Oh so many French films, two good books and a trip to Hong Kong. April was a good month.
This month I resolved to hit the annual Alliance Française French Film Festival with as much force as I could muster. As with any festival, everything sounds amazing, but the actual experience can be a little disappointing. Fortunately, I enjoyed all the films I saw this year. I started with Louis Garrel’s A Faithful Man (2018), which was an exceedingly French take on relationships and desire that was carried by a luminous performance by Lily-Rose Depp. Oh, and Garrel’s hair. Next was Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers (2018), which was my partner’s festival pick. I am not usually a fan of westerns, but Audiard really can work in any genre. The moments of levity and humour interspersed throughout the film’s deep melancholy were so deftly handled and elevated by the brilliant ensemble cast.
One of my favourite auteurs Claire Denis’ first English-language film, High Life (2018), combined her skill for juxtaposing abject violence and sublime aesthetics to great effect. Every aspect of the film - from Stuart A. Staples soundtrack to the sci-fi imagery - burnt into the subconscious. I was thinking about this film for days after its screening. Finally, Gilles Lelouche’s Sink or Swim (2018) had all the formulaic fun of a typical French comedy, but was so endearingly hard to resist. Super hilarious to see so many established French films actors looking slightly out of shape in their swimsuits as well.
I have amassed a small collection of books on the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi with Julie Pointer Adams’ Wabi-Sabi Welcome the newest addition. Although the book doesn’t offer any new material on the concept itself, I loved the manner in which Pointer Adams links its underlying values to diverse cultures across the globe from France to Denmark. Pointer Adams did all the photography for the book and has even dedicated a website to photographs that didn’t make the final cut if, like me, you are looking for even more immersion in her vision.
After a considerable amount of hype, I finally got round to reading Sally Rooney’s Normal People and found it impossible to put down. I like Rooney’ style of prose and the way she delves so deeply into the lives of her characters that you can’t help but be emotionally invested. I am looking forward to seeing what she does next.
I have been repeatedly playing Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising. It is sprawling, simultaneously cinematic, oceanic and otherworldly, and sounds like nothing else I have listened to. In terms of podcasts, I recommend anyone reading this to seek out Pat Barker reading her short story “Medusa” on The Writer’s Voice from The New Yorker. The combination of her writing and delivery stuns you like a slap across the face. Acerbic in the possible way.
I visited my childhood home, and the city of millennial pink architecture, Hong Kong this month. Aside from tracking down all the nostalgic treats I can’t get in Perth (Hello Mrs Field’s Cookies and M&S crisps!), the following left the lingering taste of gluttonous satisfaction on my tongue: the salt ice cream with caramel bao at Little Bao, yakitori everything at Yardbird, and all the dim sum your steam baskets can handle. I need to go on a diet.
I hadn’t been back to visit Hong Kong for close to 18 months before this trip and it is an unfortunate reality of the city that you discover places on one visit only to find that they are no longer there when you return. This fact was annoying realised when I was looking up the website of an independent bookshop that I went to in this time, only to find out that they would soon be closing. I was relieved to find that kubrick is still operating in Yau Ma Tei and continues to have the best coffee and selection of film books. It’s a must-visit for cinephiles and lovers of coffee.