Tuesday. 23/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Kiss and tell

Non, the kiss is not over with.” Those were the hopeful words of Franck Riester, France’s culture minister, as he announced that film production was returning to the country – and with it the on-screen kiss (don’t worry, actors will be tested first). And let’s be honest, who could envision a French film – or any film for that matter – without a bit of raunch?

Indeed, some media outlets have been declaring the end of romance on the big and small screens at a time when cinematic chemistry has been keeping many of us sane while we have lacked close contact ourselves. One of the shows that captured attention during lockdown was Normal People (pictured), an adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel. And surely we can admit that the incredibly frequent steamy scenes were among the reasons for its success. And for something a bit less charming, just look at one of the most popular films on Netflix in recent weeks: some have described 365 Days (or 365 DNI in its original Polish title) as soft porn. Perhaps it is but it’s still a runaway hit – and we can expect a sequel soon.

I’ve often worried about the end of affection or sex on the big screen. Over the past few decades, films have become a bit anodyne; too many wizards, monsters, superheroes and bland couples. But perhaps my fears were misplaced: audiences seem to be tiring of the fantasy world and TV networks are once again producing racier and more daring series. The French, of course, have always offered films portraying intimacy in a magical way – and I, for one, am glad that they will continue to do so.

Defence / USA & East Asia

Raising the stakes

Today is publication day for The Room Where It Happened, the White House memoir by John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser. The book contains confirmation that, on behalf of the president, Bolton had proposed last year that Japan pay $8bn (€7.1bn) annually to host the 50,000 American troops stationed in the country – more than four times the sum it currently hands over. Another proposal also sought to raise South Korea’s payment for the US forces stationed there to $5bn (€4.4bn), up from $870m (€770m). According to the book, President Trump suggested that the negotiation should include threats “to withdraw all US forces”. The latest five-year agreement between Japan and the US ends in March and although the US presence is contentious for some, notably in the southern prefecture of Okinawa where the bulk of the troops are stationed, Japan is not calling for change and the issue of increased payment has been parked for now. But it’s hardly the way for the US to treat its closest allies in Asia: these troops provide a regional foothold at a time when North Korea and China are increasingly strident.

Diplomacy / China & India

Meeting in the middle

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will host a video conference with Wang Yi, his counterpart from China, and India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (pictured, on right, with Lavrov) today against the backdrop of a border clash between Chinese and Indian forces last week. The skirmish left at least 20 soldiers dead and tensions high. However, the participation of both embittered nations at the summit – proposed by Russia, which seeks to mediate the dispute – indicates that neither country is interested in seeing matters escalate. Rana Mitter, director of Oxford University’s China Centre, suggests that this is ultimately because the economic costs of conflict outweigh the political considerations of appearing weak. “The links between the commercial capitals of China and India are much stronger than the ones between the political capitals,” Mitter told The Briefing. “I don’t see this blowing up into something that’s going to destroy the sense that both China and India have: they want to be major economic players in the region.”

Society / Global

Taking a stand

As statues honouring statesmen with murky pasts are toppled around the world, new ones are being erected to honour a different class of hero. Healthcare workers on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus have emerged as fitting figures to be memorialised in recognition not only of their sacrifices but also as a means of remembering those who have died during the pandemic. Last week in Riga, artist Aigars Bikše unveiled Medics to the World (pictured), his 6 metre-high sculpture of a doctor. Meanwhile, in London, a new petition is calling for the erection of a statue commemorating pioneering doctor and race campaigner Harold Moody, who has been described as the UK’s Martin Luther King Jr. And in Tehran a statue named Angel of Kindness was unveiled in May to honour hospital workers’ dedication and compassion during the outbreak. It seems that in future we might be seeing more monuments bearing masks and gowns than swords and crowns.

Urbanism / Sydney

Market value

A prominent stretch of Sydney’s harbour is set to be revitalised after an AU$750m (€460m) redevelopment of its historic fish market was approved yesterday. The new structure, designed by Danish practice 3XN in collaboration with Australian firms BVN and Aspect Studios, will sit on a vacant waterfront site next to the existing market. It forms part of a 15km-long harbourside route that connects the suburbs to the city centre and introduces footpaths and cycle lanes. The new building contains space for fishmongers, speciality retailers, bars and restaurants, and will also enable the public to access the fish market itself – an area that many similar venues typically restrict to wholesale customers. Markets are important connection points for people and producers, and Sydney’s plans strengthen this by offering public space with a market at its centre. It’s a design approach that should be an inspiration for other cities seeking to revitalise their own markets or, indeed, any public structure.

M24 / Meet the Writers

Monocle Reads: John Sutherland

Georgina Godwin speaks to former police officer John Sutherland. He is the author of bestseller Blue: A Memoir – Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces, which details his struggles with mental health during his 25 years in the Met police. His latest book, Crossing the Line: Lessons From a Life on Duty, invites us to step behind the cordon tape for an eye-opening look at the world of policing.

Monocle Films / Uruguay

Montevideo: broad horizons

With its intriguing mix of grand colonial boulevards, art deco façades and buzzing plazas, Uruguay’s capital is emerging as a beacon of creativity and democracy in Latin America. Monocle’s Tomos Lewis and photographer Ana Cuba travelled to Montevideo to find out more about Latam’s most liveable, lovable and liberal capital.

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