Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Costume & Identity: NON WESTERN, by Giada Fried
Fashion in India is an overview of its fashion industry. It talks about its tradition, its infrastructure and the impact it has brought on to the media and film industry. At first we learn about the deep connection that fashion has to its textile tradition and the impacted it has on today’s designs. Thanks to a special program of liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG) and some NGO’s they were able to sustain the craftsmen and reinvigorate the textile market by improving the economical and physical infrastructure, as well as telecommunications and transportation - which makes India one of the most competitive and dominant markets in the industry. Then the author goes on to talk about media and the influence that Bollywood film industry has on fashion and how many of the looks worn by cinema stars has quickly transferred to the streets – it truly is a trend setter for the population, to the point where starts and their looks on screen dictate the fan’s taste. Magazines and the Internet are also very dominant mediums for transmitting fashion trends today. The fashion industry in India is so important today that a National Institute of fashion technologies has been established in seven cities and a New Delhi fashion week has found life. Such interest in fashion and the enormous expansion of the middle class have raised interest in luxury products, thus creating a large demand for all expensive goods, as seen in western countries. This has brought a fusion between Indian styles and Western ones which goes both ways – because not only is the former influenced by the ladder, but also vice-versa. Today the Indian fashion market provides contemporary fashion trends not only for its local population but for the rest of the global market as well.
Wong Kar-wai on "In the mood for love", by Anthony Kaufman
In this interview, the director Wong Kar-Wai speaks about the process of making the film “In the mood for Love”, which is considered by many his masterpiece. He speaks about his thoughts, influences, Asian cinema today and his future projects. He reveals his devotion to this film and the amount of extensive footage they shot, since he was so engaged in the project that he couldn’t stop filming. Finally he had to give himself a deadline, which he did by submitting the film to Cannes. He also talks about the main themes of the movie – solitude, desire and in general human emotions (subjects he often treats in his films). He explains the unique use of the frame and how, by obstructing it with an object the viewer could feel like he was present with the actors. He also mentions repetition, which was very important because it underlined even more the character’s emotions, which was the only evolving thing throughout the story. He goes on to talk about his process, which is very spontaneous, as he tends to work thru things as he goes. Mood is also very a very important aspect of the film – it’s 1960’s Honk Kong setting, the musical choice and the many gorgeous outfits – all this contributed to enhance the feeling of nostalgia. He concludes by expressing his feelings on the film and states that even if a lot of suffering went into the production, it was well worth it in the end.
Going to great lenghts, by Mary Trahan
The article talks about the ideas behind the costume designs of “Memoires of a Geisha” and how costume designer Colleen Atwood when about developing and creating her vision and designs for the film. She said that a lot of research was made and that travel was a big part, since most of the materials used came from various places in the world. The designer also explains that a lot of interpretation was done in relation to the traditional style of a geisha, for this movie was a theatrical one and the designs had to reflect that. In reality the authentic geishas are much more understated than how we see them in the film. She then goes onto talk about the look of each of the main three characters and explains how many of the style choices were made to reflect the psychological profile of the three main geishas.
Sir Richard Attenborough opens up, by Ranjan das Gupta
In this article the director Richard Attenborough literally opens up about his masterpiece Ghandi, and does so in pertinence with the Indian Independence day. He reveals that he believes the movie had flaws, which he only noticed two decades later. He talks about the choice of casting Ben Kingsley as Ghandi, as there was no Indian actor at the time that could impersonate Ghandi as well and that could strongly impact the international market. He also talks about his musical choices for the film and how in his eyes this was his biggest miscalculation in the film. He states his disappointment for not receiving an Oscar for "Cry Freedom", which in his mind was his masterpiece and ends by wishing India`s full independence from the British influence.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Purple Rain by Tanya Ziegler
Albert Magnoli a young graduate from California Film School was hired to direct Purple Rain. He immediatly went to Minneapolis to research and write the script based on Prince ideas.
Marie France graduated from l’Ecole des Beaux Arts and la Sorbonne in Paris. She collaborated closely with Prince and continued working with him on his next movie «Under the Cherry Moon » in 1986 and many of his video clips. Later on in her career, Marie France worked on the movies « What ever happened to Harold Smith » (1999), « Garfield »(2004), « Buffy the Vampire Slayer »(1992) or « Beverly Hills 90210»
Another member of the costume team was Sonja Berlovitz. She graduated from La Chambre Syndicale de Couture and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, she mainly works for theater productions and received an award for best costume designer.
Shortly after being hired, Magnoli left Los Angeles to go to Minneapolis. He had very little time to work on the script before the beginning of the shooting and had to work with Prince’s ideas. The writing began end of 1983 and the shooting took place in Minneapolis with a few scenes in Los Angeles.
Purple Rain is situated between fiction and an autobiographical piece. The Kid is a young brilliant musician aiming for success. Recognized and respected by his band, he is seen as the most talented artist of his generation. Evolving in a cabaret environment where relationships are short lasting and where things evolve rapidly. He comes from a difficult family situation and is challenged by his rival Morris Day. Throughout the movie, Prince will deal with his demons, find love and finally be recognized as a revolutionary artist.
The color palette is based on blacks and whites but the most important color, which represents Prince: purple. Secondary colors, such as reds were used to create a warmer feel or to focus the attention of the audience on one character. Yellows, gold, silvers and greys are also very important to add this touch of glamour to the outfits. Although the movie is a love story, the thread that ties the movie together is music and performance.
As the movie begins, the audience gets a very good overview of the general feel of that period. All the people are gathering at the First Avenue Bar to listen to the latest bands and original music. People come from different backgrounds and lifestyles, gathered by one same passion. Stop shots show men and women both wearing make up, with different styles. Each main character is presented with their problems.
In Morris’ first scene, he is shown in a red tank top and underpants with a white headscarf vacuuming in his room. This first image is very strong because of the feminine side of Morris, which is exposed. It’s the only scene where Morris is displayed in a feminine outfit. Morris becomes Prince’s opposite as soon as he puts on his gangster suit and Stacy Adams shoes until the end of the movie.
Morris Day likes money, power and beautiful women. The use of the colors yellow and gold represent this infidelity and greed. His gangster suits are very flashy and always have 2 tones.
The Kid (Prince) is more of a showman, a star. As the movie starts, Prince is viewed dressed in white performing and as the center of attention. Cultivating a more military style, his outfits and built with large shoulders, a tight waist and pants and 4 inch heels. This military style was not chosen randomly, he is the Revolution, the guide to a new generation and style.
As the movie goes on, the colors get darker; Prince wears a lot of black because he suffers from his dysfunctional family. As the audience delves further and further into his private sphere, Prince reveals more and more of his body. He wears fewer clothes as though to symbolize his honesty and openness towards the audience. Prince’s bike is also a very emblematic rock and roll accessory. It is painted in his color (purple) and it completes his bad boy style. It is also a symbol of freedom: he can hop on to the bike and ride away from his problems.
After getting over his sadness and frustration, his inspiration comes back. He is finally ready to prove to the world he has his place as a recognized artist and puts on the iconic purple coat to perform the famous Purple Rain song.
During the entire movie there’s a great use of ruffles, lace, leather and mix and match of fabrics. As we know, Marie France, the French costume designer worked very closely with Prince for his outfits. She surely inspired herself from French fashion History; famous outfits of French Kings and Queens. The ruffles and lace mixed with leather create a very original look cultivating the androgyny.
This movie is very iconic for the clothes, the style as well as for the music. Both genders share styles that blur the borderline between masculinity and femininity. The impact of the band The Revolution began with music and continued on with the clothes. Apollina’s style is very emblematic of what will follow later on. Playing with lace and leather.
In real life, Prince had at the time two direct rivals on the music scene: Michael Jackson and the group The Police. He differentiated himself strongly order to be fully recognized as a talented artist. He was the first to wear military inspired outfits and mixing and matching different textures such as leather and lace. The use of ruffles and shoulder pads was very specific to his style and it managed to leave a print in fashion.
Before Purple Rain, the famous soap opera "Dallas" soap opera had major influence on fashion. The romantic style was very popular. Women had for the first time the choice between different
styles. Purple Rain introduced a more sexy rock and roll style. Madonna herself will later bring her own interpretation of style mix and match religious accessories to her outfits. Make up was another tool used by both genders to re-enforce the notion of androgyny.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
African American Films
The African American couple is dressed very conservative, with the mother in pearls while the white mother wears a looser, almost non-western style dress.
Costume & Identity: AFRICAN AMERICAN by Jovana Popovic
Writing in 1975, just a couple of years after the first black movie saw the light of the day, Wander tries to give an objective overview of the Black cinema’s history, touching on many aspects of both white and Black society as well as their confrontations.
Starting off with a description of the cinema/warehouse where Black movies are shown, the writer sets the mood for what is to come. The Black people are looking for an escape, and according to the writer ‘’black films offer escape from gloom, depression and social confusion of center-city colonies’’. Furthermore, he claims that the media has for a long time shaped collective white perceptions. On the other hand, now the film is influencing the Black’s community perception of itself. However, most of the movies made for, and having the Black society as their topic, are controlled by the whites. Therefore, it should be very carefully examined which movie carries the real myth of the Black society, and which is a simple mirror of the White individualism. Whereas the White society is based on the myth and cult of individualism, where all the individuals are in constant competition in terms of wealth and power, the Black society is very much based on the myth of collective. Wander tries to analyze five different movies, and determine which one is a real representation of the Black society.
He starts discussing the movie Superfly, which came out in 1972. The story is created around the character of Superfly, a drug dealer played by Ron O’Neal. His character is very individualistic and does not determine a communal identity. Wander is not satisfied with a movie that is very much alike white ones, where everything is based on one single character.
He continues further by introducing the Hit Man, a Blaxploitation made by a white director and screenwriter, George Armitage. Wander has really no mercy when talking how pointless the whole movie is, without any contribution to raising the Black society consciousness. The main character, Tyrone Tacker, is a real representation of individualism trying to revenge his killed brother throughout the movie. Similarly, Black Caesar being a white man’s project, is very unlikely to reference any important value in the Black society. The main character is a drug dealer, whose empire of prostitutes is a witness to his own exploit of Blacks. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasss Song involves no White people at all, but has still failed to be an example of Black self-realization. The writer states that it is not playing with the right type of myths, but choses to portray a Black guy surrounded by drugs and prostitutes. Although the art, language, dress is very much representational, social relationships are lacking. Finally, Sonny Carson succeeds to achieve what the writer considers appropriate and different. The movie traces a growth of a ghetto child through adolescence to adulthood. During that period of time he faces many difficult situations, and is eventually imprisoned with other Black people, and guarded by whites. Wander considers this moment very crucial, due to the clear representation of the society as it is. The negative aspects of the society are felt, and that is according to Wander the most important thing in this movie as well as in the history of the Black movies.
“Black American Cinema: The New Realism” by Manthia Diawara, 1993
In his essay, Manthia Diawara strongly criticizes Hollywood cinema and its tendency to ignore the existence of Black society as equal to the white, always placing their characters within certain spaces and supporting roles, which most of the times have bad connotations. The lack of movies showing simple stories about blacks, with no intervening of whites has resulted in the creation of Black independent cinema. In the independent movies, the stories are found to be realistic, mostly directed by the Black directors, and do not involve the stereotypes Hollywood nurtures. However, the lack of financial means is prohibiting those movies to become widely popular, as some Hollywood blockbusters, and therefore is hard to change audience’s taste, which has already been shaped by the mainstream cinema.
The writer goes back to explaining the roots of the independent cinema, and focuses on French New Wave, whose members were the first ones to start experimenting with different ways of telling a story and filming it- hence ‘jump-cut’. The reason for coming to the vocation of independent filmmaker is either political or artistic.
Furthermore, by introducing short movie study cases he discusses different aesthetics and stories in Black movies. Whereas he refers to 1970s Sweet Sweetback as Blaxploitation, he highly appreciates Micheaux’s movies and considers them realistic portrayals of Black society and experience. He notices that different movies use different narrative tracks with regards to time and space: the cyclical (Ganja and Hess), goes back and forth in time, and linear (Sweet Sweetback), progresses from one point in time to another. The topics of the movies usually involve Black folklore, religion, and numerous oral traditions.
Last but not least, Diawara focuses on two different constructions in the movies: construction of space and construction of time. He argues that in Hollywood cinema everything is done so that the White actors are the primary focus on the screen – they take up most of the space and are always in front. Similarly, everything evolves around the ‘White times’. He uses two movies to illustrate each point – Daugthers of the Dust for space and Boyz N the Hood for time argument. In the first movie the focus is on Black people and the place they are living in, Ibo Landing. Each scene involves different characters, who take up the whole screen and are treated equally as Whites in the mainstream movies. Diawara also uses different examples (characters, their stories, history, objects and rituals) to explain in detail the Black society and how it functions. The second movie is dealing with Black society as well, and follows the main character from his childhood into his manhood. The writer stresses the point that, unfortunately, many of the Black people die when reaching that stage in life, in the movie as in the reality.
“The Screen’s Fashioning of Blackness: Shaft, New Jack City, Boyz N the Hood, Waiting to Exhale” by Stella Bruzzi , 1997
In her essay on Black movies, Stella Bruzzi analyzes and explains the usage of clothes and the effect it achieves along with the character. In order to introduce the main topic better, she starts off by discussing history of the Black movie, naming major factors that lead to its emergence in the first place. Stressing the point that the appearance of the black characters in the movies before was minimal, she goes on to explaining the Blaxploitation movies, using the examples of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Shaft and Superfly. Using the same movies, Bruzzi starts talking about clothes and moods they create. She explains that most of the movies mentioned before are subject to what she calls ‘fetishism of clothes’. It means that every character is distinguished among the mass by his/her appearance. She uses the example of Shaft to point out the simultaneous development of clothes and character – where the character is distinguished by brown tweed suits, beige polo necks and two long leather coats at the very beginning, and is dressed all in black by the end of the movie. This particular character is said to be a real representation from the Black society. Furthermore she takes a closer look on the movie Supefly, whose main character is closely defined by his clothes, the wide brimmed hat, flared coat and stacked heels, along with his long relaxed hair. Bruzzi also suggest that the big number of different costumes in this movie is also part of the image of the main character, who is a successful cocaine dealer, therefore wealthy. Bruzzi suggests that the costumes used in Blaxpoitation movies are ‘’exaggerated and parodic’’ , and she sees them as different political statements expressed through visibility of a narcissistic look.
Moving away from the 1970s and Blaxploitation movies, she then goes to 1980s trends in the black movie industry. Bruzzi’s opinion is that these films were more realistic and analytical, with less celebrations of the Black machismo. Her case study for this period is New Jack City, and the character of Nino Brown. She takes a very close look at how he is portrayed and concludes he is a stereotypical drug dealer, obsessed with sex and violence, wearing chain and his hair elaborately coiffured,. However, what is interesting is her observation that Coco Chanel influenced the looks of Nino, with her clear silhouette designs and single bold colours. In many ways, Chanel has shaped the street style, especially her accessories for which she used fake gold and gems as well as chunky gold chains. What Bruzzi also notices is the appropriation of different fashions and designs that come together in the costumes for the character of Nino.
Furthermore, she also talks about the movie Boyz N the Hood, discussing different characters and different outfits that distinguish them. She, therefore, takes a closer look at Tre, who is the main character. He is characterized as the home boy, and is dressed in such a way, which makes him stand out visually from the rest of the people he is friends with, and who are all wearing clothes that symbolize their gang identity. She also looks at the father, Furious. His clothes are moderate and work-related, as he is a real estate agent, and the only one who has a steady job in the movie. Thus, he is presented as a role model.
Finally, she takes a look at a movie where four main characters are women – Waiting to Exhale, and uses it to explain not only the usage of the female clothes in the movie, but also the hairstyle and the overall looks.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Talented Mr. Ripley ( Minji Kang )
Ann Roth and her assistant Gary Jones were in charge of the costumes of this film. Ann Roth is the legendary costume designer, whose first job in the field was working on The World of Henry Orient, made in 1964. The Owl and the Pussycat, Klute, Coming Home, Dressed to Kill, Sweet Dreams, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Sabrina were also her successful achievements. She was nominated for her first Oscar with the film Places in the Heart. In Hollywood where there are many sudden turns, this duo have constantly produced highly praised work. On her partnership with Gary Jones, she says “Nothing was ever written down or particularly defined; we’ve just gone forth, one project at a time.” Ann Roth and Gary Jones got the Costume Designers Guild Award nomination for excellence in costume design for a period of fantasy film for The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The Mr. Talented Ripley is a filmic adaptation of novel that has the same title. The American mystery writer, Patricia Highsmith wrote the novel in 1955. Based on the book, Plein Soleil was first made into a film in 1960, and The Mr. Talented Ripley was the second version of an adaptation, made in 1999. The time period in which the film takes place is after World War II. People had begun to back to composed lives and enjoy them. With regard to fashion, Dior was spotlighted with his New Look. In the film, Gwyneth Paltrow is a great example for showing this look.
The leading character, a typical working class man, Tom Ripley, lives in New York. One day, he meets Herbert Greenleaf, a wealthy shipping magnate while he is playing the piano at a party. Mr. Greenleaf hires Tom and sends him to Italy to persuade his son Dickie Greenleaf to come back home. In Italy, Tom introduces himself to Dickie and Dickie’s girl friend Marge Sherwood as an alumnus of Princeton. As Ripley becomes intimate with Dickie, he admires Dickie’s opulent life style and dreams of being a part of the upper class. To Tom, it seems that Dickie has an ideal life; he enjoys his life doing whatever he wants to do with his fortune. Tom admires Dickie, and is longing to be with him. However, contrary to what Tom expects, Dickie feels bored with Tom, and tries to have some distance. Tom and Dickie go for a trip to Sanremo together before they part from each other. They go on a sailboat, and they argued. Their heated controversy results in Tom killing Dickie unintentionally. Tom Ripley pretends that he is Dickie Greenleaf. To hide the murder of Dickie, Tom Ripley can not stop himself from killing several other people.
The two main characters Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf are in confrontation with each other over social class and personality. They have very contrasting characteristics. Tom is smart. He keeps himself neat and trim. He is reasonable, introspective. On the contrary, Dickie does not even how to spell. He is sensitive, emotional and short-tempered. Since Tom and Dickie are from such different backgrounds, their looks are distinctive from each other. Dickie’s wealthy, leisurely life is revealed by his stylish outfits. Dickie wears jackets and some linen trousers. He coordinates his fashion items casually reflecting his liberated spirit, but they still fit perfectly to Dickie’s body by virtue of being the finest quality of the clothing.
In most scenes, they put on different colors of outfits to individualize the two characters. Dickie’s garments have more elaborated ornaments and are detail-oriented. Dickie wears accessories for instance, jewelry and hats. If Tom’s choice of clothes is driven by needs, Dickie’s choice by his taste. If both are dressed in suits, Dickie has his hat on, wears the shirt that has pleated trimming or a striped tie, when Tom puts on basic designed and solid colored clothes. Yet, although they are in similar clothes, the clever costume designers distinguish the two by texture and the material of the clothing. In the scene where Tom kills Dickie, both wear black shirts, Dickie is wearing a black see-through shirt with white linen pants, his rings, and belt. Tom wears his with khaki pants, and his accessories are his wristwatch and glasses as usual.
Marge Sherwood is the only one who believes that Tom Ripley killed Dickie. At first, she wears bikinis, light color blouses and long skirts in the summer scenes. She is from an affluent family and what she wears is very high end, she is not restrained by her social and financial status. “She doesn’t buy her own clothes, they are her parents’ purchases she had from school… but if somebody said where’d you get those loafers, she wouldn’t have a clue. That was not interesting to her. It’s like the designer’s names now, the Tommy whomevers,” says Ann Roth. Marge is easy going and friendly, and enjoys her life writing in Italy. However, as time passes, she feels anxious that Dickie disappears without a trace and her wardrobe shifts. The weather also changes.
The colors are shown in the film including the set, props, and the wardrobes of characters, are toned down. Pale beige, bluish grey, dark brown, as well as black and white, are dominant pigments. Bleached colors create the mysterious mood of the film. Also Roth and Jones “tend to see the images in black and white terms innocence and simplicity”. In the interview with Ann Roth and Gary Jones, the costume designers of the film say that they were inspired by Life Magazine and Italian photography while they did the research for the film. As the plot develops and the conflict gets intensified between characters, the color palette becomes even darker and heavier.
Tom has two main fashion characterizations––Tom Ripley himself and his wannabe Dickie Greenleaf. These two fashion styles show the dual personalities. When Tom Ripley is being himself, he sticks to his style to an American look because he has never traveled to foreign countries due to his financial situation. When Herbert Greenleaf urges Tom to bring his son back, Tom says that he has always been dreaming of going to Europe. He wears jackets, shirts, ties and pants. Tom does not possess many clothes, and Dickie even makes fun of him about this. He frequently appears in his brown corduroy jacket. His look represents his sensitive, introverted nature. Tom wears his horn-rimmed spectacles. Dickie tries Tom’s glasses and says, “I don’t need these, because I never read,” and the glasses symbolize his intelligence. Ann Roth defines Ripley’s look as the “American East Coast Look from Sears”. His look is defined by a corduroy jacket, unadorned shirts, trousers, single color ties, and glasses.
As Tom murders Dickie, and puts on an act to become him, Tom’s style adjusts from head to toe. As Dickie did for himself, Tom gets custom suits in Italy. Not only does he imitate Dickie’s fashion look, he combs his hair back, and he mimics Dickie’s language, voice and behavior. Other than copying his appearance, Tom actually wears Dickie’s belongings such as the gold ring with the green stone that Dickie was given by Marge. This ring also serves as the trigger that makes Marge to distrust Tom because Dickie promised her that he would not to give the ring to anyone.