Cultural centre: Bangkok to Sao Paulo

6 05 2017

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Thailand’s Creative and Design Centre (TCDC ), whose exhibitions I have really enjoyed in the past, has reopened in a much larger new premises by the river along the Charoen Krung. It is now housed in a building attached to the brutal 1930s old General Post Office. The centre will spearhead a cultural rennaissance of one of Bangkok’s oldest neighbourhoods, already home to galleries Speedy Mama and Soy Sauce factory and some interesting street art, and to be joined later this month by a massive new warehouse cultural development spearheaded by architect Duangrit Bunnag. He successfully helmed the Jam Factory project on the other side of the river.

In Sao Paulo meanwhile, the Japan House opened this weekend, part of a next generation push by the Japanese government to expand its “soft power” around the globe. Brazil’s centre was the first to open, highlighting the strong links created by generations of Japanese immigration to Brazil and more lately, Brazilian immigration to Japan. The cultural centre opened with an installation by artist Azuma Makoto who sent 30 cyclists through the city to pass out flowers to “spread beauty” and mark the centre’s opening.





Modern loneliness

25 04 2017

 

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I saw two films at the International Film Festival which, by coincidence, both explored the theme of loneliness. Oliver Assayas’s “Personal Shopper” stars my new fave Kristen Stewart, as a searcher, a psychic, looking for something more than the unwanted life she has found herself in at the periphery of the fame machine, as a Paris celebrity’s personal shopper. Its a strange, meandering little film, full of moments of stillness but also little revelations, not the least of which is Stewart’s great central performance or her effortless normcore lesbo-chic styling. I saw it on a rainy day, the last day of my holidays, at Kowloon’s eighties-tastic Cultural Centre with the director himself in attendance.

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A few days later, the Monday night of my return to work to be precise – I journeyed out to Kowloon Tong, to see “Corpo Electrico” – the Body Electric. It is the first film from Marcelo Caetano, who previously worked on Neon Bull, and that film’s tone is evident again here: an almost plotless (and some might find, pointless) slice-of-life drama, but filled with beautifully observed scenes of every day life, almost like an anthropological documentary, and human warmth. We watch the handsome main character Elias as he daydreams at work, drinks with friends, smokes and does his laundry. Elias, played beautifully by Kelner Macêdo, works as a pattern maker in a Sao Paulo garment factory, passing his time with semi-flings with friends and ex-boyfriends.  At the time, I was charmed but slightly bored by his life, but now the day after I find the film lingering in my thoughts for its loving and very real portrayal of gay life in the early twenties : its intense and flirty friendships,  camaraderie and cliquishness, non-career job boredom and hedonistic weekends, all floating under an unformed and seemingly ominous future.





Summer sounds

24 12 2016

I missed the fourth album by Brazilian singer Ceu when it first came out in July, but thanks to a fashion magazine’s ” best of 2016″ list (see below) I discovered it just in time to crown “Tropix” the album of ( my) Summer, with its winning formula – evident in the single above – of glacial bossa nova vocals, electronic tropical rhythms and just enough surprises to keep it out of the pleasant coffee table music that MPB can sometime slump into.





FFW>> Brazil 2016

24 12 2016

It’s been a while now since I was in Brazil and I have lost touch a bit with the rich thread of Brazilian pop culture, but luckily São Paulo fashion mag FFW has published this end-of-year music listicle of Brazilian rappers, soul singers and drag queen superstars to help get me back on track.





Brazil, by Tomer Ifrah

5 12 2016

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Sao Paulo’s Cinema of Sanctuary

17 10 2016

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The Cine Morocco opened in 1951 as South America’s most luxurious movie palace according to this article in Brazilian magazine Trip. The theatre had been left empty for decades before being seized by a movement for homeless rights, and shelters 100 families including refugees and immigrants from Africa, Haiti and Hispanic America.





Cultura de verao

20 07 2016

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With the long, lazy days of Summer I’ve been catching up on my reading and viewing: it has been a Summer of culture! And given that my brief hope of playing Pokemon Go has been quashed by the delay in its Asian release, I have been reading instead. As well as some students’ novels that I had to read for school, my eclectic June/July beach-and-cafe book list has consisted of:

The Quran. I figured it was time to get myself educated! Although its not a comfortable read for a Western liberal (not to mention rambling and repetitive) I was surprised to find room for interpretation that could lead to positive change…amid plenty of ammunition for those who would oppose it. It is a book full of contradictions.

Dancing with the Devil in the City of God by Juliana Barbassa. This book, an investigation of the many problems faced by Rio de Janeiro, is a primer for the upcoming Olympics in my beloved former playground. The city is seemingly reeling from an insurmountable list of problems at the moment, just as it should be taking its bow in the world’s limelight. Will a recession, the virtual coup against Dilma, pollution, rising crime and the zika virus dampen the finest moment for the cidade maravilhosa or will Rio manage, characteristically, to rise above its demons, just as it does every Carnaval, if only for a night or two?

Ways of Going Home, by Alejandra Zambra. Haven’t started yet.

A Dean Koontz thriller the boyfriend picked up for me at the second hand store.

Plus a viewing list of:

Orange is the New Black.

Magnifico 70 – a Brazil HBO miniseries on censorship in 1970s Sao Paulo, kind of Mad Men in Sampa.

And music:

Still Roisin Murphy.

Still Leah Dou.

Plus the new album from Japanese alt-chanteuse UA, titled JaPo (short for “Japonesia”), another album of lush harmonies, lo-fi bleeps, raw jazzy vocals and tribal beats. It doesn’t all work, but when it does, UA stakes a claim as the foremost quirky Japanese nineties-generation diva (sorry, Shiina Ringo and Chara).

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