HTSI editor’s letter: go back to school with Sofia Coppola and Thom Yorke
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Welcome back after what I hope has been a quiet August, and a chance to reset before the autumn surge. (Commiserations also if you spent your holidays in the UK, which endured an unnecessary amount of rain.) This weekend’s edition offers a little curtain-raiser for the season to come. In this back-to-school issue, we’re focusing on names and projects that will give you a flavour of the cultural mood.
Full disclosure: I have been obsessed with Sofia Coppola since seeing The Virgin Suicides, her debut film, in 1999. In a cinematic landscape dominated by Tarantino, Soderbergh and other ultra-masculine directors, Coppola’s world, by contrast, was gorgeously feminine, quietly subversive and very small. The industry has since become more female-focused – I write this as Barbie has become this year’s highest-grossing film. I consider Coppola the essential progenitor of this new landscape: plus I’m mad about her personal sense of style. We spoke about her eighth film, Priscilla, in Paris, shortly before the SAG-AFTRA strike. At a time when independent filmmaking is so financially difficult and compromised, it was a treat to meet someone I consider an auteur.
Just as Coppola inspires a certain brand of interest, Thom Yorke inspires the kind of ardour more usually the preserve of teenage fans. As the main vocalist and songwriter of Radiohead, he is considered one of the most significant voices in rock music, as well as having composed a wealth of independent soundtracks, songs and scores. This issue examines another seam in his boundless talent: in an exhibition with his friend Stanley Donwood, The Crow Flies, Yorke will show his paintings for the first time. The works, depicting imagined landscapes, were painted as a duo, for the Radiohead spin-off group The Smile. They were produced in Yorke’s garden studio, where the pair would take turns to wield the paintbrush. Donwood is painstaking and obsessive, the opposite of the more “explosive” Yorke.
Elsewhere in this throng of independent voices, we meet the painter Mandy El-Sayegh and beauty entrepreneur April Gargiulo. El-Sayegh uses printed matter (including the FT newspaper) to create hybrid pieces that viewers can read as a forensic study of her personal life and politics, or simply absorb in a more abstracted way. This year has seen her open three solo exhibitions – a glimpse, she says, into the “inside of her head”. She’s especially proud of how her work represents a journey for her family, from “abject poverty” into the “bourgeoisie”.
Meanwhile, Gargiulo has used her experience in the family business of winemaking to create Vintner’s Daughter, a multi-award-winning beauty brand. The beauty of Vintner’s Daughter is not in its massive offering, but how, with only two products in its 10-year standing, it has maintained a steady 30-35 per cent annual growth. Gargiulo has taken the fundamentals of viticulture and distilled them in a completely different realm. As she launches her third product following a four-year period of research and development, she explains why, when it comes to driving an authentic business, she’s got all the time in the world.
FT Weekend Festival
FT Weekend Festival returns on Saturday September 2 at Kenwood House Gardens, London. Book your tickets to enjoy a day of debates, tastings, Q&As and more . . . Speakers include Henry Holland, Rosh Mahtani, Patrick Grant, Alice Lascelles, Skye McAlpine and many others, plus all your favourite FT writers and editors. Register now at ft.com/festival.