The Genius of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Style

It’s hard to talk about Charlotte Gainsbourg without talking about her lineage, and with parents as provocative as Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, how could you not? Gainsbourg seems to have inherited a bit of both figures’ impressionable allure — her work, especially her roles in now three of Lars von Triers’ controversial pictures, her style (Gainsbourg was Nicolas Ghesquiere’s muse at Balenciaga for years), and her angular, near-androgynous beauty have attracted cultish devotion.

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Shopping (And Exploring) The Genius Of Wes Anderson’s Style

Just recently, idiosyncratic director Wes Anderson released his latest mini world, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The film tells the story of an aging writer’s youthful encounter with fabled hotelier — and more precisely, the story of the latter’s adventures with his young pupil, the orphaned lobby boy Zero. It’s a layered, ornate dream-meets-slapstick vision of the end of an era (the death of true — perhaps always fanaticized? — grace and hospitality) due to the rise of fascism. Anderson takes us down a winding, Faberge egg-styled path — seeping inspiration from the stories of Viennese author Stefan Zweig and drawing us into a mood that is at once as surreal and oddly, hyper-imaginatively stylistic as it is vulnerably, sincerely (and to it’s own delight, comically) melancholic. In other words, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is characteristically Anderson. The film is whimsical, grandiose, a quirky visual feast, and so is the intricately designed early 20th century Eastern European-influenced aesthetic of its protagonists’ apparel. Just take Adrien Brody’s character Dimitri’s dark, immaculately tailored, slim cut black suits, for example. His look is resolutely evil — the midnight black palette, the waxed mustache, the ZZ (i.e. SS) inscribed on his later costumes. You haven’t seen suits this sleek before, an aura so dour. It’s all built to fit Dimitri’s dark mastermind persona, and so chicly so.

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Jessa: Boho Genius And True Eccentric Of GIRLS

“In my dream world, again, Jessa doesn’t really shop,” GIRLS costume designer Jenn Rogien explained early in the show’s run. “She collects things in her travels — from flea markets, street fairs, foreign vintage stores, the whole world.” The woman behind the styles of the girls of GIRLS is of course talking about the aesthetic of the dramedy’s patent bohemian-cum-jaded provocateur, Jessa Johansson. Since the show’s introduction in 2012, it was quickly clear that Jessa embodied a certain free-spirited, Janis Joplin-era Chelsea Hotel-meets-modern day transient niche — she was worldly, she was experienced, she was as self-indulgent as any other of Lena Dunham’s oh-so-contemporary creations, and she was — and even post-failed marriage, post- (failed) rehab, and frequently unlikeable state, arguably still is — the coolest one around.

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Unique Creature Alexander Wang: Haute-Hearted Downtown Darling

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few short years since Alexander Wang launched his eponymous label. He started out making unisex intarsia cashmere sweaters when he dropped out of Parsons in 2004 at just age twenty, selling them door-to-door to buyers until they caught enough attention for the retailers to come to him. The first full collection (styled by high school pal Vanessa Traina) came three years later — slouched-just-so black tees, biker-inspired cropped leather pants, carefree cashmere cardigans — more after-hours than after-school. Just a year later, the California-native took home the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award at age 24. There’s something so undeniably, so darkly effortless about Wang’s designs — it wasn’t long after he sent those inaugural tees down the runway that he started to dictate, not just embody, what it meant to be downtown, and for good reason.

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Unique Creatures: Pussy Riot – Free Women No Thanks to Putin

In an age in which punk is a Vogue-sanctioned, ball-devoted endeavor, it’s easy to forget that the movement was once an intensely physical, joyously rebellious cry. Today, most would agree that punk is long dead –whether you define the scene within the realm of the early Vivienne Westwood Sex regular or her crusty, Lower East Side, scuffed-up counterpoint.

In Moscow, Russia, however, there are true punk originals. Pussy Riot, the 10+-member all-female feminist riot grrl group founded in August 2011 is carrying on both the scream and aesthetic of the subculture’s founders.  They engage in colorful, public performance acts, calling attention to Russia’s current political climate. In their most well-known, three of the girls wore candy bright balaclavas and sung the outspoken, Putin-decrying anthem “Punk Prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012—an act which landed two of the three girls in Siberian labor camps for an indefinite period of time. It was an unusually harsh sentence for such an act, one that lit a fire amongst global activists (including the likes of Madonna, Patti Smith & Kathleen Hanna) calling for their release. On Monday, the two women – Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova— were set free. They’ve built a loud – and quite young – call around them; a sort of global conversation and fight for action. And their members continue to speak out:

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Teengirl Fantasy Make a Play for Electro-pop Stardom

Dreamy electro-pop duo Teengirl Fantasy has a good thing going. The band, made up of longtime buddies Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss, are known for genre-defying remixes that transform well-worn chart toppers into hazy dance beats. (Listen to “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” their trippy take on Rose Royce’s 1978 hit, for a prime example.) This week, the pair dropped their debut full-length, the throbbing dance record 7 A.M. (True Panther Sounds), all the while attending undergrad lectures at Oberlin College. We caught up with the dorm-room beatmakers to talk about their unlikely careers in an ever-shifting music industry.

Tell me how you guys got started? Logan: We met within our first two days at Oberlin, during our orientation. We were talking about music and thought, ‘Yeah. We should jam.’ It was pretty organic. It wasn’t that serious of a thing.

Where did the name Teengirl Fantasy come from? L: We were talking about boy bands with our friend Vivienne, and how funny it is that they exist. We thought it would be a fun name for a boy band.

And the website? L: That was kind of modeled after fan sites from the ‘90s, like Geocities.

Do you communicate a lot on set or is it a very unspoken interaction? L: We both try to make eye contact every so often. Nick: Yeah. We try to keep talking to a minimum, just because it looks unprofessional or something.

Has your sound evolved over the years? N: I think we’re more self-aware now. When we first started, there was literally no idea of a particular sound. We were just jamming and what came out, came out. Now that the music has spread a little bit, we have started to develop more of a specific range. A lot of the songs are really different, but we are still trying to keep some kind of common thread through them.

Can you tell me about your new album? L: We recorded it all over the place. We started working on the songs in Logan’s parents basement in New Jersey and we took the files with us to Amsterdam and worked on them at the studio at the school we were going to there.

Is the way you record going to change as you work more with True Panther and Matador? L: Being able to work in a studio is definitely our dream. I think the thing that I like about lo-fi or DIY sound, is the ability to have a unique and personal or specific sound. There’s this big trend of using old equipment. I feel like you don’t necessarily have to do that in order to have a similar effect on your sound. N: And we definitely weren’t trying to be lo-fi at all. Maybe it just had to do with us being less experienced with recording and mixing and producing stuff. At least for this album, we were trying to record literally as high-quality as we possibly could. We don’t want our music to sound like we weren’t trying to make it sound the best it could.

Who would you most want to record with? Pork Chop. Total Freedom.

What’s the most unconventional place you’ve ever played in? L: Wardscape is always crazy. There’s this festival in Baltimore that we just played. We played in this sweltering warehouse that was really compact and we played at like two in the morning. We all felt like we were going to die, literally. N: On Monster Island we played in someone’s bedroom once. They had a loft bed.

Really? Like on the bed? N: Yeah. Literally. It was a very small room.

Ashley Judd on Battling Depression and Her Political Activism

Ashley Judd is best known for that string of pulp thrillers that always seemed to costar Morgan Freeman (there were, in fact, only two—Kiss the Girls and High Crimes). And while her career has cooled down commercially, the 42-year-old actress is keeping busy these days as a political activist and survivor of and spokesperson against clinical depression. But Judd still makes films. Her latest is Helen, an independent picture from Sandra Nettlebeck in theaters today. In it, she plays the title role, a pale-faced woman who spirals into severe, numbing depression. It’s never easy to watch but compelling throughout. Here is the actress on the challenges of this role, her own struggle with depression, and the importance of activism.

How did you get involved with this film? I was sent the script by my agent and I was making one of my exceedingly rare trips to California. I read the script on the flight and I kept having to get up to go the bathroom to cry. As soon as I landed and I could turn my phone on, I sent my agent’s office an e-mail and requested to send a copy of the script to two of my mentors, both of whom are exceedingly gifted people as well as very gifted clinicians. I wanted them to read the script because my immediate question was, “Can I play the disease without being in the disease?” Neither of them had ever read a screenplay before, but they got in it in the mail very quickly and read it straight away, and both called me back and said, “Ashley, How dare you not?” I thought, “Well, there’s the green light for me. As far as I’m concerned, I have to do this.” I composed an e-mail that was sent to Sandra Nettlebeck. Then, when I got back to Tennessee I heard from her. I was in my husband’s office and we said, “Oh great! It’s from her!” And, I opened the e-mail and she said, “Why did you read the script? I gave that part to someone years ago!”

So, what happened? Well, I first stopped and said the serenity prayer because there are things I am powerless over. My first thought was, “I’m being protected. This is something I was supposed to read and not supposed to do. Things happen for a reason and work out for my highest good. Obviously, I’m going to have some feelings of disappointment, but it is what it is.” Then, we just became e-mail friends and visited back and forth. I believe it was in the Spring. That summer, I guess Sandra just got really tired of trying to make the movie with the other actor. The producer Christine Haebler was on her summer holidays sailing in British Colombia and got a phone call that I was interested. We pulled the movie together literally within weeks.

How did you approach the role? It is such a good script. I approached it as a powerfully written and vividly detailed screenplay with all the information I needed in order to successfully portray the character. I didn’t approach it any differently from any of my other roles.

What do you hope that people will take from this picture? It definitely doesn’t give any easy solutions. I hope that they’re so interested in the movie that someday Sandra has the opportunity to present her real cut of the film. I am telling you: what is in the film you just watched is literally a fraction of what I did in that film.

So what else would we be looking at? There was just so much that was cut! It was a powerful script and there were just more periods of depression and more suicide attempts and some really big relationship stuff. There was some arguing where I’m actually really trying to leave him to protect him from me spewing my disease all over him and he refuses to let me leave. There’s a solid three-hour movie!

So, there’s a good hour more. Oh yeah. I think it’s abusive to talk about a problem without actually talking about a solution. It’s not necessary in this day and age to live isolated in the disease of depression. Mental illness no longer needs to be treated with a sense of secrecy or stigma. There’s a lot effective help that’s available, whether it’s on a short-term basis in a stabilizing ward with appropriate medication prescribed by qualified pharmacologists with really close supervision and then there are different cognitive and behavioral modalities that are increasingly effective. There’s a lot of hope for people with depression.

What other issues are close to your heart now? Well, I’m getting ready to go back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doing something about gender violence is a major priority of mine. I continue to do international public health work on all fronts– maternal health, child survival, family planning, STD and HIV prevention, malaria prevention and treatment, all the work I’ve been doing with Population Services International for the past seven years. I’m still deeply invested in that.

Do you feel it is your responsibility as a person in a certain position of power and visibility to use that? I don’t pay attention to it. I just do the next good, right thing and try to be of maximum service to the God of my understanding. You know? I don’t do it because I’m an actor. I do it because I’m a human being.

Mia Wasikowska on ‘The Kids Are All Right,’ Gus Van Sant, and the Brutality of Ballet

When Mia Wasikowska first burst onto the scene in HBO’s transfixing series In Treatment, critics were quick to praise her acting chops and label her the next big thing. A bit part in Edward Zwick’s Holocaust drama Defiance, a role opposite Hilary Swank in Mira Nair’s Amelia and the title spot in Tim Burton’s blockbuster Alice in Wonderland culminated in a coveted spot on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue. The transition from ingénue to star was complete. Now, Wasikowska’s delivering on the hype. In Lisa Chonlodenko’s latest indie flick, The Kids Are All Right, she takes on the part of Joni, an introverted 18-year-old girl who, at the request of her younger brother (Josh Hutcherson), contacts their “bio-dad,” the motorcycle-toting sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) her lesbian mothers (Julianne Moore and Annette Benning) selected 19 years prior. The drama–and humor –unfolds as Joni and her family get to know donor-dad. We sat down with the rising star to talk about her role in Kids, the genius of Gus Van Sant, and the brutality of ballet.

What attracted you to this film? When I read the script, I felt it was very unique and unlike any story I had read before. I was also attracted to the creative team behind it: Lisa, Annette, Julie, Mark and Josh. That was what really excited me.

How did you approach the role of Joni? From reading the script, I had a clear image in my head of who she was and what she is going through. I liked her because she is more concerned with the life of her mind and broadening that than being up to date in other things. She is at that time in her life when she is leaving the nest and leaving her comfort zone and going off on her own path. I feel like I’ve done that myself a number of times.

You were so proactive about it; you were dancing professionally and decided you wanted to make the switch [to acting] on your own. Definitely. It is always good to keep challenging yourself, to keep moving and doing things.

Did your experience in ballet affect the way that you approach acting? The physicality of it? Definitely, even down to things like controlling your nerves in an audition. You definitely have to control your nerves on stage for dance, and seemingly when you go into a room for a meeting or audition. There’s also the physical side of it. There’s a physical awareness and that is something you forget you have to be conscious of when you are acting. I definitely wouldn’t be the same actor if I didn’t have the dance background. I miss how it made me feel after class, but I don’t miss the industry. People think I’m crazy when I say that this industry is easier on a young person than dance industry. I’ve found the dance industry hard and not as encouraging. This is very different.

So, what was it like working with Julianne and Annette? It was fantastic! They always choose interesting roles and are part of really smart projects. I love learning from them and seeing how they do things and how they handle scenes. They are also very loving mothers themselves and really great people. We shot for 23 days. It was fun on set, but the pace was really quick.

You were familiar with of Lisa’s past work? Yeah. I really love her films–the kind of realism and humanity. In this film particularly, there is such a great humor and a great approach to all these human personal issues, matters, and feelings. She handles things very sensitively. It is not trying to put a political message out there. It’s about a family. It’s not saying, “There is one way a family should be.” It’s not saying, “There is a normal family.” It’s celebrating how families are unique and compiled of really different people and also celebrating those people who you go through your life with. They are the only people in the world who understand your family dynamic like you do ,and that is a special thing to celebrate.

So, you just finished filming the new Gus Van Sant movie Restless. How was that? It was amazing! I’ve been a huge fan of Gus’ films since I was 14. He handles adolescence with such intelligence. I always thought as a teenager watching movies about high school. Who experiences that? It’s such a rare experience to be the pretty popular girl in school or the hot girlfriend. That is something that never resonated with me. Gus gives [young people] a lot of credit for their complexity as human beings. He also gives the young audience credit for their ability to enjoy people like themselves. There is thoughtfulness behind it. I play Annabel who is a young girl. It’s a love story between a boy and a girl who are preoccupied with death and mortality. It’s also a really playful, fun movie. It deals with love and death and being young.

You just finished shooting Jane Eyre. Is it a pretty straightforward adaptation? Yeah. It’s very much a classic Jane Eyre. Things will be flushed out in a way that maybe hasn’t been done in previous adaptations. Cary’s an usual choice for the director: his last film was about illegal immigration. He’s going to bring some interesting things to it, a lot of elements that aren’t as focused on. It’s dialogue heavy, obviously. It’s a wonderful role with intense conversations.

How has your life changed in the last couple of years? It hasn’t changed too much, besides the fact that I travel a lot and work more. But I don’t feel any different in who I am.

Are you still able to be anonymous? Absolutely, which is fantastic. I don’t think I even really look like Alice. She is the most exposure I’ve had and I’ve still been able to be anonymous. I feel very lucky.

Will you be able to maintain it? I hope so. I think, to a certain extent, you can choose. Then there is a certain amount [of attention] which you can’t really control, but you definitely have a choice as to how much you want to be out there.

So, is Australia still home? Yeah. Whenever I’m not working, I go straight home and go hang out with my family. I don’t get out of my pajamas for weeks!

Jeff Koons Designs a Car

Jeff Koons isn’t shy. He’s the neo-pop artist responsible for towering (forty-three feet!) flower puppies, planting “scandalous objects” on the lawn of Versailles and most infamously, a life-size shrine to the King of Pop and his favorite primate. Koons’ is also the guy behind some of the strangest eroticized art of our time, as well as some of the most comically received. The artist’s latest project? Creating the next BMW Art Car, an undertaking that Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, among others, have also committed to. What does Koons have in store for us? We can only guess. Some stand-out Art Cars and a few of Koons’ most “inspiring” works after the jump.

image Roy Lichtenstein’s Art Car, a BMW 320i, 1977

image Andy Warhol at work on his, 1979

image Frank Stella’s ’76 BMW 3.0 CSL

image Olafur Eliasson’s ice car, 2007

image Koons’ infamous Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture!

image The puppy that took on Versailles.

image The inflatable lobster.

image One blogger’s take.