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Truman Capote’s Vanishing act

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Just after Christmas 1956, Truman Capote and his friend Cecil Beaton took a plane to Honolulu en route to Japan. Work was always work for Capote but for Beaton everything was pleasure: the photographer watched the celebrated young novelist go about his business and grew excited by his methods. “Truman can remember facts, dates, sums of money with an uncanny sharpness,” wrote Beaton in his diary. “His powers of concentration are greater than any I’ve known; he is interested in many aspects of life, and has a great sense of humour. Above all, he is a marvellous travelling companion.”

The chief purpose of the trip, from Capote’s point of view, was to research a piece on a new Marlon Brando film, Sayonara, which was to be directed by Joshua Logan and shot on location in Kyoto. The piece would be for the New Yorker, whose editors, before Capote’s departure, had failed to pass on the message that Logan would not allow him on to the set.

Capote’s biographer Gerald Clarke takes up the story. ‘”Don’t let yourself be left alone with Truman,” Logan had warned Brando in January 1957. “He’s after you.” But Brando, who loathed interviews and interviewers – “My soul is a private place,” he declared – invited Truman to dinner in his hotel nonetheless, simply to be polite. “He didn’t know I was going to do a whole piece on him,” said Truman. “How could he? I didn’t know either.”‘ Capote turned up simply with a smile and a photographic memory. “The secret art of interviewing,” he said later, “and it is an art, is to let the other person think he’s interviewing you. You tell him everything about yourself, and slowly you spin your web so that he tells you everything. That’s how I trapped Marlon.”

Interviewing is not a democratic art. It is neither a display of equal merits nor a test of good character: it is, as Capote says, an art, as well as a one-sided record of a human interaction, one in which the author may appear only as it suits the story and vanish without guilt. “The little bastard spent half the night telling me all his problems,” said Brando. “I figured the least I could do was tell him some of mine.”

There are a number of things going on in the piece written around the interview, none of them boring. The first is that Capote is fulfilling his wish to write something for the New Yorker that might go beyond the usual boundaries of journalism in conjuring a powerful element of fictional reality. He was on his way to writing In Cold Blood, the masterpiece of the genre, and the Brando interview was a kind of stylistic preparation for that: a brilliant study in point-of-view.

If Gustave Flaubert had set himself up as an interviewer, he might have gone about it pretty much like Truman Capote, who always seems to know more about his subject than the subject can know about himself. For a start, there are all the things about Brando’s person that Brando isn’t noticing: his mannerisms, his looks, the stuff around him and the way he behaves and reclines. And then there’s the things people say about him, and the way he sets up an atmosphere and a momentum for each of the things that Brando says. Capote made no notes and had no recorder, but he chose the phrases and weighed them and deposited them in the bank.

This interview is one of the great celebrity interviews because of the intense interest it takes in the idea of specialness, committed to paper by a writer exhibiting quite a measure of specialness himself. As it happens, the best interviewers of celebrities tend to have a great sense of self. That doesn’t mean they have to be famous, as Capote was, but with certain subjects that might prove to be helpful.

Capote could make it all about him, while at the same time disappearing into the flow of Brando’s indiscretions. Our guide is a novelist, so even the background isn’t just background: it’s all about how a person called Truman Capote first met an actor called Marlon Brando during rehearsals in New York for a play called A Streetcar Named Desire, and how Truman discovered Marlon asleep on a table that was set up in the middle of the stage in the afternoon. This isn’t just fact, it’s a little scoop, a moment of communion between author and subject, and with that copy of The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud balanced on the sleeping actor’s chest, it is a sequence that buzzes with psychoanalytic poetry. Given what happened to Capote in later life, you might be allowed to feel that in his famous interview with Marlon Brando the young writer’s sense of communion was everything. “Too much success can ruin you as surely as too much failure,” he heard Brando say.

Andrew O’Hagan is a novelist and writer.

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‘The Square’ Interview with Ruben Östlund, Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss

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Director Ruben Östlund is an adventurer of Swedish film and a hard man to satiate. It is seen in his Oscar-nominated film – The Square that has received much attention. Here is an excerpt from the interview with The Playlist as actors Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss share their experience with the movie and the director.

Claes Bang: Can I tell you a funny story from Cannes?

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah.

Claes Bang: When we were [at Cannes] there was this Screen International journalist, Wendy Mitchell, and she saw the film, she loved it, and she started [rooting] for me as best actor. She put on her Facebook page she put “The Daily Bang” and posted a new photo of me every day. Invented the hashtag #BangforBond.

Elisabeth Moss: So good!

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Claes Bang : At the end of the festival, all these predictions come out, right? My agents were fanning me. “It says in Variety now that you’re gonna win. It says in the Daily Telegraph you’re gonna win. It says in The Guardian.” It said everywhere and I started fucking believing the hype. I did. I started believing the hype, because everybody was saying, “It’s an amazing film. It’s so fucking good, but you’re not gonna win the big thing because it’s too funny.” So when we got that phone call on Sunday…

The Playlist: And they told Ruben to come, too, it wasn’t just…

Claes Bang: No, no. They invite the entire crew that is there. So they said to come and I was like, “Fuck, I’m gonna get [an] award.” So when they said, “And the award for Best Actor goes to,” I was almost fucking getting my ass out of the seat and then they said, “Joaquin Phoenix.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll stay put.” Then the next prize went, the next prize went, the next prize went and there was just one left. I leaned over to Rupert and I said, “Unless they’re really fucking with us, we’re gonna get the big one.” We got the big one and I was like, really, really so fucking happy about it, and he was, and everything was exploding, and then five minutes later I was like, “Wait a fucking second. What the fuck was that? He stole my award,that fucking Swedish wanker.” (Laughs.) So what happened is that all the people that get the awards, they go off to a press conference.

Elisbeth Moss: Yeah.

The Playlist: Yeah, I was at the press conferences.

Claes Bang: There’s an amazing party that starts out on the top of the Palais overlooking this harbor with all the boats and everything. Then you go down to the beach where there’s a department of a French restaurant that’s just the most amazing food, champagne, people in tuxes. I mean, amazing. I started to get a little bit pissed. I got quite drunk and then Ruben came back from the press conference and I saw him over there, and I was like, “I’m fucking gonna hurt him now. I’m fucking gonna go over there and kick his ass.”

The Playlist: Really?

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Claes Bang: I was so mad. I was really … and I have done really, really stupid stuff when I’m drunk. So, I said to my wife, “We need to leave now.” So we left.

Elisabeth Moss: That’s the danger of believing the hype! That’s why after eight nominations I will never convince me of anything else other than that I’m gonna lose.

Claes Bang: And Ruben texted me something at [1 AM asking] “Where the fuck are you? I mean, we won and everybody’s asking for you.” I mean, everybody there had seen that film and unless you know Ruben, you don’t know that he is the guy, but everybody knew that I was sort of the lead of the film. And I was just…

Elisabeth Moss: Gone.

Claes Bang: I was gone.

The Playlist: But when you woke up the next morning with the hangover were you at least excited?

Claes Bang: I had to get up like, fuck dead early the next morning. That was one of the things. I had a show in Edinburgh that next night.

The Playlist: But when you were going to the airport, on the plane, you must have been thinking “Holy cow!” because when you make a movie you don’t necessarily think it’s going to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Claes Bang: No, and my wife, she was so fucking mad with me. She said, “We’re leaving the party of our lives. There’s boom boom boom and they all want to talk to you, and now we’re leaving.” “Yes,” I said, “This is not where I’m gonna kill a director or try and break the Palme d’Or in half to say ‘This is mine’ or something.”

Elisabeth Moss: But how Ruben Ostlund would that have been if the lead actor and the director got into a fight?

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Claes Bang: Exactly.

The Playlist: Yes!

Claes Bang: When I told him this story, because I’ve told him and I’ve told the press and everything now, he was just like, “This is the best story of the whole shoot.”

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah, it’s the greatest!

The Playlist: He’s gonna put this in a movie now. You realize this, right?

Claes Bang: It’s cool. It’s fine. It’s no problem. Listen, what I actually find quite funny is that when you think about it, it’s like, “Oh my God, no. Did I do that?” But when I tell the story people are like, “Finally, someone is coming out and saying I was really, really disappointed not to win.”

Elisabeth Moss: Right. Totally, yes.

Claes Bang: It was literally something like five or six places where it said, “He’s gonna win it.” I fucking believed it.

Elisabeth Moss: Of course. It’s dangerous!

The Playlist: By the way, I’m one of those people that do the stuff that say “these people are going to win.”

Elisabeth Moss: Right, exactly!

The Playlist: So, I guess I apologize?

Elisabeth Moss: No, by all means. It’s your job, but it’s like…

Claes Bang: I have this thing also that was like, “Okay, they really invited a rookie to Cannes. Now we’re gonna fuck with him.”

The Playlist: It’s not personal!

Claes Bang: “We’re gonna build him up, we’re gonna make him believe, and then-”

Elisabeth Moss: “We’re gonna take it away. Just to teach him a lesson.”

The Playlist: Elisabeth, you weren’t at the ceremony. Were you there for the premiere and then you left?

Elisabeth Moss: I went to Antibes which is like 45 minutes, a half an hour away or something. Nobody asked me to go to the Palme d’Or Ceremony.

The Playlist: Oh, they didn’t call and tell you? I thought they gave everyone 24 hours notice.

Claes Bang: No. For instance, if you’re in Japan and you’ve gone back to Japan and you’re getting an award, they will let you know in time so you can get on a plane.

Disclaimer: Photographs utilized by this page is not the sole property of the page or it administrators; the photos utilized by us come from around the worldwide web and are shared publicly.

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CHRISTO TALKS: “IT’S NOT A PROFESSION, IT’S EXISTENCE”

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Christo, you and your wife Jeanne-Claude were born on the exact same day in 1935, but in completely different countries. Do you believe in destiny?

Jeanne-Claude always said, “There are a million people born on the same day.” But it happened that we met, that’s all. That is something not unusual. But there are many things that are not destiny. You make your own destiny.

You worked together for nearly 50 years. Would you have become the same artist without her?

It’s the same question to ask, “What would happen if I were Chinese?” (Laughs) We cannot discuss these things – if, if, if – there are no ifs. After living for 80 years, there are no ifs. I can only say one if and it was that I was rather lucky to escape in 1957 to the West. I had never been outside of Bulgaria until 1956 and if I didn’t go to the West, things would have probably been different.

The Soviets had a very strict policy against modern art so you might have not made art at all.

I was drawing all the time as a little boy, like 5 or 6 years old, and it was at this age that I decided to be an artist. There was never a thought about anything else. But it’s true, in the late ’40s and early ’50s most modern art was not permitted to be seen in the Soviet Bloc countries. There were some very bad reproductions and old books… I desperately tried to go beyond Bulgaria and the Soviet Bloc, but even going to other communist countries was very difficult. Fortunately my aunt and my uncle were living in Prague and finally I succeeded in finding a way to visit them. And I was totally flabbergasted by Prague!

Why?

It was the most Western country. Even before the chance to fully escape came into view, I had already decided that I was never going to go back to Bulgaria! I was going to stay in Prague. I was young, like 21 years old, and when you’re young and you discover the relatively small freedom of the Western art in Czechoslovakia and Prague in the late ’50s, suddenly you dream of going to Paris! And this is how the stage was set for me to go to Paris.

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THE ANA ROŠ TALK: “IT HAS TO DO WITH OUR OWN PERSONALITY”

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Ms. Roš, what are the main challenges in Slovenian cuisine today?

I think Slovenia is slowly, slowly stepping on the world gastronomic map. But my generation of chefs needs to fight for every single step, and every decision is opening a new door. If you work in Italy or Germany, and you cook well, sooner or later you will get the recognition that you need — there is the Michelin Guide, there is Gault Millau, there is the L’Espresso Guide. While in Slovenia, you can be really good, but up to the moment when the international community acknowledges you, you are actually no one.

You have been the head chef of Hiša Franko in Kobarid for almost 20 years — and it wasn’t until this year that you were recognized as the number one female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy.

Right, it’s a very, very slow process. Everybody travels for food to Copenhagen, London, or Paris, but who knows where Kobarid is? So it has been a long, long struggle and fight. It doesn’t have only to do with the quality of the restaurant; you have to prove that you are worth certain awards three times more than in developed countries.

“Creativity is something that does not come only from our childhood — it has a lot to do with our own personality.”

I guess the former Yugoslavia doesn’t necessarily come to mind as a haven for creativity in fine dining. What was it like growing up there in the 1990s?

Well, my mother was actually a brilliant cook. She was a journalist and a very creative person, so our meals at home were very colorful and never repeated. But if I think of the food from my childhood, I think of a simple pasta dish with homemade tomato sauce. It really was a super flavorful meal, with a drop of olive oil on the top and with no cheese. That was the most loved meal when I was a child! That is what they call, “happy food.” You know, my children would kill for it.

My parents lived through the communist regime and told me they used to get so excited over simple things like bananas because they were so rare.

Yes but you know, Yugoslavia never had a very strict organization of the country — the borders were open and we could travel. Tito was a “bon vivant” and he was letting his people have a pretty free life. So Yugoslavia had a lot of good things as well. I think Yugoslavia was a place with a lot of creative people; culture was super strong, especially in Zagreb and Belgrade. But I think that creativity is something that either is in a person or is not. Let’s say I have two children and they are both raised in the same way. The girl is super creative and totally irrational, while the boy is totally rational and not creative at all. I think it is something that does not come only from our childhood or from our upbringing or from the regime in which we lived in — it has a lot to do with our own personality.

Do you feel more creative and irrational, or the other way around?

Oh, I’m too instinctive sometimes! You see, my problem — and sometimes it is also a good thing — is that I don’t question a lot. I actually just jump in the water and swim and I am a kind of personality that is never happy with average results. At Hiša Franko, I never questioned myself about how it is going to be like, especially because I never had any prior experience of seeing how a restaurant really works and I’m completely self-taught so it was like a total experiment and we are still making corrections.

Source: The Talk

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