March 11, 2013

 

CLARA JUNGMAN MALMQUIST

Clara Jungman Malmquist is a third-year student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The models who walked the runway in her debut collection—ornate and feminine creations with pops of gleeful color—were adorned with bright moustaches and eyebrows.

If your collection were a person, would she belong to the Groucho Club?
She had to Google it, but would love an invitation.

What would she wear for the apocalypse?
If the world was created in seven days, it makes sense that it would end in seven, so she would wear one of the five outfits from the collection for each of the first five days and go naked for the last two.

Who are her parents?
If I’m her mother, then Google is my sperm bank.

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ANDREA POMPILIO  

After earning his MA in fashion design from Milan’s Marangoni in 1995, Andrea Pompilio worked for the likes of Prada, Calvin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent. In January 2010, he launched his first, eponymous line. His new collection is multilayered with dramatic prints and splashes of blinding color.

If your collection were a person, by whose art would it be inspired?
The list would be endless, but definitely Mondrian’s.

How many eyeballs would it have?
Two: one in the front and one in the back of its head, just to make sure to be ahead of the game.

What would its dreams look like?
A kaleidoscope.

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ANNE SOFIE MADSEN 

After graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2009, Anne Sofie Madsen trained under John Galliano at Dior in Paris. She then worked for Alexander McQueen in London, where she unveiled her debut collection in 2010. Her latest designs are inspired in equal measure by fish skeletons and melting ice cream.

If your collection were a person, what cult would she follow?
Some sort of New Age, Barbie-loving, “ethno- glitz” beach-punk cult.

Who is her favorite dictator?
Muammar Gaddafi, especially when he was young.

What animal form would she most likely take?
A white pit bull.

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FELIX BOEHM

Currently in his fourth year of MA studies at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, German designer Felix Boehm displays a propensity for rainbow-colored patterns, which adorn everything from visors to fanny packs in his new collection.

If your collection were a person, how would she survive in the wilderness?
The muse for this collection was a spoiled, bored, and naive girl. I’d be surprised if she could even survive without her iPhone and a weekly manicure.

Would she dream in color?
She would dream in bright, rosy colors.

Would she float, sink, or swim?
Being too lazy and bored to swim, she would probably sink.

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JULIEN DAVID 

Parisian designer Julien David moved to Tokyo after graduating in 2003 from New York’s Parsons the New School for Design. He has since worked for Narciso Rodriguez and Ralph Lauren, and earlier this year he was awarded the ANDAM Grand Prix for his Fall/Winter 2012-13 collection, characterized by urban strength and rustic charm.

If your collection were a person, what would she have said to Steve Jobs when he was alive?
“Good Job.”

What would she find beyond belief?
How random things are.

If she met her double in a dark alleyway, what would she do?
She doesn’t go in dark alleyways.

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MANON KÜNDIG 

Swiss designer Manon Kündig graduated earlier this year with her MA in Fashion Design from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Inspired by images she’d come across on Google, her new collection, entitled Bowerbird, is overrun with a visual cacophony of digital prints and electric colors.

If your collection were a person, who would its fashion icon be?
It would not be an idolater, but if it had to name an icon it would be a banana.

Where would it most likely show its face?
In a limousine with Ronald McDonald, at a casino with a mermaid, or at a family dinner in a Jacuzzi.

Where would it be most likely to hide?
At a casino with its family, in a limousine having a Happy Meal, or in a Jacuzzi with a mermaid.

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WALI MOHAMMED BARRECH  

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Wali Mohammed Barrech moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where he studied under Walter Van Beirendonck and earned his MA in Fashion Design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. His new collection teasingly takes its cues from cosmetic surgery and unattainable perfection.

If your collection were a person, how many genders would it have?
Imagine Barbie: no holes whatsoever, and yet she’s the definition of beauty.

With which Game of Thrones character would she identify?
None. They don’t shower and they don’t use Botox.

Photography by Frederik Heyman

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February 12, 2013

In Karen Russell’s new short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, the vampire in question is a man who has long been awakened to the fallacies surrounding his own supernatural existence: daylight isn’t lethal to him, he doesn’t need to sleep in a coffin, and he doesn’t thrive on blood; lemons are as good a substitute as any. “These lemons are a vampire’s analgesic,” he says. “If you have been thirsty for a long time, if you have been suffering, then the absence of those two feelings, however brief, becomes a kind of heaven.”

The humanity in Russell’s characters is defined by the paranormal circumstances in which they find themselves: a young Japanese girl becomes a human silkworm; American presidents are reincarnated in the bodies of competitive racehorses; and a bullied boy seems to transform into a scarecrow. The diversity of the stories’ settings and points of view makes a reader anxious to find a connecting thread, but Russell doesn’t let us off so easy.

In a literary climate that prizes “serious” realism over playful fabulism, the 31 year-old Miami native emerged out of a different set of traditions when her debut collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, made an unexpected splash in 2006. In 2009, she earned a coveted spot on the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 list, which was followed a year later by inclusion in The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 Fiction Issue. The question of how to categorize Russell has been floating around ever since. Is she a Southern Gothicist? A parabolist? A moralist? Do her stories expand upon old histories, or create new, fantastical explanations for them? But the stories, without ever confining themselves to one genre or tradition, speak for themselves. Her first novel, Swamplandia!, vied for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize against Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, and created a deadlock so powerful that it led to a nearly unprecedented no-winner tie.

In Vampires, out in February, the theme of willpower obliquely ties together a diverse cast of antiheroes in a way that seems at once unconscious and designed. “I was thinking about powerlessness and what happens when a single event wants to violently repeat itself,” says Russell. “You’re trapped in the traumatic repetition of this one event from your past. How do you deal with it?” The cast of Vampires finds its own, usually destructive ways to cope, whether through mutiny, the exchange of memory, or a desperate struggle toward some kind of empty victory—all of which are, according to Russell, rooted in “this American idea that you can conquer and vanquish against all odds. There’s something beautiful about it and there’s also something really dangerous and delusional about it.”

The pitiful, strident nature of that delusion is one of Vampires’ strengths, and the enjoyment Russell gets from stepping into other viewpoints is evident from the empathy with which she portrays them. “For a lot of writers, their big experiment would be to write from the point of view of a lamprey eel or something, but for me, the lamprey eel is much easier to create than a middle-aged woman from the Midwest. I was talking to an editor friend about having a hard time with a female character because she was just a regular woman, and he was like, ‘Well, why don’t you just give her a brain tumor! Or green wings!’ I was like, You’ve got my number, man.”

Russell’s next project is a novel that takes place in and around the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, a catastrophic period that threatens to repeat itself in the wake of present-day ecological-economic disasters. “Interesting things happen to humans in disasters,” she says. “I think that’s part of the reason why everyone loves zombie movies and post-apocalyptic stories. There’s a real curiosity about what we would become in those shorn seasons. But I don’t believe that it would be so totally Hobbesian, where everyone becomes a monster and goes cannibal and starts looting—I think it’s more complex.”

Get Surreal. The Surreal Issue, now at the Bullett Shop!

Photography by Asger Carlsen

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February 5, 2013
Acne Sweater, Buffaloby David BittonJeans, Oliver PeoplesGlasses, Swatch Watch,Topman Bracelet,American ApparelSocks, Nike Sneakers
Acne Sweater, Buffalo by David Bitton Jeans, Oliver Peoples Glasses, Swatch Watch, Topman Bracelet, American Apparel Socks, Nike Sneakers

Jason Chung’s interest in music started at the tender age of 10. “I would save up as much as I could, not eat lunch, and just buy records,” he says. With the help of Napster, which granted him unlimited access to music before it was shut down in 2001, the Los Angeles–based musician perfected his craft, producing otherworldly sounds under the name Nosaj Thing. Since then, he’s founded his own label, Timetable, an imprint of Innovative Leisure, and collaborated with a diverse range of artists from Kendrick Lamar to Charlotte Gainsbourg. But it was his 2009 debut album, Drift, that brought Chung’s talent for surreal soundscapes to the fore. This year, his sophomore release, Home, promises to trace the same, sound-shifting lines.

A Trip to Remember: “When I was 15, I tried acid for the first time and we went to the mall—I remember just staring at the Disney Store. We later took the city bus to my friend’s house, and I really thought I was on a spaceship.”

Photography by Charlie Engman

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December 20, 2012
Maurizio Cattelan photographed by Pierpaolo Ferrari.
Maurizio Cattelan photographed by Pierpaolo Ferrari.

In late 2010, Maurizio Cattelan, the ribald, “post-Duchampian” artist from whose satirical crosshairs nothing—from the Guggenheim to the Pope—is safe, joined forces with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari to create Toilet Paper, a magazine devoid of text and devoted to uncomfortable, uncanny, and surreal images. Each issue of Toilet Paper, a 232-page compilation of which was recently released by Freedman/Damiani, is a collection of visual punch lines, but the jokes are hardly practical. The result is an unsettling world comprised of bizarre, self-enclosed narratives: a heavily made-up butchered pig’s head joins the body of a dead chicken; gold-painted sausages and a fake skull are strewn across the floor; and four pairs of hands pose in a swastika pattern. With its dusty color scheme and anti-nostalgic style, Toilet Paper’s darkly comical aesthetic owes nothing to anything—which, one assumes, is very much the point.

Which artists did you draw from when conceptualizing Toilet Paper ’s aesthetic?
On more than one occasion, we have made tributes to artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mario Sorrenti. We’d say that our reference is not a specific field, however, but reality itself, filtered through our personal taste.

Was Toilet Paper designed with a particular aim?
To conquer the world and toiletpaperize it!

Is there a joke at the center of Toilet Paper ?
No, we’re deadly serious. If there were a joke, it would be one that doesn’t make you laugh.

Would you be proud or depressed if an issue of Toilet Paper  gave someone a stroke?
We’d be satisfied to make someone feel a punch in his stomach.

If Toilet Paper  were a person, what would it eat?
More importantly, if Toilet Paper were a person, it would be able to digest everything.

Black, red, and tan, Toilet Paper ’s trademark colors, are politically charged both by themselves and in combination with each other. Was this deliberate?
It’s about aesthetic—we want it to be an unseen combination, but with a vintage touch.

You’ve said that each picture springs from a specific idea. What are some ideas that you’ve ended up throwing out?
There are a lot of ideas that didn’t turn into good photos. We usually make a strict and severe selection. Hundreds of pictures don’t survive elimination, but some of the ideas still have a chance. Sometimes they’re more suitable for being a video, such as the girl covered with chocolate and getting licked by a rockabilly guy, or the three pieces of pizza moving like a nuclear alarm.

Is Toilet Paper  continuing the conversation started by the Surrealists in the early 20th century? If so, what is the conversation and where can it go?
We’re in conversation with so many things at the same time that even the Surrealists have probably been a part of it. It’s like a séance—you never know who you’ll end up talking to.

What film has the most in common with Toilet Paper?
If you’re stoned enough, every film could show its Toilet Paper side.

All concepts and images by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari.

Get Surreal. The Surreal Issue, now at the Bullett Shop!

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December 18, 2012

John Magaro turned heads earlier this year as an emotionally tortured, David Foster Wallace–obsessed undergrad in Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts before appearing as the daydreaming lead in David Chase’s Not Fade Away, the writer and director’s first feature film and first notable project since creating The Sopranos. After he was cast, Magaro found himself in his own private episode of Making the Band, holing up in executive producer Steven Van Zandt’s studio with fellow actors Will Brill and Jack Huston in a method attempt to portray the film’s hero, a teenage garage band singer aspiring to fame in 1960s suburban New Jersey. “I don’t think any rock- ’n’-roll films are like this. It’s almost like a French film from the ’60s,” says the 29-year-old actor, who’ll next appear opposite Tom Hanks and Catherine Keener in the Somali pirate–centered drama, Captain Phillips.

After this experience, do you consider yourself a musician? Would you want to go somewhere with it?
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to call myself a musician. [Laughs] There are people who are much more capable of creating music than I will ever be able to, but, I would consider it a hobby and something that’s a lot of fun to do.  And I’m glad that I have the skill now. I think it would take many more years for me to develop to a point where I could actually be in a real band that wasn’t just playing covers or easy covers.

Maybe because I’m just used to thinking of David Chase,as a TV person—I feel like the film could so easily have been expanded into a television format. Do you feel the same way?
I can see people feeling like it could be expanded more. I mean, there wasn’t much more to the story, we had a cut that was a much longer version and that he had to kind of condense it. But I think this version sort of was what he was going for; in the script it always ended with him in LA, with him hitchhiking down the street. David sort of doesn’t do a convention ending; I don’t think that’s in his nature; he always likes to do something that’s sort of different or pushing the boundaries of a conventional television or conventional film ending—especially for a rock n’ roll story. I don’t feel like any rock n’ roll movies end like this, almost like a French film from the ’60s or something.  Certainly, I guess, it could be expanded—maybe there’ll be a sequel. Who knows? But like The Sopranos film, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

Were you a huge fan of The Sopranos beforehand?
Yeah, I grew up watching them.  I don’t watch a ton of TV, and I was in high school when that came out, so that was like the show that I watched every single Sunday night. I got into it at that time because it was cool, and it had mob elements, and it was like Goodfellas and all that. But then as you watch it, it’s so much more than that. David delves into some really profound stuff.

Did you relate to the family dynamic in the film?
Yeah, to a degree.  My family’s a little different, but the balancing of your own dreams with your parents’ or your family’s expectations for you is something that a lot of people go through, and I think it’s also not just a suburban thing, but maybe it’s more prevalent in the suburbs, this idea of: This is the route we want you to take. This will lead you to safe adulthood. And then, if you try and infuse becoming an artist, which is something that they might not know about and that might seem very risky and dangerous, I think that can lead to a lot of tension between parents and children. My parents aren’t together, but my mother always was supportive of what I wanted to do. I feel like my Dad would have preferred if I got like a law degree or something, and he was questioning me jumping into this career, but I think once they see you doing well, and capable of taking care of yourself, then that fear that they had for you sort of starts to vanish a little bit. And they start to understand it maybe a bit more.

What is your most surreal memory or moment?
I think it’s probably my dreams. I have really weird dreams, and I get very lost and confused with reality. In fact, today I woke up and in my dream last night, I was slogging – is that the word? – slogging through mud and I was getting sucked into quicksand, and somehow I got out of it, and I was wearing these jeans, and I woke up, and I was like, “Oh god I can’t wear these jeans because they’re really dirty and covered in mud.” And I was like smelling them this morning, trying to figure out if they were dirty and covered in mud, and I couldn’t. This happens to me a lot. I get confused with my dreams and reality.

That’s a super stressful dream. 
Well I often have dreams of getting killed a lot.  It’s really weird.

Do you survive?  
No, it’s not like Inception.  No, I will sit there, dead, until I wake up, and then I’ll go back to sleep, and then I’ll start a new dream again. I get very affected by it.

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December 17, 2012

After appearing on Showtime’s The Borgias and in Kristen Wiig’s Imogene, New York–based Mickey Sumner landed the part of the opinionated and driven Sophie, the brunette counterpart to Greta Gerwig’s title character in Frances Ha, a loveletter to a new generation of dazed and confused 20-somethings coauthored by Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach. The 28-year-old actor, who was raised on a farm in Wiltshire, England, was only given her piece of the script and didn’t see the final product until it premiered at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival. “I wasn’t aware of the themes of the movie, but I was aware of the importance of [Sophie and Frances’] connection and their friendship—how it sadly disintegrates. I think there’s an age, which I’m going through now, when you’re making decisions, graduating from girlhood into womanhood, and taking responsibility for your life. Sophie was finding it easier to be an adult than Frances, which causes separation.” Her critically acclaimed performance has lead to bigger projects, including a coveted role as Patti Smith in Randall Miller’s upcoming punk-rock drama CBGB, based on the life and times of the infamous nightclub

What’s [the thinking] behind your name Michael?
My parents said they wanted to call me by an angel’s name. So they called me Michael. Michael is the king of angels.

Since you didn’t see the whole script, was your sense of it sort of just seeing [Sophie and France’s] relationship and just how it evolves. Like did you see that and think, “I’ve never seen this in film before?
I don’t know if I was fully aware of the theme of the movie, because I just knew what my scenes were, and all I was really focusing on was the importance of our connection and friendship and how it sadly disintegrates, and how we almost sort of grow out of each other.

Did it ring true to you about relationships from being that age and or about female closeness?
Yeah, for sure. I mean I’m going through it now. It’s like an age where you’re making decisions about going from girlhood into womanhood and taking responsibility for your life and where you want to go. And I think sometimes with friendships, you find you’re not on the same path as your best friend, and you were in the same place. I just think Sophie was finding it easier in the beginning to be an adult than Frances, so it sort of caused this separation. But what I like in the movie is you realize Sophie has her own sort of crisis.

How did they originally approach you, because it’s not a full script. Did they tell you any of the plot outside of this relationship?
Not really. I sort of gleaned information as we went along. They weren’t not telling me, but there definitely was information that I didn’t know about myself that I learned later on, just because they were talking about what they’d just shot.  It was really interesting to work that way.

Is it totally different from what you tend to do, like shooting from a full script?
Yeah. Everything I’ve worked on before, I’ve gotten a full script and a lot of time to prepare. This was really different, but I have to say, it was really liberating just to stay in the moment and just focus on the scenes. We shot pretty much chronologically, so I didn’t need to know what was going to happen, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

When you see yourself on screen, does it feel like you’re watching yourself or someone else?
No. I think especially with Sophie, she’s so far away from what I really look like. She’s a brunette. I dyed my hair brown for this role. I wear these massive glasses. I have an American accent. She’s so far away from what I think I look like, that I didn’t really relate. I didn’t connect myself to what I was watching. She just seems very separate for me. I mean, I love her. She’s great, but it was nice to have that separation, because it stops you from being overly self-critical and judging the performance and the way you look. I think that’s really great because I really could enjoy the movie.

Was that the first time that’s happened,  separating yourself from your character?
I try with everything that I do to create a different person. I mean I tried to play Patti Smith, so that was a major departure from who I am.  That’s the CBGB movie. I think it’s really important for me as an actor to find ways of making these characters different from me.

For Patti Smith, did you have to do intense research?
I did a lot of research. I did a lot of reading. I did a lot of YouTube video watching. YouTube is amazing, there’s so much stuff on her, like interviews and live performances, TV shows that she was on. It was such a good resource for me. I read Just Kids like 10 times, and sort of became obsessed with the music. I didn’t know her music so well before I got the role, but then once I got the role, I think listened to Horses four times a day.

She’s such a specific persona, she belongs to such a specific time.
She does. She has a really hard accent. It’s a real mix of Philly, Jersey, New York, Detroit. That was the hardest thing. There was a great coach on set, and she was really helpful, and then I rented a studio for a week and went in and just practiced singing on stage, because she’s got moves, that woman, and you have to learn them. That was really fun for me, just for my confidence in myself and standing on stage and rocking it. It was really intimidating. I had high anxiety for the three months leading up to it—not three months, maybe two months. I had like eight weeks to prepare, but I just felt like I didn’t want to fuck up. I didn’t want to do a bad job. I mean, she’s so loved.

You want to get that call from her after the movie where she’s like, “You fucking nailed it.”
I just don’t want her to think, “Oh, who is this clown?”

What’s the most surreal moment you’ve experienced? It can be drug related or non-drug related, or a dream, or a combination of all three.
My life feels really surreal right now. I think when you’re striving so hard to get where you want, and acting is such a strange thing, where you’re trying, you’re struggling, you’re auditioning and you’re being rejected and then things start to happen. And they’re starting to happen right now. When I was at the Lincoln Center with the spotlight on me standing next to Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, and that was mean surreal in a great way, but definitely not where I thought I’d be a year ago.

Photography by Charlie Engman

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December 14, 2012

Suraj Sharma had no prior experience and limited interest in acting when he auditioned for the role of Pi Patel in Ang Lee’s ambitious 3D adaptation of Life of Pi. “The first three times I didn’t even know what I was auditioning for,” says the 19-year-old New Delhi native of his lucky break. “After the third audition, I started to read the book. I didn’t even know who was directing. By the fifth audition I wanted it more than anything.” After a country-wide search, Sharma was handpicked by Lee to embody the eponymous hero of Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize–winning novel, launching a two-year process that would wring a profoundly emotional performance—one of the year’s best—from the first-time star

Did you have any idea that [the film] was going to be in that grand scale and sparkly?
No. When we were shooting it was just blue. We were in a blue tank with blue stuff all around. At least, I never knew what it was going to look like finally. I never really went for all the rushes or all the shot B screenings, because it would have been a little strange. But it was good to finally see it after two years. I think it’s a really great movie.

How did you get involved with the project?
There were auditions in my city, and my brother was called for the auditions, and he told me to come along with him for support, to give him moral support, because he was nervous. And so I went and the casting director when I was there went, “OK Suraj. Why don’t you give this a shot?” I was not doing anything in particular, so I just said, “Fine. Yeah, I’ll do it.” I wasn’t really expecting anything, and I never imagined that I would actually get the role. I was just doing it to pass that amount of time. There were callbacks and callbacks and callbacks. I think I got pretty lucky with the whole thing and finally had to go meet Ang and do one particularly important scene, which I think I messed up the first time I did it. [Laughs]

What scene?
The last scene when he’s in the hospital with the monologue. So I did it, messed it up and Ang directed me and talked to me about going back in your own memories to find a similar emotion and kind of reliving that memory until it’s ready to explode. I did it and I ended up tearing up. They seemed to like it a little bit, and one week later I go to Taiwan. I thought someone was messing with me. I never expected to get that role. Never, ever, ever ever.

So your older or younger brother was auditioning?
Younger.

Was there weirdness?
No. Normally, when you have a younger brother or sister, you have that sibling thingy, but no he was supportive, he told me, “Go for it. Keep focused. Listen to Ang and everything will be ok.” If it weren’t for him I would be really reluctant and nervous, because I just didn’t know what to do. It was something I never thought I would get into, and then I did.

It’s interesting that he gave you method-acting instructions. Was that a scary instruction?
Well yea, but I didn’t think of it that way, because it’s Ang. You kind of know he’s a genius. You kind of know he knows what he’s doing. All I did was listen to him the whole way through. I mean. I didn’t know how to act and really didn’t know what I was doing. I just listened to him basically and turned out pretty ok. 

Had you seen Brokeback Mountain and all that?
I had seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and I had learned karate as a child, so it was a special energy-filled movie for me. I was like, “Ohhh. Let’s go back to class now”.

How far did you get when you were learning it?
I went black belt. Nine years.

So you can kick anyone’s ass basically?
Well, martial arts is more about yourself and calming yourself down, reaching that point when you don’t need to kick anyone’s ass.

Did it affect you, your character being in isolation?
It did. In that isolation, you end up getting way too deep inside yourself. It can get a little bit creepy. You can realize a lot of things about yourself, sometimes too much. You really realize what affects you, what has affected you in the past. In a way, you stop looking outward and look inside yourself. I mean, if you’re working with Ang, you need to find all these emotions that you don’t normally deal with or don’t want to deal with. You change. I guess you grow up, in a way. You really do. Ang is a really special person. He can bring anything out of anybody.

Have you read the book?
Yeah, in the middle of the audition process. Initially, first three auditions, I didn’t know what I was auditioning for. [Laughs] I didn’t know who was directing it. I had no idea. I was just doing it. I had to read this page out of a survival manual. Stuff like that. So you really don’t get anything out of it. It’s strange and weird. Slowly, I got really involved in the whole thing. By the fifth audition, I wanted it more than I wanted anything else. In my own life, I was going through this rough phase. I was not doing well in school. Things weren’t going so well. I really wanted to get out. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything. I just felt useless. Yes the movie kind of saved me from that.

So when you auditioned, were you 16?
16 turning 17.

When you read the book did you have any questions about it, because it’s kind of a complicated book to interpret, and the movie being more visual sort of helps that, but there’s still that question at the end. Did you make up your mind as to what the real story was?
The book really hit me. Initially, it was hard to read. It’s a slower book and then it starts getting really involved. I don’t know when, but suddenly I got so involved. The end, the fact is everybody will have their own interpretation of the end. No two people will have the same idea of it, because somewhere it touches everybody inside. So based on your own life, you make that interpretation. For me which story do I believe? Because I had to play both parts and tell both stories, they’re both true to me. I like the tiger story better but they’re both real in my head.

When you’re thinking about the future and a possible acting career. Are you sort of just weighing pros and cons right now? There’s this very clear path I could take or just…
Oh no. There is no clear path for me. It’s like this. I want to be involved in filmmaking. I want to be on set, because that intense fiery passion with which everybody works, 300 people bang, bang, bang. Everybody’s doing their own thing. Everybody comes from their own different places with their own different skills and come together for maybe three seconds of film. Just bringing someone’s imagination to life, putting our own pieces. I get really inspired by that whole thing. I don’t really know about that acting thing, because it entails stuff, which I might not want to get into much, but yeah I want to make movies, even if I’m not good. I want to do it. I don’t care about that. It just makes me happy.

So you would be cool directing, or writing, or lighting or anything on set?
Just being on set is enough. It feels like you’re part of something. That’s one place honestly that I feel I can do something. Some things I’m really bad at, pretty bad at. Over here I just feel like it’s something I can do, that I’m in someway part of something. It’s almost like you’re creating something. That excites me. That is something I want to do. People in the movie business, I love, because they’re all crazy. There’s this creative edge to everybody. It’s just so exciting. I love that fiery passion thing.

What is your most surreal moment, and it can be drug or non-drug related, or a dream? A moment where your just like, “What the fuck?”
The movie is my most surreal moment of my life. Ever. That is something I will never get over, but if I had to pull some little moment. You’ve seen the movie right? When the ships sinking and he’s underwater not moving, I was there. I will never forget that. I was underwater, nothing was moving. The shots’ kind of action-y, because you’re underwater and these guys pull these ropes off of me and I’m spinning underwater trying to hold my breath and not think about all of that and try to give an emotional performance and I’m doing that. I know exactly which take we got, because we did it many times. We did it 23 times, but it was the 17th. A minute and a half I’m underwater, all this spinning and you imagine sharks coming at you, and you’re dodging that and suddenly boom. You look in front of you and you these lights coming at you, and, in your head, you can see the ship sinking, and you can see your family dying and you’re just there and you’re not moving. You’re just there. The thing about being underwater is there’s always something holding you. I love that feeling. I’m there, not moving, and looking at those lights. And…woah. Yeah that was insane.

Photography by Charlie Engman

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November 26, 2012

Today in culture: a Lolita ad campaign, Simone Weil, and Keret House

The art of the projectionist, in photos.

Art books of 2012.

“As [Philip] Larkin said of the opposite, ‘Not being loved, that nothing cures.’” Andrew Sullivan on coming out and being able to be human.

-”I love the idea of your furious marginalia—love the idea of a book being transformed by your own remarks, to become this dialogue.” Kate Zambreno interviewed at The Rumpus.

-The best vintage book ad you’ll see all week.

-”Some lives are exemplary, others not; and of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense). Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation—like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard’s—was Simone Weil’s.” Back-in-the-day jam: Susan Sontag reviews essays by Simone Weil in the first issue of the New York Review of Books.

-Welcome to Keret house, a quite narrow yet elegantly designed living space made for, and inspired by the work of, Israeli author Etgar Keret.

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November 19, 2012

Today in culture: Kinky food, Thanksgiving-related food, and Napster.

Alison Bechdel posts the whole of “Rising Damp”, about her stay in London.

How to make invisible ink, as well as a history of spycraft: “Invisible ink involves any acid which will weaken the paper, causing it to darken and burn if heated. Benedict Arnold used it in his traitorous correspondence with the British, and the Americans used it just as often.”

“If Napster had only been about free access, control of legal distribution of music would then have returned the record labels. That’s not what happened. Instead, Pandora happened. Last.fm happened. Spotify happened. ITunes happened. Amazon began selling songs in the hated MP3 format.” Clay Shirky on the history of free music.

Book dresses abound at the Strand.

In anticipation of popovers: Roxane Gay writes of Thanksgiving food and fiction. “I thought about how even when we write fiction, we do reveal something about ourselves. I don’t know that I am ever more naked than in my stories.”

That’s right, it’s called a spoof-in-a-cookbook, and it’s breaking genre barriers as we speak.

“He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.” Yet another article on Hipsterism.

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November 15, 2012

Joe Wright, the director behind last year’s Hanna, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), has taken criticism for his latest, most ambitious project yet: a Keira Knightley-starred adaptation of Anna Karenina set in the quite literal context of a stage, with the men and women of Tolstoy’s novel who act out their grand and misguided passions merely players upon it. But the choice Wright makes goes deeper than the level of style, framing the age-old story in a context of losing, growing into, and mistaking our central humanness.

You’ve spoken about a line from an Orlando Figes text giving you the inspiration to set Anna Karenina on a stage.

JOE WRIGHT: I was thinking about Anna Karenina and what it was about. I kind of wanted to make a film of it. So I approached Tom Stoppard and asked if he’d right the screenplay because I didn’t think anyone else could really do it. And he agreed, and wrote a very naturalistic screenplay which is set all in palaces around Russia, and it was only two or three months before starting shooting that I came up with this idea of setting the whole thing in the theater, and that was the result of different concerns and thoughts. I wanted to cut the crap, if you like. To make a film that focused on the essence of the characters and their dilemmas. I was reading a guy called Meyerhold, who was a Russian theater director in the post-revolution period. He was killed by Stalin. He describes stylization as being the subtraction of surface, rather than decoration. In an attempt to get to the essence. So I decided I wanted to set the film in a single location and limit myself to that location. It was then that I was reading Figes, and he talks about the Russian society of the time living their lives as if upon a stage, this kind of performance they gave of French high ideals. It was from that that I decided that the appropriate single location would be the theater.

So that idea of the peasants being in the flys while the aristocrats play out their drama on the main stage…
I liked the idea that the peasants were like the stagehands. They were the ones that made everything work. It was this strange relationship between the peasants and the aristocracy where without the aristocracy the peasants wouldn’t have been able to eat, but without the peasants, the aristocracy wouldn’t have been able to feed themselves.

In other adaptations when they try to trim down the plot, Levin is usually the first thing to go.
But Levin is the point. I think the title is very misleading. I think the book could be called ‘Levin’. Or it could be called ‘A Group of Interesting People Battling with Issues Around Love in 1870s Russia’. As a caption. So for me, without Levin, there is no story. The balance between these two characters’ journey is the very crux of it.

It’s like when people try to adapt Hamlet and they cut out Fortinbras.
Exactly. What people seem to is cut Levin, and then what they’re left with is a very bleak tale of a love that is obsessive and selfish and deeply flawed, so they have to kind of elevate that love and elevate Anna to a place that Tolstoy didn’t intend. They have to make her this great heroine, and this romantic, idealized love between her and Vronsky, and that she’s martyred by society, and then she becomes a kind of proto-feminist character. That’s not the point, that’s not who she is! In a way, that’s to deny her her violence and her womanhood. I think the triumph of the book is its incredible detailed observation of character. And it seems to me that what’s been lost before, often, is this kind of layered character, this character who is cruel, and her emotions are violent, and yet she is also not a hypocrite, and she also has this wonderful belief in what she believes to be love. It’s like, I speak for myself, but, you meet someone, you fall in love with someone, there’s this amazing kind of period at the beginning of the relationship which is completely about lust and devouring each other. And then that fades away and something else takes over, something possibly more…spiritual? I can’t say that word without making a stupid face. And I’m not talking about religion at all. But she mistakes that for love, that early passion. And that’s, I think, a mistake on her part.

And with Kitty it’s the opposite, even though she seems the more naïve character.
But Levin understands. There’s a line in the book and film where he says that love or sex is given to us so that we may find the one person with whom to fulfill our humanness. That’s the point, I think. That’s what I take away from the novel. But Anna’s love doesn’t fulfill her humanness. It’s a blessing, she’s been married ten years, she’s in a relationship with someone who she doesn’t connect with, she’s probably never had an orgasm. She’s overrun by this amazing kind of violent passion and I think that one of the things that has made her such an enduring character culturally is that violence. People don’t like violent women. They like their women to be nice and passive. But from my experience, that’s not what women feel. So they’re constantly trying to play a role that male society has imposed upon them. And that role doesn’t fit. That’s what Anna is battling with. And she’s not weak. Keira came up with a really interesting point when we were talking about the suicide. She said that the suicide was a shy person’s form of homicide. That it was an angry gesture, not an acquiescence. Not a giving up, but a violent statement. I think that when she came up with that that kind of unlocked the whole journey for us.

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