Berlin in November

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Night falls on Ku’damm, Berlin’s famous shopping street

My mood going to Berlin was a little sombre. November has that effect, especially in the German capital where you rarely see the sun and darkness falls at 4pm, and the victory of Donald Trump just a few days earlier made it hard to feel positive about anything. But miraculously, after weeks of rain, the sun returned for my visit and the stunning colours of the trees in all the wonderful parks and streets lifted my spirits. And even when the rain did return towards the end of my trip, there were old favourites to return to like the cafe at the Literaturhaus on Fasanenstrasse, which I cannot visit without thinking of this post, Café Einstein on Unter den Linden for the old fashioned café au lait and the most enormous piece of German cheesecake which I miss so much, the excellent Buecherbogen and the Autorenbuchhandlung bookshops on Savignyplatz, Quartier 206, Galeries Lafayette and Dussmann on Friedrichstrasse, the Film Museum and the Sony Center cinema at Potsdamer Platz. It’s a shame the staff at the Helmut Newton Foundation are so unfriendly because I really love the building and the collection, but it was a great pleasure to see the C/O’s Gordon Parks’ exhibition at the Amerika House where the atmosphere is much more relaxed and you can even sneak a photo. Hope the photos will inspire you to take a trip to Berlin as well.

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Flying to Berlin Tegel

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First view of the Spree

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In Tiergarten

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The view from the top of the Siegessaeule towards Potsdamer Platz

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

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Der Rufer/ The Crier on Strasse des 17. Juni

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The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park

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I love the trees on Puschkinallee

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The Molecule Man sculpture, with the Oberbaum Bridge in the background

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Bikini Berlin, formerly a rather seedy place with sex shops, now one of the chicest, coolest places to shop and hang out

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At the zoo where most of the animals sensibly stayed inside on this cold day, with a few exceptions

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The Literaturhaus cafe

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One of my favourite places for French films and cultural events

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The Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz

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The cinema at the Sony Center

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Shopping at Quartier 206

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Galeries Lafayette where I always buy French books and then go for afternoon tea

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Some images from the excellent Gordon Parks exhibition at the C/O

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A rare selfie

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The World Clock on Alexanderplatz

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Marx and Engels

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Elegant columns by the Neues Museum

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Enjoying my favourite snack before flying back to the UK

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Christmas gifts according to Clovis Sangrail

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Emily’s note – after writing my gift guide for women the other day, I was asked to come up with a gift guide for men. Naturally, there could be only one person for the job – Jan, who writes the fabulous Clovis Sangrail blog and who kindly agreed. His choices are exquisite and erudite, as you would expect. Enjoy!

Clovis Sangrail’s Christmas Guide

I love Christmas. Not for the gifts lying under the Christmas tree, but for the family reunion. The beautifully set dinner table, the decorations, the splendid wine from my parents’ wine cellar, quite a small cellar actually, but surprisingly well equipped, and the Charlotte Russe for dessert. Which brings me to my first gift ideas:

I love everything Russian. The very mention of this country makes me happy, although, to be quite precise, I always think of a pre-Putin, pre-Stalin, pre-Lenin Russia, my Russia is the one of the Czar, of Anna Karenina and Prince Bolkonsky. I love Andrej’s uniforms. So handsome, so becoming. You’ll find a lot of them in Russian Splendor, published this October by Rizzoli.

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Russian Splendor: Sumptuous Fashions of the Russian Court by Dr. Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, $95 from here or £50 on Amazon UK.

The matching scent could be Chanel’s Cuir de Russie. Ernest Beaux created it in 1927, giving Coco Chanel the olfactory equivalent of her love affair with the Czar’s cousin, Prince Dmitri Pavlovich, a blend of birch, tobacco, hay and smoky woods, counterpointed with some jasmine.

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Cuir de Russie, from $185 here, or from Chanel boutiques in the UK.

The best way to look good is a good complexion. And to achieve that, men need the right soap. The best moisturizer won’t help if your face is irritated by the wrong cleanser. Erno Laszlo’s black sea mud soap does the trick. It’s so famous, it even starred in Woody Allen’s classic masterpiece “Annie Hall”.

Image result for ernest laszlo soapErnest Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, $38 from here (or £39 in the UK. Lookfantastic currently has 20% off until midnight on the 27.11.16. Click here.)

Even something as simple as a USB stick can be a stunning gift if it comes from Hermès. You get it in the most amazing colours, mine is in étoupe, and I have it with me all the time, even when I don’t need it… Style goes a long way, doesn’t it?Hermès

Hermès In the Pocket, £200

My last idea for Christmas is utterly stylish and smart and witty and philosophical at the same time: Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Brideshead Revisited”. It’s the ultimate gift actually, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever.

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$11.21 on Amazon.com or £8.83 on Amazon UK

Happy Christmas!

Le Rouge et le Noir gift guide, 2016

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Christmas Tree Lane in 1953. Courtesy of the USC Libraries – Los Angeles Examiner Collection

I’m going to start with a confession – I enjoy the process of getting ready to go out much more than the night out itself and frequently, after washing and styling my hair, doing my makeup and choosing an outfit, I prefer to simply curl up on the sofa, watch a film noir and order pizza. It’s the same with Christmas presents – I feel the actual buying and requesting presents for myself is less enjoyable than the window shopping, both real and virtual, and also selecting presents for others. This guide is partly based on things I already have and love and partly, on things which have caught my eye, although not everything here is red or black.

Burberry Lip Velvet in Military Red, £26. I always have a new red lipstick to wear on Christmas Day and this is my choice for 2016.

In terms of eyes, my favourite purchases this year were the Victoria Beckham Estée Lauder Eye Ink in Black Myrrh (above) and the Eye Metals in Bitter Clove and Charred Emerald, £36 each. The packaging for all of these is stunning, very Tom Ford and satisfyingly heavy.

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Paul and Joe beauty mirror, £14, from Asos. Every makeup addict needs a beautiful compact and this one comes in a bag with cats on it.

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The cutest hand creams ever by Tony Moly, £10 each, from Cult Beauty.

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The cherry lip balm, £8, is also pretty irresistible too.

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My favourite cleanser in the world by Emma Hardie, from £38, although I much prefer hot cloth cleansing with a flannel to the scratchy muslin cloth that comes with it. Smells divine too.

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My favourite winter scent, from £105, which is both soft and warm and then cool and elegant.

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This new one, Scent of a Dream by Charlotte Tilbury, from £68, is also lovely, very vintage and sexy. Great if you want a change from Chanel No 5, although personally, I can’t get enough of it.

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Diptyque Christmas candle in Le Roi Sapin, £48, so that everywhere can smell woody and festive. There are also two others, Un Encens Étoilé and Épices et Délices, that sound lovely.

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Every year, I buy a new Christmas jumper. I love this one by Boden which is available in white or grey and it currently has 30% off, £69.65 (run, don’t walk!).

A sparkly Fair Isle scarf to brighten up grey winter days, £12, from Tesco

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As a Christmas gift, it’s hard to beat a new pair of pyjamas. I especially like these, £40, from Marks and Spencer’s.

2 Pair Pack Thermal Socks

And some cute thermal socks with wool and silk to go with them, £10 for two pairs, also from Marks and Spencer’s.

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I always look forward to the Moomin winter mug each year, £19. The design for 2016, with the snowhorse, is so beautiful.

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Iittala cranbery kivi, £33, because it looks so festive and pretty. Some of the other colours are much cheaper but not surprisingly, I’m drawn to the red.

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I’ve always wanted one of these iittala Aalto rain vases, £95.

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And I so love this Marimekko teapot, £65.

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Christmas spiced tea, £15, Christmas Coffee, £12.50 and Christmas biscuit tin, £17.50, all from Fortnum and Mason’s.

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A selection of favourite beauty books: Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes, £12.50, Face by Sam and Nic Chapman, £9.99 and François Nars by François Nars, £42.25.

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And to finish, a selection of non-beauty books. Conclave by Robert Harris, £9.50, The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon, £17, Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon, £6.99 and A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford, £20.37.

L’invitation au voyage

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On my way to the bus stop in Berlin, a fox crossed my path, our eyes met and then it continued briskly on its way. It didn’t seem the most promising of mornings – bitterly cold and a little foggy but as our plane took off from Tegel, I pressed my nose against the window to enjoy the panoramic view of Berlin with all its landmarks in miniature illuminated in the dark. And then in Zurich, as if by magic, the clouds on the horizon cleared to make way for brilliant sunshine and probably the last really warm and beautiful day of the year, almost an Indian summer. I explored as many of the charming, winding streets as I could, surprised by the sudden steepness of certain places, admiring the beautiful Chagall stained glass inside the Fraumünster and its slender, elegant spire outside. My eye was constantly caught by shop windows full of the most beautiful chocolates, bread and pastries. But on a day like that, it was the lake that proved to be the ultimate attraction. I lost track of how long I spent walking along its shores, or sitting beside it, soaking up the glorious sunshine, listening to the sounds of water lapping, birds crying, the voices of passers-by and someone nearby playing a musical instrument.

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First view of Zurich

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The Grossmünster in Zurich

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The Pavillon Le Corbusier

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Zurich’s beautiful opera house

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Eventually though, my need for refreshment got the better of me and I headed to Sprüngli’s on Paradeplatz, waiting patiently in line while all the time casting an eye over the astonishing range of cakes on display alongside. I envied those children who must be brought here regularly because it really is the most wonderful place where trying one kind of cake just isn’t enough.

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Another walk was needed after overdosing on coffee and cake

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In the evening, I braved the cold to walk a short distance to the Arthouse Movie cinema, a charming little place with plush red seats and space to hang coats at the side, to watch François Ozon’s Frantz, one of the most beautiful and poignant films I have seen.

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Zurich is, of course, also the home of my friend Jan who writes the beautiful Clovis Sangrail fashion blog. It was even more wonderful meeting him in real life and we spent a charming afternoon at Café Felix with its old-fashioned and rather OTT decor, talking and laughing over tea and too much cake. The minutes turned into hours and then it was already time to leave and head out into the darkness to the train station and then to the airport. I felt no desire to head back to the icy streets of Berlin. There was still so much I wanted to see, so much I wanted to talk about but in spite of the melancholy feeling as I boarded the plane that night, I knew how lucky I had been to have had the loveliest of weekends and that Proust understood all too well that the greatest pleasures go by all too quickly.

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No(ir)vember: Laura (1944)

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Otto Preminger’s ‘Laura’ is not only one of the finest noirs but also one of the most popular, even among those who are not die hard fans of the genre like me. Is it the theme tune by David Raskin, or Gene Tierney’s exquisite beauty, or the witty dialogue which crackles throughout? To be honest, it’s all of these and more.

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The film opens with a murder mystery. Detective Mark MacPherson (Dana Andrews) is investigating who killed Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). Could it be her acid tongued friend, Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), her shady fiancé, Shelby (Vincent Price) or someone else? As the mystery deepens, MacPherson finds himself more and more drawn to Laura, reading her letters and even sleeping in the apartment underneath her portrait. She seems to have inspired a strange kind of devotion, even in her housekeeper determined to keep her memory unsullied, and in death, she represents female perfection. But who really was Laura?

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I can’t say much more without giving away a major plot twist which would somehow rob the first time viewer of the pleasure of discovering that for him/herself. So I’ll just say that this is a flawless noir, superbly directed by the great Preminger and with equally superb performances from the cast, particularly Clifton Webb whose first major screen role it was. Waldo Lydecker is truly one of the great characters in film, vicious and cynical and unafraid to destroy any potential rivals through the column he writes and his wit. Watching it again recently, I was also struck by the way this film influenced David Lynch in Twin Peaks whose whole plot revolves around the murder of Laura Palmer, another beautiful and enigmatic character who in death exerts a powerful fascination on all those around her but was not quite what she seemed.

A film to fall in love with.

No(ir)vember: Nightmare Alley (1947)

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Let’s take a stroll down Edmund Goulding’s ‘Nightmare Alley’, the one of the darkest and grimmest places  you can venture in film noir. Cast against type, Tyrone Power gives arguably his greatest performance as scumbag trickster Stanton Carlisle who works at a travelling carnival. Stan is ambitious and will stop at nothing to reach the top so when he hears that fellow artiste Mademoiselle Zeena (Joan Blondell – fabulous) and her husband once had a lucrative mind-reading act, he sets out to seduce her to learn the code while all the name making eyes at gorgeous Molly (the excellent Coleen Gray) who’s in an act with strongman Bruno. Only one thing haunts Stan; the geek, part man, part animal, a stage show freak who devours live chickens and can only be calmed by a bottle of spirits a night. How could anyone sink so low, he wonders?

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Once he has the code, Stan and Molly get married and set about hitting the big time with their new act and make quite a stir in Chicago. But Stan finds himself drawn to Dr. Lillith Ritter (Helen Walker as a chilling therapist), a fellow charlatan and opportunist. They seem to make a great team but can she really be trusted?

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It’s the rise and fall of a man destroyed by his ambition and deceit. I can think of few films so dark and cynical and the alcohol fuelled visions only add to its haunting quality. It’s both compelling and repulsive and one which you’ll never forget. Not even the happy ending they tried to tack on can erase the sense of despair. And you have to see it for Tyrone Power – he is simply magnificent.

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No(ir)vember: Kiss of Death (1947)

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It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Victor Mature. A Hollywood hunk, he gave two of his finest performances in two great noirs, Cry of the City (1948) and Kiss of Death (1947), but was outclassed each time by Richard Conte in the former and Richard Widmark in the latter. It’s hard to believe it was Widmark’s screen debut. In just 15 minutes of screen time, he gives a mesmerising performance as Tommy Udo, taking psychotic to a whole new level. You can’t take your eyes off him. Nobody has ever had such a terrifying laugh and the wheelchair scene is still chilling with its deranged violence and cruelty.

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Convicted for at attempted jewel robbery, Nick (Mature) is happy not to name names until he learns that his wife has committed suicide after struggling with financial problems and that his young daughters have been placed in an orphanage. He decides to cooperate with the D.A. (Brian Donlevy) who’s trying to put deranged criminal Tommy Udo (Widmark) away. Nicks is released and marries Nettie (Colleen Gray), but when Udo goes free, he begins to fear for his family and his life.

Expertly directed by Henry Hathaway, this is a tightly structured and tense film that never lets up. Free to watch on YouTube.