Tag Archives: Milena Canonero

OSCAR CONTENDERS 2015 – BEST COSTUME

This year brings a wealth of costume-rich movies to see, and several veteran costume designers have secured nominations for Best Costume Design by the Acedemy of Motion Picure Arts and Sciences. The Nominess are: The Grand Budapest Hotel; Inherent Vice; Into the Woods; Maleficent: and Mr Turner.  Each of the movies and their costume designs are certainly excellent in their own way. The Academy’s voters have traditionally favored historical costume movies, or fantasies. Rarely has a contemporary costume movie won this award, only once, in memory.  Below is my summary of the costumes for each of these nominees and my prediction for the winner.

Watch for my annual Silver Screen Modes Most Glamorous Gown Award here after the the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night February 22nd  for the most glamorous red carpet gown.

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Jude Law plays a young writer staying at the Hotel in its later years

 

Wes Anderson’s film about the Grand Budapest Hotel located in the fictional Alpine country of Zubrowka  as told through its old concierge M. Gustave, is a bravado of costume design.  The costumes were the work of Italian designer Milena Canonero. Ms, Canonero has won three Oscars and has been nominated nine times for Best Costume Design, including her first Oscar for Barry Lyndon in 1975; and for Chariots of Fire;  and most recently for Marie Antoinette in 2006.

In the movie M. Gustave is adorned in a purple tailcoat with red piping that complements his dove-gray pants and cutaway vest. The lobby boys’ costumes are also in purple with red striping.

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M. Gustave, as played by Ralph Fiennes,  is intimate with the old ladies who stay at the hotel, here seen below with Madame D. Madame D. was played by Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup.  Ms. Canonero was inspired in the scene below for the design of her gown by a painting by Gustave Klimt.

 

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Jeff Goldblum is shown below as Deputy Kovacs. His costume heightens his demeanor as the serious lawyer he is trying to be. The wide notched  lapels are the styles of the 1930s. Ms. Canonero said she drew inspiration by looking at the photos of George Hurrell and the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka.

grand-budapest-hotel Jeff Goldblum

 

Into the Woods, brings us into a more typical fantasywith costume designs by veteran designer Colleen Atwood. Ms. Atwood has won three Oscars for costume design, and this is her eleventh nomination. Into the Woods is based on the Stephen Sondheim Boadway musical hit,  adaptated as a movie and directed by Rob Marshall.

INTO THE WOODS

Into the Woods stars Meryl Streep as the witch, Johnny Depp as the wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, and Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Atwood used the motif of wood bark to design the textile and gown for Meryl Streep. A leather and satin cording was woven into the chiffon to give it a special texture. For the pouffy-sleeved gown shown above and shown in many publicity shots, ribbons were woven into the fabric.

INTO THE WOODS

For Cinderella’s step-sisters, Ms. Atwood used black and taupe colors. She wanted contrast without using black and white. After trying different colors contrasts, she liked the ones shown above the best. Ms. Atwood also used a pale pink for Rapunzel’s costume, with a sheer overlay, giving the ensemble a pale, ethereal look emphasizing that she had been held captive in the tower for so long.

Johnny Depp had suggested the Zoot Suit look himself as a design theme for the wolf’s costume. Ms. Atwood ran with it. The zoot suit had exagerated features and was made famous by singer and band-leader Cab Calloway in the early 1940s and worn by many of the young Mexican-American “Pachucos” in Los Angeles.  The long fur collar and tail were actually made from thread. Little Red Riding Hood’s cape and hood were made of specially dyed lamb’s wool.

 

Into the woods

 

The third Best Costume nominee is Maleficent, designed by Anna B. Sheppard, and it too is for a fantasy, this one a Walt Disney production starring Angelina Jolie.  This is Ms. Sheppard’s third nomination. She has previously been nominated for Schindler’s List, (1992) and The Piano (2002).

 

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Ms. Sheppard stated that she used Disney’s original animated  Sleeping Beauty from 1959 as the model for Maleficent’s costume, only slimmer. In her original form, above,  Maleficent has her wings. Angelina Jolie makes a great looking fairy Maleficent, her pale skin a contrast to the black horned headpiece and high-collared gown. In the Maleficent costume shown below, Ms. Sheppard used  Python skin for the horns. Duck feathers over leather were used for the capelet.

 

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Photo by Disney Enterprises/Chris Floyd

 

 

 

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The costume of the three fairies are each very different as they hover over the infant Aurora.. The clothing style is from the High Renaissance.

 

MALEFICENT

 

The next nominee, Mr.Turner takes us to  early19th century Britain, and the art world of the eccentric but brilliant painter J.M.W. Turner. Jacqueline Curran designed the costumes in the film directed by Mike Leigh, in their sixth collaboration.   She won an Oscar for Anna Karenina, their last film together. Her emphasis was to design in a muted palette of colors, with Mr. Turner’s being on the dark side, typical of the period. This was also done to contrast with the light which was such a focus of his paintings.

 

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Timothy Spall plays Mr. Turner, shown in the photos above and below

The film only covered a twenty-five year time period in his life, so the silhouette of his costumes didn’t much change.  The film’s costume budget was also modest. But it was intentional that all the costumes looked “lived-in.”

Oscar Mr TURNER

 

And now for something completely different, we go to Hollywood in 1970, a place and time I knew well.  Inherent Vice, designed by Mark Bridges is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and is based on the Thomas Pynchon  1970-era novel. Bridges has designed all of Anderson’s previous movies, and he won the 2012 Best Costume Oscar for The Artist.

Although set in 1970, the styles were very much that of the hippy-chic modes of late 1960s. In the Pynchon book in particular, the women’s styles emphasized sexiness. The men were either hippies mobsters, or the detectives that were after them for drugs, or various musicians and other gonzo characters.

 

INHERENT VICE

Katherine Waterston is seen above in one of the vintage styles of the period. Designer Mark Bridges tried to have a short crocheted dress made out of macramé but it never worked. He ended up finding the perfect dress in a vintage store. He did dye it to make it more orange, however. And with a dress this short, pantyhose would have been worn in those days.

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Joaquin Phoenix is shown above as detective “Doc” Sportello, next to the prim Reese Witherspoon playing a D.A.. Mark Bridges said he kept his main characters like Doc in very similar costumes, since the plot was complicated, the character’s costumes helped ground the story.

Mark Bridges went to the L.A.County Museum of Art to study the iconic fashions of 1960s/1970s designer Rudi Gernreich. This became the inspiration for Serena Scott Thomas’ bathing suit, shown below. This knock-out piece had no straps in the back and had a very low back at the posterior. It took several fittings to make it work. Serena is the younger sister of Kristin Scott Thomas. Below is shown Mark Bridges’ costume sketch and a photo of her wearing the bathing suit, playing a mobster’s wife named Sloane Wolfmann. Bridges said the bathing suit was one of his favorite costume pieces in the movie.

 

Inherent vice

 

As I mentioned previously, contemporary costume design rarely wins the Best Costume Design Oscar, which is voted on by all Academy members. Whereas the big marketing and publicity budgets and other techniques of influencing the voters do have a significant role, this is less a factor in the costume award, as is the case with the other craft awards as well.

The costume designer nominees are all experts with excellent work presented here and with notable past achievements. There are several fantasies and historical movies that would seem to please the voters among which to choose from. My own prediction would be that The Grand Budapest Hotel will win. The film’s visual exuberance exempified by its costumes is one of its trademarks. It has already been awarded the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Costume Design Award, and seems to be the front-runner. We will see on Sunday, February 22.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BARRY LYNDON – ANOTHER LOOK

 

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon has been judged by many to be either a masterpiece or a monstrous bore. For years after its release in 1975, the common opinion was shared with that of the noted late film critic Pauline Kael, who called it “an ice-pack of a movie.”

I am a big fan of the Baroque era’s arts, crafts, and architecture, as well as being a fan of Kubrick’s films, and thus have admired the film ever since its first release.  Admiring this particular Kubrick film is a bit of a guilty pleasure,  bearing no judgment on the quality of the film, but rather on my own guilt in admiring it so for its baroque aesthetics and overwhelming beauty, while downplaying its devastating depiction of human vanity, aggressiveness, and greed.

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The first scene could be a metaphor for the entire movie: a beautifully composed view of a bucolic countryside, in the distance two men fight a duel, and one of them will die. It will be the protagonist Redmond Barry’s father, as it happens, and so begins this picaresque story based on the novel by William Thackeray.

In my opinion, Barry Lyndon has few equals in harnessing the arts to the service of film making.  Kubrick poured over and drew inspiration from the oil paintings and watercolors depicting 18th century European pastoral and courtly life, especially those of Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth, and Francois Boucher. Many of his scenes are purposefully composed as would a period landscape painter. Kubrick also listened to all of the European 18th century classical music he could find, and the soundtrack is so perfectly blended with the film that it is hard to listen separately to one of the pieces without envisioning the unfolding scene, perfectly in sync with its soundtrack. In this sense, Barry Lyndon is primarily a visual and auditory experience. Its dialogue is brief, and we depend on the excellent voice- over narration given by Michael Hordern, spoken as Thackeray had written it, or in a very similar style.

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Barry Lyndon 9

Redmond Barry is played by Ryan O’Neal, whose plain good looks made a good stand-in for the plucky character inadvertently set off on a life of adventure. As narrated, his attractive cousin Nora Brady was “the cause of all his early troubles.” After seducing him to a soundtrack of the Chieftain’s “Women of Ireland,” she promptly takes up with an English officer of means. The duel that ensues between the jealous rivals (one of many duels fought in the film), forces him to take to the road with a pouch of money his mother gave him. Though he was mightily impressed with the cut of a soldier’s scarlet uniform, it was only a highway robbery that left him penniless and forced him to enlist in the army. After many adventures and mis-adventures in various armies in various countries he vowed that, “never again would he fall from the ranks of a gentleman.” But this was not before his experience among the dregs of the Prussian army had ensured that he was “far advanced in the science of every kind of misconduct.”

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Barry fought as a soldier, but had higher aspirations

 

Redmond Barry gambles, where he meets the beautiful Lady Lyndon

Redmond Barry gambles, but meets the beautiful Lady Lyndon

The life of a gentleman rake was close enough for our intrepid hero. He had fallen in with a fellow Irish libertine who called himself the Chevalier di BaliBari, and thus did he meet the Lady Honoria Lyndon, “a woman of vast wealth and great beauty,” played by Marisa Berenson. His slow seduction of her at the gambling table and on the palace terrace is a masterpiece of film-making. No greater contrast exists to the current methods of filming scenes of seduction. The scene on the terrace is wordless, and indeed, nearly motionless. It develops through the beautiful, inexorable beat of Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2. The gestures of the actors are slow, with each slight movement invested with meaning. When Lady Lyndon stands outside on the terrace, only a slight sideways glance conveys the understanding that she awaits him. After he advances to her, their hands show their anticipation, reaching out slowly and deliberately, grasping just before they kiss.

 

Marissa Berenson as Lady Lyndon

Marissa Berenson as Lady Lyndon

 

Barry Lyndon bathtub scene

The role of the Countess Lyndon is played stylishly but with dignified restraint by Marisa Berenson. Her beauty is magnified by impressive period-styled wigs. The costumes throughout are authentically and beautifully designed and add to the richness of the scenes and the characterization of the actors. The fabrics and laces used blend perfectly with the rich tapestries, linens, and upholsteries in the film. The make-up too provides the white-powdered, beauty-spotted, 18th century style adopted by both men and women. And these personal adornments and the great palace interiors, are richly bathed in light – the strafing of natural light through open windows during the day and the incredible glow provided by candle-light and chandeliers at night. For the candle-lit scenes, no artificial lighting was used, and such was Kubrick’s obsessive compulsion in replicating the look of the era that when no camera lens was found capable of filming such scenes, he used a lens built by the Carl Zeiss company for NASA: the Zeiss 50mm lens with the largest aperture of any ever built for a movie (f/0.7). Thus are we provided with that candle-lit chiaroscuro so beautifully used by painters such as Caravaggio and de La Tour.

Barry's new family playing baroque music

Barry’s new family playing baroque music

The fortunes of Redmond Barry are looking up as he courts Lady Lyndon, the wife of a moribund Lord. Their quick marriage after the Lord’s death soon turns Barry into the lord of the manor, especially in his own mind and demeanor. He is now known by the name of Barry Lyndon.

Barry Lyndon Ryan O'Neal as Barry Lyndon & Marissa Berenson as Lady Lyndon

Barry Lyndon Ryan O’Neal as Barry Lyndon & Marissa Berenson as Lady Lyndon

Before long a son is born to them, which Barry loves above all else and dotes on. Such behavior is in contrast to the treatment he gives Lady Lyndon’s first son by her late husband, and the pair develop a mutual animosity.

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Aside from doting on his son, Barry Lyndon reverts to his womanizing. His attempts to aggrandize his name and to secure a title of his own leads him deeper and deeper into debt. Barry’s luck has changed again, and his bad behavior compounds his difficulties.

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The artfully composed picture above of Barry and his son foretells the isolation that Barry will soon endure. The inexorable beat of Handel or Schubert still plays, in ever more mournful tempo, as one disaster after another befalls Barry Lyndon. Even the panoramic landscapes are now shown devoid of  people that formerly had decorated these scenes.

A climactic duel between Barry and his step-son was fastidiously filmed, shot in such slow and deliberate actions that it paralleled the earlier seduction scene, this time to the music of Handel’s Sarabande, the movie’s theme music and itself of measured tempo. The scene is filmed in a barn, not in the pastoral settings used earlier.  It is here that Barry Lyndon finally displays true gentlemanly behavior, but alas it is all for naught.

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Stanley Kubrick has set the last scene with Lady Lyndon, her son and their attendants,signing documents that will place their world back in order. The date that she signs the documents is 1789. This perfectly composed tableau shows the English aristocracy in their element. Kubrick has again presented a beautiful scene which belies reality and the events taking place across the English channel, where the French Revolution has begun. Soon such palaces as these will be looted there, and many of their aristocrat inhabitants will be sent to the guillotine.

Kubrick’s film-making techniques were unified throughout Barry Lyndon. His use of deep-focus was prevalent, which was used along with zoom-in and zoom-out shots that either clarified an action or gave a very different perspective on the events. His devotion to the authentic bordered on an obsession.The gathered packets of paper documents on a desk for example were held together with nearly imperceptible straight-pins, as they would have been before staples or clips came along. Over eight minutes of screen time and weeks of filming and editing were devoted to the climactic duel scene, in which moments pass ponderously as men face off with pistols, their seconds standing by and following every protocol.

Costume design for the film was recognized by an Academy Award given to Milena Canonero and Ulla-Brit Soderlund. This was the second film designed by the distinguished costume designer Canonero, whose first had been for Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. Barry Lyndon also won awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Music. Stanley Kubrick, although nominated, has never won an Academy Award for Best Director.