What’s in My Bag? (Quarantine Edition)

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted here in Papiro & Mint and I think that’s because nothing has really been going on lately. Cinemas are closed, festivals are on hold and there’s not much to do instead of sitting around our house and watch movies and read books. With that said, I hope everybody is doing okay out there and taking safety precautions.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy by watching, reading and writing a lot and even though I could make several little posts about my thoughts on these matters, I’ve decided to share with you some of the best things I’ve encountered during these isolation days through an article that I believe it summons pretty much my life through the last five months.

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01. Mattiel by Mattiel: So what have I been listening in this quarantine? As a matter of fact, I actually forget to listen to music since I usually enjoy it while driving or spending time with friends. Since these are things I stopped doing, I kind of forget to turn the Spotify on and when I do, I usually end up listening to the same old bands. But recently I’ve discovered this incredible debut album by Mattiel featuring her astonishing and haunting voice in incredible melodies that mix rock, folk, indie, country in a very Americana style. If you are searching for something new to listen to, make sure to try her out.

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02. Normal People tv show: After listening to a lot of people talk about this British Drama based on the book by Sally Rooney, I’ve finally decided to give it a try. I thought it was going to be one of these romantic stories but I was literally crushed with so many emotions from every single episode. This is probably one of the saddest things I have ever seen and even though it sounds like I’m criticizing it, I am not.

This is A level drama with outstanding acting, directing and editing, proving that you don’t need to fall into clichés to tell the story of two people who love each other. But the series is way bigger than this, by following two very distinctive people go on with their lives and how the decisions we make and the situation we come across affect who we are. Not only that, sometimes the biggest love story is the one that was never meant to happen. Literally life-changing, but wouldn’t recommend it if you are feeling down.

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03. “Stoner” by John Edward Williams: I’ve been flirting with this book for a while since I’ve discovered it on Goodreads. I actually found it in a coffee shop in Vienna but thought it may be a book that I would enjoy more by reading it in Portuguese. When I arrived in Brazil, I discovered this beautiful edition of the novel and was enchanted in the very first paragraphs as soon as I started reading.

The novel hasn’t much story but as Tom Hanks has said, it’s probably one of the most fascinating books I came across. It follows the life of William Stoner, the son of a farmer who has the opportunity to go to college and decide to become a professor there. More than that, this is the odyssey of a simple man, relating his desires, fears, ambitions, dreams and frustrations. Besides being extremely well written, is the story of the rise and fall of a man who could be anyone we know.

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04. “The Go-Between” by L. P. Hartley: After watching the incredible Joseph Losey movie which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, I’ve decided to read the book it was based on since I had absolutely loved the film. I’m usually a little bored when it comes to films about the Victorian Era, but there’s a dream-like atmosphere with so much sexual tension in the movie that I couldn’t stop myself of thinking about other features such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Beguiled, Days of Heaven and Women in Love. Even though The Go-Between is a very different movie from the mentioned ones, I thought it was fascinating enough for me to buy the novel, which I’m currently reading and being fascinated by it.

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05. “Until the End of the World (1991)” by Wim Wenders: I don’t really remember what drove me to watch this nearly five hour film but I’m more than glad I did. The Criterion Collection has released a completely restored version in the format that Wim Wenders himself wished the audience to see, since his film has been cut in different ways through the years. Resulting in four hours and forty-seven minutes, Until the End of the World is such a subliminal experience that I think people should talk more about it.

Maybe people will watch it now with this restoration as they definitely should, since it’s probably one of the most interesting things I have ever seen by being shot in countless countries and dealing with subjects such as love, life, death, marriage, the end of the world, humanity, dreams and so many other things, making this film the Apocalypse Now of road movies.

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06. The Immortal Story (1968) by Orson Welles: Even though Orson Welles is known for his grand Citizen Kane, I believe he has better films such as Touch of Evil, The Stranger and The Lady from Shanghai. After re-watching some of his works, I’ve decided to take a look at The Immortal Story, a film people don’t usually talk about when talking about Welles; and I was simply astonished for how incredible, beautiful and haunting this film is.

With only 62 minutes of duration, Welles adapts the short-story of Karen Blixen and tells the tale of tales: the story of an old rich man who decides to recreate an old marine legend about a sailor who is offered five guinneas from a rich man for him to sleep with his wife. With that, Welles builds a movie showing the importance of stories and how they are the foundations that build our lives, independently if they are known or not.

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07. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk: I bought this book in the complete darkness and even though I wasn’t really sure if I was liking by the middle of it, I was simply fascinated when I finished the last pages. Winner of the Nobel Prize and having a poor film adaptation by Agnieszka Holland, the novels follow the story of an old lady living in a remote part of Poland who spends her days reading the horoscope and fighting with her neighbors. Being a devoted animal lover, her world turns upside down when a series of murders start taking place in her village.

More than a thrilling novel about killings, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a funny and interesting reading about a very unique personality with very distinguished views of the world, transforming Olga Tokarczuk’s book in a different and enjoyable ride.

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08. “Tess (1979) by Roman Polanski: After watching The Go-Between, I wanted to revisit that era and the beautiful cinematography that filmmakers can take from this setting. With that, I couldn’t be more right than choosing Roman Polanki’s Tess, a haunting, beautiful and sad story based on a Thomas Hardy novel.

Even though it’s very different than Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between, Roman Polanski’s adaptation is as incredible as the mentioned films with a hypnotic performance by Nastassja Kinski and the outstanding cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet. Definitely worth checking it out.

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09. “Waves (2019)” by Trey Edward Shults: I had been avoiding this film because I was sure it was going to be one of those millennials-wannabe-Moonlight things, but I couldn’t be more wrong. If there’s a film that translates the feeling of being a teenager in the 2010s decade is definitely this one; and more importantly, it accomplishes this without being silly, pretentious, and boring, resulting in an extremely unique, relevant and genuine incredibly good film. If you liked the tv show Euphoria, Waves is ten times better.

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10. The Aki Kaurismäki Blu Ray Collection: it feels funny talking about this director here because it hasn’t been long since I told one of my friends that I didn’t know much about Aki Kaurismäki; but based on the only film I had seen from him, I wasn’t impressed and expressed my impatience towards the kind of films Kaurismäki seem to make. But knowledge is power and when I’ve started to watch more films from the director, I couldn’t stop.

Even though he has really amazing films and boring ones, what I loved about this Finish director is how distinctive his mise en scene is, always dealing with the same subjects, actors, location and lighting and still ends up making very stylish and interesting films. I’ve seen nine of his movies this year and there are many more to watch, but the more I watch them the more I feel like having this incredible Blu Ray box released by Curzon.

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11. “Women in Music Part III” by Haim: When I first listened to this album I thought it wasn’t as good as the first two by Haim. I loved the simplicity of it but bands nowadays seem so simple and boring that I was a little irritated that they had decided to follow that path. The more I listened to it, however, the more it grew on me and after Mattiel, this is probably the album that I’m mostly listening to right now and probably one of the best I heard so far in 2020.

What about you? What have you been doing, watching and reading during this quarantine?