I have it on very good authority (from my hair stylist, no less) that the 1920s Louise Brooks-esque bob became a highly desirable coiffure following the release of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001). Not merely inspiring women to chop their hair off, Amélie also drew attention to the importance of relishing the curious details of everyday life: cracking the crust on a crème brûlée, watching François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962) at the cinema, collecting discarded images and navigating the city through game play. Cute and life-affirming, filmgoers either fell madly in love or were left with a sickly sweet aftertaste.

I tried to aestheticize things, make them more beautiful than they are in reality. I’m not interested in making a realistic film.

– Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The film simply focuses on the quiet and somewhat alienated existence of French waitress Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tatou). Spurred on by the untimely death of Princess Diana, Amélie begins making tiny changes to the lives of those around her, bringing an unexpected sense of magic to the mundane lives of her friends and random acquaintances. Amélie, meanwhile, continues to be relatively socially isolated and content to dwell within her own fantasies – a coping mechanism that she developed as a young girl. Predominantly set in and around Montmatre, the film’s vision of Paris is filtered through Amélie’s childlike imagination. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel beautifully visualises Amélie’s interior life through a lens of cinephilia by referencing the themes of 1920s poetic realism, the style of 1980s cinéma du look and the sentiments of the 1960s French new wave.

Part of the reason why Amélie struck such a chord with audiences is the film’s strong investment in nostalgia. Despite the contemporary setting, there are few tangible signs of the period in a film where vintage objects and clothing, Instamatic cameras and vinyl records are the norm. However, this nostalgic and romanticised perspective has also been the source of much of the criticism directed at the film. Critics such as Serge Kaganski and Frédéric Bonnaud accused Jeunet of presenting a view of Paris that is the subject of blatant ethnic cleansing, thereby popularising an unrealistic “postcard” image of the city that fails to shed light on the multiplicity of Parisian life. The visual erasure of graffiti, traffic, pollution and other examples of urban decay in postproduction certainly presents a Paris quite different to the one seen in reality. Jeunet’s response to such claims was the rather delightful statement that Kaganski, in particular, was “wallowing in bitterness like a pig in its own shit.”

On this point I have to agree with Jeunet: Amélie is all about fantasy and is therefore not concerned with realistically capturing the social and political extremities of Paris. I doubt that even if I visited every sex shop possible I would meet someone like Nino Quincampois (Mathieu Kassovitz), and that’s part of the joy of watching the film (although a huge disappointment for me). Even though the unfailing whimsy of Amélie is completely implausible, I still love it when she dissolves into a puddle on the floor after she fails to work up the courage to talk to Nino and the scene in which you see her heart pulsating through her clothes. The colours, the effects and everything within the mise en scène indicate artifice, but it is an artificiality that I thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in.


November 4, 2010 / By

Lean Forward

Lean Forward is the new catch phrase of MSNBC. I’m not sure how successful the phrase is at inspiring progressives (or disguising them) but I’m sure the phrase becomes more compelling when projected on buildings.  The projections are the work of KLIP as part of the campaign by Fallon and Mono. There’s something that seems magical about animated text at this scale. Is magical the right word to use?  Maybe not. But with the increasing frequency of large-scale, outdoor projects using projectors, I’m afraid projects will start to bleed together. Then again, I’ve never walked down the street, minding my own business, when the side of a building suddenly became animated with giant text.

Did any readers in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Chicago or rural New Jersey happen to come across these?


November 4, 2010 / By

JanSport Teams Up With Barney’s on Backpacks

I’ve been really impressed lately with JanSport’s push into making better looking products, and clearly Barney’s agrees. I have to share this snippet from the PR release because I thought it was funny, but the PR release describes them in a hysterical way:

“These colors are reminiscent of JanSport’s rich heritage and are on trend with cutting-edge colors for the holiday.”

So many silly buzz words. But nonetheless I think both of these bags are really rad. The duffel bag would be great as a weekender bag if you were heading somewhere for short trips. The backpack though would be really great for those of you who are in high school or college and need something sturdier for the winter. The grey plaid pattern is really solid as well, especially paired with the brown, and the sturdy zippers seem like they’d keep your stuff safe.


November 3, 2010 / By

Nous Vous

London based designers Nous Vous, which is made up of Jay Cover, Nicholas Burrows and William Edmonds, have created a great series of posters for the Contemporary Design Society. The posters are like a contemporary take on those posters from the 80’s where the cat would be on a branch with the slogan “Hang in there!” below it. I’m really enjoying the simplicity of these even though I would describe these as bold. There’s just something about these that I really enjoy and wouldn’t mind looking at every day.


November 3, 2010 / By

Mobile Concessions by Rural Studio

I formed an opinion about outdoor food vendors before the advent of food trucks: meat is not something best prepared au plein air. (This opinion died while living in Los Angeles, where delicious food trucks are parked all over the place) Now, if we could only get food trucks to look less like creepy ice cream vans.

The Rural Studio has nothing to do with food trucks in Los Angeles, but while looking through their website I came across an excellent project that reminded me of Kogi, Coolhaus, and the Grilled Cheese Truck. Mobile Concessions is one in a series of projects for Lions Park in Greensboro, Alabama realized by Rural Studio. A part of Auburn University’s School of Architecture, the studio has been transforming the park for the past half decade adding a skate park (Tony Hawk paid for the concrete), an amazing entry gate, a series of toilets, and other features.

The humor of Mobile Concessions– eating food from of a giant mouth– is simple. But it’s not just a joke, the mouth of the concession stand shuts when games are over to keep folks from stealing candy and hot dogs. And the Studio’s larger involvement with the park has drastically changed the character of the park along with the public’s attitude toward the once-declining public space. The director of the Rural Studio, Andrew Freear says “I think it’s the most important project we’ve ever done,” when asked about Lions Park, and it is undoubtedly the largest project the studio has undertaken.


November 3, 2010 / By

Emily Nachison

There is something slightly unnerving about the installations by artist Emily Nachison. Perhaps this mood stems from the imposingly tangled and unkempt webs that she suspends from gallery ceilings. Or maybe it is that her strange and otherworldly structures appear to simultaneously suggest emptiness and congestion. A repository for Nachison’s diverse mixture of inspirations, which include New Age culture, the Victorian era, storybook illustrations and nature, her work aims to explore “space, natural growth and the human perception of nature.” In so doing, she aims to “create naturalistic environments out of man-made materials by mimicking plant growth patterns and geological accumulation. This juxtaposition of natural versus artificial is an investigation into the cultural creation of landscape.”

This play on recreating a version of nature through the use of man-made materials is undoubtedly at the crux of the tension present in Nachison’s installations. Her work is both fascinating and beautiful to view in photographs, so I can only imagine what it would be like to walk through her amazing pieces. It is quite apt that she has appropriated a quotation from writer C.S. Lewis to open her artist’s statement, as I feel that seeing and experiencing her work would be akin to opening the wardrobe door and wandering into Narnia.



November 3, 2010 / By

Life Aboard The International Space Station

I saw this article by The Guardian over on Kottke early today and had to share it as it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever read. The article profiles the International Space Station, specifically what it takes to board the station and some of the troubles people face while living on it. It’s a place I’ve never really thought about before, basically a giant cargo plane soaring 220 miles above the Earth’s surface at 17,500mph. Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

The footage of weightless, grinning astronauts pulling somersaults and chasing food through the air make it seem as though the space station is floating free from the pull of gravity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The orbiting outpost – all 450 tonnes of it – is forever falling to Earth and would crash-land were it not moving so fast as to maintain a gentle curve around the planet. In orbit, things are weightless simply because they are all falling at the same velocity.

On the downside, many astronauts feel congested in space and lose much of their sense of smell. Unless there is a problem with the station’s plumbing (and there has been), or someone’s lunch has floated off and got lost in a nook or cranny (as has happened), there isn’t much to smell on board, because air scrubbers filter out any odours as the air is circulated.

It takes the space station one and a half hours to fly around the planet, making for 16 complete laps a day. For those on board, the visual effect is spectacular. Open the covers over the windows and the light can be so blinding that astronauts reach for their sunglasses. But after 45 minutes of daylight, a dark line appears on the planet, dividing Earth into night and day. For a couple of seconds, the space station is bathed in a coppery light and then complete darkness. Another 45 minutes later, and just as abruptly, the sun rises to fill the station with brilliant light again.

Unsurprisingly, falling asleep can take some getting used to. Just as you are nodding off, you can feel as though you’ve fallen off a 10-storey building. People who look half asleep will suddenly throw their heads back with a start and fling out their arms. It gets easier with time. One Russian crew member is renowned for doing without a sleeping bag and falling asleep wherever he ends the day. Anyone still awake after bedtime would see his snoozing form drift by, slowly bouncing off the walls, his course set by the air currents that gently pushed and pulled him.

I know, that’s a whole lot of cutting and pasting, but the article is worth it. If you enjoyed any of the above click here to read the entire article.


November 3, 2010 / By

American Illustration Cover by Sam Weber

It’s funny to think that my favorite contemporary painters, James Jean and Sam Weber, could also be considered illustrators. Their work is some of the most amazing stuff being produced today as evidenced by the work above that Sam Weber did for American Illustration. It looks like he was pretty much given complete creative control over the general packaging of the book including dust jacket which unfolds into the bee image. Honestly these are some of the most amazing images I’ve ever seen. When I first saw the images I think I may have gasped and then proceeded to stare at them for 10 minutes. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.


November 2, 2010 / By