Ryan Gosling and His Otherworldly “Drive” Jacket

Ryan Gosling Drive jacket 
That’s Ryan Gosling at the wheel. After all the singing and dancing in La La Land, here is a little reminder that he can do tough, too (but then again, he can take on any role). Gosling is Driver in Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 American debut film. With uncanny skill, in league with cameraman Newton Thomas Sigel and composer Cliff Martinez, Refn blends tough and tender, violence and beauty. Drive is wild and damn good.

Driver drives for hire. He is a part-time mechanic and Hollywood stunt racer who moonlights as a getaway wheel man. Gosling is silent, stoic, mysterious, a loner, referencing Alain Delon’s disciplined isolation in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (he kills for hire). Both characters abide by a certain code of conduct, leading a solitary existence. They both even gamble with their own lives. But unlike Delon’s Jef Costello, who won’t let anything distract him from his own path, Gosling’s Driver gambles with love, too.
Ryan Gosling Drive jacket

Ryan Gosling Drive jacket 
That’s Ryan Gosling’s jacket in Drive. Why “otherworldly”? Because, unlike many other film costumes that are meant to be copied for decades to come and even become the voice of a generation, this one is meant only to be noticed and rememebered. Because Driver is that unique. On him, a character of no place, no family, no history, no name, it has a place and purpose. On anyone else, mere mortals in real life, it wouldn’t. It is what it is because it belonged in the movie, and on Ryan Gosling’s character in the movie. The ever-present satin bomber jacket becomes his armour, part of a ritual he alone has established for himself.

Film costume, once again, helped shape the character and the image of the movie. The jacket itself was a custom design made specially for the film, and which took months for Los Angeles based tailor Richard Lim and costume designer Erin Benach (who also worked for Half Nelson, Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, all starring Gosling) to perfect.

Nicolas Refn wanted Gosling to wear a white satin jacket that would illuminate him at night. “Good actors find their own costumes, so Ryan found a type of jacket that he really liked,” the director told IFC. The idea for this particular type of jacket apparently originated in 1950s Korean souvenir jackets. “[Gosling] had bought one on his own and was wearing it around”, said Erin Benach. “So we started to think, wow, that might be really cool. But the style and shape of them was definitely very fifties and slouchy. We felt like Driver was really buttoned-up, clean and streamlined. So we built it piece by piece. We knew the collar had to be able to pop up, we wanted the knit around the wrists and waist to be 100 percent wool as opposed to stretchy nylon. We wanted every element to be perfect. We went through 15 or 20 iterations until we got it right. Which was down to the wire — about an hour before shooting!”

The director and his lead actor both had their say in choosing the scorpion logo, too, which is a reference to one of the first music videos ever made by Kenneth Anger called Scorpio Rising. A tribute to a time of avant garde filmmaking. Drive is indeed a film that, in every aspect of its making, shows respect to craft.
photos: stills from the movie | Production Co: FilmDistrict, Bold Films, OddLot Entertainment

sources: interview with costume designer Erin Benach, Grantland / interview with director Nucolas Winding Refn, IFC

Posted by classiq in Film, Style in film, Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Team Spirit

Jennifer Neyt Emmanuelle Alt 
I am one of those persons who has never had that kind of fascination with French style. The kind of fascination that implies that possessing an innate sense of style comes with the territory just because you are French. I have equally been drawing inspiration from anywhere, be it of French, American or Scandinavian origins.

But watching Isabelle Huppert on the Oscars’ red carpet (wearing Armani Privé), looking like a glamorous star from the 1940s and overshadowing, once again, in beauty, elegance and class, every other actress present there, young and old, made my admiration for her skyrocket once again and it made me want to shout “America, take notice!” in the dead of night (it was past 2 a.m. our time) (I think I may have let out a few pretty loud ‘wow’s). And that was about the only exciting moment of the night. Oh, right, I didn’t catch that very last monumental bit that turned into a for-the-ages Oscars fiasco, “the greatest heist Bonnie and Clyde ever pulled”, as The Rolling Stone magazine put it. You might say that I went to bed knowing that La La Land had won (I called it a night too early apparently; nothing exciting had happened all night long, after all, and what was there to happen after they announced the winner?) and woke up to Moonlight winner of best picture (the unpredicted did happen, after all). But I digress.

A day after, I happened to come across the image above of the Vogue Paris team, my two favourite French fashion editors (personal style related), Jennifer Neyt and Emmanuelle Alt (it’s them in the second image, too), and Aleksandra Woroniecka. Do they all have style in spades or what? Rarely do I see such a cool looking bunch. Remember the Sartorialist’s Lunch for 25? I want someone to organise something similar for women, too, and invite these three, among others, Isabelle included, bien sûr (all just as natural and effortlessly looking, without forgoing individuality), who would make me speak about them in the kind of high terms I usually keep for men’s style. And men could take notice for a change.
Jennifer Neyt Emmanuelle Alt

photos: 1-Alexandra Chalaud / 2-Sandra Semburg

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The Latest in Style Inspiration: Cook Books

Style inspiration-It's All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow 
Is it okay if I use Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cook book, It’s All Easy, as style inspiration as well? Here is the thing. I love simple food and simple and healthy cooking just as much as I love simple style, whenever and wherever I see it – this time it just so happens that it comes from the pages of a cook book.

But first, just a few words about the book. As in the case of Paltrow’s previous cook book, a mainstay in my kitchen, I like the plain, uncomplicated recipes, and the fact that they are good (for you and for your taste buds), and, indeed, easy to cook – and that is the secret in my world right now as a mother of an almost two-year-old. Anything that saves time holds the magic ingredient that makes my life a little easier to handle.
It's All Easy Gwyneth Paltrow 
Moving on to Gwyneth’s style, I only mention it because it’s part of this book. Sure, I have always admired her natural sense of dressing (I think nobody can argue with that), but it has usually been in the pages of magazines, and regardless of how reflective the clothes worn in those features may be of the subject’s own personal look, they still are clothes that are associated with different brands and endorsed by the magazines.

I feel that these two cook books are genuine reflections of Gwyneth’s true style. No labels, not even Goop, just this great wardrobe made up of simple, enduring pieces, easy to wear, walk, create and cook in. They may not be meant for you to see, but you do notice them because they are part of the whole. And style is a whole that brings together all aspects of your life.
It's All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow

photos by me | photos in the book by Ditte Isager

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Talking Movies before the Oscars

Talking Movies before the Oscars

La La Land illustration by Thomas Danthony.

Of all the films of last year, I think the one I was most reluctant to see was La La Land. It turned out to become one of my favourites (although it didn’t beat American Honey, Nocturnal Animals and a surprise new comer – I am talking about that a little later – in my preferences). I have already sung my love letter to Damien Chazelle’s musical, especially regarding its direction, costumes, music and set design here. So now I am going to resume to what I consider to be one of the best descriptions of it that I have come across: “Chazelle, through La La Land, holds your hand. He asks you to breath. Listen. But not relax. No, La La Land doesn’t let you relax. Like a good jazz composition it slices you down, leaving you desolate and giddy at the same time.”

La La Land happens to be heavily nominated to The Oscars, too. And it deserves to be. It IS that good. But this will not change my opinion that the Academy Awards are not about rewarding good films. La La Land is more like the exception. The matter of fact is that comedy almost NEVER wins or is much less nominated. We need comedies these days. There are films that are released just in time to be eligible for the Oscars. The serious, “important” films. Please. Winning momentum, getting other awards nods. What is that? What does that have to do with how good a film is? It doesn’t. This is about rewarding the industry of publicity and hype.

Not that good films are not rewarded – La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea will probably attest to that – but so many other films I enjoyed in 2016 have been overlooked, like the aforementioned American Honey and Nocturnal Animals, to name only English language movies. And I am certain there are so many good ones I haven’t yet seen or even heard of. Yes, you bet I am thinking of foreign films too. How some foreign films get sometimes several nominations instead of just for foreign language film and how some actors in non-English language films are also nominated (and totally deserve to be) is still an enigma to me. I will stick to my opinion: the members of the Academy don’t know what the heck they are doing there.
La La Land

La La Land

So why am I still watching the Oscars? So many true film lovers (including these two) don’t, never did or don’t anymore. I don’t even do it for entertainment. Nothing exciting ever happens even if it is a live event (update, 27.02: something unpredicted happened alright, and nobody saw it coming); everything is staged to the last second and that takes all the fun out of it. Firstly, I do it because I write about film and costume design, so I pay attention to nominations and wins. I like to be informed, to do my homework. Secondly, because sometimes some of my favourite actors make an appearance and they may even go home with an Oscar. And thirdly, and most importantly, because this strange thing happens every once in a while: my film pick wins (true, more often than not, it’s my favourite of the ones nominated, not my favourite of the entire year), and it can get even better if it is a film that would have never been made by a big studio.

So here are my thoughts on a few important categories.
Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

Best film. The new comer in my preferences is Hell or High Water. It just might be my very favourite of 2016. It is definitely my pick from the nominees. An indie film, a modern western, a very actual one with a great sense of place. Its daring spirit, its accurate reflection of the bleak American times and the rough-around-the-edges antiheroes remind me of the New Hollywood of the ’70s, which gave the world some of the greatest and most original American movies since the late 1940s. A solid cast, made of actors, not stars, who do what they do best: they tell a story. A tale of two brothers robbing banks to pay off a lender before their oil-rich property gets forfeited and the Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges plays one of them, deservedly nominated for supporting role) on their trail. Director David Mackenzie took an excellent script and turned it into an excellent movie – the screenwriter is Taylor Sheridan, the one who also wrote Sicario, the highly underrated movie of 2015 and my very own favourite of that year.

Manchester by the Sea is a very good film, a heavy drama about loss and grief. The problem is that I don’t handle that well. I am just being honest here. I simply look for something else when watching a movie, and if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I don’t take films lightly. Moonlight is a great film. It shows both artistry and emotional power in telling a coming-of-age story of a gay black boy. Director Barry Jenkings handles it so beautifully and elegantly. The best I can come up with about Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is that it is a very American war film and it simply did not tell me much. I mean, really, hasn’t this story been told like a million times? Mel, you can do so much better. After all, you gave us Apocalypto.
Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea

Best actor: I admit I don’t have a definite pick for best actor. Casey Affleck’s character in Manchester by the Sea is a deeply damaged man. He has so many demons from his past that will never go away and yet his performance is so subtle, without failing to convey his unimaginable pain. There are other ways of going through grief than visibly coming apart. He really has to live it and I think that’s the most brave and toughest way to deal with tragedy.

But I also can not forget Ryan Gosling and the silent volumes he speaks in the finale of La La Land. He didn’t sweep me away with the dancing, singing and piano playing throughout the entire film, nor with his natural humour and charm, no. It’s that look he gives Mia when he sees her in the audience at his jazz club at the very end of the movie, the look he has after he finishes his song and looks up in her direction, although he kind of knows that she is already on her way out. That look encompasses everything he lost, everything they lost when they went to search for their separate dreams. But somehow his loss seems, and feels, bigger than hers. I can not take that look out of my mind.

There is this one more thing I have to get off my chest: how in the world is Denzel Washington suddenly making an appearance in the media as a possible winner? No, it is not for the right reason (frankly, there is a theatricality in Washington’s acting that I do not like – he didn’t have it in his earlier films), but because Casey Affleck seems to have been in the press for the wrong reasons lately – I don’t know much and I don’t want to know, because you know what? The only thing that matters here is his WORK!
Elle 2016

Isabelle Huppert in Elle

Best actress: Have I not already been vocal enough? Isabelle Huppert is the only choice. A tour de force of a performance by one of the greatest actresses of all time, which would deserve the prize in any year. Because Isabelle goes about her business, as usual, with that unforced naturalness of hers that is a world away from the Great Performance syndrome that is often accountable for the big awards wins. And if I had to have a second choice, it would be Isabelle Huppert for that other great performance of 2016, in Mia Hanse-Løve’s L’Avenir (Things to Come).

Okay, a succinct round-up is due: Natalie Portman, it just can’t be a good thing that I always see her “act” on screen, can it? Emma Stone is good – she carries the singing audition sequence all by herself so beautifully – but not quite up there in my opinion. Another Meryl Streep nomination? Really? Academy Awards voters, will you just watch other movies, too? Have you watched Annette Bening in 20th Century Women? Sasha Lane in American Honey? Amy Adams in Arrival? Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train? I am sure even Meryl Streep is starting to feel a little embarrassed by all this not entirely deserved attention. I mean, she does seem like a very cerebral person, with a lot of common sense.

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Supporting actor: Mahershala Ali. Not only is his contribution to Moonlight one of the best parts of the film, but the extraordinary thing about his role is that its impact is deeply felt long after his part is over (he only appears in the first of the three chapters of Moonlight) and in the evolution of the main character – now, that is what a supporting role is about. However, three other entirely deserving performances are Jeff Bridges’ in Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges’ in Manchester by the Sea and Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals

Naomie Harris in Moonlight

Supporting actress: Naomi Harris should win for Moonlight, where she delivers an electric performance, going through an incredible range of moods so fast and with such ease. Viola Davis might win though, I hear, and the thing that bothers me the most is that the arguments in her favour invariably mention her already being a third time nominee with no Oscar win (so what? Pacino won his at his eighth nomination) before even getting to her part in Fences.

Michelle Williams is good, but she is good in everything she plays. In Manchester by the Sea she has very little presence on screen. But that’s not really the problem – after all, Beatrice Straight deservedly won the Oscar for her supporting role in Network, a performance of only a little over five minutes, the shortest performance to have ever won an Academy Award for acting. And, to be honest, Laura Lynne in Nocturnal Animals, for example, has a very short appearance, too, even shorter than Michelle’s, but the impact of that scene is much more powerful to the outcome of the film and of the other characters than Williams’ is.
La La Land

La La Land

Costumes: First of all, a few facts. Contemporary costume design is hardly ever nominated. It deserves to be recognised more often. It is much more difficult to get contemporary film costume right. It is also difficult to get contemporary film costume for an original screenplay right (yes, as opposed to Jackie, for example, which got the BAFTA – I mean, they had a pretty good template to work with, right? One of the most photographed, iconic, stylish women in the world, Jackie Kennedy.). All these points are not to say however that they should be reason enough for a win on the part of La La Land. But the fact that the costumes really are great (and, notably, most of them were made for the film, not bought from the shelves as it often is the case with contemporary film clothes, as good as they may be), truly convey who the characters are, harmoniously blend in and advance the narration is good enough reason and some, if you’re asking me.

Original screenplay: Hell or High Water.

Directing, cinematography, original song, original score, production design: La La Land.

On an ending note, you can forget everything I’ve written above. Who will win doesn’t really matter. What should matter is that films be seen. At the cinema. Maybe you can come back then and tell me about your favourite.

photos: 1- La La Land illustration by Thomas Danthony / 2,7-Lionsgate / 3-Film 44, OddLot Entertainment, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment / 4-Allstar/StudioCanal / 5-SBS Productions, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion GmbH, France 2 Cinéma / 6,7-A24, Plan B Entertainment

Posted by classiq in Film | | 4 Comments

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet 
Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is the kind of book you can’t just leaf through. You read every word and you do it on one reading, just like the director says he always used to read the scripts – because “a script can have a very different feeling if reading it is interrupted”. And then you come back to read entire passages to be able to take it all in.

I don’t like the word “review”. I don’t review books and films. I think you have to have a certain amount of arrogance in you to be able to do that. I don’t have it. I don’t analize movies. I talk about them. And sometimes, quite often even, I do it passionately. Because I love films. So if you like movies just a little bit, if it is just one film that you’ve ever liked, all I can say is that you should read this book.

Here are just a few movie-defining things that stayed with me after reading it:

It’s all in the preparation. Do mountains of preparation kill spontaneity? Absolutely not. It’s just the opposite. When you know what you are doing, you feel much freer to improvise.

Directors take risks. The critics and the audiences don’t.

Dialogue is like anything else in movies. It can be a crutch or, when used well, it can enhance, deepen, and reveal.

A movie is constantly being rewritten, through the various contributions of the director and the actors, the music, sound, camera, decor, and editing.

Producers and studio executives hate movies.

Theatre actors are in awe of movie stars and movie stars are in awe of theatre actors.

Good work comes from passion.

And passionate people (from director and screenwriter, to actors, cameramen and set designers) can cry on the set when they failed as well as when they did something great.

The reality of the movie insider has nothing to do with the reality of an audience watching a movie for the first time.

There are no small decisions in moviemaking.

Clothes are important.

Pictures are not made in the cutting room, which is the cliché about editing, but they can be ruined there.

There is no way critics can know how well or poorly a film was edited. Only three people know how good or bad the editing was: the editor, the director, and the cameraman.

Sometimes an image is so meaningful that it encompasses everything the movie is about.

A movie plays better when you add the music. The music must say something that nothing else in the picture is saying. But when you can’t find a musical score that adds to the movie, don’t use one. There was no score used in Dog Day Afternoon, The Hill, or Network.

Commercial success has no relationship to a good or a bad picture.

The amount of attention paid to movies is directly related to pictures of quality. It’s the movies that are works of art that create this interest, even if they’re not on the ten-highest-grosses list too often.

Directing is the best job in the world.

photo by me

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