Monday, 29 December 2008

Film Review Australia

I don't usually review current films as film selection and personal interests are always very subjective. However, after viewing Australia last night I decided to make an exception. I like Baz Luhrmann, he is a film director who takes risks hence Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge and Australia falls in to the risk taking category. Luhrmann delivers a film epic, at 165mins it couldn't be anything less. It is an epic that crosses film genres giving us war, musical, almost a Western, abit of Out of Africa and love all in one go. Sentimental and at times bordering on silly it doesn't have the greatest of dialogue but what it has is a massive cinema heart. Australia's faults are insignificant compared to the setting, story, acting, design and cinematography. In fact the sentimentality is key to delivering a difficult story. It is a story that attempts to right a wrong and pay homage to the sadness it caused. It doesn't matter if there are historical inaccuracies or any other such nit picking detail, because Luhrmann delivers a project that he has poured his heart and soul into.
The performances by Jackman and Kidman are fantastic. Nicole Kidman surprised me with her delivery and one scene in particular when she tries to comfort a child who has lost his mother. Jackman is certainly great screen idol material but the main characters only work due to the rest of the cast giving the same stupendous performance.
Go and be entertained, take tissues and love the costumes.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Fish Supper Barbados

Don't worry you've never seen the film! It is a small story board that unfolded before my eyes in Barbados. The trip was inspirational for reading (lots of film and fashion stuff), for developing this poor neglected blog and a growing film script in my head and in part on paper!
This short story is of a local fisherman who is bringing in his catch to the rum shop by the sea! Already gutted before being brought in, the fish is weighed, admired and then left to be cut up, whilst the fisherman gets back on the boat and away as the sun is setting.

Monday, 1 December 2008

To Catch a Thief

Set on the French Riviera To Catch a Thief(1955) is the most lightweight of Hitchcock's films. It stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly and is a sheer delight to watch. Based on the same name novel by David Dodge, Hitchcock directs Grant as a notorious reformed jewel thief and Kelly as the rich heiress.
The setting and the costumes are wonderful. Grant is prelude to Connery's Bond with his debonair dress and self deprecation. Edith Head created pure class for Kelly with an array of costumes that say holidaying on the Riviera culminating in a spectacular gold evening gown for a masked ball.

If your fresh out of ideas for a vintage summer look then To Catch a Thief is the perfect viewing.

Monday, 10 November 2008

A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun is a film reflecting changing times in the 1950s. Starring two great screen beauties, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in essence is struggle of money and class portraying Clift as someone on the up and torn between his place and that of debutante Angela (played by Taylor). It is quite a gruesome story in terms of Clift's character and actions.

The real significance in terms of costume is the dress Taylor wore in the pool room scene - a strapless boned bodice top with an enormous white tulle skirt over a pale green satin and white violets covering the bust. Edith Head won the Oscar for best costume in the black and white film category and the dress captured the public imagination so much so that every prom had many an Elizabeth Taylor. In fact one could argue that this dress defined a look for proms and brides ever since 1951.

Publicity shot for A Place in the Sun - here Taylor is wearing the other dress designed by Edith Head.
To see the dress view the YouTube video.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Plein Soleil

Now it used to be that on a Saturday if I wasn't working I'd have a leisurely brunch with The Guardian and in the afternoon pop to the shops for a browse and purchase an item or two. A most satisfactory pursuit which would involve a cappuccino along the way. If I'd been styling all week It would be the book shops that got my full attention. Since the start of my MA in Fashion and Film, I've either been working on a Saturday or studying hard.

But yesterday I drove over a 100 miles to Warwick Arts Centre to attend a screening of Plein Soleil (1960)a French film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley. Highsmith commented that Plein Soleil was "very beautiful to the eye and interesting for the intellect", although she took issue with the ending.

Adapted and directed by René Clément, Tom Ripley is played by Alain Delon. The screening of this film was in the context of a talk by Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson on fashion and film criminals entitled 'If Looks could Kill'.

Alain Delon is pure evil in the film but equally he is pure male beauty. It is a stark contrast to Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) as Tom Ripley is extremely cold and also the most beautiful person on screen, compared to Minghella's where Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Dickie (Jude Law) are the eye candy.

The talk focused on the typical cinema criminal most notably the gangster and their appropriation of the suit, how a gangster is obvious with their flamboyant use of dress and the vanity associated with dress. The gangster always admires himself in the mirror and will always see his tailor upon release from jail before his 'gal'. The narcissistic quality of dress is integral to Plein Soleil and Alain Delon's portrayal of Tom Ripley, being a French film you can imaging the quality of the style right down to the very Italian Riviera white leather Gucci loafers which are so soft and delectable you can almost feel their quality from the screen. The cinematography and colour is outstanding in this film

Highsmith was disappointed with the film's ending, calling it "a terrible concession to so-called public morality." However Clement had constructed such a cold, evil, narcissistic and beautiful Ripley in Plein Soleil it seemed the creator needed to reign him in.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

All hail Paul Newman

Nothing I write can do this screen god real justice. Paul Newman was a Hollywood great and produced an array of diverse and entertaining films. Everyone will have their favourite and for their own reasons. I loved these:
Cool Hand Luke
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Long Hot Summer
Absence of Malice
The Hustler
Winning - in fact I loved car racing due to this film and Steve McQueen's Le Mans, Newman and McQueen both kings of cool as an aside they are two of the finest American actors of all-time, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman dominated the often underrated classic films of the 1960’s and eventually starred together in the 1974 disaster picture The Tower Inferno. After the Inferno, McQueen who battled cancer, only made a few more films, with Tom Horn his final role before his 1980 death.

I enjoyed:
The Sting and Butch Cassiday and the Sunshine Kid for his unadulterated charm.
The Colour of Money
Road to Perdition - how fine did he look

and who can forget his brilliant voice over as Doc Hudson in Cars.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

The movie legend passed away yesterday it was announced to the world today. Paul Newman was 83 and had a long and illustrious career. I will post a few pieces about him over the next few days as he was my favourite actor.

Here is a link to his obituary

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

After my Mrs Ritchie post, and with the release of RockNRolla this Friday I felt it was time to give the lads a viewing on fashion and film.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) is of a genre that fitted with a certain London look and it has a certain nostalgic feel aka the Krays. Essentially four London working class stiffs pool their money to put one in a high stakes card game, but things go wrong and they end up owing half a million pounds and having one week to come up with the cash. The essence of the film with its twists and turns and a sort of sting/heist which preceded the glam Hollywood version of Oceans Eleven.

What you get with Lock Stock is a lads film during a time in the UK where lads and ladettes ruled. The sharp suits and coats, the location setting including Borough market, with some classic cars thrown in and the movie sold style and chance to a nation.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Desperately Seeking Susan

Ok given Madonna is 50 I've selected her first film, the film along with her fledgling music career at this point (1985) that sealed her forever in our radar.

I've nabbed a brief synopsis to remind you of the plot -'Taken-for-granted housewife Roberta passes the time following the progress of Susan who regularly contacts her boyfriend Jim through the Personals. When she sees the two are meeting in New York Roberta goes along, ending up buying Susan's coat. Finding a locker key in the pocket she in turn advertises for a meeting with Susan. Jim sends his projectionist pal along to see what is going on, and when Roberta knocks herself out he assumes she is Susan. Then things start to get complicated.'

It wasn't a great film and it wasn't a dreadful film. The main departure for this film was the central placing of two female characters - they were the pivotal points and this is notable in itself. Thelma and Lousie in 1991 is again remarkable for its two female leads and what is viewed with as a break from tradition.

The costume designer Santo Loquasto designed Madonna's character Susan's leather pyramid jacket. In reality Madonna was chosen for her sense of style - after Madonna's first screen test, the producers asked her to take four weeks of acting lessons and get screen-tested again. Although the second screen test wasn't much of an improvement, the director still wanted her for the role, for her presence and sense of style more than anything else. Susan Seidalman also directed 3 episodes of Sex and the City in 1998. It was the sense of style and New York that defiend Desperately Seeking Susan. It felt like an indie film even though it wasn't.

Rosanna Arquette actually won a BAFTA for best supporting actress - technically if you count footage and dialogue she was the lead! Madonna hey irrepressible then as now!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Funny Face

The funny thing about Funny Face (1957) is, it is not a great film. It isn't actually even a good film but, and it is a big but - it has a certain style. The unlikely pairing of Audrey Hepburn with lead man Fred Astaire as love interest looks somewhat farcical these days. The music and storyline are fairly weak but it has a certain charm.

The director Stanley Donan was the lead director at the time on musicals due to his production of Singing in the Rain (1952) and the choice of Astaire would have been for the dancing.

Odd casting, silly storyline aside what does Funny Face offer. Firstly Kay Thompson is fantastic as a fashion editor, although again her talent is somewhat dampened by farcical scenes. Fred Astaire can obviously dance and Audrey Hepburn looks stunning.

The real gem of the film comes from the input of fashion photographers Richard Avedon and Bill Avery. Avedon's stills were used in the film and he designed the opening credits.

Hepburn is stunning with her modelling and dancing. Her acting ain't bad but although I loved the clothes, the context of the film and the idea - as a musical it is light and frothy, somewhat disjointed.

Leaving the music, script and settings aside it does contain spectacular fashion stills and great costumes. I also loved Hepburn's bohemian dance in the Left Bank setting of Paris. I adopted her look in that scene as my de rigeur style at university! It was a while ago...

Worth a watch but don't expect to be gripped.

Friday, 4 July 2008


I thought I'd complete a trilogy of French films of influential note. Amélie probably needs no introduction to most of you. Featuring the charming and gorgeous Audrey Tatou, Amélie is a film of note due to it's eccentric use of costume and scene setting to explore the growth of the central character Amélie.

The mixture of her upbringing, fate and interaction with the other characters provides an interesting mix of an idealised view of contemporary Paris and a skittish portrayal of quintessential French fashion. The costume designer was Madeline Fointaine, with Emily Lebail, Veronique Elise and Sylvie Bello as the costumers.

The film was an international success, although it attracted criticism for not reflecting the racial diversity of Paris in 2001. If you compare Amélie to Diva made 20 years earlier this is not an unreasonable view. As with many French films the stories and the costumes are a perfect antidote to Hollywood. Years later Pushing up Daisies on American TV borrows heavily from Amélie's cinematography, art direction and wardrobe.

Despite any misgivings Amélie is extraordinary as a cinematography example.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Diva Trailer (1981)

A bit of a theme emerging with the second selection being another French film. It differs greatly from Truffant's 'Jules et Jim' but it is considered a new wave film. Often referred to as a New new wave film.

Diva is probably one of the coolest films I've seen, director Beineix introduced the audience to loft house apartments before anyone knew they needed to live in one, quirkiness on a grand scale, individualism and diversity in fashion before other film directors. The wardrobe could be described as a malfunction with its range of punkishness, the ska influenced psuedo classic look of the hitmen to the Grecian classical outfits of the opera singer and the youth new wave street look of Jules, the main character.

The wardrobe led the way for the French and Western society in general to accept the major changes and influence that was to come from a wider cultural mix due to immigration and the youth street style culture. The film caputures perfectly the blend of traditional with pioneering clothing.

Diva received a mutated response in France but gained critical acclaim a year later when released in the States. It is a cult classic. The character of Alba, a Vietnamese shoplifter predates Madonna's Susan in 'Desperately Seeking Susan'. That's how cool Diva is, everyone stole from it.

Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez is stunning as the opera diva.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Jules et Jim

I have a love affair with stripes that begun the moment I first saw Francois Truffant's Jules et Jim. Made in 1962 this new wave film is a cinematic love triangle. It is fast, funny and stylish. Jeanne Moreau captivated me and in my heart as an 18 year old (not I hasten to add in 1962!) I aspired to her. Truffant led me on a journey of film and fashion. I affected many a look based on a film but this is the most enduring and the one that remains.