Thursday 23 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 23/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Sex appeal

It’s movie awards season and the annual rush to binge on Hollywood releases is under way (for me anyway). But in recent years, one absence has increasingly been bothering me: there’s no sex in the multiplex. The dwindling number of love scenes suggests that romance has become a bit of a taboo and nowhere is this clearer than in the allegations that a kiss between the central couple in the romcom You People was created using computer-generated graphics.

Though unconfirmed, the fact that this rumour is even believable is a worrying statement on the state of cinematic romance, even in an era when shockingly violent films are permitted for young audiences. Decades ago a film such as Basic Instinct could easily top the box-office charts but, looking at the list of last year’s 20 highest-grossing films, it’s a struggle to find one that contains anything resembling sex, beyond a flash of Chris Hemsworth’s buttocks in a scene in Thor: Love and Thunder.

There are, of course, exceptions. The fashion for passion is alive and well in arthouse cinema: think Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (pictured) or Red Rocket. But the You People controversy, as well as recent remarks from Penn Badgley – the star of Netflix series You recently said that sex scenes make him feel uncomfortable – highlights a broader shift in how Hollywood shows physical intimacy on our screens. The #MeToo movement rightly gave actors of all stripes more power over their own boundaries. That has prompted the rise of intimacy co-ordinators, crew dedicated to ensuring that actors involved in such scenes are comfortable with what they’re being asked to do.

Accompanying all of this has been a related shift. Audiences are now more open to screen relationships that look different from their own. That’s why it’s a shame that Hollywood’s output has become so sexless. Sex is a part of who we are and, while a change in the way that it is depicted on-screen has long been overdue, we should be celebrating, not ignoring it.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle 24’s senior correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Reconstruction / Ukraine

At all costs

There’s currently no end in sight to the war in Ukraine. When it finally does end, however, the World Bank estimates that it could cost about €330bn to rebuild the country. To raise such an enormous sum, the international community and the private sector will need to work together and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will help to organise those efforts. “We can play an important role in mobilising private investment in Ukraine,” says Beata Javorcik, the EBRD’s chief economist. Right now, the institution is focusing on helping the country to survive the winter by providing emergency liquidity to companies and unlocking funds for heat, power and transport. Though Ukraine will be attractive to foreign investors after the war, says Javorcik, they might worry about its lack of trusted institutions. “Our participation gives Western countries comfort. We do very strict due diligence so we serve as a seal of approval.”

This is part four of our weeklong series on the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. Listen to the full report on today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’ and join us tomorrow for the final instalment.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / US, Canada & The Nordics

Friends in the north

Climate change and Russia’s aggression are the key issues requiring military co-operation between the Arctic-adjacent members of Nato. This week the chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Rolf Folland, called for the US, Canada and the Nordic countries – including Nato applicants Finland and Sweden – to form a new Arctic air-force command.

The proposed operations centre would focus on sharing information and expertise among nations familiar with the area’s conditions at a time when melting sea ice is opening up new trade routes and revealing deposits of vital rare-earth minerals. A unified command could co-ordinate defence and muster almost 250 fighter jets including F-35s (pictured), countering Russia’s heavy presence in the region. Sweden and Finland have long trained with Nato and flown between each other’s bases; Arctic co-operation is another example of how the two countries would benefit the organisation. Nato should move as quickly as possible to ratify their membership.

Diplomacy / Japan & China

Panda to opinion

The gifting of pandas is one of China’s most effective soft-power tools. When Japan-born panda Xiang Xiang (pictured), long a resident of Tokyo’s Ueno Zoological Park, was recently recalled to Beijing, hundreds of fans, many in tears, turned up to say their goodbyes and wish it well. The returning of the bear shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of deteriorating bilateral relations: Beijing recalls its furry diplomats at the end of a pre-agreed loan period.

It coincides with the decision by Tokyo and Beijing to launch a communication hotline this spring, following tensions over Taiwan and the alleged use of spy balloons. Though such practical measures are important, diplomacy is about more than simply avoiding war. “Giant pandas are worthy ambassadors,” said Beijing’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, last year, when he was China’s man in the US. “They have much longer tenures than the Chinese ambassadors here and they have more fans than us.”

Image: The Guy Bourdin Estate /Louise Alexander Gallery

Fashion / Italy

Man of many parts

Giorgio Armani is reopening his label’s Armani/Silos exhibition space tomorrow with a photography show dedicated to Guy Bourdin. The exhibition, which launches during Milan Fashion Week, will display more than 100 images by the French photographer, ranging from black-and-white photographs to cinematic shots that highlight his fascination with Alfred Hitchcock. The show, which runs until the end of August, “is further confirmation of my intention to make Armani/Silos a centre of contemporary photography culture”, says Armani.

The designer has a long history of running brands that go beyond fashion and into the worlds of sports equipment, interiors, yacht design and more. Armani/Silos isn’t his only Milan Fashion Week outing; the octogenarian designer is also debuting a collaboration with Italian boutique 10 Corso Como. The joint project is built around a smart capsule collection of blazers, dust coats and accessories made out of denim and leather.

Image: Tanya Chavez

Monocle 24 / The Menu

From Lebanon to London

We speak to the founders of Japanese omakase restaurant Mayha about their concept, which was first introduced in Beirut and has now reached London. Plus, a company catering for many of the world’s most important cultural events and Barcelona’s unique wine business.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: March issue, 2023

Is the future electric? That’s the question that Monocle is asking in its future of the car special. Our forward-looking report offers our verdict on self-driving cars, the auto industry’s next moves and the companies in pole position to take advantage. Plus: Australian architecture, Spain’s costume-makers and Spam – no, really. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.


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