Can Le Baron & André Saraiva Save New York Nightlife?

Even with a two-person crew working to tidy nightlife impresario André Saraiva’s new Chinatown apartment for the busy weekend ahead, it’s impossible to ignore the high-pitched shrieks coming from the shower in the back room. Saraiva is “having breakfast,” I’m vaguely assured, with his girlfriend, socialite Annabelle Dexter-Jones. It’s Friday, a quarter past noon.

Construction wrapped only a few days ago on 39-year-old Saraiva’s gallery-white space, just in time for New York Fashion Week. What few objects there are—a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, an unhung coat rack fitted with colorful balls—feel carefully curated. Someone has taken a black Sharpie and scrawled “Annabelle + André = Amour” on a long wooden table; a cluster of black hearts floating below punctuates the sentiment. “Either André and Annabelle were having sex in the shower,” a partygoer will say to me later that weekend, “or someone was strangling a crocodile.”

Born in Sweden to Portuguese parents who moved to Paris, Saraiva has arranged things so that the apartment can double as the semi-official headquarters of Le Baron, the long-awaited stateside outpost of the exclusive, artsy-cool Parisian nightclub of the same name, which he opened in 2004. (Another opened in Tokyo two years later.) Saraiva also runs club Paris Paris and restaurant La Fidélité in the French capital, and Hotel Ermitage in Saint Tropez, but to New Yorkers, he’s best known for his involvement with the Standard Hotel’s Le Bain and the now-shuttered, much-bereaved Beatrice Inn. Now, after months of delay and pending final permits from Bloomberg’s offices, Le Baron, édition Amérique, will open sometime this spring.

Among the handful of people trying very hard to ignore what’s happening in the bathroom—a delighted scream tears down the hallway—are Gildas Loaëc, co-founder of music and Gallic-prep fashion label Kitsuné, and Vincent Darré, the faultlessly dressed interior decorator, designer, and Parisian nightlife veteran. (Last year, he released a collection of crustacean-shaped furniture.) Darré, who arrived only moments before—the day starts late for Saraiva’s tight-knit clan—is sketching designs on a large pad of paper for the interior of the new Le Baron. What look like faux-bois bamboo poles crisscross to form a fence.

Darré collaborated on several upholstery patterns with artist Pierre Le-Tan, the father of Olympia Le-Tan, an artist and former girlfriend of Saraiva’s. On Sunday night, Saraiva will throw Le-Tan and filmmaker Spike Jonze a champagne-soaked, friends-only party at his apartment to celebrate their collaboration on the short animated film Mourir Auprès de Toi [To Die By Your Side], for which Olympia handcrafted winsome characters out of felt. (Olympia is perhaps best known for her literature-inspired accessories, which emblazon made-up covers of masterworks on book-shaped purses.) A little after 7pm, an intercontinental confederation of vaguely bohemian fixtures—some of whom accompany Saraiva on his global party circuit—will arrive: designers Charlotte Ronson (Annabelle’s half-sister), Waris Ahluwalia, and Johan Lindeberg; Oscar-nominated actor Rinko Kikuchi; Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon; and actor Clémence Poésy. Before the party is over, Saraiva will slip away to attend an event at Milk Studios called Annabelle + Andre = Love Collaboration Release. image

“Andre’s got way more friends than I have,” says Loaëc, a slight man with large ears and crisply scissored dark hair. “You’ll see, you’re going to be his friend in two minutes.” Loaëc and Saraiva recently released a compilation CD called Kitsuné Parisien featuring a line-up of mostly unknown acts based in the City of Light. Saraiva did the artwork for the album cover, and Loaëc, who releases Kitsuné compilations a couple times a year—he worked closely with Daft Punk for 15 years—took care of the tunes. “I was thinking we should do a French compilation, and then something Parisian to make it even more interesting,” he says of the dancey-druggy mix. “We get along well. I’m really a fan of his sense of style. I was never into graffiti whatsoever, but I thought his Mr. A character was fantastic.”

Loaëc is referring to Saraiva’s penchant for tagging walls, bar mirrors, and garage doors with his trademark figure, Mr. A, which looks like a cross between Jack Skellington and Rich Uncle Pennybags. Saraiva claims to have been beaten by four gendarmes for spray-painting a train as a teenager. His notoriety in his hometown, however, has made this particular type of nocturnal maneuvering a challenge. “Mr. A, he’s really chic and elegant for graffiti,” says Loaëc.

Just then, Saraiva and Dexter-Jones appear. “It’s a miracle!” says Darré. “It’s the nouvelle vague!”

Saraiva is petite and handsome. He’s wearing artfully tattered jeans, a thickly-braided silver bracelet, and a chunky sweater over a well-muscled torso that once appeared on the cover of his good friend Olivier Zahm’s Purple magazine. Before he sits down, he amiably rubs my shoulders, points at Darré, and says, “Did you know he’s my favorite? He’s a genius. I always liked him and one day I became friends with him.” Coffee is requested. (Darré asks for green tea. Does he have a second choice? “Dirt-tea.”) Dexter-Jones, a blonde sylph in a schoolboy blazer and a bow in her hair, sits on the floor across the room near a socket into which she plugs her phone. “I had to find a reason to be in New York,” Saraiva says, peering at her with an unblinking gaze. Later, he’ll kiss the tip of his finger and wiggle it in her direction.

Darré, Loaëc, and Saraiva, in roughly descending order, speak English with the kind of French accents that linger on parts of the vocal chords most Americans are incapable of stimulating. When they use the words “nostalgia” and “naive,” which they do often, I come to realize they mean the more Latinate definitions of the words—essentially, guileless. “André is very naive,” says Darré. “He likes to go out every night, to present, ‘Oh, this is a friend of mine—he is American.’”

“Nightlife is the soul of the city,” says Saraiva. “It’s true. I think nightclubs are sometimes the most interesting way for culture and people to spread through the city.” He has a soft, lean-in-closely voice, the kind of pipes you can’t imagine barking across a dance floor. “If there wasn’t nightlife, there wouldn’t be freedom, ideas, creation, poetry. D’accord, Vincent?”

Loaëc answers first. “It’s very political.” He appears half serious, half ribbing—an orientation he often has toward Saraiva. “They close the clubs because you don’t have the right to dance.” He’s referring to New York’s superannuated cabaret laws.

“When I go to cities and there’s no graffiti and no nightlife, they’re dead cities,” says Saraiva. “There’s no creation.”

“Like which ones?” asks Loaëc.

“Every place I go.”

“Yeah, but give me a name.”

“Like, cities in Eastern Europe.”

“They have nightlife in Eastern Europe.”

“Yeah, but when do they have nightlife and a big graffiti scene? Those two go together. When they don’t have those two things, most of the time, it’s kind of a fascist country.”

Graffiti is how Saraiva first became involved in club entrepreneurship. “Graffiti takes place at the same time as nightlife. That’s the relation,” he says. Does Saraiva dare to leave his calling card on New York’s streets?

“I don’t even care about going to jail. I’ve been. The thing is, they would never allow me to come back here. Never come back? That’s tough… ” He looks at Dexter-Jones.

“You’re getting wise,” says Loaëc.

“I’m getting… mature.” Everyone laughs.

“Mature!” says Darré. “So mature.” image

Much later that night, at Le Bain, the summery half of the top floor of the Standard Hotel famous for its Jacuzzi-fueled bacchanals—the Top of the Standard (ubiquitously referred to as the Boom Boom Room) occupies the other half—Le Baron hosts its contribution to New York Fashion Week by officially taking over the space. Saraiva and hotelier André Balazs opened Le Bain together—“I really like people who have the same name as me,” jokes Saraiva. There’s a line at the door downstairs; upstairs, it’s surprisingly tame. People are having fun, but not indulging in the frenzied, flesh-baring, hedonistic behavior that made Beatrice Inn a legend. Absent, too, are the bold-faced names that the crowd, dressed in the leathery plumage of Fashion Week, most likely came here to see. That’s because Saraiva is nowhere to be found.

Around 2:30am, I venture next door to a relatively empty Boom Boom Room, where I find Loaëc and Lionel Bensemoun, one of Saraiva’s original partners in Paris’ Le Baron. Bensemoun is wearing a ’70s-era psychedelic button-up and dark glasses. He’s friendly and ready to laugh, and instructs me on which arrondissements to visit when I’m next in Paris (the 8th and 10th). Loaëc explains that Saraiva has thrown out his back. “Annabelle, she… ” For lack of the word “piggyback,” he makes a motion like he’s slinging on a large backpack and winces.

The next night, Saturday, Saraiva’s back is healed—but that doesn’t make him easier to find. The Boom Boom Room is packed to the gills for a Purple and Zac Posen party. The coat room is too full to accept any more winter parkas, and there’s more pushing, squeezing, spilling, and groping than usual. Sharply-dressed men slip the bathroom attendants money, then vanish together into one of the ladies’ rooms. “The music sucks,” says one jostled invitee.

But here, at last, are the celebrities. Jared Leto is wrapped in what looks like a patterned Slanket, wandering blankly with a coterie of model-types in tow. There are many actual models. Actor Chloë Sevigny and the Misshape’s Leigh Lezark pose for photos and then check the results. Artist Francesco Clemente and actor Paz de la Huerta, in a silvery liquid-tight dress, rush by conspiratorially. Designer Alexander Wang dances with characteristic abandon. Despite Purple’s reputation for well-oiled loucheness, there’s nothing particularly sexy about this party. There are too many cameras for that; everyone is too self-conscious. A little after midnight, Tolga Al, one of several Le Baron employees managing the event, shuts off entry to the Boom Boom Room, hoping the crowd will thin out. image

According to Saraiva, Le Baron will be different. “It’s going to be even more tough,” he says of continuing his clubs’ notoriously discerning door policies. “The club is going to be empty. Everyone’s going to be waiting outside.” While he’s half kidding, Saraiva does admit to a lifelong obsession with legendary nightclubs like New York’s Studio 54 and Paris’ Le Palace, institutions that for a generation not only reflected but defined those cities’ subcultures. Studio 54’s owner, Steve Rubell, was known to leave his dance floor desolate as flocks outside crowed for entry.

For many young New Yorkers, Beatrice Inn was a similarly elusive and directional club. “I don’t know the people I want,” says Saraiva of the new Le Baron. “I know the people I don’t want. I don’t want any people who do TV. I don’t want any people who have cars. I don’t want any people who go to Marquee or 1Oak. If you go to 1Oak, never come to Le Baron.” Consider yourself warned.

A close friend of Saraiva’s, DJ Rachel Chandler, helped start a weekly party through Paul Sevigny (another close friend) at the Beatrice, as it was called, possessively, in 2007. “Hopefully it will give back some of what was lost when Beatrice was shut down,” Chandler wrote of Le Baron in an email. “It won’t ever be the same, nor should it, because Beatrice happened at a specific time in a specific place.” Says Saraiva, “I miss Beatrice. When people used to say, ‘Let’s go to Beatrice,’ it was sincere, like, ‘Let’s go to a place we like.’ And New York is missing that. We go to places where it’s okay to go, but there’s nowhere we feel is ours.”

Saraiva explains that his idols past and present—“Most of the artists I like are dead”—are nightlife people. Experience, however, has taught him that sometimes it’s better not to meet the people you most admire. Darré agrees. “You know the stories of Proust?” he asks. “It is this: You dream about something and you think it’s the best in the world, but after you meet it, you’re very disappointed.”

I haven’t seen the real Mr. A all night. “He’s here,” a publicist insists. But I’m reminded of something Saraiva said to me earlier: “I always tell the people who work with me to never say that I’m away, to always say, ‘I just saw him, he’s somewhere.’ It works.” I toggle over to Le Bain, where Olivier Zahm is performing a mashed potato-like twist with a young woman. Paul Sevigny occupies the DJ booth, where Tolga Al later tells me he will stay for nearly four hours spinning “New York music.” As I’m getting ready to leave, I spot Saraiva in the liminal zone between the two clubs. He kisses both my cheeks and disappears into a sea of revelers.

Back at Saraiva’s apartment, coffee has finally arrived. Dexter-Jones has removed her blazer to reveal a navy shirt striped with red, which perfectly matches Saraiva’s own navy sweater with red stripes. She buries her face into his neck, the two murmuring to each other. “I think André is a brand also,” Loaëc says. “When you go to Le Baron, you actually know you’re going to see André there, living in the place.”

“He’s in New York, he’s in Paris,” says Darré. “I don’t know how he has time to do it. Maybe there are many little Andrés. A clone.”

Photography by Ruvan Wijesooriya.

Werner Herzog on His New 3D Movie, His Dreams, & His Famous Voice

Werner Herzog has just returned to his home in Los Angeles from Texas, where the celebrated German filmmaker is currently shooting his 23rd full-length documentary in a maximum-security prison. The film, which Herzog insists is the most intense he’s ever done, focuses on the lives of prisoners awaiting execution on Death Row. It will take viewers into a world experienced by few, something Herzog did to astounding effect with his paean to Antarctica, 2007’s Encounters at the End of the World, and a feat he pulls off again this month with Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

In Cave, Herzog—who has the mind of an archeologist, the heart of an explorer, and the soul of a poet—was granted unprecedented access to film in the famed Chauvet-Pontd’Arc Cave, a rocky crypt discovered in 1994 in southern France. Chauvet houses a mosaic of cave drawings, including figurative etchings of buffalo, lions, and horses, which are believed by many scientists to be the first known evidence of human art. Hermetically sealed off by the French government, almost no one outside the team of scientists that study the cave’s 30,000-year-old relics has been allowed inside. Herzog, however, was—the French Culture Minister happens to be a fan—and he brought his 3-D cameras with him. The result is a personal, at times claustrophobic encounter with what Herzog calls “the awakening of the modern human soul.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen 3-D used to such stunning effect, certainly not in a documentary film. Back in the late ’50s, I once saw a 3-D film, but I don’t remember which one it was. I have seen Avatar. That’s the only other 3-D film that I’ve seen.

What were your impressions of Avatar? It’s the kind of movie you can watch once a year, but there’s nothing beyond the fireworks. It’s like the Fourth of July.

Why did you decide to shoot Cave of Forgotten Dreams in three dimensions? It became an obvious choice the moment I went into the cave for the first time. I always thought that the paintings, according to the photos I’d seen, were somewhat flat, or on slightly irregular walls. Stepping into the cave, it was stunning to see how undulating and bulging certain areas were. And since we were the only film crew ever allowed to be in there, I knew I had to do something for the audience to grasp the intensity of these paintings and the drama of the rock formations.

Are you pleased with the result? Oh, sure. I’m very proud. Let’s face it: it’s a very good one. Audiences who have seen it love the movie. What’s also significant, and something that I’m proud of, is that nobody speaks about having seen the movie. They all speak about how incredible these caves are. This is my badge of honor.

In a career that has been comprised of physically demanding shoots, where does this one rank? It was only technically demanding because the restrictions were so severe. You have to understand that the other caves, the famous caves of Lascaux for example, were forced to close down because too many people were in there and their breath, their exhalations, the vapor of humans, left a mold on the walls. So we had absolutely strict rules. We could only shoot for six days, and each day we had only four hours there. We could only bring into the cave whatever we could carry with our hands. I had to build my own camera in semi-darkness, on a narrow walkway. Otherwise, it was very pleasant.

If the French government is so worried about human breath, why can’t tourists wear masks? I do not have an answer to your question. It’s also vapor, which somehow comes from bodies, but I’m not sure. You are asking me too much right now.

What were your first impressions of the cave? It was awesome.

Awesome? Awesome. Each week there are more people on the summit of Mount Everest than have ever been inside this cave. Nobody told me about the stalactites and stalagmites, the crystal cathedrals, the four thousand bones and skulls of cave bears that are now extinct—it’s just stunning. And then there’s the silence.

Tell me about the silence. When you hold your breath, you can literally hear your own heartbeat.

These drawing are works of art, and art is made to be looked at. Isn’t it sad that this magnificent cave has been shut off to the world? It’s necessary and it shouldn’t be further debated. My advice is to go see my movie.

Did you find yourself having dreams about the cave and perhaps the people who made the paintings? No, I do not dream, which is a strange thing. I’m probably the only proof against the claim of all shrinks that everyone dreams. Maybe, and I say this with necessary caution, this is why I make movies, because there is a deficit in me, a void.

That’s why you make films? It’s just a vague suspicion I have.

You’ve never dreamed before? I do dream, but only once every two years or so. And it’s always so banal, about a sandwich I had for lunch.

That doesn’t sound very profound. Like I said, I once dreamed I had a sandwich for lunch. And that was two years ago.

What are the “forgotten dreams” to which you refer in the title? It came to me when I looked at some of the paintings. It’s not just one animal here and another animal there. There are whole panoramas of animals interacting, and they are very strange. They have a real dreamlike quality and, of course, I take liberties as a filmmaker to choose a title that represents my own feelings.

Do you think that the restrictions imposed on you by the French government gave the film a quality it might not have otherwise had? I cannot speculate. The film is what it is and I did my best, and I think even if I’d had two more months of shooting, it wouldn’t have been much better. The French government has been extraordinarily helpful. I was the one who got permission, and no one else. It was an affair of great complexity, but the most important element was the minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand. He’s a nephew of the former president [François Mitterrand] and I was very fortunate because before I could even explain my project, he told me how much my films meant to him. He grew up with my films.

You were confident, then, when you approached him? I offered to make this film as an employee of the Ministry of Culture. I asked Frédéric for a fee, which was one euro. In return, I agreed to make the film, give it to the French Cultural Ministry for free, and show it in non-profit venues.

Your voice is so distinctive in the narration of this film, as it has been in the past. There are a lot of imposters on the internet who claim to be me while reading, for example, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They’re pretty bad imitations, but that’s okay. I’ve also been the voice of the plastic bag in Ramin Bahrani’s short film Plastic Bag, which was a huge online hit. A few days from now, I’ll be on The Simpsons. Even The Simpsons love my voice!

There’s a postscript in the film that features radioactive albino alligators in a nearby biodome, which will probably confuse people. Why did you include it? I kept wondering, How much can we possibly understand about these paintings, which date back 30,000 years? How would crocodiles look at them? A film that is only fact-based does not give you any illumination, and it doesn’t give you these moments that you can only experience in cinema. It’s poetry. It’s science fiction.

It’s interesting to hear a documentary filmmaker say that. We’re currently experiencing an onslaught of virtual realities on the internet, in video games, and in Photoshop. I keep saying that I’m not interested in pure fact. Without anything else, facts aren’t illuminating. If you’re looking for truth, read poetry and literature.

If you were to create your own cave drawing, what do you think you would draw? I don’t draw in caves. I make movies.

Best Coast, Dan Deacon, & Nick Zinner on Their Favorite San Fran Spots

The Bay Area has long provided the rest of the country with infusions of musical lifeblood, from the inception of the Grateful Dead in the mid-’60s to the Dead Kennedys in the ’80s. But don’t let San Francisco’s homegrown heroes of yore fool you into thinking the city’s moment has passed: If the annual Noise Pop festival is any indication, the arts scene in Fog City is still very much alive. This February, the week-long, city-wide mash-up of concerts, film screenings, and gallery exhibitions shined a light on local bands and up-and-coming acts from all over the map.

“We’ve always played really fun, kind of zany shows in San Francisco,” says Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of LA’s lo-fi surf-rock trio Best Coast, who headlined this year’s festival, now in its 19th year. “People get really excited by music here.” Stacy Horne, Noise Pop’s producer for the past six years, couldn’t agree more. “There’s a strong sense of community here among artists and musicians,” she says. “The best thing is to watch a band go from being a festival opener one year to being a headliner the next.” Best Coast and Frisco’s own indie-rock group Geographer have followed that very trajectory in recent years.

At the height of Noise Pop madness, we absconded with a few of the event’s nonpareil acts—Cosentino; Tamaryn Brown of local shoegaze duo Tamaryn; Seth Bogart, “Hunx” of Oakland-based electro-pop outfit Hunx and His Punx; psych-dance maelstrom Dan Deacon; and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs—to catch our breath at some of San Francisco’s less traveled hideaways.

image

Nick Zinner – Public Works, 161 Erie Street, Mission District, San Francisco 415-932-0955 During the festival, Public Works hosted a photography exhibition of exactly 1,001 photos taken by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist Nick Zinner, many of which he shot over the past few years while touring with lead singer Karen O. Why 1,001? “The name comes from this same show I did in New York a few months ago,” Zinner says. “Originally I’d intended to put up 200 photos there, but when I saw how big the space was I figured, Shit, I’d better put up 1,000. Then I decided to top that—by one.” Of the images he likes best, Zinner says, “The ones that I compose, where I’m trying to do something clever, end up terrible. It’s always the ones that I don’t think about that I end up liking.”

image

Tamaryn Brown – No. Shop, 389 Valencia Street, Mission District, San Francisco 415-252-9982 “There’s a small group of beautiful, talented girls in the city who have bands, run their own online vintage stores, and publish a magazine called Yes Yes Yes. No. Shop is where they’ve come together,” says Tamaryn Brown, one-half of Tamaryn, who released their debut album, The Waves, last fall. “There’s definitely a scene in San Francisco. It’s made up of younger people—20 to 24—and their style is different than anything that’s been here before. The thing about San Francisco is that the weather forces you to layer clothes in certain ways. It’s all about wearing tons of things that don’t make any sense together whatsoever—but somehow work.” image

Bethany Cosentino – Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk Street, Tenderloin, San Francisco 415-923-0923 “I spend a lot of time in San Francisco, but I don’t go out very much,” says Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of LA’s Best Coast. “A lot of my friends have taken me to the Hemlock, and it’s a really cool place.” While hardly a dive bar, Cosentino’s choice watering hole isn’t exactly fancy, either. “Whenever I’m in cities where my friends are from, I just say, Take me to where you would go. Our sound guy on this tour is from Oakland and he really likes this place. Luckily, I love what I do, because after four weeks of playing the same fucking 14 songs every single night, I want to shoot myself—but I come here, I wake up the next day, and I’m excited to do it again.”

image

Dan Deacon, Cliff House – 1090 Point Lobos Avenue Richmond District, San Francisco 415-386-3330 The morning after his raucous show at the Independent, psychedelic electro-dance musician Dan Deacon wanted to unwind at the Sutro Baths, situated in the ruins of an ornate, turn-of-the-century bathhouse located on a cliff overlooking the ocean at San Francisco’s most northwestern point—and just down the road from Cliff House restaurant. “I first saw the Baths on a 2006 tour with [Deacon’s band] Ecstatic Sunshine,” he says. “We didn’t know anyone here, so we just drove around looking for a park to sleep in when we stumbled upon the ruins. I had never seen anything like them: the caves, the huge bluffs, the mussels, the rad staircases, the crashing waves—no bullshit safety rails. I’ve long wanted to do a performance here.”

image

Seth Bogart – San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Civic Center, San Francisco 415-557-4400 “One of the girls in our band is studying to be a librarian, and I think it’s really sexy,” says Seth Bogart, “Hunx” of pop-punk band Hunx and His Punx, on why he chose the Main Library as his favorite place to unwind. “I have fantasies about doing it with a hot, slutty guy between the stacks of books.” In addition to his work as part of the band—their sophomore album, Too Young to Be in Love, was released in March—Bogart owns a vintage boutique and hair salon in Oakland called Down at Lulu’s, where he occasionally cuts hair and puts together distinctive ensembles. “I’m wearing a black velvet onesie,” he says. “It has a see-through portion on the chest. I’ve also got on a silver jacket that reminds me of Little Richard. It’s like Little Richard dressed up as Catwoman.”

A Look at Anton Yelchin’s Photography & Music that Inspires It

Anton Yelchin, who’ll soon star as Mel Gibson’s son in The Beaver, is standing outside the Knickerbocker in Los Angeles, admiring its faded glory. Once a grandiose Hollywood hotel—Elvis stayed there, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio held court at the bar—the Knickerbocker was turned into an apartment complex in the 1970s, and it’s now filled with Russian emigrants, Yelchin’s grandfather among them. “There’s an unbelievably funny, sad, and chaotic energy that comes from this beautiful art deco building,” he says. Chaos, I quickly discover, fascinates Yelchin. We asked the 22-year-old actor and aspiring photographer, who will soon be seen in Like Crazy (this year’s Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance) and the big-screen adaptation of Fright Night, for a list of 10 songs that inspire him to create, both characters and pictures. The playlist is unexpected, intense, and impassioned, much like the man who compiled it. (View the gallery for more of Yelchin’s photographs, many of which were taken during a recent trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he filmed Fright Night.)

Dr. Dre’s “Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’).” I chose this one because it’s so aggressive. With NWA, those guys created such an offensive hyper-reality in terms of the identities they chose. I don’t know any of them personally, and I’m sure they have the criminal records to back up what they’re saying, but so much of hip-hop culture is about the image you create. The reason I like this song so much is because of the way it glorifies, in a really bizarre and inappropriate way—especially when you think about the number of middle-class white kids who listen to it—all of the awful things that were going on in street culture. Because the song exists in the pop sphere, it loses all of its racial meaning and becomes an ode to violence and misogyny. I’m fascinated by vulgar things.

Robert Johnson’s “Me And The Devil Blues.” There’s a myth that Johnson was such a great guitar player because he sold his soul to the devil, who came to him at a crossroads and tuned his guitar for him. Just like with the Dre song, a satanic energy pervades this one. Although I’m Jewish, I’m not religious—I don’t think I’m going to Hell if I jerk off twice in a day—but I do see Satan as a chaotic force that grows out of our post-capitalist culture. I was at a Grammys party and the TV was on, showing footage of the revolution in Egypt, and no one gave a shit about what was on the screen. Those two opposites are so chaotic when they’re put together, and it’s what I imagine Johnson is singing about: loss, loneliness, and feelings of isolation.

Bob Dylan’s “In My Time Of Dyin’.” Death is such an inevitable and frightening part of human existence. All of the literature to which I’m drawn has that sense of impermanence. No matter how much chaos you seek, there’s still a desire in each person for salvation. I don’t mean that in any Christian or Judeo-Christian sense. I just mean that we all seek some form of comfort in our lives. image

Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.” The great thing about Blind Willie Johnson is that he sounds gruff and grizzly at times, and at others beautiful and haunting. Something about this song affects me profoundly; there is an immense amount of pain in it, a desire for love and union and all of the things we’d like to think exist in the world. Dylan really borrowed that from him. When I first approach the characters I play, I look at where their pain comes from and how they deal with it. I have a very bleak view of people and humanity. Life is difficult, dark, and challenging, but it’s how we deal with it that makes us who we are.

Primal Scream’s “Movin’ On Up.” It sounds like a gospel track—a weird, psychedelic, drug-infused gospel track. If the Blind Willie Johnson song is meant for sadness and whisky, then “Movin’ On Up” is like riding a tidal wave.

Doom’s “Slave to Convention.” I don’t really agree with the politics of punk bands; I think their politics are in their sound, not necessarily in what they’re saying. Punk musicians say all sorts of ultra-left–wing things, but how leftist can you be when you’re making, releasing, and selling music? Doom’s politics were kind of irrelevant. Everything’s irrelevant in our society because even our politics become something people can buy; just another thing you can use to mythologize yourself or create the identity you think is real. And there’s nothing you can do about it because that’s just how our society functions—unless you want to go and live naked in the woods, making your own clothing and food.

Spacemen 3’s “Hey Man.” I went through a phase, when I was 10 or 11, when I’d listen to a lot of classic rock. It lasted about 15 minutes, and was followed by a shitty indie phase—I can’t stand that stuff anymore. In the past few years I’ve progressed to noise. I love the droning dissonance of Spacemen 3, although this particular song isn’t all that dissonant. There’s such a moving line in there when he says, “I don’t mind dyin’ but I hate to leave my mother cryin’.” That is just such an honest thing to say, and something I can really, really relate to. image

Ry Cooder’s “Paris, Texas.” This song breaks my heart. I’m not a philosopher—I’m not wise to any degree—but I do realize that if you have someone who really loves you, then you keep them. Sometimes we get too afraid and we push ourselves away from the people we love, which is what The Beaver is about. I was really drawn to Porter, the character I play in the film, because he’s so paranoid and afraid, and he closes himself off from everyone, basically mirroring his father because of his hatred for him. The movie explores how deep you can go into darkness before you lose the things that are really important. I can’t even begin to imagine what Mel is going through now. He was so happy about his little daughter when we were on set. We all have problems, but it’s really sad when they start to take away the things that matter to us most.

Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues.” This song shares the same violent energy found throughout this list. Even if they’re from different socioeconomic backgrounds, Johnny Cash and Dr. Dre both have a unifying sense of aggression and a healthy dose of misogyny. I don’t want to come off sounding like a misogynistic, violent human being—I’m definitely not—but on the Folsom Prison recording, all of the prisoners are cheering along to the song [about a man who kills his wife] and their energy is infectious. I’m really fascinated by sexual aggression, especially in my photography. I take really explicit photos of human genitals because they’re symbols of power and objectification. I think the camera lens is very similar to someone’s cock. It’s like you possess whatever is in front of your lens and then, well, I don’t have to explain the other part.

John Lennon’s “Well Well Well.” There’s something really Dionysian about this one. I love going to dinner with my girlfriend, feasting with someone I really care about, and then making love to her. I’d never devalue the person I’m with, but at the same time sexual acts are inherently aggressive. I think Lennon was going through primal scream therapy when he recorded this song with the Plastic Ono Band. Three minutes into the song he screams for, like, two full minutes. I put this song at the end of the list because it summarizes everything we’ve been talking about. It’s aggressive, introspective, lonely, painful, and slightly misogynistic. When I expound upon these negative, violent things at home, my mom goes, “God, why do you hate everything so much? You’re so angry.” If I could put together a film playlist, I’d include Fassbinder’s work because he’s just so vulgar and anti-everything, but also extremely intelligent. He’s not into that anarchist punk shit, which I hate. Every time I hear that, it’s like, “Shut up! Go back to fucking Hot Topic.”

Top photo by Kurt Iswarienko. All other photos by Anton Yelchin.

Ryan McGinness Is a Singular Force on the New York Art Scene

Freight elevator doors open into Ryan McGinness’ vast Soho studio, where brilliant colors burst forth like bolts of morning sunlight. Canvases covered in bright pinks, yellows, and greens line the room, each of them adorned with constellations of curiously familiar forms. Some mimic signs and corporate logos, others feature simplified human shapes, and others still—like a pair of unicorns—are plucked from pure fantasy. The words “No Kill Zone” are painted onto a section of hardwood floor at the entrance to his studio, a rule McGinness implemented to prevent anyone from getting seriously hurt during a “Shoot the Freak” paint-ball party he hosted two years ago as part of his 50 Parties experiment. (Over 50 consecutive weeks, he threw 50 ragers with themes like “Fight Club”—yes, blood was spilled—“C.H.U.G.,” and “Sex Party.”)

But more than the debris of debauched nights past, it’s McGinness’ paintings that catch the eye, inviting viewers to feed on their energy while guessing at their meaning, even if the artist insists there’s no formal narrative underlying the chaos. “My paintings are composed of many units of meaning,” says the 39-year-old painter and sculptor, running his hands through a matte of shaggy brown hair. “Individual drawings come together to create non-linear narrative mindscapes—random access memories.” This layered approach has been a hallmark of McGinness’ art for nearly two decades, earning him fans and collectors from around the world, and propelling him to the forefront of the New York art scene. Not bad for a kid from Virginia Beach who grew up amid “dawn patrol” surfing sessions, backyard skateboard ramps, and bedroom bands.

McGinness, obviously a gifted child, began to formally develop his skills in elementary school, where he painted large-scale reproductions of such masterpieces as Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, Picasso’s Guernica, and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans for the cafeteria. “I wasn’t inspired to be an artist per se, but I was inspired to make things for myself and for my friends,” he says. Although there weren’t many artist showcases or galleries in his hometown, McGinness says, there was the annual Boardwalk Art Show. “That was always fun, but I somehow knew that googly eyes on driftwood wasn’t serious art.” image

Still, Virginia Beach wasn’t exactly a creative backwater, if one takes into account its surf and skate culture. To McGinness, the dynamic graphics that adorned skateboards in the ’80s and early ’90s were no less inspiring than anything hanging in a museum. “I was blown away by the serial narrative of the Rob Roskopp Santa Cruz decks,” he says. “The concept of a progressive illustration released over a period of a few years was a challenge for me to wrap my head around.” Armed with a BFA from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, he moved to New York in 1994 and has built a career by taking novel perspectives on familiar imagery every since.

McGinness says his predilection for corporate logos, signs, and other signifiers of modern capitalism stems not just from his fondness for beauty in all its guises, but also his reaction against ugliness. “I’m interested in the political action of taking the tools of commerce and industry—logos, signage, and icons—and using them in direct opposition to the strategies of corporations that use them,” he says. Although it’s a subversive approach employed by other esteemed artists, his appropriation and repurposing of quotidian forms wasn’t borne of a larger trend. “I’m weary of gallery-made nobodies who are celebrated by the high-end commercial art industry,” says McGinness, whose works are housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, among many other hallowed institutions. “Their support system is investment-based and driven by speculators who are told what to buy. I appreciate artists with an organically-grown fan base.”

Resulting from his political passion are pieces like Art History Is Not Linear, a series of 16 painted wood panels that incorporate seemingly random images such as eyeglasses, flowers, birds, and a rabbit into a cohesive work. A similar treatment is given to the female form in his latest body of work, “Women: The Blacklight Paintings,” which is touring the country with stops in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. (He’ll also be showing some of his blacklight work at “Recent Paintings,” a solo exhibition beginning May 19 at Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles.) Using fluorescent paint, he bends, twists, and distorts the “graceful curves and sensual forms” of his models, producing a two-dimensional version of “iconified” beauty that reveals their sexual essence. When asked about the fluorescence, McGinness says, “I focus my attention on being with me, within. When I look inward, those are the colors I see.”

image

Photography by Alexander Wagner.

Droid Rage: Our Favorite Android Apps for April

This American Life [$2.99] Want to know what babysitters actually do while mom and dad are out enjoying date night? Interested in hearing about the drunken misbehavior at America’s biggest party schools? We are, and so is Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, an hour-long weekly radio show produced by Chicago Public Radio. Enjoy hours and hours of Glass’ unmistakable voice with 400-plus archived shows and myriad video extras. Read blog updates and view staff favorites while creating your own personal playlists. Search everyone from David Sedaris to Joss Whedon to find the show’s most irreverent programs. (Recommended: “Enemies,” which centers on two childhood friends who became sworn nemeses after a rumor surfaced that they’d been knocking boots.)

Galaxy Tarot Pro [$5.15] Thank your lucky stars: Galaxy Tarot Pro now makes awkward trips to Madame Durga’s house obsolete. The app provides precognition enthusiasts with a full deck of mid-15th– century cards to navigate their mental and spiritual geography. Opt for a full reading or choose a single card from the deck. Need to brush up on your tarot-reading skills? The tarot dictionary can help you figure out if you’re on the verge of meeting your true love or seconds away from an untimely demise. Either way, the whole thing’s a real (crystal) ball!

Turner Classic Movies [$2.99] Whether you’re a seasoned cineaste or a budding film buff, Turner Classic Movies will satisfy all of your vintage celluloid dreams. The app is an optimized version of the TCM database, with synopses, trivia, and credit info on hundreds of big-screen talkies. Enjoy film clips and behind-the-scenes commentary from actors and filmmakers—many of them with one foot in the grave—and peruse TCM’s photo gallery for original production stills and promotional shots courtesy of the channel your grandparents just won’t quit.

Team Coco [Free] A wise man once said, “This week, Disney opened its first-ever theme park in China. More than 10,000 children showed up on opening day, and that was just to make the T-shirts.” That same wise-ass now has an app! With Team Coco, view Conan O’Brien’s most recent episodes—including monologues, behind-the-scenes footage, guest appearances, and photographs of the universally adored ginger.

Pocket Yoga [$2.99] Beach season is just around the corner, but who has time to treadmill from flab to fab? Your workout just got a whole lot easier with Pocket Yoga, which has everything you need to build strength, endurance, and long, lean muscle definition from the comfort of your home. It’s like having a personal trainer in your living room, without the pressure (or weird grunting noises) of crowded studios. Pace yourself with three different styles, levels, and durations, all equipped with visual guides for optimal results. Of course, your third eye will be so focused you won’t need it.

Dream Journal [$.99] They say that if you document your dreams every night, you can train yourself to have lucid—or, more likely, lurid—dreams in no time. With Dream Journal, sheep counters can record their nocturnal adventures and revelations in a mnemonic diary. Explore exactly what’s lurking in your subconscious and decipher what your dreams really mean, or what dreams may come.

B*nksy Style [$3.14] At this year’s Oscars, Justin Timberlake joked that he was Banksy, the elusive street artist who might actually be James Franco. The former ’N Sync frontman, however, is obviously not, as was proven by the collective groan inside Kodak Theatre that night. Even though his identity remains a secret, Banksy and his oeuvre are now available to you wherever you go. From the streets of London to the fuzzy interior of your coat pocket, get the infamous artist’s best work on demand.

iFidelity: Our Favorite iPhone Apps This Month

K-Swiss Tubes Muscle Machine [Free] If you’re looking to beef up, look no further. Let Eastbound & Down’s Kenny Powers take your brawn to the next level. Work out as he crankily barks alongside you, leading you through a set of hardcore drills such as sweat-inducing jumping jacks, push-ups, and curls—all while using your phone as a weight. (A heavy one, we know.) In between repetitions, admire full views of K-Swiss Tubes, the freshest kicks in town. (In the words of 30 Rock’s Tina Fey, “Can we have our money now?”)

McSweeny’s [$5.99] For quite some time, they’ve had an internet tendency, and now the editors at McSweeney’s, the wry publishing house created by literary darling Dave Eggers, have created an app “to fill your moments of solitude, moments of togetherness, and moments of intolerable boredom.” Featuring stories from the Quarterly, interviews from their monthly magazine, The Believer, short films from their DVD series, Wholphin, and plain-old bad advice courtesy of Amy Sedaris, McSweeney’s finally gives us an excuse to put the Antoine Dodson soundboard to bed. The McSweeney’s app is, dare we say it, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Byook [$.99] Thanks to Byook, reading no longer needs to be restricted to the written word. Enrich the books you love with pictures, animations, and sounds that further immerse readers in the world of their favorite stories. Dive into Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and let your imagination run free as you interact with the mystery—hear bloodcurdling screams and the pitter-patter of rainfall, and shudder as the blood of severed arteries splatters across your iPhone screen. We don’t want to sound crazy or anything, but we can’t wait until Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho gets the Byook treatment.

Front Desk Guides [Free] Like a teeny-weeny concierge in your coat pocket, Front Desk directs travelers to the finest restaurants, boutiques, and bars across the country. Comprehensive listings, maps, and insider features provide suggestions for where to get your gettin’ on. Front Desk editors, along with the finest concierges from America’s top hotels and resorts, offer their picks for everything from the best rooftop lounges to the chicest shops.

Martha Stewart Makes Cookies [$2.99] Although we’ve dreamed of sewing ponchos in prison with M. Diddy, second on our list would be baking sweets with the doyenne of the domestic. Her new app, Martha Stewart Makes Cookies, is a confectionary frenzy, with an archive of 50 recipes, from old-fashioned oatmeal cookies to banana whoopie pies, whatever those are. Can’t decide what to make? Give the cookie search wheel a spin to mix and match your favorite types and flavors. Enjoy Stewart’s step-by-step instructional videos, built-in timers, and personalized grocery lists, and even learn how to artfully package your goodies like she does—only, you know, not as well.

Real Haunted Houses [$.99] With Real Haunted Houses, wannabe ghost whisperers can now visit all those places that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention—without actually having to commune with Casper. Peer into over 100 “real” haunted houses from around the world. Each house features bone-chilling, terror-inducing images, alongside detailed stories about who’s haunting whom, and why. It’s all very Poltergeist, but without that maggot scene.

Stress Free with Deepak Chopra [$1.99] The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, instead of inhaling doughnuts or huffing cocktails, try taking a moment to breathe using Stress Free with Deepak Chopra. Sign up for his anxiety-reduction program and give your body the recharge it needs to ease into spring. The app takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to de-stressing through exercises that work your mind, body, and soul. Follow the master’s six steps to ridding your life of bad energy through guided meditation, proper nutrition, yoga, and music therapy. As the guru once said, Heed our advice and download this month’s loudest, ghostliest, and brainiest iPhone apps.

Zoë Kravitz on Transitioning from Indies to Blockbusters

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Zoë Kravitz is an actor. While the 22-year-old beauty has appeared in a string of independent films, she’s best known as the daughter of rocker Lenny Kravitz and actor Lisa Bonet, and as a budding fashion darling on New York’s party circuit. It’s an association she’s working hard to reverse. “It’s a compliment, I guess, that people think I dress cool, but I think I dress like a fuckin’ weirdo,” Kravitz says. “I don’t want to be ‘the daughter of… ’who wears cool clothes and goes out. I want to be known as an actress—hopefully that will happen soon.”

It might happen sooner than she thinks. This summer, Kravitz will make her big-budget film debut as Angel Salvadore, a sultry mutant in X-Men: First Class, a part for which she almost didn’t audition. Given her credentials—supporting turns in festival fare like Twelve and It’s Kind of a Funny Story—Kravitz considered the part out of her reach, an attitude that actually worked in her favor. “My agent had to make me go because it was such a big movie, so I thought there was no way I was going to get it,” she says. “Oddly, whenever I just go for shits and giggles, I end up booking the part. It’s exactly how I got Mad Max: Fury Road.” Kravitz is referring to the long-in-gestation reboot of the Mel Gibson-starring post-apocalyptic classic, which finally starts filming early next year, with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as the leads.

Despite her sudden embrace of greenscreened projects, Kravitz—who dropped out of the acting conservatory at SUNY Purchase after one year—insists there’s no master plan; she just wants to act. Proof of that is Yelling to the Sky, a gritty and poetic story about a struggling teenager in urban New York. The film, which costars Gabourey Sidibe as a bully, recently screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Kravitz was more than disheartened by its reception. “A lot of people started comparing it to Precious,” she says. “It really freaked me out and made me kind of sad. It made me feel like people weren’t watching the film. They see Gabby, artistic shots, and brown people, and suddenly it’s Precious.” It’s the actor’s first leading role, but screen time isn’t her main concern. “I don’t care how much I’m in the movie, as long as I care about the character.”

image

image

image

Photography by Billy Kidd. Styling by Christopher Campbell. Hair by Leonardo Manetti for Ion Studio. Makeup by Rebecca Restrepo @ The Wall Group. Photo Assistant: Max Bashanko. Stylist’s Assistant: Jaclyn Konopka. Location, Shangri-La Studio, New York City.

Introducing This Season’s Tastiest Reds

Nothing is more conducive to relaxing with friends than a heady red wine, and this spring brings a slew of exciting bottles that celebrate the noble grapes and the fertile lands where they’re cultivated. Chief among the noteworthy newcomers is the 2007 Sequoia Grove Cambium, a rich, romantic blend of Bordeaux varieties from veteran Napa Valley winemaker Michael Trujillo.

The result of a year of nearly flawless weather for grape-growing, it’s a cabernet sauvignon-dominant wine blended with cabernet franc, merlot, and a whisper of petit verdot. At $100, it’s a spectacular entrée into the world of premium wines, with a deep red color, a subtle aroma of vanilla, and a delightful interplay of boysenberry, coffee, and chocolate flavors. Mildly tannic, it boasts an extremely long finish, perfect for toasting the sunset or pairing with steak or pasta.

Down the road at the Robert Mondavi estate, Director of Winemaking Genevieve Janssens has just unveiled the company’s latest Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($135). Also a product of the banner 2007 growing season, it’s an astonishingly well-balanced varietal with aromas of licorice and cedar and a palate bursting with fruit. It’s everything a cab should be, and a defiant answer to critics who claim the company has given up on high-end wines in favor of mass-market crowd-pleasers.

Australia continues to produce impressive mid-range wines that provide a satisfying alternative to pricier bottles from Europe and North America. Among many solid contenders this year is the 2004 Jacob’s Creek St. Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon ($35). A magnificent wine for a sunny afternoon, the brilliant red liquid captures the light like a ruby. Medium-bodied and medium dry, it has notes of blackberries and black currants and just enough tannins to leave you wanting another sip. Just over the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, Brancott Estate has Terraces ‘T’ Marlborough, a zippy new 2007 pinot noir. Not too proud to ditch the traditional cork in favor of a screw cap—it really is better for the wine—this $32 bottle is an uncomplicated pleasure to drink, with notes of plum, cherry, and a hint of spice.

Pinot fans on a budget should take a look at the latest offering from The Naked Grape of California. At just $9 a bottle, it punches well above its weight, with a blast of blueberries in every sip and a gentle finish—a perfect wine to pair with pizza.

But the finest value of the bunch comes from Apothic, a Golden State winery that produces just one blend at a time. This season’s Apothic Red is an expensive-tasting mix of 2009 zinfandel, syrah, and merlot that boasts an intense fruit aroma, a velvety mouthfeel, and notes of blackberry, spice, and vanilla. It also has a plastic cork (for freshness) and a gorgeous label (for impressing dates and dinner-party hosts). At just $14, it surpassed an exclusive shiraz nearly triple its price. No longer the rarefied province of aristocrats and bon vivants, wine has finally become fun. Welcome to the party.