The Culture Trip: July Newsletter

I have recently discovered that the BFI booklets* make for the perfect summer reading. I have got myself covered with titles from The Birds and Vertigo (no summer without Hitchcock!) to The Big Lebowski and Alien. Not too long and not too short either, with essays that cover different aspects of a movie in a wider context, and, not in the least, prompting you to re-watch some great films.

Summer also means tennis to me. From the summer holidays of my school years, when my brother and I used to make the round of the tennis courts in town, to the anticipation of Roland Garros every year, heralding the arrival of my favourite season, and to one of my fondest memories in recent years, when I took my son, then aged two, to a clay court for the first time in the early morning so that we could have the place all to ourselves, tennis has been a mainstay in my life and of my summers. I miss it this summer more than I was afraid I would.

Gerard Merzorati writes a beautiful piece in Racquet magazine about what he misses about playing tennis and how important are “the weak ties that bind”, those casual acquaintances, like the buddies we play tennis with, for our mental health. “I miss the shared and intimate loneliness that is a tennis match. I miss playing, and the exhilaration that provides us—midafternoon, when the rest of the city is feverishly working, as we once did—one of the few enhanced freedoms of being 67. (The other is a 3 p.m. show at a movie theater.) I miss the empathy and commiseration that accompany the adjustment of knee braces and the discussion of whether to pop Advil before or after you’re on court. I miss the sweaty hug at the net when a match is done, win or lose. We did it, one more time.”

“These low-stakes relations, strangers to us except when not—bookshop owners, farmers-market-stand operators, tennis opponents—provide us a sense of belonging, bind us more strongly to place. They aren’t nearly as important as the love we share with family members or intimate partners or lifelong friends. Still, studies show, they make us happier. And research shows too that weak ties are especially important as we age. Social interactions of the kind I have with my tennis buddies—infrequent, low-intensity, limited, verbally, to the exchange of a few words before and after a match—are nevertheless preserving my cognitive function and helping to keep depression at bay.”

People over 60, as in the case of Gerard Merzorati, have been the most affected during these last four months. And I am not talking about the ones who unfortunately or tragically got sick, but about those who didn’t but who nonetheless suffered physically and mentally enormously because going out and being active is so much part of their well being (as it is for everyone, of any age). But they stayed at home for their sake, and for the others, they socially distanced and followed the rules.

And that is why I can not begin to quantify Novak Djokovic’s inexcusable and irresponsible behaviour, his contrarianism before and his lack of collective responsibility during the Adria Tour, which, because he and other tennis players and the organizers did not respect any rules and discounted the advice of public-health experts, resulted in the players, Djokovic included, getting sick. A great sportsman, a champion should be a pillar of society, someone people and children look up to and follow by example. And so what happens when we, humans, who unfortunately have herd mentalities, follow someone like Djokovic? Being a great champion requires so much more than the number of titles you have won and more than being ranked number one tennis player in the world. I am afraid Djokovic lacks most of the qualities that would make him a great champion. He simply is not.

”Fair play” illustration, part of the Classiq Journal Editions, available in the shop
My Racquet magazine collection: time travel to tennis-filled past summers

In a time of instant, abbreviated and superficial messages and online “social” networks, and now in a time of social distancing, there is a real social network that truly connects people. Postcrossing is a project that allows you to send postcards and receive postcards from random people from around the world. Think about waiting with anticipation to receive snail mail, to receive a story in your mail box, something worthwhile to read, something only you and not everyone on social media can read, and then take your time and effort to write back.

I may be late to the scene, but a good film podcast never gets old. The Poster Boys are Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith, two designers who get together and discuss all things graphic design, share their influences, and explore and celebrate the titans of poster design history. Schaefer and Smith both work as poster designers in today’s film industry, collaborating with the likes of The Criterion Collection, IFCFilms, Oscilloscope, Death Waltz Recording Company, and Janus Films. But the main thing is that just listening to them discuss the work of designing a film poster is fascinating.

With the release of his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways*, Bob Dylan gives his first interview in years. “Great people follow their own path.”

Eight artists share their favourite summer movies.

When I was little, I was playing a game named Wireless telephone (also known under various names depending on country, such as Broken telephone in Greece, or Arabic telephone in France, or Chinese whispers). I had almost forgotten about it until my parents recently taught my five year old son how to play it. A few days later, I read that Finland, the country with one of the best education systems in the world, uses this same game to educate young children through play and even teach them how to handle fake news. Children as small as five can play the game. The players, in number of at least three, but the more the merrier, form a line and the first player comes up with a message and whispers it to the ear of the second player in the line. The second player repeats the message to the third, and so on. When the message reaches the last player in the chain, they announce it to the entire group. The final message usually arrives distorted because errors occur in the retelling. It results in rows of laughter, but this simple and fun game also teaches children how a message can change when it is passed from one person to another. It teaches them to ask questions, to discuss what they learn and hear, to think by themselves.

They are right about wearing a damn mask: “For your family, your community, our economy and so kids can go back to school in the fall.” It applies to any country. So why don’t you? But please don’t be a kook. Don’t throw your disposable masks and gloves where you shouldn’t. Because this is what happens and we are about to be in a bigger mess than the one we are in now.

Photographic prints available in the shop

“I wanted to design a dress for a real woman, not a catwalk model. A dress that could be worn with a bra. I have no technical education and I never went to fashion school. In a way, I didn’t design the Galaxy dress – it decided to be designed through my hands. It exists because I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s a dress that allows women to be who they are, not what someone else tells them to be.” Roland Mouret selects the objects that inspire him.

Yes, everyone should take one day off a month to do just this.

Suitcase magazine have recently launched a podcast, The Upgrade, and in the latest episode, editor-in-chief India Dowley and her co-host, Fleur Rollet-Manus, talk about why it is that we are so obsessed with being in a constant state of travel. India also says something about the underestimated power of cooking during lockdown, as not just something we have to do but because “food and recipes are the primary way of travelling from home”. Books (not just on cooking) and places are recommended, and chef Tom Brown shares his favourite spots.

From Bob Dylan to The Rolling Stones, Anthony Bourdain’s 25 favourite songs to cook to.

In a new episode of Team Deakins, cinematographer Roger Deakins and his collaborator, James Deakins, discuss film restoration, the immense research work that goes into finding rare films and the work that goes into restoring them, with Lee Kline, Criterion’s Technical Director of Restoration. Lee has overseen the restoration of hundreds of films during his tenure at Criterion and undoubtedly left an impact on the history of cinema, allowing both audiences and future filmmakers alike the ability to enjoy classic titles for years to come.

Have you ever watched a subtitled film and felt that the subtitles, especially if you speak the language spoken in the film, were just off? That’s because subtitling a movie is so much more than translating words. In a fascinating interview, Andrew Litvack, who has been subtitling films for Jean-Luc Godard, Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Despechin and Jacques Audiard, talks with Film Comment about subtitling: “All subtitles are by nature synthetic. The idea is “traduire, c’est détruire” — to translate is to destroy. What makes me a good subtitler is that I do good damage control. I hate compromising on syntax (i.e. for me, it has to sound like good dialogue) so it’s usually a question of removing details. Choosing which ones to remove. […] I’d rather people watch the movie than read the subtitles. It’s cool to be respected for something that is almost not noticed.”

Why radio matters in a time when we need media we can trust (I do hope the social media is not the place where you get your news from) to reassure, inform and entertain us. If you don’t have a Monocle subscription, maybe it’s time you did. Let’s support the voices that matter.

* In these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookshops and record stores, therefore I will not link to global online retailers or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and record store and buying from or placing your order with them.
More stories: “Roland Garros Is Special”: Interview with Photographer Amélie Laurin / It’s Much More Than Food Writing: Two Classics / Interview with Illustrator Eliza Southwood

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