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
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
Book of Haikus, Jack Kerouac
The Noma Guide to Fermentation, René Redzepi and David Zilber
Ben Rivers’s Now, At Last, one of several by the filmmaker now available on Vimeo
Cinephobe.tv (a curated cornucopia of underrated gems)
This Long Century Film Series
Criterion’s Rebel Samurai box-set
Pasta Grannies on YouTube
Adell Bridges’s Yoga Flow
A vegetable garden
Sourdough bread & crackers
Four Thieves cider vinegar
Mustard and nettle greens pesto
Herbal tonic infusions
Two-minute daily video assemblages on my iPhone
Bow Down: Women in Art podcast by Jennifer Higgie
Oh, Hello podcast by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney
Originally published: 9 June 2020