Monday, July 26, 2010

Coco & Igor

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky and French actress Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel.

TD and I are now enjoying a beautiful week at the beach but before we left New York last week I had the chance to see the movie Coco & Igor, which recounts the short love affair between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. My most popular and most visited post is about Coco Chanel, and I also enjoyed writing about the movie Coco Before Chanel, so I was looking forward to seeing this movie. Neatly, this movie starts exactly where Coco Before Chanel ends, so they offer continuing stories. Directed by the Dutch-born French director Jan Kounen, and with French sub-titles, Coco & Igor begins in 1913 with Chanel attending the world premier of The Rite of Spring, the revolutionary ballet from the Ballets Russes dance company, with music by Russian composer Stravinsky and choreography by Nijinsky.

You may remember that I previously wrote about the Ballets Russes, so it was fun to see in this movie its impresario Serge Diaghilev nervously pacing along with Stravinsky and Nijinsky before the curtain goes up on the premier in the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. What follows is a long extraordinary scene, with the camera swooping over the entire theater, showing how the audience dressed in black tie and elaborate Paul Poiret finery reacts to the discordant, avant garde piece. First there is booing and catcalling, then fist fights break out and finally the police are called in to quell the riot. Of course the Rite of Spring would become a seminal work of art of the twentieth century but at the time it was almost beyond comprehension. Throughout the riot, Chanel sits in the audience looking as if she is fully understands the visionary piece.
Soon Chanel invites the impecunious Stravinsky and his wife and three children to live in her villa outside Paris. There the composer works on revisions for a new production of The Rite of Spring, and, predictably, these two forces of nature begin an affair.

Hanky panky on the piano bench.

The style of Chanel's house and clothes is a pleasure to take in. Everything is elegant black and white – no, it's cream actually. Stravinksy's wife asks Chanel if she likes any colors and the couturier answers, "As long as it's black." Someone in the movie observes that Chanel "makes even grief look chic." Throughout she wears t-strap high heels which is such a flattering shoe. In the very first scene of the movie, Chanel says, "I want to breathe" as she cuts the corset she is wearing with scissors, symbolizing how she freed women from the uncomfortable fashions of the time with her natural designs that followed the lines of the body. Later in the movie she is shown working on a dress in her salon, cutting away at it until she remarks, "There – a strong clean line."

It makes you want to go home and edit your closet.
Stravinksy wears a lot of band collar shirts and vests – I like that look.

At one point Chanel travels to Grasse in the south of France and works on the formula for her new perfume with the Russian perfumer Ernest Beaux. He shows her five samples, and she chooses the fifth so she names it Chanel No 5; we know now that it becomes the bestselling fragrance of all time.

The affair with the composer progresses until Stravinsky's wife and children become aware of it, creating a sad and unhappy situation. During an argument Chanel and Stravinsky fight about who is more powerful: "You are not an artist, Coco," says Stravinsky, "You are a shopkeeper." I think he is wrong here: Chanel was an artist and her medium was clothes. But that is the end of that affair.
It's a pleasure to live in the era for the length of the movie, and I didn't quite want it to end: "Please, just one more scene." There is a funny bit about Diaghilev when Chanel walks into his office to see a young man stark naked with his back to the camera facing Diaghilev. "You can go now," Diaghilev says to the boy, and to Chanel: "I'm interviewing for a new secretary." The last scenes show Chanel and Stravinsky in old age: she is in her suite at the Ritz in Paris and he is at the Essex House in New York City where he died in 1971 – they are still thinking of each other.
Anna Mouglalis plays Chanel throughout as regal, cold, and imperious, gliding through the rooms of her villa with little emotion.

Chanel with Diaghilev on the left.
After the movie was over, I was questioning that portrayal of Chanel. Even from clips you see of Chanel on tv, she is scrappy and garrulous, fast with the quips and quick to lose her temper. I think Chanel was more hot than cold, but that is my observation. Maybe some one who knew Chanel could tell us! In any case, I did the enjoy the movie very much and recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful things.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Trip to the Brooklyn Flea

Fantastic window boxes on Lafayette Street.

TD and I went to Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon to visit a friend in Fort Greene, a neighborhood near Pratt Institute of Technology, the renowned school of art and design. We stopped first at the Brooklyn Flea. You may remember we went to the indoor Brooklyn Flea over the winter in the cold weather. The outdoor one is great too, located in the sports field of a Catholic high school on Lafayette Street.
Darlings, it was hot. I have lived in New York City a long time, and I don't remember it ever being this hot. On Saturday it was almost too hot to stop and take pictures, but I snapped out a few.
I loved this wooden rolling rack. I asked the vendor about it. She said, "Are you a shop owner?" Do I look like a shop owner? Perhaps. No, I said, just admiring. She said it was an antique rack from a shoe factory. I think it would be great piled high with books. You could roll it around the house with you. But I have no room. It had funny tilted wheels, can you see those? I hadn't seen those before, but she said they work perfectly fine.

Out on the sidewalk a guy was hand-cutting silhouette portraits out of black paper. He had a long line of customers.

Right out of Charles Dickens. So charming.

Back inside the market, I stopped at this vendor. I liked the old clocks and watches, and it was located under a shady tent. A pleasant place to escape.

Out in the sun I spotted another rolling cart

with similar tilted wheels. I wonder what those are called.

Then, these oversized industrial carts. But who would have room? I suppose if you lived in a big loft you could put your artist's supplies on them.

The Brooklyn Flea attracts the best-looking people in New York, boys and girls. It's really fun for people watching, with lots of style going on – the style is like a combination of New York City, Chilmark, Mass., and Pratt: very confident, natural, easy, American. One girl was wearing a cropped vintage cotton top, boy's pajama shorts and a straw hat with its wide brim tilted over one eye. Chic. You have to know what you're doing to pull off something like that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Trip to Chelsea Market

The new Anthropologie store, with Prince Lumber across 15th Street.

I recently had the chance to go through the great Chelsea Market which is located two blocks away from us, between Ninth Avenue and Tenth Avenue, and 15th Street and 16th Street. The building was originally constructed in the 1890s and was a factory which housed the ovens of the National Biscuit Company. In the 1990s it was bought and developed and redesigned into a food concourse filled with wonderful vendors selling fresh produce, meat, fish, wine, imported Italian goods, all kinds of good things. It's an entertaining destination. If you are visiting New York, don't miss the Chelsea Market.
The developer and designers have wisely and sensitively retained the industrial character of the building with exposed pipes and beams, and at the same time made it modern and comfortable. I love that style, which is called Industrial Chic or Rough Luxe, and mixes materials like wood, metal and brick.
The front door area of Chelsea Market on Ninth Avenue has recently been redesigned. I really like the oversized industrial metal light shades crowded together. Wood signage with metal plaques of companies in the building hangs on the weathered brick wall.

This Chelsea Market sign is crafted in metal and curves perfectly to fill the space.

The shiny metal elevator doors are etched with designs. The frame that holds the doors is a dull, sculpted metal. These metals contrast with the soft look of the worn brick.

Going up.

An Anthropologie store recently opened in the Chelsea Market in a big space which was a florist that we really liked. I'm a fan of Anthropologie too – they do some clever things. For example, in the new store this metal column has been camouflaged and collaged with scraps of newspaper, burlap and floral fabric.

Fabric was draped haphazardly over the back wall; I liked the white country table in the foreground.

Back out on the concourse, I admired the light fixtures. They look like Art Deco, from Paris.

A funny photography show was mounted on the walls. I believe facial hair was the theme.

I picked up some tilapia for dinner at the good fish market.

On the way out I stopped into Anthropologie again and saw a wonderful coffee table made out of an artist's paint-splotched surface mounted on rolling wheels. Behind it was a couch covered with flower-printed linen. I think that's a great way to live.

I think the whole Chelsea Market is a great way to live.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Fourth of July in Guilford

TD and I went out to visit my parents in Guilford, Connecticut, for the holiday weekend. My sister Cynthia and her partner Barb were visiting too from Colorado Springs so it was quite a jolly get together. Like everywhere else in the Northeast, it was hot!
Guilford is a pretty town located on the Long Island Sound that I have written about here before. It's a historic town too, and this is its story: in May of 1639 Reverend Henry Whitfield and a group of Puritans left England in search of religious freedom. They arrived by late summer at what is now New Haven. They negotiated with the local Native American Indians and their leader Wequash, and bought land and settled in what is now Guilford. Later, in the eighteenth century, Guilford was attacked during the Revolutionary War by the British soldiers coming from New York. The local militia defeated the foreign enemy. Now, Guilford is considered to have one of the largest collection of historic homes in New England, with important buildings from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

On Saturday, we went down to the town beach where people were happily boating

and kayaking.

I decided to go for a run on...Whitfield Street, which links the beach with the town green. There are many beautiful nineteenth century houses on the street. One house in Guilford from that era was a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, where respite was offered for slaves on their journey to freedom.
This sparkling house on Whitfield Street was as white and ornate as a wedding cake.

It has a deep, columned porch on three sides. This house reminds me of 611.

Instead of traditional white, this house is a dusty ochre with forest green trim.

Hanging pots decorated a porch

and clouds of hydrangea bloomed against a pale lilac exterior.

This white house from 1852 was guarded by a fence of evergreens

but when I got closer a gap in the middle revealed a secret giveaway of free books.

We had a swell weekend in Guilford, and I hope you had a nice Fourth of July too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Gay Pride Day

The Gay Pride Parade on Fifth Avenue

This past Sunday was Gay Pride Day in New York City. It was the twenty-fourth that Ted and I celebrated together! And that's what I'm proud of.

We started the day at our liberal and artistic church, Judson Memorial on Washington Square South. The service began with a flash mob – a public dance in Washington Square choreographed by Aiden O'Shea and Alana Hartman, which ended with two women getting married. Ted participated; here he is in the center in white shirt and blue shorts.

Here he is again, arms outstretched. Ain't he cute?

Then we went inside for a happy service led by associate pastor Michael Ellick with wonderful music from music director Michael Connelly. It was a joy, I'll tell you that. Growing up Catholic in upstate New York I never in my farthest dreams imagined that I would be in a Sunday church celebrating gay pride.

Then it was off to march in the parade down Fifth Avenue. It was hot out, really hot. It's such a different experience to watch the parade from the sidelines, and then step into the parade. People are looking at you and waving and cheering so you wave and cheer back, it's kind of like you're on center stage. Ted and I walked by a group and they yelled at us, "You're beautiful!" Marching in the parade is a wonderful experience.

Behind us there were cheerleaders flying through the air the entire way down Fifth Avenue. I don't know how they did it.

My favorite part of the parade: all three churches on lower Fifth Avenue are out on the curb offering welcome cups of cold water to marchers – Marble Collegiate Church, First Presbyterian and Church of the Ascension, Protestant churches all.

We were saying to the people giving out water, "Thank you," and they were saying back to us, "Thank you."

Unlike Catholic Saint Patrick's Cathedral where in the past marchers could not even stop or go up the steps. Ugly right-wing fundamentalists stationed there with placards yelled hideous things to the marchers passing by. Shame on Saint Patrick's.

We walked past the Flat Iron building, one of the most striking and elegant in New York, built in 1903 by Daniel Burnham.

The ad on this bus shelter said "Live United" and I liked it combined with the American flag. It was extremely disappointing, to say the least, that marriage equality was defeated in New York state this year.

I say live and let live.
Live united.