The Quarantine Diaries, Week Three

Saturday 28 March – Friday 3 April

Watching:

Made it through Season 4 of The Americans which had a curiously fitting storyline about pathogens and pandemics.

Also had a very good week for film-watching, here are some highlights:

  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always; the new Eliza Hittman, which sustains her reputation as a filmmaker of solemn, stirring insight. As with It Felt Like Love and Beach Rats it concerns teenagers, but with more narrative drive or urgency in that one its young female characters must journey to New York to procure an abortion. Hard-hitting but with a feather-light touch.
  • The Last Days of Disco; Whit Stillman movies are always a riot of witty repartee and sly social commentary, and this being soundtracked to a raft of disco tunes makes it all the more delightful.
  • Thief; Michael Mann’s gorgeously shot neo-noir about a thief trying to get out after one last job. Hypnotic, moody and tense. And goddamn, that diner scene is one for the books.
  • Breathless; a Godardian classic. I enjoyed the pace and the wry humour, the misogyny less so.

Reading:

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, a slick piece of meta-fiction set in an American drama school in the 80s, ostensibly about two of its students who fall in love, but equally about power, performance and privilege. She creates a narrative which she then assiduously pokes holes in from the perspective of another character, decades later. It’s remarkably clever and occasionally confounding. I’m not sure I cared about any of the characters, but I was invested on a formal level, always wondering what path I was going to be lead down and if Choi would ever pull back the curtain to reveal the true story.

Another Gaze 04. I have an essay in the latest issue on the cinematography of Ashley Connor and creating an aesthetic that is particular to teenage female identity, but the issue is full of conversations, interviews and meditations on creative practice, the environment and womanhood and I’m thoroughly enjoying meandering through it.

I’ve also been really enjoying Simran Hans’ newsletter Treats.

And this feature in The Atlantic on why the pandemic is a disaster for feminism.

Listening to:

Dua Lipa over and over and over again. Her new album Future Nostalgia is a perfect pop album, an anthemic feminist statement and the best excuse I’ve heard to dance this year. It’s a disco-driven, ballad-free, bravado-heavy feat of music. My fave tracks are Cool and Pretty Please.

This brilliant episode of Recode Decode with Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List.

This episode of Call Your Girlfriend, about curating and customising an environment you want to live in.

Doing:

Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. I’m very much in that part of the routine where everything’s fine, and I’m enjoying being able to read and mooch and ponder and wander more, but where it’s becoming increasingly hard to talk about what you’re up to. Easy answer: nothing. But that doesn’t warm you to people. It’s good to talk about books and films and ideas and I’m grateful to have a short film side project where I can feel like I’m achieving something practical, but sometimes it feels like what I’m really doing is trying to impose structure – with varying degrees of success – on an amorphous puddle of time. Turning the gloopy batter of our existence into a small, digestible pancake so that it might make the whole thing go down easier.

I have also been dancing to lots of Dua Lipa.

Cooking

Vegan mushroom stroganoff. I used the linked recipe as a basis but swapped out the oat cream for coconut milk, which made it slightly more saucy, but no less delicious.

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