At The Front / Global
Mexico’s panda conundrum and Jetstar’s mid-air reversal. Plus: Swedish director Ruben Östlund on his Oscar-nominated film, Triangle of Sadness.
how to live: spring suggestions
Want to stay in the know? Tyler Brûlé has tips to help you make the most of the months ahead.
As the northern hemisphere starts to feel the approach of spring, it’s time to crack open the diary and fill up the to-do and to-buy lists. Here are a few pointers.
1. A new publication is always a welcome sight at the kiosk. Paris-based Le Journal du Dimanche has had a little refresh and is worth a peek if you have a fondness for Sunday papers.
2. By the time you read this, the fields of Alentejo will be waking up from their winter slumber. A long weekend at São Lourenço do Barrocal is just the tonic to shake off the grey months.
3. Kaptain Sunshine (a favourite Tokyo-based brand) has some good looks for spring. If you look hard, you might be able to track down the company’s recent collaboration with John Smedley – the perfect merino sweatshirt.
4. We had a sneak preview of the soon-to-relaunch Goods shop in Copenhagen. Pictures in these pages soon.
5. If you’re a regular in Lufthansa’s First Class lounges, you might have spotted a handsome guidebook with a natty yellow cover. This little collaboration with the monocle team is gearing up for broader distribution shortly, so pay attention to our shops and newsletters. Till then, you’ll need to fly at the front of the plane on Lufthansa to find it.
And finally, there are many monocle events on the go. Weekenders in St Moritz and Asheville, a sakura market in Zürich and book signings for our forthcoming title on Spain. Find details at monocle.com/events.
Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s unique brand of satire is gaining traction with audiences around the world. So much so that his latest film, Triangle of Sadness – satirising wealthy social-media influencers sailing on a luxury yacht – took home best picture, director and screenplay at the most recent Cannes Film Festival and has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture. Here, Östlund tells monocle about how his mother’s left-wing politics shaped his outlook, the creative potential of satire and a forthcoming project.
How did the idea for ‘Triangle of Sadness’ come about?
My mother became left-wing during the 1960s, so I was brought up with political discussions, thinking about our behaviour as a society and the world. When I met my wife, a fashion photographer, I became interested in hearing from someone who was working inside the fashion industry about how beauty can become a currency. The starting point for Triangle of Sadness was to look at beauty from an economic perspective, from a materialistic perspective.
Another one of your films, ‘The Square’, follows a Stockholm curator as he attempts to set up a controversial new exhibit. How does this film differ from your previous work?
I wanted this be wilder, more entertaining. At the same time, I wanted it to raise some of the questions I mentioned earlier.
Why is satire as an art form still important and relevant?
Sometimes, we can be afraid of saying things. But with satire you can push certain kinds of thoughts quite far.
Why do you think we’re so drawn to the lives of rich, terrible people on screen and on social media?
In Triangle of Sadness, I don’t think they’re terrible; they’re rich. They can do good and bad. And social media is a great way to play a character. It feels like a primal reaction. It’s hard to find something that capitalism has exploited that isn’t a core human behaviour.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a film called The Entertainment System is Down, which takes place on a long-haul flight. The story begins soon after takeoff, when the passengers get the news that the entertainment system is not working.
Monocle has a network of correspondents on the ground in cities around the world. Our news in brief includes changes to Thai office life, a British legal battle and a Swiss mountain dispatch.
Judging by the coworking community, business is booming. Operators are reporting an influx of new tenants and office space is hard to come by. It’s good news – but the city needs more shared spaces to keep up with the demand.
Oxford Street’s pedicabs, detested by Londoners for blaring loud music, have won a legal battle to prevent the regulation of their noise and pricing. It’s a loss for peace-loving locals and tourists being charged £300 (€340) for a 10-minute ride.
Off the rails
The decision to replace two existing cars on the Dolderbahn rack railway has caused a stir among locals who claim that the old vehicles had “cult status”. A petition to halt the swap was rejected, clearing the way for new golden cars.
Going for a song
With entries being finalised for the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, we reflect on the musicians who have used it (and similar reality shows) to launch their careers. Though some question the ability of such competitions to unearth authentic talent, in rare cases the contestants become bona fide stars.
Eric Nam, South Korea
Nam rose to fame on Star Audition: Birth of a Great Star 2, a Seoul-based TV show that placed him in the top five in 2013. Now the American singer tours the world and hosts a successful K-pop podcast.
Matt Corby, Australia
Singer-songwriter Matt Corby finished as runner-up in Australian Idol in 2007. But that didn’t stop his 2016 debut album, Telluric, from takling the top spot on the Australian charts. Today he boasts 1.7 million monthly Spotify listeners.
The Rome band (pictured) first appeared on Italy’s X Factor, before gaining recognition at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. Their hard-rock anthem “Zitti e buoni” became the first Italian song in three decades to gain a spot in the top 20 of the UK’s official chart.
Turn for the worse
The only good thing about flight delays is that glorious, transfixing rush of relief when the damn thing finally fires up its engines at the top of the runway: you’re away at last, nothing can now go wrong. This pleasure proved only temporary for the passengers of a recent Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali. They endured a five-hour delay before takeoff – and after four hours in the air, or about two thirds of the way to everyone’s holidays, the plane turned around and returned from whence it came.
The flight had originally been scheduled to be an Airbus a321 but this had been changed to a Boeing 787 to accommodate more passengers. However, while the arrival of the former had been cleared with Indonesian authorities, the latter had not. Jetstar apologised for the miscommunication and rose heroically above suggesting that the Indonesian regulator could perhaps, in the circumstances, have lightened up a bit.
Judging by the responses of the baffled passengers to local media – at least, those which were fit for print or broadcast – such blandishments as hotel stays and travel vouchers were little consolation. European readers will be able to think of at least one infamous budget airline that might have tried to style such a blunder out with an announcement of “Surprise!”
Loud and proud
The Danish people are generally a modest bunch. It’s an outlook that stems from the “Law of Jante”, a code of conduct for Danes first put forward by Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 satirical novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks. “You’re not to think you are anything special,” reads the first of 10 commandments in the widely read book. The following nine are just as soul-squashing.
This makes the recent opening of Fritz Hansen’s Design Hall (see here) a particularly ground-breaking exercise, as the museum-like space celebrates the brand’s rich design heritage to beautiful effect and some fanfare.
But then again, perhaps it’s actually a good thing that the Danes, especially its designers, are usually so self-effacing. If all of its furniture brands shouted about their achievements, no one else might dare try to design a chair again.
In the 1970s and 1980s, China rethought its programme of panda diplomacy, whereby it sent the mammals to zoos across the globe. In its early stages, the creatures had been gifts; they then became loans, with the further understanding that any cubs born on foreign assignment would be returned to China. Marooned by this policy change is the panda Xin Xin, a resident of Mexico’s Chapultepec Zoo, descended from the first pandas that arrived in the country in 1975.
Xin Xin is the last of her line and the last panda in Latin America. At a relatively elderly 32, she also presents the Mexican government, which foots her bill, with an existential question about the future of the zoo’s long-running panda programme. Why? Well, leasing pandas from China is now a commitment that has lasted decades at a cost running north of $1m (€916,000) a year.
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was elected on a platform of pious, hairshirted austerity – and it is rather difficult to pitch new pandas as anything other than luxury items.
But this is a policy that can – and should – be pursued: new pandas would be a sound investment in Mexico’s tourist trade, its relationship with China and, of course, pandas themselves. Souvenir fridge magnets of pandas should cover the cost of bamboo swiftly enough.
ILLUSTRATOR: Antonio Sortino.
Images: Shutterstock, Getty Images