Culture cuts / Global
With big-screen portraits of beloved writers and pop visionaries, rediscovered novels and moving beaches, this will be a summer to remember.
This story of three sisters growing up outside Athens before the Second World War is set over three warm summers during which Maria, Infanta and Katerina live, love and discover who and what they want to be. A replenishing book about the strange and exciting state of adolescent girlhood, it is part of the Penguin European Writers series – a list of forgotten classics by European writers, launched by UK-based imprint Viking in 2018 as a response to Brexit.
‘Three Summers’ is published on 8 July
The Union of Synchronised Swimmers
In an unnamed Soviet state, six cigarette factory workers meet daily to swim in the river that separates east from west. At first they’re just messing around between shifts, but over time their movements become “determined” and turn into a single entity, “inseparable from the river as the reeds and the stone”. Granted visas to represent their country in the Olympics, these girls grasp at their only chance for freedom, scattering to six strange new lives all of their own.
‘The Union of Synchronised Swimmers’ is out now
Small Bodies ofWater
Nina Mingya Powles
In this book, poet Nina Mingya Powles examines her experience of growing up between cultures separated by immense bodies of water. She was born in Wellington to a Malaysian mother and grew up between the Antipodes, New York and Shanghai. Memoir, nature writing and cultural criticism combine in these essays to examine a host of subjects from food, language and family to butterflies and earthquakes.
‘Small Bodies of Water’ is out on 5 August
Ride a Cockhorse
Originally published in 1990, and harking back to the late 1980s financial crisis, this swashbuckling story of small-town rabble-rousing is an unexpectedly hilarious delight. Almost overnight, 45-year-old Frances Fitzgibbons, a widowed mortgage officer at a Massachusetts bank, discovers both a gift for “persuasive speech” and a “sudden quickening of her libido”. Without further ado, she starts wreaking havoc all over town, with her minions (her dedicated hairdresser and her adoring son-in-law) in tow. Soon to be a film starring Rachel Weisz in the lead role, this welcome reissue is a force to be reckoned with.
‘Ride a Cockhorse’ is out now
In Deerskin, Jean Dujardin finds himself captivated by a jealous, volatile, enchanting and impeccably styled lover; in short, the archetypal femme fatale. Except that “she” is a suede jacket that demands Dujardin steals and destroys all rival coats. To try to find any parable of vanity or obsession in this absurdist story is to miss the point of Quentin Dupieux’s deliriously strange, eminently entertaining comedy-horror film. At a pithy 77 minutes, the weirdness doesn’t outstay its welcome.
‘Deerskin’ is released on 30 July
Finland’s most beloved cartoon, The Moomins, made the leap from page to screen long ago but Tove is the first film to feature its creator, author and illustrator Tove Jansson, as its subject. Compared to her books, this biopic set in the years just before and after she achieved international renown is a more conventional affair – a portrait of an artist. It is elevated, however, by Alma Pöysti’s magnetic lead performance as a charismatic, sensitive woman who didn’t always experience the joy that her work elicited in others.
‘Tove’ is released on 9 July
The Sparks Brothers
Who are Sparks? The question that is posed at the very start of this documentary captures the essence of a cult band relatively unknown to mainstream listeners and enigmatic even to devotees. Director Edgar Wright presents a laudably exhaustive effort at providing answers as he traces the group’s 50-year journey from artsy glam-rockers to indie outliers via innovative electronica. Interspersed with archive footage and a killer soundtrack are a host of talking-head testimonies from famous fans and musical disciples, as well as commentary from the brothers themselves, who are as weird and wonderful as ever.
‘The Sparks Brothers’ is released on 30 July
After spending some three decades creating unique and fantastical worlds, the team at Pixar seem to have realised that there really is no place they could conceive that is more magical than the Cinque Terre. That’s the premise of their latest film, Luca, which is a story about a young, shape-shifting sea-creature who wants nothing more than to live as a fish-out-of-water in a sun-baked town on the Italian Riviera. An adventurous tale replete with characteristically luscious visuals, it promises to be an endearing summery hit.
‘Luca’ is out now
Summer of Soul
The year 1969 will always be associated with Woodstock. But in New York, another equally defining event took place that summer. Nearly 300,000 people went to The Harlem Cultural Festival to witness its celebration of black music and culture, with magnetic performances by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and BB King. Until now, footage of the festival has never been televised. In his first feature film, Thompson (aka Questlove of The Roots) has painstakingly sifted through the archives to tell the event’s story. The result is a joyous picture that’s been praised by critics; it has also won the Grand Jury and Audience Award at Sundance.
‘Summer of Soul’ is released on 16 July
After two albums and a book dedicated to the pain of losing her mother, Michelle Zauner, the frontwoman of Japanese Breakfast, is closing the book on grief and opening the door to joy. Co-produced by Zauner’s frequent collaborator Craig Hendrix, Jubilee is a personal and playful record that contains a whole lot of horns, saxophones, trombones, trumpets, strings, songs about billionaires’ bunkers and a couple of melancholy tracks for good measure.
‘Jubilee’ is out now
Erika de Casier
Erika de Casier spent much of her adolescence glued to mtv, digesting the huge number of brilliant r&b songs and videos it showed in the early 2000s. Born in Portugal and raised in Denmark, she now writes and records music inspired by the soft beats she listened to as a teenager. Her latest album, Sensational, sees De Casier maturing vocally and evolving from sparkly Destiny’s Child-style tracks into soulful Sade territory.
‘Sensational’ is out now
Nearly 300,000 people went to The Harlem Cultural Festival to witness its celebration of black music and culture, with magnetic performances by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and BB King
Into the Blue
Rose Gallery, Los Angeles
From Titian’s perfect ultramarine skies to Picasso’s blue period and Yves Klein’s conceptual monochrome brilliance, blue has arguably been the most obsessed-over colour in art history. This exhibition promises to explore even further the potential for mystery and intimacy that blue in all its hues promises. There’s a nude figure reclining on blue velvet, beachgoers bathing under blue skies and abstract colour-field explorations. Across painting, photography and installation by the likes of US photographer Kennedi Carter and Massachusetts-based illustrator Gayle Kabaker, this show takes a deep dive into the colour’s symbolism.
‘Into the Blue’ runs until 14 August
Sun and Sea (Marina)
An opera on an artificial beach was the surprise hit of the 2019 Venice Art Biennale. Twenty-four performers lounged on the sand singing songs about everyday worries and impending climate-change doom, winning themselves the Golden Lion in the process. It’s a surreal, affecting and wistfully unique work of art that is now travelling around Europe, with forthcoming stops in Germany, Italy and Sweden.
‘Sun and Sea (Marina)’ is showing at E-Werk Luckenwalde, Teatro Argentina in Rome and Malmö Konsthall until November
Still life: Tony Hay. Images: 2021 Disney/Pixar, Blue Finch Film Releasing, Focus Features, Peter Ash Lee, Andrej Vasilenko, Courtesy of the Artists