Friday, March 27, 2015

Carey Mulligan is Fierce and Fabulous in Far From the Madding Crowd (featurette)

Thomas Hardy's portrait of Bathsheba Everdene is about a million miles away from Cinderella

I don't know which is more gorgeous, the new poster (above) or this one (below) that I included with my Far from the Madding Crowd post back in February. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a third poster before the film opens the U.S., the UK and Ireland on May 1st. Why? The first poster featured Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) and Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) embracing under the trees. This second poster pairs Bathsheba with  Gabriel Oaks (Matthias Schoenaerts) on the dance floor. Since Ms Everdene was torn between, not just two lovers but three, it seems likely that William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) will have his 15 minutes of fame prior to the film's release. Far from the Madding Crowd makes its debut at the Istanbul Film Festival in Turkey on April 17th. Stay tuned for the buzz!

Until then we have a featurette singing the praises of Thomas Hardy's extraordinary portrait of a very modern young woman. Hardy drew a complex picture of womanhood in the character of Bathsheba Everdeen; a young woman as different from Cinderella as the day is long. I'm just about sixty pages in to the 414 page novel but the story practically begins with Bathsheba turning down a marriage proposal. From what we see on the featurette Bathsheba is just as feisty and determined to make her own way in the world as ever. I couldn't be happier. 

Personal Connection

 She wouldn't remember in a zillion years, nay, a bazillion years, but I met Ms. Mulligan at the wrap party for Drive, the film in which she was the object of desire for Ryan Gosling's character. It was a complete under utilization of her talent but she was absolute perfection in it. The party was held at a bowling alley in the Valley and Carey was there in a pale cardigan over a pastel colored silk blouse, looking as cool, calm and elegantly demure as you'd expect. My husband, one of the AD's on the show, insisted on taking me over to say hello. Between you and me, I hate wrap parties. I'm a confirmed introvert and making small talk is torture, which is to say meeting famous people is mostly a meaningless exercise in controlling sweaty palms. The stars are almost always gracious and say hello and usually tell me how much they love my husband. Ryan did that; told me how funny my husband was and that he was the one that should be in front of the camera. We took a picture together, Ryan and me, his gorgeous leather-jacketed arm around my shoulder, before he slipped away for a smoke break. It's a horrible photo; I really don't know who looks worse, me—my face pale and puffy and grinning like an idiot— or Ryan, strangely washed out by the bowling alley lights and my hubby's lousy use of his iPhone camera. Which is to say, you won't be seeing me post that here anytime soon. 

Later, when the Karaoke machine was up and running, Ryan proceeded to film my husband's standard rendition of Stairway to Heaven, which he performs with pretty much everything he's got, Elvis-styled hip shakes and all.  I couldn't take my eyes off him. Ryan Gosling, not my husband. The meeting with Carey was much less momentous. Just a sweet and charming hello, it's so nice to meet you and I wondered if she, like me, was on the shy side. I just saw her on Fallon and she's hilarious but I sense a hidden quiet side. My husband asked her if she was having a good time and could we be expecting her to get in on the Karaoke? She laughed a little, made some 'Oh, I don't know about that' kind of comment back. And that was about it before a couple of the hair and makeup folks came over and whisked her away to a table. That's where the real relationships are built, in the hair and makeup trailer where the actors can sit and relax with a cup of coffee—or tea—while the pros brush and polish them until they're camera ready. Like going to your favorite stylist day after day; it's easier to let your hair down and and chat and be yourself in the privacy of the hair and makeup trailer, much easier to bond and make real connections. Anyway,  I've always had a soft spot for Carey, both before and since, and can't wait to see what she does with the role of Bathsheba Everdene. I've always thought she had the most beautiful speaking voice, the voice which you hear singing in the trailer is hers and just as lovely.

How about you? Have you read the Thomas Hardy classic? Will you be watching Far from the Madding Crowd when it hits your local theater? 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THROWBACK THURSDAY—Sense & Sensibility

Classic from the Film Library: Circa 1995 

Since it's Throw Back Thursday, I'm throwing it back with a classic from the film library, a certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, blast from the past. Too bad movie theaters don't do a throw-back Thursday special; the price of a movie ticket 20 years ago was about $4.35; movie tix have been going up ever since.

Twenty years. That's how long it's been since Emma Thompson dazzled the critics with her writing skills in her Oscar-winning adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Kate Winslet wouldn't even meet Leo and fall in love as Rose in Titanic for a couple of years yet. Hugh Grant was in the middle of finding his charming blinking self —he'd made Four Weddings and a Funeral the year before, but it would be another 5 years before he shot Notting Hill and Bridget Jones Diary. Alan Rickman was, well, he was already Rickman, the oft-times villain with the slurry, slightly sleazy delivery.

While Thompson's screenplay won the film's only Oscar, Sense and Sensibility received seven nominations in all, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Dramatic Score by Patrick Doyle. Thompson and Kate Winslet were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and yes, the period drama was also nominated for Best Costume Design. Bizarrely the film's director, Ang Lee, was ignored. Cuz all that amazing stuff happened and he just happened to be standing there. Right. Anyway Lee knows living well is the best revenge; making the movies he wants to make. That's sweet revenge. Oh, and he's also won the Oscar twice since, for Brokeback Mountain and the beautiful Life of Pi. Thompson, in case you didn't know, wrote the script for the upcoming Effie Gray in which she co-stars with Dakota Fanning. Effie Gray is not based on a book so that's all I'm contractually allowed to say.

The costume designer, Jenny Beavan, working with John Bright, lost to James Acheson for Restoration, a film I have never, ever heard of. Beavan is one of those genius Brit costume designers, a 9 time Oscar nominee for a host of glorious period pictures dating back to the late 1970's including The King's Speech, Gosford Park, Anna and the King, Howard's End, The Remains of the Day and A Room with a View for which she won the Oscar back in 1987

Beavan could get another nomination for Child 44, the upcoming Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman movie based on the Tom Rob Smith best-seller we talked about yesterday but it will be difficult for anyone to beat out  Sandy Powell, the costume designer for Cinderella. Powell —yes, also British—is a ten time nominee, has won three times —for The Young Victoria, The Aviator and Shakespeare in Love—and what she's done with Cate Blanchett's Cinderella look isn't just spectacular; it's an innovative re-imagaining of what could be just another lush period piece.

But I digress, boy do I digress!

If it's been awhile since you read Austen's novel, here you go:
"this film version of Jane Austen's classic 1811 novel stars Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood. With her mother and sisters, Elinor struggles financially after the death of her father, who bequeathed the Dashwood estate to his oafish son by an earlier marriage. While sorting out the family's affairs, the shy, self-sacrificing Elinor secretly falls for her stepbrother-in-law, Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), a sensitive, well-educated bachelor who cannot court her because of his foolhardy youthful engagement to the greedy Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs). The grateful Dashwoods are offered a modest country home by family friends, which they accept. Once relocated, Elinor's brash, spirited sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) falls for a dashing local, John Willoughby (Greg Wise), a womanizer who nevertheless seems to share her affections. A prominent neighbor, Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), also falls in love with Marianne, but she is oblivious to the older man's affections. Eventually, Willoughby fails Marianne, breaking her heart, until she realizes Brandon's feelings. When Edward's family disowns him, Lucy marries his brother instead, leaving him free to pursue an exultant Elinor. "

 If you are a fan of

                a) a Jane Austen
                b) British period movies
                c) sharp, witty writing
                d) all of the above plus Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman

... you can stream Sense and Sensibility on Amazon (I so wish I had money in Amazon!) VUDU and GooglePlay. The only thing it's missing is Colin Firth. Greg Wise will have to do; Wise is the dashing and dastardly Willoughby. He also happens to be in Thompson's Effie Gray.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Child 44: Where are you?

Coming soon, very soon!

I shared my take on Tom Rob Smith's thrilling 'thriller' Child 44 last month, along with the trailer and an initial poster for the movie starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman.  Now that we're getting closer to the U.S. release date of April 17th, a quartet of posters have arrived online.

The book, set in a world where nobody trusts anyone, not even husbands and wives, was such a great read, completely absorbing and defying any attempts to figure out who done it! I'm hoping the movie will be just as good, which, considering the cast, it stands a very good shot of being. The best-selling novel is the first in a trilogy, so if the film is as successful as I think it will be, we can logically expect movies based on Agent 6 and The Secret Speech to come next. Fingers crossed! Today I was pretty much over-the-moon when the acclaimed author Tom Rob Smith was good enough to respond to one of my tweets about the book like so ...

Well, that's my day week month made! Here's the rest of the new posters, plus the trailer. Can you see this movie without reading the book? Well sure you can, but why would you, the book is so awesome; at 480 pages it may seem daunting but those pages seriously fly by. Really. Now, go read it.

Wolf Hall Wednesday: Goodbye Anne, Hello Who?

Master Treasurer Fitzwilliam (James Larkin) confers with Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)

Week 9: Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies   

They say the wife is the last to know. I doubt that was the case with Anne Boleyn; she was such a plotter herself, it took so much work to get to that sweet Queen of England spot, and then not to bear a male child? She saw the king looking at Jane Seymour and she must have been hyper aware of the machinations of the men around her. Men like William Fitzwilliam who saw her in a harsh light anyway.
"A queen should be mild and pitiful. She should move the king to mercy — not drive him on to harshness."
p. 189

I almost feel sorry for her! Cromwell knows Henry wants to be rid of her, and that it will be easier this time around, than it was to get rid of her predecessor. There are many, including foreign governments and those from the ancient families of England —the Howards, the Seymours—who have never really accepted Anne as Queen. If they could get rid of Catherine, Henry's legit wife of 20 years, of course they can get rid of Anne. It seems her only fans are all the men smitten with her; courtiers that don't hold the same real power as Cromwell and the master plan makers. And Mantel drives home the point, again and again, but with freshness and crackle. I just love the force of this passage ....
"Sir Nicholas Carew comes to see him. The very fibres of his beard are bristling with conspiracy. He half expects the knight to wink as he sits down.
When it comes to it, Carew is surprisingly brisk. 'We want the concubine ousted. We know you want it too.' 
p. 190

There's no beating around the bush, there's a steady drum beat that will lead to her ousting, it seems inevitable. Cromwell will find a way to get rid of Anne, they'll send her to a convent or 'a country house' and Jane Seymour will take her place.

Kate Phillips as Jane Seymour

At the same time everyone is taken aback by Henry's new chosen one; Seymour is the very embodiment of Plain Jane. Fitzwilliam says—
"If it is old Seymour's daughter next, there will be some jealousy among those who think their own noble house should be preferred—but after all, the Seymours are an ancient family, and he won't have this trouble with her. I mean, men running after her like dogs after a — well ... You just look at her, Seymour's little girl, and you know that nobody's ever pulled her skirts up."
p. 190

Indeed! And Eustache Chapuys, the ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire, tells Cromwell he doesn't know what Henry sees in her. Now I'm feeling sorry for Kate Phillips, the actor playing Jane Seymour!

Matthieu Almaric as Eustache Chapuys

"She is very plain. What does Henry see in her?"
"He thinks she's stupid. He finds it restful."
p. 200

Is she? Is she stupid and compliant? And is she the virgin Cromwell and everyone thinks she is? I have one more week to finish my reading before the Wolf Hall debut here on April 5th. I'm pretty excited about it; I know that reading the books beforehand will only help bring clarity to the historical happenings we'll see on the show. And the sheer number of characters! It's a humungous cast list! In fact, next week for my last Wolf Hall post about the books — before I dig in to the actual television show — I'll try to do a cast of characters mini-bio guide.

I do need to keep in mind this is historical fiction though, with conversations and characters painted by the skilled brush of an artist.

Hilary Mantel has created a complex and compelling depiction of Thomas Cromwell, which many fault as being too kind to Cromwell who helped Henry rid himself of both a queen and a church; and too critical of Sir Thomas More who refused to accept Henry as head of the Church, and Anne as the Queen of England.

All along Mantel has shown us that Cromwell is an advocate for an improved England, that his chief complaint about the Catholic Church is all the money in its' coffers that could go to the betterment of his country. The real Thomas Cromwell did in fact try to introduce a law in parliament that would cut down on poverty while improving the country. It's a very modern, democratic point of view. And of course, the powerful, i.e. rich, men in Parliament shut it down. For those of us in America, substitute the word Congress for Parliament and Mantel could be writing an OpEd in the New York Times.
In March, Parliament knocks back his new poor law. It was too much for the Commons to digest, that right men might have some duty to the poor; that if you get fat, as gentlemen of England do, on the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off the land, the laborers without labour, the sowers without a field. England needs roads, forts, harbours, bridges. Men need work. It's a shame to see them begging their bread, when honest labour could keep the realm secure. Can we not put them together, the hands and the task?
But Parliament cannot see how it is the state's job to create work. Are not these matters in God's hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order? To everything there is a season: a time to starve and a time to thieve. If rain falls for six months solid and rots the grain in the fields, there must be providence in it; for God knows his trade. It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising, to suggest that they should pay an income tax, only to put bread in the mouths of the work shy. And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality: well, are there not hangmen enough?  
p. 180

That sounds a little Dickensian — "What? Are there no workhouses?" but I appreciate the sentiment whether it came from a historical understanding of Thomas Cromwell's proclivities or Mantel's own wishes. Either way, I'm a fan of the Wolf Hall version of Thomas Cromwell, a man who already knows that as much as Henry VIII counts on him, and favors him, should he, Cromwell, not do what the king commands, his day of judgement could come too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cinderella: 5 Things I Loved, 5 Things I Didn't

It can't be easy to take a fairy tale that's not only iconic and filled with familiar archetypes but whose entire premise is wrapped up in a magical transformation, the familiar moth to butterfly trope, and breathe new life into it. While in the mind of a child, it's both wonderfully simple and simply wonderful, to turn a few mice into a team of white horses; a pumpkin into a glorious golden carriage; an ordinary girl wearing the same old dress into a beautiful princess, pulling that feat off in real life has, up to now, been an impossibility. But now, director Kenneth Branagh, in a happy marriage of technology and imagination has made the magic happen. If Disney's 1950's animated version of the beloved story of Cinderella has lived happily alongside a child's imagination, this version fleshes it out in fantastic visual fashion.

This newest incarnation takes Charles Perrault's fairy tale and tweaks, ever so slightly mind you, the conceit that the prince saves the girl—after she gets a magical make-over—from her horrid life where she would otherwise be doomed to cook and clean and be everyone's doormat forever. You know the magic words by heart: And they lived happily ever after. The change, which I fear, is not large enough, goes something like this; IF you are very good, and kind and courageous, AND you get the chance to meet a handsome prince in a forest—or, I suppose, in your real world Starbucks or on the subway or the park across the street—AND you get a magical make-over AND you have an impossibly tiny waist, then your prince will recognize your kindness and courage as the kind of stuff he wants in a partner, THEN he will rescue you, saving you from our horrid life where you would otherwise be doomed to cook and clean and be everyone's doormat forever.

What about his horrid life without the right woman as his partner? Without Cinderella (Lily James), Prince Charming (Richard Madden) might not be as happy, but he would still be a prince, with the castle and mega ballroom and attendants and regal accoutrements while without Prince Charming, Cinderella would still be Cinderella, doomed to cook, and clean and be everyone's doormat forever. There's something wrong with that, that in 2015; girls and women, are still seen as being saved by a man. We're still the ones that keep the home fires burning while men go off and do great things. We're still the ones singing the same old song. In the words of Billie Holiday "Someday he'll come along, the man I love. And he'll be big and strong, the man I love." We need more examples of women who do great things, whose marriage, while wonderful, is as incidental to their great achievements, as marriage seems to be to men.

That being said, I found myself being swept up by the ravishing-looking fantasy of this very familiar fairy tale. Sweeping my inner feminist's fears away, rocking my romantic side, I found a good deal to enjoy about the age old boy meets girl story. I'm old enough to know 'happily ever after' are just three little words; my ten year old self would have dreamt about escaping into a life filled with what I thought love was. Romantic and breath-taking, the magic of a first kiss, day after day.

And after that lengthy preamble, here's five things I loved, followed by five things that bothered me.

#1: Cate Blanchett  

Everything about her. From Blanchett's nuanced but wonderfully wicked performance as the step-mother to her green-with-envy costumes by Sandy Powell. Blanchett isn't just evil; when Cinderella's father goes away for the first time, it's clear that it's his daughter, Cinderella, not his new bride that he's bereft at leaving.  Blanchett manages a look that tells us, no matter how bitchy, she's still capable of being hurt by his indifference. 

                                                    #2: Costume Design

There's probably only one blue dress in the world that's more famous than Cinderella's and we're not going to talk about that here! Every little girl wants her blue dress for their Halloween costume; the one Lily James wears here will be equally coveted by their older sisters. Costume Designer Sandy Powell will no doubt get another Oscar nomination for her work here, from the blue dress that reportedly took 500 hours to complete—at union wages, we hope rather than being sewn by hand by slave labor in India or Pakistan—to Cate Blanchett's 1940's screen siren-inspired ensembles to the silly and outlandish styles Cinderella's step-sisters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holiday Grainger) wore.

#3 Production Design

The sets by the husband and wife team of production designer Dante Ferreti and set               decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo were drop-dead gorgeous. Director Kenneth Branagh had the sense and senility to hire the best; the pair have worked together for thirty years, been nominated for their work eight times, won three Oscars—for Hugo, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd—and will no doubt be nominated for Cinderella. Equal to any fantasy the ballroom set was built in the 'OO7' soundstage at Pinewood Studios and boasts 5000 oil lamps which had to be lit by hand and 17 chandeliers custom-made in Venice. I'd love to hear that the chandeliers, instead of going into a giant studio warehouse to gather dust, are being auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity. 

#4 Helena Bonham Carter and that Bippity Boppity Boo stuff

HBC has very little screen time but almost steals the show with her wry humorous take on the fairy godmother role. The very first act of magic she undertakes is to transform herself from cackling old beggar woman to her rather spectacular self. "There, that's better!" she says and one can't help but agree. Hell, yes! If I could be a fairy godmother, why wouldn't I make sure I looked drop dead gorgeous too? The whole approach to Cinderella's transformation is spot on, with HBC melding a combination of barely suppressed sarcasm, the best intentions and just a touch of reckless experimentation. When Cinderella tells her she wants to go to the ball in her mother's old dress which she's refashioned herself, HBC's fairy godmother humors her, but nonetheless whips the ordinary pretty, pink dress into the dazzling blue creation that has nothing in common with Cinderella's old dress, imbuing it with teeny lights and tiny butterflies at the shoulders. Is Cinderella disappointed her new dress looks nothing like mom's? Nope! And who can blame her?

And as beautiful as that transformation is, it's nothing compared to the CGI magic of making a golden carriage out of a pumpkin, mice into horses and lizards into footmen. In my favorite sequence in the film, when the fairy godmother waves her magic wand over the pumpkin—inside a greenhouse, as are HBC and Cinderella—the pumpkin begins to expand, popping out the windows and finally getting so huge, that   it bursts free of its walls, pushing the women out too. Seeing the cute little round ears of the mice pop out into horse's ears is nothing short of phenomenal, as is their return to themselves at the stroke of midnight. I couldn't take my eyes off the oh-so-charming little critters.

#5 Nonso Anozie      

I'll be honest here; while Nonso Anozie was fantastic as the Captain of the Royal guard, the only person who seemed to really care about the prince's best interests, playing the part with humor and dignity, it may not be pc to say but I liked him in part because he was a big, beautiful black man with a beautiful English accent. Kudos to director Branagh for giving us a fairy tale world that's a least a little bit more diversely hued than what we've seen in the past. Would a black man have held such a high position in the royal court? Who cares? This is fantasy, where pumpkins become coaches and mice become horses. More importantly, we have got to start giving children of color people they can recognize when they go to the movies. Today, the Captain of the Guard, tomorrow Prince Charming.

What didn't I like? Well ...

#1 That Whole Cinderella Complex/Rescue Fantasy Thing-ey

Men are fantastic, so is marriage. I love my husband, but he's no Prince Charming. Modern women, young and old, know that love and marriage aren't everything, and shouldn't be. The only way to save yourself from your dull, dreary life is to do it yourself. See paragraphs one and two.

#2 Cinderella's Daddy Issues

When Cinderella's father remarries and has to go away on yet another business trip, Cinderella is distraught and runs after him declaring her love. I can relate because I grew up with a father who was always going off on month and two month long business trips BUT Cinderella, while saddled with a truly wicked stepmother, really needs to grow a pair. She's not a little girl anymore, she's a young woman, so WoMAN up Cinderella. And you know what? IF I were newly married to this man and he spent more time blowing kisses to his teenage daughter than me, I might be a little pissy too. The scenes of Cinderella chasing after daddy had me less inclined to feel sorry for her, than I was sorry for the wicked step-mother.

#3 That Tired Old 'Wicked Step-Mother' Trope

Why are we still selling this fantasy? In our modern age when so many marriages end in divorce, we have more so-called step-mothers and fathers than ever. Don't get me wrong, Cate Blanchett was fantastic, dripping with disdain and her dead-pan delivery of "Call me madam" was dead-on and hilarious when seen through the eyes of adults. BUT what message are we sending kids? This movie is for kids, right? Because if it's not, what the hell are we doing, making fairy tales for grownups?Anyway, don't second marriages and blended families have enough difficulties to overcome than our culture encouraging the continuation of the wicked step-mother stereotype? It's only a movie? Movies and television shows are our mirrors, they reflect our world, they need to do so with accuracy and understanding.

#4 Cinderella's Kindness Needs to Start at Home

By that I mean, with herself. I was mystified that after being raised in such a loving family Cinderella had so little self-esteem and personal strength that she immediately buckled under some cruel sniping and that she obeyed her bossy step-sisters. Just say NO! Cinderella, or better yet, when step-mom dismisses the staff and one of the housemaids offers you a roof, go for it. Instead she stays and subjects herself to verbal abuse. Quite hilariously, she's surprised again and again when she's treated shabbily. Really, Cinderella? And what were you expecting?

#5  That Impossibly Tiny Waist

There's plenty of controversy about Lily James ridiculously tiny waist in that blue dress. And rightly so. While Disney and Kenneth Branagh deny digitizing the dress to achieve the impossibly small waist, and James herself—who went on a liquid diet to fit into the corseted dress—calls the controversy boring, saying that children care more about Cinderella's morals than how she looks; the body image presented is nonetheless unrealistic and sets up unrealistic expectations girls and young women have for themselves. I know I'm being a stick in the mud but for any woman who has ever had body issues, standards like these are not helpful. Instead of stuffing James into a corset —or digitizing her waist—what the world needs now is a Cinderella, with a normal size waist, that all young women can recognize in themselves.

Sources: The Guardian,

Monday, March 23, 2015

Louis Jourdan in "Gigi" : My First French Romance

One of the first movies that left a huge impression on me when I was a girl was Gigi starring Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan. Not that I had any idea who either of them were at the time. I was a child when Gigi came out in 1958 so I must have seen it several years later on television, probably on a screen not much bigger than a bread box. Certainly not big enough to contain the charm and charisma of the French film star Louis Jourdan as Gaston. While I had no idea who he was, I fell in love with his voice, his elegant French accent, his tall, dark, debonair flair. Whatever my age when I saw the movie, I was too young to fully understand the notion that Gigi was being trained to be a kept woman to an older man, a courtesan, a demimondaine in Paris, during the Belle Epoque period. I only understood that Gigi went from being a school girl (like moi) in school girl clothing to glamour queen (unlike moi), and that after her transformation, Louis Jourdan—my first French crush—fell in love with her and that they got married and lived happily ever after.

It's a Bore!
We first meet Gaston riding in a carriage with his uncle Honore (Maurice Chevalier) A sophisticate who has seen and done it all, it seems there is nothing Honore can suggest that doesn't bore Gaston to tears.  

But then there is Gigi.
The Night They Invented Champagne
At first, their relationship is purely platonic. Her girlish enthusiasm gives him a kick.

Gigi 'sung' by Louis Jourdan
Until he finds himself thinking of her in a completely new light.

The film, directed by Vincent Minelli, was based on the novelette written by Colette in 1944 when the famous French writer was in her 70's. While Colette never saw the 9 time Oscar winner—the acclaimed writer died in 1954—Gigi had already been adapted as a French film in 1949 and then in 1951 for the stage, by Anita Loos. In fact Colette herself hand-picked Audrey Hepburn to play the title role on Broadway! Lerner & Lowe, who wrote the show tunes for the movie—Andre Previn composed the score—tried out the musical on Broadway in the early 70's but it flopped. Now, Call the Midwife's writer Heidi Thomas and producer Jenna Segal are in the midst of taking a whole new version of Gigi to Broadway. The ladies have cleaned up the risqué material as well as the scandalous age difference between Gigi and Gaston, making it more palatable to today's pc audiences. All fine and well, but it ain't Colette.

Colette is another writer whose life would make for an amazing film. She was probably bi-sexual—she at least flirted with lesbianism in a relationship with the marquise de Balbeu—but was married three times, first at age 20 in 1893 to Henri Gauthier-Villars, a writer and critic 15 years her senior. It was Gauthier-Villars (Willy) who first introduced her to the world of Parisian salons and the 'demi-monde' she came to write about. Discovering her talent, the man actually locked her in a room and forced her to write! Naturally, he took the credit, publishing the four-book series Claudine under his name. Naturally!

Watch the vintage trailer ...

Do you love Louis Jourdan, Paris patisseries and anything and everything French? 
Connect with fellow francophiles at

Gigi, the winner of 9 Oscars, is available on Amazon:
Best Picture
Best Director/Vincente Minnelli
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium/Alan Jay Lerner
Best Cinematography, Color/Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White or Color
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White or Color/Cecil Beaton
Best Film Editing
Best Music, Original Song/Frederick Loewe (music) and Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics)
For the song "Gigi"
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture/André Previn

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Washington Post,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Slacker Sunday: Variety Video Interview with Cinderella Costume Designer, Sandy Powell

I bit the bullet and went to see Cinderella this week and I'm still conflicted about the overall message of the movie.

One thing I'm not conflicted about is the utter gloriousity of the costumes! We can talk more about the clothing in another post but for today's Sunday Slacker video, I've got an interview Variety did with Cinderella's genius costume designer, three time Oscar winner—for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, and The Young Victoria—Sandy Powell. It's just shy of five minutes but for fellow costume design aficionados, it's five minutes of heaven.

Powell says that she and Cate Blanchett looked to the fabulous film stars of the forties for inspiration; women like Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo .

"I wanted her character to be sophisticated and elegant almost like a fashion plate because I think there is something rather intimidating about the woman who is perfectly dressed, you know, from head to foot, perfectly, impeccably dressed. There's something a little bit scary about that."

Cate Blanchett, scary? Ya think? She's got the Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest look down, in this shot, with her 1940's era make-up and that gold finger wagging furiously in Cinderella's face.


I don't see how Cinderella's blue ballgown—no matter how stunning and extravagant—could take 500 hours to complete but that's what the designer says!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Matinee: Blow-Up

Here's something for a Saturday afternoon: Blow-Up. Antonioni's first English language film earned the director (L'Avventura, La Notte) the Palme D'Or at Cannes and Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Script written directly for the Screen—even though it was actually based on a short story by Julio Cortazar "Las Babas del Diablo".
A mod London photographer seems to find something very suspicious in the shots he has taken of a mysterious beauty in a desolate park.
A tough movie to get out of your head. Just as compelling as the cool graphics and the very sixties trailer. Plus the clothes; I mentioned Hemming's style in my recent Steve McQueen, the McCoolest of all post.

The park at the top of the hill, a swathe of green and the ominous oooosh sound of the blowing of the leaves sticks with you forever. Watching David Hemmings, fashion photographer, blow up his photos of what he sees in the park is so curiously compelling. Click. Click. Click.
Haven't seen it? It's available to stream it on Google-Play, Amazon and Vudu and you really should.