A First-Class Ticket to The Orient Express Set Design

As you know I hate spoilers so I’m going to strictly talk about the brilliant set design without mentioning anything else about the movie (which by the way is A MUST SEE!)

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Director Kenneth Branagh and production designer Jim Clay have recreated the iconic  Orient Express to match the grand history of the railroad and Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery.

The Orient Express was a high-class long-distance passenger train established in 1833; its most famous route connected Paris to Istanbul. To prepare for the movie, Director Kenneth Branagh along with everyone involved in the movie took a trip on the Orient-Express, from Paris to Venice because it still uses its original vintage train cars until today. This was a great experience for all of them. They managed to look at and take notes of every detail on the train and made notes of all the surrounding scenery.

 

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Jim Clay also started his designing process by studying the 1974 film and early on decided that the new version needed a more modern look — “a more current style of shooting,” as he puts it.

By “a more current style” he did not mean to make it feel modern but rather a modern aesthetic that we have today! He meant cleaner lines so nothing ornate, and no Victorian furniture, with floral patterns in them!. He went towards art deco and lines that were more geometric rather than floral and this way he made sure that the backgrounds were still opulent and rich but not distracting.

 “The idea was to try and give people a sort of sensual, sensory kind of experience of what all that wood feels like, all that marquetry, the crispness of the line, the degree to which they work out the precision of which cutlery is laid out, which was all done with little tape measures and things,” Branagh said in an interview.

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Overall, Clay and Branagh succeeded brilliantly in giving the Orient Express the opulence for which it was known for. Just look at the first-class accommodation in the photo above,  it looks like a luxurious hotel lounge which was grand yet comfortable!

 

photos via

 

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Book of the Week: The Woman in White

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In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

 Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, Victorian readers opened Dickens’s weekly magazine All the Year Round to find the concluding installment of A Tale of Two Cities, and, immediately following it, the opening installment of a new novel with no author ascribed. They joined Walter Hartright on a night-time walk over Hampstead Heath, winding on moonlit paths until they reached some intersection. There they witnessed the first encounter between Walter Hartright and the mysterious  Woman in White… Almost a hundred and fifty years later I got the same goosebumps the Victorian readers got when The Woman in White placed her hand on Walter’s shoulder!!!

It’s not difficult to see why the series was an immediate success with the Victorian public and made its 35-year-old author, Wilkie Collins an immediate celebrity!… and it’s not difficult to see why this Victorian novel continues to thrill us today!

 

 

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My Classic Book List

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Years ago I’ve created a mental list of the classic books I wanted to read … I decided to share it here today just in case someone out there is interested in  reading more classic fiction! I’ve added a few more books here …. And I must admit that I haven’t read much from my list but seeing it on this screen is encouraging me to read this list …

I’ll write a little review about each one in my old Book of the Week section (which I’m planning to start up again) once I’m done reading a book (along with other books of course)… I do have other lists like historical fiction and modern classics etc which I’ll share here some other time … Meanwhile here is my Classic list:

  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  2. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  3. No Name by Wilkie Collins
  4. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  5. Emma by Jane Austen
  6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  7. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  9. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  10. Love and Friendship by Jane Austen
  11. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  13. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  14. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  16. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  17. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  18. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  19. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  20. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  21. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
  22. The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin
  23. Zoe: the History of Two Lives by Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury
  24. The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  25. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  26. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  27. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  28. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  29. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  30. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

 

So do you have any more suggestions?

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Book of the Week: Masterpiece Paintings

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I haven’t been consistent with posting about books! In fact, I haven’t been consistent with this blog at all…. I try to blog whenever I can or whenever I find something worth blogging about …. like for example this book! I think if you get only one book about art this year then this should be it! The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings… This book celebrates the greatest and most iconic paintings in The Met Museum collection. I found it very useful and think it’s an ideal introduction to the beautiful masterworks of The Met.

Book of the Week: The Sultan and the Queen-The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.

18brotton-master768Murad III, left, Elizabeth I, right. Credit Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images (left); The Print Collector/Getty Images (right)

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, is the author of the forthcoming “The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.” A dear friend of mine sent me a summary of the forthcoming book that the Prof. Brotton has written…. I have copy pasted what he wrote as I thought that I simply couldn’t put it any better… I have pre-ordered my hard copy, it is coming out on the 20th of this month yay!

“Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much-needed relief from Spanish military aggression, and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East. For good measure, she also reached out to the Ottomans’ rivals, the shah of Persia and the ruler of Morocco.

The trouble was that the Muslim empires were far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little island nation floating in the foggy mists off Europe. Elizabeth wanted to explore new trade alliances but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit an obscure commercial innovation — joint stock companies — introduced by her sister, Mary Tudor.

The companies were commercial associations jointly owned by shareholders. The capital was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages, and the profits — or losses — would also be shared. Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy Company, which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of the Turkey Company, which traded with the Ottomans, and the East India Company, which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the east, but the Turks and Moroccans were decidedly less interested in English wool. What they needed were weapons. In a poignant act of religious retribution, Elizabeth stripped the metal from deconsecrated Catholic churches and melted their bells to make munitions that were then shipped out to Turkey, proving that shady Western arms sales go back much further than the Iran-contra affair. The queen encouraged similar deals with Morocco, selling weapons and buying saltpeter, the essential ingredient in gunpowder, and sugar, heralding a lasting craving and turning Elizabeth’s own teeth an infamous black.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed. Words such as “candy” and “turquoise” (from “Turkish stone”) became commonplace. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing “Othello” shortly after the first Moroccan ambassador’s six-month visit.

Despite the commercial success of the joint stock companies, the British economy was unable to sustain its reliance on far-flung trade. Immediately following Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the new king, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain, ending England’s exile.

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.

It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated”.

Selfridges Celebrates Shakespeare 400th Anniversary with the Most Creative Campaign Yet

 To honour Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, Selfridges has made its biggest and most creative campaign yet … They are opening a temporary in-store theatre and a series of collaborations with designers, musicians and drama groups.

The campaign, created in-house, also sees Selfridges collaborating with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and The Faction theatre company. Shoppers will be able to watch a play being rehearsed and musicians playing in the store throughout the event.

The window displays will include one-offs from Christopher Kane, Alexander McQueen, Maison Margiela, Marques’ Almeida, Dries Van Noten, Erdem, Craig Green, Givenchy, JW Anderson, Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, and others.

The windows will launch in two phases (Act I and Act II) with the first inspired by Bard’s romances and comedies and the second by the tragedies.

The campaign started from 4th of July but will stay until 24th of  September. It will be the longest-running creative project yet for the Selfridges… I just can’t wait to see it when I’m back in London.

One of the brands collaborating with Selfridges for their campaign is Olympia Le-Tan. She has turned to the great bard’s most famous works to inspire a capsule limited edition bags that are exclusively sold at Selfridges during that period.

My favorite Shakespeare play of All Time is Othello!! Othello to me is what Romeo and Juliette is for others!…. Who doesn’t want to be loved the way Othello loved Desdemona?…. Anyways as I was writing this post I ordered The Othello bag even though I already got the Midsummer Nights Dream! Because … well, why not!

Book of the week: To kill a Mockingbird

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Haper Lee, the reclusive author of two books – both amongst the most controversial of their time – has passed away on Friday at the age of 89. For an author who only published two books in her life, Lee’s place in literary history is assured by the quality of the two and the effect they had on American society.

1961’s To Kill a Mockingbird is considered to be the greatest American novel. It introduced the world to Atticus Finch, a principled lawyer who defended a black man against a rape charge in rural Alabama. Most American schools today mandate Mockingbird as required reading.

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The book was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. Here Harper Lee is pictured with Gregory Peck, who starred in the movie and won an academy award for best actor for his role as Atticus Finch.

Book of the Week: Dinner with Jackson Pollock (Assouline)

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Jackson Pollock the artist needs no introduction—but perhaps lesser known is Jackson Pollock the gardener, baker, and entertaining dinner-party host. From starters and entrees to side dishes, breads, and desserts, Dinner with Jackson Pollock features more than 50 recipes collected from handwritten pages scrawled by Jackson; his wife, artist Lee Krasner; his mother, Stella; or traded among their many friends in the town of Springs on Long Island, interspersed with Jackson’s masterworks, still lifes of Pollock’s home, and beautiful photographs of each delectable recipe, plus delightful tales from Jackson and Lee’s family and local friends, for a truly unique and insightful portrait of a great artist.

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Here is one of the recipes from the book

Pea Salad with Russian Dressing

This recipe comes from Pollock’s own mother, Stella, which she kept in a red faux-leather book together with other handwritten recipes and newspaper and magazine clippings. Serves 2 to 4.
Ingredients

For the Salad:
2 cups fresh baby spring peas, shelled
1⁄2 cup American cheese, cut into small chunks
3 tsp onion, finely chopped
3 tsp sweet pickles, finely chopped
8 pecans
2 cups shredded cabbage, if desired

For the Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tbsp chili sauce
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp red onion, very finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 dill pickles, chopped
Salt and pepper

Directions:
This salad may be combined all together in a large bowl before serving, or the elements layered individually onto the plates before adding small dollops of dressing. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Book of the Week

 

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I think that I have a lot of catching up to do because I haven’t blogged in …. well forever!!! I’ve been meaning to post about this book for almost 2 years now! (oops). And although it’s not new anymore I’m posting about it today because I think that this is the book that started an entire genre of titles aiming to teach us how French women dress, what French women do and don’t do, what food they eat, what food they don’t eat, all claiming to have the answer to “je ne sais quoi”!

 How to Be a Parisian Wherever You Are: is a collaboration between Caroline de Maigret and Parisians girlfriends Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas… It’s a fun light-hearted book … for those of you who haven’t read the book yet here are 5 tips from the book just to give you an idea of what’s it about:

1. “Be aware of your qualities and your faults. Cultivate them in private, but don’t obsess.”

2. “Au naturel is the fruit of hard labor, meticulously passed down from generation to generation.”

3. “Like Coco Chanel, do your utmost to avoid dinners with more than six guests around the table.”

4. “Parisian women never try to appear to be something other than what they are. In truth, more than wanting to look young—which is but a fleeting illusion—they want above all to become the best possible version of themselves, outside and in, at any age.”

5.  And finally “Take time to take time, because nobody else will do it for you.”

I know that we are talking about books now but I wanted to show you the new collaboration between Caroline de Maigret and Lancome which I love

It’s called MES INCONTOURNABLES DE PARISIENNE from Lancome

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It consists of the palette above and other products as well.

To me, this palette sums up the book beliefs of what French beauty stands for: simple, timeless, and natural beauty and the appearance of effortless elegance.

PS: watch the ad that Caroline made on Lancome’s website … I loved it and thought that it was so funny!