Friday, 27 March 2015

Fifty Shades of Gay

The other day I stumbled upon "Matka Joana of Aniołów" (or: Mother Joan of the Angels), a 1960 feature by Jerzy Kawalerowicz. The film recounts the story of a priest who is sent to a convent to purify the soul of Joan, the mother superior, who thinks that the devil has taken possession of her.

The photography is breath-taking, and so is the atmosphere.

With its black and white format and its religious theme, Matka Joana is also more than a little reminiscent of Ida. And which other films can you name where nuns lie face-down on the church floor? (also, Ida won the Oscar and Matka Joana the Prix Spécial du Jury at Cannes - clearly the rest of the world likes to the see the Poles making understated but intense films battling with faith?)

From Ida (2013)

Either way, Matka Joana takes the theme of temptationa and sin much further than Ida. And that is no coincidence, seeing that the film is based on a book by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894 - 1980). The famous writer had a wife and children and grandchildren, but he was also one of the most notorious homosexuals in Poland (pre-WWI, in between the wars, and under the communist regime).

Iwaszkiewicz in 1914 - a bit of Gaspard Uliel, non?

A photograph taken by Iwaszkiewicz in 1921 that appeared in an album entitled "Dionysia"
"Memories from the heart, to Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. Jean Cocteau, Warsaw, October 1960" (just after the film was finished)

As with many other artists, Iwaszkiewicz's life has been much degayed by his biograhphers (the Iwaszkiewicz museum, the villa in which he lived most of his life, doesn't even hint at his sexuality). Thankfully, Krzysztof Tomasik's excellent book "Homobiografie" puts an end to the hypocrisy, and retraces the queer lives of some of Poland's most venerable writers, including Witold Gombrowicz.

But before the book gets translated into English or you learn Polish, check out Mother Joan of the Angels for a peek into Iwaszkiewicz's soul.

On YouTube with Spanish subtitles...

Mother Joan of the Angels, 1960, Full Film

...and in London as part of the Martin Scorsece Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema series. Amen. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

2 Sides, 1 Sweden

When I went to the hairdresser the other month I flipped open the September 2014 copy of Interview Magazine and stumbled upon this treasure. Grown-up, stoic, with a hint of Bergman. Never before had I fantasized about spending the summer in Sweden. But who wouldn't want to chop wood with Daria?

Daria Werbowy shot by Mikael Jansson near Stockholm

And when I started to wonder whether the country up North could only do demure, then came US Vogue. Karlie Kloss in the incredible Tree Hotel - and on the occasional golden meadow - is a summersault-inducing feast of colours and nature which makes you want to be there (and deserves to be shown in blog-unfriendly Original Size). 

See you in summer 2015, Sweden? 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Every Summer

In our age of instant visual gratification it is a rare pleasure to take one's time with photographs. Which is why I love to develop my summer films in the midst of winter.

Things you can find in the desert: a florist...

...and beautiful wheat-like plants looking down on the Azeri border

It was exactly a year ago that I did the same thing with my 2013 Sicily photos, and there is something wonderful about delayed reflections. Little else is as reassuring as seeing the sun that warmed you not so long ago and to remember that it will happen again soon.

Flowers in Tbilisi
Warm wind under the skirts of Kutaisi

This is why we still yearn for photo surprises. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Big Day

A magically queer Christmas to everyone! With a drawing by the super Felix D'Eon.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Another strong exhibition at the Zachęta Gallery: "Progress and Hygiene" might sound somewhat misleading (i.e. boring) but this show is a very clever exploration of society's use of the body as a means of control. Think of it as a rendez-vous between science, power and aesthetics.

The curators manage to survey much of the 20th century by featuring an improbable range of artists from Luc Tuymans and Gerhard Richter to Robert Capa and Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl's film "Olympia" (1938), notoriously commissioned by Hitler, is especially unsettling with its combination of beauty, pompousness and historical responsibility. 

Leni Riefenstahl, In der Sauna
Of course it also didn't escape me just how homoerotic this piece of Aryan propaganda is (oh, the bitter irony), with all the sweating torsos and muscly butts and scenes of sauna frolicking. I mean, please
But leaving the gallery I thought, somewhat fatally, that maybe not that much has changed since Riefenstahl. Today it isn't governments that use images of sculpted bodies to control us, but instead a whole industry exists that is built on showing us superior physiques to make us give up our minds (and money) in order to be part of something bigger and seemingly better. 

Bruce Weber's very gay A&F propaganda

Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg for Calvin Klein
David Gandy for Dolce & Gabbana
Get it? So much for progress. Viva la revolución interior!

Beware, Cindy wants to control you. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Naked vs. Revealed

Bertrand Bonello's "Saint Laurent" was not at all what I thought it would be. Having seen the trailer I envisioned stunning settings, tasteful drama and a splash of scandal. What I got was a whole lot different.

Maybe I was blinded by appearances - it is hard not to be impressed by how the usually hunky Gaspard Ulliel transformed into weedy Saint Laurent, or by just how bloody handsome Louis Garrel looks with a moustache (who would have thought?).

Louis Garrel as YSL's and Karl Lagerfeld's lover Jacques de Bascher

And being blinded by appearance is exactly what happened to the film. Like Narcissus transfixed with his own image, it somehow forgot to come up with anything resembling substance. For a very long two and a half the film rambles on without much of a point of view, jumping from one time period to another, never quite explaining Saint Laurent's central relationships (his love for Pierre Bergé or his lifelong friendships with Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise). The whole thing feels like an interminable trailer, with the characters as deep and relatable as models in a Saint Laurent ad.

And yet, there may be one reason to go and see this film: Ulliel's unabashed semi-hard full frontal. It was the only moment that made my chin drop, and maybe the only time this film leaves its dull comfort zone and gives you a feel for YSL's daring and desparate private life (and Ulliel's very generous junk). Although I'm sure a decent screen shot will soon leak into the world wide web. In the meantime, I recommend the trailer over the film and Alicia Drake's "Beautiful Fall" for a real insight into the scandal.

A tame gay orgy with Louis Garrel 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Big Deal

One of the greatest drawbacks of not living in London is to miss Anselm Kiefer's retrospective at the Royal Academy. And so, when in Milan the other week, I took a rather long metro journey to the outskirts of the city to search out Hangar Bicocca. In the Pirelli factory turned contemporary art museum I found my dose of Kiefer spectacular.

Anselm Kiefer "Seven Heavenly Palaces", 2004, at Hangar Bicocca in Milan

"The Seven Heavenly Palaces" is a permanent site-specific installation, made up of seven concrete towers weighing 90 tonnes each, 14-18 metres high. And it took my breath away. Even though I didn't know much about the artist, and even though I didn't know he was thinking ancient Jewish teachings, World War II ruins and the future remains of our civilization. Because you can sense all this. And it, (along with a certain Guardian article) opened my eyes as to just how much of a crazy mystic Kiefer really is.

Anselm Kiefer, Winter Landscape, 1970

And suddenly London's call resounds even more sweetly.