The Culture Trip: April Newsletter


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

“The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more. Humans are always on the lookout for something better, bigger, tastier.” This is an excerpt from Yuval Noah Harari’s book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow*. I’ve been reading it these days (I also recommend Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind* by the same author). It is a clear-sighted and though-provoking view, related to things we already know and things that are already happening to us, of where mankind is headed, and here is the thing. We can take this time of sheltering in place to slow down, reflect, reevaluate our lives, better ourselves and come out of this connected with ourselves and others in more meaningful ways. Or we can learn nothing and go back to old habits (to whatever extent that will be possible anymore).

Here are a few things I hope many of us will learn. That maybe we will stop looking for role models on Instagram, but in books, magazines, and old movies, which has always been my philosophy. That freedom is wealth. That knowledge is wealth. That health is wealth. That we have a life that does not involve work. That we must work smarter not harder. That more and more travel does not necessarily make you wiser (are the ones whose every trip was a status symbol shared on social media and who now post from their travels past really learning anything? Why can’t we learn from professional photographers who are starting to become even more creative while indoors?). That we must support our local communities and small businesses. That we remain true to our values, not follow the Jones’. That more is not better. That we will listen to ourselves more and to the noise around us less. That we will rediscover or discover our ability to know what is ours, our sense of identity. That we finally appreciate and care for nature. That we appreciate what we have. That everything is not about having, but about being.

“I understood that the most beautiful, dangerous, adventurous and gratifying journeys of all is the one inside yourself, whether you’re sitting in the living room or under a canopy here in Budelli. That’s why staying at home and doing nothing can be really hard for many.” The words of Mauro Morandi, the Italian who, for 31 years, has found serenity in solitude as the sole inhabitant of a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, capture so well the current mindset.

From all the small businesses we can support at the moment, the independent bookstores are a top priority. If you don’t have a local bookshop you can support, here is how to find one. And this is how bookstores step up to keep their activity going while keeping their doors closed.

Below, a few books worth your attention (besides Sapiens and Homo Deus).

The Lacuna*, by Barbara Kingsolver, which follows a man through his life weaving in and out of the life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, is one of the best book recommendations I have received lately.

Akikomatic: The Art of Akiko Stehrenberger* compiles the work of one of the most talented contemporary film poster designers and illustrators. My recent interview with the artist also offers an insight into her work.

For the kids: a few great under-the-radar children’s books to trigger their imagination and curiosity and their sense of exploration while we stay at home.

The solitude specials from one of my favourite podcasts, Terra Incognita. Adventurers, travellers and explorers are sharing how they are coping in challenging environments, how they are channeling their energy towards things within their control and how they’re enjoying this time to learn, do and make new things.

One of my favourite film poster illustrators, Midnight Marauder (the other one is Tony Stella), shares the fascinating process behind designing the poster for A Hidden Life (in collaboration with Tony Stella) aka Radegund, directed by Terrence Malick.

For your consideration: Yuval Noah Harari, the writer of the aforementioned Sapiens and Homo Deus, shares his pertinent opinion about the world after this crisis.

In need of a good laugh? Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, season 10, is out now and currently running on HBO.

“Music beats everything.” The trailer teaser for Damien Chazelle’s Paris-set musical miniseries The Eddy is here. It is written by Jack Thorne, with original music written by Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber. The series consists of eight episodes and will be released on Netflix on May 8. Now I want to rewatch both Damien Chazelle’s and Jacques Demy’s movies.

Filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green’s top ten makes for a great list of movies to watch these days.

Even in these times, when everyone, even the more skeptical ones like myself, are thankful for the benefits of online streaming and Netflix, I am still pushing for a film archive in one’s home. Or, better said, especially in these times. Because the simple act of choosing a film to watch from your own library, taking the dvd or blu-Ray out of its case and placing it in the player is an intentional act, it doesn’t feel forced by the circumstances, it feels more like a date-night-in, or a date with your favourite actors or directors than clicking on your remote and settling on whatever is available. But if that is not an option for you, you can of course subscribe to Criterion Channel (their April lineup is pretty great) if you are in the US and to MUBI if you are anywhere in the world.

But there is another more important reason for supporting the independent movie industry that goes beyond our own viewer satisfaction. Netflix streaming does not solve the problem of closing independent cinemas. Even before these difficult times, it was more of a problem for traditional cinema. In that regard, partnering with Art House Convergence and Janus Films, the Criterion Collection has announced an online fundraiser for arthouse cinemas in the US.

How else can we help indie cinemas? Movie-goers can, for example, buy a “ticket” through the “Theatrical-at-Home” initiative and have the option to select a theater to support. Then they’ll receive a one-time screening link to the film on its release date. Why is it so important to support small cinemas? Because to lose the cinema experience means “losing the centerpiece to how our community functions, celebrating art, not always bowing to what’s the biggest and most marketed and must funded movies.”

Filmmaker Magazine has made its entire latest issue available online.

The BofF Podcast: why the world should pause and reset its priorities.

The University of California Press is making all its journals freely accessible through June 2020.

Step inside Francis Mallmann’s Provencal kitchen for a meaningful travel story: “Was that what travel meant? An exploration of the desert of memory rather than those around me?”
* For easily accessible, more in-depth descriptions of the books mentioned in this article, I have linked to the respective publishing houses. However, in these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookstores, so we will not link to global online book chains or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and placing your order with them. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.
More Stories: Colour and Costumes: From The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to La La Land / For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond / Art Directing Film Posters: In Conversation with Illustrator Akiko Stehrenberger

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