I seem to be forgetting to live a little more.
This a little Peek at my first experience with karaoke. In China, where I am for the past few days living my own version of “Lost in Translation”
Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, 1958
Les Amants, 1958
Les liaisons dangereuses, 1959
La Notte, 1960
Jules et Jim, 1962
La baie des anges, 1963
The cliché is that life is a mountain.
You go up, reach the top and then go down.
To me, life is going up until you are burned by flames.
Life is an accomplishment and each moment has a meaning and you must use it.
Life is given to you like a flat piece of land and everything has to be done.
I hope that when I am finished, my piece of land will be a beautiful garden, so there is a lot of work.
Costume Designer: Anthea Sylbert
This is not one of my favourite movies and definitely not one of my favourite genres. However, I’m back to my beloved pixie haircut and 60s Mia Farrow is an unavoidable reference.
Plus, there are 56 outfit changes throughout the film and, whether performing a narrative function or a mere stylistic one, they are pretty much all memorable, inspired and inspiring.
References and Photos
After lunch I went to check Andrey Konchalovsky”s Paradise. This is an incredibly beautiful and intelligent movie about confronting extreme evil and dangerous ideas of a paradise that only exists at the expense of someone else’s living hell.
I walked to my car and Brahms is still echoing in my mind. It takes me a minute or so to realize that the back window was smashed. Nothing stolen. Just petty vandalism or someone got interrupted. And this is, of course, nothing. But, it did work in bringing me down to earth and reality does have a way of making me feel extremely upset.
Now I’m home trying to convince myself I need to start packaging for Sarajevo and this is a place I have never been and the TV memories it evokes, make Konchalosky’s words about his own movie all the more important and, unfortunately, also inconsequential.
Irene Lentz (women)
Arlington Valles (men)
This is a somewhat obvious choice for this week because it’s Easter. Around here we do not have “Easter Parades” and there’s no tradition of Easter bonnets (which is an absolute shame). I wished we had imported this instead of Halloween. We do keep the tradition of wearing brand new clothes as a symbol of renewal and probably of remembrance of “fast-fashion free” times. Despite the lure of new clothes and chocolate eggs, I never liked Easter, I’ve never thought about it as a time of joy. I blame this on the nuns at school and the suffocating weight of tradition in Catholic countries.
Easter Parade is not one of the movies shown around here on TV during Easter break, most probably because in this case Easter just serves as a context and not as a theme. Trumpeted as the “happiest musical ever made”, even if its making seems to have involved quite a lot of suffering and unhappiness), this is the perfect antidote for whatever gloomy feelings I might nurture for Easter. There are 17 Irving Berlin songs, in this movie, stunning dance routines, and a world “in which, it seems, no man leaves the house without top hat and tails; all the women, meanwhile, swan around in fabulous gowns and fantastical Easter bonnets.”
There is Ann Miller playing Nadine ( I couldn’t help myself) who matches her outfits to her dogs (or probably the other way around).
And there is, of course, Fred Astaire!
I’m choosing escapism for Easter!
References and Photos
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, it’s voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
“The Broken Tower” by Hart Crane
Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.
He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.
Look at these feathers and furs that she come here to preen herself in! What’s this here? A solid-gold dress, I believe! And this one! What is these here? Fox-pieces! Genuine fox fur-pieces, a half a mile long! Where· are your fox-pieces, Stella? Bushy snow-white ones, no less!
Pearls! Ropes of them! What is this sister of yours, a deep-sea diver? Bracelets of solid gold, too! Where are your pearls and gold bracelets?
Compliments to women about their looks. I’ve never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.
The poker players–Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo-wear colored shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors.
“And if God choose,
I shall but love thee better-after-death!”
Why, that’s from my favorite sonnet by Mrs. Browning!
I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.
I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft-soft people have got to shimmer and g1ow-they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly’ wings, and put a paper lantern over the light …it isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I-I’m fading now! I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick.
I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!
She has dragged her wardrobe trunk into the center of the bedroom. It hangs open with flowery dresses thrown across it. As the drinking and packing went on, a mood of hysterical exhilaration came into her and -she has decked herself out in a somewhat soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown and a pair of scuffed silver slippers with brilliants set in their heels. Now she is placing the rhinestone tiara on her head before the mirror of the dressing-table and murmuring excitedly as if to a ‘group of spectral admirers.
Well, it’s a red letter night for us both. You having an oil millionaire and me having a baby.
A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding, can enrich a man’s life – immeasurably! I have those things to offer, and this doesn’t take them away. Physical beauty is passing. A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit and tenderness of the heart-and I have all of those things-aren’t taken away, but grow! Increase with the years! How strange that I should be called a destitute woman! When I have all of these treasures locked in my heart. I think of myself as a very, very rich woman! But I have been foolish-casting my pearls before swine!
He takes off his hat and now he becomes personalized. The unhuman quality goes. His voice is gentle and reassuring as he crosses to Blanche and crouches in front of her. As he speaks her name, her terror subsides a little. The lurid reflections fade from the walls, the inhuman cries and noises die out and her own hoarse crying is calmed.
Whoever you are-I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
’In this dark march toward whatever it is we’re approaching,’ Blanche raises the flag of magic against the crushing disappointment of reality in her “worn-out Mardi Gras outfit” and the costumes are absolutely brilliant in creating this fantasy world, showing us someone trying to survive the decay and decadence of her own life and not being able to cope with what the world has thrown at her. And that’s how a trunk full of flowery dresses and rhinestone tiaras can help you survive as long as you keep away from the brutes, maybe you’ll be able to not only tell, but also live what ought to be truth. ( And this in no way an endorsement of post truths or a glorification of mental illness)
References and Photos
Costume Designer: Rosanna Norton
I have to confess my ignorance because I had never heard of this film until last Saturday when I caught it by chance on tv.
Brian De Palma’s rock opera within a rock opera (possibly the world’s first) is a bright, loud, brash, fast and funny live-action comic book, a vicious little satire of the music business, and a head-on collision between Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and early ‘70s glam [and the Picture of Dorian Gray] . Jim Knipfel
To begin, one must cross-reference the film with the historical referent that serves as its structuring absence: the Sixties. This is the lost paradise De Palma invokes in detailing the fallen world of mid-Seventies rock, the would-be utopia that has now collapsed into the death-and-glitter cesspool of 1974. Whatever may actually have happened in the decade, it’s clearly the object that has been lost by a world that can now sustain something called Death Records. The label serves as base of operation for a satanic producer/executive named Swan (Paul Williams), who stands in for the reaper who rang down the curtain on peace and love (…) The sense that something has been lost is inescapable, that it’s been corrupted by grotesquely commercialized hands. Travis MacKenzie Hoover
The theatrical element—crucial for a film that centers on a music palace called “The Paradise”—is the number one citation for the degradation of the music scene. What upsets the filmmakers most is that any jerk in gold lame and platform shoes can be a singing star with the right razzle-dazzle, as the unadorned musicians of the previous decade were being swept off the stage for Alice Cooper and his obnoxious bits of business. Travis MacKenzie Hoover
Even if the over the top, outrageous, glittery empty style of the classic glam rock era symbolizes the decadence and corruption of the music [as] business, the melodramatic characters intoxicated by stardom and masterfully served by Rosanna Norton’s imaginative and eye-popping costumes also show us a phantasy (albeit bitter) world of identity creation and playful sensuality.If this is not the particular allure of this movie, it certainly explains the pervasive influence of 70s glam rock in fashion.
Swan’s Video Surveillance Control Room (scene-by-scene exploration of the movie)
Costume Designer Bonnie Cashin
The movie basically consists of well-dressed rich people standing in luxury flats and talking to a cop. Roger Ebert
I wasn’t designing for fashion, but for characteristics, which is the way I like to design clothes for daily wear. I like to design clothes for a woman who plays a particular role in life, not simply to design clothes that follow a certain trend, or that express some new silhouette.
Film noir is known for its convoluted plots and arbitrary twists, but even in a genre that gave us The Maltese Falcon, this takes some kind of prize … That Laura continues to weave a spell – and it does – is a tribute to style over sanity … All of [the] absurdities and improbabilities somehow do not diminish the film’s appeal. They may even add to it … [T]he whole film is of a piece: contrived, artificial, mannered, and yet achieving a kind of perfection in its balance between low motives and high style. What makes the movie great, perhaps, is the casting. The materials of a B-grade crime potboiler are redeemed by Waldo Lydecker, walking through every scene as if afraid to step in something
According to Ula Lukszo, “clothes of the noir film – part of the noir Look – are essential to the nostalgia and fascination we associate with these films”. The same author suggests that “noir can be defined by fashion”, observing that noir films “contain common patterns of dress and related signifiers [that make] noir fashion a significant means of constructing noir into a contemporary genre and cultural fantasy”.
While it seems that styles portrayed in classic noir films are mere reflections of the popular styles at the time, giving the impression that clothing choices “reflect little more than everyday personal choices”, costumes in noir movies still retain their main function, characterization.
“Wherever we went, she stood out.” It helps that the excellent costume design allows Laura to be all things to all people: Elegant, simple, romantic, feminine, and complimentary.
Film noir relies on both the visual pleasure that resides in the costuming and the lighting of the film, and the emotional pleasure of seeing criminals punished and tough protagonists either dispensing “true justice (…) or succumbing to their transgressions. ( Lukszo)
Laura had innate breeding, but she deferred to my judgment and taste. I selected a more attractive hairdress for her. I taught her what clothes were more becoming to her. Through me, she met everyone. The famous and the infamous. Her youth and beauty, her poise and charm of manner captivated them all. She had warmth, vitality. She had authentic magnetism. Wherever we went, she stood out: men admired her, women envied her. She became as well known as Waldo Lydecker’s walking stick and his white carnation. But Tuesday and Friday nights we stayed home, dining quietly, listening to my records. I read my articles to her. The way she listened was more eloquent than speech. These were the best nights. Then one Tuesday, she phoned and said she couldn’t come.
No matter how undeniably inspiring the femme fatale in noir always is, I never really can bring myself to “walk the walk, talk the talk and dress the part”. Laura is a more approachable heroine in a sense that, throughout the narrative, she seems to be a “self-made” woman in spite of what the men around her might think and beyond the femme fatale / “nurturing woman” dichotomy. There’s more to her than the “fantasy of the to-be-looked-at-ness“.
Photos and References
Ula Lukszo, Noir Fashion and Noir as Fashion in Munich, Adrienne (editor) Fashion in Film
Costume designer Ruth Morley
Considered by many Coppola’s worst movie and one of the biggest flops in film history, eventually leading to the director’s, and his company Zoetrope’s, bankruptcy, One from the Heart is a flamboyant and artificial musical following Frannie ( Teri Garr) and Hank (Frederic Forrest) 5th anniversary celebrations in their hometown Las Vegas during a 4th of July weekend.
Frannie works at Paradise Travel Agency and dreams of flying off to Bora Bora while lending her vivid imagination to the thematic window displays she sets up while Hank is the owner of a junkyard called Reality.
Having met 5 years before over the 4th of July, reality has settled in and Frannie and Hank now struggle with the increasing boredom and disillusionment over each other. After an argument, Frannie decides to leave, taking refuge with her best friend Maggie (Lainie Kazan) while Hank finds solace near his best friend Moe (Harry Dean Stanton) and both decide to reinvent themselves through perms and haircuts, tailored funky suits and enticing red dresses and present new and alluring self-images to new prospective partners.
Because I know I’ve been swindled
I never bargained for this
What’s more you never cared about me
Why don’t you get your own place
So you can live like you do
And I’m sick and tired of picking up after you
While Frannie finds the excitement and adventure she’d been craving for with Ray (Raúl Juliá) the dark and handsome lounge pianist/waiter, Hank finds his new idealized partner in the otherworldly beautiful Leila (Nastassja Kinski) who decides to abandon her circus troupe.
Everything is over the top and cartoonish and obviously fake. And it’s even maybe a little soppy and oversentimental and corny but it’s a tale of ordinary lives taking place in an extraordinary setting and narrated by a wonderful Tom Waits soundtrack.
While it might not be Coppola’s best, for me, in all its artificiality and melodramatic extravaganza, One from the Heart, is the musical that we, sometimes, can’t resist playing in our heads. We might not be able to sing but once in a while, we just can’t resist the daydreaming fantasy of having our little ordinary life soundtracked and choreographed.
In the end, Frannie does not board the flight taking her first to Los Angeles and then to Bora Bora with Ray. She goes back to Hank. True love always wins, or that’s probably the way a musical should end or, again, we like to believe the artifices we see on screen are real.
Photos via thredlist.com
Costume Designer: Pierre-Jean Larroque. César Best Costume Design (Meilleurs costumes)
I did not see this movie when it came out, I’ve watched it on TV on Christmas Eve. As with Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) , Marguerite is also inspired by the life of the “world’s worst opera singer“. While Stephen Frears‘ film (that I did not see) is set in 1940s New York, director Xavier Gianolli, tells Marguerite’s story in Paris during the Golden Twenties. Since the 20s are my “in the wrong place at the wrong time” period in history, this little detail makes all the difference. Not only because Pierre-Jean Larroque’s period costumes are exquisite but also because the story benefits from the social, cultural and artistic context of European avant-gardism.
This is a story of passion without talent. Not of a simple love of music but of a vital need to express that love. The Baroness Marguerite Dumont loves opera and wants to be loved by her cheating husband through her talent as a venerated soprano, creating a dream world enabled by the butler / photographer Madelbos and her own wealth, pleasant disposition and childlike enthusiasm that prevent everyone around her from telling her how excruciatingly bad she is.
Marguerite creates a dream world helped by Madelbos, the butler, who protects her from the harsh reviews and mockeries of the outside world but also turns her and the elaborate photo shoots of delusional Diva roles into his own personal artistic project. For that he is willing to let her die and this was, for me, the darkest side of the movie. While this is a thoroughly beautiful and inspirational look at the nature of art and the value of a dream it is also a bitter reflection on the use of others as the object / subject of that art.
While Florence Foster Jenkins might have never known just how terrible she was, Marguerite does get to know and that ends up not making Life possible anymore.
I would not want to know a person who isn’t offended by aspects of this film, but I would be equally bored by an individual who would casually dismiss the film itself.
Costume Designer Melinda Eshelman
This is not an obvious choice as far as fashion / style inspiration goes, nor does it fall (apparently) in a film genre I particularly appreciate. Not a conventional (romantic) vampire movie, The Addiction seems to depict “vampires” in an over realistic manner as intellectual drug addicts in a grungy 90s New York City.
An explicit metaphor (if that’s a thing) for heroin addiction and its moral and physical decaying results, this is also a film that uses “the vampire as a metaphor for intellectual hubris in the face of systemic sinfulness in the world”.[*] Having practically been born into academia and having spent all my life in it, this is what strikes me as both inspiring and scary in The Addiction.
Suitably blood-festooned vampire flick (although the word vampire is never mentioned). Secondly, it operates as a philosophical and religious reflection on human evil and redemption and finally as an amusing take on certain aspects of university life, probably best appreciated by those directly involved in that venerable institution.
Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is a Philosophy doctoral student who transforms into a vampire / undead/ immortal after being bitten by the stylish Casanova ( Annabella Sciorra) because she, the victim, could not stand up to her sleek aggressor who specifically tells her: “Tell me to leave you alone”and begins “a slow transition from theoretical dependency to literal acts of horror and extreme physical addiction.” [*] Succumbing to her addiction, Kathleen neglects her thesis as she falls deeper into ennui until meeting Peina (Christopher Walken), who with the superiority of the recovering addict turns into an impromptu supervisor, sucking all her blood before giving her a reading list. “Read the books, Sartre,Beckett, who do you think they are talking about?”
I have felt the wind on the wing of madnessBaudelaire
By making the force of Kathleen’s appetite for blood, and an altering sense of moral perspective a parallel to a developing thesis, St John and Ferrara enable a wry, reflexive commentary on philosophy in action. As well as allowing a PhD student to take a rare leading role in a feature narrative (albeit made more exciting by vampirism), The Addiction is an ambitiously intellectual genre film, and a comic satire on intellectualism itself in its literalization of theory, as Kathleen both consumes her supervisor and eventually the academic community.
The University, the institution “among the precious things that can be destroyed “, has changed a lot since 1995. I’m not quite sure if the institution transformed into an enabler of transversal skills through, more or less fast tracks, and in the process condemning learners to a life of follow up courses and debt (in some countries) is still the place of never ending theories trying to rationalize the unfathomable. Or maybe it’s just “all theory and philosophy until someone gets bit”
To face what we are in the end, we stand before the light and our true nature is revealed. Self-revelation is annihilation of self.
P.S. In its neo noir aesthetic, this is, of course, a film that appeals to me with all the its different layers of black. The invisible, the evil, the academic, the existentialist, the transgressive, the bohemian, the absolute black.
I’ve forgotten the words with which to tell you. I knew them once, but I’ve forgotten them, and now I’m talking to you without them.
A memory piece that calls up the dead, its heroine, Anne-Marie Stretter (Delphine Seyrig), dances with her lover, Michael Richardson (Claude Mann), in the ballroom of the French Embassy in Calcutta, where her memorial—a photograph, a stick of burning incense, some flowers—is already arranged on the piano. Time folds in on itself in India Song, and space is fractured by the huge mirror that nearly covers one wall so that the reflection of the room is a constant; it is always different, however, from the framing of the room by the camera, whether still or moving. The image created by Duras and cinematographer Bruno Nuytten is at once ghostly and eroticized, so delicately colored that it seems hand-tinted, and the closeness of the air, weighted by the insufferable heat, is palpable. India Song puts all the senses on high alert, and yet it is not in any sense realism. No one would be surprised to learn that it was shot on a set constructed in a crumbling mansion near Paris.
I’m leaving tomorrow. This is my first trip to India and all the images I have are the ones that never show you India just the dreamlike state of decadence of what has been lost.
Photos and References
Leaving (for now) the Riviera Summer inspiration by means of Godard’s absurdist road movie of feelings versus ideas.
A film is like a battleground: there’s love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word: emotion
A noir movie in technicolor that follows the adventures of Ferdinand Griffon who is trying to fulfill his vast artistic plans, after losing his corporate job and Marianne Renoir the “ingénue fatale”, the epitome of easy French “girly style”.
Not to write about people’s lives anymore, but only about life—life itself. What lies in between people: space, sound, and color. I’d like to accomplish that. Joyce gave it a try, but it should be possible to do better.
A bittersweet representation of the absurd in our lives in full colour and cinemascope, Pierrot le Fou‘s self-destructive romanticism, the artistic self-consciousness, the frenetically unhinged form, the blend of emotional extravagance and cool self-mocking, the vanished boundaries between irony and sincerity and between symbol and reality is Life as loud as it gets. As an “inspiration”, for me, it goes far beyond the stylish Anna Karina whose style still resonates with designers and taste-makers worldwide. My muse in this movie is most definitely Jean-Paul Belmondo and his tragic “Yves Klein Pierrot”. No matter what, “being afraid is [still] the worst sin there is”.
As in Le Mépris and Bonjour Tristesse, the Mediterranean is again the landscape of failed aspirations and human suffering but as far as Pierrot le Fou goes, I would have to agree with Michel Cournot , “I feel no embarrassment declaring that Pierrot le fou is the most beautiful film I’ve seen in my life.”
References and photos
Costume Designer: Hubert de Givenchy
When Jean Seberg is on screen you can’t look at anything else. Her every movement is graceful, each glance is precise. The shape of her head, her silhouette, her walk, everything is perfect; this kind of sex appeal hasn’t been seen on the screen.
Contrary to the common practice in this part of the world, I did not go on holiday in August and this is, most obviously, taking its toll on me. I don’t seem to be able to get the French Riviera out of my mind. This week life is back to the black and white tones of reality and Summer has, if not technically, emotionally come to an end.
I should probably be writing on Otto Preminger’s talents and “virtuosity with CinemaScope framing and three-strip Technicolor” and their use in establishing a clear difference in tone and mood between the wintering, sophisticated Paris present and the sun drenched, carefree past of Mediterranean summers.
Better yet, I should be writing about how Givenchy’s costumes are essential to understand the characters and the changes they go through, specially in the case of Cecile (Jean Seberg). As Barbara Tfank noted, “Givenchy is the customer designer, which is so extraordinary. When you see Jean in the film’s opening, it’s the most perfect example of fashion and film”.
But, as with Le Mépris, this a film I feel a strong emotional connection to. This is the film responsible for almost 10 years of wearing a pixie cut. Cecile inspired my visit to Monaco and my self styled movie fantasies while strolling inside the Monte Carlo Casino almost by myself. Said self styling was, fortunately, enough to convince the Maitre d’ that I was not a regular tourist.
In its bittersweetness, it keeps reminding me that Summer inevitably comes to an end.
References and photos