Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hello July, hello Summer!

We have longed and longed and longed for it with despair, but Summer has finally decided to show its "joli minois" in Paris. This is literally the season I live for (Spring? Autumn? Merely transitional periods. Winter? A vile season fit just for hibernation) and to me it's synonym with all kinds of good things: sun, Spain, fresh fruit, gardens, animals, walking barefoot on the grass, swimming pools, surfboards, barbecue parties and friends. So welcome back summer, I love you forever!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tumblr Love

I'm currently at Pitti in Florence steaming (real, sunny, sweaty summer at last, yay!). I'll obviously post about it all as soon as I can but right now I'm way too busy with work and eating, so in the meantime here's a little link to my new Tumblr gif diary, which you should check out right now as it's the most amazing Tumblr gif diary ever (and hey! It's not like every other person has a gif Tumblr). Let me know your thoughts!

Baci from Firenze.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Viva Las Vegas

If you haven't yet seen Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra you need to drop whatever you're doing and watch it right now. For Michael Douglas's amazing acting and for the rare pleasure of seeing Matt Damon walking around in skimpy swarovski-embroidered speedos, but also because it's a turning point in film history: this is the first time a TV company hs produced a movie that has the same quality as any traditional Hollywood feature, to the point of premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. Soderbergh had problems rising funds since the story was deemed "too gay" by studios (and they say there is no censorship anymore...), so he got picked up by HBO. I personally hope this is the beginning of a long line of movies with innovative plots that will give the industry a much-needed shake-up.
Behind the Candelabra has had a great impact on me for all of these reasons, but also because it has rekindled my love affair with the city that Christian extremists have dubbed "a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah". Las Vegas is truly fabulous! As Joe Pesci said in Scorsese's Casino, "it's a city made of money" where the concept of good taste doesn't exist. In Paris - where the constant focus on tasteful living and understated chic can get quite oppressive - I always feel like I'm committing some sort of capital sin when I express my love of (cue French people cringing) Dolce & Gabbana, Playboy magazine or long gel nails. What I think most French people don't understand is there's an art to "good" bad taste and tackiness too. And no city masters it like good old Vegas. So in case you had forgotten how great the worldwide capital of gambling is, here are 10 reasons to remember:

1. Las Vegas is the only place where it's acceptable for a man to dress like this.

Or this,

or this.

We don't see nearly enough silk, sequins or fur on men in the rest of the world, which is a shame.

2. It's the only place where this is considered elegant jewellery.

Liberace does it better. That is all. 

3. It' the only place where it's acceptable for a decent(ish) woman to dress like this:

Or like this.

We, the women from all other cities in the world, have some serious catching up to do on feathers, gold and chinchilla.

4. It's the only place on earth where it's acceptable for a house to look like this.

Enough said.

5. With 300 sunny days per year, Vegas is the only city in the world where wearing fur coats when there's 30 degrees outside is in.

This might be changing though. I hear in Dubai the latest fashion for wealthy princesses is turning the air conditioning full speed and inviting your friends for a fur tea party. But Vegas has a unique brand of fur glamour though.

6. There must be something wonderful about Vegas when entertainment royalty such as Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Mohamed Ali or Joan Collins goes there to celebrate birthdays and other milestones.

Who wouldn't want to celebrate his birthday amidst a cloud of marabou feathers and girls in sequined bikinis?

7. If it wasn't for Vegas we wouldn't have Showgirls, that utterly vile masterpiece of film history.

I've seen softcore porn movies with better plots and dialogue. But somehow this movie is iconic and addictive, so it must be good in an Ed Wood kind of way.

8. And speaking of showgirls, flooziness reaches a whole new level in Vegas. Which is obviously fascinating.

I must confess I've always been intrigued by Vegas floozies. I saw Casino when I was about 10 (yeah, probably a tad young, but it taught me a valuable life lesson: the house always wins) and I was enthralled by Sharon Stone's Ginger. That girl certainly got around: she knew how to properly gamble, how to tip casino employees to her advantage, how to get 100 dollars out of Robert DeNiro by just saying "I need to go powder my nose" and how to attach her hairpiece flawlessly. It takes a real skill to be a professional Vegas hussy. Chapeau.

9. Elvis's legend and his sequined overalls wouldn't have existed without Vegas.

We've got a lot to be thankful for.

10. Vegas has generally made an art form of tackiness and bad taste...

... so don't be afraid to apreciate the goodness in good bad taste and to indulge in it all. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Heart to Heart with Lou Doillon

A couple of months ago I interviewed the very lovely Lou Doillon (aka we met at a café and talked for two hours, mostly of our love of Leonard Cohen). The interview is featured in this summer's issue of Wonderland Magazine. I thought you might like to read it...

Sipping a café crème in her camel hair coat, maroon fedora and unruly bangs, Lou Doillon looks like the epitome of contemporary French chic. But as soon as she starts talking - in perfect English, “bien sûr” - it becomes clear that the singer is hardly the typical Gallic girl. “I feel very English whenever I’m in France, and vice-versa. At home in Paris I constantly bake pies and we only eat British food; I think that comes as a bit of a shock to my mother, who took up French nationality in the sixties and knows the Marseillaise by heart.”
The 30 year-old daughter of Jane Birkin and filmmaker Jacques Doillon was born in Paris, yet grew up listening almost exclusively to American music: “I used to sit at the back of the car on trips and listen to the tapes my father played. That’s how I discovered Nina Simone, Patti Smith and, of course, Bob Dylan. I remember the day I first heard him, I was amazed at the wittiness of his lyrics.” All of these artists have unconsciously influenced the eleven melancholy ballads that compose Places - Doillon’s first album. However, the singer/ actress/ model had only one inspiration in mind while writing her songs. “Unlike Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen had a real influence on my album. Dylan might be the best songwriter, but he is never kind. Cohen on the other hand is, as the French would say, 'bienveillant'. His lyrics are rather raw, but there is never any viciousness or reproach in them. As I was writing, I tried to remain as graceful as him… Although my songs speak about heartbreak, I ended up taking all the anger away from them, and thanking past lovers for the pain and the lessons they taught me.” 
A rather unusual point of view, considering today’s musical landscape. But then again, Doillon's upbringing and family are hardly conventional. Her parents separated when she was nine years old, and she spent most of the time with her mother. Doillon's close family also included Serge Gainsbourg and Charlotte, Jane Birkin's daughter by the legendary French singer. “My family had different and sometimes difficult relationships, but they had a rare kind of honesty about them. I had my father of course, but Serge was also very present in my life; none of them were ever scared of using their relationships to make their art. They didn’t believe in a simplistic interpretation of love where if you are in a couple you are happy and if you are loveless you are sad. Things are so much more complicated than that and feelings shift constantly.I think the French are able to understand and accept that better than other people.” Has that shaped her music? “A sense of vulnerability in love did, yes.” 

Uncertainty, frustration and longing fill her lyrics, which are perfectly complemented in the blue notes of an accompanying piano and the hints of a western guitar. Her low-pitched voice, far removed from Jane Birkin’s fragile soprano tones, vibrates with despair. “I’m not a 20 year-old girl anymore. I’ve screamed, cried, laughed, smoked and drank a lot in my life. I guess my voice reveals those extremes. Etienne Daho, my producer, once told me it reminded him of Karen Dalton, the American folk singer. I have been listening to her a lot since.” 
Daho - one of France’s most respected singers and music producers, who has worked with the likes of Françoise Hardy, Air and Vanessa Paradis - was the first person to hear Doillon’s songs. Under his wing, Places received critical acclaim upon its release. It was also an unexpected commercial success, selling more than 200.000 copies. But the singer remains somewhat puzzled: “I’m a newcomer. So far I’ve only sang 10 gigs, and when I listen to the album I still can’t believe those are my songs. Maybe that’s because I work very fast. The writing process takes over me when I’m in a dark place. I never really look for writing because as soon as I do I can be sure nothing will come out.” 
Music is simply the latest of Doillon's creative outlets (she's also worked as an artist, designer, model and actress), but it's definitely her favourite. “It allows me not only to reveal myself in all my vulnerability and brokenness, but also to understand myself better. Songwriting is a very unconscious process, sometimes I don’t know where what I’m writing is coming from. Etienne says it takes three or four years to understand your own songs; it is probably true. We’ll see!” However, her plans still involve all kinds of different projects. “The need of expression is so powerful... Why explore it in just one way? I think more than caring about getting really perfect at one thing we should aim at being curious and exceptional and simply enjoy ourselves. After all... we only live once.”