Christian Weber Questions the Body Language of Relationships, While Sheila Heti Ponders Their Very Necessity
A fascination with eastern spirituality led New York-based photographer and director Christian Weber to work on Speak and Spell, a series of photographs that examine human gesture. This spurred a collaboration with art directors Marius Zorrilla and Kiku Aromir and writer Toni Segarra on a new short film, Candor, that analyzes the requirements for a successful relationship. Influenced by the early short films of Peter Greenaway as well as Jørgen Leth’s 1967 classic The Perfect Human, the graphic nature of the black-and-white film here accentuates the dramatic texture of skin. “For me it was trying to walk that fine line between creating animations or illustrations of the work, but actually leaving in human gestures and self-conscious moments,” explains Weber, whose clients include Levi’s, Myspace and Bottega Veneta. “Whether it’s the tapping of the fingers, the way you embrace somebody’s hand or the way you cross your finger over somebody else’s—all of those things mean something. That was part of the underlying tone here: that pure human honesty or candor that exists in our relationships, and how we interact with each other.” But what if you just can’t connect with that special someone? NOWNESS asked Canadian writer Sheila Heti—behind one of New Yorker's 2012 books of the year How Should a Person Be?—to philosophize on the problem of coupling.
Please Don’t Break Up
A few years ago, I got hooked on a blog called Please Don’t Break Up. It showed found photographs of couples, and beneath each photograph was a weird, funny, poetic plea, written by the administrator of the site (and comic), David Dineen-Porter. Below a shot of a happy couple in bathing suits, standing in front of the Grand Canyon, arms around each other, he had written: Please don’t go live in separate apartments. That would be the saddest thing. Beneath a dumplingish old couple in powder-blue formal wear, embracing each other in a 70s living room: If your relationship were an animal, it would be the cute baby version of that animal. Go out on a date, again and again. Please don’t break up, Jeth and Faruk.
I thought about the site daily. Please Don’t Break Up felt like a lost bit of wisdom in our world—so simple. The phrase played itself over and over, like a beautiful song in my head. I was moved by the idea of someone being invested in the fate of another person’s relationship—the relationship of strangers, even. The idea that people should be together simply because they already were together felt hilarious, obvious and profound. I saw it for the first time: Commitment wasn’t merely important to love, it made it love.
Yet when I was with my boyfriend, I longed to be with my friends, and when I was with my friends, I criticized myself for not being a committed sort of animal who could make love last. I felt there was something wrong with me. Please Don’t Break Up seemed to be the missing ingredient in my life—and the lives of my friends who lived as I lived, traveling from one person to the next. Wouldn’t we be more likely to be cosily ensconced in a long-term relationship if we were a little less dispassionate about the lives of our peers—if our breaking up had some resonant effect on our community? How stupid we were to avoid this investment; to refrain from pleading with our friends, "Please don’t break up!” when a break-up seemed nigh.
My desire to break up with my boyfriend irritated me. I wanted to cut out this part of myself. I wanted to secure my resolve by setting my friends upon the scales. Why didn’t they care more? Lacking social censure (and other things, too), we eventually broke up. And I felt like myself again. I realized I was happy. And I was happy that no one had told me not to break up.
All of this was happening around the time of a big natural disaster in the world. I remember reading reports on the internet of people being stuck in airports—they had to remain in Japan, or America, or wherever they were—for weeks. Some could not even cross the city. Many couples who had planned to break up were forced to keep living together—because of the floods, and the strong winds that tore everything down. It was as if Mother Nature herself was pleading, “Please don’t break up!”
A few months later, I read a story about one of these couples, who’d felt their love was through, and wanted to break up, but because of a fallen palm tree blocking their front door, wound up happily married.
Sometimes, it takes a force from the inside to make love last. And sometimes it comes from without—when it is the winds that whisper through the windows who say, “It is not break-up time today.”
The Oscar-Winning Screenwriter and Director Opens Up About Relationships and Screwing Up
Italian filmmakers Roberto de Paolis and Carlo Lavagna venture to Rome’s decaying and dramatic Cinecittá Studios to talk with one of Hollywood’s most celebrated and controversial players, Paul Haggis, in today’s illuminating short. The screenwriter behind Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and director of the intense, multiple Academy Award-winning Crash took questions from the playful filmmaking duo on the set of his newest movie, The Third Person, starring James Franco and Mila Kunis. Divulging personal insecurities and pulling apart actor-director relationships, Haggis speaks frankly about the obstacles he encountered in creating the movie. The Third Person is a more intimate affair for Haggis, attempting to get to the root of the mystery of relationships in a narrative that homes in on three interlocking love stories. Haggis himself is shrouded in Hollywood mythology and also part of a very public break up with the church of Scientology after 35 years of service. De Paolis and Lavagna were surprised to find him so open in the interview: “He’s a mix of sensitivity and self-confidence,” Lavagna says.
Gallic Actor-Turned-Director Julie Delpy Stars Alongside Chris Rock in Her Latest Indie Hit
After an important art critic insults her work, Julie Delpy’s harried alter ego Marion has a meltdown at the opening of her photography show, in this exclusive clip from Two Days in New York. The sequel to her 2007 hit Two Days in Paris, the film sees Marion relocated to New York and living with new boyfriend Mingus, played by famed actor-comedian Chris Rock. The couple endure a fractious few days entertaining her dysfunctional family, who have traveled from Paris to meet her new beau. First discovered as an actress at the tender age of 14 by Jean-Luc Godard, and perhaps best known for her co-starring role with Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, the Los Angeles-based Delpy wrote the film in response to romantic comedies where the goal is the wedding. “They are already together—it’s not about seducing someone but how to keep the love going,” explains Delpy of her screenplay. Against a tapestry of confessional Woody Allen-esque narration, finger puppet shows, frenetic shots of New York, and a riot of music, Delpy explores the culture clash between her new love and eccentric family with her usual blend of sophomoric humor and discerning intellectualism. “I have the same obsessions as Woody Allen—sex, death, diseases,” admits Delpy. “We both played clarinets as kids. It probably affected the levels of oxygen to our brains so we became similar in some ways.” Here Delpy and Rock share their thoughts on what to do with two days in New York.
What would you do for two days in NYC?
Chris Rock: Central Park is beautiful, especially if you have kids. I like to rent a bike and cycle around the city. Museum-wise, I love MoMA. I saw the Cindy Sherman exhibit there most recently, and it blew me away. I love the city and it really embraced us when we were filming there…
Julie Delpy: The Guggenheim is a very interesting building and has really fantastic art.
You lived in New York for years. What made you relocate to LA?
JD: I was raised in the ground floor of an apartment building in Paris in the 15th arrondissement. It was so dark, gray and depressing—I was raised like a rat in sewage! I love being in sunlight and being surrounded by nature. I don’t care if people have fake everything in LA. I want sun and blue skies. That may sound silly, but it’s important to me!
Why set this film in NYC and not LA?
JD: I didn’t want the film to have anything to do with Hollywood, and so many movies set in LA seem to be about Hollywood and too “Hollywood.”
CR: Tarantino manages to do LA movies but not make them too Hollywood. And Nicolas Winding Refn managed as well in Drive. Paul Thomas Anderson does LA without Hollywood.
JD: I agree with Chris, but I really wanted the characters to be New Yorkers. I also didn’t want to shoot in my own city. But I guess it could have been set in LA and in the same world since there is so much art there now. So many young artists live there now because they have followed the money, and New York has also got so expensive.
Two Days in New York is released in the UK on May 18.