1. A very special That Great Escape edition today: our loyal reader from Japan, Magisccare - a true gentleman, sartorialist, Port wine connoisseur, and all round nice guy - spotted this superb Nissan 300 ZX. 

    This 90’s edition of the Fairlady Z is the stuff of dreams. Beautifully styled, and with a V6 twin turbo 300hp engine, this beast is an exotic and great looking sort of synthesis of 1980’s signature italian car design, with an unmistakable japanese twist. A very discreet supercar, with an understated but unmistakable appeal.

    Designed by Sono & Yamashita in an innovative CAD environment (first production car ever to be drawn that way), it featured some respectable high-end technology, like four wheel active steering. First of it’s class in the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans

    Photo courtesy of Magisccare, exclusive on @thatgreatescape. Follow on instagram! 

     

  2. "On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, ‘Okay, this is the limit.’ As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high", Ayrton Senna

    Ayrton Senna da Silva would have been 54 today. He was tragically killed in a crash, in a fateful sunny Sunday in Italy, while racing the San Marino Gran Prix, in 1994. I clearly remember watching the events unfold in absolute horror. Senna was my childhood idol. I was eleven. I remember seeing the crash and feeling he had died, instantly. Senna seemed uneasy since the start of that season with the new Williams car. That same weekend, Roland Ratzenberger, a very young driver, died in a crash during qualifying. Senna didn’t take it well, and there is video of him in the paddock, looking worried and frightened. Although Senna was a man of God, acquiescent of his mortality, that moment remains the only instance I ever saw true fear in his face. 

    Senna was the most talented driver in history. He started as a pure talent, unspoiled by the politics of F1, with an unvanquishable desire for victory, and an unbridled lust for speed. He evolved tremendously through the years, season after season, eventually becoming the consummate race car driver, blending instinct with experience and abillty with courage. He had a very brazilian connection with the mysterious and the esoteric, blended with some true grit. He beat drivers in sometimes superior cars with unmatched ease, and battled for every race like it was the last one. His intensity made him a world champion. 

    Senna challenged the establishment, the very foundations and conventions of race car driving: braking after everyone else, accelerating earlier, pushing the car way beyond the known limits. He shattered record after record, and was the undisputed King of fastest laps. Winning countless races, he became three times World Champion. In the rain, when the cars become almost impossible to handle, the road unbearably slippery, and the risks are even greater, Senna did what was thought impossible - overtaking cars in the wettest part of the track, stunning everyone with his lighting pace and superb control. 

    He became a dominant force in the sport as a competitor, but also because of his personality. His brashness and fearlessness made him revered by millions, despite making him somewhat marginalized by the rulers of the sport. His charisma must have startled them. 

    He elevated the sport to a thrilling spectacle for people of all ages. While at McLaren, he enjoyed the most fascinating rivalry with a pilot. Alain Prost was, despite his constant harsh words toward Senna, and being protected by the governing body of the sport, a worthy and gifted opponent. 

    Do yourself a favour and watch Senna, by Asif Kapadia. It’s a glorious tribute to a very complex man, that had an unmatchable desire to win, and a heart of gold. May he rest in peace.

    Article by Nuno Sá Montenegro

     

  3. The Day the Jackal missed - or how the car that fell from the sky* saved a President’s life

    Bertoni designed it, Lefèbvre engineered it, Citroën built it. It’s La Déesse, the goddess. It was quite possibly the most innovative car in automotive history. Hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, disc brakes, powersteering, semi-automatic transmission, all so advanced that none were featured in the cars of that day. And all this with the most unique futuristic design that ever made it into production. Truly, a science fiction car. And look at it. It’s ravishing. 

    *as Barthes put it. Read it, it’s a glorious essay.

    Photos by @thatgreatescape. Follow on instagram! 

     

  4. Her - Digital hurts

    Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore Twombly. He writes letters on demand for a an online personalized service. He is a sort of loner. His solitude doesn’t come from lack of social skills. He is relatable, quirky, funny and intelligent. He just seems drawn to sadness. His wife left him. They grew up together, and he helped her evolve and change as person and as writer. He didn’t change as much as she did, or he was changing in a different direction. She is now a haunting figure for him. His memory is scattered, he rehashes arguments and aches for his loss.

    Theodore’s work implicates a vicarious exploration of other peoples emotions. This makes him, well, emotionally exposed. However, he lives a serene everyday life, shutting off his mind after work, delving into sexual fantasy and numbing video games. While not fulfilled, he finds some solace in this soothing uncomplicated existence. One day, the OS of his digital appliances changes into a new, upgraded, artificially intelligent mode. He gets to choose whether he wants a woman or a man. The upgrade assistant asks him some personal questions to better suit the OS to his persona. Enter Samantha. She is a raspy-voiced, wickedly clever and insightful digital assistant, that quickly becomes a friend, and then a lover.

    Spike Jonze writes and directs a sublime film set in a not so distant future, that is able to address a quite unsettling theme with extraordinary lightness, a fresh narrative approach and beautiful and heartfelt dialogue. In Her, people are becoming enamoured with their cell phones - have you been to a café lately? Is the film so futuristic? But it is also a complex and daring idea: that artificial intelligence could be a life improving, emotionally satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationship. Jonze manages to be provocative and sweet at the same time, without being preachy or too stifled by the original high concept. We demand three things from technology these days: be helpful, be beautiful and be alluring. Our enhanced social presence is an illusion. We chat, but we don’t talk. We are the curators of our own persona, editing our sentences ad infinitum, letting deceiving camera lenses and forgiving filters tell a constructed and calculated narrative about ourselves. How long until we have a demand for a greater illusion?

    Phoenix is instrumental in making the film appealing, given his ability to play a mopey but charming character, that is ultimately relatable. He had done it before with brilliance in the overlooked, but excellent, Two Lovers. But the film wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the astonishing vocal interpretation of Scarlett Johansson, who replaced midway through production Jonze’s original choice, Samantha Morton. She is engaging, believable and alluring. A truly memorable performance from an actress with tremendous depth, once more demonstrating the sexiest woman of something cliched label imposed on her by the studio propaganda, while albeit true, is a gross misrepresentation of her incredible talents.

    Rating 8 out of 10

    Her (2013) // Director: Spike Jonze // Writer: Spike Jonze // Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde  // Cinematographer: Hoyte van Hoytema // Music: Arcade Fire

     

  5. This cute little Californian Mini Moke was supposed to be a military vehicle, but it just couldn’t do much off road work, as it didn’t have enough height, or that much power. So, the British Motor Company decided to make it a leisure vehicle. They were quite spot on there, as it became a phenomenon as a sort of Beach Buggy, especially in places with really nice weather like the Algarve, in Portugal), Australia, and the Caribbean. It was called Austin Mini Moke, Morris Mini Moke and Leyland Moke. It was manufactored in England, Australia and Portugal, and was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, author of the original Mini. 

    Photos by @thatgreatescape. Follow on instagram! 

     

  6. American Hustle – Con hair

    Joining Gravity in the race for critical darling of the year, American Hustle comes served to audiences everywhere with the “best film of the year” tag. But, despite the expectations, it’s a bland been there done that experience, quite unsatisfying. It’s like a meal at that Casino restaurant that serves oysters, even though there isn’t an ocean in sight. The decor is flashy, the waiters are impeccable, and there is entertainment while you eat. Maybe, you even feel a little underdressed, considering all the perceived glamour around you. But when the food comes, it’s merely a pale imitation of the real deal. American Hustle is like that. It uses all american favourites: the crime story, the american dream, the reinvention of self, the period piece, with all the accompanying clothes, hairstyles and music. And, of course, a great cast. On one hand, as a homage to the 70’s, it’s no Boogie Nights. It’s a caricatural and empty film, as opposed to the rich, dazzling, original and exuberant Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. On the other hand, it’s a misguided and uninspired formulaic crime film, stuck in a narrative and mise-en-scène filled with formalism. It’s has some gangster dressing, sure, even with some heist and caper on the side. All very poorly seasoned. And, on top of all this, it’s got that unbearable odor of made for winning Oscars sauce all over it.

    The story follows the main characters of a real-life FBI operation called ABSCAM. The strange story seems like a movie within a movie, a true one, much like last years darling, Argo. The FBI catch a con-man (Bale), who cuts a deal with the arresting agent (Cooper) to catch other con-men by out conning them. There is so much scheming, even the characters are confused sometimes. They end up expanding their operation, entrapping several high profile politicians on corruption charges, by promising millions in investment from a fake Sheik from Abu Dhabi. David O.Russell, director and co-writer of the screenplay, tries to take advantage of the inherited comedic appeal of the true story. However, even the concept of a mexican guy disguised as a Sheik, used as pawn by the FBI to take advantage of either the naiveté or the greed of politicians, isn’t particularly funny. And this was the year of guilt free comedies about white collar crime – see The Wolf of Wall Street. Even blue collar crime got the black comedy treatment in Pain & Gain.  

    O’Russell, not one to shy away from self-indulging (see I ♥ Huckabees), directs a well behaved and strangely safe pastiche of better films, emulating several Scorsese trademarks, like the slow motion/music compositions, the quick zoom in on the actor, and even some tracking shots. Russell goes all out on trying to seduce the audience, with extended narration that fills the narrative voids, the look at the famous actor with such a strange hairdo and over the top clothing moments, along with the Duke Ellington/Thelonious Monk/Tom Jones/Elton John soundtrack extravaganza. However, without much substance, unlike the aforementioned Boogie Nights, and without the straight up shot of pulp of Scorsese’s classics like Mean Streets, or Goodfellas, American Hustle feels as flat as American Gangster felt some years ago.

    The performances, one of the films selling points, aren’t that exciting. Bale and Amy Adams are fine, but the extreme characterization is more parody than method, with the substance lost beneath a toupé, a perm, or the very low cut dresses. Jennifer Lawrence, on a path to Meryl Streep/Judi Dench territory (being nominated for Oscars for showing up on a film), is nominated for every single acting award this year for playing the same character – the neurotic hot mess – she did in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, pretty much the persona she conveys on red carpet appearences and interviews.

    The theme of reinvention is a staple of american cinema, framed within the narrative of the American Dream. Hustle is a lesser imitation of better films. Stick to the classics.

    Rating 3 out of 10

    American Hustle (2013) // Director: David O. Russell // Writer: David O. Russell, Eric Warren Singer // Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence // Cinematographer: Linus Sandgren // Music: Danny Elfman

    Review by Nuno Sá Montenegro

     

  7. "No electro, no metro, a little retro, ahhhh perfecto".

    This short lived 1999 BMW Z8 pretty much sums up the retro tendencies followed by car makers at the turn of the millennium. The Mini hatch and and the NewBeetle were the bait, and BMW surely followed. Credits are due to BMW, as they were smart enough to call their revival model something else. The design and styling were inspired by the the classic BMW 507 roadster, whose author, Henrik Fisker, tried his hand creating his own brand of electric cars.

    The 507 is now an extremly rare classic. Intended to be a great commercial success, it that ended up a tremendous flop. Only 252 were made. The Z8 was a success, though, and It seems to have aged well. It was featured in 007 - The World Is Not Enough, with Pierce Brosnan. The Z8 is a ravishing car, but it’s no Aston Martin. James Bond should always drive british cars, to say the least. 

    Photos by @thatgreatescape. Follow on instagram!