Creative Sensemaker

A model in a peach yellow dress on the catwalk in a large arched building

A rundown of the week’s cultural moments, books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona    Above image: London Fashion Week (Getty)    Friday 11 September, 2020    Long read

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media. This is fast becoming the Age of the Hybrid: split your working week between home and office; go to college, but tune in to lectures online; socialise, but only with six people.

In the same spirit – albeit more glamorously – this year’s autumn London Fashion Week will mix it up with an audacious combination of physical and digital events, films and livestreaming, and interviews and interactions. Kicking off with Burberry’s live, no-audience event in a rural setting on Thursday 17 September, LFW wraps up with a film by Richard Quinn on Tuesday 22 September.

Along the way, there are the latest offers from designers including Vivienne Westwood, Matty Bovan and Bethany Williams, as well as Erdem Moralıoğlu, Feng Chen Wang, and Bora Aksu. You can check out the full schedule here.

This is more than digital playtime for designers waiting for footfall to return to Bond Street. The UK fashion industry is worth £26bn and supports 800,000 jobs. Its world-renowned colleges will be reopening soon, presenting huge challenges for teachers and students alike – not least the question of how to make a COVID-19-secure studio work.

So, LFW is more than a celebration (though it is certainly that). It is also intended to be an act of collective defiance, signalling that even as the luxury goods sector struggles with the new realities of corona-world, it will not hoist the white flag. Far from it. The word used time and again is ‘reset’. This is an opportunity for fashion, as a key expression of the zeitgeist, to consider afresh its values, priorities and objectives.

To get you in the mood, the British Fashion Council has a series of podcasts that are well worth a listen – such as this one featuring Dylan Jones, BFC Menswear Chair and Editor-in-Chief of British GQ, talking to musician and BFC ambassador Tinie Tempah.

Gender neutral; URL and IRL; COVID-19-conscious, but undaunted: welcome to the culture of autumn 2020.

Here are our weekly recommendations:
A female astronaut sits in a spaceship


The Roads Not Taken (cinemas)
Any film directed by Sally Potter and starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Salma Hayek and Laura Linney is bound to be – at the very least – intriguing. And this study of a man suffering from dementia, splintering into an often-bewildering series of timelines and personalities, is a tour de force. Bardem, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2008, deserves to be nominated for the main award this year.

Memories Of Murder (cinemas and Curzon Home Cinema)
Seventeen years after its release, this is a welcome return for Bong Joon-ho’s second feature film. Inspired by South Korea’s first recorded serial murders, this police thriller is worth seeing in its own right (not least for the performance of Song Kang-ho, Bong’s actor alter ego), but also as an early portent of what was to come in the world-conquering Parasite.

Away (Netflix)
If, like me, you were disappointed that Hulu cancelled its mission-to-Mars series, The First (starring Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone) after only one season, then seek comfort in this enjoyable alternative version of the same basic concept. Hilary Swank is the commander of an international crew on a three-year mission to the red planet. She and her fellow astronauts seem to have been mostly selected because of their difficult home lives on Earth, which is formulaic but makes for superior space soap.

The Devil All The Time (Netflix)
Spiderman versus Batman? Not quite, but many will stream this psychological thriller to see how Tom Holland fares as a screen presence up against Robert Pattinson in a slice of American Gothic, set in small-town Ohio after the war. And the answer is: pretty well. Sidenote: Antonio Campos is a director to watch.

The Contender (Amazon Prime)
There should be a category of films that could have been classics with just a slight turn of the dial – better pacing, editing, a touch more nuance. Famously disowned by Gary Oldman, who plays the Republican congressman determined to prevent Joan Allen becoming Vice President, Rod Lurie’s political thriller still feels contemporary 20 years on. The hounding of Allen’s character over her alleged sexual past provides the spine of the tale, alongside which the alpha-male sparring between Oldman and Jeff Bridges as President Lebowski (Evans, actually) is both gripping and queasy to behold. A masterpiece of political cinema – almost.
Two books on a grey background
A book on a grey background


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Enjoying their retirement, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce and Ron gather weekly to chew over unsolved murders, until they find themselves investigating a horrible killing that has taken place in their midst. A genuine page-turner by the co-host of the quiz show Pointless.

Rage by Bob Woodward
Woodward has been chronicling US politics since he and Carl Bernstein brought down the Nixon administration with their Watergate reporting. His second book on Donald Trump’s presidency – written with Trump’s cooperation – has already caused huge controversy. In February, the President told Woodward in private that he knew full well how deadly coronavirus was, flatly contradicting what he was then telling the American people. Should Woodward have reported what he knew immediately, alerting the public to the big lie? Of course. But that doesn’t alter the fact that this is essential reading as the November presidential election draws ever closer.

Diana Rigg: The Biography by Kathleen Tracy
A little dated, but still easy to get hold of online, this remains the best book on the great Avengers, Bond and Game Of Thrones star, who died on Thursday aged 82. Though an accomplished stage actress, she will be remembered for almost single-handedly inventing the character of the kick-ass female lead role. Had Dame Diana not made the role of Emma Peel so unforgettable, there might never have been a Ripley, Sarah Connor, or The Bride in Kill Bill. RIP.
Grey bubble writing of the word Hannah
A woman with a large space helmet on her head


L’Ere du Verseau by Yelle
Returning after six years, Yelle (Julie Budet) and GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier) deliver a fourth studio album of French electropop. Catchy as ever, their music has grown more thoughtful over the years. You would not guess that these often-melancholic tracks were recorded before quarantine.

Goldberg Variations by Lang Lang
Perhaps the world’s most famous classical performer plays Bach’s most celebrated work – quite a convergence, really. To add to the intensity, Lang Lang recorded two versions: once in concert at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig (the site of Bach’s grave), and in the studio. The results are nothing short of sublime.

Hannah by Lomelda
Intensely personal, poetic music from the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Hannah Read that gets under the skin from the first track, ‘Kisses’. Read has said her aim is to produce songs that are ‘as close and as clear as possible so that there’s no hiding anything’ – and there is no question that she means it.
A painting of a flower in a glass against the desert night sky
Agnes Pelton at the Whitney Museum


Whitney Museum of American Art (New York) – Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist
Recently reopened, the museum has revived its acclaimed exhibition of the symbolist painter Pelton (1881-1961). Mystical, baffling and luminous, this is art for a time of anxious reawakening. On until 1 November. Pre-booked, timed tickets essential.

The British Museum – Edmund de Waal: Library Of Exile
An ingenious installation by the writer and artist de Waal, comprising 2,000 texts by exiled writers ranging from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Camus’s Exile And The Kingdom, and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea

Stay safe – and support the arts.

Best wishes,

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media
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