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Flick Pick: A Bigger Splash


Is it just me, or has Ralph Fiennes finally found his niche? After a long career of super-serious (but nonetheless incredible) roles, the British actor has begun testing the comedy waters—first in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and now with Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s dark comedy A Bigger Splash. Guadagnino’s film takes us on a cinematic vacation to Pantelleria, a dreamy island off the coast of Sicily. We are introduced to Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), a retired rock star hiding from the world with her younger boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Shoenaerts), as she recovers from throat surgery that has rendered her mostly mute. Ambushing their retreat is Harry (Fiennes), Marianne’s rambunctious record producer and former flame, and his newly discovered (and very attractive) daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who captures Paul’s attention. Harry shatters all hope of the couple’s quiet retreat; he makes advances on Marianne and confesses his love for her. Marianne begins to doubt her recent decisions, and old aspects of her life intrigue her again, much to Paul’s dismay. To further complicate matters, Harry is revealed to be the one who introduced Paul and Marianne years back, and he lords this fact over Paul. Of the film’s many marvels, perhaps the greatest is Swinton’s performance. Her ability to convey deep emotion using few words (remember, she can’t really speak) is astounding; her facial expressions say everything her character feels, as Marianne is torn between the two men. This is Guadagnino’s fourth film with Swinton (their fifth collaboration, Suspiria, comes out in 2017), and the chemistry is apparent. Guadagnino’s first English-language film, A Bigger Splash is based on Jacques Deray’s 1969 psychological thriller La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) and features the vibrant European style featured in his previous success, the Golden Globe–nominated I Am Love (also starring Swinton). The movie premiered to critical praise at last year’s Venice Film Festival and is sure to meet the same reception from audiences around the world. Check out the trailer below, and make sure to watch A Bigger Splash when it opens in theaters next Wednesday, May 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRQioAYem3o Photos: Jack English/Twentieth Century Fox

by Stephanie Adams

Apr 29, 2016

Write. Play. Love. How One New Yorker Makes the Most of Her Micro-Lifestyle


We all know the stereotype of urban ascetics. They resist material luxury. They make their own yogurt, churn their own butter. They live simply and self-sustainably in a small studio with a foldout couch or air mattress. They have no conventional responsibilities, no goals beyond graduation or the next gallery show. They are single artists in the morning of their life. They are not middle-aged parents.  Meet Emily Duff—a 26-year West Village resident who lives with her husband, two children, a dog and a dozen guitars in a 340-square-foot apartment on Hudson Street. “I’m really happy in this tiny little space,” says Duff, who turns 50 this year. “I can’t imagine my life any other way.” The Duff family apartment (photos by Gabriel Rosenberg) What others would call constrictions, Duff calls creative compromises: Her shower is a phone booth–size alcove next to the kitchen sink. Her door-free bedroom triples as a dining and living room. Her kids—a boy and a girl—share a bunk bed in a room the size of a walk-in closet. Of all the limitations inherent in this compact living, only one really bothers her: “I haven’t had a bathtub to lie in in 26 years.” Duff has become a master of spatial resourcefulness. But what makes her micro-lifestyle even more staggering is how it compares with her previous digs. Before moving into her current apartment, she lived alone in a 2,000-square-foot Tribeca loft—a perk of her employment as the personal assistant to actor Harvey Keitel and his girlfriend Lorraine Bracco, fresh off her breakout role in Goodfellas. “As Lorraine and Harvey’s assistant, I was working as everything. I was a cook, I was looking after her kids, I was reviewing scripts,” she says. Bracco bought Duff her first computer, a gift to encourage her writing. Duff was 23 and hobnobbing with all the Village habitués. She jammed with Rosanne Cash. She traded mixtapes with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. When she applied for the apartment she lives in now, she used Robert De Niro as a reference. The 1,660-square-foot downsize to Hudson Street followed Duff’s stint with Bracco and Keitel. To sustain herself in the mid-1990s, she played local gigs, managed a recording studio on Gansevoort Street (through her connection with Cash) and was a chef at an Australian restaurant. Just down the street from it, Duff met her future husband, Skip (coincidentally, an Australian). She gave birth to their first child, Sylvia, now 11, in the post-9/11 baby boom; a son, Henry, followed three years later. A few years from now, her apartment will be inhabited by two angsty teenagers in bunk beds. “It might get harder when they’re older,” Duff concedes. “Or it might not. We’ll see.” When the walls start closing in, she loses herself in her music. An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, Duff has played in neighborhood venues for nearly 30 years. Today she heads the Emily Duff Band, a five-person outfit steeped in country-soul—“sweet-and-sour rock and roll,” as she describes it. Last month she headlined a show at Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side; next month she opens for Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle at City Winery. In her three decades in the Village, she has played just about everywhere. But like all things, her neighborhood—her home—is changing. “It used to be an area that you could afford, because it was all artists. Now my neighbors are celebrities and bankers, lawyers, rock stars,” she says. “They’re not my people anymore. I feel like the welfare mom of the West Village. The neighborhood has changed, and I have remained completely the same.” Her brand of urban asceticism isn’t entirely a practice of self-discipline and abstinence; it’s about living simply and making the most of what you have. Today Duff raises her kids by the same principles that have guided her own life. Every night before bed, the whole family—Sylvia on keyboard, Henry on drums, Skip on bass and Emily on guitar—carves out a little space for peace in the bustle of New York City. The harmony is exultant. “I find my god,” says Duff, “in guitars and my kids.” She tells me all this over a pot of tea on a Thursday night. As I drain my cup, and my questions, and prepare to leave, her attention is drawn away. “I like this one of Sylvia’s,” she says, pointing to a piece of artwork on the fridge. “She had to do a still life, but she could only use 20 strokes.” I reply that it reminds me of the classic Dr. Seuss legend—when challenged to write a book using only 50 unique words, he wrote Green Eggs and Ham. “Exactly,” says Duff. “Art within restriction. If you can be happy within boundaries, you can be happy anywhere.” All photos of Emily Duff courtesy of Emily Duff

by Gabriel Rosenberg

Apr 28, 2016

Shirley MacLaine Is Still Sowing Her Wild Oats


It’s easy to dismiss Shirley MacLaine’s musings as the wacky nonsense of an offbeat celebrity—particularly when she relates tales of her past lives or declares her beliefs in outer space aliens visiting Earth from time to time, as she does in many of her recent best-sellers. But whether you buy into her spiritual travelogues or not, it’s impossible to ignore what a charismatic writer she is. MacLaine’s books mix provocative big ideas about human existence into astute discussions of real-world politics and behind-the-scenes descriptions of show business machinations drawn from her six-decade career as a Broadway dancer turned Hollywood star. Although her earliest books are still her best—they’re the most informative and political—MacLaine’s newest volume, Above the Line: My Wild Oats Adventure, is a diverting chronicle of the filming of her latest movie, the titular Wild Oats, and the water decompression therapy the octogenarian underwent afterward to relieve her neck pain. The therapy triggered her to imagine a fantastical journey back to the age of mythical Atlantis, on whose remnants, the Canary Islands, she had just been shooting the film. The islands are believed (by those who believe such things) to have been formed by the tops of Atlantis’s highest mountains, peaks altitudinous enough to have survived the great flood that engulfed the rest of the ancient city. Though the diehard rationalists among us may have difficulty following MacLaine on her “imaginative” journeys, no one can dispute the soundness of the lessons they teach her. This transformative Atlantis trip made her understand that fear is what allows people to be controlled, and she applies this truth to our current cultural climate with persuasive passion. Essentially, MacLaine’s book asks us to use the downfall of Atlantis—a civilization destroyed by its obsession with materialism and technology—as a lens to examine what may be infecting society today. While her premise is lofty, MacLaine’s bold honesty and stinging sarcasm make for wickedly entertaining reading. And much of what she proffers is strangely comforting, such as the notion that “all time exists simultaneously,” an idea that lessens the distress we may feel upon discovering that as we age we grow more interested in what happened in the past than in what’s going on currently. Also soothing to the soul is her story about gazing up at the stars when she was a kid and somehow knowing we aren’t alone in the universe. My favorite MacLaine insight is buried, ironically, amid comic anecdotes about the movie-shooting process, much of which for her, as a female lead, focuses on her physical appearance. With her usual incisive wit, MacLaine describes various mishaps involving wigs, costumes, makeup and the uncomfortable lifting tape used to diminish neck and facial wrinkles. While trying to fall asleep one night, she reviews a list of inspiring phrases she has collected over the years, sagely reminding us that we must always “look deeply into the appearance of things.” Photos: Everett Collection

by Lisa Jo Sagolla

Apr 27, 2016

The Met Breuer: The More Things Change...


When my friend Jane told me she was doing a complete renovation of her pied-à-terre, I was disheartened because I liked the apartment just as it was (and, yeah, because change always depresses me). But when I visited her after the work was finished, I was surprised—and relieved—to find the place looking exactly the same as I remembered. “Yes,” said Jane, “I’ve just spent a fortune on things that only I can see.” I thought of this imperceptibly rehabbed apartment last week, when I paid my first visit to the Met Breuer.  Flickr/jonolist The Breuer is the former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which transferred itself to a new, Renzo Piano–designed building in the Meatpacking District last year. When I’d first heard the Metropolitan was taking over the Whitney’s old space (the Met has an eight-year lease, with a renewal option), I was apprehensive. That cantilevered, Cyclopean hulk at the corner of Madison and East 75th was hands-down my favorite modern building in New York City. I have a soft spot for the hard-to-like (and now endangered) architectural style called brutalism, and Marcel Breuer’s Whitney, which opened in 1966, was a peerless brutalist masterpiece. For me, going to the Whitney was always as much about having another chance to experience this extraordinary structure as it was about seeing whatever art was on display inside at the moment. So I was afraid the Met would significantly alter the building and ruin its weird perfection. Phew. I am overjoyed to report that the Met has (undoubtedly) spent a fortune to do almost nothing to it—or almost nothing noticeable. The architecture firm in charge of the restoration, Beyer Blinder Belle, wisely restricted itself to returning the building to its original state. Or mostly so. The one major change is the transformation of the fifth floor into a coffee shop and bookstore. The coffee shop is run by Oakland-based company Blue Bottle, the bookstore by British American art book publisher Phaidon (besides catalogs of the Met’s current exhibitions, it sells only Phaidon titles). These businesses are placeholders, and they seem like it—especially the coffee shop, whose Design Within Reach standard-issue Bantam sofas and Bellini chairs give the space an ersatz “midcentury” quality at odds with the Breuer’s genuine midcentury grandeur. Another wrong note: The coffee shop walls are hung—much too crowdedly—with prints by blue-chip artists, which are for sale at prices that probably seem affordable to those who can afford such things. But what the hell: Buy yourself an overpriced coffee, examine the prints’ price tags, and then let the rest of the building cure the resulting dyspepsia. Details regarding the work Beyer Blinder Belle undertook in the restoration can be found elsewhere. But despite that list of interventions, the building appears so wonderfully the same that there’s not much to say about it, except thank you. Breuer created a building that seems to want to interact with you, and I’ve always admired its contradictory personality, which is both pleasing and annoying. The trapezoidal windows frame the all-too-ordinary adjacent buildings in refreshingly unexpected ways while letting in either too much light or not enough, depending on where in a gallery you’re standing. The curved walls leading from the stairwell to the galleries simultaneously embrace and expel you. The elevators impress you with their massiveness while making you feel like a pipsqueak. The heavy bronze doors offer tactile pleasure but threaten muscle strain. All that thrilling contrariness remains intact. Photo by James Waller The stairwell—always my favorite part—is to this inexpert but loving eye likewise unchanged: underlit and vaguely threatening but also oddly safe, like a dungeon you’d like to hide in during a nuclear attack. I’d assumed that upon vacating the building the Whitney would have taken away Charles Simonds’s little clay-and-sticks pueblo, called Dwellings (pictured), from the corner of the stairwell landing where it has sat since the Whitney commissioned it, in 1981. But no, it’s still there. I dislike it—a blobby tchotchke marring an otherwise impeccable environment—but I was so happy to see that even it has stayed where it (sort of) belongs. There’s no room left here to review the Met Breuer’s two opening exhibitions—Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible (on display through September 4) and a retrospective of South Asian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (through June 5). But let me say this: Although I found Unfinished overcooked—the rare museum show spoiled by having too many ideas rather than too few—and although I don’t much care for Mohamedi’s linear abstraction, everything looks just great in situ. The marvel of Marcel Breuer’s uncompromising museum—built to house modern American art—is that it can gracefully accommodate all sorts of stuff. And since the Metropolitan Museum has or has access to all sorts of stuff, I’m unexpectedly glad the Met has taken it over. Feature photo by Ed Lederman/Metropolitan Museum of Art

by James Waller

Apr 25, 2016

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