Au noir – Cinematic inspirations

Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, 1958

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Les Amants, 1958

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Les liaisons dangereuses, 1959

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La Notte, 1960

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Jules et Jim, 1962

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Eva, 1962

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La baie des anges, 1963

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Claude Mann (Jean Fournier) et Jeanne Moreau (Jackie Demaistre)

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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.

 

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Photos via

The Red List

Vogue UK

Classiq

New Wave Film.com

References

Like Acting and Loving, Honor suits Jeanne Moreau

 

 

 

Movie inspiration of the week – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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.

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References and Photos

Rosemary’s Baby – Inspo

Rosemary’s Baby – KB’s Review

Dual Analysis: Rosemary’s Baby – Chris’ Thoughts

The Five Original Hipsters

Lessons We Can Learn From Rosemary’s Baby

 

 

Movie inspiration of the week – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Costume Designer: Lucinda Ballard, Nominated Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (24th Academy Awards)

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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“And if God choose,

I shall but love thee better-after-death!”

Why, that’s from my favorite sonnet by Mrs. Browning!

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I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.

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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.

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We danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ranout of the casino. A few moments later-a shot!
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 What do you two think you are? A pair of queens?

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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!

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The opposite is desire. So do you wonder? How could you possibly wonder!
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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.

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Well, it’s a red letter night for us both. You having an oil millionaire and me having a baby.

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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!

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The hot trumpet and drums from the Four Deuces sound loudly
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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

A Streetcar Named Desire BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS – With an Introduction by the Author, Signet Books (1951)

Elia Kazan, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Norman N. Holland

Best Shot: “A Streetcar Named Desire”

A Madhouse In The Quarter: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE A Madhouse In The Quarter: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

The Furniture: Decorating Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

http://www.virtual-history.com/movie/film/2060/a-streetcar-named-desire

An ill fitting week

I wore this dress on Monday and the whole day I felt as if was in disguise. I thought I looked like a twenty first century flapper when I checked myself in the mirror before leaving the house, but the minute I got to work I looked as if I had borrowed the last available dress left in someone else’s closet. And that someone definitely didn’t  have a lot in common with me. I didn’t buy this dress. It was a gift from my mum who probably never abandoned the hope that, in the right outfit, I would look like a pretty girl. This dress is too pink for me, it’s either too short for me or I’m too tall for it, I am also too old to pull something like this off. Not being a mother myself, I am left with a daughter’s perspective on this strange relationship that sometimes infantilizes me in order to, so it seems, avoid confronting the inevitability of time.

Mondays are never easy and I have a horrible cold and the medication is making me feel like I’m living underwater and the weight of every single thought is too much to even consider taking any kind of action.

TUESDAY

I bought this jacket in Vietnam in November 2014. A text message received while I was in Hanoi let me know that my great aunt had died. I was there for work and alone and while I can’t really say that I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, I have found that sometimes, strangers make the best friends and know exactly what to do and how to help.

Stray people brought together by chance

WEDNESDAY

I have a weak spot for chinoiserie and I absolutely adore these pants. I think I bought them some twenty years ago and they have never made it to the error category.

I felt a lot better today. After work we went to Java, the usual hang out before theater, for dinner. The TV was showing the aftermath of the Westminster attack. The coffee shop was crowded and we are all seating at an uncomfortable closeness. The gentleman next to me is wearing a brown jacket and turns his head often in my direction. Maybe he’s getting irritated at the proximity. No, he starts talking about the news. I try not to engage. I studied political science and I have no idea how to comment on the historical, sociological, or political contexts of what we are staring at. I find it difficult to rationalize barbarity. He’s British. He goes on about foreigners and political correctness. For twelve years he served in the Royal Navy, like his father before him. His eyesight started failing. He’s now a civilian. He was born in Cornwall and grew up in Scotland, now he lives in Manchester because he can’t afford to live in London. He’s been in Portugal for two weeks on vacation, this was his last night. He’s wearing a black t-shirt with some very graphic expression of discontent written in Afrikaans. I’ve never been a big fan of clothes that are too explicit in doing your talking for you. We have to go, the play starts at 9. He says goodbye kissing our hands and thanking us for the company and patience. Whatever was said, I realize I missed that accent and the blue eyed frankness I have lived with for four or so years of my life.

The play is a Portuguese – Belgian co-production spoken in French, Portuguese and Flemish with subtitles in English and Portuguese. I like the set and love the wardrobe when Anna Karenina is the woman inhabiting them and their actions. Still, it’s difficult to focus on anything either than the text. Forty years apart in Lisbon and Antwerp two couples fall out of love, question the normal life people manage to live and read Anna Karenina in French. One of the characters hasn’t read it. He actually thought about reading War and Peace but there were too many pages.

How she dies. It’s not supposed to be about this particular written death but about how literature changes or makes us change our lives. So the author says in a number of interviews.

But she did not take her eyes from the wheels of the second car. And exactly at the moment when the midpoint between the wheels drew level with her, she threw away the red bag, and drawing her head back into her shoulders, fell on her hands under the car, and with a light movement, as though she would rise immediately, dropped on her knees. And at the instant she was terror-stricken at what she was doing. ‘Where am I? What am I doing? What for?’ She tried to get up, to throw herself back; but something huge and merciless struck her on the head and dragged her down on her back

 

THURSDAY

Last week there was a promise of an early Summer that has vanished during this week as temperatures dropped some twenty degrees and the news reported closed schools because of the snow. Not in Porto. I miss my second ballet class of the week and go to a conference on culture and citizenship. Friends and experts come together to pay tribute to the Poet. To Poetry. There’s a painting exhibition in the room. There’s this painting, A homage to Gaugin, it’s called, and there’s this amazing figure of a woman that could also be a man painted in the warm colours that live in Tahiti. It keeps me  from listening to most of what is being said.

FRIDAY

A lavender morning turned into a cold rainy afternoon. I took half the day off to seat at a open rehearsal of Macbeth at the national theater. They only started rehearsals on Monday so this is still the table-work phase of reading and exploring the text and the characters. There’s an English literature professor and expert in Shakespeare who has been invited to talk about the play, and the text, and the differences between the English original and the Portuguese translation. And there he was, academia at it’s very best, rethorical mighty with all its seductive power. And the words go on for five hours and I don’t feel tired or bored. There’s nothing more fascinating than being the witness to personal passions. Not to me, at least. The catastrophe of getting exactly what you want in life. Those who choose to loose everything and those who do. The fantasy of being whole and the prison it creates. And Sartre who could be very pedantic but also very intelligent.

We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

In 2012 I did a course on Shakespeare at the University of Oxford. This was how I fell in love with Macbeth. My final essay was on the question of agency. My somewhat lazy conclusion stated that “Macbeth’s hamartia is not his ambition, as this is a character flaw, but his miscalculation of the personal consequences of assassinating Duncan and the inner torment that leads him on a murdering spree in the frantic desire for peace of mind. It is this tragic error that ultimately transforms his life in an empty mockery”. I’m often surprised and ashamed when reading what I have written.

SATURDAY

On Saturday I decided to revisit the rive gauche intellectual in me, ratty cashmere sweater and all.

Saturday is flamenco class day. I decided not to miss this one and take me and my cold for another session of trying to emulate Lola. It is not an easy, if at all possible, task to be a Lola. Either a fictional or a real one.

The rest of my Saturday is spent doing adult stuff, washing, and supermarket shopping, and other uninteresting errands. I sold a white Betty Barclay jacket. It’s going to Boise, Idaho.  At the end of all this I go and see Ana present a book on American cuisine. I’m only there for moral support. Cookbooks are basically useless at my house.

It took five songs of the weird (I like to think about it as eclectic but I suspect it’s just weird) driving playlist on my iPod to drive home:

Everybody knows

The famous blue raincoat

For once in my life

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon

Guilty

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I suspect rive gauche intellectuals didn’t care much for glitter ballet flats. Shoes off. I’m not going out, I decide that watching This Property is Condemned on TV is a much better option.

SUNDAY

Daylight saving time began at 1 AM. Outside it still looks like Winter.
I go to the only cinema we have downtown, one of the two movie theaters that is not a multiplex. Popcorn free zone, what a bliss. The movie is Aquarius with Sonia Braga. Two and half hours lost, gone forever. Such a grand actress deserved a much better movie. Great soundtrack, though.

I get home to this

 My next door neighbour is a sweet Lady.

References

Tolstoy

Tennessee Williams

Aristotle

Movie Inspiration of the week

Marguerite (2015)

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Movie Inspiration of the Week – The Addiction (1995)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 madness
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Back to her thesis, Kathleen is now a junkie with a rationale.

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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. 

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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.

Movie inspiration  of the week – Pierrot Le Fou (1965)

Leaving (for now) the Riviera Summer inspiration by means of Godard’s absurdist road movie of feelings versus ideas.

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A film is like a battleground: there’s love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word: emotion

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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

Only the Cinema

Pierrot le fou: Self-Portrait in a Shattered Lens

FilmGrab

paintings in Pierrot le fou