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”
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
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.
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
What’s in a name
According to the label on it, I’ve had this t-shirt since I was 4. I guess these were quite popular at the time and my brother also had one.
At four, this was just a cute t-shirt with my name on it, now I look at it and see the beginning of my long saga of letting clothes tell me who I am. The fact that it actually has my name on it makes it even more important. I have always identified with the name chosen for me. Both of them. My two given names are Nadine and Stella. One meaning Hope and the other, of course, meaning Star. These meanings have, undoubtedly, shaped my main personality trait, I’m the eternal optimist, the obstinate one “that maintains that everything is best when it is worst.”
Nadine is the name everyone calls me, it’s also the name that has always made sense to call mine. Re-reading my 9 year old diary I realise that it also the name of the character I’ve created for myself. Most of the pages are full of descriptions of this girl called Nadine, an aspirational self, subject to countless experimentations of posture, behaviour, appearance, treated in writing like some amazing heroin in one of the countless books that were my most usual companions at the time.
Growing up in Portugal it was also too different from all the other names at school or the doctor’s office. At a time when you didn’t want to be noticed it was the kind of name that did not allow for any kind of invisibility. I didn’t actually realise how good that was. I do now. It is the kind of name that does not really require a surname. You can just be.
The imaginary or delusional grandeur I came to see in this name made it difficult to live up to it. How not to fall short from the character? I started by dressing it, all it’s moods, quirks, dreams and aspirations as a costume designer of some sorts. That’s how I ended up with a massive closet and no archiving space.
Stella has never been the protagonist. Others have never recognised it as a character and I am only slowly discovering that it might also be a name with it’s own voice.
Say Your Name
Heartbreaking pasts and unchanged futures
2046 is one of my favorite movies of all times. It’s beautifully photographed, the wardrobe is divine and it leaves you with a permanent sense of longing and missing the future. I bought this dress on eBay and I was totally convinced that I could attain the sort of elusive elegance portrayed by Wong Kar Wai.
I’m not a movie critic of any sorts and even though I spend a lot of my time watching movies, I related to them primarily through an aesthetic involvement, I want to get lost in them. This particular movie mirrors what seems to be my most pervasive attitude towards life. Somewhat aimless, seldom focused on the outcomes, but always looking forward and enjoying the journey.
Is a dress that important? Having been on stage (not metaphorically) more than once, nothing makes me more aware of the character than the wardrobe that lets me understand what story I’m supposed to be telling.
On the other, the metaphorical stage, having the right props for the day’s performance always seemed to be the most enjoyable way of making the journey., transforming ordinary activities into moments of filmic fleeting beauty.
Every passenger who goes to 2046 has the same intention. They want to recapture lost memories because nothing ever changes in 2046. Nobody knows if that’s true because nobody’s ever come back.