Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est- Movie Review "Gigi"

One might very well start a discussion of movies set at the turn of the century with A Room with a View, and I do love that film, but today I want to introduce you to a lesser-known classic Gigi. Starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan,  it was directed by Vincente Minelli with a script and score by the famous Lerner and Loewe duo.

The story begins with Maurice Chevalier as an old "roue" (playboy) named Honore singing the charming "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" as he points out polite society promenading in Paris, and the young girls playing in the park. Among them is Gigi, who runs off to her grandmother's apartment where she lives with her mother. Unbeknownst to Gigi she is being groomed by her Aunt Alicia to become a courtesan, as Alicia was, and her grandmother, Mamita, once dated Honore. Honore's nephew, Gaston (Jourdan), is a close friend of Mamita's and spends considerable time with her and Gigi when he is not romancing various women. Over the course of the film Gaston and Gigi's relationship goes from that of playful siblings to budding romance.

Finally Gaston finds that he must choose between Gigi's reputation and his own desires; but never fear, all ends well as we rejoin Honore on the promenade in Paris. This 1958 color film is a beautiful and fast-paced classic filled with gorgeous costumes and light-hearted music. Some may find it predictable, but it is nothing if not entertaining.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Colosseum to Open New Areas to Visitors

The Colosseum is poised to open two new areas to visitors; the upper tier and underground chambers where gladiators and the animals they sometimes fought were both held in preparation. msnbc reports

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ship of Fools- Upcoming Film "The Tempest"

I love Shakespeare plays made into films; 12th Night, Hamlet, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and now coming in December of 2010, The Tempest. Helen Mirren is surprisingly cast as Prospero, a typically male character, but audiences will recognize a few other familiar faces like Djimon Honsou (Gladiator), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), and Alan Cumming (Goldeneye). Directed by the ever-magical Julie Taymor (The Lion King, Across the Universe, Frida, The Magic Flute), it promises to be a beautiful, thought-provoking, and just simply fun film.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Favorite- 1912 Worth Gown

This 1912 gown from the House of Worth manages to look both comfortable and elegant, and the black and white with Greek key pattern detailing is classic. I want it!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

17th century- What would you call it?

Most of the different timeperiods about which I blog have their own titles; 1920's- Ermine and Pearls, Middle Ages and Renaissance- Ship of Fools, but I don't have one for the 17th century. Perhaps it's because I know the least about this era in history, which is another reason to study it. What to call it though? It is the age of Louis XIV, the sun King, and also of the English Civil War, of Cavaliers and Roundheads, the Glorious Revolution, American settlement by Europeans, many wars but also the beautiful writings of Moliere. The Thirty Years War. Peter the Great. Isaac Newton. The Salem Witch Trials.

Science and Sentiment?
Waging Order?
A Bloody Peace?
The Dawn of Glory?

What would you call it?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jump, Jive, and Wail- Swing Kids

Swing Kids, starring Robert Sean Leonard, Kenneth Branagh, and Christian Bale amongst others, is a film about the pro-jazz, non-conformist youth of Hamburg, Germany at the start of WWII. Contrary to the pressure to be nationalistic, somber and join the Hitler Youth these hipsters embraced American fashions, Swing, and a certain "joie de vivre" that authorities found unsettling, even dangerous. In the film, a group of friends finds themselves challenged by prejudice, familial pressures, and their own still-developing sense of morality. Each one makes a choice, but do those choices bring them closer together or tear them apart?

I'm not going to answer that for you, you'll have to watch it for yourself. Be assured that the movie has lots of thrilling swing dance scenes with high-flying aerials (acrobatic moves), jumping music, and plenty of the pathos for which the main actors are well-known. Robert Sean Leonard, in particular, is brilliant as a kid named Peter whose father died after enduring harsh interrogation for his supposed Socialist views. Peter's widowed mother is not eager to lose her son as well, and Kenneth Branagh is only too eager to help her and her family through his Nazi governmental ties. It begins with a party and ends with a party, but the in-between is anything but joyful. If you liked Dead Poet's Society you will likewise enjoy Swing Kids. You know what's going to happen from the start, but like a great piece of music, you've got to listen to all of the notes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ermine and Pearls- These are a few of my favorite things...

Wow! I'm working on a show called Enchanted April right now, which may be familiar as it was made into a movie; and it is filled with great '20s costumes, from dreary London to the golden summer of an Italian countryside. The picture above also looks like it's right out of some kind of show. There is a lot of drama going on with the a-symmetrical sleeve detail and that enormous fan. I love it!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 17th Century- A Letter from Madame de Sevigne

Some of you may be familiar with a movie that came out some time ago called Vatel. Starring Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman, and Tim Roth, it's about a very famous 17th Century cook of the same name who (spolier alert) commits suicide after a grand feast for the visiting King, Louis XIV, goes partially awry. In the movie there is a lot more to it than that, but the film was based on true events.

In a letter to a friend Mme de Sevigne recounted the events as they ocurred in April of 1671:-

"It is Sunday, the 26th of April; this letter will not go till Wednesday. It is not really a letter, but an account, which Moreuil has just given me for your benefit, of what happened at Chantilly concerning Vatel. I wrote you on Friday that he had stabbed himself; here is the story in detail.


The promenade, the collation in a spot carpeted with jonquils - all was perfection. Supper came; the roast failed at one or two tables on account of a number of unexpected guests. This upset Vatel. He said several times: 'My honor is lost; this is a humiliation that I cannot endure.' To Gourville he said. 'My head is swimming; I have not slept for twelve nights; help me to give my orders.' Gourville consoled him as best he could, but the roast which had failed (not at the king's, but at the twenty-fifth table), haunted his mind.

Gourville told Monsieur le Prince about it, and Monsieur le Prince went up to Vatel in his own room and said to him, 'Vatel, all goes well; there never was anything so beautiful as the king's supper.' He answered, 'Monseigneur, your goodness overwhelms me. I know that the roast failed at two tables.' 'Nothing of the sort,' said Monsieur le Prince. 'Do not disturb yourself, all is well."
Midnight comes. The fireworks do not succeed on account of a cloud that overspreads them (they cost sixteen thousand francs). At four o'clock in the morning Vatel is wandering about all over the place. Everything is asleep. He meets a small purveyor with two loads of fish and asks him, 'Is this all?', 'Yes, sir.' The man did not know that Vatel had sent to all the seaport towns in France. Vatel waits some time, but the other purveyors do not arrive; he gets excited; he thinks that there will be no more fish.

He finds Gourville and says to him, 'Sir, I shall not be able to survive this disgrace.' Gourville only laughs at him. Then Vatel goes up to his own room, puts his sword against the door, and runs it through his heart, but only at the third thrust, for he gave himself two wounds which were not mortal. He falls dead.

Meanwhile the fish is coming in from every side, and people are seeking for Vatel to distribute it. They go to his room, they knock, they burst open the door, they find him lying bathed in his blood. They send for Monsieur le Prince, who is in utter despair. Monsieur le Duc bursts into tears; it was upon Vatel that his whole journey to Burgundy depended. Monsieurie Prince informed the king, very sadly; they agreed that it all came from Vatel's having his own code of honor, and they praised his courage highly even while they blamed him...

Gourville, however, tried to repair the loss of Vatel, and did repair it. The dinner was excellent; so was the luncheon. They supped, they walked, they played, they hunted. The scent of jonquils was everywhere; it was all enchanting."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jump, Jive and Wail- Found new blog!

Just today I received in the mail a book I have been coveting for a while; "Vintage Hairstyles" by Lauren Rennells, who is a freelance hair and makeup artist for film and television. Turning to the back of the book with the author information I found that she has a blog called Bobbypin Blog.

Intrigued? You should be. Not only does she showcase styles of the past and tell you how to create them, but she posts ridiculous advice from past publications, such as the Gasoline Shampoo, or singeing hair to make it healthier (hopefully not both in combination or good-bye hair). If this were not enough the site has a charming retro playlist to put you in the right mood as you read. Go forth, check it out, and report back on your findings! I will review the book itself when I have had a chance to put it to the test.