On my radar: Carla Bruni’s cultural highlights

The musician and former French first lady on David Hockney, Big Little Lies, Leonard Cohen’s last album and the Yves Saint Laurent museum

Born in Turin, Italy, in 1967, Carla Bruni relocated to France with her family in the mid-1970s. After boarding school in Switzerland, the tyre company heiress started studying art and architecture in Paris, but left aged 19 to become a model. Over the next decade Bruni became one of the world’s best-paid fashion models, working with the likes of Dior, Givenchy, Chanel and Versace. In 1997 she quit modelling to focus on music, and in 2003 released her debut album Quelqu’un m’a dit (Someone Told Me), which sold more than 2m copies. In 2008 she married Nicolas Sarkozy, then president of France, and until 2012 she was first lady of France. Bruni’s fifth album, French Touch, is out now on Universal.

1 | TV

Big Little Lies

nicole kidman in big little lies
‘Really moving and touching’: Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies. Photograph: HBO

At the moment I’m watching this miniseries, and oh my God, it’s fantastic. It’s really addictive but unfortunately it’s only seven episodes – I’m at No 4 – so I’ll be done soon, which is a pity. It’s a thriller set in a small town in America where everything looks perfect, but behind that there’s a lot of tragedy and drama. I don’t want to give too much away, but someone dies right at the beginning, and the rest of the episodes are about what happened before they died – it goes backwards. All the actors are amazing, but I must say Nicole Kidman, playing a woman with an abusive husband, is really moving and touching.

2 | Art

David Hockney, Pompidou Centre, Paris

david hockney in front of one of his pictures at the pompidou centre in september 2017
‘So beautiful, so strong’: David Hockney at the Pompidou Centre in Paris last month. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

This is the most incredible exhibition. It starts from when he was a working-class boy in England, with drawings and paintings of the place he was born, then a lot of paintings of his time in California. More recently there’s some video art he made – filming the same road in four seasons, with the snow, the fall all red with the leaves, and the spring and the summer put together in four screens – which is so beautiful, so strong. There’s something naive about his style, and at the same time incredibly mature. I love the way he uses his own life for painting, with portraits of the people he met and loved, like a big colourful biography.

3 | Film

Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

ingrid bergman with george sanders in journey to italy
‘Atmosperic’: Ingrid Bergman with co-star George Sanders in Journey to Italy. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

We’ve been watching Italian films from the 1950s again, including this one with Ingrid Bergman. I like all kinds of movies but that period is just so special. Bergman is incredibly beautiful, and her part in the film is amazing, full of passion. It’s about a couple, and they’re very much in love, but sort of growing apart during this Italian trip. There’s not much dialogue, just a tension between them, and the passion that’s fading away and coming back at the same time. It’s a very powerful film through the atmosphere it has – it doesn’t have much of a plot, but there’s a feeling you get from the film and from the actors.

4 | Book

Quand sort la recluse by Fred Vargas

fred vargas french crime fiction writer
‘Brilliant’: Fred Vargas, crime fiction writer. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

Fred Vargas is a very good crime fiction writer: she’s famous in France and has been translated into English. I finished this book last night. It’s about this small spider, a recluse spider. People are dying from being bitten by it. But it’s almost impossible that a spider could kill so many people, and the police realise a human being is behind the deaths. Police commissioner Adamsberg, a recurring character in Vargas’s novels, heads up the hunt for the murderer. It’s brilliant and so well-written.

5 | Museum

Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

drawings and photographs on a wall at the yves saint laurent museum in paris
‘He gave a lot of power to women’: drawings and photographs on a wall at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

This opened in Paris very recently. Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s former partner, died a few weeks ago, but he had time to organise this incredible tribute to him. I worked with him a lot when I was a model, so I went to the museum yesterday and it was very touching to see that same place, where we used to do the fittings. There are all these beautiful couture gowns and drawings and pictures from his life. He was a very modern designer, and gave a lot of power to women through his clothes. He was the first to make tuxedo suits for women – so instead of wearing a dress and feeling uncomfortable, you can wear trousers and jacket, just like a man, and it’s very, very chic.

6 | Music

Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker

leonard cohen applauding at a tribute concert in a theatre in gijon spain in 2011
Gone but not forgotten: Leonard Cohen. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

This was released only a few weeks before Leonard Cohen died, and I listened to it over and over again at the time. It’s made out of little prayers – they’re almost not even songs. He’s talking to God: he obviously felt that it was nearly time for him to go. It’s so incredibly moving and intimate. My favourite song on it is Leaving the Table. Songwriters are always writing about their life, but they don’t often write about their death, unless it’s for fun, ironic. But this is not ironic at all. This was true: he left the table then. So it’s quite dark, but it’s full of light at the same time – maybe light comes from the fact that the songs are like prayers.

7 | Social media

@abandon on Instagram

a piano in a grand but abandoned hallway in a photo from abandon on instagram
An image from @abandon on Instagram: ‘Who lived there, what happened, why did they leave? Photograph: @glory.of.disrepair/Instagram

This is an Instagram account of pictures of abandoned places: train stations, hotels, theatres, churches, factories, from photographers all over the world. Everything is abandoned, and you can’t figure out why. It looks like a dream – you know how dreams can be so strange and so close to us at the same time? Instagram is usually fashion people or designers or musicians showing their lives, but there’s nothing as magical as this. It makes you feel like going to these places and finding them again, and it makes you wonder – who lived there, what happened, why did they leave? I also find it a bit sad – deserted places feel like they’re full of mystery and ghosts.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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