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The Strokes: A tale of two Fabrizio Morettis

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Fabrizio Moretti and Fabrizio MorettiImage copyright
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Fabrizio Morettis: Rock star (left) and art dealer and collector

The name Fabrizio Moretti will ring a bell with music fans of a rock ‘n’ roll persuasion.

So too though, it turns out, with those who have an interest in Renaissance art.

In one of the more intriguing career moves of recent times, the 39-year-old drummer from The Strokes has teamed up with his Italian art dealer namesake, 45, to put a fresh spin on some classic paintings and sculptures.

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing, sees the pair join forces to create a series of immersive installations, showcasing a selection of “old masters” at Sotheby’s New York.

The exhibition is intended to re-introduce the works – which will then be auctioned off – in a more contemporary way.

“They approached me and said ‘did you know about this art collector?'” explains the younger Moretti.

“And I said I did because he used to have [a gallery] on 80-something street [in New York] and I would pass it and be like ‘Hey, I recognise that man!’

“They said: ‘Maybe there’s something to you guys collaborating.’ And I thought about it for a while and I figured that if it stayed at just me coming up with a playlist or something for it – I thought maybe that would be a little uninteresting at my end.'”

He adds: “But if they gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty, it would be totally worth it, and they gave me the opportunity.”

The musician, whose lifelong love of art began with his obsession for drawing endless pictures of horses as a kid, jokingly tells the BBC how they then let him “go crazy” in one of the world’s largest brokers of fine art.

“They showed me all the forgeries that they have, and how they sell for millions of dollars.”

He laughs as he says: “Like: ‘This is Picasso… Oh, it’s actually Fred Picasso!’.”

“‘He sold this painting twice!’,” he jokes.

[Sotheby’s made it clear to me they understood Fabrizio was joking.]

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Sotheby’s

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Fab’s fave: Taddeo Di Bartolo’s The Burial

The art works – including the rock star and former art student’s own personal favourite, the “super graphic and really stylised” Burial by Taddeo Di Bartolo – will be freshly viewed through the prism of his new installation, which is intended to work as an interactive puzzle.

(Almost like a classic art equivalent of what the Black Mirror producers tried with Bandersnatch, let’s say.)

“It’s almost like I’m building this maze so that the paintings could be this exclamation mark at the end of these strange moments, where you realise you’re in control and the art is revealed to you in different segments, because you’re swaying from side to side and it’s behind the wall,” he goes on.

“I was intrigued by the idea of creating this path that limits the way that you can perceive it, but also hands you control by limiting it. You know, since you’re the only person that can stand next to this painting in a certain particular spot, you’re also the only person that has ownership of it at that very moment.”

Is this (how you say) it?

The Italian Moretti said in a statement he was similarly “intrigued to collaborate with another Fabrizio, who shares my name,” noting him as “a respected visual artist and musician, who excels across the disciplines – much like the artists featured in the exhibition”.

Most importantly, however, the project has also helped the Brazil-born New York-raised Moretti, whose father is Italian, to say his own first name correctly.

“I’m really bad at pronunciation in Italian,” says the sticksman, “So much so that the other Fabrizio corrected me on my own name!

“It’s wild, at 39-years-old to be like: ‘Oh, I was wrong all these years’.”

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Getty Images

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Fabrizio Moretti (left) cosies up to his bandmates, The Strokes, with a beer in 2001

Once the works are sold, Moretti (the drummer, that is – we hope you’re keeping up) will then get back behind the drum kit for a special New Year’s Eve hometown New York gig with the band in Brooklyn.

The seminal five-piece performed just the once in the UK in 2019, battling some sound issues to deliver a crowd-pleasing headline set at All Points East festival in east London. He says he wants to return to these shores next year, too, but in a much more intimate setting.

  • When New York was ‘a safe space for debauchery’

“To be perfectly honest with you,” he says, “I would like to come back there and play a smaller place. I would like to play maybe a few shows at smaller places because as fun as doing those festivals can be, they’re also… You know, I want to have more of an interaction with the specific Strokes fans, you know what I mean?

“I feel we owe a lot to them. Especially you guys there in the UK who basically started our lives as musicians and we’re very thankful for that.”

‘Stop and smell the roses’

So does he miss those carefree days of playing Manhattan dive bars? Before fame, big festivals (and eventually the art world) came a-knocking?

“Yes. Increasingly as I get older,” he admits, “because I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t pay enough attention as it was happening.

“Things just started to fall like dominoes and moments started to turn into other moments and all of a sudden you’re playing The Mercury Lounge (in New York), and the next minute you’re flying to England and it just seems like I needed to stop and smell the roses a bit more.

“So I tried to look back on it and meditate on it, and see if I could remember anything that stuck in my subconscious. Bring it up to the fore.”

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing runs from 15-18 December at Sotheby’s New York, with the auction going live on 18 December.


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Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films

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South Korean director Bong Joon-ho

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

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Silent era film stars (from left) Mary Pickford, David Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks

But when conversations took place through cards instead of sound, adapting films to other languages was straightforward. As “movies” turned into “talkies”, subtitling emerged as a way to hold onto a lucrative foreign market.

It has since become the preferred way for film critics and connoisseurs to view foreign language features. NYU faculty, for example, would be unlikely to show a dub in class, the university’s graduate film department said.

For Prof McKeever, who is also a sound and picture editor, much of enjoying a movie boils down to what you hear.

“We react so emotionally to sound. That’s why films are scored, that’s why dialogue is important.”

If a dub has sub-par voice acting or doesn’t properly sync with what you see on screen, it can negatively affect your perception, Prof McKeever says. With subtitles, the audience both sees the original performance and hears the original emotion.

“Your brain is so used to hearing emotion in language that it will get the meaning behind the subtitle through the performance by the actor in the original language. You hear if they’re sad, if they’re happy.”

Regardless of what film purists say, however, dubbing is on the rise.

For that, you can blame Netflix.

In October, Netflix reported it had more subscribers outside the US – nearly 100 million – than domestically, where just over 60 million pay for the service.

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The streaming giant is driving the dubbing business by producing content around the world and localising it for a number of markets, says Jeff Howell, a vocal coach and director who works with Netflix.

To “localise” a production, the original studio hires professionals to analyse scenes and translate them to a new language.

Mr Howell has worked both as a vocal director and an “adapter” who works on casting and direction. “We spend quite a bit of time casting, sometimes we have to read-to-picture to make sure the voice sounds like it’s coming out of that mouth,” he says.

Dubbing has a bad reputation because, for years, it was badly done, he says – there was a lack of attention to detail to the voice acting and post-production processes.

But today, professionals are focusing on ways to make it better, carefully interpreting scripts and taking into consideration things like “lip flap” – when the mouth movement and dubbed-over voice do not sync up.

Dubbing defenders say that modern viewing habits make it superior to subtitles.

Mr Howell argues that dubbing is better for audiences as they increasingly view films and series on small, portable screens. “You can’t read subtitles on a phone or iPad, really,” he says.

And dubbing is easier on the brain. Getting information from a caption requires eye movements across a screen, cognitive input to interpret the words while also paying attention to the action on the screen.

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An educated US adult can do all three fluently, says Prof Charles Perfetti, a cognitive science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, but a less skilled reader will find it taxing.

For viewers with visual impairments, those cannot read or have conditions like dyslexia, dubbing is the only way they can enjoy media in non-native languages.

Outside the English-speaking world, dubbing has been less controversial. Much of Europe opts for dubbing in lieu of subtitles, though the latter is cheaper. Germany, Italy and France have dubbed foreign films since the 1930s – even as early critics blasted the process as “witchcraft” and an “amputation” of the original. China has also consistently dubbed films into Standard Mandarin.

Netflix’s dubbing efforts seem to be converting some Americans to the cause. Most US viewers preferred the dubbed versions of its most popular foreign shows, the streaming service told the New York Times.

As a dubbing director in this new streaming-heavy world, Mr Howell emphasises that he works to respect the original content – “to protect it”, not change it- though he admits some alterations are unavoidable.

“There are cultural nuances in language that we can’t possibly recreate,” he says. “We can have the greatest adaptation and it could line up almost perfectly but there are going to be subtle differences that don’t translate.

“It’s not 100% but I’d say we get as close as we possibly can, directing it in such a way that we’re protecting the creative integrity of the culture that created the material.”

And to be fair, alterations happen with subtitles too – language can be simplified to allow for quick reading in time with the action on screen.

Debates aside, outside of the streaming realm, foreign-language films still struggle to reach US markets.

As of 2020, only 12 have ever been released in more than 1,000 American theatres, according to data viewed by Quartz. Before Parasite, the last was Jet Li’s Fearless in 2006. When it debuted in October, the 2020 Best Picture Oscar winner was screened in only three theatres.

Yet, as its awards success has shown, a good film will captivate audiences no matter in what language. Subtitled films have rarely grossed over $100m (£77m), but Parasite has already surpassed $200m worldwide.

The biggest foreign language film to find success in the US to date is the Chinese drama Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which grossed $128m in 2000 and won the Oscar and Golden Globe awards for best foreign language film.

“What it speaks to more than anything is we’re looking at filmmaking as the craft, not being bogged down in where it’s made and who is saying what in what language,” says Prof McKeever. “Is it a good story, is it done well, are we there emotionally with the actors?

“Regardless of language, that’s the heart of moviemaking.”



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Hip-hop’s iconic photos go on display

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The International Center of Photography in New York is showcasing photos of hip-hop’s greatest stars.

The ICP’s Vikki Tobak describes the exhibition as watching your favourite musical icons grow up in front of your eyes.

Included in the project is the photographer behind the famous image of The Notorious B.I.G wearing a crown.



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'Riverdance has been a part of my everyday life'

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It’s 25 years since Riverdance first burst onto screens during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest.



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