Back in 2009, I was privileged to see an advance screening of the film ‘Tibet in Song’ by Ngawang Choephel in NYC and was absolutely mesmerized by Tibet’s breathtaking views, its people’s courage and beauty and its filmmaker’s strength and resilience in the face of adversity. I know that after watching ‘Tibet in Song’ I would try to never again complain about a rainy day I have to spend inside and I would respect my Tibetan brothers and sisters only that much more! I mean, the fashions and jewelry alone have made me a fan of Tibet but their courage made me a lifetime supporter. Back then, I caught up with Choephel and he shared some of his insight into this very personal journey of a film.Read More
It’s undeniable that Keanu Reeves and fashion go together like peanut butter and jelly. In fact, you could say Reeves was born an icon, a closeted fashionista who could do no wrong, whether photographed with a scruffy beard, in his slim frame bare chested or sporting a suit.Read More
Jean-Luc Godard. Was there ever a more interesting, enigmatic figure in French cinema? I don’t think so.
From his films, cryptic as best sometimes, to the revolution he organized along with François Truffaut which shut down the Festival de Cannes in 1968, from his reclusive almost invisible life in later years, to his latest masterpiece ‘The Image Book’, Godard was, is and always will be the Greta Garbo of French filmmakers.
So to find him in Lausanne, making a rare live appearance in present day and form, accepting the FIAF 2019 award from Frédéric Maire — President of FIAF, director of the Cinémathèque Suisse and former head of Locarno Film Festival — at the Casino de Montbenon, home of the Cinematheque Suisse, is legendary.Read More
As I sit with a group of journalists surrounding Alice Rohrwacher, on an open terrace in Cannes, there is a dog howling and barking, far in the background. I giggle to myself as I seem to be the only person noticing it and because in her film ‘Lazzaro Felice’ (‘Happy as Lazzaro’) she features a wolf who is quite central to the story. This sound in the distance brings a whole otherworldly, almost magical element to our chat and if she does anything with her films, Rohrwacher proves a purveyor of magic through the lens.
This week, Rohrwacher descends on Doha to become a Master during their annual Qumra event. The Doha Film Institute is also about magic, and they make theirs happen behind the scenes by bringing together the crème de la crème of international filmmakers, producers, film curators, programmers, sales agent and festival directors to create a cinematic tsunami that is bound to be felt around the world. It is five days and nights of jam packed cinematic networking as well as constant learning, through their Masterclasses, lectures and mentorship, as well as over fine local dishes at working breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
From where I stand, the partnership seemed inevitable between Rohrwacher and the DFI.Read More
I typically hate those standard obituaries on dailies and magazines that go something like this: “So and so was the inventor of this and that and is survived by his so and so relatives, spouses etc.” But you have to admit that when the great Karl Lagerfeld passed away, and his obituaries read that he was survived by his beloved cat Choupette, who also got the bulk of his inheritance, you had to give it to Lagerfeld. Once again, he made history. And created fashion headlines for years to come.Read More
There is something about Lady Melissa Percy that reminds me of a young Katherine Hepburn. Aside from both being tall and slim, they don’t share actual physical traits as much as the ability to look glamorous and feminine in casual, sporty clothes. What both women of course do share is a love of the outdoors, sports and the similarities could continue beyond that.
Glamour to me has always been an affair of substance over style and it’s clear Lady Percy, Missy to her friends, embodies that wholeheartedly.Read More
Roberto Saviano, to any Italian, is a figure that we constantly re-evaluate. I started out being completely taken by his apparent courage and in fact wrote the piece below after meeting him in secret in NYC. I named it “The Face of Courage” for the Huffington Post.
These days, his police protection magically gone, even though the Camorra is still going strong, he’s written the screenplay for an award winning film at Berlinale, and I am starting to doubt his intentions. Or even his provenance. When I wanted to catch up again with the writer and TV personality, he dismissed me on a couple of occasions. But regardless of my own experiences and thoughts about Saviano, this interview I conducted with him in NYC in 2012 is a great testament to something. I just have to figure out what… My good writing perhaps?Read More
Guillermo Arriaga is currently on a book tour promoting ‘El Salvaje’ and follows the route of the book’s latest translations, which, among other locations, so far have taken him to my native Florence and will take him to Holland at the start of 2019. In fact, while in the Netherlands, he’ll participate in what promises to be an engrossing conversation during the International Film Festival Rotterdam, part of their #FeelIFFR series of events.Read More
Ten years ago, I came across a figure of elegance, charm and kindness at a gala at the Rubin Museum. The man turned out to be chef Vikas Khanna, a master in the art of cooking but also a wondrous survivor of events that would destroy most of us. Born with a foot defect, Chef Khanna overcame that, with the help of his courageous mother and went on to become one of the most beloved and known names in the firmament of celebrity chefs today.Read More
Most who know me have heard by now what a big fan I am of the recently elected president of the Cairo International Film Festival, Mohamed Hefzy. To learn more about this great cinematic personality and wonderful supporter of film in and from the Arab region, you can read my interview with Hefzy on The National.
But perhaps not as many people know what a huge fan of Ralph Fiennes I am. I mean, the man redefined acting for anyone who frequented the movies from the 1990s onward. One word, or actually two — ‘Wuthering Heights’ — and with Juliette Binoche. I gotcha right?Read More
Finally, I made it by the skin of my teeth to the V & A exhibit “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up.” It was an otherworldly experience and I highly recommend a prompt visit to every woman, and the men who love them, to catch the show. It is up in London’s loveliest museum until the 18th of November. After that, you’ll probably have to travel to Mexico, Coyoacán to be exact, to visit her Blue House, La Casa Azul where the Frida Kahlo Museum is located.Read More
International Film Festival is bringing Robert De Niro to the desert city in Morocco. You know, the favorite home of world renowned fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and one of the most beautiful cities on earth, complete with oasis, luxury and camels, is going to host the wondrous movie star himself! Now that got me thinking about this shot I took above.
But more on that a bit later…Read More
Having just closed its thirty-third edition, the Settimana Internazionale della Critica (Venice International Film Critics Week also known as SIC for short) is the Venice festival sidebar that can boast the discovery of such world cinema masters as Olivier Assayas (SIC 1986), Pedro Costa (SIC 1989), Bryan Singer (SIC 1993), Peter Mullan (SIC 1998), Abdellatif Kechiche (SIC 2000), as well as Ronit and Shlomi Elkabets (SIC 2004). Each year, and year after year since the early ‘80s, the Venice International Film Critics Week has been changing cinema and in the process, also reshaping us and making us better. Because I do believe that cinema is undisputedly the fastest and most efficient way to change the world.
For the past three years renowned Italian film journalist and critic Giona A. Nazzaro has been SIC’s General Delegate, a duty he was elected to by a committee and for which the current mandate expires with this edition. Inshallah, as those of us who have spent more than a day or two in the Arab world are used to saying, he will be reelected to another mandate. I’ve grown quite fond of Nazzaro, in a truly professional way. He’s kind and very talented, but he also has an incredible instinct for discovering the unprecedented. And the past three years have been exciting ones at the SIC.Read More
Back in 1999, at the Festival de Cannes, Bruno Dumont presented 'Humanity' ('L'humanité') a film that caused an uproar among critics, who initially mocked and then went on to three of the top awards from the Competition jury headed by David Cronenberg.
So, in case you were wondering, Dumont seems to always manage the last laugh.
Fast forward almost two decades and Dumont is getting quite a lot of laughs indeed, this time from audiences at the Locarno Festival watching the world premiere of the latest installment of the TV series the French filmmaker started for ARTE in 2014. The original installment was 'Li'l Quinquin', now his characters are all four years older and the second season is titled 'CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans'.Read More
It was the film I most craved to watch at this year's Locarno Festival, and it happened to be the very first film I watched here. It didn't disappoint me!
Dominga Sotomayor's 'Too Late to Die Young' ('Tarde Para Morir Joven') is a beautiful shot, strangely evocative and perfectly soothing piece of filmmaking. Yet it somehow has stayed with me throughout the festival, a meter by which I have been judging everything else I've watched in Locarno.
Sotomayor’s film tells the simple enough yet unusual tale of a teenager, Sofia (played by Demian Hernandez) coming of age in a commune on the slopes of the Andes just above Santiago, Chile and the surrounding cast of characters that accompany her journey all the way to the final climax of the film. It is accented by this etherial cinematography and cool sounds and you can't help, as an audience member, but become wrapped in nostalgia. In this film's case, unlike a Syrian filmmaker once said to me when I interviewed him for his film, childhood is a geographical place and Sotomayor brings us there to experience it along with her. It's her memories of growing up in a community very much like the one in the film.
I caught up with the cool and self assured Sotomayor in Locarno where the film screens as part of the festival's International Competition.Read More
Film and TV titles designer Kyle Cooper was at the Locarno Festival this year to be bestowed with the Vision Award Ticinomoda for his career. In fact, if you research Cooper you will be impressed by how much he's done. Guaranteed. Almost every single title sequence for favorite films and beloved TV series have been designed or influenced in some way or another by Cooper.
From 'Se7en' to 'Indecent Proposal', from 'The Joy Luck Club' to 'Quiz Show', from 'Mission: Impossible' to 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', and for TV 'The Walking Dead', 'Feud' and 'American Horror Stories' among much, much more, Cooper has been involved in creating those titles.
And if you've ever tried to watch a film without titles, to me it's a bit like traveling without buying a ticket first. Yes, it can be done and you will probably get to the destination desired, but the experience you have set yourself up for won't be quite the same. Disorganized, late and without a clue is never a good way to start off. And arrive.Read More
Just over a month before the Festival de Cannes kicked off on the Croisette, an announcement rocked the world of Arab cinema: Egyptian producer extraordinaire Mohamed Hefzy would be the new head of the Cairo International Film Festival. There are many reasons why Hefzy is the perfect man for the job, since CIFF has had its share of troubles following the revolutions of the Arab Spring. Among them, that he's long been a great cinematic bridge between the Arab world and the West. Also to keep in mind, the movie business in Egypt has gone through changes that would have shut the industry down in most other countries, and yet out of those ashes it is thanks to a visionary producer like Hefzy that Egyptian films are now seen beyond the Arab world.
I can easily quote the 'Yomeddine' example -- a simple, straight from the heart indie-like film that competed for the Palme d'Or this year in Cannes. Yes, in Competition, in Cannes. Not bad for a debut feature film!
So knowing that Hefzy will be at the helm of the oldest and most prestigious festival in Egypt is great news to this lover of Arab cinema.Read More
"I'm in love with everyone I've ever met in one way or another. I'm just a crazy, unhinged disaster of a human being." -- Edie Sedgwick
You can have your Kim Kardashians, your Gigi Hadids, your newly transformed princesses and Instagram sensations, I'll take Edie Sedgwick every day over any of them. In fact, nearly fifty years after her death, she remains for this child of the 70s a favorite fashion icon, an "It Girl" like no other and an example whose style and attitude I always keep in my consciousness.
So why has Sedgwick remained such a star, even though she could appear to have done little more than be born a socialite and die at age 28, of an overdose-slash-suicide after several stretches in mental institutions? Because she once met Andy Warhol, whom with his usual flair for discovering the broken yet utterly fascinating -- see Jean-Michel Basquiat and Candy Darling among many many more -- made of Sedgwick the original reality star. She is the predecessor of the Kardashians, only her reality was captured on film, by Warhol, a master artist of creation.Read More
Ever since last September, when I ran across Abel Odor, the Amsterdam-based fragrance company of New Zealander Frances Shoemack at Pitti Fragranze, I've been obsessed with these natural smelling olfactory creations. In my own philosophy of life, which includes great cinema, quality food and a generous helping of fashion, I find that perfume plays an integral part. It communicates who you are, in just a split second. And I always want my fragrance to say "intelligent, world-conscious and a bit wild" -- a message which Abel creations convey perfectly.
So to celebrate the fact that Abel products are now available in the US, both to order online from Abelodor.com and in select specialty stores, I revisit here my own journey through Abel scents and an interview with its founder -- a fragrance and personal favorite.Read More
I can't help but think of this iconic image of James Ivory at the Oscars this year, wearing the Andrew Mania designed shirt featuring the likeness of 'Call Me By Your Name' co-star Timothée Chalamet. It's everything it should be and more and it's the recognition this giant of the indie film world deserves. What Luchino Visconti was to cinema in the 1960s and 70s, James Ivory -- and his partner, the late Ismael Merchant -- have been to it since then. All the way to 2018! A film featuring either of their names means quality, beauty, poetry and most of all, cinematic dreams galore.
So I wanted to revisit this interview with the Grand Maestro himself, from 2016, which I managed to secure on the occasion of the re-release of 'Howards End', a touching beautiful film about human connections. And love, so much love. In between the serious questions, Ivory and I also exchanged some recommendations on current films to watch -- I suggested 'Elvis & Nixon' which has the feel of a Merchant Ivory production, starring Michael Shannon as, yes, Elvis Presley! -- and I shared my love for 'A Room with a View' the first film I bought on VHS tape, to own and cherish until video went away.Read More