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Monday, 25 June 2012 16:40

Good Reads 25/06/12

Each week, two E&M editors share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.

juliane

Juliane, Diaphragm Editor 

Feminism: It's a girl thing

When I tell people that I'm a feminist, they often shrug and think I'm crazy. What's left for feminists to be mad about? Women can work in almost any kind of profession and the universities are filled with women. We've won the battle, some might say. Well, I beg to differ. The reason we still need feminists to speak up about the way things are is because there still is a problem with the attitude towards women. Unfortunately, it seems that the latest example of this has come from the EU - who apparently have not learned much from their last PR disaster. The video "Science - it's a girl thing" produced to attract more women to the natural sciences proves that we still have a long way to go in terms of changing attitudes towards women. Apparently, the EU thinks women need to believe that science is about pretty scientist girls and hot scientist guys in order to be attracted to it. The EU has withdrawn the video, but for me, the damage is already done. Think about how many people must have reviewed this video before it was released - and not one found it offensive? That's why I'm still a feminist. Read more about why it's a problem to think that girls can only be attracted to science when it involves lipstick here.

Brace yourselves: The festival season is coming

For me, summer equals festivals. Some people might not agree with me, but a dirty field, loud music, sleeping in tents and drinking beer all day spells happiness to me. I've already been to two festivals this year - Distortion Festival in Copenhagen (which The Rolling Stone magazine dubbed the European version of SXSW, the largest music festival in the world) and Northside Festival, the German Southside Festival's little sister in Aarhus, Denmark. In a few days, I'm going to Roskilde Festival for the 7th year in a row (hint: Keep an eye out on the blog...) - but there are dozens of other opportunities to enjoy the music, the beer and the beautiful people all over Europe. Here are a few options to choose from and be inspired by.

Tweet, tweet: I'm crazy

I love the idea. I really, really do. The Swedish government turns over a twitter account (@sweden) to different citizens each week, the idea being that the best people to showcase Swedish culture and mentality are the Swedes themselves. Well, it worked fine... Until Sonja got to make the calls. I'm not quite sure if it's for real or not, and some of the things are just outright offensive, but I can't help but think that her photoshopped picture of Freddie Mercury ogling a strawberry salad entitled "hungry gay with aids" is the most absurd (and possibly, if she actually means what's she tweeting, the most offensive) thing I've seen online in ages. Check out the story here.

Published in Good Reads
Thursday, 14 June 2012 06:20

Coco Chanel - the story of a revolution

Even before they had a practical purpose, clothes were meant to have a message. They mark, differentiate, ennoble, humiliate, include and cast out; in other words, they talk about the person wearing them. If there is one statement that definitely applies to fashion, or clothing in general, it is that it has always functioned as a language. Before fashion became fashionable, clothes represented stability: changes appeared slowly and the meanings of clothes where obvious. In the first decades of the century, Coco Chanel violated this familiar language. After throwing away corsets, dressing women like men and making clothes from unusual fabrics it was hard to say who was who.

Her experiments with couture were called a revolution and ranked her on Time magazine's list of the most influential people of the 20th century. A century after her debut in Parisian salons, she remains an icon in the ephemeral world of fashion and beyond it. Only in the last years the legend of the French couturière was revisited several times in cinema ("Coco before Chanel", "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky", "Coco Chanel") - a feast for fashionistas and fashion victims and a rare occasion for fashion historians. The contemporary look at the European legend of fashion presented in these films might be a good opportunity to ask questions about contemporary fashion itself.

Coco wasn't the only provocative designer at that time, she wasn't even the only woman designer. But she was the one to opt for a democratic turn in fashion.

Today, the two C's stand as much for the label as they do for the image of Coco Chanel herself; a self-confident, determined and scandalous personality – an ideal character for cinema. What may seem surprising now is that Coco wasn't the only provocative designer at that time, she wasn't even the only woman designer. But she was the one to opt for a democratic turn in fashion. In times when functionality and comfort did not go along with elegance and the elitist idea of fashion, Chanel tried to create clothes that would be suitable and affordable for all women. Coco turned fashion into a popular entertainment and laid foundations for what was to become the dynamic modern fashion industry.

Published in Cafe Cinema
Friday, 27 April 2012 06:09

Hollywood with a French accent

Cinema is a narcissistic art and we love it for that. Somehow, some of the best films in history have been films on films. That's also the case with this year’s Academy Award winning (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design) "The Artist."

Michel Hazanavicius is known for his talent for remakes and reinterpretations such as his spy movie parody series "OSS 117" or "La classe americaine" - a TV movie made entirely from extracts from old Warner Bros. films. In his newest production the French director boldly approached the silent cinema genre. The film, based on the well-known theme of fading silent movie stars and the rise of talkie celebrities (see: "A Star is Born", "Sunset Boulevard", "All about Eve" and "Singing in the Rain") is full of references and quotations from classic cinema. At the same time, it's far from being a hermetic homage to cinema meant for movie freaks.

The success of "The Artist" seems especially spectacular if we take into account that this season the big screens hosted two films referring to early cinema history. "The Artist"'s rival was Scorsese's "Hugo"; a 3D production set in Paris at the times of Méliès. Both building on the enchantment of old cinema, the films opted for entirely different types of narration to create an image of silent cinematography's charm. While Scorsese's film assumes and makes use of all the benefits of film technology and special effects in order to revive and visualise the magic of cinema, "The Artist"'s minimalist form praises cinema for its ability to generate poetry through realism.

"The Artist" is not a silent movie, it's a pastiche, and a very intelligent one.

The success of "The Artist" lies precisely in the fact that the film is not what it seems to be; it's not an imitation. Making a classic silent black and white movie in the era of 3D would simply be a pretentious anachronism. But "The Artist" is not a silent movie, it's a pastiche, and a very intelligent one. Pastiche variations on earlier works can serve as creative platforms for writers and artists to confront the past and the present in intertextual games; in "The Artist" this confrontation occurs in the particularly paradoxal construction of a silent film on the rise of sound films.

Published in Cafe Cinema
Thursday, 01 March 2012 18:01

Good Reads 01/03/12

Each week, two E&M editors share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.

juliane

Juliane, Diaphragm Editor 

HAS TECHNOLOGY FIGURED US OUT?

I love it when science and technology present easy solutions to complex problems. The notion that you can answer some of life's most troubling questions in one single sentence is deeply appealing to me. Nevertheless, when I first read about complexity scientists having explained the way culture has spread in Europe, I was somewhat... offended. For me, European culture is fascinating, interesting and compelling because it cannot be explained in one sentence. So when a bunch of complexity scientists (which, on a side note, is the coolest academic title I've come across) explain to me that the main reason, or perhaps one of the main reasons, that the democracies of ancient Greece and the Roman empire still remain the most influential and persisting cultural movement in European history is ... that Italy and Greece are located not in the centre, but on the edge of the European continent, I am quite frankly insulted. However, the possibility that they might be right is puzzling and fills me with curiosity. See if you agree here and download the whole paper here if you're interested.  

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE FILM OF THE YEAR... SORT OF

This is a movie that I'm more excited about than I care to admit. A few reasons: 1) It's just about as tacky as science fiction will ever get. Which in itself is a reason to love it. 2) It's one of the few examples of real, not just imagined, fan-funding (the movie has been planned for ages, but director Timo Vuorensola did not have the money to make it happen - until he urged people who wanted to make it happen to pitch in, actually funding enough for proper production of the whole thing). In other words, even before the first screening, the movie had a huge and loyal pool of fans, which in this day and age is quite the accomplishment. 3) The movie, which, just to be clear, is about AN INVASION OF NAZIS WHO HAVE BEEN HIDING ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON SINCE 1944, opened at the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale this year. I love it. I love what it says about Germany being able to deal with their past in, if not unproblematic ways, then at least openly and with the realisation that the past is actually in the past. 4) It's a pan-European project actually said to have a chance of being a blockbuster in the US, which always is a weird satisfaction for me. Intrigued? Read more about what is perhaps the most inappropriate, yet surely entertaining, film experience of the year here.

Published in Good Reads
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