Style in Film: Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde


Note: This is a revised edition of a previous article I wrote (initially published in September 2012), in celebration of today’s 50th anniversary of “Bonnie and Clyde”.
 
Faye Dunaway’s wardrobe in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) evoked a sense of the ’30s elegance and glamour that went against the fashionable mini skirt of the ’60s and ushered in the midi. Simple-cut silhouettes, slinky midi skirts, knitted sweaters worn with silk printed scarves, cardigans, the windowpane checked suit, jaunty berets and the iconic honey gold bob were chosen by Theadora Van Runkle, the self-taught costume designer who won her first Oscar nomination for Bonnie and Clyde, her first film, to create Faye’s “gun moll” look in this landmark American movie. Bonnie and Clyde was at the forefront of the New American Cinema or New Hollywood (mid-to-late 1960s – 1970s), when a new generation of filmmakers came to prominence in the American cinema. They were the auteur-directors, whose work was highly influenced by the European cinema, and which was thematically complex, technically innovative, morally ambiguous, sexually charged and anti-establishment.
 

 
“I knew it was a great role. I really identified with Bonnie. She was just like me, a Southern girl who was dying to get out of the South. She wanted to take risks, she wanted to live. I knew exactly how she felt – I’d felt that way for years”, said Faye Dunaway. She was perfect for the role. Dressed in effortless looking, fluid outfits suffused with tomboy sexuality, she became the most memorable and beautiful female outlaw. A controversial crime classic, a daring, disturbing tragicomedy, Bonnie and Clyde was directed by Arthur Penn and inspired by the films of Truffaut and Godard, and although in Europe it was an instant hit (no wonder), it was, at first, dismissed by many critics in the US. However, the young movie-goers immediately fell in love with it. Amateur bank robberies swept the American nation and women rushed in the stores to buy berets.

But can anyone wear a beret better than Bonnie Parker? The beret is her signature. Faye’s character would not have been the same without it; it gives her an identity, confidence and sex appeal. Reportedly, Arthur Penn put her in a beret as an homage to Gun Crazy’s bad girl Annie (Peggy Cummins). It’s interesting, in this regard, a remark in the book Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites: “Joseph H. Lewis’ and writer Dalton Trumbo’s Gun Crazy (1950) and its couple are far removed from the innocence of other fugitive-couple films like Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937) and Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1949). Instead, its lethal lovers look forward to the more blatantly sexual fugitive couples of post-Production Code neo-noirs like Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (2967) and Tamra Davis’s homage film Guncrazy (1992).”

And what further completed Faye’s dramatic looks and became a fashion in itself was her glowing make-up, with sun-kissed skin, black eyeliner, peachy blush and lips, enhanced by the beautiful cinematography by Burnett Guffey. They would get up every day at 4.30 and shoot at first light. Bonnie and Clyde made Faye Dunaway a movie star, but it was Warren Beatty, her partner in the film, who gave her one of her most cherished compliments: “You’ve got a lot of class!”
 

 
The black blazer and flowing skirt. The designer used a bias cut so that the dresses would swing and incorporated her own concepts with vintage pieces. In my interview with Caroline Young, writer of Classic Hollywood Style, she named Van Runkle her favourite costume designer: “I came across a selection of her costume sketches, and they are beautiful works of art in their own right – she actually began her career as an illustrator – and they are so detailed, I think someone described them as being like Leon Bakst illustrations.” Van Runkle reportedly said that her ability to synthesize the character, the colour, the line, the era and the particular star into one drawing gave her an advantage because people knew what they were going to get.

Bonnie and Clyde ignited a fashion trend at its release and has been influencing the catwalks for five decades now. The beret made a comeback after the film was released, with the production in the French town of Lourdes reported to more than double. Theadora said: “The beret was the final culmination of the silhouette. In it, she combined all the visual elements of elegance and chic. Without the beret, it would have been charming, but not the same.” When Faye Dunaway attended the French premiere of the film, a crowd of thousands had gathered outside the Cinematique in Paris just to meet the star, many with bobbed haircuts and berets.
 

 
Bonnie’s look included a belted tweed jacket with matching midi skirt, paired with a black beret and flat pumps. She has found a profession, a bank robber, and she adopts a masculine-inspired, powerful and professional look. “They have $ for clothes at last,” reads a note made by Van Runkle on her sketch of the costume. Bonnie’s costumes record her development from bored Midwest waitress to bank robber. Her loose, crumpled pale peach button-down dress evolves to more professional looks as she gets into the swing of bank robbing, with a cigar in her mouth and a gun by her hip. Part of the success of the Bonnie and Clyde look, Theadora Van Runkle said, was that “they wore clothes that people could wear to work and wear in their real lives.” I think that’s the secret of any enduring style. The costume designer’s ability to fully realize the onscreen sex appeal of the characters through clothing was what made them irresistible to audiences, pointed out Deborah Nadoolman Landis, costume designer and author of Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design. “It’s not the clothes people want to emulate, it’s the characters,” she said.

Writers David Newman and Robert Benton captured the world’s fascination with the film best: “If Bonnie and Clyde were here today, they would be hip… It is about style and people who have style. It is about people whose style set them apart from their time and place so that they seemed odd and aberrant to the general run of society.”
 

photos: screen stills captured by me | production credits
bibliography: Classic Hollywood Style, by Caroline Young, Film Noir. 100 All-Time Favorites, an article from L.A.Times by Patrick Goldstein

Posted by classiq in Style in film | | 9 Comments

Smiles (and Stories) of A Summer Night

Giles & Brother 
I love stories. Films, books… They all tell stories. And you know I love them dearly. There are also the bed-time-stories – the books my son and I both adore and which I have absolutely no problem reading for the 1,000th time (even if they are sometimes resumed to one favourite paragraph or another which I have to read ten times over, putting me to sleep much faster than my two-year-old). There are the style stories, too, not those just for the sake of style, but the living-your-style kind of stories I have been featuring lately, of wonderful, amazingly talented and beautiful (inside and out) people.

But personal stories are those I probably love the most. That may sound funny, coming from a very private person. But the stories I am talking about are not those you find on social media, they are neither those you find on blogs, nor even in books, but those you hear and tell at filled-with-laughter family gatherings, at long, casual, noisy dinners with your friends, over a glass of wine or two with someone you’ve just met but feel you’ve been friends your entire lives. Your most inner stories, your most cherished memories, because these are, as photojournalist José Cordero Iza so sincerely said in our recent interview, “personal moments that are magical, and I keep them for me”.

And what better time for story making and telling than summer? Just like in childhood, when the best things seemed to happen during the summers (which, in my case, were largely spent in the countryside at my grandparents or on mountain hikes and climbing with my brother and parents) and would be recounted the whole year until the next summer. Today, things have changed a little. Everyone, even children, travel year-round, there is always something to “share”, to show, but Summer still retains something a little more special, even when you don’t take an amazing trip, even when nothing special seems to happen, even when you wish summer was over because you physically and mentally can not go through another heat wave. But the truth is you don’t want it to end, not even if it puts you through temperature hell.
 
Giles & Brother 
That’s because Summer in itself is special. It is the time when you don’t have to wake up early in the morning, but you do so regardless, at sunrise, without any plans for the day ahead, but with a sense of wander. When you can find joy in the everyday and contemplate the unknown with the same enthusiasm. It is this hallucinatory combination of emptiness and endless possibility, this transitional time between past and future, a time when you let things go and prepare for new challenges, a ripe time for misbehaviour, but for pushing your limits, too, a time for childlike fun and games and dreams, a time when the only thing on your mind can be the heat, a time of discovery, a time when you let yourself just be.

It was on a summer night of a long weekend in the country (the best there is) last month when I decided to order this Giles & Brother cuff (which I did, right then and there) as a little something to remind me of all the reasons why I love summer. Something tactile to remind me of the magic of summer, something subtle to remind me of the exuberance of summer. It feels very personal, crafty with just the right rough-hewn finish, statement-worthy without standing out, an “enduring addition to the wearer’s personal narrative”. And it is a railroad spike cuff, so summer appropriate.
 
Giles & Brother

photos by me

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Three Great Books Adapted to Three Favourite Summer Films

Three of the best movie adaptations from books 
As François Truffaut says in his book, The Films in My Life, when he talks about Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse, “I will spare the reader the usual speech about faithful or unfaithful adaptation”. I watched and loved all three movies I am talking about here before I read the books they were based on. Then I read the books and loved them, too, without feeling the need to compare the films with the books. I am not sure I would like a very faithful adaptation of a book on the screen – I saluted Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, for that matter. Books and films are different worlds and I love them both, but for different reasons. Furthermore, I am hoping a film has its own vision, adds its own spin on the words of the writer that inspired it, be the book as good as it may be.

But why these three books? Quite frankly, the idea came to me when I was rearranging my book shelves to be able to accommodate some new arrivals (a constant activity of mine, apparantly) and it made me think of some of my favourite (again, not necessarily faithful) film adaptations of books. One more thing: The Big Sleep, summer movie? What can I say? I seem to love films noir even more during my favourite season, and here it is why. And it so happens that I revisited this noir a couple of nights ago, after a scorching day, when you still couldn’t breathe right in the dead of night because of the heat. It was like a scene from The Big Sleep, where the time of day is appropriately night.
 
Three Books Adapted to Three Favourite Summer Movies 
 
Lolita
Book: 1955
Writer: Vladimir Nabokov
Film: 1962
Director: Stanley Kubrick

“How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?”, one of the posters for Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita proclaimed. Indeed. When Lolita was first published, some critics thought it too explicit in dealing with sexual matters. As Gene D. Phillips notes in the book The Stanley Kubrick Archives, Nabokov wrote to Graham Greene at the time, commenting on the controversy surrounding the book: “My poor Lolita is having a rough time. The pity is that, if I had made her a boy, philistines might not have flinched.” Still, the book found champions, too, and it was in fact Greene who stirred up serious interest in the book when he gave it a rave review in the London Times. Over the years, Nabokov’s novel has been recognized as the elegantly written, superb piece of fiction that it is. And, most of all, in Kubrick’s own words, “Nabokov was brilliant in withholding any indication of the author’s approval of the relationship”, because it is at the very ending of the book that Humbert’s genuine and selfless love he has for Lolita is revealed.

When Kubrick acquired the rights for the film, there was much speculation in the press as to how he would approach the controversial story. Nabokov’s novel “fairly begged to be committed to cinema”, remarks Gene D. Phillips, since he makes several references in this regard in the book. “If I have my way … the audience will start by being repelled by this ‘creep’ who seduces a not-so-innocent child, but, gradually, as they realize he really loves the girl, they’ll find things aren’t quite as simple as they seemed, and they won’t be so ready to pass immediate moral judgment. I consider that a moral theme,” said Kubrick in an interview with Eugene Archer in The New York Times. “Lolita is a tragedy… Furthermore, this is at heart a novel of redemption. It is about a lust that matures, under fire, to love,” asserted Nabokov.

When Nabokov finally saw Lolita at a private screening, he thought that it was a first rate film and admitted that Kubrick’s inventions were “appropriate and delightful”, that the killing of Quilty “is a masterpiece, and so is the death of Charlotte Haze”. But, ultimately, it is Peter Sellers who gives Lolita, the film, its vitality. Sellers’ Quilty has far greater presence on the screen than in the book – “It was apparent that just beneath the surface of the story was this strong secondary narrative thread possible,” Kubrick declared in an interview with Terry Southern, talking about his Quilty. This is exactly what helps achieve a narrative of mystery through the duration of the entire movie, and I can see why Kubrick regarded Hitchcock as one of the most influential filmmakers for him. Kubrick’s sardonic wit and dry humour, his penchant for combining farce and terror, vision and technique ensure that the film has its own story to tell.
 
Bonjour Tristesse
Book: 1954
Writer: Françoise Sagan
Film: 1958
Director: Otto Preminger

“Cinema is an art of the woman, that is, of the actress”, continues Truffaut in his writings about Preminger’s Bonjour tristesse. “The great moments of cinema are when director’s gifts mesh with the gifts of an actress.” And he adds Preminger and Jean Seberg to his list of Griffith and Lillian Gish, Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Lang and Joan Bennett, Renoir and Simone Simon, Rossellini and Anna Magnani, Fellini and Giulietta Masina. “Preminger was not looking for Cecile” whe he organized his film, says Truffaut, “he was looking for Jean Seberg. And, when he found her, it wasn’t a question of whether she was worthy of Cecile, but whether Cecile was worthy of being made real by Jean Seberg.” He goes even further and suggests that Bonjour Tristesse, Sagan’s first novel, could have been inspired by Angel Face (one of my favourite noirs), directed by the same Preminger and starring the exquisite Jean Simmons. And why wouldn’t writers be inspired by films?

Unlike Truffaut, I did read Sagan’s novel before attempting any comparison with the film, and I thought the author had quite a singular, well composed, flowing writing style, which seemlessly takes you to a different time and place; her words have a merciless candour. But I have to admit that I loved Jean Seberg’s Cecile more than Françoise Sagan’s Cecile, and I do believe the film improves on the book. Quoting Truffaut again, Jean Seberg’s “every movement is graceful, each glance is precise. The shape of her head, her silhouette, her walk, everything is perfect; this kind of sex appeal hash’t been seen on screen. It is designed, controlled, directed to the nth degree by her director. […] Jean Seberg, short blond hair on a pharaoh’s skull, wide-open blue eyes with a glint of boyish malice, carries the entire weight of this film on her tony shoulders. It is Otto Preminger’s love poem to her.”

Jean-Luc Godard, who at the time was still one of France’s most notable film critics, along with François Truffaut, was another one of the film’s early supporters (he even cast Seberg the following year in his debut feature, Breathless, the only film of Godard I have written about – I have much appreciation for his knowledge of and love for film, but not so much for his own movies). And everything starts with Saul Bass’ exquisite title sequence, capturing the essence of the movie, the poignant sadness that lies at the heart of Bonjour Tristesse in just a few resonant strokes of art, so expressively previewing the narrative of the film.
 
The Big Sleep
Book: 1939
Writer: Raymond Chandler
Film: 1946
Director: Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks is another director that the Cahiers du cinéma critic-film-makers proclaimed an auteur. His superb version of Raymond Chandler’s novel works for many reasons. Yes, the partnership of Humphrey Bogart (the film largely owes its endurance to his compelling performance) and Lauren Bacall as Philip Marlowe and Vivian Rutledge is inspired – although scenes were reportedly re-shot at the studio’s interference, because the early version of the film missed “the insolence” that Lauren Bacall had shown in To Have and Have Not, her acclaimed debut role, the first opposite Bogart. Yes, this truly is one of the classics of film noir, wickedly clever, heavy on great dialogue, with style in spades, wit and verve, and an intricate and fast-paced plot. And, yes, it manages to maintain the enigmatic core of Chandler’s book. Or should I better say it’s as puzzling as the book? Because The Big Sleep is one of the least comprehensible films noir ever made – but that does not mean it’s any less great. Raymond Chandler allegedly claimed that not even he knew whodunnit. And if it doesn’t give us all the answers, then all the better for our next view.

If there is one kind of film that I would like to successfully reproduce a writer’s ability on the page, then that would be a film noir based on a Raymond Chandler novel. And The Big Sleep does exactly that. And, again, I have to bring up the dialogue. One of the things why I love films noir is that great dialogue and action scenes do not exclude each other, and The Big Sleep indeed has one of the most quotable of screenplays (written by William Faulkner, Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett), with the characters always ahead of the audience. But there is one thing about the film that I did not take to: that tad of mellowness from that very last shot of Bogart and Bacall. After all, another prime reason why I love film noir is that I regard it as a main contributor to restoring the balance disrupted by the traditional notion of Hollywoodian happy endings.

photos by me

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Fashion in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Films

Monica Vitti L'Eclisse

Monica Vitti, L’eclisse

 
Michelangelo Antonioni’s characters are always in crisis, but they are always dressed well, too. Furthermore, their easy acces is a key part of their forced and vacuous lives, on their constant longing for a self that doesn’t exist. The costumes in Antonioni’s films speak in the most subtle way. It is a style that doesn’t scream out to everyone; it whispers only to those who know it’s all in the details. You have to pay attention. Because Antonioni himself had an obsessive attention to details. And the clothes in Antonioni’s movies served an even bigger role, as they are not only an important element in the construction of cinematic identities, but also in achieving a new aesthetic composition.

L’Avventura (1960) was the first film from Antonioni’s trilogy which went on to include La notte (1961) and L’eclisse (1962). Visually speaking, it’s a hauntingly beautiful picture, thanks to Aldo Scavarda’s cinematography. Antonioni often turned away close readings of his films, encouraging an instinctual approach to viewing similar to that which he claimed he used while filming. But you can not help noticing that not one frame is purposeless; each tells a part of the story. It’s groundbreaking, stark and pure, advancing the language of cinema. With no clear ending and an on-going theme of reflection – aren’t the films that make us ask questions, and interrogate our own reactions rather than provide us with answers, the films that show the most precise artistic vision? – it looks fresh every time you watch it.

Yet, the experience is different, and I guess Brad Stevens captured it very well in his essay in the Criterion booklet: “Watch these films several times, become acquainted with their language, and a curious phenomenon occurs: scenes we once found almost parodically emotionless are now unbearably moving; what struck us as lifeless seems filled with energy; what appeared sparse comes across as so plentiful”.
 
Monica Vitti Fashion in Antonioni's Films

Monica Vitti and Alain Delon, L’eclisse

 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films La Notte

Monica Vitti and Marcello Mastroianni, La notte

 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Gabriele Ferzetti, L’Avventura

 
According to author Eugenia Paulicelli, who dedicates an entire chapter in her book, Italian Style: Fashion & Film from the Early Cinema to the Digital Age, published last year, to Michelangelo Antonioni, “no Italian film director more than Antonioni has had such a knowledge of, and sensibility for, fashion.” Along with La dolce vita, L’Avventura introduced the world to a new Italian style and fashion after the post-war realism. Italian fashion, which had started to be acclaimed internationally especially thanks to the cinema, became crucial in the economic reconstruction of the country.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura 

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

L’Avventura (1960)

 
The costumes in L’Avventura (I previously talked about them here) were designed by Adriana Berselli. They evoke a modern European feel, an Italian understated glamour, but, most of all, they blend in, chromatically and thematically, with the scenery as a key element to understanding the characters and the emptiness and futility of their lives. Monica Vitti is Claudia, who seems to be the only one who doesn’t exactly fit into her upper-class group of friends, but mingles with them nonetheless – her costumes reflect exactly her problematical belonging to a certain social class. When Monica Vitti, with her carina-bruta beauty, reserved sensuality, icy cool gaze and mysterious presence, saunters on screen, it’s difficult to take your eyes off of her. And this is true especially in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, who captured her allure best. She would become Antonioni’s life partner and would appear in three more of his films, L’Eclisse, La notte and Il deserto rosso. Vitti carved her niche in comedy, being named by film critic Callisto Cosulich “the fifth musketeer” of Italian comedy, putting her next to Gassman, Manfredi, Sordi and Tognazzi. But she met international fame when she starred in L’Avventura. She gives a complex and vulnerable performance in the film and has a great chemistry with Gabriele Ferzetti.

Claudia’s blonde bob, the simple cottons and elegant cuts of her clothes display unrestraint elegance and timeless good taste. There is a polka-dot suit she wears at some point, appearantly the only outfit not completely agreed by the costume designer, who thought that the suit, chosen by Monica Vitti herself, conveyed a different and more bougeois perception of Claudia’s character. But, just because of that, I think this costume plays well for Claudia’s unresolved search for identity.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films

L’Avventura (1960)

 
Just as the shirt she is wearing after Anna’s disappearance. The shirt belonged, in fact, to Anna (Lea Massari), who had put it in Claudia’s bag when she wasn’t looking. Claudia had tried it on when they were alone in the cabin. “It looks better you,” said Anna. It was Antonioni himself who chose this particular shirt. It was originally a shirt dress purchased by the costume designer, as Eugenia Paulicelli writes in another book, The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, and the director liked it because of the ethnic print of the fabric, its brown and copper colour combination, which he thought would work well with the film’s colour scheme as a whole, but in particular for the sequence following Anna’s disappearance – dressed in it, Claudia seems to be one with the rocky landscape. It was then decided to cut the dress and transform it into a shirt. From the moment Claudia puts the shirt on, she becomes the new partner of Anna’s lover, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti).

But if you pay attention, since the very beginning of the film, Antonioni has signaled a certain connection between the two female characters: a shot of Claudia and Anna, one with the back, the other one one with the face to the viewer, another shot of Claudia on the boat, showing her swimsuit V-shaped back on the boat, followed by a shot of Anna’s summerdress V-shaped back. They could have easily switched places any time.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'Avventura

L’Avventura (1960)

 
In La notte (1961), as in L’Avventura, there is an intimate moment, a conversation, between Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) and Valentina Gherardini (Monica Vitti – in this film she is a brunette, wearing a wig, again reminiscent of an episode in L’Avventura in which she tries on different kinds of wigs) during the all-night party at Valentina’s parents’ villa. A sudden rainstorm has drenched many party-goers, including Lidia, who leaves for a car-ride with one of the guests, who has been flirting with her. Her husband, Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni), has, in his turn, been flirting with Valentina. When Lidia comes back from her ride, with her clothes completely soaked, Valentina takes her to her room and gives her towels to dry herself. In this scene, the two women, who should be rivals, appear to be accomplices. Their dresses, both black (Vitti’s was Valentino), are very similar in style, following the line of the body, cut right under the knee, and showing a bare back. “I’m not even jealous at you,” Lidia tells Valentina.

I had already been working on this article when the sad news about Jeanne Moreau came in. I postponed publishing it, because I felt I needed a little time. What is there to say when one of the greats of cinema leaves us? I prefer to let my articles past do all the talking, and usually encourage my readers to just watch their films. That’s where Jeanne Moreau’s magic lies: In her films, the extraordinary legacy that she left us. Her range was extraordinary. She brought to the screen a singular, inimitable passion, an impatience, moodiness and freedom tout court, an unquenched curiosity, an impertrubable look, a glamour that was not showy, an innate elegance that was not noticeable, and a shameless gaze. Jeanne Moreau seemed to bring her own concerns and ideas to her screen persona. Orson Welles said she was the greatest actress in the world. I believe she was.
 
Fashion in Antonioni's Films Jeanne Moreau La notte

Fashion in Antonioni's Films Jeanne Moreau La notte

Fashion in Antonioni's Films Jeanne Moreau La notte

Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni, La notte

 
There is no other actress who could embody best the lure and failure of intellect in Antonioni’s film than Jeanne Moreau. “Are you still hanging around intellectuals?,” one of the party guests asks Lidia. Moreau gives one of her most memorable performances in La notte. She wanders through the Milanese suburbs where she and her husband had known newlywed bliss. Later, she flirts half-heartedly with a party guest, before succumbing to Mastroianni’s advances on the golf course at dawn. Moreau is cultured, sophisticated, complex and vulnerable, and she is perfectly painfully aware of the entrapping emptiness of her existence.

La notte charters the gradual deterioration of the relationship between Lidia and Giovanni, on the background of a cold and modern urban landscape. The film illustrates so well how habit can preside over truth, and how our choices and the way we are perceived by others often shape us and influence us more than our own values. Unlike Lidia, who goes through a whole range of emotions, more poignantly expressed with her face than in words, Monica Vitti’s Valentina remains impenetrable and artificial (her game with the compact is less inventive than pointless), despite her mysterious smile. She is selfish and introverted. Just like Vitti, Mastroianni is the perfect “mannequin” type of actor in La notte, his impeccable suit and stony face providing so well a measure of detachment – he had proved it so well in Federico Fellini’s “La dolce vita”.

Jeanne Moreau wears only two dresses throughout Antonioni’s movie, both created by the Milan-based designer Biki, who was also responsible for the overall wardrobes in La notte. The first one is an elegant sundress with floral motifs and back cleavage, which she wears with Chanel sandals and a clutch. The second dress is black and she wears it to the Gherardini party. When she puts on the black dress, she looks pleased with herself, all the more so when her husband notices it’s a new dress. But Giovanni’s interest in his wife stops right there, at this remark, to Lidia’s disappointment. She asks if they can skip the party and go elsewhere.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films La notte

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films La notte

Monica Vitti, La notte

 
Monica Vitti was perhaps never more sensual than in the role of Vittoria in L’eclisse (1962), a young literary translator who embarks on a doomed affair with Piero (Alain Delon), a stockbroker, after she had just ended another affair. In the opening sequence, Antonioni shows Vittoria from behind, allowing us to see only her legs and kitten heels. Women in Antonioni’s films are often shown from behind, observing the landscape, wandering in the street, looking out of a window, standing in door-ways.

Vitti wears simple dresses throughout the film. Her style is simple and elegant. Bice Brichetto, assisted by Gitt Magrini, who would later work as costume designer for Bertolucci’s Il conformista and, later, The Last Tango in Paris, was responsible for the clothes in L’eclisse.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

L’eclisse (1962)

 
The empty spaces, the zebra crossing, the periphery, the on-going building constructions are all reminders of Italy’s process of modernization. But the most striking visual motif in the film (and of which I became fully aware only after I put together the last set of screen stills below), found in the design of the opening credits, in the street near Vittoria’s apartment, and other places and spaces, including one of the paintings of Vittoria’s ex-lover, is the motif of white lines. That motif becomes even more striking when coordinated with Vittoria’s white outfits. It’s as if she draws the line between her and her lover, the line where life changes, knowing it can never be the same as a moment ago.

Antonioni truly was an architect of vision. He practically invented a visual vocabulary for the spaces between people. He carefully chose his locations for their sterile desolation. The conclusion of L’eclisse (1962), for example, through the succession of shots of the empty streets and buildings, barren lots, street lights, a passing bus, people staring, a rustic fence where the couple once stood, marks the death of the two characters’ relationship. These spaces were the setting of their courtship, now void of the two lovers. They have simply suddenly disappeared, leaving us with the barren locations, waiting for something to happen. Nothing does. It is one of the most astounding conclusions in cinema.
 
Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films L'eclisse

Monica Vitti and Fashion in Antonioni's Films

L’eclisse (1962)

 

photos: screen stills (captured by me) | L’Avventura (Cino del Duca, Produzioni Cinematografiche Europee,Societé Cinématographique Lyre) | La Notte (Nepi Film, Sofitedip, Silver Films) | L’Eclisse (Cineriz, Interopa Film, Paris Film)

Posted by classiq in Film, Style in film | | Leave a comment

One Day That Summer: The Dune, Hossegor

Delphine Jouandeau photography 
To celebrate summer, in the course of the following months I will be collaborating with various photographers and photography collectors to bring you exclusive stories from behind the lens. Whether travel photography or pictures from the movie sets, One Day That Summer is an invitation to discovery, to open your mind and eyes, to live life like you stole it.
 
 
Sometimes, or most times, I think you should accept that you love a piece of art without having to explain why. But many times, just like in the case of the movies I love and write about, I try to give a reasoning. In our world today, when we can so easily “like” tens and hundreds of images every day, I think it’s shallow to just say you “like” something, especially when that something is such an elaborate creative process, often with incredible stories behind, as in the case of a film or a photograph. It’s also a sign of respect towards an artist’s work to try to be a little more accurate. I am bringing this up because when I first saw, and every time since then, Delphine Jouandeau’s photograph above, I thought that this was the kind of photo that didn’t need any words. I could frame it, hang it on a wall, know this is art and would be perfectly comfortable to just say that I love it… but, at the same time, I wouldn’t. Because it is not every day that I come across a picture that leaves me the impression of a sculpture in sand, inspiring a strong sense of witnessing, “seeing” the passing of time. And when Delphine told me the story behind it, I could understand why.

I discovered Delphine Jouandeau’s photography when I came across RingTheBelle some time ago – she makes a great team with Florence Donné – and was happy to find out that her incredible body of work includes landscape and portraiture (two mediums I am particularly fond of), among others. In our interview, Delphine goes behind the scenes of the photo that I love, talks about the creative power of Paris and opens up about her work, for which I am particularly grateful to her.
 
 

“To me, photography is like meditation.
It’s like a dance with a partner, a connection
between two souls. This is pure love.
You share something big with your subject
and the space around. Even while shooting a landscape,
you just forget about yourself,
let it go and be part of life.”

 
 
What’s the story behind this photo?
That would be the story of a friendship. I was in vacation in Hossegor, France, with my best friend, Lola, in 2005. At this time, I used to shoot her a lot. I’ve learnt what photography means to me thanks to her. She was patient enough to let me improve my skills. Also, that was the time I really discovered how important was the connection between the artist and the model and the space around them (the room in between them and around).

We had spent the day upon the dunes of Hossegor, all by ourselves, lying on the sand… doing nothing but being… The purpose of the journey was to shoot some portraits of Lola, but when the inspiration popped, we changed our plans to take some pictures of Lola walking on the dunes. After a little while, Lola sat down on the edge of the dune and started to slip off the dune. I didn’t think too much about it when I took the photo, but now we have this nice testimony of the passage of my friend on the dune. It’s quite symbolic to me. It’s like a body print of my friend on the space.

Do you always carry a camera with you?
It depends of my mood, honestly. Most of the time I carry a camera cause that’s what I do for a living. But I appreciate a nice walk in Paris or in the countryside without necessarily seeking to get back with a good picture. I like to get inspired by life without a hidden agenda.

What led you to photography?
I’ve always loved images. I’ve started studying cinema without knowing precisely what I wanted to do. Writing stories… being a cameraman… a director… I didn’t have a clue. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to express myself… but I didn’t know by which means. And then, by chance, someday a student from my school asked me to take some pictures for a movie he was creating. The sensation I got from that experience was very strong. So, I guess Photography found me at that point. One year after that experience, I was studying Photography. And I have never stopped since then.

Take or make a photograph? Do you wait for a good photo? Are there times when you simply witness the moment without taking/making any picture?
There’s a fine line between taking and making… Before a shooting, you can work on what you would like to do… what kind of ambiance you would like to create… but at the end of the day, you must deal with what really happens during the shooting. The encounter between me and the subject, or between me and the model is quite unpredictable. When I do portraits or nudes, I like to let my model free to live the way they feel at that moment. It brings a lot of uncertainty… but it allows the model to remain genuine and I guess this is what I like the most. I don’t really expect the model to behave in a certain way… I’ll be there whatever happens, and I’ll catch whatever makes sense to me. There’s always something happening – even when nothing is planned. Especially when nothing was planned.

In other words, you try to start a photo shoot without any preconceived idea or plan. Do you try to get to know someone a little before you do a portrait or a nude? What is the most challenging thing about photographing a nude?
Usually, I take pictures of friends or people I met within my network of friends, so we spend time before the shooting while we talk about ourselves, our lives, etc. Sometimes I meet someone for a shooting and we spend 2 hours talking vs. 20 min taking pictures! To me, the most important thing is to tell a story – through a personality, a gaze, a mindset – that genuinely talks about life and that I can share with people though my pictures. That’s why I like nude… I can work on the body and it won’t lie – on the contrary, outfits carry too much information.

What’s important about nudes is to give the model a lot of freedom, they must be very comfortable and behave without any constraints or fear. Freedom is the key. Because what I’m looking for is not replicable… you cannot make it up either – it’s just a moment of pure sincerity that fades away in an instant. After years working on nudes, I realized that the body is not the subject of the photos… The body is just an echo of what’s happening inside. You’ve got to follow the echo!

What is the most fundamental ingredient in your pictures? How close do you have to get, physically, emotionally, mentally, in order to get a good shot? What do you aim to communicate through your photographic stories?
The light and the relation with my model are fundamental ingredients.

To me, photography is like meditation. You get in a new world and you don’t really know what’s going on there, but when the link is created, it’s like you’ve touched something, and you cannot really explain what you do or what you see. But you know it’s there. It’s like a dance with a partner, a connection between two souls. This is pure love. You share something big with your subject and the space around. Even while shooting a landscape, you just forget about yourself, let it go and be part of life. I guess that’s what I’m seeking, this intimate communion with my subject. What I try to communicate is this inner life movement… the feeling of existence… Portraits and landscapes are means to share this feeling.

Do you only photograph people you are interested in? Does their profession, or what they stand for matter? Because your photos go beyond physical beauty.
Yes, when it comes to my personal work, I only photograph people I’m interested in.

I’m not interested in perfection though. It’s not about pure physical beauty – it’s all about truth – which is the ultimate beauty, because it’s organic, it’s universal and it’s genuine. That’s why it is important to me to know my models. Cause that’s the only way you can overcome the appearances and dig into the deeper personality and beauty of your model. When you share enough time with someone you care, you start to get a sense of their inner truth. I guess what I’m trying to do with my work is to show and share this sense, because it leads to the inner truth of my models.

You live in Paris. What is the best part about living in Paris and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
What I like the most in Paris is probably the access to culture. It is very easy to enter a museum and get inspiration from art. But art is everywhere. Simply by walking along the streets, you’ll find pieces of art from Le Corbusier, Guimard, Buren, Rodin, etc. Besides art, if I had to leave I think I’d miss my friends and my taichi ’s master.

How does Paris influence you creatively?
Living in Paris is inspiring. Knowing that so many artists from all over the world came over here to live their art in this city is a big deal. It’s like a cycle… Every artist, writer, musician must come to Paris at least for a while to get inspired and to inspire the world in return. It’s hard to describe. I guess the Parisian lifestyle is kind of unique as well. People like to meet up after work to get wine and cigarettes at the terraces… A decent amount of time is allocated to talk and share precious time. It has this unique “art de vivre” that I enjoy. It’s a cool city to live in.

What is the most rewarding thing about your being a photographer?
Being free and being allowed to share with the world my views about life.

Your work includes artists’ portraits, kids’ fashion, lifestyle photography. Do you approach differently the various mediums you photograph?
I’d say it’s always kind of the same process to me. I like this encounter with people. I like to discover what they have to tell – with or without words. Although when it comes to kids’ fashion, I’m no longer alone, so that’s slightly different. I work with a staff of stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, and the kids… So, it’s more like a teamwork… everyone comes up with their own ideas. It is pleasant to get others’ insights. Also, kids are really spontaneous and genuine, so they often help me out in the process. Also, I like to have Florence Donné beside me during the lifestyle shootings for RingTheBelle. She’s definitely adding her own touch to the process.

What is your favourite moment of the day for shooting? Do you swear by the “golden hour”?
Best moment is probably when I feel what I’m doing (she winks). I don’t really swear by the “golden hour” – I really let it go and see what happens. When it makes sense, somehow, this is my favorite moment of the day…

If you could be anywhere in the world right now (old or new location), preparing to take/make a photo, where would you want to be?
In the Lot, an area in Southern France.

You can keep up with Delphine’s photography and work on her website, Delphine Jouandeau, and on Instagram: @delphinejouandeau / @delphine_lifestyle_photography

 
For more photographer interviews and stories, click here: One Day That Summer

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