Saturday, December 29, 2007

Life and style / Liv Ullmann / "The movie wasn't good and I felt it from the first line"

Liv Ullmann


Liv Ullmann

"The movie wasn't good and I felt it from the first line"
Rosanna Greenstreet
Saturday 29 December 2007 23.34 GMT

Liv Ullmann was born in Tokyo in 1938 and spent most of her childhood in Norway. She is one of Scandinavia's most respected actors, and is best known for her work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, with whom she had her only child. She later became a film director herself, most notably of Faithless in 2000. She has homes in Norway and the US.

Liv Ullmann

When were you happiest? 
When the miracle happened and my daughter, Linn, was born.
What is your greatest fear? 
What is your earliest memory?
My daddy's hand squeezing my hand - I was three or four, and we were walking along a road in Canada.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
Nelson Mandela, because he allowed his forgiveness and ability to overcome to change a nation.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I sometimes try to avoid conflict, so I agree instead of saying no.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
That they choose to be a victim.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
When I was 13, I put gloves in my bra. My dancing partner felt them and commented. It was horrible.
What is your most treasured possession?
My cottage in Norway, which is high on a cliff overlooking a fjord. It's the most expensive thing I ever bought.
What would your super power be?
What makes you depressed?
When people who make decisions for others are ill-informed.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I'm OK. I am 69 and bear it with pride - it's the way God wanted me to look.
What is your favourite smell?
My grandmother's neck. I'd sit on her lap and lean my head towards her neck - it was such a wonderful smell.
What is your favourite word?
'Love', when it's not misused.
What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Why would such a picture be shown?
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
What do you owe your parents?
All the things I had to be older to appreciate. I didn't see it before it was too late to thank them.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Everyone involved in my child's birth. God, the child, the father of the child, my mother and my father.
What does love feel like?
When you feel that you're free to say yes to whatever is best within you.
What was the best kiss of your life?
He knows.
Have you ever said 'I love you' and not meant it?
Yes - I live in America.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My mother and father.
What is the worst job you've ever done?
The Night Visitor with Charles Bronson - the movie wasn't good and I felt it from the first line.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
That I wasn't the best mother, actor, writer... the best this, the best that. Lots of disappointments.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
More quiet time with my daughter.

If you could go back in time, where would you go? 
To when my daddy was alive, just to get to know him. He died during a brain operation when I was six.
When did you last cry, and why?
Right now, thinking about going back to say hello to my father.
How do you relax?
Reading, listening to music, watching a DVD and meditation.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That I could act, write books and scripts, direct movies - everything that I loved - and support other people with the money I earned.
What keeps you awake at night?
Worries that are really easily solved one way or another by life.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Old Man River.
How would you like to be remembered?
By my two grandchildren, that they took some comfort in me being alive with them.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To live in the now.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The naked truth about Tunick

Thousands of naked people crouch in Mexico City's main Zocalo plaza
during the massive naked photo session
The naked truth about Tunick
Spencer Tunick's mass nude photo shoots are nothing more than a wacky publicity stunt
Jonathan Jones
Monday 7 May 2007 15.20 BST

Art lovers? ... thousands pose for Tunick's latest photo shoot in Mexico. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP
Criticise a popular artist like Spencer Tunick and you're inevitably accused of snobbery, but I'll come clean - I really don't believe anyone can mistake his sensationalism for art.
Tunick has just persuaded 18,000 people to strip off in Mexico City, for the latest in a series of mass nude photo shoots around the world. Well, good for him. He's got the publicity, and the participants doubtless enjoyed themselves, maybe even found it therapeutic.
But so what? Tunick's work isn't art, and no one who actually considered it for a moment would say it was. There's no interesting "thought" underlying his work nor is it a provocative challenge to what art is. His photograph-stunts are on the same level as a wacky advertising campaign. I find it contemptible the way Tunick is applauded for something so blatantly cynical.
I think many people secretly hate art. Not so long ago, it was perfectly respectable to express that loathing, at least for modern art, but nowadays art takes such a prominent role in our culture that most people feel obliged to pay lip service to it - yet the old loathing survives under the surface.
Why hate art? Because art is strange and alien. A urinal in a museum is peculiar but so is a marble sculpture of a nude Biblical hero. Duchamp's Fountain and Michelangelo's David remain odd, even when you think hard about them. There's never a moment when they become as accessible to us as, say, a good film or a gripping novel. Yet powerful institutions insist these are great works of art. The hatred of art wants to say: get lost, go away, this is just bizarre.
Ours is, after all, a world in which a couple of weeks ago, a column in the Guardian claimed the best exhibition in London is the V&A's Kylie show because it truly delivers the populism that "high art" (the example given was Gilbert & George) can only fake.
It seems to me that Tunick's fans are motivated - perhaps unconsciously - by a great revulsion at all the pretension and arrogance of high culture. Liking Spencer Tunick is a covert way of saying you hate art.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Thousands of Mexicans strip for photo shoot

México 2007
Spencer Tunick

Thousands of Mexicans strip for photo shoot

May 7, 2007 - 9:36AM

A record 18,000 people took off their clothes to pose for US photographic artist Spencer Tunick on Sunday in Mexico City's Zocalo square, the heart of the ancient Aztec empire.

Tunick, who has raised eyebrows by staging mass nude photo shoots in cities from Dusseldorf in Germany to Caracas in Venezuela, smashed his previous record of 7,000 volunteers set in 2003 in Barcelona, Spain.

Directing with a megaphone, Tunick shot a series of pictures with his Mexican models simultaneously raising their arms, then lying on their backs in the square, as well as another scene on a side street with volunteers arranged in the shape of an arrow.

Hundreds of police kept nosy onlookers away during the nippy early-morning shoot, and a no-fly zone was declared above the plaza.

One of the world's biggest and most imposing squares, the Zocalo is framed by a cathedral, city hall and the National Palace official seat of government, which is adorned with murals by Diego Rivera.

A ruined temple next to it was once the centre of the Aztec civilisation and was used for worship and human sacrifice. Spanish conquistadors used bricks from the temple to help build their own capital.

Some participants said the massive turnout showed that Mexicans, at least in the capital, were becoming less prudish.

Mexicans are not used to showing skin. Most men wear shorts only while on vacation, and women tend not to put on miniskirts because of unwanted whistles and stares.

"This event proves that really we're not such a conservative society anymore. We're freeing ourselves of taboos," said Fabiola Herrera, a 30-year-old university professor who volunteered to strip, along with her boyfriend.

The capital of the world's second-biggest Catholic nation, where tough-guy masculinity and family loyalty are held dear, has recently challenged some important traditions.

Last month, Mexico City legislators legalised abortion in defiance of criticism from church officials.

Also, gay couples are getting hitched in civil ceremonies thanks to recently passed laws in the capital, and lawmakers plan to debate whether to legalise euthanasia.

Not all Mexicans were impressed by the spectacle staged by Tunick, who was refused permission to hold his nude photo at the famed Teotihuacan pyramids outside the capital.

"They're losing dignity as men and women," said 63-year-old Armando Pineda, leaning against the cathedral and watching the now-dressed models leave the plaza. "It's an offence against the church."

The Mexico City metropolitan area is home to about 18 million people.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Daphe du Maurier / Mistress of menace


Mistress of menace

Daphne du Maurier has often been dismissed as a writer of popular romances, yet her work is infused with hidden violence. To mark the centenary of her birth this month, Patrick McGrath relishes the dark side of her short stories

Patrick McGrath
Saturday 5 May 2007 00.02 BST

pparently Daphne du Maurier hated Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of her story "The Birds". She was baffled as to why the great director had distorted it as he had. The difference between the story and the film is striking, though less in the depiction of the birds' inexplicably aggressive behaviour than in the characters who confront it, and where it all happens. At the centre of du Maurier's narrative is a part-time farm worker called Nat Hocken, and in the story his struggle to protect his family from the birds is set against a wild Cornish coastline where gales sweep across stark hills and fields and isolated farmhouses. The combination of bleak landscape and rustic characters lends an appropriately elemental tone to the tale, and this is missing from Hitchcock's version, with its placid northern California setting and the urbane city folk he casts as his protagonists. This may explain the author's dislike of the film.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hannah Starkey's best shot / Two Girls

 'It's meant to be quite a tender moment ...' Image courtesy of Maureen Paley, London

Hannah Starkey's best shot

'We were in the middle of all this craziness, and I think that got into the picture'
Leo Benedictus
Thu 15 Feb 2007

The two girls were drama students at Middlesex University and the room was in their student union. Initially, it was going to be a picture of them on the dance floor, but it was just too crazy in there - you forget how much 19-year-olds drink at the height of the evening. So we moved upstairs to the chillout area, and when we got into the room I could see the picture immediately.
The idea was to show the supportive relationship between two friends at that age. I told the girls how to position themselves, and they fine-tuned it with their own ideas - things like holding the glass while falling asleep. I didn't compose the furniture, besides bringing that curved chair into the bottom. I certainly didn't move any of the cigarette butts or anything like that.
The girls were fantastic. They weren't actually drunk, but we were in the middle of all this Saturday-night craziness, with all the music coming through from downstairs, and I think that energy got absorbed by the picture. We all seemed to work spontaneously and intuitively together.
It's meant to be quite a tender moment, like when you think "I'll just sit here for a minute . . ." and you keep your eye on your friend because she's fallen asleep. It's not that you're necessarily out of it, it's just the excitement of having a really good night.
I took the photograph in 1997; it was really enjoyable to make, and it was the first picture that I really felt was my own. What is amazing is that when I look at it now, I realise that, at the time, I wasn't very far away from those girls and what they were doing.

Curriculum vitae

Born: Belfast, 1971

Studied: Napier University; University of Edinburgh; Royal College of Art, London

Inspirations: "Lots. If you look at Helmut Newton's work, or Garry Winogrand's, or Philip-Lorca di Corcia's, you can see it's all about a universal language - everything seems balanced and right."

Pet hate: "X-ray machines in American airports. They say they can't damage films, but I have had that happen."


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Margaret Salmon's best shot / María

Photo by Margaret Salmon

Margaret Salmon's best shot

'I just find her compelling. I love how she's bathed in white, with that innocence'

Interview by Leo Benedictus
Wed 7 Feb 2007

I met this woman, Maria, at a playground in Rome; I guess you might say I picked her up. We both had kids playing. She spoke some English, while I spoke a little Italian, and we hit it off. I convinced her that I had to film and photograph her for a project I was doing on new mothers, and in the end she gave way. She was really funny, because she didn't understand why I wanted to film her at all. She kept saying: "But why do you want me?"

I arrived the day before this picture was taken and spent some time with Maria and her family. The next morning she was still in her pyjamas, had given her daughter breakfast, and was starting to clean the house and make the bed. In this picture, I'm on the balcony, and she's just on the edge of the sunlight. It was just so serene, yet the moment was ironic, because she had a one-year-old running around, and the environment was the opposite of what you'd think.
I was using the first camera I ever owned, bought when I was 16. It's just a basic 35mm Pentax K1000, which they don't make any more. In the past, I've used all sorts of large-format cameras on tripods. But when I had my own daughter, I started using my Pentax again and taking portraits of her, being much more free, and I love it. It's so light and flexible.
A portrait like this is really all about the face and the expression, so a lot depends on the person - I just find her so compelling. I love how she's bathed in white, with that Madonna-like innocence, and yet there's a sort of frown; she's looking very serious and intense. That captured the contradiction I felt being a mother. You're not quite what you used to be, and there's also a certain darkness you have to embrace.
Maria hasn't seen the picture yet. I'll have to let her know so she can check it out, but I'm sure she'll hate it. She'll say: "I look terrible!"


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Life and style / Amy Winehouse / You're all bastards

Amy Winehouse


Amy Winehouse
"You're all bastards"

Interview by Rosanna Greenstreet
Saturday 13 January 2007 16.41 GMT

Amy Winehouse, 23, was brought up in north London. She was expelled from the Sylvia Young Theatre School and later quit the Brit School where she was studying musical theatre. At 17 she landed a contract with Island Records and her debut album, Frank, turned platinum and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. In 2004, she was nominated for two Brit Awards and won the Ivor Novello Best Contemporary Song Award for her debut single. She has just released a single, You Know I'm No Good, from her new album, Back To Black. In February and March she tours the UK.

Amy Winehouse

When were you happiest?
Last night on stage.

What is your greatest fear?
Dying old or never meeting Tony Bennett; if I never get to meet him, I might as well be dead.
Which living person do you most admire?
No one. You're all bastards. Maybe Mark Lamarr for that precise fact.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My fickleness and aggression.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Two-facedness and negativity.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Having sex dreams about members of my crew.

Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've ever bought?
My heart back from someone who may or may not have deserved it. I paid a lot.
What is your most treasured possession?
My loyalty.
Where would you like to live?
In Camden.
What would your super power be?
Super sexuality.
What makes you depressed?
Any/everything, any/everyone.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I wish my boobies were bigger sometimes, but I like the way I look.
Would you rather be clever and ugly, or thick and attractive?
I have no choice; I am both cripplingly stupid and hideous to look at.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Liza Minnelli.
What is your most unappealing habit?
Being an abusive drunk.
What is your favourite smell?

Petrol and hairspray.
What is your favourite word?
What is your favourite book?
Catch-22 or Pigtopia or Beyond Black.
What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
I wouldn't remember.
Cat or dog?
Tiny ones in all colours.
Is it better to give or to receive?
Give - I can't receive.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Having my cake and eating it, too.
What do you owe your parents?
About £450,000.
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
Myself for being a self-obsessed dickhead/my boyfriend for punching him often.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Falling in love itself.
What does love feel like?
A disease that consumes you eternally.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
'Pssssshhh' - or, when drunk, 'whatever' and 'dickhead'.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To the 60s and I'd go out with the Ronettes.
How do you relax?
How often do you have sex?
When I can.
What is the closest you've come to death?
I was hit by a car once on my bike, but I still rode home.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
More sex and more gym.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
This album.
What keeps you awake at night?
Being sober.
How would you like to be remembered?
As genuine.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That you learn things every day and life is short.
Where would you most like to be right now?
In my baby's arms.
Tell us a secret.
I've got a crush on my backing singer.