Monday, 13 January 2014

The magnificent Great Beauty 

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) has been a hit since it was first screened in the Cannes Film Festival last year. It took the press by storm and has been described Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentio’s best film yet. What’s more, this visually spectacular film recently won the best foreign film award at Golden Globe.

It’s an intriguing story about the carefree life of Jep Gambardella, a celebrity journalist, squandering his talent his one and only novel brought him. The filmmaker's muse, Toni Carallo plays the film's protagonist, and seduces the viewers about the pleasures of upper class lifestyle and fame. Foremost the narrative is as much about the portrait of Gambardella's grandiose home city and his solitary life

In the opening scene, a Chinese tourist drops dead to the magnificent Italian opera overlooking the spectacular Rome. Was it the sight of the grand city that pulled that last smile on his face or something else; we are left to wonder. Sound has a significant role in the narrative. Amidst the hedonistic disco scene the melancholic side of Jep Gambardella is revealed.

However, after Jep's 65th his life takes an unexpected turn. Emotionally unattached, he continues attending high profile private events and uses his connections for secret visits to the city museums, enjoying the privileges of his profession. Gradually Gambardella's weakness and great obsession for beauty keeps grows.

Throughout the film Gambardella recollects his reflections of his first and lost love. It's during the late night walks in the city centre when his age and loneliness creep in. Despite it he meets many mysterious characters: a retired stripper, priest, nun with whom all he connects in his mecca - rooftop flat next to the grandiose Colousseum.

If are a fan of art house films, original stories then I highly recommend watching The Great Beauty. You won’t be disappointed it. It’s a thought provoking film with fine acting from Toni Servillo playing Jep Gambardella. 

Pictures credits:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Nostalgic East, Georgia   

A fictional short story of the Black Sea inspired by my adventures in Georgia

It was 1975 when her mother visited Georgia with her two daughters. At the time the Black Sea was a popular holiday destination for many Eastern Europeans.

40 years later her daughter Kathleen found a box of photographs with leafy palm trees and immense sea on the background. Kathleen approached her mother with a photo in her hand:

“Who are these people?”
She was taken aback for a moment but knew that there will be a time when Kathleen will find out the truth.

“That’s your auntie, grandma and mummy.  Grannie went for a conference to Georgia. And this is grandma with her friend Irakli.”

“Is Georgia far mum?”
“Very far my darling. Near the Black Sea.”
“Why is it called the Black Sea?”

The girl’s eyes like little raisins, turned to her mother, enthusiastically waiting for her answer.

“There’s a legend that the Black Sea is a suspicious, and dangerous sea. It’s because there aren’t that many lighthouses or inlands to coordinate by. Seamen call it the Sea of Death that swallowed the famous seaman Irakli from Georgia. ”

“Did grandma know the great captain?” Kathleen enquired curiously.

“He was the dearest people she met in Georgia. And as you know your great grandpa Nilsson was an important man in the university where also your grandma was employed. He told her: “Go to this conference in Georgia and gather knowledge about different cultures. It’s very important that you pay attention because there are people from six different countries participating.”

And because your grandpa was working in Leningrad at the time grandma decided to take auntie Sarah and me with her to Georgia. I was our very first holiday abroad and will never forget how velvety the air felt against my skin. In the morning grandma attended the conference and afternoon we all went to the beach. At one day grandma had a problem getting a lying chair because the seller didn’t understand English and grandma’s Russian was very rusty. We were very lucky thanks to a local Georgian man. He spoke in Russian with the seller and gave the money back to your grandma. He spent the whole afternoon in grandma’s company whilst I was playing with your auntie Sarah and another friend Julia from the hotel. Later on our way back to the hotel she said: “Now let’s go get some khachapuri and then go and visit your friend Julia. Also I have a surprise for you two, tonight you can have a sleepover at Julia’s tonight. “

You should know that your grandma was a warm and open-minded person. She loved meeting new people but her only weakness was red wine. When I was a bit older your grandma told me that that night Sarah and myself stayed at Julia’s place she went to Kobuleti to see a historical cave, a waterfall and attend a traditional Georgian dinner. I remember as if it was yesterday when she spoke so sweetly about that dinner: the profound toasts that were told that night about friendship, love and family. And how much they meant for everyone at the table. Her new friend's parents and close friends were very kind to her and treated her as if she was already part of the family. Apart from one woman. That woman noticed your grandma didn't drink white wine, which is traditionally consumed in Georgian dinners. So the evil women asked if she would like some red wine instead? The evil women had mean thoughts in her mind and offered your grannie some red wine, which was poisoned. Just when she was about to drink she was taken by surprise. He friend Irakli has come to ask her for a dance. The band played many good tunes that evening and she didn’t leave the dance floor until the next toast. Only then she was couldn’t find her glass, which was also the one and only glass of red wine on the table. A bit annoyed, she continued the evening drinking lemonade only.

The next day the sea was very angry. Before grandma left said to us, don’t go for a swim today, it’s too dangerous. We agreed to stay in the hotel. When the grandma closed the door I went to Sarah whispering, let’s go for a swim. Closer to the beach we could hear the waves hitting the shore. You know, your grandma was right on that day the sea was very moody. I remember there was only a handful locals wandering at the beach. The waves were huge, about two meters high. Suddenly I heard someone saying осторожнa.”  We turned our heads right towards the pavement. There he was, high up near the pedestrian road, an elderly guy with a grim face, saying it loudly again “осторожнa. His foreign words didn’t mean anything to us. Instead we ran to the water. The next thing I know Sarah got caught up under a big wave and I was screaming ‘Sarah, Sarah where are you?”

In the meantime grandma had come to check on us at the hotel and heard from a maid that we had gone to the beach. She rushed to call Irakli and arrived with lifeguards. They jumped into the water and as if they were fighting against with the violent waves. Within minutes Sarah was pulled out of the water. And that was the last anyone saw the great seamen Irakli (and your granddad) alive.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Richard Haughton on photographing food

You may have noticed that recently sharing photos of food has become a trend. When I booked tickets for elBulli exhibition at Somerset House I was thrilled to find a food photography workshop. This was one of these rare opportunities where you get a chance to observe and hear how a professional artist works. Last Saturday I was one of the many curious amateurs eagerly listening to Haughton's experience as a still life food photographer.

Haughton has worked with many Japanese and French chefs where I think he also adapted his fine attention to detail and precise photographic style. His images of food remind me of fine art, emphasising purity, freshness and the texture of the food. I am more used to seeing images of food in lifestyle magazines with a theme in mind. Whether it's a editorial about picnics or breakfast recipes. A bit messier sets if I may say. 

You might think did I learn anything new? Most definitely. I can see myself investing in spotlights, new reflectors and spending more time 'playing' on Photoshop, because this is where most of the work is done.

Below I have posted examples of some of his still life food photography.

What is your view on food photography workshops?

Photo credits:

Photographs of food
Richard Haughton