Athina Rachel Tsangari’s lockdown diary

Is seclusion a childhood dream come true or a trap? The director of Chevalier and Trigonometry still doesn’t know which.

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Athina Rachel Tsangari
Updated:

A lockdown self-portrait by Tsangari

A lockdown self-portrait by Tsangari
Credit: Athina Rachel Tsangari

I remember thinking when I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (2017) how I’d been wishing to be ordered to bed (nothing deadly) surrounded by a stack of books, Blu-rays, comfort food (crisps! ice cream!), off line and off the grid.

I got my wish all right. An imposed seclusion – yet in a dense, public network of communal seclusions. Like a summer afternoon back in childhood. The entire city is napping, dead quiet except for the uncensorable cicadas, my sister and I are reading in bed, or playing dress up, patiently awaiting the five o’ clock signal to run back to the sea and rejoin our gang.

Covid Time feels at once compressed and expanded indefinitely. An overstimulated pause, a raucous silence. The radio voices, the thirsty screens, the bodiless meetings, the remote fatalities, the frontliners, the furloughed, the ‘liberators’. I’m swinging wildly between states of listlessness, overactivity, guilt, anxiety, yearning, micro-focus, greedy distraction. A nine-year-old going on 90 in a loop, Groundhog Day everyday.

I’m reckoning with my role as a filmmaker in the midst of and post-pandemic. Am I essential, non-essential, deployed, a fatality, a disaster consumer, a privileged observer, a recorder, a sleepwalker, a carrier, a body, an antibody?

I find solace in David Lynch’s universal call for daydreaming, for sitting tight by a window or under a tree, and waiting to ‘catch ideas’ from the ether. On a lucky day, when one appears all of a sudden fluttering about, I quickly grasp it and press it between the pages of my notebook, hopeful it will ferment into a sentence, an image, a watermark.

We have yet to see if this fissure in time and space proves to be a dreamcatcher, or a dreamtrapper.

 

How Athina Rachel Tsangari is keeping busy

 

Reading

Harvest Jim Crace

Two Serious Ladies Jane Bowles

Today I Wrote Nothing Daniil Kharms

Negative Space Manny Farber

The Secret Life of Trees Colin Tudge

Chantal Akerman Retrospective Handbook edited by Joanna Hogg and Adam Roberts

Moments of Being Virginia Woolf

My Year of Rest and Relaxation Ottessa Moshfegh

Burn the Place: A Memoir by chef Iliana Regan

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men James Agee and Walker Evans

The Division of Labour in Society Emile Durkheim

Electra Aeschylus

Book of Haikus Jack Kerouac

The Noma Guide to Fermentation René Redzepi and David Zilber

 

Watching

Ben Rivers’s Now, At Last, one of several by the filmmaker now available on Vimeo

Hal Ashby, Maren Ade, Columbia Noir, the Safdies’ Adventures in Moviegoing on the Criterion Channel

Béla Tarr’s Sátantángó (restored) and Albert Serra’s Liberté on Film at Lincoln Center’s Virtual Cinema

Cinephobe.tv (a curated cornucopia of underrated gems)

This Long Century Film Series

LRB Screen at Home

Criterion’s Rebel Samurai box-set

Ben Rivers shorts

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight

Charles Dowding’s YouTube gardening channel

Pasta Grannies on YouTube

Adell Bridges’s Yoga Flow

 

Making

A vegetable garden

Sourdough bread & crackers

Four Thieves cider vinegar

Preserved lemons

Mustard and nettle greens pesto

Herbal tonic infusions

Ginger Bug

Quarantinis

Two-minute daily video assemblages on my iPhone

 

Listening

Bow Down: Women in Art podcast by Jennifer Higgie

Oh, Hello podcast by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney

The Film Comment Podcast at Home

BBC World Service

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