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.

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