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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Annals of Luxury: The Gold Rush of 2009-10

Unlike most products we purchase, the price of a hot new bag or piece of jewelry has very little to do with the cost of production, the cost of raw materials, or even supply and demand.

The price of a luxury item is determined by its perceived value or, in simple terms, what the buyer is willing to pay for it. That is why a Vuitton or Hermes bag can fetch 13 times more than manufacturing costs.

Gold bars
Not always worth its weight!

If the folks who produce and distribute your groceries could achieve those margins, you'd need to mortgage your house just to eat.

The price of commodities like sugar and oil is usually directly related to issues of supply, demand, and production. The costs of gas does down when there is too much oil being produced or when consumers buy less of it.

Not so with gold. In recent months, the supply of gold has remained constant and demand for the precious stuff has fallen by 25%, according to a recent story in the Wall St. Journal.

Still, the price of gold continues to rise to record highs, gaining an average of 16% for each of the past ten years.

Sounds like a good investment, doesn't it – particularly in these uncertain economic times?

Wait! The price of gold is determined not by market forces but by large investors who have no use for it. They buy more if they think the price will go higher, thus pushing the prices up.

This isn't a sure thing: there is a history of gold's price falling.

According to Sherali Anand, the author of the Journal's report, "During times of prosperity and growth in the world, gold prices fell. Between January 1980 and January 1990, gold lost 28% of its value. Over the subsequent 10 years through January 2000, gold fell an additional 27%

"Now, after its sharp increase over the past decade, even gold bulls are skeptical about its potential as a high-return investment."

In other words, nothing goes up forever. That certainly includes gold, the price of which, as we have learned, is subject to the whims of fickle investors, global political events, and who knows what else.

Not comforting if you are looking for a safe place to put your money nowadays.

Mr. Anand concludes, "Don't keep more than 5% of your portfolio in gold."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-, Sum-, Summertime!

We're already in fun-in-the-sun mode, even though summer doesn't start officially for another month.

Take a look at these gifts, selected to make a day at the beach or in the backyard that much more sensational.

These are great choices for your cast or crew for start or end of production or for valued clients and important business associates for any occasion.

When you see what you like, call us at (310) 581-6710 and we'll get it for you. Don't see what you're looking for? Call us, we'll show you more gift suggestions.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

At the1955 Cannes Film Festival "Marty" Won The Palme d'Or and Grace Kelly Met Her Prince

The Cannes Film Festival opens tonight amid a circus of directors, producers, studio executives, talent agents, sales reps, paparazzi, mimes and street performers, film critics (who isn't?), provincial tourists by the tens of thousands – and, of course, genuine movie stars and would-be stars from every country and every strata of the film business.

At the 1955 festival the mood was less frenzied, though still festive. Then, as now, film royalty from Sophia Loren to Grace Kelly to Brigitte Bardot descended on the Riviera to show off their wares.

It was a great year to be in Cannes:

Jeanne Moreau attended for the first time.

The first Palmes d'Or were handed out. Before that the top prize was called the Grand Prix.

The inaugural Palme d'Or went to Delbert Mann's Marty.

American films were strongly represented at the festival. Direct from Hollywood: Elia Kazan's East of Eden, John Sturges's Bad Day at Black Rock, Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones, Edward Dmytryk's The End of the Affair, George Seaton's The Country Girl, and Marty.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reported that Sophia Loren was the most photographed star at Cannes in 1955. If so, she faced stiff competition from the likes of Bardot, Kelly, and Gina Lollabrigida.

Dino Risi, Vittorio de Sica, and Carol Reed also brought films to Cannes in 1955.

Grace Kelly, whose The Country Girl screened in competition, was introduced to Prince Rainier at the Carlton Hotel. A year later they were married.

Melina Mercouri traveled to Cannes for the Michael Cacoyannis film Stella and met her future husband, the director Jules Dassin. Dassin was named best director for his in-competition Rififi.

Other notables at Cannes in 1955: Gene Kelly with Betsy Blair, Silvana Mangano, Esther Williams, Olivia de Haviland, the French actors Eddie Constantine, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nadia Gray, and directors Otto Preminger, Jean Renoir, Nicholas Ray.

The beloved novelist Marcel Pagnol served as president of the jury. Also on the jury: director Anatole Litvak, short filmmaker Juan Antonio Bardem (the uncle of actor Javier Bardem), and French playwright Marcel Achard, who would write the 1962 comedy l'Idiot on which the second Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark was based.

Fifty-five years and another lifetime ago!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Paul Caponigro at the Peter Fetterman Gallery

We live in a digital era and benefit mightily from a near limitless capacity to download, store, manipulate, and enjoy images and music from every corner of our planet at any time of day or night.

For this we are thankful.

If you are of a certain age – or are preternaturally wise – then you also understand that our universe consists of much more than an infinite arrangement of discontinuous values and binary numeric forms.

Rose Bowl, Paul Caponigro, 2002

The best way to remind yourself of this is to spend some time with the wondrous nature studies and landscapes of photographer Paul Caponigro, now on display in a small gem of an exhibit at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica.

Caponigro is a temporal, as well as stylistic contemporary of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Like those two masters, Caponigro provides a window into our inner lives. He shows us both the intense physical beauty and transcendent incorporeality that co-exist in nature's simplest forms.

Winter Woods, Paul Caponigro, 1972

Thus, the glorious contours of a rose in full bloom nestled in a wooden bowl represent sensuality and spirituality at the same time. An apple becomes both an object of mystery and a thrilling metaphor for distant, dark worlds to be explored far beyond our own.

Caponigro takes photographs the old-fashioned, that is to say non-digital, way. He prints his work as his artistic forbears did – in a darkroom, not with a computer and ink jet printer.

The silver gelatin prints themselves are stunning, luminous, masterly, exquisite, contradictory; they calm you, lull you and exhilarate you at the same time.

Still going strong at 77, Caponigro is also an accomplished musician. As you lose yourself in the profound imagery on view at the Fetterman Gallery, recordings of piano sonatas played by the photographer filter softly through the gallery.

For a moment, all seems right with the world.

"In the Presence of Paul Caponigro" is on view through June 6 at Peter Fetterman Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Call (310) 453-6463 for exhibition hours.