Staff meetings, no matter how many cheezies and beer might be consumed during, always have a tendency to be more business than pleasure. However, when Anisha said she could give us access to her apartment’s roof (and, ahem, indoor pool) for the evening, we were up there faster than a teen getting pregnant at Degrassi High. I think every meeting could be made more productive when you are eye-level with the CN Tower.
The feeling of anticipation in a darkening movie theatre is generally universal. On this occasion I was more eager than usual. A few weeks prior I had seen a superbly edited trailer featuring a rapid succession of beautiful shots from the upcoming film, A Single Man. Being a self-proclaimed cinephile, my pulse quickened with the emotional reminders of great cinematic experiences past. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed, but not for the reasons you’d think….
A Single Man takes place in Los Angeles at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Adapted (from a Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name), directed, and produced by legendary fashion lord and first time filmmaker Tom Ford, it is a solemn tale of a man coming to grips with the painful loss of the love of his life. Colin Firth’s heart-breaking performance is touching and the stuff the best dramas are made of (and just as an aside, it was nice to see Firth challenged by a role that was not a type-cast of Jane Austen’s impenetrable Mr. Darcy). Continue reading →
Thanks to globalization and India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse in the last decade, the latest bout of Western infatuation with all things Indian is arguably the most intense it has been since the heady days of British colonialism. There has been a a recent artistic renaissance, coupled with a steady increase in both interest and export. First it was a small curiosity about Bollywood films, solidified by Slumdog Millionaire, followed by the wild success of Indian contemporary art in the last five years. It is no wonder that the next area of focus would be fashion. Contemporary Indian Fashion, edited by Federico Rocca, is a visually stunning and well-curated coffee-table book featuring 24 leading young designers working out of India. They not only represent the here-and-now of Indian fashion, but its future as well.
This is, essentially, a picture book. Made up of 6 to 12 page spreads, the work of each designer is showcased along with a very short rundown of their background and an interview. All of the clothes are wonderful to look at, and I found myself flipping through it again and again, as I would a really great magazine. Each spread nicely balances editorial flourishes, pages featuring multiple looks from a collection, and several detail shots. In the case of Indian fashion, the prominence of the detail shot is absolutely essential due to the meticulous details of the clothes themselves.
“Fashion is a social force that functions effectively not only as an economic engine but as a semiotic system that transmits social and political messages by means of nonverbal language rich in signs, symbols and iconography.” - Ayala Raz, The Equalizing Shoe
For most people, shoes are not the first thing that come to mind when thinking about Jewish cultural heritage. However, after taking a look at Jews and Shoes, a compilation of fourteen academic essays on the apparently unique relationship Jewish people have had with shoes, one must rethink the assumption that shoes are of no particular importance.
Given the Jewish people’s legacy as eternal wanderers, it makes sense that footwear may have taken on a deeper meaning for them. However, this book is far more detailed than that. Split into four thematic sections, it covers a variety of cultural instances where shoes play an important role: religion and the Bible, memorials, political ideology and the arts. To my mind, the strongest essay in this book is a fascinating analysis that questions the commodity fetishism of the piles of shoes found at Holocaust memorials. Having never been to a Holocaust memorial myself, I was surprised to learn of their emphasis on displaying the personal items of those interred and killed at the camps to show the magnitude of the numbers of possessions that were methodically sorted into piles by Nazis intending to redistribute them later. The author, Jeffrey Feldman, does an absolutely superb job of relating memorial attendees’ very visceral reactions to these piles upon piles of shoes of all sorts and the sights, smells, and textures that come from all that rotting leather. The questions posed are not only thought provoking in terms of the legacy of the Holocaust, but about how artefacts and museum objects are structured and displayed in order to evoke an emotional response. Continue reading →