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katiaganfield:

I interview Marios Schwab for SOMA Magazine, p44 - 53, for the text go HERE

katiaganfield:

I interview Marios Schwab for SOMA Magazine, p44 - 53, for the text go HERE

glamour:

We recently tagged along on some of our editors’ studio visits to preview designers’ latest collections. The first stop on our fashiony tour? Jewelry label Dannijo’s light-filled Meatpacking space. Accessories Editor Maria Dueñas Jacobs spent some Q.T. with Danielle and Jodie Snyder, the designers (and sisters!) behind the brand while photographer Lianna Tarantin zoomed in some of the most tempting sights.

Check out the snaps from Maria’s visit and her Q + A with the Snyders, below.

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

Current neighborhood: Tribeca

Monday-Friday lunch spot: Blue Ribbon Sushi or Macelleria

Go-to studio snack: Eleni’s cookies

Favorite websites: Shopbop.com, Net-A-Porter, The Man Repeller, The Cut, Refinery29, The Coveteur, The Daily Beast, StyleCaster

Favorite non-fashion stores: Bleeker Street Records, CLIC Gallery, Taschen

Age of your brand: 4 years this march

Story behind the name of your brand: Danni + Jo = DANNIJO (our names combined)

Favorite thing in your studio: The aesthetic and how it changes to reflect the inspiration for each season. Also, the natural light is awesome.

History behind your studio place: It used to be a meat shop.

Best place/time to get work done: Early morning/late at night

Current soundtrack in your studio: A mix our friend Michaelangelo L’acqua made for us.

The most important tool in the studio: My dad’s medical clamp because it reminds me of how far we’ve come.

Your spring 2012 collection in a few words: Indonesian Surf Culture with a Rothko vibe

Historical figure you would have liked to wear your pieces: Audrey Hepburn, Oja Kodar, Grace Kelly, Cleopatra and Princess Diana

When Sarah Burton was named Creative Director of Alexander McQueen in May 2010, she was charged with a task that many thought impossible. Just a few months earlier, her friend and mentor Lee McQueen had taken his own life at the age of 40, leaving Burton and others close to him to come to terms with the loss. It was Burton who, despite the circumstances, helped shepherd to completion McQueen’s last collection for Fall 2010, which was in progress when he died. And it was Burton who for years had worked alongside McQueen, first as an intern while she was still a student at Central Saint Martins and later as one of his chief collaborators, and was as familiar as anyone with the strict elegance and dark beauty that remained at the center of both his vision and the house’s DNA. So when parent company Gucci Group announced that the Alexander McQueen label would continue after its founder’s death and charged Burton with running the business, the announcement was greeted by many as an appropriate way to have the McQueen brand move forward while honoring its legacy. Burton, though, has made the decision look like a stroke of genius.In many ways, the Manchester-raised Burton is the antithesis of a star designer, with a gentle warmth and humility that belie her considerable talent, knowledge, and technical skill. Nevertheless, her work so far at the helm of McQueen has drawn the spotlight to her. With curator Andrew Bolton, she helped pull together the blockbuster retrospective “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, which became one of the most-visited exhibitions in the museum’s 142-year history. She was inscribed into the history books after creating the elaborately embroidered gown that Catherine Middleton wore when she walked down the aisle with Prince William. But perhaps most importantly, Burton’s three critically acclaimed collections for McQueen have demonstrated her mastery of the extreme dress-up and tortured romanticism central to the house codes, as well as the formidable strength of her own voice as a designer, imbuing it all with a feminine lightness and a fragile vulnerability. In the process, she has not only allowed Alexander McQueen’s name to live on but also to remain at the center of the conversation in fashion in a way that her former boss—the consummate showman—would have loved.
For Spring 2012, Burton took things a step further, creating a collection of hyperfeminine lace and ruffled-chiffon dresses, but all with subversive touches— face-obscuring lace masks, black leather appliqué—that injected the clothes with some signature McQueen sharpness.
Sarah Jessica Parker recently connected with the 37-year-old Burton, who was at her London studio, to discuss her newly anointed status as the year’s brightest fashion star and what lies ahead, both for her and for the house of McQueen.
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: Rather than go back in time too much, I thought we could start with today and what you are doing right now. Where are you in the process of designing your next collection?
SARAH BURTON: I’ve literally just started on the next show today. We’re trying to find the right feeling and the right spirit for what to do, which is fun but also a bit daunting.
PARKER: For those of us who aren’t privy to these things, what is the process like? Do you all get together and someone says, “I’ve been thinking about lavender,” and you go around the room?BURTON: It’s very organic. I sit with my team and we throw ideas around. I speak with Camilla Nickerson, the stylist I work with, and together we come up with who next season’s woman is and where she exists. Then we all just look at fabrics and prints and color. What’s great is that inspiration comes from every where; the process is fueled by lots of different things, and it changes all the time.
PARKER: And is it unique at your studio? Because one of the things that we’ve talked about in the past is that what distinguishes the McQueen line is that you develop your own prints, and not every designer has that opportunity. That’s something that was really important to Lee.
BURTON: Yeah, exactly. I think what’s amazing about McQueen and what was amazing about Lee was that he created this process where it was never really about fashion. It was always about a feeling and telling a story. And I think he sort of trained us all— trained me—to try to tell a story and to find a world that doesn’t necessarily relate to what everybody else is doing and to believe in your own instincts. And that went for everything. Lee really did believe in creating things that were unique to him and very special to the house. A lot of the prints and embroideries and jacquards are specifically designed not just for the collection, but for each garment.
PARKER: Who is the McQueen woman and where does she exist? Is she slightly different now for you? or does she change because the world changes?
BURTON: I think she does change because the world changes, but having worked for Lee for such a long time, his spirit is still very present. There’ll always be a McQueen woman. She is a strong woman and she is a powerful woman, and when she puts a McQueen jacket on, she feels different. the way she stands is different. The way she moves is different. It’s almost like the clothes are slightly empowering. There’s this emotion that goes into the clothes. and I try to keep it as true to … you know, Lee was such a genius that I can never pretend to be him, but I am very aware that I’m designing for a house that he created, and I try to keep it as true to that as possible.
PARKER: You were here for a long time, and so you can feel some confidence. I would guess that he would say, “Sarah, trust your instincts.”
BURTON: He would. Lee taught me that if you don’t believe in it, then you shouldn’t do it because you can’t stand behind it. He was brilliant because he would always say, “Things don’t stand still. It has to go forward,” or “Oh, don’t bring that old jacket out again. That’s been made before.” So I’m very conscious. I’ve got to move it because otherwise it stays still and it becomes stagnant.
PARKER: One of the stories that really stands out as a perfect example of what it was like when you first came to work for him is when he left you with a dress that was barely completed. He just said, “I’ll be back tomorrow,” and you were meant to finish it and you called your mother. Do you mind telling that story?
BURTON: I remember he pinned it on the stand, and it looked amazing. He had sort of half sewn it and he said, “Oh, I’m going out now. You can finish that.” and I remember thinking, I can’t possibly do that! I called my mum immediately. I was like, “Oh my god, well, how am I gonna finish this?” and she said, “Just get on with it.” What was so amazing about him is that he made you think that anything is possible. He made you challenge yourself all the time, which is why I loved working for him. Nothing was ever impossible. And that was amazing to be around. Completely inspiring.
PARKER: It’s also such a great way of teaching young people that they must seek their own identity, even within a house that’s established. Is that something you even need to talk about now with the people there, or is that just the culture of the place?
BURTON: I think it is the culture. We have quite a lot of interns and young designers who come for training, and I really feel that it’s important that they know how to patch and cut, that they know how to treat fabrics. What’s always been great about this place is that there’s not just one person who does jersey, one person who does denim. Everybody does everything and everyone knows the whole world that we’re working in. McQueen was so small, and Lee did everything: cut patterns, make clothes, everything. He was always so involved and hands-on. I was completely awed by what he was trying to achieve.
PARKER: You mention interns, and I know a little bit about how you first came to work with McQueen. Some people might be a little bit curious—or a lot curious—about the beginning.
BURTON: I went to a really academic school, but I always wanted to do fashion, and I was lucky enough to get in [to Central Saint Martins] and my tutor at the time, Simon Ungless, was one of Lee’s best friends, and he said, “Oh yeah, you should go and work for my friend Lee.” So I interned with Lee for a year, went back to college, and then came back. It was really lucky in many ways.
PARKER: What do you think your tutor saw in you? What were you like at that point in your life?
BURTON: It’s funny, because I sometimes ask that myself. I think maybe I was quite shy. I wasn’t the trendiest girl at college. I just loved what I was doing. I loved research at the time. I think I was always in the print room working.
PARKER: Now that you’re in charge of the company, do you get to do the things that you used to do? Do you get to sit in front of a sewing machine? How different is it to run the whole business? That kind of responsibility can take you away from the creative side.
BURTON: If I’m honest, I had no idea of the size of the job. I had no idea of the other sorts of pressures that he must have faced. The great thing that Lee established is the ready-to-wear. It’s about the clothes. It’s not necessarily a bag- or shoe-driven company, it’s about this woman … In a funny way, I haven’t really stopped doing my old job.PARKER: You are so clearly thriving in this position. It’s interesting to hear what is important to you and how you stay connected, creatively, while you also have to be a businessperson. It’s a bit like being the head of a ballet company who is required to do an enormous amount of fund-raising but is also the creative force and still has to be a really inspired, innovative thinker.BURTON: Well, for me, it’s about people. I’m very lucky that I have an amazing team and this amazing place that Lee created where creativity is king. You could tell that when you saw the show at the Met.
PARKER: Do you want to talk a little bit about the Met exhibition and the process of putting that together? I know that it involved many McQueen people, like Trino Verkade [creative coordinator], Sam Gainsbury [show producer], Guido Palau [hairstylist], Judy Hall [pattern cutter] and Andrew Bolton at the Met and many others who might have been part of that conversation. What was that like for all of you—especially at that time?
BURTON: It was so raw in everybody’s minds. When we looked at the pieces, there was such sorrow. But it was also an amazing celebration of what Lee had done. It was really hard to pick the pieces that told the story of Lee because there were so many incredible ones.
PARKER: With limited space, you can’t put everything in. Were there any disagreements about which pieces to include?
BURTON: There was real agreement. Andrew did a selection from the archive, and then we would say, “Well, which piece was really important to Lee?” and maybe I said, “oh, Lee didn’t really like that piece.” Andrew did an amazing selection, and each of the rooms took you into another world. I mean, nobody knows what Lee wanted because Lee was so much his own person, but you sort of knew what he loved and what he did feel strongly for. I think that the rooms told a story but each of the garments had their own story and their own character and you could remember how they were made. Sometimes looking at them again, you couldn’t believe the pieces, and it was, like, “Oh my god, that’s amazing.” The number of people from different walks of life that I’ve talked to who went to see and who were really inspired by it. It was phenomenal.
PARKER: That genuine appreciation and curiosity about the art, the craftsmanship, and the storytelling— I don’t know if there’s ever been anything like that collective curiosity. So many different people who would say to me, “Did you see it?” and if I have the time-line correct, while you were preparing for the show, you also had a perfectly kept secret about a certain royal wedding dress that had to be made. What was that period like for you and the handful of people who knew and were working on Kate Middleton’s dress?
BURTON: Um, I mean … I’m not actually allowed to talk much about it at all. It was a precious, magical time that I’ll always treasure, and I feel like she gave me a gift in many ways. I feel incredibly privileged.
PARKER: Where does your inspiration come from? Do you see something when you’re driving home that you respond to? What happens when you get home at night? Do you listen to music?
BURTON: I do listen to music, but all kinds of music. I spend a lot of time at the studio. at home I have lots of books.
PARKER: Do you talk a lot about your work with your husband [photographer David Burton]? He shoots the campaigns, no?
BURTON: David Sims does the campaigns, but my David does the look book. He’s brilliant. He’s a very good listener. [laughs]
PARKER: I want to talk a little bit about the Spring 2012 collection. What was the inspiration? I think you’ve said “extreme beauty,” but what does that mean? Where did that come from?
BURTON: I think there is a romance to it, but it is slightly hard and more fetishistic. I think that we wanted to do something that was really about hyper-femininity. It was a difficult show as well, because the third show is always a tricky show. I had a sense that I wanted to make it very couture, very worked. Really about the way a woman is sort of an object of desire, but she’s an object of desire for herself, and the way that we adorn ourselves. The idea of heightened embellishment. And so we looked at all kinds of goddesses, and we kind of went to the sea and looked at the inside of shells and at colors that maybe could’ve been a little bit sickly. We used pinks and corals, and almost took it to an extreme of femininity, really.
PARKER: That’s so interesting that it’s as extreme as that—not so much the woman, but more the saturation of the color or the angle and how small her waist is and how what she’s wearing that’s extreme, in a way.
BURTON: Yeah. It was that exactly. It was almost like completely emphasizing everything about a woman, and Guido came up with this idea of embellishing the face as well, so it was almost as if the clothes were sort of growing on you. It wasn’t just about the model and the catwalk. The models almost become like this little army—an army of overly ornate women. No surface was untouched. Even for the chiffon ruffles, we sort of hand-massaged them. It’s not very good for production, but everything was tweaked and touched and embroidered and embellished.
PARKER: And at what point do you bring Guido in?
BURTON: Quite early on. I work really closely with Camilla Nickerson as well. She comes at the very beginning of the season. She works on the idea for who the woman is, and then I work with Sam along the way about what the show is going to be. And then Guido comes in and is amazing because he has an amazing vision of McQueen and of fashion in general. I’m very lucky to have these people to work with.
PARKER: Is expanding the contemporary McQ label part of the discussion with your team?
BURTON: Definitely. Because I feel that it’s very clear who the McQueen woman is, and I really feel that McQ has to have its own story to tell and its own woman. there’s no need to do a second line that is a poor-man’s version of the main line. It has to be different because there’s nothing worse than seeing a one-button jacket in a cheap fabric that’s an imitation of the main line. The pieces have got to be special in their own right.
PARKER: That’s kind of a different way of thinking. You want to give people something at a price point that still feels special. It doesn’t feel like, “Wow this is not great material, these aren’t great prints.” You want to give the McQ woman her own world.
BURTON: There is more of an ease to McQ. there is a world that is similar to the McQueen spirit and essence, but the pieces are not necessarily for a customer who buys the main line.
PARKER: Lee was very political. I always thought that there were wonderful subversive messages in the clothes. Sometimes they were more blatant, and other times they were quieter. I know that he had a lot of feelings about the world and class structure and the way people were treated and mistreated. Is the political something that’s in your brain, too, in some way?
BURTON: I really think that creating clothes and fashion has to be a statement about how we live and where we live and what’s happening in the world. So the reason the last show was very feminine and romantic was because I felt like the world wanted positivity and not darkness or gloom. I wanted it to feel very much about beauty, and I think that it related to Lee because it was very much about him. His collections were not just a statement on society, they were a complete statement on his beliefs, but they were also incredibly personal, often autobiographical. They were about what he was going through at the time, what he was feeling.
PARKER: And that can only happen with you if that’s authentically what’s on your mind.
PARKER: And how do you feel if somebody says, “It’s more feminine now that Sarah’s there.” Is that a fair characterization? Is it just something that happens because you’re a woman?
BURTON: You are obviously conscious that it has to be McQueen, but like you said, I am a woman. And there’s always been romance in McQueen and I think people sort of miss that it wasn’t wearable before, but there have always been great pieces to buy.
PARKER: I found his collections incredibly feminine, incredibly sexy, and I wonder if it wasn’t just that people just didn’t notice those qualities as much because he was a man, and with a woman designing them now, they seem more feminine. But I always thought he was very feminine and sentimental, in some ways. I always thought, “This is somebody who loves women.” When I put on a jacket and it fit so perfectly—
BURTON: Completely. I do think that Lee was incredibly romantic. There was always a quasi-Victorian way and a sort of dark romance, wasn’t there? You know, a love of the cycle of life—death, birth, love, marriage, all that. Lee was such a romantic in so many ways. I do think that Lee always surrounded himself with very strong women. How he cut for a woman, made for a woman, accentuated all of a woman’s shape—it was about the extreme accentuation of a woman’s shape. It’s always about strong women here.
PARKER: and it continues.
BURTON: Yeah. Definitely.Sarah Jessica Parker is a Golden Globe-Nominated Actress.

When Sarah Burton was named Creative Director of Alexander McQueen in May 2010, she was charged with a task that many thought impossible. Just a few months earlier, her friend and mentor Lee McQueen had taken his own life at the age of 40, leaving Burton and others close to him to come to terms with the loss. It was Burton who, despite the circumstances, helped shepherd to completion McQueen’s last collection for Fall 2010, which was in progress when he died. And it was Burton who for years had worked alongside McQueen, first as an intern while she was still a student at Central Saint Martins and later as one of his chief collaborators, and was as familiar as anyone with the strict elegance and dark beauty that remained at the center of both his vision and the house’s DNA. So when parent company Gucci Group announced that the Alexander McQueen label would continue after its founder’s death and charged Burton with running the business, the announcement was greeted by many as an appropriate way to have the McQueen brand move forward while honoring its legacy. Burton, though, has made the decision look like a stroke of genius.

In many ways, the Manchester-raised Burton is the antithesis of a star designer, with a gentle warmth and humility that belie her considerable talent, knowledge, and technical skill. Nevertheless, her work so far at the helm of McQueen has drawn the spotlight to her. With curator Andrew Bolton, she helped pull together the blockbuster retrospective “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, which became one of the most-visited exhibitions in the museum’s 142-year history. She was inscribed into the history books after creating the elaborately embroidered gown that Catherine Middleton wore when she walked down the aisle with Prince William. But perhaps most importantly, Burton’s three critically acclaimed collections for McQueen have demonstrated her mastery of the extreme dress-up and tortured romanticism central to the house codes, as well as the formidable strength of her own voice as a designer, imbuing it all with a feminine lightness and a fragile vulnerability. In the process, she has not only allowed Alexander McQueen’s name to live on but also to remain at the center of the conversation in fashion in a way that her former boss—the consummate showman—would have loved.

For Spring 2012, Burton took things a step further, creating a collection of hyperfeminine lace and ruffled-chiffon dresses, but all with subversive touches— face-obscuring lace masks, black leather appliqué—that injected the clothes with some signature McQueen sharpness.

Sarah Jessica Parker recently connected with the 37-year-old Burton, who was at her London studio, to discuss her newly anointed status as the year’s brightest fashion star and what lies ahead, both for her and for the house of McQueen.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: Rather than go back in time too much, I thought we could start with today and what you are doing right now. Where are you in the process of designing your next collection?

SARAH BURTON: I’ve literally just started on the next show today. We’re trying to find the right feeling and the right spirit for what to do, which is fun but also a bit daunting.

PARKER: For those of us who aren’t privy to these things, what is the process like? Do you all get together and someone says, “I’ve been thinking about lavender,” and you go around the room?

BURTON
: It’s very organic. I sit with my team and we throw ideas around. I speak with Camilla Nickerson, the stylist I work with, and together we come up with who next season’s woman is and where she exists. Then we all just look at fabrics and prints and color. What’s great is that inspiration comes from every where; the process is fueled by lots of different things, and it changes all the time.

PARKER: And is it unique at your studio? Because one of the things that we’ve talked about in the past is that what distinguishes the McQueen line is that you develop your own prints, and not every designer has that opportunity. That’s something that was really important to Lee.

BURTON: Yeah, exactly. I think what’s amazing about McQueen and what was amazing about Lee was that he created this process where it was never really about fashion. It was always about a feeling and telling a story. And I think he sort of trained us all— trained me—to try to tell a story and to find a world that doesn’t necessarily relate to what everybody else is doing and to believe in your own instincts. And that went for everything. Lee really did believe in creating things that were unique to him and very special to the house. A lot of the prints and embroideries and jacquards are specifically designed not just for the collection, but for each garment.

PARKER: Who is the McQueen woman and where does she exist? Is she slightly different now for you? or does she change because the world changes?

BURTON: I think she does change because the world changes, but having worked for Lee for such a long time, his spirit is still very present. There’ll always be a McQueen woman. She is a strong woman and she is a powerful woman, and when she puts a McQueen jacket on, she feels different. the way she stands is different. The way she moves is different. It’s almost like the clothes are slightly empowering. There’s this emotion that goes into the clothes. and I try to keep it as true to … you know, Lee was such a genius that I can never pretend to be him, but I am very aware that I’m designing for a house that he created, and I try to keep it as true to that as possible.

PARKER: You were here for a long time, and so you can feel some confidence. I would guess that he would say, “Sarah, trust your instincts.”

BURTON: He would. Lee taught me that if you don’t believe in it, then you shouldn’t do it because you can’t stand behind it. He was brilliant because he would always say, “Things don’t stand still. It has to go forward,” or “Oh, don’t bring that old jacket out again. That’s been made before.” So I’m very conscious. I’ve got to move it because otherwise it stays still and it becomes stagnant.

PARKER: One of the stories that really stands out as a perfect example of what it was like when you first came to work for him is when he left you with a dress that was barely completed. He just said, “I’ll be back tomorrow,” and you were meant to finish it and you called your mother. Do you mind telling that story?

BURTON: I remember he pinned it on the stand, and it looked amazing. He had sort of half sewn it and he said, “Oh, I’m going out now. You can finish that.” and I remember thinking, I can’t possibly do that! I called my mum immediately. I was like, “Oh my god, well, how am I gonna finish this?” and she said, “Just get on with it.” What was so amazing about him is that he made you think that anything is possible. He made you challenge yourself all the time, which is why I loved working for him. Nothing was ever impossible. And that was amazing to be around. Completely inspiring.

PARKER: It’s also such a great way of teaching young people that they must seek their own identity, even within a house that’s established. Is that something you even need to talk about now with the people there, or is that just the culture of the place?

BURTON: I think it is the culture. We have quite a lot of interns and young designers who come for training, and I really feel that it’s important that they know how to patch and cut, that they know how to treat fabrics. What’s always been great about this place is that there’s not just one person who does jersey, one person who does denim. Everybody does everything and everyone knows the whole world that we’re working in. McQueen was so small, and Lee did everything: cut patterns, make clothes, everything. He was always so involved and hands-on. I was completely awed by what he was trying to achieve.

PARKER: You mention interns, and I know a little bit about how you first came to work with McQueen. Some people might be a little bit curious—or a lot curious—about the beginning.

BURTON: I went to a really academic school, but I always wanted to do fashion, and I was lucky enough to get in [to Central Saint Martins] and my tutor at the time, Simon Ungless, was one of Lee’s best friends, and he said, “Oh yeah, you should go and work for my friend Lee.” So I interned with Lee for a year, went back to college, and then came back. It was really lucky in many ways.

PARKER: What do you think your tutor saw in you? What were you like at that point in your life?

BURTON: It’s funny, because I sometimes ask that myself. I think maybe I was quite shy. I wasn’t the trendiest girl at college. I just loved what I was doing. I loved research at the time. I think I was always in the print room working.

PARKER: Now that you’re in charge of the company, do you get to do the things that you used to do? Do you get to sit in front of a sewing machine? How different is it to run the whole business? That kind of responsibility can take you away from the creative side.

BURTON: If I’m honest, I had no idea of the size of the job. I had no idea of the other sorts of pressures that he must have faced. The great thing that Lee established is the ready-to-wear. It’s about the clothes. It’s not necessarily a bag- or shoe-driven company, it’s about this woman … In a funny way, I haven’t really stopped doing my old job.

PARKER
: You are so clearly thriving in this position. It’s interesting to hear what is important to you and how you stay connected, creatively, while you also have to be a businessperson. It’s a bit like being the head of a ballet company who is required to do an enormous amount of fund-raising but is also the creative force and still has to be a really inspired, innovative thinker.

BURTON
: Well, for me, it’s about people. I’m very lucky that I have an amazing team and this amazing place that Lee created where creativity is king. You could tell that when you saw the show at the Met.

PARKER: Do you want to talk a little bit about the Met exhibition and the process of putting that together? I know that it involved many McQueen people, like Trino Verkade [creative coordinator], Sam Gainsbury [show producer], Guido Palau [hairstylist], Judy Hall [pattern cutter] and Andrew Bolton at the Met and many others who might have been part of that conversation. What was that like for all of you—especially at that time?

BURTON: It was so raw in everybody’s minds. When we looked at the pieces, there was such sorrow. But it was also an amazing celebration of what Lee had done. It was really hard to pick the pieces that told the story of Lee because there were so many incredible ones.

PARKER: With limited space, you can’t put everything in. Were there any disagreements about which pieces to include?

BURTON: There was real agreement. Andrew did a selection from the archive, and then we would say, “Well, which piece was really important to Lee?” and maybe I said, “oh, Lee didn’t really like that piece.” Andrew did an amazing selection, and each of the rooms took you into another world. I mean, nobody knows what Lee wanted because Lee was so much his own person, but you sort of knew what he loved and what he did feel strongly for. I think that the rooms told a story but each of the garments had their own story and their own character and you could remember how they were made. Sometimes looking at them again, you couldn’t believe the pieces, and it was, like, “Oh my god, that’s amazing.” The number of people from different walks of life that I’ve talked to who went to see and who were really inspired by it. It was phenomenal.

PARKER: That genuine appreciation and curiosity about the art, the craftsmanship, and the storytelling— I don’t know if there’s ever been anything like that collective curiosity. So many different people who would say to me, “Did you see it?” and if I have the time-line correct, while you were preparing for the show, you also had a perfectly kept secret about a certain royal wedding dress that had to be made. What was that period like for you and the handful of people who knew and were working on Kate Middleton’s dress?

BURTON: Um, I mean … I’m not actually allowed to talk much about it at all. It was a precious, magical time that I’ll always treasure, and I feel like she gave me a gift in many ways. I feel incredibly privileged.

PARKER: Where does your inspiration come from? Do you see something when you’re driving home that you respond to? What happens when you get home at night? Do you listen to music?

BURTON: I do listen to music, but all kinds of music. I spend a lot of time at the studio. at home I have lots of books.

PARKER: Do you talk a lot about your work with your husband [photographer David Burton]? He shoots the campaigns, no?

BURTON: David Sims does the campaigns, but my David does the look book. He’s brilliant. He’s a very good listener. [laughs]

PARKER: I want to talk a little bit about the Spring 2012 collection. What was the inspiration? I think you’ve said “extreme beauty,” but what does that mean? Where did that come from?

BURTON: I think there is a romance to it, but it is slightly hard and more fetishistic. I think that we wanted to do something that was really about hyper-femininity. It was a difficult show as well, because the third show is always a tricky show. I had a sense that I wanted to make it very couture, very worked. Really about the way a woman is sort of an object of desire, but she’s an object of desire for herself, and the way that we adorn ourselves. The idea of heightened embellishment. And so we looked at all kinds of goddesses, and we kind of went to the sea and looked at the inside of shells and at colors that maybe could’ve been a little bit sickly. We used pinks and corals, and almost took it to an extreme of femininity, really.

PARKER: That’s so interesting that it’s as extreme as that—not so much the woman, but more the saturation of the color or the angle and how small her waist is and how what she’s wearing that’s extreme, in a way.

BURTON: Yeah. It was that exactly. It was almost like completely emphasizing everything about a woman, and Guido came up with this idea of embellishing the face as well, so it was almost as if the clothes were sort of growing on you. It wasn’t just about the model and the catwalk. The models almost become like this little army—an army of overly ornate women. No surface was untouched. Even for the chiffon ruffles, we sort of hand-massaged them. It’s not very good for production, but everything was tweaked and touched and embroidered and embellished.

PARKER: And at what point do you bring Guido in?

BURTON: Quite early on. I work really closely with Camilla Nickerson as well. She comes at the very beginning of the season. She works on the idea for who the woman is, and then I work with Sam along the way about what the show is going to be. And then Guido comes in and is amazing because he has an amazing vision of McQueen and of fashion in general. I’m very lucky to have these people to work with.

PARKER: Is expanding the contemporary McQ label part of the discussion with your team?

BURTON: Definitely. Because I feel that it’s very clear who the McQueen woman is, and I really feel that McQ has to have its own story to tell and its own woman. there’s no need to do a second line that is a poor-man’s version of the main line. It has to be different because there’s nothing worse than seeing a one-button jacket in a cheap fabric that’s an imitation of the main line. The pieces have got to be special in their own right.

PARKER: That’s kind of a different way of thinking. You want to give people something at a price point that still feels special. It doesn’t feel like, “Wow this is not great material, these aren’t great prints.” You want to give the McQ woman her own world.

BURTON: There is more of an ease to McQ. there is a world that is similar to the McQueen spirit and essence, but the pieces are not necessarily for a customer who buys the main line.

PARKER: Lee was very political. I always thought that there were wonderful subversive messages in the clothes. Sometimes they were more blatant, and other times they were quieter. I know that he had a lot of feelings about the world and class structure and the way people were treated and mistreated. Is the political something that’s in your brain, too, in some way?

BURTON: I really think that creating clothes and fashion has to be a statement about how we live and where we live and what’s happening in the world. So the reason the last show was very feminine and romantic was because I felt like the world wanted positivity and not darkness or gloom. I wanted it to feel very much about beauty, and I think that it related to Lee because it was very much about him. His collections were not just a statement on society, they were a complete statement on his beliefs, but they were also incredibly personal, often autobiographical. They were about what he was going through at the time, what he was feeling.

PARKER: And that can only happen with you if that’s authentically what’s on your mind.

PARKER: And how do you feel if somebody says, “It’s more feminine now that Sarah’s there.” Is that a fair characterization? Is it just something that happens because you’re a woman?

BURTON: You are obviously conscious that it has to be McQueen, but like you said, I am a woman. And there’s always been romance in McQueen and I think people sort of miss that it wasn’t wearable before, but there have always been great pieces to buy.

PARKER: I found his collections incredibly feminine, incredibly sexy, and I wonder if it wasn’t just that people just didn’t notice those qualities as much because he was a man, and with a woman designing them now, they seem more feminine. But I always thought he was very feminine and sentimental, in some ways. I always thought, “This is somebody who loves women.” When I put on a jacket and it fit so perfectly—

BURTON: Completely. I do think that Lee was incredibly romantic. There was always a quasi-Victorian way and a sort of dark romance, wasn’t there? You know, a love of the cycle of life—death, birth, love, marriage, all that. Lee was such a romantic in so many ways. I do think that Lee always surrounded himself with very strong women. How he cut for a woman, made for a woman, accentuated all of a woman’s shape—it was about the extreme accentuation of a woman’s shape. It’s always about strong women here.

PARKER: and it continues.

BURTON: Yeah. Definitely.


Sarah Jessica Parker is a Golden Globe-Nominated Actress.

The Psychology of Kitsch"The [New York Times,] the world’s greatest newspaper, had never won a Pulitzer for photography, despite bagging many for writing, so when nomination time came around, they eventually did submit Kevin’s picture,” recount conflict photographers Greg Marinovich and João Silva in their autobiographical book about their band of four photographers in South Africa’s Apartheid, The Bang Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War. "It was without question the most powerful image they had published that year."The haunting picture, taken in 1993 by South African photojournalist and fellow Bang Bang cohort Kevin Carter, featured a starving Sudanese girl squatting and resting her head on the ground as a vulture stalks nearby, caused a sensation around the world and won Carter a Pulitzer—and without delay, earned him a deluge of questions and criticism. Nearly four months later, Carter, whose life "was once again a mess"—broke and broken—killed himself. Carter’s story caught the attention of director Steven Silver. The resulting film would explore the lives of the four photographers—their bonds, the brutal and violent world of post-Apartheid South Africa in the early ’90s, and “the cost of bearing witness,” as Silver noted in a recent press conference. The film’s push for authenticity stands out. “Ninety percent of the locations are exactly where that event took place, literally down to the street corner. What that meant was that the communities who are in those locations lived through those events not that long ago. So the extras that you see in the film are not really extras. They weren’t really acting, they were remembering.”The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld, and Ryan Phillippe, whose main challenges (“beyond the accent,” he jokes) “were sort of educational. There was a lot about this time in that country, I wasn’t aware of.” Malin Ackerman co-stars as Robin Comley, the photo editor at the Johannesburg Star and “mother hen [to her] boys.”Greg Marinovich (played by Phillippe) was also at the Tribeca Film Festival press conference, held less than a day after the deaths of colleagues Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. He spoke a bit about their achievements as wartime photojournalists: “They were two great photojournalists… It kind of underlines the risks that conflict journalists face, not just photographers.” He continued, questioning “how much emphasis should be put on people who choose to be in a war zone like we did, and how much sympathy are we due. Not much, I suspect. It’s not great, it’s terrible, it’s upsetting, they were terrific guys, but we do go there voluntarily, and I think that has to be borne in mind.”Canadian-born actor Taylor Kitsch has taken a liking to photography since Bang Bang. He’s equally enmored of his character, Kevin Carter—Kev, as he calls him. He also spoke with Interview about life off set (and on ice!) as well as what it was like working with Rihanna, who makes her acting debut in Peter Berg’s (Friday Night Lights) sci-fi naval war film, Battleship.DURGA CHEW-BOSE: You’ve mentioned that this role as Kevin Carter is the reason why you want to act. Can you elaborate on that?TAYLOR KITSCH: Guys that truly inspire me bring and lose themselves in the roles. This was one of them for me. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and hopefully at the end of the day, if I’ve done my job, you’re on that ride with me. So it’s validating and challenging, and you go through an incredible experience of what this experience entailed. When you take on something like this, at the end of the day, when you’re done with it, you’re going to be better, man. On so many levels.CHEW-BOSE: The film didn’t focus too much on Kevin’s addiction to drugs; his attraction to vices…KITSCH: Which was a very conscious decision.CHEW-BOSE: As an actor, have you ever had any vices that have gotten in the way of your work? Or anything you’ve had to drop or overcome to better your career?KITSCH: I don’t know. I think you can be your own worst enemy. We were definitely tracking Kev because we wanted to show the full spectrum of him—not the drugs, but the empathetic and caring guy.CHEW-BOSE: In one scene, he’s scurrying to find loose buds and crumbs of weed on his dusty floor—when he’s totally broke.KITSCH: He’s very unconscious of what he’s doing, which is sad at the same time. There were scenes I didn’t think were gonna affect me, and I was kind of caught off-guard. I walked away doing the Pulitzer Prize scene, where he wins and then wakes up in that drug house. Afterward, I was like, “That is probably one of the saddest scenes I’ll ever play.” It’d be like me winning an Oscar and not even being conscious of it. It’s incredible, that role. It was a ride.CHEW-BOSE: Were you able to, or did you want to, bring parts of yourself into the role? Or because it’s based on Kevin Carter, you were restricted to what you’d read about him or from conversations with Greg and João, and other friends?KITSCH: No, ‘cause if I’m doing this guy honestly, I’m not worried about what I’m bringing of myself. Other variables come into play. I’m not worried about being entertaining or anything, because this guy was alone. If I can play this guy honestly, and keep it simple, and really envelope his choices and play those well, then it’ll fine. It was really just becoming him, and telling his story.CHEW-BOSE: Was it intense having João and Greg on set?KITSCH: It was huge. You know, I think it raised my game. I would have done anything to play [Kevin]. But to have these guys there, I really had a tangible sense of how much it meant to them. So it made me even more focused; more doing it for them, really. And doing it justice.CHEW-BOSE: Has [Carter] become one of your heroes?KITSCH: That’s a great word; what it entails. I admire him for the courage. I admire a lot of pieces of who he was. Absolutely.CHEW-BOSE: To switch gears for a second, you grew up in Kelowna, British Columbia, playing hockey…KITSCH: Yeah! Yeah!CHEW-BOSE: And you were really close to going pro. Do you miss it?KITSCH: I think you’ve got to believe, that for some reason, things happen for a reason. I think I’m blessed that I can still play hockey and have my knees, and I get out there as much as I can…CHEW-BOSE: Outdoors, ever?KITSCH: Oh no, no, I can’t, I can’t. I haven’t played outdoor in forever! Oh, I’d murder to, though. But I play once a week in LA if I’m there. I’m in a league in Austin. So I think I got the best of both worlds. I think I’ve grown way more as a person through this than I would have if I’d stayed on track with hockey.CHEW-BOSE: You’ve been busy shooting a lot of different movies, like John Carter of Mars, Battleship, and soon, Oliver Stone’s Savages. Your role in Bang Bang was really emotionally intense for you and in other roles, it’s been physically challenging too. How do you unwind or separate yourself from your characters after each shoot?KITSCH: Hockey. I think that’s when you really take those projects on, it’s taxing and you’ve got to pick the right ones and want to work with the people, and tell these stories. Because believe me, I don’t care who you are, there’s days on these sets, any set, that it’s just like, I can’t get out of bed, I’m too tired, I just want one day off, let me regroup. It’s those days that test you where you get up for some other reason, know what I mean? To tell this guy’s story you know? You sacrifice a lot more than even you think you would.CHEW-BOSE: So you worked with Rihanna on Battleship in her debut acting role…KITSCH: I did, yeah.CHEW-BOSE: What was that like?KITSCH: She was good, man. She showed up to work. And you know, there wasn’t any special treatment or anything like that, and I don’t think any one of us would have allowed it anyway. [laughs] She’s chill, she was great.CHEW-BOSE: Have you ever felt that being treated like a sex symbol has gotten in the way of the work you want to be doing or have done?KITSCH: No, I mean, look at the roles I’m getting. It’s a conscious thing, I guess, I don’t really… I live in Austin, and I’ve been so grateful to get these character pieces. And I’m always going to be doing, hopefully, knock on wood, these gritty things. And that’s what I want to be a part of.CHEW-BOSE: Do you ever worry that you might always be in the shadow of Tim Riggins?KITSCH: No. Not at all. Not at all.

The Psychology of Kitsch

"The [New York Times,] the world’s greatest newspaper, had never won a Pulitzer for photography, despite bagging many for writing, so when nomination time came around, they eventually did submit Kevin’s picture,” recount conflict photographers Greg Marinovich and João Silva in their autobiographical book about their band of four photographers in South Africa’s Apartheid, The Bang Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War. "It was without question the most powerful image they had published that year."The haunting picture, taken in 1993 by South African photojournalist and fellow Bang Bang cohort Kevin Carter, featured a starving Sudanese girl squatting and resting her head on the ground as a vulture stalks nearby, caused a sensation around the world and won Carter a Pulitzer—and without delay, earned him a deluge of questions and criticism. Nearly four months later, Carter, whose life "was once again a mess"—broke and broken—killed himself.
Carter’s story caught the attention of director Steven Silver. The resulting film would explore the lives of the four photographers—their bonds, the brutal and violent world of post-Apartheid South Africa in the early ’90s, and “the cost of bearing witness,” as Silver noted in a recent press conference. The film’s push for authenticity stands out. “Ninety percent of the locations are exactly where that event took place, literally down to the street corner. What that meant was that the communities who are in those locations lived through those events not that long ago. So the extras that you see in the film are not really extras. They weren’t really acting, they were remembering.”

The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld, and Ryan Phillippe, whose main challenges (“beyond the accent,” he jokes) “were sort of educational. There was a lot about this time in that country, I wasn’t aware of.” Malin Ackerman co-stars as Robin Comley, the photo editor at the Johannesburg Star and “mother hen [to her] boys.”

Greg Marinovich (played by Phillippe) was also at the Tribeca Film Festival press conference, held less than a day after the deaths of colleagues Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. He spoke a bit about their achievements as wartime photojournalists: “They were two great photojournalists… It kind of underlines the risks that conflict journalists face, not just photographers.” He continued, questioning “how much emphasis should be put on people who choose to be in a war zone like we did, and how much sympathy are we due. Not much, I suspect. It’s not great, it’s terrible, it’s upsetting, they were terrific guys, but we do go there voluntarily, and I think that has to be borne in mind.”

Canadian-born actor Taylor Kitsch has taken a liking to photography since Bang Bang. He’s equally enmored of his character, Kevin Carter—Kev, as he calls him. He also spoke with Interview about life off set (and on ice!) as well as what it was like working with Rihanna, who makes her acting debut in Peter Berg’s (Friday Night Lights) sci-fi naval war film, Battleship.


DURGA CHEW-BOSE: You’ve mentioned that this role as Kevin Carter is the reason why you want to act. Can you elaborate on that?

TAYLOR KITSCH: Guys that truly inspire me bring and lose themselves in the roles. This was one of them for me. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and hopefully at the end of the day, if I’ve done my job, you’re on that ride with me. So it’s validating and challenging, and you go through an incredible experience of what this experience entailed. When you take on something like this, at the end of the day, when you’re done with it, you’re going to be better, man. On so many levels.

CHEW-BOSE: The film didn’t focus too much on Kevin’s addiction to drugs; his attraction to vices…

KITSCH: Which was a very conscious decision.

CHEW-BOSE: As an actor, have you ever had any vices that have gotten in the way of your work? Or anything you’ve had to drop or overcome to better your career?

KITSCH: I don’t know. I think you can be your own worst enemy. We were definitely tracking Kev because we wanted to show the full spectrum of him—not the drugs, but the empathetic and caring guy.

CHEW-BOSE: In one scene, he’s scurrying to find loose buds and crumbs of weed on his dusty floor—when he’s totally broke.

KITSCH: He’s very unconscious of what he’s doing, which is sad at the same time. There were scenes I didn’t think were gonna affect me, and I was kind of caught off-guard. I walked away doing the Pulitzer Prize scene, where he wins and then wakes up in that drug house. Afterward, I was like, “That is probably one of the saddest scenes I’ll ever play.” It’d be like me winning an Oscar and not even being conscious of it. It’s incredible, that role. It was a ride.

CHEW-BOSE: Were you able to, or did you want to, bring parts of yourself into the role? Or because it’s based on Kevin Carter, you were restricted to what you’d read about him or from conversations with Greg and João, and other friends?

KITSCH: No, ‘cause if I’m doing this guy honestly, I’m not worried about what I’m bringing of myself. Other variables come into play. I’m not worried about being entertaining or anything, because this guy was alone. If I can play this guy honestly, and keep it simple, and really envelope his choices and play those well, then it’ll fine. It was really just becoming him, and telling his story.

CHEW-BOSE: Was it intense having João and Greg on set?

KITSCH: It was huge. You know, I think it raised my game. I would have done anything to play [Kevin]. But to have these guys there, I really had a tangible sense of how much it meant to them. So it made me even more focused; more doing it for them, really. And doing it justice.

CHEW-BOSE: Has [Carter] become one of your heroes?

KITSCH: That’s a great word; what it entails. I admire him for the courage. I admire a lot of pieces of who he was. Absolutely.

CHEW-BOSE: To switch gears for a second, you grew up in Kelowna, British Columbia, playing hockey…

KITSCH: Yeah! Yeah!

CHEW-BOSE: And you were really close to going pro. Do you miss it?

KITSCH: I think you’ve got to believe, that for some reason, things happen for a reason. I think I’m blessed that I can still play hockey and have my knees, and I get out there as much as I can…

CHEW-BOSE: Outdoors, ever?

KITSCH: Oh no, no, I can’t, I can’t. I haven’t played outdoor in forever! Oh, I’d murder to, though. But I play once a week in LA if I’m there. I’m in a league in Austin. So I think I got the best of both worlds. I think I’ve grown way more as a person through this than I would have if I’d stayed on track with hockey.

CHEW-BOSE: You’ve been busy shooting a lot of different movies, like John Carter of Mars, Battleship, and soon, Oliver Stone’s Savages. Your role in Bang Bang was really emotionally intense for you and in other roles, it’s been physically challenging too. How do you unwind or separate yourself from your characters after each shoot?

KITSCH: Hockey. I think that’s when you really take those projects on, it’s taxing and you’ve got to pick the right ones and want to work with the people, and tell these stories. Because believe me, I don’t care who you are, there’s days on these sets, any set, that it’s just like, I can’t get out of bed, I’m too tired, I just want one day off, let me regroup. It’s those days that test you where you get up for some other reason, know what I mean? To tell this guy’s story you know? You sacrifice a lot more than even you think you would.

CHEW-BOSE: So you worked with Rihanna on Battleship in her debut acting role…

KITSCH: I did, yeah.

CHEW-BOSE: What was that like?

KITSCH: She was good, man. She showed up to work. And you know, there wasn’t any special treatment or anything like that, and I don’t think any one of us would have allowed it anyway. [laughs] She’s chill, she was great.

CHEW-BOSE: Have you ever felt that being treated like a sex symbol has gotten in the way of the work you want to be doing or have done?

KITSCH: No, I mean, look at the roles I’m getting. It’s a conscious thing, I guess, I don’t really… I live in Austin, and I’ve been so grateful to get these character pieces. And I’m always going to be doing, hopefully, knock on wood, these gritty things. And that’s what I want to be a part of.

CHEW-BOSE: Do you ever worry that you might always be in the shadow of Tim Riggins?

KITSCH: No. Not at all. Not at all.

It seems strange that a designer of Ann Demeulemeester’s stature, who has garnered such a hardcore fan base over the years would want to re-assert what her design philosophy is all about at this point. We all know that she can design a jacket of disturbingly beautiful proportions or she can swathe a woman in a bias cut inky dress. These are givens but where in the past, tricked out styling and forays into print, ethnic or colour oeuvres, might have distracted us ever so slightly from Demeulemeester’s steadfast devotion to construction, this show made it clear that she can strip it back and let her lines do all the talking.

"In the end, I didn’t need any decoration or colour because all the work was done in the shape and that is my real work."

These lines came straight in the form of black jersey dresses, revealing parts of the body in mysterious ways. They also came curved in the gathered satin skirts and the dramatic peplums in the outerwear. There was a richness and warmth to the collection, injected by the use of an inky blue that veered between black and blue, depending on the light. “That wasn’t colour. It was like the night,” she said. It may have been nighttime, but we definitely felt like a light was being shone on Demeuelemeester’s strengths as an unwavering force in fashion.

Dazed Digital: What was the starting point of this collection?
Ann Demeulemeester: I wanted to go more into construction, shape and architecture. Those were the three starting points. Compared to the menswear, the woman here was more intriguing and mysterious and chic in a good sense of the word.

DD: In what way did you explore contruction?
Ann Demeulemeester: I wanted to cut a real tailleur – it was all about the new shapes for me. I wanted to work with curves and straight lines and openings that appeared at certain parts of the body. In the end, I didn’t need any decoration or colour because all the work was done in the shape and that is my real work. These clothes aren’t just designed for the sake of it – they’re really there to be worn.

DD: What prompted this desire to concentrate on shape?
Ann Demeulemeester:
Because it’s the focus of my work. It’s always been! I wanted to say to people “Look! This is what I do!” That the design and the creation are in the shapes. I thought if I didn’t do any decoration in print or colour, then people would focus on my work.

Photography by Morgan O’Donovan

Text by Susie Bubble

Sam Orlando Miller’s Elegant Mirrors
The British craftsman puts a mysterious spin on the standard looking glass


Text by Anthony Gardner/Photography by Helen Miller


Sam Orlando Miller’s designs are hard to define. Sometimes, the British craftsman admits, it takes him a while to figure out what they are himself. Consider a sheet of steel with jagged edges that suggests a disintegrating snowflake. “It might become a mirror,” he speculates, “or just stay a sculpture.”
Miller is simply fascinated by forms that are elusive—and by work that takes on a life of its own. “Mistakes are always the most interesting part,” he says of a creative process that has resulted in an oeuvre as mesmerizing as it is wide-ranging: a hearty oak stool, a lacquered-wood bowl lined with faceted glass, medieval-looking chandeliers encrusted with rust or hung with gilt-bronze medallions. “I very quickly grow tired of things that do what I want.”
Miller claims his real training came not at art school but from growing up in his silversmith father’s workshop. “Making things is second nature to me,” he explains. For the past nine years, he has maintained a mountainside foundry and studio in Marche, a region on Italy’s Adriatic coast, where he and his wife, Helen, a photographer, live. The greens of the surrounding forests and olive groves are echoed in some recent works, notably his hand-patinated oblong mirrors of emerald-like glass.
This detour into mirrors was sparked when Helen was photographing the couple’s house. “I felt the pictures needed something shiny,” Miller says, “so I made a mirror, and it just took off from there.” Its ovoid silhouette was inspired, in part, by barrel hoops: “I saw one from the side, as an ellipse—and suddenly the idea came alive.” In Miller’s shifting world, though, mirror is relative. “You can’t really see yourself in it,” he acknowledges of one minimalist swirl of silvered glass that doesn’t actually reflect much. “It’s called a mirror, but that’s just a starting point for something else.”
photo above: British artist and designer Sam Orlando Miller at his home in Marche, Italy, holding a mirrored cube of his design. via

Sam Orlando Miller’s Elegant Mirrors

The British craftsman puts a mysterious spin on the standard looking glass



Sam Orlando Miller’s designs are hard to define. Sometimes, the British craftsman admits, it takes him a while to figure out what they are himself. Consider a sheet of steel with jagged edges that suggests a disintegrating snowflake. “It might become a mirror,” he speculates, “or just stay a sculpture.”

Miller is simply fascinated by forms that are elusive—and by work that takes on a life of its own. “Mistakes are always the most interesting part,” he says of a creative process that has resulted in an oeuvre as mesmerizing as it is wide-ranging: a hearty oak stool, a lacquered-wood bowl lined with faceted glass, medieval-looking chandeliers encrusted with rust or hung with gilt-bronze medallions. “I very quickly grow tired of things that do what I want.”

Miller claims his real training came not at art school but from growing up in his silversmith father’s workshop. “Making things is second nature to me,” he explains. For the past nine years, he has maintained a mountainside foundry and studio in Marche, a region on Italy’s Adriatic coast, where he and his wife, Helen, a photographer, live. The greens of the surrounding forests and olive groves are echoed in some recent works, notably his hand-patinated oblong mirrors of emerald-like glass.

This detour into mirrors was sparked when Helen was photographing the couple’s house. “I felt the pictures needed something shiny,” Miller says, “so I made a mirror, and it just took off from there.” Its ovoid silhouette was inspired, in part, by barrel hoops: “I saw one from the side, as an ellipse—and suddenly the idea came alive.” In Miller’s shifting world, though, mirror is relative. “You can’t really see yourself in it,” he acknowledges of one minimalist swirl of silvered glass that doesn’t actually reflect much. “It’s called a mirror, but that’s just a starting point for something else.”

photo above: British artist and designer Sam Orlando Miller at his home in Marche, Italy, holding a mirrored cube of his design.

via

Wim Wenders’ Dance Dimensions

Mishal Cazmi

Wim Wenders’ latest offering is a shift from his earlier work (Wings of Desire, Paris Texas), particularly in its use of 3-D technology. Pina is about Pina Bausch, the groundbreaking German choreographer responsible for changing the course of modern dance, and the legacy she left behind. Moved by her work, Wenders collaborated with Bausch for over 20 years trying to bring this project to life until her sudden death in 2009 at the age of 68.

After her death, members of her dance company, Tanztheatre Wuppertal continued with the director to document Bausch’s expansive and challenging body of work. In many ways, Bausch’s passing shaped the making of this documentary as much as her life’s work. Her dance troupe honors Bausch’s choreography, but also demonstrates how she moved them as dancers and as human beings. The result is Wenders’ documentary, which captures the symbiosis of Bausch’s choreographic imagination and what she taught her dancers, in several vignettes and four major set pieces. These include some of Bausch’s most celebrated works, including Café Müller and The Rite of Spring.

Interview
spoke with the director during the premiere of PINA at the Toronto International Film Festival.


MISHAL CAZMI: What made you decide to create a documentary about dance, and more specifically, about Pina Bausch?

WIM WENDERS: My initial encounter with Pina and with her work was already the first grain of the story. I was like many men. Dance was not for me. I didn’t need it, I wasn’t interested in it, and I felt like it had nothing to tell me. When my girlfriend 25 years ago wanted to take me to see two pieces by Pina Bausch, I resisted. I did everything not to go. In the end, I caved in. I already knew I was going to be bored to death. But the opposite happened and at the end of ten minutes, I was at the edge of my seat and weeping uncontrollably, moved like I’d never been moved before. That night was the beginning of this movie. My main impulse was to make a movie for someone who, like me, thinks dance is not for them.

CAZMI: What’s the difference between Tanztheater (dance theatre)—what Pina created—and modern dance?

WENDERS: There’s a huge difference. Pina’s work could not do without dancers and cannot without actors. You could only do it with people who were fluent in both arts and professions. And there are a lot of things that dancers can do that actors cannot and actors can do that dancers cannot. Pina was not interested in aesthetics. Her ground rule was, “I’m not interested in how my actors move. I’m interested in what moves them.” And that obviously is a radically difference approach. And that’s what made her dance theatre such an invention. It’s hard to think that you could, in the 20th century, create what she did. It was simple. It was a language based on our bodies. But dance was only one element of it. Some of it had dialogue, and some of it didn’t. And it had a subject that dealt with something. Pina’s way to develop this subject and find out about it was the opposite of choreography. She didn’t show her dancers a move and ask them to repeat it. She did the opposite. She didn’t show them anything.

CAZMI: What did she do then?

WENDERS: Pina developed her pieces by asking them questions about a subject. She would ask each dancer totally different questions. The dancers had to answer with their body, as precisely as possible as movement. And Pina would look at it and say, “It doesn’t convince me. Can you please be a little more specific? I want something that you can tell me.” She was very radical. This process would last weeks and months and in the end, they had hundreds of hours. They worked sometimes very intensely for a long time, and Pina would just select moments out of them. So when you saw the piece as an audience, you didn’t see choreography. You saw something that came out of their bodies.
 

CAZMI: When Pina Bausch passed away, you canceled the film, but the dancers convinced you otherwise. Do you think you would’ve changed your mind had they not persuaded you?

WENDERS: No, I would not have. The moment for me had finished. But they really convinced me there was a different level on which it was necessary. And I realized it was as important a film for the living as it was as an homage to Pina. We jumped back into it and it took us quite a while to record these pieces. And then the question was, “What kind of a movie is this going to be?”

CAZMI: The pieces often had opposing forces simultaneously at play, like brutality and sensuality, pleasure and pain. It was especially evident in “Café Müller.”

WENDERS: Oh yes. Rejection and attraction, loss and longing, it’s always all there. Of course, it’s always in our lives. It’s not always only loving and embracing, it’s also losing and fear. It’s all a part of life. For instance, in the hard times of her own life, when she lost her own partner, Pina’s answer was to continue working. It was her way of dealing with sorrow and grief. Dance was her answer to all of it. It was tremendous to see someone deal with grief and sorrow by creating joy.

CAZMI: It’s unusual to see 3-D technology being used outside of big-budget films. But this year you have films like yours and Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, both documentaries. Why was using 3-D so essential to telling Pina’s story?

WENDERS: I could not have done justice to Pina’s art with the craft I had at my disposal for 20 years. I felt like there was an invisible wall between what the dancers were doing on stage and the physical, contagious quality of it. I felt like I could only deliver a faint blueprint of what they were doing. I thought there must be a better way to dance. Not the outside looking in, but inside the world of dancers. It only dawned on me when I saw my first 3-D film that there was finally a language that could handle that. And there was an affinity between dance and 3-D. With every gesture, every movement, dancers discover space and create space. It seemed so obvious that you had to enter their realm in order to talk about it. For the first time, there was a tool available to access that space.

CAZMI: Have you wondered how Pina would’ve felt about the finished documentary had she been alive to see it?

WENDERS: I’ve wondered about that every single day. Pina and I had a common dream to make this film. When I finally made it without her, I felt she was looking over my shoulder the whole time. I had to ask myself questions because I couldn’t ask anyone else: Is this good enough? Is this what you were hoping for? Of course, I have to give the answers to myself. When the dancers finally saw the film, they loved it and were happy that they forced me to do it. I think Pina would’ve liked it. Pina does like it.

(Source: interviewmagazine.com)

Angelina Jolie

Clint Eastwood

Can Angelina Jolie get people to see one of her movies if she isn’t actually in it? Jolie’s feature film debut as a director, In the Land of Blood and Honey, will reveal whether the world’s most famous movie star has as much command over the screen behind the camera as she does in front of it. But despite the fact that Jolie doesn’t appear in the film, it’s very much her vision. She came up with the story and wrote the script, and the subject, the Bosnian war that devastated the Balkans in the ’90s, is something of an extension of her efforts as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, for which she has participated in dozensof humanitarian missions in such ragged places as Afghanistan and Namibia to advocate on behalf of refugees.

In the Land of Blood and Honey unflinchingly depicts all the brutality and horrors of the years of armed conflict, ethnic cleansing, mass rape, and a population under endless siege. Framed within that chaos is the story of Danijel (Goran Kostic) and Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), who had a relationship before the war and now find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. The cast of unknowns, including Kostic and Marjanovic, many of whom experienced the war as young people, may not add Hollywood star power to the project, but they lend the film something perhaps of greater value: authenticity. Jolie felt a responsibility to get their story right, and wants the film, regardless of its critical reception, to serve as a conversation restarter about Bosnia, and, implicitly, to get people to think of that war against the relative successes and failures of other, more recent American interventions abroad.

Taking on a hot-button political topic has not been without its risks, even for someone with Jolie’s connections. Permission to shoot in Sarajevo in fall 2010 was briefly denied after the Bosnian group Women Victims of War claimed that the plot depicted a Bosnian female prisoner falling in love with the man who tortured her-a situation deemed unthinkable and distressing to survivors. After Bosnian officials read the script, the crew was allowed to shoot in the country’s capital, though most of the action was filmed in Hungary, where Jolie, 36, has spent much of the past year. She was in Budapest, where partner Brad Pitt was filming his zombie flick World War Z, when she spoke with Clint Eastwood, a filmmaker who is no stranger to the cinema of violence and tragedy. He directed Jolie in Changeling (2008), and the two hope to collaborate again someday.

CLINT EASTWOOD: I saw the film the other day and really enjoyed it. I thought what you did was great. I don’t think people will think that it is a first-time film.

ANGELINA JOLIE: Oh, thank you so much.

EASTWOOD: You must have had good influences along the way.

Jolie: Yeah, you being one of them. [laughs] When I was on set with you, I thought, God, Clint makes this look really, really easy. And it’s really not that easy. But you seemed to surround yourself with great people and let them do their thing and encourage it. And I had a great team and let them do their thing and they were amazing, so I got lucky.

EASTWOOD: There is some heavy violence in this movie, which people don’t usually associate with a woman starting out on her first film, but they don’t know you as well as I do. [Jolie laughs] I was also really surprised at how good the art direction was. It really added to the authenticity and the feel of the whole thing.

JOLIE: Oh, Clint, thank you. And that’s Jon Hutman [production designer] and Dean [Semler, director of photography]. We had the good fortune that all the actors are from the area and lived through the war, so they could call us on it if it wasn’t right.

EASTWOOD: You got that feeling that everybody was connected to it in some way. The actors looked authentic. Either that or they were just brilliant, which maybe was the case as well.

Jolie: I’m biased, but I think they are a bit brilliant.

EASTWOOD: You actually wrote the story for this film from scratch-that’s one thing that I have never done. Did you take this from any particular piece of material?

JOLIE: You know, it was one of those funny things. I didn’t intend to write anything and I never wanted to direct anything. I didn’t even have Final Draft. I was just kind of messing around one day on my computer for fun. I had a lot of thoughts about intervention and justice issues and humanity, and I’d spent a lot of time with people after conflict. So it was kind of a meditation for me: What if it was me and I loved somebody from what became the other side? What would it take for me to go against my neighbor? Would I?

EASTWOOD: I don’t know how many movies have been made on the Bosnian war.

JOLIE: There have been some made, but in America they’re not known to be hugely successful. It’s not an extremely successful subject matter in Hollywood.

EASTWOOD: But your film is very educational in a sense because there’s very little on this particular conflict. We all know what World War II is, but this one, at least for us in this part of the world, isn’t as widely understood. It has a different effect on us. It’s like we’re studying a historical thing.

JOLIE: Well, I did write the script with the intention of getting an education. I mean, I made this movie for certain reasons, and I want people to discuss Bosnia whether they like the movie or not. I want them to revisit that time in history and learn about it, and I do think it’s important to discuss what happens when we don’t intervene or what kind of intervention is right or appreciating what happened in this society.

EASTWOOD: I do remember a lot of discussions at that time as to whether Americans should intervene or how much they should intervene and if we should do the same in every conflict.

JOLIE: It’s tough because I tried not to have a direct opinion-I’m not a politician. But I think that if you learn enough about a situation, you feel like there is no one clear answer of the best way, and you do know that there were certain things going on that, whether you intervened or not, were clearly handicapping certain people and allowing for certain things to go on too long. There were definitely some things that could’ve been handled a hell of a lot better than they were. It’s hard not to think, If we’d just intervened sooner then they wouldn’t have gotten to this point where that society is this broken … You know, even without boots on the ground, there’s a lot more that could’ve been done.

EASTWOOD: I agree, but it seems like the Western-world approach is to just jump right in, with little knowledge of what has happened …

JOLIE: And now they’ve come out the other side and they’re all moving forward, but there’s a lot of healing and a lot of support that’s still needed. Even just the world remembering, acknowledging, and supporting them and being a part of their futures in an integral, positive way, as opposed to just kind of letting it stir and settle again.

EASTWOOD: Well, the only time that I was ever in Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito was running the show then, and everything was moving along quite smoothly at that time. This was in the 1960s.

JOLIE: They were Communist, right?

EASTWOOD: It was Communist. It was organized, as Tito was kind of an organized communist. If they didn’t have too much conflict then, they were suppressing it. I don’t know—everybody says a benevolent dictator is the greatest form of government, but there’s never been … Nobody can seem to find an example of a benevolent dictator. [both laugh]

JOLIE: Very good point.

EASTWOOD: I think it depends on whose eyes you’re looking through, but the thinking then was, When Tito goes, this whole place is gonna come apart.

JOLIE: Yeah, and they knew that. The international community knew; they knew after Croatia. They knew, they knew. And it was no surprise to anybody that it was coming, that it would possibly be even that bad. I think they knew. I’ve been meeting a lot of reporters and people who covered it, and it was one of those horrible situations where there were a lot of great journalists on the ground, but there was not a lot of interest, and there was also intention to cover up some of the truths so governments would not have to intervene. I’ve been finding a lot of reporters who are actually very emotional about it because of where they were blocked.

EASTWOOD: It’s hard to believe that this is so recent. That brings an added sadness to it all.

JOLIE: It does. It was the ’90s, so we all know where we were and what we were doing and what we were thinking about. The cast, many of them are younger than I am, and they remember gunshots or a grenade in the backyard. They’ve lived a thousand more lives than I could ever imagine. Very young people. Very heavy people. But what’s amazing is that they’re extraordinarily artistic and vibrant. The Sarajevo Film Festival actually started during the siege. During the siege they made art and did plays and started a film festival, and their spirit was never broken somehow. They’re artists in a way that as another artist it’s really special to know them.

EASTWOOD: When did you decide that you wanted to direct the film? When I first read the script, I thought your intention was to act in it and play the girl. But then I hadn’t discussed it with you, so I didn’t know exactly where you were coming from.

JOLIE: I think I always knew it belonged to them, and I couldn’t do it. I had the crazy thought of directing it, and I kind of just couldn’t accept that. I never believed that I was the right person technically, but I couldn’t trust it away from me emotionally, so I ended up saying, “All right, we’ll send it to a few people from the area, and if they think it’s terrible we’ll shred it. But if they’re willing to make it with me, then maybe there’s some truth to it and they can help me do it and it won’t be wrong.” And then I was with Bernie [David Bernstein, first assistant director] when he started talking about the schedule, and I put my head in my hands. I think I didn’t know how I’d gotten there.

EASTWOOD: I think somehow your brain snapped and you decided, “Okay, I’m ready. Go.”

JOLIE: I don’t know if I ever actually thought I was ready, but I realized, “Oh, what am I doing? I’m doing this!” I think this business can be so much about, “What’s your next film?” and then sometimes we get lucky and we’re able to be smart enough to take a deep breath and say, “I just want to be an artist, and I just want to try something. I want to learn and I want to play and create, and I’m not actually sure of anything, but I just want to learn something new.”

EASTWOOD: Well, that’s the way to go. You just jump in headfirst and go for it.

JOLIE: Did you know you were going to be a director when you were acting?

EASTWOOD: I always knew I wanted to try it, but I had to wait for the right project. I just wasn’t ready to do anything.

JOLIE: But then you found a great one.

EASTWOOD: I finally found a small film, Play Misty for Me [1971], a small film-

JOLIE: Beautiful film. I love that film.

EASTWOOD: It’s about guy and a town and an image of conflict that was much more condensed. But yours is a more ambitious project. What I liked about the cast is that you could definitely tell they were not American actors doing the parts. It looked like they were right from there.

JOLIE: What was important to me and what meant a lot was that they agreed that it wasn’t just people from one side wanting to tell the story, because they were more the victims of the story. There were people from all sides who decided that they would come together, so it was Serbians from Bosnia, Serbians from Serbia, Bosnian Muslims, and Serbo-Croatians, and that was great. And you know, I did think about you a lot because we did it in the language of the area, what was called Serbo-Croatian and is now BHS [Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian]. And I remembered you talking about Letters From Iwo Jima [2006] and thinking, I know I somehow made this work, but I got confused often [laughs].

EASTWOOD: The idea of jumping into that with a whole different society and a whole different background is great fun. To me, doing Letters had that same feeling. The actors didn’t even speak English, so everything was filmed with interpreters. And the actors had never even known about the conflict in that case, because in Japan they never taught kids the story about World War II.

JOLIE: I didn’t realize that. That’s extraordinary.

EASTWOOD: But your actors pretty much had lived it.

JOLIE: They had. A lot of them remember it. Everybody was at a different age and remembered it in different ways, but a few of the cast and crew had gunshot wounds themselves. We had one beautiful, sweet young actress who’s just so full of life, and she lost 28 family members in the conflict, and yet somehow she’s emerged a shining light of a human being and not a dark, depressed person. I don’t know exactly how she managed that.

EASTWOOD: How do you get past depression at that state?

JOLIE: I don’t know. I don’t think I would be as strong as she was.

EASTWOOD: Well, it’s an extremely bold project from every angle, and as we were discussing, this particular conflict and the way the world is now … Of course, I’m trying to preach the idea that if we don’t pay attention to history we’re destined to repeat it.

JOLIE: Yeah. I believe that, too.

EASTWOOD: We discussed that a little bit in making [Eastwood’s recently released film] J. Edgar, too, because now we’re repeating everything that’s in that story, and that was back in the 1920s.

JOLIE: I saw the trailer for J. Edgar. I’m always curious to see what you’re doing. I thought it looked amazing. Are you happy with it?

EASTWOOD: Yeah, I am, but you know, I don’t know anything. [Jolie laughs] You never know objectively, so at some point you just kind of say, “Oh well,” and you turn it over to the public and see where it goes. I imagine you’re feeling that right now.

JOLIE: I’m trying not to think about it. I still don’t quite believe that it’s coming out, if that makes sense. I’m still not quite convinced. I saw the first trailer and I thought, Wow, that was such a real trailer! I think I was expecting not a real trailer. Or not a real poster, or not a real release date. I just think somehow it’s this wonderful, creative time and a piece of art I made with some friends, and …

EASTWOOD: And then you just put it on the shelf, and that’s final. But everybody’s really excited about In the Land of Blood and Honey. I think people are going to be amazed.

JOLIE: That means everything coming from you.

EASTWOOD: You will amaze them again.

JOLIE: I’m just blushing that you’ve got such nice things to say. That means so, so much to me. I’m just glad you didn’t call me and whisper, “You know, I think you should just hide it.” You know? “Start over!”

EASTWOOD: No, no. I think it’s a tough movie and that it’s extremely well made, and tough movies that are extremely well made are very hard to do.

JOLIE: Well, thank you so much. Thanks for doing this. It’s so fun to talk, and I can’t wait to see you and everybody. We’ll just plan to get together and hang out.

EASTWOOD: Definitely. I miss seeing you. You have a good time over there, say hello to Brad, and I will see you when you come back west. And when do you get back to Los Angeles?

JOLIE: Maybe early December.

EASTWOOD: I miss your lovely face.

JOLIE: You too. It’s so nice to talk to you, and I hope we’ll find another project to work on together. I’d love to do something again with you.

EASTWOOD: Well, I’m always looking for something special that we can do. It’ll be great. But this time you’re directing. I’ll just sit in the back. Do you have any inkling of what you might do next? Does anything pop to mind?

JOLIE: Well, I’ve been writing and staying with the kids. I think I should learn French and be a better cook—basic really good life stuff. I think I’m like you. I’m always doing something. I never shut my brain off. I always have something going on. But I think I’m trying to—

EASTWOOD: You’re trying to slow down.

JOLIE: Well I haven’t worked since Blood and Honey.

EASTWOOD: Are you studying French with a class?

JOLIE: I’ve been studying on and off my whole life, and I figured, my kids can speak it, and it’s embarrassing that I can’t as well as they can, so now …

EASTWOOD: You’ve got to pick it up.

JOLIE: Now, I have to. I’ve kind of half tried everything. It’s like deciding to write something or deciding to direct or make a score of a film. It has to become a priority.

EASTWOOD: I’ve got Rosetta Stone in French.

JOLIE: Oh, we should have a competition! Which one of us can learn French first? Oh, we’ll do it! I’ll work on writing something that’s in French, you direct it, and I’ll speak it.

EASTWOOD: Okay.

JOLIE: And then we’ll have some time, and we’ll hang out with our families in France.

EASTWOOD: But then maybe you should direct the movie, because if I have to do anything in French, I can only do one thing at a time.

JOLIE: Well, we can take a really long time. Do it the very French way. We’ll just have short hours and relax a lot. It’ll be a three-year process of making the film.

EASTWOOD: I’ve got to learn French because I’ve been going there for years and still, the only words I know are the swear words.

JOLIE: Which can get you pretty far. A glass of wine and a few swear words.

Clint Eastwood is an actor and two-time Academy Award–winning Director.

(Source: interviewmagazine.com)

Léa Seydoux 
“I am French—I’m from Paris, I grew up in Paris. It’s true that French are not very sophisticated in the sense that they don’t dress up for dinners. They are not like Americans where they are always perfect—the girls are not very sporty; they don’t take care of themselves as much as Americans, who always have very white teeth, and are so fit. The French are a little more chic, very classic. I think it can be boring too, because they don’t take any risks. They don’t wear too many colors. Like when you walk the streets in Paris you don’t see too many colors. When you are in London or New York it’s all crazy styles. When you’re a girl, you cant really wear very sexy things, because you will have trouble. If you wear a skirt all the guys will be like, ‘uh-huh!’ For example this morning, I went out in my pajamas, and people were looking at me funny, but I feel like in New York or LA people wouldn’t even notice.
I guess people wear red lips, here. There are no nail salons in Paris—it is very expensive to do a manicure. I sometimes get one done. But you don’t have the same culture, the beauty culture. They’re not very coquette. I think I am both—I think I am coquette, but also simple. The thing is, when I wear too much makeup, or I’m too dressed up, I look like a clown. I would love to take more risks—have pink hair—but it doesn’t look right on me. I really like more simple, men’s-style shirts, men’s jeans and jackets. Very simple. I am feminine—I like a black dress—but at the same time masculine. I feel like a woman, but not girly-girly. For events, I feel weird if I’m too done up…it doesn’t fit me. I feel awkward. My good friend Sarai Fiszel is a makeup artist—she did my makeup today—she is French but lives in LA. So when I go there or she comes here, she does my makeup. I don’t really wear makeup every day. I feel like being an actress, we wear a lot of makeup, but when I am not working, I need to let my face breathe, and be very comfortable. And sometimes I do like to wear makeup—I have makeup, and I put it on. But sometimes I like to be ugly, and very natural. Because when I work I always wear makeup every day, all the time.
Sometimes if I have an important appointment, I will put some makeup on. If I go out at night, maybe I will put a red lipstick on. I have one by Guerlain, 422 Intense Matte, but you can’t find it. I wear mascara, no eye shadow. And then I wear foundation—I like the Armani Luminous Silk. I wash my hair every two days, but if I don’t have time it gets greasy and I use Klorane dry shampoo. I really don’t like to have greasy hair…for me, it is disgusting. I prefer to have a big spot [pimple] than greasy hair. I wash my hair with Opalis—it’s amazing. It’s French, I love it, you can find it here. There are all different kinds, I like one called La Crème, it’s really nice. I go to David Mallett for hair color. The salon is beautiful, it’s like a dream! It’s like a movie. I let them do what they want, because my hair grows very fast so I can do what I want. I have had all the cuts, I had very short hair, blonde, dark, curly.
*Ed note: at this point we walk into Léa’s bathroom. It is overflowing with products. We break into laughter because she’s been saying, ‘Oh, I’m casual with beauty, etc etc’
Ok so I have lots of products. [Laughs] I like to be clean, I like to smell good. I don’t like to be searching for something that I don’t have. For example, this is for the blackheads—Darphin Overnight Refining Lotion. I don’t use it all every day. I would say maybe I am bohemian, with all of my stuff out, a mess. But I still know where everything is. This brush is the best, Mason Pearson. This is a spray for your ears, to clean your ears but I don’t really use it…well, I haven’t used it yet.
*As I’m shooting, she assembles the ear spray and I hear ‘Ksshhhhh!’ followed by a peel of laughter. One ear down, one to go.
You know what, in France we have amazing pharmacies and amazing products and you have many things. I see it, I’m attracted to it so I buy it. And sometimes when I’m travelling, I forget something and I have to buy it again. I have Leonor Greyl hair products I like—I have the mask, I have the styling spray. I have a lot of toothbrushes because I travel. I also have [Bioderma] Créaline, the spray. I’m not loyal to many brands, except perfume. I’m wearing Prada Candy perfume; I like it because there is something very joyful about it. I also like Commes des Garçons. I tend to buy a lot of things when I travel, but I also have a few things that I get sent for free. I like to use products from other countries—I have Tom’s deodorant. For makeup, I have so much stuff…I don’t know which [makeup] bag I would pick, but I like to have the choice. I like this Armani No. 4 blush. My favorite packaging is Yves Saint Laurent. I like the Sun Powder—it’s a bronzer. And I like the Lancôme bronzing brush that I bought on the plane. I don’t like to fly, and I bought it when they were coming through the aisle. That’s my problem: I love to try new things.”
—as told to ITG

Léa Seydoux

“I am French—I’m from Paris, I grew up in Paris. It’s true that French are not very sophisticated in the sense that they don’t dress up for dinners. They are not like Americans where they are always perfect—the girls are not very sporty; they don’t take care of themselves as much as Americans, who always have very white teeth, and are so fit. The French are a little more chic, very classic. I think it can be boring too, because they don’t take any risks. They don’t wear too many colors. Like when you walk the streets in Paris you don’t see too many colors. When you are in London or New York it’s all crazy styles. When you’re a girl, you cant really wear very sexy things, because you will have trouble. If you wear a skirt all the guys will be like, ‘uh-huh!’ For example this morning, I went out in my pajamas, and people were looking at me funny, but I feel like in New York or LA people wouldn’t even notice.

I guess people wear red lips, here. There are no nail salons in Paris—it is very expensive to do a manicure. I sometimes get one done. But you don’t have the same culture, the beauty culture. They’re not very coquette. I think I am both—I think I am coquette, but also simple. The thing is, when I wear too much makeup, or I’m too dressed up, I look like a clown. I would love to take more risks—have pink hair—but it doesn’t look right on me. I really like more simple, men’s-style shirts, men’s jeans and jackets. Very simple. I am feminine—I like a black dress—but at the same time masculine. I feel like a woman, but not girly-girly. For events, I feel weird if I’m too done up…it doesn’t fit me. I feel awkward. My good friend Sarai Fiszel is a makeup artist—she did my makeup today—she is French but lives in LA. So when I go there or she comes here, she does my makeup. I don’t really wear makeup every day. I feel like being an actress, we wear a lot of makeup, but when I am not working, I need to let my face breathe, and be very comfortable. And sometimes I do like to wear makeup—I have makeup, and I put it on. But sometimes I like to be ugly, and very natural. Because when I work I always wear makeup every day, all the time.

Sometimes if I have an important appointment, I will put some makeup on. If I go out at night, maybe I will put a red lipstick on. I have one by Guerlain, 422 Intense Matte, but you can’t find it. I wear mascara, no eye shadow. And then I wear foundation—I like the Armani Luminous Silk. I wash my hair every two days, but if I don’t have time it gets greasy and I use Klorane dry shampoo. I really don’t like to have greasy hair…for me, it is disgusting. I prefer to have a big spot [pimple] than greasy hair. I wash my hair with Opalis—it’s amazing. It’s French, I love it, you can find it here. There are all different kinds, I like one called La Crème, it’s really nice. I go to David Mallett for hair color. The salon is beautiful, it’s like a dream! It’s like a movie. I let them do what they want, because my hair grows very fast so I can do what I want. I have had all the cuts, I had very short hair, blonde, dark, curly.

*Ed note: at this point we walk into Léa’s bathroom. It is overflowing with products. We break into laughter because she’s been saying, ‘Oh, I’m casual with beauty, etc etc’

Ok so I have lots of products. [Laughs] I like to be clean, I like to smell good. I don’t like to be searching for something that I don’t have. For example, this is for the blackheads—Darphin Overnight Refining Lotion. I don’t use it all every day. I would say maybe I am bohemian, with all of my stuff out, a mess. But I still know where everything is. This brush is the best, Mason Pearson. This is a spray for your ears, to clean your ears but I don’t really use it…well, I haven’t used it yet.

*As I’m shooting, she assembles the ear spray and I hear ‘Ksshhhhh!’ followed by a peel of laughter. One ear down, one to go.

You know what, in France we have amazing pharmacies and amazing products and you have many things. I see it, I’m attracted to it so I buy it. And sometimes when I’m travelling, I forget something and I have to buy it again. I have Leonor Greyl hair products I like—I have the mask, I have the styling spray. I have a lot of toothbrushes because I travel. I also have [Bioderma] Créaline, the spray. I’m not loyal to many brands, except perfume. I’m wearing Prada Candy perfume; I like it because there is something very joyful about it. I also like Commes des Garçons. I tend to buy a lot of things when I travel, but I also have a few things that I get sent for free. I like to use products from other countries—I have Tom’s deodorant. For makeup, I have so much stuff…I don’t know which [makeup] bag I would pick, but I like to have the choice. I like this Armani No. 4 blush. My favorite packaging is Yves Saint Laurent. I like the Sun Powder—it’s a bronzer. And I like the Lancôme bronzing brush that I bought on the plane. I don’t like to fly, and I bought it when they were coming through the aisle. That’s my problem: I love to try new things.”

—as told to ITG

Woody Allen by Moonlight

Woody Allen by Moonlight

Uzoamaka Maduka

Woody Allen returned to the theater this season with a contribution to the collaborative effort Relatively Speaking, a trio of one-act plays directed by John Turturro, and featuring, alongside Allen, works by Ethan Coen and Elaine May. Ari Graynor and Steve Guttenberg star as a new couple in Allen’s “Honeymoon Motel,” a wedding farce set in a purple and silk roadside pied-à-terre. The three stories that comprise the production are linked by theme. Like Allen’s, Coen’s and May’s comedies—”Talking Cure” and “George is Dead,” respectively—explore (and explode) the tensions, inadequacies, and absurdities of the family dynamic. Ironically, though, Relatively Speaking also considers the relationship between moral relativism and family dysfunction; the former emerges as a mere survival method, a way to escape a mess without cleaning it up. Of his own play’s pedagogical value, however, Allen is wryly self-effacing, insisting it isn’t his wisest work. On the heels of PBS’s evocative documentary on the auteur for its “American Masters” program, Allen answered our questions about his involvement in Relatively Speaking and his evolving relationship with the city he has, for many, defined. The result was an honest meditation on his city, his craft, and his life in between.


UZOAMAKA MADUKA: In films like Husbands and Wives  (1992)or Manhattan (1979), the plots revolve around morally strong characters that provide an axis, a moral reference point, for the viewer. The Manhattan protagonist, Isaac Davis, is a good example—when he is accused of “thinking he’s God,” he responds that “he has to model himself off of somebody.” This moral axis seems to be absent from “Honeymoon Motel”; for the characters, ultimately, relativism reigns. Still, the emphasis on the tackiness of the room at the beginning of the play and the context of the honeymoon itself seem to undermine the characters’ conclusions. Is that an intentional critique or mere coincidence?

WOODY ALLEN: Please don’t judge anything by “Honeymoon Motel.” I wrote it quickly and only to make people laugh. There’s not a shred of purported wisdom in it, and if anything looks like it’s saying something, it’s pure accident. The emphasis on the tackiness of the room is a private joke between [scenic designer] Santo Loquasto and myself, as I believe he did a set that was even tackier than I had imagined. 

MADUKA: And setting is your forte—in your various mediums, you have succeeded in establishing and evoking place, such that it often becomes a character itself. Have you always been quite sensitive to your physical surroundings?

ALLEN: I have always been sensitive to the places I’ve been filming in. There is something about big cities that turns me on, and for whatever mysterious reason, places like New York and Paris inspire me. I think it’s because cities represent civilization, and as crime-ridden and broken down as some of them are, it’s still better than skipping through a meadow.

MADUKA: The image of Paris in the rain often captivates your characters; it is again conjured in “Honeymoon Motel.” What is so seductive about Paris in the rain, and why has it become such a potent object for you and your characters?

ALLEN: Paris, like New York, is a city with endless possibilities, and to me, there is nothing like a big city in the rain. If I had it my way, it would be gray and rainy five days a week and bright and sunny two days. Think of a romantic interior: people dim the lights to make it more romantic; they don’t turn them up bright. 

MADUKA: Midnight in Paris is in some ways an exploration of how the two worlds of fantasy and reality can co-exist, and how one can found that co-existence on either a fantastic escape or a bold leap. How would you define fantasy? When, if ever, is the bold leap into something fantastic not merely an escape?

ALLEN: Fantasy is only a state of mind that you can employ when existing in a real context. Fantasy is seductive and much more wonderful than reality, but you can’t take it to the bank. It’s always an escape. And if used as an escape, as in attending a movie or a show for a circumscribed period of time, it’s fine. When it starts to become undifferentiated from reality, it leads to big trouble. 

MADUKA: “It’s always a question of high aims, grandiose dreams, great bravado and confidence, and great courage at the typewriter,” you once told Michiko Kakutani of your creative process, “and then, when I’m in the midst of finishing a picture and everything’s gone horribly wrong and I’ve reedited it and reshot it and tried to fix it, then it’s merely a struggle for survival. You’re happy only to be alive.” Your description of your creative process seems in many respects to echo your understanding of the world: how has the daily experience of your creative process conditioned your understanding of life itself?

ALLEN: My experience creatively is different than my experience in life, for, as my father would say, the simple reason that you can’t get hurt when everything goes wrong creatively. In life, you’re dealing with questions of mortality: it’s better to get sidetracked by your creative problems, your “second act” problems, than your real problems. Unfortunately, the real problems win out. 

MADUKA: In “Honeymoon Motel,” the rabbi who officiates the wedding cuts an interesting character on stage, acting as both an authority and as a buffoon, yet never completely undermined. You have always been interested in the great existentialist thinkers like Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard, many of whom were men of faith. What, for you, is the relationship between faith, the search for meaning, and the specter of meaninglessness?

ALLEN: The search for meaning is irresistible, but everybody really knows deep down—and I mean really deep—that existence is meaningless, and the search has less odds of success than the Mega Ball lottery. 

MADUKA: As a writer-director, it must be an odd experience to watch your work on stage when you haven’t yourself directed it. Is it frightening to relinquish control in this regard?

ALLEN: I don’t like relinquishing my work to another director. I was fortunate in being able to have John Turturro, but it was a one-act play, and it would be hard—if not impossible—for me to relinquish a full-length play or film script, no matter the director. I can’t imagine any director directing a screenplay of mine, because the great directors all have very personal styles, and the ones that don’t are not very interesting directors. 

MADUKA: It seems that working in theater, you come into conversation not only with a group of artists, but with the place, the city itself. What characterizes the theater in New York, in your opinion, and how has that changed?

ALLEN: When I grew up, the Broadway theater towered in importance over films, and gradually over the years films grew up a certain amount. (I’m talking about American films, as foreign movies were always significant.) But the Broadway theater became less and less potent, and more and more of a trivial tourist attraction that’s vastly overpriced and needs star power to keep it going. This was not the way it was when I was younger: you could see Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and even Eugene O’Neill productions.

MADUKA: I know you are a dedicated prose writer—is there a prose project you are working on at present?

ALLEN: I tried once to write a novel, which I found to be long and excruciating work, and I don’t think it came out very well, so I scrapped it. Maybe some day I’ll try again, but because I grew up uninterested in literature, a non-reader, I didn’t have any natural flair for it the way I did for show business—I grew up in the movie theaters.

MADUKA: You have given many people their image of Manhattan, and have, in the past, been one of its greatest cultural champions. But, of course, you’ve gone international in recent years. How has your feeling towards this city changed or matured? Does it continue to inspire you and your work? How has the city itself changed over the course of your career?

ALLEN: New York has changed for the better in some obvious ways, like the dropping of the crime rate and people don’t squeegee my windshield when I come to a stoplight. On the other hand, uncontrolled bike riders are a great hazard, and the wonderful idea of more and more people having bikes in New York will turn sour as people become alienated because so much of it is out of control. That will be a pity.

The city continues to inspire me and still remains head and shoulders above any city in the country. One problem for me is that I’ve grown older and I’ve had some success, and all those warmly lit townhouses and co-ops that I used to fantasize about, and dream about what was going on inside, I now know from my own experience. In one sense, I’m part of the establishment—and I don’t mind, except that it’s not as exciting as longing to become part of the establishment. 

MADUKA: What is the most captivating part of your creative process?

ALLEN: The only parts that are captivating are beginning to write after you’ve gotten an idea for a film and putting in the music after you’ve shot the film and edited it together.

MADUKA: Has there been a recent time in your day-to-day life here in New York or elsewhere when you were greatly moved or captivated?

ALLEN: There is no vivid day-to-day experience apart from being moved by my wife and children, but I can’t think of anything in life that has moved me as much as the end of The Bicycle Thief

MADUKA: And finally, what books are on your reading list now? Movies? Exhibitions?

ALLEN: Like everyone else, I very much enjoyed In The Garden of Beasts and a lesser-known book called Rules of Civility. And of course, [Diane] Keaton’s book. Living near all of the museums, my wife and I drop in frequently to all the exhibitions, and I get a kick out of most of them, but nothing ever equals just going to The Met and seeing the Impressionist paintings, particularly the streets of Paris painted by Pissarro. As far as movies go, as a moviemaker, I always find things I love in movies and things I don’t like very much, but my opinion is too prejudiced to be taken seriously.


Angelina Jolie goes to war
Angelina Jolie tells veteran war correspondent Janine di Giovanni what compelled her to tackle the brutal realities of the Bosnian war for In the Land of Blood and Honey – her first film as director
When we meet in a cafe in Budapest, Angelina Jolie has just returned from the Libyan city of Misrata, which sustained one of the bloodiest battles of the civil war. But despite the journey, and what she has seen in the devastated city, she is not rattled. “When I go somewhere, I am always willing to learn about it. I get briefings, I read books, I talk to people,” she says. “But mainly I try to go somewhere to bring awareness, to come home and pick up the phone and call someone and try to get something done.”
She took this focus and directness, this earnest approach, to her directorial debut, In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which opens in the US this month. She told me that when it came to the technicalities of making a film, “I wasn’t afraid to ask the DP [director of photography]. And I listened to my cast, most of whom lived through the war. I listened to their stories and tried to incorporate it into the work.” Against the backdrop of the fighting, she has created a love story about Danijel, a Serbian soldier, and Ajila, the Bosnian woman he re-encounters during the war.
At 3am, after we have talked mainly about the horrors of the Bosnian war – which erupted in the wake of the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1991, pitted the nascent countries of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia against each other along complicated ethnic and religious lines, and left an estimated 100,000 people dead – her bodyguard pops his head in to gently remind us it is late. We’ve been talking and drinking for eight hours; still, she insists on walking me back to my hotel, so I arrive safely. “I want to make sure you’re all right,” she says.
As a journalist who lived through the siege of Sarajevo, I witnessed the ethnic cleansing, the burning of houses, the columns of refugees pouring from the country and, once, a dog running down the street with a human hand in its mouth. I went to see Blood And Honey with an especially critical eye. I was on the lookout for inauthentic details, since other films I’ve seen about Bosnia left me irritated and annoyed: why hadn’t the director done more research? Why couldn’t someone tell the true story of the brutal war in the heart of Europe at the end of the 20th century?
I emerged from Jolie’s screening impressed. How could a woman who was only 17 when the conflict erupted in April 1992 have so captured the horror of a war that focused largely on indiscriminate and brutal attacks on civilians?
"At the time, I had no idea of the extent of the agony," she admits, describing how it was her later role as an ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that exposed her to the plight of the Bosnian civilians and made her want to learn more about the war.
Jolie replicates the city of Sarajevo – which endured the longest-running siege in modern history – exactly as I remember it. The humanitarian trucks being rocketed by Serb gunmen; the young rape victim slowly losing her mind after being held in captivity and repeatedly violated; the drunken snipers targeting a father and son running across a bridge.
Her film depicts the isolation of war. Early on in the fighting, I remember going for a walk, avoiding the Serb snipers near the Jewish cemetery on the hill, to a neighbourhood on the opposite side of the river where I lived. It was a time of intense bombing, sniping, starving and freezing. I had witnessed old people who had been abandoned in their frontline nursing home and died in their beds. I saw kids who got rocketed for building snowmen. At the beginning of the war, America did not want to get involved; it saw the conflict as a European problem. As the fighting spread between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, the UN got involved, but it was not until Nato air strikes in 1994-95 that the opposing parties were forced to the negotiating table, where the US played a role in bringing about peace.
And yet early on, people hung American flags out of their windows. “Are they coming to save us?” they asked me, tugging at my sleeves. “When are the Americans coming?” Jolie’s film shows what it is like to be one of those people – a poet, a bank clerk, a teacher, a mother – and to be transformed by the cruelty and betrayal of war.
"The people felt as though the world had forgotten them," Jolie says. "It was a time of great pain, and I wanted to depict how courageous people were – without offending anyone. It was made to remind everybody of the war – but only a small group of people will really understand," she says. Which is perhaps why she decided to release the film first in the Bosnian language, with English subtitles.
The authenticity of Blood And Honey comes from a team of talented actors from the former Yugoslavia – a mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Some saw the war up close. The leading man, Goran Kostic, comes from a distinguished military family. His depiction of an officer who is forced to commit savage acts against his will is honest and painful. Vanesa Glodjo recalls how she was “shot at many times. But they didn’t get me on my way to school. They wounded me in my own house with the granate [mortar].”
And then there is Ermin Bravo, a young actor who was a child during the siege. During filming he wore the patched, frayed combat trousers that his older brother had actually worn as a Sarajevo defender. Bravo recalled during his audition that he “forgot what a banana tasted like” (people lived on humanitarian aid packages, which largely consisted of rice, pasta, powdered milk and a kind of liquid cheese).
Yet conjuring up memories of a war that everyone wants to forget was not easy for any of them. “The [film shoot] was especially hard for me, as my father fought during the war while I was living with my mum and sister,” Alma Terzic says. Terzic lost 28 members of her family in the fighting. “It was a huge responsibility,” she says. “It was my duty to play it truthfully as much as possible.”
The nuances Jolie brings to the film are equally important. “It was half script, half improvisation,” she says, and she relied heavily on local staff. She understands that many of the Serb gunners were drinking a potent fruit brandy known as slivovitz throughout the war (she shows the commander with a bottle on his desk), and that the safest time to drive down Sniper Alley was in the morning when they were sleeping off their hangovers. She also portrays the inability of the UN peacekeepers to protect the civilian population because of their limited, and ineffective, mandate – they could fire only when they were fired upon, and technically protect only the humanitarian aid workers, not the civilians themselves (though there were some heroic souls who broke that mandate because they were so disgusted by their powerlessness).
There are minor details that are hugely important – street scenes, furniture, the way Bosnian women dress and talk. “The white shirt that the leading character wears throughout,” she notes at one point, “it stayed white through the rape-camp scenes – and it bothered me. We kept talking about that white shirt.”
In another poignant scene, the young Bosnian soldiers eat together in a bunker while the mortars fall around them, joking about what they will eat when the war ends. Only someone who was in Sarajevo at that time would understand their macabre banter (Sarajevans were famous in the former Yugoslavia for their clownlike humour).
The film was not made without controversy. I was in Sarajevo in July 2010, for the 15th anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica, when the news broke that Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, were in Foca in eastern Bosnia. That was the scene of the "rape camps" in which Bosnian Muslim women were rounded up, then bused to halls and schools and repeatedly violated by Serb soldiers. Some of the victims told me they had been raped up to 10 times a day; one young woman was 12 when she was sent to Foca and raped alongside her mother.
But the rape issue is sensitive in Bosnia, as is anything to do with the war. At first people assumed Jolie was there in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR. Soon word got out that she was planning to make a film. The press inaccurately reported that her script was about a woman who falls in love with her rapist. In fact, Blood And Honey is more complicated: telling the story of a couple who met before the war and a woman who is sent to the camps.
Jolie struggled to convey how prewar Sarajevo was a multicultural city and how later, neighbours who had gone to school together turned on their friends with vengeance and hatred. And yet throughout the filming (done in 42 days in Budapest and Bosnia, in two languages, once the government lifted a filming ban), even as Jolie was getting negative press from both Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs, Bravo insists she made them all feel “safe and relaxed. She created a family atmosphere.”
It took Jolie about a month to write the script, she tells me, “then it went through a lot of revisions, Brad read it, people read it.” But the logistics of directing her first film must still have been daunting.
She approached the $13m project like a student. “I read a lot of books about the war. I talked to a lot of people, I watched, I listened. I just wanted to tell the real story.” She repeats several times: “I wanted to be respectful of people.”
With six children, she still manages to travel lightly, without much security, taking the same bumpy roads and dodgy planes and going through the same military checkpoints as I do when I report from conflict zones.
During dinner, she talks about her family, how she is educating them in their own languages and cultures, how she loves to fly around the world but how hard it is to be separated from them when she is away. She talks about how someone “who never was a babysitter” knew how to take care of Maddox as a 27-year-old single mother. “I didn’t know whether to give one bottle or 30 bottles,” she says, laughing, of her son’s infant days. “I called my mother.”
Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, a former actor and producer, who died in 2007 at 58, was a major influence. Jolie adored her. When Bertrand was dying, Jolie says, her mother told her she had done exactly what she wanted to do with her life, by simply taking care of her children. “Her goodness had a huge impact on me,” she says.
In the end, Jolie’s film stays with you. Some scenes are as vivid and horrific as the real days of war. In one, Vanesa Glodjo leaves her infant at home while she goes to raid a bombed-out pharmacy because none of the neighbours has medicine. She comes home to find him dead from a sniper’s bullet. Her screams of agony do not feel like acting. Glodjo lived through the war. More than 100,000 people died, including thousands of children. All of us who were there remember the children who were killed simply for playing. Or the “Romeo and Juliet” Muslim and Serb couple who, just after being married, were shot holding hands crossing a bridge on their way to tell their relatives the happy news. Their bodies lay on that bridge for days – snipers kept shooting at anyone who tried to move them away.
Jolie’s couple meet before the war, in a time when Sarajevo was a former Olympic city of art and music and poetry. Through their eyes, we see the disintegration of that cafe society – and, more important, what humans do to other humans to survive.
Janine di Giovanni
guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 December 2011 20.14 GMT

Angelina Jolie goes to war

Angelina Jolie tells veteran war correspondent Janine di Giovanni what compelled her to tackle the brutal realities of the Bosnian war for In the Land of Blood and Honey – her first film as director

When we meet in a cafe in Budapest, Angelina Jolie has just returned from the Libyan city of Misrata, which sustained one of the bloodiest battles of the civil war. But despite the journey, and what she has seen in the devastated city, she is not rattled. “When I go somewhere, I am always willing to learn about it. I get briefings, I read books, I talk to people,” she says. “But mainly I try to go somewhere to bring awareness, to come home and pick up the phone and call someone and try to get something done.”

She took this focus and directness, this earnest approach, to her directorial debut, In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which opens in the US this month. She told me that when it came to the technicalities of making a film, “I wasn’t afraid to ask the DP [director of photography]. And I listened to my cast, most of whom lived through the war. I listened to their stories and tried to incorporate it into the work.” Against the backdrop of the fighting, she has created a love story about Danijel, a Serbian soldier, and Ajila, the Bosnian woman he re-encounters during the war.

At 3am, after we have talked mainly about the horrors of the Bosnian war – which erupted in the wake of the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1991, pitted the nascent countries of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia against each other along complicated ethnic and religious lines, and left an estimated 100,000 people dead – her bodyguard pops his head in to gently remind us it is late. We’ve been talking and drinking for eight hours; still, she insists on walking me back to my hotel, so I arrive safely. “I want to make sure you’re all right,” she says.

As a journalist who lived through the siege of Sarajevo, I witnessed the ethnic cleansing, the burning of houses, the columns of refugees pouring from the country and, once, a dog running down the street with a human hand in its mouth. I went to see Blood And Honey with an especially critical eye. I was on the lookout for inauthentic details, since other films I’ve seen about Bosnia left me irritated and annoyed: why hadn’t the director done more research? Why couldn’t someone tell the true story of the brutal war in the heart of Europe at the end of the 20th century?

I emerged from Jolie’s screening impressed. How could a woman who was only 17 when the conflict erupted in April 1992 have so captured the horror of a war that focused largely on indiscriminate and brutal attacks on civilians?

"At the time, I had no idea of the extent of the agony," she admits, describing how it was her later role as an ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that exposed her to the plight of the Bosnian civilians and made her want to learn more about the war.

Jolie replicates the city of Sarajevo – which endured the longest-running siege in modern history – exactly as I remember it. The humanitarian trucks being rocketed by Serb gunmen; the young rape victim slowly losing her mind after being held in captivity and repeatedly violated; the drunken snipers targeting a father and son running across a bridge.

Her film depicts the isolation of war. Early on in the fighting, I remember going for a walk, avoiding the Serb snipers near the Jewish cemetery on the hill, to a neighbourhood on the opposite side of the river where I lived. It was a time of intense bombing, sniping, starving and freezing. I had witnessed old people who had been abandoned in their frontline nursing home and died in their beds. I saw kids who got rocketed for building snowmen. At the beginning of the war, America did not want to get involved; it saw the conflict as a European problem. As the fighting spread between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, the UN got involved, but it was not until Nato air strikes in 1994-95 that the opposing parties were forced to the negotiating table, where the US played a role in bringing about peace.

And yet early on, people hung American flags out of their windows. “Are they coming to save us?” they asked me, tugging at my sleeves. “When are the Americans coming?” Jolie’s film shows what it is like to be one of those people – a poet, a bank clerk, a teacher, a mother – and to be transformed by the cruelty and betrayal of war.

"The people felt as though the world had forgotten them," Jolie says. "It was a time of great pain, and I wanted to depict how courageous people were – without offending anyone. It was made to remind everybody of the war – but only a small group of people will really understand," she says. Which is perhaps why she decided to release the film first in the Bosnian language, with English subtitles.

The authenticity of Blood And Honey comes from a team of talented actors from the former Yugoslavia – a mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Some saw the war up close. The leading man, Goran Kostic, comes from a distinguished military family. His depiction of an officer who is forced to commit savage acts against his will is honest and painful. Vanesa Glodjo recalls how she was “shot at many times. But they didn’t get me on my way to school. They wounded me in my own house with the granate [mortar].”

And then there is Ermin Bravo, a young actor who was a child during the siege. During filming he wore the patched, frayed combat trousers that his older brother had actually worn as a Sarajevo defender. Bravo recalled during his audition that he “forgot what a banana tasted like” (people lived on humanitarian aid packages, which largely consisted of rice, pasta, powdered milk and a kind of liquid cheese).

Yet conjuring up memories of a war that everyone wants to forget was not easy for any of them. “The [film shoot] was especially hard for me, as my father fought during the war while I was living with my mum and sister,” Alma Terzic says. Terzic lost 28 members of her family in the fighting. “It was a huge responsibility,” she says. “It was my duty to play it truthfully as much as possible.”

The nuances Jolie brings to the film are equally important. “It was half script, half improvisation,” she says, and she relied heavily on local staff. She understands that many of the Serb gunners were drinking a potent fruit brandy known as slivovitz throughout the war (she shows the commander with a bottle on his desk), and that the safest time to drive down Sniper Alley was in the morning when they were sleeping off their hangovers. She also portrays the inability of the UN peacekeepers to protect the civilian population because of their limited, and ineffective, mandate – they could fire only when they were fired upon, and technically protect only the humanitarian aid workers, not the civilians themselves (though there were some heroic souls who broke that mandate because they were so disgusted by their powerlessness).

There are minor details that are hugely important – street scenes, furniture, the way Bosnian women dress and talk. “The white shirt that the leading character wears throughout,” she notes at one point, “it stayed white through the rape-camp scenes – and it bothered me. We kept talking about that white shirt.”

In another poignant scene, the young Bosnian soldiers eat together in a bunker while the mortars fall around them, joking about what they will eat when the war ends. Only someone who was in Sarajevo at that time would understand their macabre banter (Sarajevans were famous in the former Yugoslavia for their clownlike humour).

The film was not made without controversy. I was in Sarajevo in July 2010, for the 15th anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica, when the news broke that Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, were in Foca in eastern Bosnia. That was the scene of the "rape camps" in which Bosnian Muslim women were rounded up, then bused to halls and schools and repeatedly violated by Serb soldiers. Some of the victims told me they had been raped up to 10 times a day; one young woman was 12 when she was sent to Foca and raped alongside her mother.

But the rape issue is sensitive in Bosnia, as is anything to do with the war. At first people assumed Jolie was there in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR. Soon word got out that she was planning to make a film. The press inaccurately reported that her script was about a woman who falls in love with her rapist. In fact, Blood And Honey is more complicated: telling the story of a couple who met before the war and a woman who is sent to the camps.

Jolie struggled to convey how prewar Sarajevo was a multicultural city and how later, neighbours who had gone to school together turned on their friends with vengeance and hatred. And yet throughout the filming (done in 42 days in Budapest and Bosnia, in two languages, once the government lifted a filming ban), even as Jolie was getting negative press from both Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs, Bravo insists she made them all feel “safe and relaxed. She created a family atmosphere.”

It took Jolie about a month to write the script, she tells me, “then it went through a lot of revisions, Brad read it, people read it.” But the logistics of directing her first film must still have been daunting.

She approached the $13m project like a student. “I read a lot of books about the war. I talked to a lot of people, I watched, I listened. I just wanted to tell the real story.” She repeats several times: “I wanted to be respectful of people.”

With six children, she still manages to travel lightly, without much security, taking the same bumpy roads and dodgy planes and going through the same military checkpoints as I do when I report from conflict zones.

During dinner, she talks about her family, how she is educating them in their own languages and cultures, how she loves to fly around the world but how hard it is to be separated from them when she is away. She talks about how someone “who never was a babysitter” knew how to take care of Maddox as a 27-year-old single mother. “I didn’t know whether to give one bottle or 30 bottles,” she says, laughing, of her son’s infant days. “I called my mother.”

Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, a former actor and producer, who died in 2007 at 58, was a major influence. Jolie adored her. When Bertrand was dying, Jolie says, her mother told her she had done exactly what she wanted to do with her life, by simply taking care of her children. “Her goodness had a huge impact on me,” she says.

In the end, Jolie’s film stays with you. Some scenes are as vivid and horrific as the real days of war. In one, Vanesa Glodjo leaves her infant at home while she goes to raid a bombed-out pharmacy because none of the neighbours has medicine. She comes home to find him dead from a sniper’s bullet. Her screams of agony do not feel like acting. Glodjo lived through the war. More than 100,000 people died, including thousands of children. All of us who were there remember the children who were killed simply for playing. Or the “Romeo and Juliet” Muslim and Serb couple who, just after being married, were shot holding hands crossing a bridge on their way to tell their relatives the happy news. Their bodies lay on that bridge for days – snipers kept shooting at anyone who tried to move them away.

Jolie’s couple meet before the war, in a time when Sarajevo was a former Olympic city of art and music and poetry. Through their eyes, we see the disintegration of that cafe society – and, more important, what humans do to other humans to survive.

Janine di Giovanni

guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 December 2011 20.14 GMT

Mario Sorrenti on Pirelli

In 1993, a picture of his naked girlfriend was all it took to launch then 21-year-old Mario Sorrenti’s explosive career in fashion photography. Of course, it helped that his girlfriend was Kate Moss, and that the piercing image was for Calvin Klein’s iconic Obsession campaign.  Now, almost 20 years later, Sorrenti’s bold, sensual images frequent Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview, and W, for whom he recently shot a cover with the Fanning sisters. The Italian-born, New York-raised photographer is famed for his ability to capture the vulnerable beauty of nude models with his lens. So it’s no surprise that Sorrenti, who now lives in New York with his wife, Mary Frey, and two children, was tapped to shoot the 2012 Pirelli calendar.

Working as a model in his youth, Sorrenti, whose Mediterranean good looks often rival those of his subjects, spent his fair share of time posing (sometimes nude, sometimes not) for the cameras of Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber, and Steven Meisel. Perhaps these experiences are what help him to connect with the models he photographs. Although, he admits, he’s not sure exactly how it happens, Sorrenti forges an intimate bond with his subjects; he creates an ease on set that translates into raw intensity on the page. This is precisely what we see in the Pirelli calendar, which, released Dec. 6, the photographer titled “Swoon.”

Inaugurated in 1964, the seductive calendar is only gifted to an exclusive list of celebrities and Pirelli’s VIPs. In previous years, its pages, always graced by scantily clad (if that) supermodels and starlets, have been snapped by greats like Hans Feurer, Peter Lindberg, Mario Testino and Karl Lagerfeld. Needless to say, that’s a pretty intimidating list of predecessors. But shooting the likes of Isabeli Fontana, Natasha Poly and yes, Kate Moss, in the ethereal wilderness of Corsica, Sorrenti—who is, funnily enough, the first Italian photographer ever to shoot the calendar—more than held his own. Milla Jovovich, Lara Stone, and Joan Smalls become one with the landscape as they perch beneath the soft shadows of branches or arch across jagged cliffs. Clothed in nothing but their own skin and flecks of sunlight, each of Sorrenti’s 12 sirens radiate an empowered elegance and pure sexuality. Here, the mega-photographer talks to Interview about playing in the nude, the calendar, and his “very personal” new project.


KATHARINE ZARRELLA: What do you feel separates your work from that of other photographers? What are you all about?

MARIO SORRENTI: I don’t know! [laughs] Those are questions that you should ask other people. I mean, I guess my work is described a lot of the time as very sensual and sexy. When I take a picture, I’m very focused on trying to discover something about a person. Or about an idea. I try to be quite successful at it.

ZARRELLA: Now, you were born in Italy and grew up in New York. Considering the idea of a New York woman and the idea of an Italian woman are both very strong in different ways, how do you feel that has influenced your perspective?

SORRENTI: Good question. They’re very different. I try not to let the material aspects of different cultures distract me from getting to the essence of the person I’m photographing. Whether it’s a man or a woman. Wherever they’re from, I try not to let social status or cultural background affect me or affect the person. I strip all those things away to get down to the essence of the human being, the person, the woman and what her beauty may be, whether it’s sexuality, whether it’s sadness or a pain or a smile or happiness. I focus on and tune into whatever it may be that seems to be quite powerful in that person at the moment. The essential part of who they are as a person, that’s what I focus on. Even when I’m doing a fashion picture, I still try and go beyond the clothes or beyond the handbag to reach the person.

ZARRELLA: How do you achieve that? Would you say you have a method or do you think you have a natural connection with your subjects?

SORRENTI: It’s not a method. It’s just a relationship. It’s a communication that’s very natural. We talk about it. I talk about the things that are not important to me in the photograph and the things that I would like to focus on. I try to make the subject very comfortable so they’re able to feel at ease and reveal themselves and so on. There has to be some trust on both ends. I think somehow the subject comes to trust me or I need to win that trust. I don’t know how it happens. I just direct them slowly away from the things that might be making them nervous or whatever might be in our way at the moment.

ZARRELLA: Obviously you’re famous for your nudes. Do you remember the first time you saw a naked woman?

SORRENTI: To be honest with you, when I was young, my mother and my father were hippies and we grew up naked. We’d spend most of our summers running around naked on the beach. Until I was 9, 10 years old, I remember just being naked on the beach and stuff. I’ve always been surrounded by nudity. I’ve never had a problem with it.

ZARRELLA: Speaking of your childhood, you began documenting your life through photographs when you were young. Can you tell me a bit about that?

SORRENTI: I started taking pictures when I was 18 and basically, the first thing that I started to do was to photograph the people who were around me. I was so obsessed with photography at the time that I carried a camera with me everywhere, 24 hours a day. I just took thousands and thousands of pictures of everybody around me—friends, girlfriends, whatever was happening, I always had my camera on me. I did that until about 10 years ago, and then I just stopped. I had kids and there seemed to be no more time, and I stopped carrying a camera around.

ZARRELLA: Would you ever pick that up again?

SORRENTI: Yeah. I think about it all the time. Because when I’m walking down the street, I see something, or when I’m in an elevator or somewhere, I always see these incredible things happening, these moments, these photographs, and I’m always like, “Damn, I’ve got to start carrying my camera around with me again.” I should do something that’s about these moments that you see randomly when you’re walking around. So yeah,I would like to do that again.

ZARRELLA: The list of photographers who have shot the Pirelli calendar is quite prestigious. And it includes Bruce Weber, who you’ve noted is one of your mentors. What was your reaction when you learned you’d be shooting the calendar?

SORRENTI: I was super excited, and the funny thing is that it’s been a couple of years in the making. They contacted me a few times before this and it didn’t end up happening. And I was quite let down when it didn’t happen. And when they said, “Oh, we’d like to meet again, we’d like to talk again,” I was like, “Oh, OK. One more time.” And then when they decided to go with me, I was super excited.

ZARRELLA: Do you know what happened the first few times, or was it just not in the stars?

SORRENTI: I guess so. Maybe they didn’t feel at the time that what I wanted to do was appropriate for them. I don’t know what it might have been. I have no idea.

ZARRELLA: You were recently quoted as saying that you didn’t want the calendar’s images to be sexy. How, in your opinion, do you make a gaggle of naked supermodels not appear sexy?

SORRENTI: It’s funny, because I’ve realized that that’s a very personal view. A lot of people have come up to me and said that the images are very sexy. When I was taking the photographs, I realized that I could do something really over-the-top, something that really pushed the sexuality aspect of the shoot. I was going to use clothes to heighten [the sexuality] even more by not revealing so much, or wetting the clothes and doing all that stuff. I started doing that the first day and then as the day went on we said, okay, let’s just try doing some nudes and we took all the clothes away and focused on the body. Sometimes it was very sculptural. Sometimes it was just very simple. I didn’t want to focus on the obvious sexuality of the woman. I was more interested in the anatomy and the beauty of the figure and shape; if the muscles were tensing or something like that. I wanted to let [the photographs] be something that came from the model in her own way as well. I didn’t want to take the models too much out of their own skin. I realized that I wanted to create a marriage between who the person was, the nature, the beauty in the figure, and how the models sat or posed themselves. And as the six days progressed, I slowly started getting closer and closer to that.

ZARRELLA: There’s a beautiful delicacy and subtlety to the images. Do you think that working in a natural environment helped you achieve that?

SORRENTI: Absolutely. I wanted the models to be influenced by their environment. I wanted that serenity to be shared. And I wanted there to be a marriage between the beauty of the landscape and the models’ beauty.

ZARRELLA: You posed nude during your time as a model. What was that like, and do you feel that having had that experience helps you connect with your subjects?

SORRENTI: Like I said, I’ve always been very comfortable being nude. I’ve done a lot of self-portraits that are nude, and I’ve posed nude for other photographers. Even when I was modeling, I loved the whole creative process and I really enjoyed being part of an artist’s creative process. I could understand what they were trying to do, and what they were trying to achieve with the photographs and I really enjoyed being part of that. I worked with photographers like Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, and Richard Avedon when I was a model and I was really young. I was only 18 or 19 years old. And it made me understand how incredible these talented artists were and it inspired me. I remembered thinking to myself, “Wow, will I ever be able to have a kind of effect on the subject where they want to become part of my work so completely?”

ZARRELLA: How do you make your models feel so comfortable? There’s that image of you shooting Milla Jovovich for the calendar, and she’s so connected with you. It seems like a very powerful relationship.

SORRENTI: I know Milla very well. I went out with Milla for a couple years when I was 22, so the relationship between Milla and I is quite familiar.  It’s easy to connect with somebody like Milla. And it’s easy to connect with Kate [Moss] because we’ve had relationships together before. But when I work with somebody that I haven’t worked with before, like Margareth [Madè], I had never photographed her before, so I told everybody to leave and we started taking the photographs. I think the subject senses what I’m trying to achieve. I think they know what I’m trying to get out of them and once they understand that, they understand that I’m not trying to take advantage of them or to rob them of anything, but that I’m just trying to capture something quite beautiful, something that they’re going to be happy with. I don’t want to upset anybody with the photographs. I don’t want the models to feel misunderstood, and I don’t want them to do anything that they don’t want to do. It seems like [the models] naturally let go of their defenses. They understand the photographs and they want to be a part of them and to try and make them better. With Margareth, we started with clothes and then she realized what I was looking for and she said, “You know what, I feel totally comfortable. I don’t need to wear the dress.” And it was great. I think [the models] feel better about the photographs of themselves when they’re completely in the photograph instead of holding back.

ZARRELLA: They’ve got to let loose.

SORRENTI: Yeah. It just becomes a great experience for them. Just as it’s a great experience for me to take the pictures.

ZARRELLA: Why did you choose to shoot these particular models and actresses for the calendar? And how do you choose your subjects in general?

SORRENTI: It’s instinctive. I meet somebody and there’s something about that person that I find attractive. I always like to meet the people I’m going to photograph. I need to have a conversation. I need to feel a vibe. I need to see what’s going on in the person. I’m not just interested in physical beauty. I really need a personality.

ZARRELLA: Who do you feel has had the biggest impact on your career and your development as a photographer?

SORRENTI: I think it’s definitely been Kate Moss. She’s had the biggest impact on my career.

ZARRELLA: Why Kate Moss?

SORRENTI: I think it’s… I don’t know why. I think it’s because we went out when we were kids, and we were able to do all those pictures for Calvin Klein that were super successful and that sort of launched me as a photographer. That was the beginning, and it set a standard of what could be achieved as far as success and beauty in my photographs.

ZARRELLA: Where do you go for inspiration? Is there anything that constantly inspires you?

SORRENTI: I watch films a lot. I buy a ton of photography books and art books. I get excited by everything around me, from things that I see on the street to [art] exhibitions. I work all the time and I’m doing tons and tons of pictures a day and sometimes I get to a point where I’m like, “Fuck. I’m drained. I’m really wiped out. I don’t know what the hell to do.” And I’ll just go to a museum and I get inspired. My batteries get recharged. I want to go out and do something and create something again.

ZARRELLA: What’s recharged your batteries lately?

SORRENTI: Well I went to see an incredible, mind-blowing Gerhard Richter show at the Tate Modern in London, and it really blew me away. I love things that expand our consciousness of what we know in imagery and how to look at things. And that show did that for me. Even though I knew a lot of the work already, just seeing it there on the walls made me realize that there are so many incredible ways to have a visual conversation. It’s so inspiring.

ZARRELLA: Can you tell me about one of your most memorable sittings?

SORRENTI: I can tell you about a great evening when I was shooting Natasha Poly for Pirelli. I love Natasha. She’s amazing and she’s always been so incredibly giving. The whole day, we did so many beautiful pictures and we went into the evening, into the dusk and everybody was super happy. When we were done taking photographs, we made a big fire on the beach and we all were drinking some beers and wine and hanging out and this huge full moon started to rise over the mountains and the ocean. It was just so beautiful. And we started taking pictures again. It was such a beautiful night and the light from the fire was incredible.

ZARRELLA: Did you use any of those images for the calendar or were they personal pictures?

SORRENTI: I didn’t use any for the calendar because they didn’t really fit with what we were doing, but they’re amazing pictures. They’re great. And I’ll probably use them one day for something.

ZARRELLA: What did you hope to achieve through this project, and do you think that you got there?

SORRENTI: I was just trying to do the best job that I could. I think when you’re in that moment and you’re given something, you say “Okay, what can I do with this?” And I just tried to do the best that I could and hopefully people enjoy it. That’s the only thing that I can really hope is that people enjoy the photographs as much as we enjoyed making them.

ZARRELLA: Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?

SORRENTI: I’m working on a book of a collection of Polaroids from the last 15 years, ranging from fashion work to family stuff. I think it’s supposed to come out in the spring. It definitely goes a lot behind the scenes. It’s 15 years of my life, so [all the images are] powerful to me. It’s very personal.

Katharine Zarrella

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