing, we can see a shift in our approach to health which is a long-term investment, worth making.

Do you, as a brand, have any specific projects aiming to educate the larger public about the benefits of healthy and sustainable eating?
We have various events, workshops and talks mainly in London where we talk about the benefits of our ingredients, especially CBD and the various other ingredients that we use. Also, through speaking to the press, we aim to reach a wider public with our message about integrating turmeric and other spices into a daily routine and therefore taking on a preventative approach to health.

Living well is not just about the nourishment of food. What else do you do on a daily basis to feel and look your best? What is your philosophy on self-nourishment, self-care and living well?
As mentioned above, I nourish myself by going to yoga, sound healing, laughing with friends and finding a daily inner balance. My philosophy on living well is balance. I love meditating, gong baths, organic potions but also a glass of beautiful wine and pizza.
 

Zoe Lind van’t Hof | photo: Zoe Morton

 
 

”Stay focused on the present and living in the now.”

 
 
Someone once told me that you have to care enough about style to have any. What does style mean to you?
Style for me is very much a tool to express myself, I have always found it hard to have just one style, I like anything from chic to hippie and it really shows what mood I am in. I think it is one of the most fun means to communicate with the world around you. On days when I wear very colourful things, such as my friend’s Zazi Vintage coat, I notice how many people interact with me and smile or just shout ‘awesome coat’, which can be so heartwarming to interact with strangers, through a means of our style.

What is your idea of beauty? Inside and out. Any tips you’d care to pass along?
Beauty really for me means radiance, as cliché as it sounds, but I think you can see the soul through someone’s eyes, and I think beauty means a beautiful soul and a kind heart. A healthy lifestyle including nutritious foods and a peaceful mind have a big impact how much you radiate through your eyes and your skin. From the outside I believe a healthy skincare routine is important too, especially in polluted places like London. Also, I start the day with splashing ice-cold water on my face, followed by a cold shower. It is invigorating and gives you a radiant glow.

Words you live by:
Stay focused on the present situation and living in the now.

You are an inspiration for living well and with purpose. But who and what inspires you on a daily basis?
My late mother, her vulnerability yet beautiful strength and her resilience. She was a single parent and raised me by herself from the age of 1, she often worked 7 days a week to make everything possible for my education and our dreams. I live in immense gratitude to her every single day.

One thing you can not start the day without:
My Ayurvedic copper tongue scraper. I know it sounds weird, but once you start integrating that into your morning routine there is no way back.
 

Wunder Workshop Golden Shrooms, Adaptogen and Medicinal Mushrooms blend
photo: Lynda Laird

 
 
Food-wise, how do you approach each meal? Which are the ingredients, foods and drinks that are part of your daily menu?
I receive a weekly organic vegetable box with seasonal food, so I never know exactly what I will get, but the vegetables always form the center of my meals and I will add things such as pasta, bread, millet, potatoes, rice, etc. I make sure to also have a big green salad every day. My key ingredients that I use daily are organic olive oil, coconut oil, turmeric, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and some nuts.

What would you recommend as a pick-me-up drink in the afternoon?
During the afternoon I avoid caffeine as, for me personally, I feel it rushing through my body until very late at night, so usually I make a golden potion with Golden Shrooms (cordyceps and reishi mushrooms, turmeric, ginger and cacao), I often add some more herbs depending what I feel my body needs, but that might be pine pollen, Chaga or Ashwagandha.

Do you drink or have you ever drunken coffee?
I drink coffee about once every 2 weeks maybe, I don’t have anything against it and research shows it is actually considered benefical to our health, but I am so sensitive that it makes me incredibly high or nervous, but I usually utilise this when I have to write an article or want to do some design work as it puts me in a very focused place for a couple of hours and then I crash. So it’s not something I can do every day. Also, I would hate to be dependent on it.
 
 

How to make Golden Turmeric Latte: a step by step guide by Wunder Workshop

 
 
What is one favourite thing to do in London and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
My favourite quality of London is its exciting energy, which, as mentioned before, can also be too overwhelming, but when one is in the right state of mind it can be exhilarating. Going out to small independent multi-cultural eateries with friends, sitting outside on warm summer nights, cycling to Hampstead Heath for a dip in the pond followed by sunset picnics. Those are my favourite moments.

Where would we find you when not working?
Hiking and swimming in Deia – Mallorca.

In this time and age, what do you wish people appreciated more?
The time with our loved ones, friends and family.

What makes you happy at the end of the day?
A productive day, followed by beautiful food and wine either shared with loved ones or also happily alone.
 

Turmeric CBD oil / Golden Turmeric Honey / Super Root Spices book
photos: Wunder Workshop

 
 

Website and online shop: wunderworkshop.com
Instagram: @wunderworkshop | Twitter: @wunderworkshop
Book: Super Root Spices, available here

 
 

Posted by classiq in Beauty & Beautiful Living, Interviews | | Leave a comment

The French Noir Anti-Hero and The Trench Coat

The trench coat of the French noir anti-hero is either a purpose coat, a detail of realism and narrative drive or a stylized element that values aesthetic and atmosphere. Two films of two great humanist French directors, François Truffaut and Claude Sautet, serve best to emphasise the first, whereas Jean-Pierre Melville reaches the most abstract of styles with Alain Delon’s Jeff Costello character and costumes in Le Samouraï.

Charles Aznavour in “Tirez sur le pianiste” (1960) | Les Films de la Pléiade

 
Charles Aznavour in Tirez sour le pianiste, 1960, directed by François Truffaut

Tirez sur le pianiste was François Truffaut’s homage to the American B-movie, a genre he loved, drew from in his own work, but originally subverted. He disregarded the conventions of cinema, thus making Tirez probably the most typically Nouvelle Vague of all his films. “I turned my back to what was expected of me and took my own pleasure as my own rule of conduct”, the director said, shifting tone significantly from Les 400 coups. The plot, adapted from the book Down There by David Goodis, is classic noir. But Truffaut brought in many other themes he wanted to talk about, from glory, success and failure, to family, women and love.

Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player) focuses on the destiny of a man once known as a gifted pianist, Edouard Saroyan, who leaves behind his life and faces his downfall in a small Parisian bar as a band pianist under the name of Charlie Kohler. After a visit from his gangster brother one night, Charlie is accidentally dragged into complicated circumstances that he can not control. Truffaut wanted Charles Aznavour in the role, whom he adored in George Franju’s La tête contre les murs (Head Against the Wall), 1959. “Aznavour and Truffaut are alike in many ways,” commented Serge Toubiana, “same sickly look, same dark and feverous eyes, full of suppressed anger, ready to blow”. Truffaut thought of Aznavour as being vulnerable, but not a victim, therefore his fragility allowed the audience to identify with him.

Charlie Kohler is an ordinary guy who has found success and then descended again to an ordinary present. He is a reserved, quiet, remote, lost in his own thoughts. He “has the air of a melancholy outsider, a nowhere man, destined to remain homeless in the world. Only at the piano is Charlie capable of exposing his feelings,” says in the book Film Noir 100 All-Time Favorites. His trench is both an everyman’s coat, a reflection of the common life that he can not escape from and a shield from his past and the outer world.
 

Lino Ventura in “Classe tous risques” (1960) | Mondex Films, Les Films Odéon

 
Lino Ventura in Classe tous risques, 1960, directed by Claude Sautet

I honestly don’t remember the impression Classe tous risques made on me the first time I watched it, many years ago. But when I rewatched it recently, it just blew me away. That long opening sequence, from the train station (one of the most beautiful train station shots in cinema) to the hold-up in the streets of Milan, that was the moment that already sealed it for me. It felt so incredibly real and naturalistic. It was shot in the busy streets of Milan, in broad daylight amongst unaware passers-by who react in real time onscreen – isn’t this one of the key elements of New Wave filmmaking (and one of the elements that made Godard’s À bout de souffle, released just one week before in 1960, a revelation)?And yet, Sautet’s film, one of the most impressive debuts in the history of cinema, was dismissed upon its release as old-fashioned and static.

In that first sequence, you can breath in the desperation of Abel Davos (Lino Ventura). It very much feels in the realm of human existence. Because real life, too, gets messy. And you have to deal with it. Abel is a convicted killer who escaped France years ago and has been living in Italy with his family, but now thinks it’s time to return to France after one more robbery that will help him get across the border. The film is about survival, friendship, loyalty and betrayal among thieves – Melville will approach the same theme, but two years later, in 1962, with Le doulos. But what truly sets Classe tous risques apart is that the plot and the characters seem anchored in reality, in the present. Because of the children. A school for his two children is the only thing Abel wants. You may not understand or condone his past, but you are rooting for him at this moment in his life. If I could sum up the film in one image, it would be this: A man walking on the street; a few meters behind him, two children following him. As a side note, all these elements that make the film stand apart were beautifully captured by illustrator Tony Stella in his poster for the film.

“Classe tous risques is the best film adaptation of any of my books. It doesn’t have any nightclub scenes. It doesn’t treat the subject as folklore. And it has more heart than Le deuxième souffle,” said José Giovanni, who also wrote the books on which Jacques Becker’s Le trou (another 1960 masterpiece) and Melville’s Le deuxième souffle (1966) were based.

Sautet seeks out the remains of humanity in his characters, regardless of their past and crimes, whereas Melville’s characters only live by a certain code of honour, stripped by emotions, family, wives and lovers. Lino Ventura is a doomed man (soon widow) on the run, he has a sad, liven-in face. His clothes look lived-in, too. His trousers and jacket reflect his turmoil and disrupted life. Only when he goes off to settle matters with his former partners he puts on a trench coat. He has to look like he means business, because he does, and his children are his only drive. He can not escape his fate, but he must do right by his children. There is nothing more powerful than that. “A bison of a man possessed of a bashed-in face of surprising beauty, charisma and soulfulness, Ventura in this movie constitutes, for me, the French Gangster – as Tragic Hero, of course – distilled to its quintessence of romantic fatalism and calm acceptance of impending death,” John Patterson beautifully wrote.
 

Alain Delon in “Le Samouraï” (1967) | CICC, Fida Cinematografica

 
Alain Delon in Le Samouraï, 1967, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

In Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le flambeur (1956), Roger Duchesne’s character, too, seemed anchored in reality, with his crumpled trench coat, looking more like he was playing himself – Duchesne was a gambler in real life and in the film he looked like he was wearing his real clothes, staying true to his nature. It was Jean Paul Belmondo’s Silien in Le doulos who paved the way towards that clean and crisp aesthetic from Melville’s later films. The height of that almost abstract aesthetic was reached by Alain Delon in Le Samouraï.

In Le Samouraï, Delon recedes in the safety of his trench coat. It’s his armour. Together with the tilted downward hat, the trench is also part of what has come to define the protagonist of films noir. But regardless of Melville’s passion for all things American and for Hollywood gangster and noir movies, he’s a different kind of noir anti-hero. He’s Melville’s noir anti-hero. Like a samourai, Jef Costello abides by a code of conduct and leads a solitary existence. His dressing is like a ritual, systematically putting on his hat and coat before going out to get a job done. Everything about him is cool and calculated. It’s like he is fitting himself for battle.

Le Samouraï is a film that extracts its substance from cinema and belongs to the cinemas, so it uses words only when absolutely necessary and vital, said Rui Nogueira in an interview. It is a film where clothes speak much more than words. In a career-defining performance, in the role of a Parisian contract killer who has realised he is being double-crossed by his employees and seeks revenge, Alain Delon, with his exceptional good looks and impeccable look, meets Melville’s idea of the gangster as an image. Clothes make the man in Le Samouraï. Everything is simple, stark, clean-cut, primordial to his lifestyle – the trim grey suit, the black slim tie and white button-down shirt, another black suit, the inky wool coat, the hat, the trench. Delon is dressed with the finest precision, but he seems completely unaware of his appearance. He’s completely detached from everything, hardly betraying an emotion. It’s part of the job, of his profession. He lives and kills alone. There is a scene towards the beginning of the film, where Delon, stopped at a traffic light, is watched admiringly by a pretty young woman. His body language is minimal and signals that he has noticed her gaze, but he only gives her a blank look and turns away, without even satisfying her with a smile. Nothing distracts him from his fateful path.
 
editorial sources: “Truffaut on Cinema”, compiled by Anne Gillain / “François Truffaut at Work”, by Carole Le Berre / Serge Toubiana presentation of “Tirez sur le pianiste” / John Patterson essay for “Classe tous risques” (BFI) / “Classe tous risques: Beautiful Friendships”, by Bernard Tavernier (Criterion Collection) / “Melville on Melville”, by Rui Nogueira / interview with Thierry Crifo in the documentary “Diary of A Villain” (StudioCanal, The Criterion Collection)

Posted by classiq in Film, Style in film | | Leave a comment

Dylan McKay Inspired Teenagers to Be Authentic

Luke Perry as Dylan McKay in Beverly Hills 90210 | CBS

 
Every generation has its own cool rebel. I have always taken pride in being a child of the early eighties. The last frontier of Generation X, the last great generation, before the existence of the online as we know it today and before virtual un-reality messing up our lives and our world, before smart phones, Facebook, Spotify and Netflix. The generation of grunge music, indie films, anti-fashion, cultural upheaval and soul searching. It’s difficult to explain to those growing up in this age how truly freeing and different (good different) it felt and was back then.

Of course, to a teenager of the 90s, things did not seem that extraordinary and put-together, still figuring out what to do in life. I had not yet learned to fight against the accepted confines of society, I had no taste in music whatsoever, I had not yet discovered my passion for cinema, nor had experienced the films of River Phoenix. But I had Dylan McKay, the other icon of the ‘90s, and the most important and pervasive tv series in my teen life, Beverly Hills 90210. The James Dean-like hair style, the melancholic glare, the restlessness, the washed-out blue jeans, the white t-shirts, the checkered shirts, the black Chuck Taylors, the motorcycle.

Luke Perry’s Dylan McKay arrived in Beverly Hills 90210 late and without apparent effort (he didn’t appear in the pilot episode), but as soon as he did, he took pop culture by storm. He was propelled into teenage conscience and became an aspirational model. He redefined cool. A sensitive bad boy who didn’t have to sacrifice vulnerability for virility, who knew how to be fiery without being fisty. That’s where the deep sense of indentification with him came from: because he contained within himself our ambiguity, our human weaknesses.

Dylan McKay was from Los Angeles and understood film, the movie theater and its place. When he makes his appearance in that second episode, before his first date with Brenda Walsh, who is from Minnesota, he asks her if is she had ever seen Animal Crackers. She says she may have, once, on tv. And he replies that Animal Crackers on the big screen is a different thing. So he takes her to the cinema to watch the 1930 Marx Brothers film, but once they arrive, he changes his mind. He easily shifts his expression in the way that a consummately modest knowledgeable person might reveal profound thoughts self-deprecatingly, as if to excuse himself for his intellect, so as not to make others feel bad or not to put himself in the center of attention.

Dylan McKay became cool not only because of his looks and rebellious nature, but because of his strong sense of independence, because he was earthbound and authentic. I only wish that, as a teenager, I understood it. That I understood myself and my place in the world. That I didn’t have to fit in. That I had my own voice. That I always must stand by what I believe in. That I must be myself. That I must go my own way. That’s the quality Dylan McKay’s character conveyed and I will always cherish it. Thank you, Luke.

Posted by classiq in Film | | 1 Comment

The Art of Film Posters: Interview with Illustrator Tony Stella

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Le Samouraï” (1967), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

 
 
How can you reimagine some of the best classic movies and give them new life? How can you visually capture the essence of a film? How can you embody a film’s cult status? How can you own a part of a movie you love? How do you add to the cultural significance of film language and to visual literacy? How do you catch the imagination of the most avid cinephile as well as that of the most reticent movie-goer before they even watch a film? Artist Tony Stella does it through his movie poster designs. In a time when technology has changed the concept of art itself, from graphic design and illustration to photography and filmmaking, Tony’s hand-painted, unique, arresting illustrations, suffused with his passion for and knowledge of cinema and cinema history, are reclaiming poster design as a form of art in its own right. They are a love letter to the world of cinema. And as soon as I saw Tony’s poster for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï – nobody had done it that way (all of Melville’s elements that draw inspiration from the Japanese culture and cinema are there) – I wanted to find out more. Here is my interview with the artist.
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “I Vitelloni” (1953), directed by Federico Fellini

 
 

Listen to this Wrong Reel podcast episode:
Getting Felliniesque with Tony Stella

 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “La strada” (1954), directed by Federico Fellini

 
 
I think a poster is a part of a film. I believe poster art (just as the art of the title sequence) is a medium designed to speak to the public before the film does, the window to the world or story waiting for you to discover. It can add a whole extra dimension to the picture. How would you regard your work?
When it comes to my personal work, I see it foremost as an homage to the films I love and to the people who made them. It all started this way – as a kid, I wanted to continue on in the world of the movie after it was over. When it comes to client-work, I see it exactly how you describe it – it used to be the first interaction with the audience; now it often feels like a neglected afterthought, but the smart distributers know it can add great value and longevity to their product.

And I believe that a good poster will have a life past the release date, and will always linger as a reminder of the film it represents. And it will make you want to frame it and put it on the wall. What makes a good movie poster in your opinion?
That is almost impossible to say – I am attracted to all kinds of works, from high art to the super sleazy airbrush of my youth. Some are great because they capture the essence of the film and through their artistry are able to add another layer of mystique to it – like the work of Bob Peak, Richard Amsel, Drew Struzan or Noriyoshi Ohrai. But there are also many crazy, wild, beautiful posters that have very little to do with the film and can stand on their own like the Polish posters – or the fantastic mixed media collage Czech poster style. Some masters like Saul Bass have almost made it impossible to follow in their footsteps – I admire how he imposed this style on each project regardless of genre and yet they are all perfect representations. In the end, it wasn’t the one great poster but the variety of styles and reinterpretations from each country that made the posters great and enriched the film landscape.
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Faces” (1968), directed by John Cassavetes

 
 
Your hand-painted and imaginative illustrative style (or, simply put, art in the true sense of the word) taps into an earlier age of film poster design. Are people afraid to be creative these days?
Only when it comes to the big projects and agencies they have to appeal to the widest audience and, in trying to do so, mostly miss the mark of great posters. There is a small trend towards the original, unique poster again – kick-started by the Criterion Collection and the growning wave of fan-posters, but the trained eye for subtle differences just isn’t there anymore and the photoshopped „traced” posters are still the norm and often get passed as hand-made work.

What sparked your passion for cinema? And which were your earliest influences in your work?
My parents forced me to watch a lot of great movies – so that muscle got exercised early on. I would have passed on La Strada for Police Academy in a second, but that wasn’t an option. After seeing Seven Samurai at age six, there was no turning back – everything got measured by that yardstick. That passion has never subsided. Later in my group of friends, movie-knowlege was a currency and a short hand of communication. Staring at all those VHS covers and posters dreaming about the glories they promised was always my impulse to start drawing – even if I hadn’t seen the film. Through the years, I could find out many of the great illustrators and attribute their work, but most of them are still unknown to the public. Thank you, Renato Casaro!
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Les 400 coups” (1959), directed by François Truffaut

 
 
 

”After seeing Seven Samurai at age six, there was no
turning back – everything got measured by that yardstick.
That passion has never subsided.”

 
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Ran” (1985), directed by Akira Kurosawa

 
 
Some of your posters reimagine classic films (The 400 Blows, Stalker, Ran, Le Samourai, Rashomon being some of my favourites – I am a big fan of classic French and Japanese cinema). Do you think they will attract a new audience for classic cinema?
I used to be very pessimistic about that and guarded about my film love, but now I can see that through social media – the film twitter community I fell into is an amazing knowledgeable group and the posters are always a starting point of conversation – people that know and love the films can appreciate the specifics of the posters; to others, they are an incenitve to seek out a film they have heard about and a new poster can refresh or awaken that curiosity.

I have recently rewatched Claude Sautet’s “Classe tous risque”. And then I saw your film poster. And I thought it conveyed so well not only the story, but also that feeling you often get from Sautet’s films, indicating that his protagonists are always among us. I would like to ask you, although I know you probably get this question a lot, about your creative process. Where does it begin? Do you watch the film and try to understand the rhythm, structure, mood? Do you settle on an image or on an idea and bring your own self and imagination into the world of the film?
Oh yeah – that’s an old poster – I’ve made two or three versions for that great film – I went through a whole French crime phase in my teens. I always watch and know the film and its circumstances before I start, but it is very instinctive and I let my mood and the process decide the direction – that’s why there are often multiple versions; years later something else speaks to you. (I am always shocked when I hear designers proudly talk that they haven’t seen a film… that happens a lot now).
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Classe tous risques” (1960), directed by Claude Sautet

 
 
Speaking about French cinema, I keep coming back to your fantastic poster for Melville’s Le Samouraï. In the film, we are signaled Jef Costello’s fate from the very beginning of the movie. The silence. Him alone in the room. The bird singing in the cage. Symbols of complete solitude and imprisonment… in his own destiny. Melville makes great use of circumstantial symbolism, an element encountered in classic Japanese cinema. And I find your poster design captures that very essence of the film. And I gather from your work that you are passionate about Japanese cinema. What exactly drew you to Melville’s films? What about the Japanese cinema?
It’s exactly his awareness of the Japanese gangster films that stylistically surpass any others in the genre and his French spin on them. Le Samouraï blew me away when I saw it as a kid. There are a lot of fantastic posters for the film, but none of them pick up on the “Japonaiserie” that had been present in France since VanGogh and Matisse. But it can’t be done too directly so I tried to put it all in the very loosely written title and the style of the simple ink scroll with just the little bird outside the cage for people who know the significance.

The Japanese cinema holds the highest position in my love for movies and among all the countless masterpieces we still have only gotten to see a fraction of them. When I lived in Japan for a while, I used to go to the Video-store and see as much as I could – even without subtitles. It was always my dream to make a book showing the over 400 original posters I have made over the years. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to release my first book collecting all my Japanese posters.

Do you seek out inspiration for your design outside of the cinema world? Are there any unexpected sources of inspiration?
It can come from anywhere – nothing unexpected though – I love the old Venetian masters Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Bacon, Giacometti, Munch… all of whom have had significant influence on cinema. I’ve been collecting film scores for a long time – they are a good way to get into the mood very quickly – especially when the everyday chores make it hard to focus.
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Le doulos” (1962), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

 
 
 

”The Japanese cinema holds the highest position in my love for movies.”

 
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for “Seppuku” (1962), directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 
 
From my experience and from my talks with writers, I have learned that the cover of a book counts. Just as I do with books, I always pay attention to a DVD or Blu-ray cover art whenever I purchase a new release (I am a collector). And I am happy to see what Kino Lorber, Criterion Collection and the BFI are doing in this department. Does a DVD cover count? Could it bridge this gap between today’s audience and online streaming and watching films?
Yes – as we went from giant billboards to posters and now digital thumbnails, the specialised film-connoisseurs market is the last playing field. If you are sensitive to these things, bad, careless DVD covers, like with book covers, can ruin the aura of your library. These companies are doing a great job of adding and preserving a film culture of which the advertising artworks are a huge part – I always dream of an expansive museum dedicated only to movie art, where all the original paintings and sketches can be seen alongside the posters. The Museum Folkwang in Essen and the Cineteca di Bologna are doing a great job, but there should be an even bigger effort towards collecting and maintaining the originals.
 
 

Film poster for “You Were Never Really Here” (2017), directed by Lynne Ramsay
The poster is a collaboration between Tony Stella and Midnight Marauder for their company, Alphaville

 
 
If you could choose one classic film to make the official poster art for back in the day, which one would it be?
Fantastic question. So many come to mind – maybe Masaki Kobayashi’s Seppuku, although there are many incredible posters for that masterpiece. Recently I got pretty close to that – our company Alphaville (ed. note: the film poster design company Tony Stella has founded with illustrator Midnight Marauder) got commissioned by Film Movement with making the 50th anniversary poster for Sergio Corbucci’s Il grande silenzio for its first theatrical run in the US. A dream come true!

As for contemporary film posters, the poster you did in collaboration with Midnight Marauder for Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is one of those which truly stand out in my opinion. Could you name a few favourite film posters of this decade?
No real favourites since photography replaced the illustrations and the individual countries got streamlined to buy the same image. Today, the great designers to me are Midnight Marauder and Akiko Stehrenberger – his Knight of Cups (2015) and her Kiss of the Damned (2013) are modern favourites.
 
 

Film poster by Tony Stella for the 50th anniversary of “Il grande silenzio” (1968), directed by Sergio Corbucci

 
 

Website: alpha-ville-design.com
Instagram: @studiotstella | Twitter: @studiotstella

 

Listen to more Wrong Reel podcast episodes where Tony Stella talks about
Akira Kurosawa and the Bushido Code, The Cinema of Masaki Kobayashi,
The Best Spaghetti Westerns (Not by Leone) and more.

 

Posted by classiq in Crafts & Culture, Film, Interviews | | Leave a comment

A Children’s Book I Bought for Myself


 
I counted every single one of the 69 dogs William Grill drew on a page in his historical illustration children’s book Shackleton’s Journey, about Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to cross Antarctica. Because there were 69 dogs on board of the ship. I minutiously studied every map and name written on it, and every mountain skyline and crack in the ice, every little drawing – everything is drawn out, from men, equipment and supplies for the trip, to the dog igloos built out on the ice and camp activities, everything from nails, sledges and shovels, to socks, medical bags and vynil records. I imagined being in the open sea, 500 miles from the nearest civilisation, on a tiny boat. I felt chilly staring at Endurance trying to cross the Weddell Sea. I felt both hopeless and pushing to the limits in front of the picture of the three men crossing South Georgia. Simply put, the pictures tell the story. You are transposed to that time and the journey that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. I only read the text the third time I opened the book.

I honestly do not remember the last time I was so absorbed by an illustrated book (if I’ve ever been), except my first incursion into Grill’s magical universes, The Wolves of Currumpaw.
 
Shackleton's Journey William Grill
 

“I try to encourage as much drawing as I can
through schools and my weekly art club.
It’s sad that we lose the confidence and freedom of drawing as we age.
As Picasso said, ‘every child is born an artist,
the problem is staying one as you grow older’.”

 
Shackleton's Journey William Grill
 
I bought The Wolves for my son last year, but soon realised it was going to be one of those books to save for later, because it seems it won’t be until he grows a little older that he will truly discover its beauty. Still, every now and then he asks me to tell him the story of Lobo, the name he knows the book by.

I bought Shackleton’s Journey for myself. It’s brilliant and beautiful and fascinating.
 
Shackleton's Journey William Grill
 
I guess it’s safe to say that I am very taken with William Grill’s works, but I do not believe I would have become so if I hadn’t discovered them in a bookshop. I hope you can all find a good independent bookstore near you and visit it often.
 
photo of the book: Classiq | illustrations by William Grill, Flying Eye Books | quote by William Grill from The Guardian

Posted by classiq in Books, Children's books, Crafts & Culture | | Leave a comment