Watch/Read/Travel: Mira Calix

November 2, 2016
I’m lucky enough to travel a lot for work, it’s led me to discover and come to love many cities I may have otherwise missed on a holiday circuit. My top 10 would include London, Paris, Barcelona, Palermo, Cape Town, Nanjing, Florence, New York, Buenos Aires and Edinburgh. I’m not going to settle for any of those metropolises as my favourite place, rather the open fields of my home county: Suffolk. I call it the lost county, sandwiched between Essex to the south, Norfolk to the north and Cambridgeshire to the west.  It’s pretty large, yet people (of all nations) seem to have no idea where it is and constantly confuse it with Sussex. Suffolk is a rural economy, my neighbour is a sheep farmer, but it is also has been and is home to many artists, composers and writer, who like me, are happy to squirrel themselves away in the British savannah and take long walks by the sea.
I love being a few minutes drive from the beach, the Snape Maltings Concert Hall – home to the Aldeburgh Festival, set up by the composer Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears.  Aldeburgh is a magnet for many of my London based friends who regularly visit to perform and escape on artist residencies. This regular stream up the A12 provides the perfect balance of companionship and isolation. If I’m home, no doubt I’m either working frantically or in recovery. This is the perfect place for both. My home and its surrounding fields means I’m pretty much the only person making a noise. I relish this, along with the clean air, sunshine and cheap and tasty farm shop produce. John Peel, a fellow adoptee of this lost county, famously said the only way to get him out of Suffolk would be in a box – a sentiment I can empathise with. 
Suffolk (Photo: Mira Calix)

Suffolk (Photo: Mira Calix)

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty/La Grande Bellezza. Winner of the 2014 Oscar for foreign language film. For me, this is not simply a ‘major motion picture‘ but a great work of art. Unlike most of my favourite films, I have not seen this film multiple times but rather just once. The experience so intoxicating and overwhelming that this is no longer a film I’ve seen but like all great artworks, it has lingered and  become part of me. I saw the film on a warm summer’s evening at the Dalston. It had been out only a week or so, and I had missed all the reviews, and the decision to go and see it was spontaneous and last minute. The film opens with a spectacular and glamorous Roman rooftop party scene which seaways into the titles, I still remember turning to companion and saying – “this is going to be fucking good”. Turns out I was so right and you should know I’m someone who never talks or eats for that matter in the cinema. There may be people reading this who have yet to experience this masterpiece so I don’t want to divulge to many spoilers.
This is a film for the big big screen and the dark room, it was made for Cinema and that’s  probably what has stopped me watching it on Netflix (it’s there) again, but no doubt I will revise it in the near future and I hope you do too. Every shot, every edit and every sound is meticulously composed. I remain in awe of this director! Everything is in its right place. Yet it never feels contrived, the cast, dialogue, soundtrack, the narrative feel free and work in complete harmony. In that full cinema in Dalston the end credits ran and ran, nobody rushed to their feet, we eventually all left when the lights came on and then people gathered on the street by the cinema door, strangers laughing, chatting and gesticulating like Romans. I had the sensation that nobody wanted to part, to leave this great beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like that. This film will stay with me forever.

The Little Prince/ La Petit Prince (Antoine De Saint-Exupéry). This is the first book I really remember being read to me/reading. It’s a book from childhood and yet it’s not a book just for children. Written and illustrated by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, it tells the story of a little prince, who falls to earth from a star, a pilot in the desert and a boa constrictor. The premise is simple and the story simply told, and yet Saint-Exupéry creates a tale that is full of charm and meaning. A meditation.

The first edition I had was in French (my father’s I think). I couldn’t read French, so I grew enamoured with the illustrations, (which are now prolific as prints on novelty items and cards, and shirts) and my parents’ translations. I still have the tattered French copy and reread the book from time to time. His take on the important things in life still resonates and beguiles in a different way to the story of a little prince does as a child. It’s a book I think you can read and reread at any age and take pleasure, provocation and insight from. There aren’t many works of literature that are not only timeless, but bring delight to many generations. I have no doubt that’s why The Little Prince remains a favourite for not just me, but countless others. 


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