You always notice the person wearing a great shirt.
A classic that holds just as much appeal as a perfect
pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about the men and
women who wear it well, in movies or in real life.
I have talked about A Bigger Splash (2015) and its clothes before. But the characters in Luca Guadagnino’s film – a sexually charged psychological thriller remotely inspired by Jacques Deray’s 1969 La piscine – have such great rapport with their clothes, while providing great style reference for the modern day, that I have found myself gravitate once again towards the wardrobes in this movie. Tilda Swinton’s Marianne Lane is a rock star who’s had vocal surgery and is now convalescing on the island of Pantelleria, Italy. She is there with her boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), a filmmaker recovering from a crisis of his own. Their idyllic holiday is brought to a halt by the arrival of Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), an old flame of Marianne’s, and his Lolita-reminiscing teenage daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Trouble comes to paradise.
Marianne can’t speak, so she expresses herself through other senses and her clothes are one of the means she uses. Swinton joined A Bigger Splash quite late but reinvented her role when she did. “Marianne was to be an actress and pretty talkative,” she told Vogue. “It occurred to me that it might be interesting – in this claustrophobic atmosphere between these characters, where the struggle to communicate is paramount – if Marianne, positioned as a hinge between the others, could not speak. And if she were a musician whose voice had brought her and Harry together. There is something pagan about her state here, uncharted and capable of lawless instincts.”
Guadagnino and costume designer Giulia Piersanti, who joined forces with Raf Simons, the artistic director at Dior at that time, tried to capture the iconic resort style from another era, but making it more Mediterranean, more natural, more modern. Shirts make up for a big part of the wardrobes. Marianne wears only white (with stripes) and blue shirts. “Some of the fabrics and colors … linens, stripes and poplins were inspired by the Sicilian setting,” Piersanti told The Hollywood Reporter about Swinton’s relaxed, cool style.
Marianne Lane had to be however a bit more elegant than her surroundings. It was important for her to stand apart. Her clothes, especially the most elegant ones, are used to great effect to remind her, and us, the viewers, that she is still a rock star. Even her shirts, despite the simplicity that defines them, have elements of glamour and unpredictability, evocative of her character. One of her shirt-dresses, white with blue stripes, is an open back (without losing the classic collar) asymmetrical piece. Marianne does wear oversized, men’s shirts, too, which come in blue and are usually paired with shorts or swimming suits, but even those benefit from a hint of sophistication, largely thanks to her attitude.
Matthias Schoenaerts’ character, on the other hand, doesn’t show anything through his clothes. He doesn’t want to reveal anything about himself. He sticks to a uniform of t-shirts (sometimes topped with a denim shirt), shorts and jeans. He is maybe like so many artists, be it photographers, filmmakers or designers, who find a uniform, usually as inconspicuous as possible, and go with it so that it doesn’t distract them from their work. It’s all about practicality for him. It may also suggest that “he’s trying to disappear in a way, and survive,” as Giulia Piersanti told i-D, alluding to his own issues that he faces. Regardless of his own reasons however, the truth is that, for the rest of us, Paul’s clothes bottle some of that languid, effortless and easy-going summer attitude that we try to hold on for the rest of the year.
photos: movie stills from A Bigger Splash | Frenesy Film Company, Cota Film, StudioCanal