SUSAN ZELOUF hails a life full of grace …
Elba, Idris Elba. A name I can wrap my tongue around as a contender to play the next iteration of James Bond, graceful with the requisite threat of danger, a cutthroat in exquisitely cut suits. Cumberbatch, Benedict Cumberbatch. He had me at Hamlet, but I’m having trouble picturing myself in those articulate arms, a Walther PPK pistol nestled in the large small of my back, as he struggles to lift me off the floor and onto his own feet for a slow dance, a tangled tango, a steamy rhumba. If not him, then who? A fine Fiennes? A hearty Hardy? Whether one or the Elba gets the gig is not as important as the thought of ceding to the new Bond’s elegant lead, my heels digging into his steely metatarsals, his face composed, a study in grace.
Casting my dream Bond acts as coping mechanism during dark times, better than Alprazolam (too addictive) or Krispy Kreme (too hard to spell) or massage (too expensive). As a screenwriter, one of the best pieces of advice given to me by an Italian film producer is that casting is almost everything, a truism that makes the Academy’s shameful lack of an Oscar for the category of Best Casting Director mystifying. Perhaps if the electorate gave as much consideration when casting votes for its leadership as canny movie moguls do when casting leads, we’d elect candidates who’d display grace under fire, a decent command of language and, well, decency in general.
When counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, attacked Hillary Clinton on Fox News as “graceless and even dangerous” for suggesting the Democratic Party choose strength over civility, it made me yearn for the graceful embrace of a body politic both strong and civil. Whatever happened to grace? Is it possible to learn how to be graceful, or is grace an inherited trait? You don’t have to be David Attenborough to note that animals appear to be born with it, from blue-footed booby to blue whale. Size is no predictor of grace; André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large of Vogue, may be an ocean liner in an industry lauding sleek superyachts, yet he has gracefully navigated fashion’s treacherous waters (“chiffon trenches”, he calls them) for close to 50 years. In an interview with Monarch magazine to discuss documentary “The Gospel According to André”, Talley cites grace as his core value; whatever he does, “it has to come from a world of grace. I try to create a style moment through grace. The grace of great manners. The grace of politeness. The grace of kindness.” Connemara-born fashion designer Alison Conneely defines grace as “strength without rage, calm within chaos”; inspired by the Irish landscape, her lean, sensual couture pieces exist at the crossroads, concealing and revealing a tender heart beneath strict form.
So, too, does Hiroshima’s Ribbon Chapel, the work of Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects, a church with enough poetic resonance to almost turn an admittedly non-religious Dr Jennifer Goff (Curator at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks) into a believer, its two winding stairways leading bride and groom on separate journeys to its apex. She cites both the Guggenheim and Eileen Gray’s E1027 as graceful buildings, “breathing, dancing, the slightly tilted walls of the museum conducive to viewing artwork”, while “walking through Gray’s house is an emotional, transcendental experience as the house reveals itself through its graceful lines and curves, use of colour, psychology of light and nature.”
Anne Lamott’s Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace shines light on grace in the face of death: “We turn toward love like sunflowers, and then the human part kicks in.” On reading her bold, brave, irreverent take on grief, grace and gratitude, I wonder if she’d consider the gig, the suit, the gun: Lamott, Anne Lamott.
(1) I’m bonding with the thought of Idris Elba as the next 007. Consider me shaken and stirred! (2)I’m listening to Anne Lamott read Small Victories. www.penguinrandomhouse.com. (3) I’m planning a visit to Eileen Gray’s restored opus on the French Riviera. For tour information, see www.e1027.org. (4) I’m witnessing a wedding in Japan’s Ribbon Chapel – my own, actually, should we decide to renew our vows someday. ww.jpninfo.com/39665. (5) I’m taking it as gospel, in the words of André Leon Talley. Download the doc on iTunes. (6) I’m shopping Alison Conneely’s AW18 collection “An Ailwee Tale”: future lines, sculpted from the lifelines of the ancient past, now at Bloomingdales, New York, www.alisonconneely.com. (7) I’m using any excuse to gaze at Benedict Cumberbatch, photographed in all his grace by Annie Leibovitz. (8) I’m embracing Amazing Grace by Philosophy, with notes of bergamot, muguet blossom and musk. Available at Arnotts. (9) I’m supporting www.worldwildlife.org in their mission to reduce threats to blue whales and other endangered species.
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