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Desperate Romantics (2009) – A Review

6 May

I’ll start off this post by saying I absolutely loved ‘Desperate Romantics‘ – a period drama set in Victorian London which revolves around the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; their art, lives, loves and scandals.

WARNING This image may only be used for publicity purposes in connection with the broadcast of the programme as licensed by BBC Worldwide Ltd & must carry the shown copyright legend. It may not be used for any commercial purpose without a licence from the BBC. © BBC 2009***

First glimpse of Desperate Romantics, from left to right; Rafe Spall as a somewhat austere perfectionist William Holman Hunt, also known as ‘Maniac’, Aidan Turner as the dashing Byronic Hero, ‘half-Italian, half-mad’ Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Samuel Barnett as a child-prodigy, sweet and bewildered John Everett Millais, and lastly Sam Crane as the gentle, caring and ‘always-in-the-shadow-of-others’ Fred Walters; a composite character mainly based on Fred Stevens and several other historical figures who serves as a journalist and a diarist of the brotherhood.

I found the actors and actresses wonderful and perfectly suitable for their roles. Every character has an individualised personality and that is one of the main reasons this period drama is so brilliant. This emphasis on individual personality traits, be it good or bad ones, helps a great deal to understand the artworks they produced. Their choice of subjects seems so natural after understanding their characters. For example, the strong-willed and religious Hunt would never go on painting sensual women or characters from Roman mythology, and likewise it’s inconceivable that Rossetti would ever paint anything similar to The Light of the World.

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Brooding Rossetti and his sorrowful muse

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I very much enjoyed how relatable everyone seemed. Their conversations and jokes in the pub sounded beautifully modern. Pre-Raphaelites smoked hashish, consumed opium, flirted with waitresses and visited brothels. In several scenes you can even see Charles Dickens himself entertaining the ‘ladies’. After watching this, I feel like the Victorian world wasn’t as grim and proper as presented, perhaps in the higher classes but not amongst artists and intellectuals.

In Desperate Romantics Featurette (you can watch it on YouTube) actors and actresses talk about their roles and opinions of the PRB. I found it especially thrilling how Rafe Spall connected the members of the Brotherhood to modern artists and writers. He made a parallel with the Beat Generation and compared Fred Walters to Jack Kerouac, Millais to Neal Cassady, Rossetti to Allen Ginsberg and Hunt to William Burroughs. Also, he compared the radical avant-garde quality of the brotherhood to Punk Rock, and he described the make-up and hairstyle of Annie Miller (Hunt’s girfriend and model) as being Vivienne Westwood-esque.

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DESPERATE ROMANTICS

Amy Manson as Lizzie Siddal

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I’m afraid that costumes are a great factor for me, and in Desperate Romantics it was yet another source of enjoyment. As you can see from the pictures I’ve assembled here, dresses worn by Lizzie Siddal are very simple and romantic, made of printed cotton in earthy colours, no corsets or crinolines. Along with her long flowing coppery hair, she looks more like a Medieval maiden than a Victorian lady. Apart from a few bonnets, everything seemed historically accurate. Men’s attire was interesting as well, which is unusual because it tends to be boring and grey. Millais is a true peacock, usually wearing scarlet-coloured velvet jackets and lots of purples and greens. Rossetti is very flamboyant but more sophisticated, he wears loose, half-unbuttoned shirts and vibrant coloured scarves. Fred is all simple and proper, true mama’s boy and Hunt is dressed according to his reserved nature, but after his trip to the East, he starts growing a beard, smoking hashish straight from Syria and dressing with a touch of East just like The Rolling Stones when then discovered Marocco.

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First love couple: Rafe Spall as William Holman Hunt and Jennie Jacques as Annie Miller

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I’ve read some complaints about the lack of art in the series and I highly disagree. Exhibition of Millais’ Ophelia, an important moment for the PRB, was well presented and so was the moment when Rossetti found his new direction in portraying pure womanly sensuality after an encounter with Fanny Cornforth. Millais, Rossetti, Hunt and Fred are often seen visiting the Royal Gallery, even objecting the mainstream Victorian art, Rossetti said: The Academy’s utter disgust is what gets us all out of bed in the morning‘, continuing Where is the naturalism, where is the life, the flesh, the blood, the nature?’ When Hunt comes back from his trip, he also showcases his paintings, and after Lizzie dies we see grief stricken Rossetti painting Beata Beatrix. We see Rossetti painting Jane Morris and the murals in a nearby church, and Lizzie painting as well. Is this not enough art?

In Desperate Romantics we are presented by something even more important than ‘art’, we see the background of their artworks and everything that went on in their personal lives and the way it reflected on their works. The series captured the mood of the Brotherhood and I think that’s not only more interesting, but more important. Anyone can simply google their paintings, but it takes a lot more to understand them.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal as Victorian era Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull

INTERESTING QUOTES:

“We are artists, we thrive on strong emotions.” (Elizabeth Siddal, ep 5)

“We cannot confuse our feeling about the artist with the art, that would leave us only able to admire works of those we like.” (John Ruskin, ep 3)

“I insists it’s the most noble profession there is. An artist only records beauty, but a model radiates it. If I were Millais, oh, I would paint you in a pure white silk dress.” (Rossetti’s opinion on modelling and words directed to Jane Burden)

“I find the modern world the most random and confusing place.” (Millais, ep 3)

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Love couple number 3: Millais and Effie as Victorian version of Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg

A only have a few objections. Firstly, I’d love to have seen Rossetti’s family because his sister Christina was a poet and his brother William Michael also belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Secondly, no mention of Lizzie’s stillborn child and that was something that deeply saddened her and ultimately led to her death. Thirdly, too many sex scenes which was tasteless and unnecessary in my opinion. It’s obvious that Rossetti wasn’t celibate. Perhaps a hint of intimacy would be more interesting than seeing Rossetti jump on every redhead in London.

All in all, I loved Desperate Romantics – escapism into the bohemian circles of Victorian era London. It’s beyond inspiring, the story itself is enigmatic and interesting, actors were brilliant, thoroughly recommend it! There are six episodes, each is one hour long. If you can spare six hours of your life, I sincerely recommend you to do that.

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Films with Brilliant Costumes

24 Apr

Two Aprils ago, I wrote a similar post. As expected, I watched a lot of films in the mean time. Costumes in films are an interesting topic, and I’m afraid they tend to captivate my attention quite a lot. This list is rather different then the previous one, which consisted mostly of period dramas set in Georgian and Victorian era.

factory girl 17

1. Factory Girl (2006)

‘Poor little rich girl’, Edie Sedgwick, led a short, but turbulent and glamorous life. In Factory Girl she was portrayed by Sienna Miller, I loved her performance. Her look is equally alluring as unattainable – gold and silver mini-dresses, Beatnik-style no-trousers-look with black tights and kitten-heel boots, large earrings, cigarette and an amethyst ring. Regrettably, Edie’s chic ’60s wardrobe is more suitable for Andy Warhol’s Factory, than for a lifestyle of a schoolgirl like me.

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1960s Sue Lyon 30

2. Lolita (1962)

Despite the film’s subject being more or less controversial, the clothes that Sue Lyon wears are rather nice, and I’m not even a fan of 1950s fashion. Thanks to Bern Stern’s publicity photos of Sue Lyon wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, they became a symbol for nymphets (both the book and film), even thought in the film Lolita wears only the simple cat sunglasses. I think Sue Lyon was brilliant as Lolita. She seems so mature considering that she was only 14 years old by the time filming started.

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Das Wilde Leben (Eight Miles High) 1

3. Eight Miles High (2007)

This is a biographical film about the life of a West German groupie Uschi Obermaier played by Natalie Avalon. Appropriately, the clothes Uschi wears are in tune with the late ’60s and 70s fashion, which means plenty of mini skirts, sequins, messy bed-hair, gypsy skirts, jeans… Uschi’s life was really wild, and she had a wardrobe to accompany it.

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1960s Julie Christie 7

4. Darling (1965)

Interested in what an elegant lady climbing up the social ladder, in 1965 London, would be wearing? Well, you should watch Julie Christie in Darling. A very classic, elegant 1960s style with chic tweed suits, long evening dresses with sequins, kerchiefs, skirts with knee socks. I’d call this film a portrait of London’s society in the mid 1960s.

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Michelle Pfeiffer as Léa de Lonval in CHERI 3

5. Cheri (2009)

Michelle Pfeiffer plays a retired courtesan in this costume drama set in La Belle Epoque. Her costumes are so evocative of fin de siecle; wide-brimmed hats, roses, black gloves, silks, beautiful silks, white lace and pearls. Michelle Pfeiffer must have signed a deal with the devil because she doesn’t seem to age, she’s still simply drop dead gorgeous.

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1963. Shirley MacLaine - 'Irma La Douce' 1

6. Irma La Douce (1963)

Another charming courtesan, Irma La Douce, played by Shirley MacLaine, in a comedy set in 1960s Paris. Irma is mad about green colour, and her costumes prove that. She often wears a black skirt with green stockings, green shirt, green bow in her hair, green eyeshadow, even a green bra.

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une femme est une femme 3

7. Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961)

Anna Karina’s vivid red and blue outfits in ‘A Woman is a Woman’, perfectly match the grey backdrop of Paris. And the costumes are just one tiny bit of this film’s brilliance. I confess, I’ve been very keen on colourful tights ever since I first watched this film, I have them in all colours.

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8. Dark Shadows (2012)

I’ve always wondered how would Tim Burton mix ‘Victorian Gothic’ and Psychedelic aesthetics, and this film answered my question. I already wrote a post for itself discussing costumes and my opinion about this film, so I’ll quote myself: I can imagine myself having Carolyn’s bedroom; a psychedelic style decorated room with yellow carpet, vivid purple walls covered with posters of Iggy Pop and various other musicians of the time. It’s very bright, groovy, colourful and inspirational. I really loved the fact that every character has its own distinct style.

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Little Dorrit 1

9. Little Dorrit (2008)

This adaptation of Dickens’ novel is set in the 1820s, thought it has that doll-like 1830s vibe in some costumes, specially those worn by Fanny Dorrit. You can see her costume in the photo, on the left: that extravagant hairstyle with feathers, lace mittens, and wide sleeves – quite a theatrical flair about her character.

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an education 9

10. An Education (2009)

A film about a bored schoolgirl who meets a charming (and married) man who introduces her to a life of luxuries, parties, art auctions. Carey Mulligan plays this little modern Emma Bovary, and her quote says it all: ‘You have no idea how boring everything was before I met you.’ Most of the film she wears her school uniform, but when she goes out in the evenings she’s clad in classic and elegant 1960s style.

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11. A Little Chaos (2014)

This is the most recent film from this I’ve watched, starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. Winslet is dressed rather plain throughout the film because she’s a gardener, but there one scene near the end, at the court, where everyone’s dressed in late 17th century/ Restoration era finery. Cream coloured silks, lace, wide sleeves, and the hairstyle are so romantic and carefree.

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vivien leigh as blanche 1

12. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Vivian Leigh as a withered Southern Belle with fragile nerves who doesn’t want ‘realism, but magic’, and is always dressed in fine silks, lace and fur, adorned by the finest perfume, of course never in the daylight because it would reveal her true age and looks. I so empathise with her.

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1938. Bette Davis in 'Jezebel' (1938) 1

13. Jezebel (1938)

This film, starring the beautiful Bette Davis, is a proof that rustling of taffeta petticoats and silks skirts is the sweetest sound in the world. I thought the plot and the ending were a bit vague, but costumes absolutely delighted me.

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Have you a film you’d add on the list?

Gothic Beauty of Miss Havisham

14 Apr

Miss Havisham is one of my favourite literary heroines ever. Eerie, self-pitying, decadent and grotesque figure who occupies cold chambers without a ray of daylight, chambers that resemble tombs more than fine rooms fit for a mansion. Her presence shrouds the novel in a veil of mystery, and her story is so interesting it could make a novel for itself. I think Helena Bonham Carter was brilliant as Miss Havisham, and I could gather quite some inspiration by merely looking at the photo below.

helena bonham carter miss havishanHelena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (2012)

In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.

She was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on – the other was on the table near her hand – her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if I could.

Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Silent Films and Frilly Dresses

9 Apr

America’s sweetheart, The girl with the curls, Little Mary – these are some of the nicknames for Mary Pickford, a silent film actress who recently captivated me.

1920s Mary Pickford 8

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Before I started writing this post, I gave myself a task of watching a documentary about her called Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies (2012), which is really interesting and you can watch it on YouTube. It’s a good quality documentary; amusing with plenty of information, and the narrator has a pleasant voice. I liked that the focus was not only on Mary Pickford’s personality and different stages of her career, but on the development of Hollywood as we know it today, film industry and ‘flickers’, as the early films were known back then.

I utterly recommend you to watch the documentary as it is a great introduction into the glamorous world of Hollywood – a topic which has, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, captivated me recently. Like majority of people, I like watching films, but I’ve never been a massive ‘Old Hollywood’ fan like my mum, for example. Films of the 1930s and 1940s somehow never captured my attention, and I always wondered, with a slight dose of envy, what my mum saw in them. Then, a few weeks ago, out of nowhere, I’m ill with a disease called ‘Old Hollywood glamour’, and the only cure is to watch as many films as you can!

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1920s Mary Pickford 7***

As you might have guessed by the title, a Hollywood phase I became fixated on is the Silent era and its main star, actress Mary Pickford. Her eyes are her most charming feature; two bright stars surrounded by long eyelashes, with the ability to express every emotion; from sadness and resignation to gratitude and rapture. Then her gorgeous curls, her famous curls, which she cut off in 1928 much to the dismay of her fans. Bobbing her hair happened as a sort of ritual of transition: her mother had just died, and she found herself incapable of playing little girls now that she wasn’t anyone’s ‘little girl’. Her phase of playing child-parts was over.

That’s a personality trait I liked about Mary Pickford – she knew how to end things while they were still good. She was a woman who achieved everything she set her mind to. A remarkable person, not just a great actress. Her ‘rags to riches’ life story continues to captivate people’s imagination. ‘America’s Sweetheart’ was born as Gladys Smith in Canada, on 8th April 1892, in a poor family with an alcoholic father. Not the best starting point for someone who’d later be the first Hollywood actress to earn a million dollars.

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1917. Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)

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‘When Mary smiled, you could hear the angels sing’, said Lillian Gish, a fellow silent film actress and Mary’s lifelong friend.

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1916. Mary Pickford 1916 advertisementAdvertisement in ‘Moving Picture World’, September 1916

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Mary Pickford’s life story is interwoven with the life story of another silent film actress – Lillian Gish. In 1905, the Smith family shared quarters with the Gish family. Namely, Lillian Gish (14 Oct 1893-1993) had a younger sister Dorothy (11 March 1898-1968) who was also an actress. Similarly, Mary Pickford was the eldest sibling, her sister Charlotte ‘Lottie’ and brother Jack were actors as well, though both had succumbed to alcohol and died fairly young. Both families led bohemian lives which are as rich as they are hard to endure. Mary and Lillian became lifelong friends.

Starting in theatre, both girls quickly transferred to films or ‘flickers’. Early films were sensationalistic (does anyone sense a revival these days?), and often close to being pornographic. Targeted audience was the working class. After a long day’s work at the factory or a construction site, they could go and a watch a film, which was cheap as chips, travel in their imagination and escape the greyness of their lives.

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1920s Mary Pickford being paintedMary Pickford being painted, c. early 1920s

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Even though both were great actresses, Mary Pickford’s name stayed synonymous with the era of silent films. Early cinematography produced a great deal of actresses and icons such as Louise Brooks, Norma and Constance Talmadge, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, Pola Negri – all of which played very seductive and flirtatious roles. Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford had a different quality about them – they played more virtuous, innocent and girlish characters. They looked like dolls with their large expressive eyes and lush curls.

Lillian said herself: “I played so many frail, downtrodden little virgins in the films of my youth that I sometimes think I invented that stereotype of a role.” (source)

Lillian Gish plays a ‘frail, downtrodden little virgin’ Lucy Burrows in the filmBroken Blossoms (1919). Brilliantness of the film comes from the combination of Lillian’s poignant portrayal of a ‘fragile waif’, gloomy and decaying Limehouse district of London as the setting, and the opium-laced mood and Eastern flair brought by Cheng Huan – a Chinese lad who came to London with a dream ‘to spread the gentle message of Buddha to the Anglo-Saxon lands.’ Lillian’s performance was remarkable, and the ending truly brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not someone who cries easily at films. Somehow, when watching a silent film, you focus all your attention at the face expressions, gestures, eye movements; everything is intensified. Some quotes from the title cards, Cheng Huan’s thoughts about Lucy.

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 1

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Blue and yellow silk caressing white skin – her beauty so long hidden shines out like a poem. (at 50.50 min)

Breathing in an amber flute to this alabaster cockney girl her love name – White Blossom. (at 55.18)

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 3 1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 4

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I reckon Lillian has a naturally melancholic face, perhaps it is because her eyes are large and her lips really small, I dunno, but most of the photos of her have a slightly morbid appeal, at least for me. She’s a true Ophelia.

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1919. Broken Blossoms, or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) 11

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Mary Pickford played a variety of roles, and often performed the stunts herself as a matter of fact, but her most memorable films are those where she plays a role of a little girl, something she successfully did up until the age of thirty-something. Up to now, I’ve watched four of such films, in this order: Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) where she stars as Gwendolyn, Pollyanna (1920) as Pollyana Whittier, The Little Princess (1917) as Sara Crewe, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917) as Rebecca Randall. There’s more films where she plays child roles, but the next thing I want to watch is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ (1929) – it’s a ‘talkie’ she performed with her then-husband Douglas Fairbanks. That should be smashing!

There’s something so appealing about Mary Pickford’s roles in these particular films; a mixture of naivety and innocence, enhanced by her costumes and curls, and a courage and generosity. Goodness always wins in the end: in Poor Little Rich Girl she unites her previously money-and-success-distracted parents, in The Little Princess she finds a wealthy foster parent and brings her friend along, in Pollyanna she brings optimism to everyone she encounters. If audiences of the time saw a hope for the better world in those films, I fully understand them.

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The Taming of the Shrew (1929)Mary Pickford in The Taming of the Shrew (1929)

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Isn’t it strange, back then, a twenty-five year old actress could play a little girl, while today fourteen year old girls are encouraged by the media to look much older and ”attractive”.

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1920s Mary Pickford 6

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Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish’s expressive eyes reminded me a great deal of Anna Karina, just because I watched her films first. I noticed a certain ‘silent film’ quality about Anna Karina’s acting. Others did too: With her expressive, luminous eyes and radiant presence she had the looks of a silent movie star while simultaneously embodying the self-confident spirit of the 60s generation.” (source) This correlation is especially prominent in Godard’s film Vivre sa Vie (1963) where Anna Karina ironically plays – an aspiring actress. Really, even if you excluded the speaking parts, her eyes would reveal everything.

Another thing I wanted to discuss was the costumes. Mary Pickford has a marvellous wardrobe in her child-roles: straw hats or flowers in her lush curly hair, knee-long white dresses with lace and frills, worn with white tights, then her cute polka-dot dress with several petticoats and a parasol as an accessory in the role Rebecca, her cute one piece pyjama in ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’. Even in others pictures I’ve shown here, she looks elegant like a spring day – in frilly white dresses, wide hats, string of pearls, empire waist for a girlish appeal, lots of lace. Is it a charming 1910s revival of Rococo and Marie Antoinette countryside style, or a prelude to modern Japanese Lolita style?

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Gaylen Studlar - Precocious Charms

Fashion Inspiration for Autumn

23 Sep

Autumn – The season that awakens the soul…

1856. autumn leaves - John Everett Millais1970s biba makeup1970s biba lady1974. Illustration by Kasia Charko for Biba, summer 1960s Biba Makeup 1969. The Warlock of Love by Marc Bolan

Pictures above: misspandora.fr

1970. Dress, Countdown 1970. Dress, Thea Porter 1970. Granny Takes a Trip, Man's suit in three parts (jacket, waistcoat and trousers), about 1970. Rayon velvet, satin weave; plastic. 1970s Biba Illustration by Kasia Charko 9 1970s fashion photo 2 1970s lavender flocking 1970s outfits - had a trouser suit like the one on the right. Used to wear it with a baggy silk shirt and man's tie.....very sexy, I thought, lol! 1970s pattie boyd flapper 1970s uschi obermaier 12

16th December 1969: Rainer Langhans and his girlfriend Uschi Obermaier in a Munich restaurant. Two of the founders of the Berlin Commune 1 which was eventually unsuccessful, they are in Munich to try and start a similar venture. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

16th December 1969: Rainer Langhans and his girlfriend Uschi Obermaier in a Munich restaurant. Two of the founders of the Berlin Commune 1 which was eventually unsuccessful, they are in Munich to try and start a similar venture. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

1971. Biba Girl...Ingrid Boulting 2 1972. Sears Women’s Fashion Jim Morrison Pamela Courson 3 1973. Groupie style, 'Star' magazine 1973. High school fashions for Seventeen magazine, August 1975. Boots by Jerry Edouard 1974. Ingrid Boulting by David Bailey 1970s Jerry Hall 1970s street fashion 1970s woman on the corner 1971. Teenage pupils from Holland Park school in London get the 1971 look with Afghan coats, wide sleeved tunic shirts, basket weave bags and jeans 1960s Maria Schneider 1 1966. Teen fashion 1960s Print 1 1967. Flower Power fashion, Photograph by Peter Knapp. Image scanned by Sweet Jane. 1970s street style. Love black knee high mod boots with a fuzzy jacket and cigarette pants. 1972. Twiggy, Photograph by Justin de Villenueve hippie room 13 1970s hot pants 1 1970s hippie friends 1970s London Streetstyle 2

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

1970s jeans look 1970. London Boutique Fashion, Jours de France, August 3 1969. pair of woman boots - granny takes a trip 1969. Jane Birkin in Ossie Clark (photographed by Patrick Lichfield) 1 1969. Jane Birkin in The Pleasure Pit 1969. Dresses by Polly Peck 2 1960s Purple Velvet dress by John Stephen of Carnaby Street 1960s Purple suede boots with side lacing 1960s psychedelic eye 1969. Girls on Music Festival in Hyde Park in LOndon helena bonham carter 67 Tribal Pheasant Feather,Leather Bracelet with Boho Glass Beads, OOAK design on Etsy Sasha Pivovarova hippie 4 1960s brigitte bardot 159 dark shadows carolyn's room 4 dark shadows chloe 7 dark shadows 4 1960s ‘no’ to the draft, which required all young men to go to Vietnam to fight if their birthdate was picked…. 1960s fashion illustrations 1960s Hippies at a festival 1968. The Who - Magic Bus The Who on Tour

Effie Gray (2014) – A Review

24 Apr

dakota fanning as effie gray 1

I watched Effie Gray about a month ago and I fairly enjoyed it so I thought I’d share my impressions with my readers.

First of all, I was drawn by the story because I love the Pre-Raphaelites and I have been fascinated by this ‘Victorian Love Triangle’ for quite a while. The scandalous love triangle involves Effie Gray, played by Dakota Fanning, art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and the young Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais played by Tom Sturridge whom you may have watched in Waste of Shame (2004). Secondly, the costumes allured me even before I watched the movie, and I was naturally curious about Effie’s wardrobe since I am very fond of the early Victorian era fashion. Effie’s dresses and hairstyles were in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites, and her green dinner dress with details of black lace was splendid.

Even thought I had doubts about Effie being played by Dakota Fanning, I changed my mind after ten minutes of watching the movie. What I liked the most about the movie is the portrayal of Effie’s loneliness and isolation. I never actually thought about it, despite being familiar with the story and Effie’s marriage. This movie really made me symphatise with Effie; being very young and naive she must have felt confused and lonely living with Ruskin and his dominating parents, not even sure of his affection towards her anymore, away from home and cut off from all of her loved ones.

dakota fanning as effie gray 13

My favourite part of the movie is when Effie, Millais and Ruskin travel to Scotland where Effie is to improve her health, and Millais is to paint a portrait of Ruskin. In those gloomy days of solitary and rain Effie and Everett fell in love. I think Tom Sturridge portrayed Millais very well; he seemed shy, sweet and caring, especially in comparison with Ruskin’s aloofness and general disinterest. Along with his amiable nature, Everett was young and passionate, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that Effie fell in love with him, who wouldn’t? The Scottish landscapes are exquisite, wild, gloomy and picturesque! And it rained all the time, could there have been a better background for a love story?

Lastly, I thought the ending was vague. To those who are acquainted with the story of Effie and Millais the everything will be clear; Effie’s marriage to Ruskin will be annuled and she’ll eventually marry Everett. But not everybody is familiar with the story, and to those who are not the ending might seem confusing and disappointing. We mustn’t forget that divorce wasn’t as easy in Victorian era as it is now. Effie was fortunate enough to get her marriage annulled, but things could have played out differently. I just think that the movie could have ended in a better way, a scene of Effie marrying Millais might have been appropriate?

As for Ruskin, I think he shouldn’t have married Effie and then deny her love. He seems rather selfish, cold and aloof. Marriage to him must have been a condemnation to solitude. It is clear from the beginning that Ruskin’s true bride was art. Fortunately, Effie managed to get away from the sad life that was ahead of her.

All in all, I liked the film and I’d give it 4/5 just because there are better period dramas such as Jane Eyre (2011) and Sense and Sensibility (1995) which would earn all five stars on my scale, but I still liked the film very much and I’ll probably watch it again.

Marianne Dashwood – A Romantic Heroine

18 Apr

Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

jane austen sense and sensibility book cover 1

‘Sense and Sensibility’ was Jane Austen’s first published work and is my favourite novel by Jane Austen. Both the movie Sense and Sensibility (1995) and the novel are amusing and interesting, a real nourishment for imagination. Even if you throw out the romance, you’re still left with witty dialogues, interesting Regency fashion, insight into social customs and daily life in Regency era. There’s something so exciting in imagining that perhaps there once was a Marianne Dashwood out there, with all her romantic adventures and sensibilities!

The character of Marianne Dashwood is probably the main reason why I love this book so much. I feel I can relate to her, much more than I can to Elizabeth Bennet, despite the general admiration and affection readers usually have for Miss Lizzy. I think Marianne is a very interesting character, a typical heroine of Romanticism. Embodying the ‘sensibility’ of the title, Marianne is spontaneous, impulsive, idealistic, excessively sensitive, amiable and generous; she’s everything but ‘sensible’. Marianne’s romantic and passionate nature has shaped her interests and hobbies, as well as her attitudes towards love and life; she loves reading poetry, playing pianoforte and singing, living passionately in general, long strolls, romantic adventures, and, keeping in touch with Romanticism, she loves nature. Like Marianne, I am exceedingly romantic, because I’ve listened to Chopin’s Nocturnes one too many a time, read too many Victorian novels, and I daydream too much.

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No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone;
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulphs than he.

       The Castaway, 1799, lines 61–66 (William Cowper)

Marianne is particularly fond of William Cowper who is considered one of the forerunners of Romanticism. His thoughtful and emotional celebration of the beauty of nature was very appealing to Jane Austen herself. I think it’s very appropriate that they included a recitation of Cowper’s poem in the movie because it perfectly demonstrated the difference between two sisters, their worldviews and qualities they value. During discussions about Edward Ferrars, Marianne proclaimed: ‘I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter in all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both.

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Kate Winslet is the only Marianne Dashwood for me! She perfectly embodied Marianne’s romantic idealism, spontaneity, and passion for wild flowers and poetry! I have not doubted for a moment that who I’m watching on the screen is a real Marianne Dashwood coming to life. Even her appearance coincided with my own vision of Marianne! Kate’s appearance in the movie was pure embodiment of the word ‘romantic’; her sparkling eyes, golden curls and heart-shaped lips were all perfectly suitable for the image of a romantic heroine.

Every romantic heroine needs a romantic hero. Marianne’s first romantic adventure began the moment Mr Willoughby carried her to the house, in the rain, after she had sprained her ankle. The next morning he brought her wildflowers, and the two bonded over the shared love of poetry. Still, the story would have been too perfect if it had stopped there. Willoughby had secrets of his own. It seemed sad to me at first, but after finding about Willoughby’s immoral behavior and corruptible nature, I was delighted that he abandoned Marianne for I would not want a person like that to be her husband.

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Even though some, or rather, most of the readers have expressed disappointment on Marianne falling in love and marrying Colonel Brandon, I actually liked the ending. Willoughby seems a better partner for Marianne at first; he’s young, handsome and charming, but it is maturity and wisdom of Colonel Brandon that enabled him to deeply love and appreciate Marianne in a way Willoughby never could. It’s just my opinion though, perhaps somewhat shaped by the fact that Brandon was portrayed by Alan Rickman in the film, and I like him, and his voice.

In the end, Marianne realised that Colonel Brandon was very much capable of falling in love or inspiring love in someone else. I think it’s very romantic how he fell in love with Marianne at first sight, as she reminded him of his unforgotten love Eliza, without even hoping or expecting Marianne to return his feelings.