Archive : November 2012

8 Nov 2012
avatar Author: Nicky Haslam

While Storm Sandy was ravaging the Eastern Seaboard, I spent a week in that usually most hurricane-prone city, New Orleans, under sun-gilded blue skies and temperature a balmy 80ish degrees. The renowned US architect and garden designer, Joel Barkley, of Ike, Kligerman Barkley was there at the same time, and his demonstrated his expertise in draughtsmanship by making a detailed working drawing for the awnings my clients, the Rodney Smiths who own the fabled Soniat House hotel, want to install on their house opposite. Joel’s drawings have that all too rare, inspiring quality, what the guru on the subject, Geoffrey Scott, called The Architecture of Humanism.

As it was Halloween, and yet another  excuse for New Orleanens to dress up in weird costumes; froggies went a-wooing in restaurants and the mace-flavoured spinach covering the oysters Rockefeller at Galatoire’s, my favorite food and place, was as dazzlingly green.

Ghouls, ghosts and girls gulped Sazeracs at a full-moon party on a levee perched plumb above a bayou on the Mississippi. The shanty had been built and decorated by the owners boatman, all from flotsam fished from the banks below, with rope forming cornices and trim to the windows, and jetsom junk decorating every surface.

Meanwhile the actual junk shops on Magazine Street, where we whizzed to in a tiny, open, three-wheeler car (hired from New Orleans Cruisers, and the BEST possible way to explore the French Quarter or the Garden District) provided objects and inspiration for the new restaurant, ‘Marty’s’ that Patrick and Rebecca Davenport Singley are opening next year.

They already own the town’s top eaterie, Gautreau’s, and Rebecca runs the Southern office of NH Design, so its great we have this ‘in-hand’ project together. In a thrift shop on Magazine I also found a couple of those once-fashionable collar tie-pins which I think are so chic again now, and help to perfect the Cary Grant image I’m currently channeling. Talk about Southern comfort………

1 Nov 2012
avatar Author: NH Design

Q: What was your initial reaction to the song?
DA: The track had an immediate impact the moment producer David Ogilvy played it in his studio. It had this galaxy atmosphere to it, a Pink Floyd floating orbital . . . sparkling, dark green with longing. Having been plunked down in front of the TV, age 3, to stare at the lunar landings, I wanted to create transitions using slow, rocket booster separations. Beauty falling back to earth, the flames and cinderous stuff that come with burn off and re-entry. And obviously with a very definite kind of sensuality.

Q: Describe how you came to film the video in a bedroom

DA: I think the bedroom iconically involves a kind of Hegelian narrative of master and slave. . . where each extreme can begin to resemble the other. The positions never hold and each ultimately flips and becomes the other. The bedroom is both landscape for total fulfillment but it’s also a land of missed opportunities. It’s sometimes about getting what you want, and also about what you maybe can’t have. So there’s a narrative, ongoing, about trying to achieve control over the uncontrollable, and what that means, and the question of how one approaches that.

All Nicky really knew about the video was that we were shooting in a green bedroom as I’d been in his office just a week before talking about locations and said, “What I really want is a green bedroom” (reminiscent of the Roxy Music videos I loved from the 80s). Of course, I am dealing with one of the world’s leading interior designers and in less than fifteen minutes he was back, “Voila, here’s your green velvet bedroom.”

Q: What’s it like to work with Nicky Haslam?

DA: The beauty of Haslam is that he understands how beauty can become even more profound as it is undone. The beauty of incompleteness, which is also the beauty (and perhaps pain) of “longing,” a word he often uses and it’s at the heart of the video. He’s referred to aspects of each in his own work; about finding mastery by flaunting the imperfections, and the importance of paying attention to one’s “amateur” instincts because they’re immediate and true. Plus he’s one of the world’s great “eyes” — it’s his gift. So it’s really important to listen to what he’s seeing and what he’s noticing.


Q: Why did you cast Nicky with a female model?
DA: Nicky sees beauty across all categories, and therefore understands desire in its true literary and lyrical form and that’s what the video addresses. I’d also read his autobiography closely and realised he’s shared passion with both men and women, and Sara is an extraordinarily beautiful woman. In fact when he walked into the room Nicky gasped and said “Sara reminds me of the most beautiful woman I ever saw. . . great singer and actress and black activist Lena Horne, with whom I met Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Martin Luther King.” I don’t think the video portrays him outside his own metaphor at all, in the end the muse is gone and he’s back to his own “total control.”

Q: Talk about the footage in the ballrooms

DA: In our minds we knew we wanted a ruined ballroom, but difficult to just snap one’s fingers and produce a location like that. On the last day of an excursion to Cluj in May, in the heart of Transylvania, we literally walked right into the exact room we’d both been imagining, with the help of our driver who made a few calls. Ruined green and red Romanian ballrooms! We both looked at each other and said, “This is insane.”



Q: That’s an amazing sequence we see of Nicky coming off the elevator, what can you say about that?
DA: The “elevator arrival” sequence we shot very quickly at the end of the night. To me the one opportunity or twist to the location was the lift, and I knew we needed to build it into the story. Plus the light inside the lift had just the right colour temperature to perfectly illuminate Nicky’s hair and I wanted to feature elements of his own beauty in the video. I’d also brought on Spanish director of photography Joan Bordera Benaiges, so when I said “Can we get this?” I knew it was gonna be a home run.


Total Control credits: Joan Bordera Benaiges (director photography/cine), David Dearlove (7D/steadicam), Sara Rahbani (model/make-up artist), Carmen Navarro (editor).

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Douglas Arrowsmith is a Canadian film director based in London. He directed Stephen (Tin Tin) Duffy’s “Memory & Desire,” and most recently “Love Shines,” about singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, commissioned for BBC Four and HBO which won the Audience Choice at SXSW, Austin Texas. He also holds a doctorate in Social & Political Thought from York University Canada.