Noir City Hollywood: 14th Annual Film Festival of Film Noir

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Starts Friday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, presented by the American Cinematheque.  The opening night film is the 1949 version of “The Great Gatsby.”  Yes, it’s usually not considered a noir film, but it’s adultery, murder, gangsters are all noir usual suspects, so I guess it does qualify as noir.

This version stars Alan Ladd as Jay Gatsby, the bootlegger turned new money hero to old money Daisy Buchanan.  It goes till May 6 and features some pre-code films.

http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/noir-city-hollywood-14th-annual-festival-of-film-noir

Film Noir is great inspiration material for anyone working on Fall.

The Night Porter

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With the runaway success, and unstoppable buzz of 50 Shades of Grey, I rented “The Night Porter” to revisit another sadomasochistic romance. Liliani Cavani’s 1974 film is very controversial, even today.

It’s set in 1957 Vienna where Max, a hotel night porter, and Lucia, a conductor’s wife, inadvertently meet again for the first time since WWII. Back then he was an SS officer and she was a teenager. He plucked her out of a crowd of prisoners and began to torture/rape her. She developed feelings for him, maybe what you’d classify as Stockholm Syndrome, and didn’t hesitate to resume their sadomasochistic relationship.

Lucia stumbles across Max.

Max works at night. He says he feels his shame in the light. Lucia means light. She’s the only thing that brings him joy. Their fortunes have reversed after the war. Max, Dirk Bogarde, was a SS officer, now a lowly hotel clerk, in the middle of his war crimes trial. He has already killed one witness who could’ve testified against him. Lucia, Charlotte Rampling, is now a posh conductor’s wife. She is the only other witness to his crimes. He could easily kill her, but his feelings get the better of him.

Lucia, in a child-like dress chosen for her by Max, in a flashback during her time in the concentration camp.

She is now married to a orchestra conductor. Beautiful, fitted camel hair coat, upturned collar, pearls, very befitting her new station in life.

At one point Max chains Lucia in his room so his peers (other former SS officers) can’t take her away when he’s at work. One of them, Hans, confronts Lucia and tells her that she should cooperate with them so they can help Max. She doesn’t trust him and says she’s chained because Max doesn’t want them to take her. He laughs and says that a chain wouldn’t stop them if they wanted to. This is true. The real chain keeping them together is their shared sickness, and longing for the past.

In this infamous flashback scene, Lucia serenades the officers with Marlene Dietrich's "Wenn Ich Mir Was Wünschen Dürfte." The hat, gloves, mens pants and suspenders worn with Rampling overt sexuality and confidence continue to inspire designers.

The masked "ball" mirrors their present situation where these officers are now trying to hide from their past, and pass themselves off as respectable gentlemen.

Max presents Lucia with the head of another prisoner who was bullying her. She merely asked Max to have the man transferred, but Max, having a flair for the dramatic (and violent) immediately thought of Salome and thought this would be an appropriate token of his affection for her. Thus continuing her trauma and guilt cycle.

Max and Lucia’s relationship puts his peers in danger. They just want to put the past behind them and live quiet respectable lives. Lucia knows them all from the camps and could testify against all of them, destroying everything they so carefully cobbled together. Max and Lucia want to stay together, living in the past, but the present day world will not allow it. Time marches on in the present, you cannot live in the past.

Klaus, the monocled one, is the ringleader in this motley crew, and his clothes vaguely imply his SS past. Black leather trench, said monocle, and hat.

Lucia was the submissive one before, but now she seems to be in charge. She's the one that initiated their affair. She has the power. She could easily go to the police and turn Max in, but she doesn't. That's shown here by Max kneeling behind her in a submissive pose, she's holding a pipe, something very phallic.

Max and Lucia say they want others to leave them alone so they can live in peace. Modern Germans are constantly reminded of their fascist past in pop culture and in politics. They are only too aware of doing anything that can be remotely viewed as being xenophobic or anti-Semitic. They will never be rid of, of “left alone” in this regard. Jews, in Israel and the world over use the horrors of WWII, and a history of persecution to inform their politics. Endless films, television shows depict their victimization and atrocities suffered at the hands of the Nazis. One of their slogans is “Never Forget.” Therefore they will be linked forever in the world’s consciousness.

After starving for days in his apartment, Max realizes he will never escape his peers. He dresses Lucia up in the same child-like dress from the beginning. Lucia doesn't say a word and follows along, knowing what will come. The bridge is their last walk on earth. In the pale morning light, they pass from the land of the living to the dead. Bert, his friend, has followed them and shoots them down.

Charlotte Rampling is her usual feline self, aloof with an undercurrent of carnal electricity. Dirk Bogarde… What can I say? If Peter O’Toole and Peter Lorre had a child it would be Dirk. Smug, English, with a thinly veiled, vile personality underneath. I love it. He’s an acquired taste.

Many critics at the time, were disgusted and appalled by Cavani’s use of concentration camp prisoners as a backdrop for titillation. Some who actually liked the film, thought the it was an essay on post-war European relations. Me? It definitely has problems. It’s not exactly rooted in reality, and Lucia’s character isn’t really fleshed out (no pun intended). I think it represents the inextricable relationship between Jews, Germany, and its shameful Nazi past. Framing it as a sadomasochistic relationship is interesting, albeit shocking and appalling.

Bonjour Tristesse at TCM Film Fest

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Traffic was hell but worth it.

What a treat.  I got to see a digitally restored print of Otto Preminger’s “Bonjour Tristesse,” today at the TCM Film Fest.  Jean Seberg was too gorgeous.  The south of France was entrancing, and I even got a surprise when I saw that Saul Bass did the opening title sequence.

Here’s a blog with all the titles: http://annyas.com/screenshots/updates/saul-bass-title-sequence-bonjour-tristesse-1958/

That color is so beautiful on her. Photo: Bob Willoughby, mptv.com.

Great sweater! I love a racing stripe. Photo: Bob Willoughby, mptv.com.

Photo: Bob Willoughby, mptv.com.

Barbara Tfank spoke before the film about how costumes serve the character.  She is a designer who has dressed everyone from Uma Thurman (she designed that pale lavender Prada Academy Awards gown that ushered in the modern, designer + red carpet era, before that it was Vegas meets prom on the red carpet) to Adele and Michele Obama.  She is a former costume designer herself and knows of what she speaks.  A true fashioneaste.

I got a standby ticket and was waaaaaay back.

She said that Givenchy was actually the costume designer for the film.  Seberg never looked so breathtakingly modern, fresh and beautiful.  And this was 1958!  Hopefully Netfilx gets it on DVD,  (don’t you think they should have these kinds of things???) so I can show you all the covetable stuff, like the great swimsuits Seberg gallops around in.

It ends tomorrow folks.

Herb Ritts: LA style

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Showing now at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Edited down to 87 images, many never before seen, from over 1,200, they capture the unique, glamour that Ritts made famous. Beautiful faces, bodies, enjoying their moment in our California sun.

He pretty much discovered Richard Gere. And launched careers for Antonio Sabado Jr., and Djmon Honsu in Janet Jackson’s video.

1977?

Being a child of the 80’s and a swinging 20 something in the 90’s, his images are like a time capsule to the fashion zeitgeist of that period. Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do Without You,” video with her looking fit and fab, enveloped in the arms of heavenly Antonio Sabado Jr. and his million dollar smile, was like crack to us. We wanted to see it again and again. He told her he wanted an updo, black bustier top and ripped jeans. That pretty much says 90’s.

Sorry it's so blown up. The best I could find.

Same with Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” with him on a beach with Helena Christensen in all her exotic glory.

Sadly, Herb Ritts died in 2002, from complication of the AIDS virus. If he were alive today, there is no doubt in my mind he would’ve started making movies. A true fashioneaste.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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David Fincher, a master of graphic style in filmmaking, taking on Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander seemed like a match made in Hollywood heaven.  But I have to be honest, I was a little let down.  Maybe “The Social Network” set the bar too high.  That rowing race scene with the Winklevoss twins getting beaten to the thunderous Germanic techno classical score was genius.  No dialogue needed, the action spoke volumes of the characters and what they were fated to experience.

His credits are always great, but this sequence was pretty phenomenal. It had all the themes, violence against women and children, the dead coming back to avenge their killer, infectious technology, all of it presented in the credits.

Whatever problems I have with the story, Fincher always gives us something pretty or at least interesting, to look at.  Lisbeth’s look is one part don’t f**k with me masculine toughness, and one part alien beauty.

Her appearance serves as a protective shell, like a porcupine, she doesn't want you to get too close.

The shirt says it all.

Fincher enlisted fashion runway heavyweights, Pat McGrath for makeup and Danilo for hair to transform Rooney Mara into Lisbeth. Not sure if Lisbeth would really take the time to bleach her eyebrows, but hey, that's just me. It works. It's memorable for sure.

Suited up in her armor. Almost insect-like, Lisbeth is a "bug" intent to take down anyone who wrongs her or Blomkvist.

In the end you see her almost fragile.

There was a lot written about Trish Summerville’s Lisbeth look, H&M even collaborated with her on a capsule collection.  She won an award for Excellence in Contemporary Film from the Costume Designers Guild.

Photo: H & M.

It’s fine.  I know the the story is set in early 2000’s, so maybe that’s why it looks a little dated to me.  But I think Daniel Craig’s rumpled professor look, kinda stole the show.  Or maybe it’s just him.  He’s hella sexy, no?

Shawl collar sweater over layered shirts.

A super fuzzy grey sweater over more layered shirts.

Even a black sweater over his red flannel pajamas looks nice.

So casual, so cool. His glasses just so.

More tonal layering.

Jacket with vest and dark jeans.

Smaller shawl collar sweater.

Layered neutrals. Again, the glasses, worn askew. Does this mean Blomkvist looks at the world differently? Sees things others don't?

More tonal layering, this time two woven shirts on top of each other.

Fincher did a great job, but the adaptation was lacking something…  And I must say, I cringed at the after-rape shower scene.  Did not think Fincher would do something so clichéd.  You would think he would’ve rolled his eyes after he read that.

It didn’t occur to me when I read the book, but when I saw this sequence, it clicked.

Lisbeth is pursuing Martin after she discovers he is one of the killers. It's as if she's on horseback, riding through the woods, chasing the beast. It's a Nordic fairytale. A Grimm one. It's violent, bloody, with damsels in distress, and the righteous winning in the end.

Lisbeth is the hero, using her magic (computer skills, photographic memory) and wits to kill the beast literally or figuratively (Martin, Advokat Bjurman). Painting by John Bauer.

In keeping with the fairy tale theme, maybe that’s why they changed Harriet’s situation.  Harriet escaping the trolls/ogres (her father and brother) was an act of “magic.”  Out in the world she transformed into another person to survive, and she returns home victorious in a sense, having survived her horrific childhood.

It’s not a rave review but there are still plenty of reasons to see it.  Rooney Mara was excellent.  I’m still looking forward to seeing “Girl Who Played with Fire” and the development of her character.

Turner Classic Film Festival 2012

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Ok, if you live in the LA area, and call yourself a film buff, you need to get your ass down to this festival.  This is their third year and it’s a whopper.  They’re showing a restored “Cabaret,” “Sabrina,” Liz Taylor’s “Cleopatra,” “Funny Face,” “Casablanca,” “High Society” poolside.  Yes, you can watch Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing the Cole Porter score poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel.  WTF!!!  The list goes on and on, so much fabulousness, I can’t even type fast enough.

Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord in "High Society," 1956.

I want to see “Bonjour Tristesse,” since Jean Seberg is too gamine gorgeous in it to pass up.  And the beachy French 50’s vibe is fantastic!

"Bonjour Tristesse," 1958. Is that chambray shirt great or what?

Their theme this year is “Style in the Movies.”  For you fashioneaste’s they offer: the films of Stanley Donen, Deco Design, Essentials (the classics), The Legendary Costumes of Travis Banton, and Noir Style.  I am salivating!

Many interesting panels, and special guest are scheduled as well including: Rick Baker (godfather of makeup artists), Mel Brooks, John Carpenter, Liza Minnelli (holy sh*t!!!), Kim Novak, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Towne (screenwriter), huuuuuuuh, I have to catch my breath.

Buy your tickets now:

http://www.tcm.com/festival/

2046

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It’s the late 60’s and the streets of Hong Kong are full of social upheaval.  Won Kar Wai’s third film ties “Days of Being Wild,” “In the Mood for Love,” and “2046,” in a loose, frenetic, film bouquet.  Christopher Doyle, Pung-Leung Kwan, DPs, William Chang Costume and Set Design.

We follow Tony Leung’s Mr. Chow after he returns from Singapore and continues to write his sci-fi serials, and chase women.  Maggie Cheung’s, Mrs. Chan is gone, but Maggie Cheung pops up in the imagined future of his serial where everyone is trying to get to a place called 2046, to recapture lost memories because there, nothing changes.

2046 is the apartment number Mr. Chow had many fond memories in with Mrs. Chan (Maggie Leung, from “In the Mood for Love”) and he happens to end up at another apartment 2046, this time with a woman named Lulu.  Lulu’s character was first seen in Won Kar Wai’s “Days of Being Wild.” He leaves her in 2046, passed out and drunk, and comes the next day to return her room key.  He wants to rent 2046, but unknown to him, Lulu’s jealous lover stabbed her there the night before.  He ends up taking 2047 and watches his neighbors in 2046 through a grate at the top of the wall.

Faye Wong, Jing-Wen, with a bouffant. She is his heartsick neighbor and daughter of the hotel owner.

She pines away for her forbidden love, a Japanese man.

A gorgeous shot of her in a red dress with her love.

Here's closer look at her neckline, love the tiny cap sleeves.

"Mad Men" started up again, so Mr. Chow is back with his mid-century Hong Kong ties.

Android Jing from the scenes of Mr. Chow's serial. Androids can smoke because they don't get cancer.

Another shot from the serial.

And another. Lots of reds used for the futuristic stuff. Maybe to contrast all the green they use for the present.

Mr. Chow is lost and floats from woman to woman, cigarette to cigarette, casino to casino.  His hardened heart bleeds for no one.  Ziyi Zhang’s character, Bai Ling, a neighbor in 2046, is a party girl who falls for Mr. Chow.

I just like the shot of Bai's feet.

Bejeweled cheongsam.

They flirt. Check out the elbow length gloves.

I love her red cheetah print with black flower.

Hanging out by this sign, on the roof of the hotel seems to be a refuge of sorts for everyone.

This is something most of us couldn't get away with now. Let's just throw this fur on to grab a drink.

They party together a lot. I love her cheongsam with the sequins on the front.

The back is plain.

She is hardly shy, why is she pushing him away?

Maybe she senses something more serious on her end.

I don't know if it's deliberate, but this has a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" feel. The pearls, hair, dress, and she's a party girl too, only this is the anti-Tiffany's, and the girl and boy don't end up together.

He treats her like a prostitute, paying for their trysts.  She jokes and gives him a discounted rate since he insists on paying.  She wants him exclusively but he refuses.  She leaves him but not without throwing money at him on her way out.  He has boiled down his most intimate human interactions to transactions.

Mr. Chow continues to bed women like this one waiting to join him. Bai eventually moves out, tortured by his games. I like this shot because androids are used in the futuristic scenes as replacements for women, and with her reflection, it subtly says this woman might as well be a clone or robot sent to pleasure Mr. Chow. He won't give a second thought about her once she's gone. He'll just get another one just like her.

Mr. Chow bonds with the apartment owner’s daughter Jing-Wen, Faye Wong.  She is heartsick over her Japanese lover whom her father forbade her to see.  They work on martial arts books together.  Platonic relationships with women is where Mr. Chow finally shows some humanity.

He offers his address so her Japanese lover can send her letters. This is a tough look to pull off, brown suit with orangey/rust tie. But he looks fab.

She devours each letter.

He feels good by helping her. It gets him in touch with his humanity, and I think he gets a vicarious thrill helping true love blossom.

Despite numerous women, Mr. Chow, alone again.

In his futuristic serial, 2046, Mr. Chow’s protagonist, a Japanese man, leaves 2046.  He is the first to do so, and finds an android (Faye Wong) who looks just like his lost love to fill the void.

Android Jing.

Don't you love these light up soles?

It’s as if all the women Mr. Chow has been with since Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) have been androids, filling the void of his unrequited love for her.

I love how this conversation is shot. Mr. Chow convinces Jing to call her lover. When the camera pans, the reflections overlap and the effect is powerful. Mr. Chow is an author. He writes his character's destinies. Here he is "writing" Jing's destiny, and his role in fantasy and reality are morphing into one another.

He watches Jing talk to her lover on a long distance call. The green and red lights in the background are Christmas lights, but they're also the main color story in the film.

Bringing her happiness brings him joy.  Maybe the act of bringing lovers together mends his wounded heart, or lets him feel a purity he lacks in his encounters.  He has acted as a sort of author to their story, being the catalyst to their impending marriage.

Mr. Chow meets Su Li-zhen, Gong Li, a professional gambler, in Singapore.  She coincidentally has the same name as Maggie Cheung’s, Mrs. Chan, the reason he left for Singapore.  Ms. Su helps him win back his money to return to Hong Kong.

The Singapore scenes are drab. No color. Mr. Chow has hit his low.

I love the simple black blazer with the shortened sleeves, over her black lace dress.

2046 is really just a state of mind.  Your mind can trap you into staying in the past because you long for the way it was, or because you were so traumatized by it, you cannot move forward.  Either way, the past is not real, and we should not try to live there.  In his serial his protagonist leaves 2046, whereas Mr. Chow is woefully stuck there.  Aren’t we all just authors of our own stories?  Will yours have a happy or sad ending?

I don’t think this was received well, but I didn’t mind it’s meandering, multiple storylines, and threadbare narrative.  Like a mink coat, I loved the look and feel of it, even it’s not popular to say so.

Chiara Clemente’s “Beginnings”

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The Sundance Channel is airing season 2 of Chiara Clemente’s short film series “Beginnings.”  Season 1 was about seven creative individuals based in New York including, Carolina Herrera, Mario Sorrenti and Yoko Ono.  Being the daughter of artist Francesco Clemente, she grew up in the art world and surrounded by artists.  She is drawn to their creative processes, and lets them do the talking.

Chiara Clemente. Photo: George Chinsee.

Season 2 travels to the City of Light, Paris, including Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Louboutin, and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis).

Charlotte and Serge.

You can also watch it online:

http://www.sundancechannel.com/beginnings/video/

VCMG

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That’s short for Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, my 80’s babies, the godfathers of techo/synth pop.  They reunited for an album “Ssss.”  It’s all instrumental, which is puzzling for two of the most singable songwriters of the 80’s and 90’s.  Gore with Depeche Mode (which Clarke was part of) and Clarke with Yaz, and then with Erasure.  The 16 year-old in me is jumping up and down and screaming right now.

Photo: Travis Shinn.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-gore-clarke-20120314,0,6551340.story

http://mute.com/artists/vcmg

Who Shot Rock & Roll

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Showing at the Annenberg Space for Photography from June 23rd – October 7th, with work from the world’s best known photogs: Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus, Alfred Wertheimer, Jim Marshall, and others.

Young Elvis. Stunningly handsome. Alfred Wertheimer.

Wilson Pickett, and look at that pompadoured Jimi Hendrix! William "PoPsie" Randolph.

Amy Winehouse in a quiet moment. Max Vadukul.

From Elvis to Tupac to Amy Winehouse and everyone in between, spanning decades and all musical styles.  Go if you’re a music fan, definitely go if you’re a fashion fan.

http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions