The Diary: Daisy Goodwin; British Film Institute; Peter Marino; Elia Suleiman; Eyes Wide Open

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The Independent Culture

Daisy's account of a perfect love match

Daisy Goodwin may have been busy reading and re-reading mis-lit for the Orange Prize for Fiction (she is one of this year's judges, and has complained about the high count of miserable stories on the longlist), but she's been penning her very own first novel all the while. My Last Duchess, published by Headline Review in August, is historical fiction and she tells me it's "a bit like Henry James without the boring bits... But it's not as good as Henry James." Set in the 1890s, it is based on the marriage between an American heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and a British aristo, Duke of Marlborough, who became internationally renowned for their socially advantageous union at a time when "a quarter of British aristocracy married American money, and America married European titles." There was an organisation called The American Titled Lady, adds Goodwin, that is the equivalent of the online dating site,, today. "The girls were like Paris Hilton, 'it' girls of their time." It all sounds good, Daisy, as long as it's not miserable.

London's burning

The British Film Institute invited the press down to its main building on London's Southbank, in order to burn some film, quite literally. BFI officials, dressed in luminous yellow jackets, had cordoned off an area outside the building to demonstrate how flammable old "nitrate" film could be (and how much money it took to keep the archive in specially controlled cool conditions) by setting fire to it. A surprised press pack was afterwards assured that the negative and prints for the burned film was still intact.

World of leather

There were raised eyebrows and some admiring glances as the architect Peter Marino, known for his close ties to the fashion world (having built flagship stores and boutiques for haute couture labels such Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi Christian Dior and Ermenegildo Zegna) turned out to the Wallace Collection's new show of late Renaissance and Baroque bronzes, dressed head to toe in tight black leather. Marino, who is a self-confessed "obsessive" art collector, was accompanied by his rather formally dressed wife and looked like he was taking "smart casual" to another level. Most of the bronzes in the show belonged to Marino, and his photograph in the catalogue also pictured him wearing the black-leather biker gear that is apparently fast becoming a trademark.

The director's a charmer, even if he does say so himself

The director Elia Suleiman appeared at an impromptu Q&A at the end of a screening of his film, The Time That Remains, which kicked off the Palestine Film Festival at the Barbican. He hadn't intended to stay, he told the packed audience, while speaking about the semi-autobiographical film that was inspired by his father's diaries; starting from when he was a resistance fighter in Nazareth in 1948. He cut a charming figure, if he said so himself – a far younger acquaintance had stopped him before the screening and said "he thought I had been very handsome (at one point)... Well, I'm still elegant," he said, with a rather elegant smile.

New gay film is open to debate

It will be interesting to see the reaction that the Israeli film, Eyes Wide Open, creates among Britain's orthodox Jewish communities, when it opens on 14 May. Featuring two men – one married, the other, a handsome wanderer, it dwells on the unexpected lust and subsequent relationship that grows between them.

Its director, Haim Tabakman, says while it is not based on a true story, he found in his research that "these things happen very often" between boys who are studying in a yeshiva (religious school). One of the problems of dealing with such relationships, he adds, is that homosexuality is not even acknowledged. "In the Talmud, it is written that the Sons of Israel are not even suspected of doing that."