Christian Larson's Industrial Seduction for the Icelandic Outfit’s New Album
Behind the Scenes of Director Alma Har'el's Viral New Video for "Fjögur Piano"
Director Alma Har’el takes NOWNESS on set of her hypnotic video for symphonic rockers Sigur Rós track “Fjögur Piano” in this exclusive behind-the-scenes film. The crew set the stage for Transformers star Shia LaBeouf and dancer Denna Thompson to play out a turbulent relationship, enacting moments of intimacy and violence through a lollipop acid trip and hallucinatory undersea journey, against a backdrop of framed butterflies. “Shia has all the professional skills of someone who’s worked on big-scope movies, but a humility and sensitivity that’s hard to find,” explains Har’el. The short for “Fjögur Piano” is the latest installment in Sigur Rós’ Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, which grants a modest budget and complete creative freedom to a select group of filmmakers to make videos for the band's haunting new album Valtari. Cutting her teeth as a TV presenter in her native Israel before moving to America and shooting music videos for the likes of Beirut and Jack Penate, the LA-based director garnered critical acclaim from the likes of directors Terry Gilliam and Werner Herzog for her award-winning debut feature documentary Bombay Beach, about the eccentric community of a Californian desert ghost town. Here Har’el reveals the origins of her collaboration with Sigur Rós and LaBeouf.
How did Shia LeBeouf become involved in the video?
Shia just found me. He randomly picked up my film Bombay Beach at Amoeba records on Sunset Boulevard and watched it at home. I got back late that night and there was an email that simply said, “Hello my name is Shia LaBeouf and I'm a big fan of your work. Can we open a dialogue about working together in the future?” I just wrote back, “Is this a joke?” But it wasn't, and we went to dinner the day after. We ordered food but never ate it... we had an immediate connection that you have with people that love the same things you love. Both of our fathers suffered many years from hard addictions. Talking about that and how it becomes part of your psyche probably had an impact on me when I wrote the video treatment.
For someone associated with more macho roles, he appears very vulnerable in this.
Yes, I'm always interested in the way we fit into our gender and how abstract all of it is at the end of the day. Especially when relationships get deep and you sense all the human layers.
As a high-profile star was Shia wary of the nudity?
Shia has the ability to tap into every part of himself. He wasn't afraid of anything. If anything I was afraid to ask at first... I didn't know him well enough. He took on the dancing like a hero. He’d never danced before but by the end of the first rehearsal he was already adding his own accents to the dance.
Were you inspired by any relationship, cinematic or otherwise for the video?
I was mostly inspired by relationships I know, from seeing how hard it is to get out of something that is both beautiful and deadening. For me, the butterflies symbolize beautiful, perfect things that die fast.
How does Sigur Rós’ music make you feel?
What I love is the intimate, gentle feeling of being present that it compliments so well, and how it turns into something epic and more complicated. It's very cinematic and lends itself to the imagination. You can just drift away…
The Restaurateur Makes His London Debut With a New Sex Shop Fronted Mexican Joint
Chorizo, lobster and lime reveal their unexpectedly lascivious side in still life photographers Metz + Racine’s saucy homage to London’s newest hotspot, La Bodega Negra. Using a color palette and mini-sets inspired by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán, Metz + Racine enlisted ingredients from the eatery’s menu. Hidden in a Soho basement behind a sex shop entryway that nods to the neighborhood’s notoriously kinky past, the restaurant offers an unabashedly large tequila selection, plenty of dimly lit corners and Mexican staples like ceviche, tacos and tostados, in addition to grill items like lamb barbacoa. (There is a to-go option from a more casual, upstairs taqueria). The restaurant was dreamed up by nightlife impresario Serge Becker, along with entrepreneur Ed Spencer Churchill and restauranteur Will Ricker. "Most of the Mexican food in London is a dumbed down American hybrid with some Mexican influences,” says Ricker. “I was excited about being able to bring the real thing to town.” Becker, creative director behind some of New York’s most beloved nightclubs and restaurants—La Esquina, Joe’s Pub and The Mercer Hotel—talks to NOWNESS about introducing London to Mexican fare, and what gives a fruit sex appeal.
What are the crucial components of an excellent Mexican meal?
The heart of the cuisine is the salsa. If you nail that, you’re well on your way to a good meal. They are very time consuming to make, but worth it. The perfect atmosphere is always relaxed and informal. We ate some of the best food sitting on plastic chairs on a sidewalk parking space.
The space has some really playful elements, but also lots of moody, dark alcoves.
It’s a playful riff on a certain bohemian Mexican/Cali gypsy lifestyle. It’s meant to evoke a private Hacienda in the style of Luis Buñuel. More residential, less commercial. It has the influence of houses I’ve seen, from Topanga Canyon to Tulum.
How does the restaurant scene here differ from New York?
The food is very good in both cities. As far as I can tell New York has more scene restaurants where the crowd is the main course—or dessert, if you like.
Do you see Bodega Negra as the London outpost of La Esquina, or as completely different institutions?
I’m not involved with La Esquina anymore, so this is a new project with a strictly local site-specific focus. It reflects our take on Mexican culture today. Most of it is personal and not concept driven.
What are your favorite dishes on the menu?
BBQ octopus “El Negro”, guadalajara salad with goat's cheese and caramalized onions, and whole sea bass red & green adobe.
How did the sex shop entryway come about?
I was walking daily from my hotel to work and had to pass all the sex shops and strip bars of Soho. I love the glow of the neon lights and the aesthetic of this vanishing trade. It reminded me how much New York lost when they got rid of all these places. The time has passed for places like this due to the internet, but I wanted to pay homage to them lovingly.
On that note, what's the sexiest fruit?
A special pygmy type of passion fruit I had in Costa Rica—smooth skin and fragrant moist interior.
And the most prudish fruit?
Best edible aphrodisiac?
If Scarlett Johansson were a vegetable, what would she be and why?
She’s definitely not a vegetable. She’s a delicious, juicy fruit.