Japan’s film industry is celebrating after box-office sales last year hit a record ¥235bn (€1.9bn). For the first time in more than four decades, cinema admissions exceeded 180 million, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. The last time there were this many cinemagoers was before VCRs and rental movies took off. One reason for the boom is the steady increase in Cineplex screens since the 1990s. But perhaps the most encouraging sign for Japanese studios is that their line up is hitting home. Escapist fare such as anime blockbuster Your Name and monster movie Shin Godzilla is drawing crowds and topping the charts.
There’s never a bad time for a tuneful, thoughtful, photogenic Danish pop group to come sidling into your critical rear-view mirror, of course, but this winter has been long and Lowly’s debut LP Heba (out yesterday on Bella Union) couldn’t be more welcome. Their smart, contemporary electronica tunes with clever time signatures and glacier-with-a-heart vocals are happily as Scandinavian as Lowly’s God-given way with a warm melody. God-given? Actually, the five-piece met at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus – they learnt to write and play in the most rigorous way. If you wish the xx sounded a bit more like Stina Nordenstam (as well you might), you will love Lowly.
LA’s expanding art market continues to attract major names: this spring, auction house Christie’s will open its first flagship destination in the city. The two-storey gallery space in Beverly Hills, conceived by US-based design firm Why – also behind the soon-to-open Marciano Art Foundation – will make a good neighbour for the Gagosian, which has been around since 1995. It’s an upgrade on the office space currently occupied by Christie’s and should help to boost business in the City of Angels – an area of growth for the historic auction house, which enjoyed art sales totalling €4.7bn last year. With galleries such as Sprüth Magers and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel flocking to the Californian city, it’s undeniable that LA has established itself as a significant international art destination. “Southern California has been an important market for Christie’s for nearly four decades and is now one of our most active regions for new buyers,” says Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s CEO. “With this new flagship, we are creating a dynamic convening space for both emerging and established collectors.”
New England novelist Ottessa Moshfegh’s first collection of short stories, Homesick for Another World, published by Penguin Press, hones in on dead-end US towns – holiday homes here, a mall in Malibu there – and their imperfect, jaded inhabitants. Her characters may be irresolute, restless and a mite savage but the tales are propulsive and her prose sharp. Moshfegh’s fêted first full-length novel, Eileen, brought her fame and a Booker Prize nomination when it came out in 2015 but her short stories have been even more anticipated and offer an alternative view of her appetite for wallowing in and documenting the darker side of existence. She has been compared to writer Flannery O'Connor and certainly doesn’t disappoint.
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