And … relax: cinema, music, art and books to relax | Culture



Bureaucracy meets the afterlife in Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life, a slow-paced drama around a simple question: What memory from your life would you choose to remember for eternity? Each week, a group of recently deceased people arrive at a modest red-brick building – a kind of purgatory – where they meet with counselors charged with helping them move on. To do this, they will have to select the moment of their life that they will bring to the afterlife (all other memories will be erased). Conversations between counselor and client are calm and thoughtful, touching on the purpose of life and what, in the end, we will truly appreciate. This – alongside After Life’s lavish shots of a surrounding sun-drenched autumn garden – makes the After Life film a welcome invitation to rest and contemplation. Rebecca Liu


Magic… Martin Courtney. Photography: Sinna Nasseri

It’s quite the skill to write music that’s both immersive and ethereal, but somehow Martin Courtney from New Jersey always pulls it off. In his solo work and with the band Real Estate, his penchant for dreamy suburban melodies is akin to the limbo of travel: a peaceful train ride where nothing can be asked of you but lie down, close your eyes and get lost. somewhere between the opening guitar riffs and the sunny final chorus. Courtney’s new album, Magic Sign, barely reinvents the wheel, but it’s the familiarity of the landscape that makes it so heartwarming. jenessa williams


Immersive experience… Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama.
Immersive experience… Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama. Photography: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama’s scintillating and seemingly endless sci-fi spaces, Infinity Mirror Rooms, are the art world’s answer to a Marvel movie. Leave your critical sense at home, open yourself up to special effects and feel the rush. But Kusama doesn’t need the crew of a Hollywood blockbuster. She creates her illusions simply with mirrors reflecting mirrors and bouncing light. You seem to be walking through the vast expanses of the cosmos, freed from Earth, lost in a weightless dream. Is it just pure meaningless entertainment, or an eye-opening pilgrimage to a higher spiritual plane? jonathan jones


False or true… Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.
False or true… Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Two rival magicians compete in skill and the quality of the insults they throw at everyone in this alternate history of England during the Napoleonic Wars. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is full of ideas, moral challenges, wit and wisdom. It is literature of the highest quality. But it’s also a wonderfully relaxing read. Clarke’s clear and charming prose lets you float, entirely out of your own head, into a new and far more interesting reality. It’s no wonder that despite only being released in 2004, it already seems like a timeless classic of fantasy. Sam Jordan


Squared eyes… Marcus and Mica.
Squared eyes… Marcus and Mica. Photography: Studio Lambert

I used to dismiss Gogglebox (watching people on TV watching their own TV?!), until I actually watched it. Its long-running Friday night slot means it’s now part of the week-long disconnect ritual that has been. It doesn’t matter if you miss moments because of packing takeout, doing laundry, or maybe even falling asleep on the couch before bed – those are just the people who react to the TV after all. And yet, it’s so much fun to feel a part of their conversations and watch them scream, laugh or cry at something you may or may not have seen. During confinement, I looked forward to it every week; there were so many times when familiar families nailed the state of the nation’s emotions. It’s like hanging out with friends at the pub – and, let’s be honest, we never fully listen to what they say anyway. Hollie Richardson


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