Monday, June 27, 2011

Lecture Six - Brigitte Bardot and the start of Lolita

Just as early hollywood stars traded on their manufactured image, the stars emerging after the first world war seemed to have traded on their national image.

Brigitte Bardot is one iconic figure of the 1950s. She created for herself an image of youthful sexuality that resonated with the emerging teenage culture. However this image was always tied to her French identity. Our lecture today briefly covered a range of national cinemas and stars that have been exclusive to their national cinemas as well as those who have crossed over into mainstream Hollywood.

I really enjoy foreign films and the distinctive aesthetic. I find them very refreshing amidst the range of Hollywood movies that dominate popular culture and cinema within Australia. The French and Italian film festivals are always an interesting event (and a great excuse to eat Italian and French food), that give a little taste of the huge range of films being developed outside of hollywood.

Hindi films are something that I am intrigued by, but have never really explored. The little tastes I have gotten from watching films such as Slumdog Millionare and Bride and Prejudice have been fantastic. I think I will add a Hindi film to my 'films to watch' list (that has grown significantly longer after taking this subject). This is the end dance scene from Slumdog Millionaire that draws on aspects of bollywood cinema.

I've managed to get distracted from what I initially wanted to blog about, the infamous Brigitte Bardot. What caught my attention about Bardot was that she managed to be an icon of France, sexual liberation and youthfulness all at the same time. Pamela mentioned that despite her work in Holllywood, Bardot maintained her French identity throughout her life. This was reinforced by the reading that suggests she had a role in maintaining France's role at the forefront of fashion through the wearing of natural fibers to oppose the rise of US synthetic materials.

I found the reading very informative as I have so often seen images and fashions influenced by Bardot, however I have been painfully ignorant of her role in them. The Bardot look has been recreated quite literally within fashion and film. Claudia Schiffer is one example of someone who has traded of the Bardot look. This still from A Single Man shows a recreation of her style within a contemporary film.

The use of Bardot's look has also carried on with the bed hair look and childish styles of dress.
The image of youth Bardot cultivated was strongly reinforced by her wearing of gingham, particularly at her second wedding in 1959. This one dress had a dramatic impact, being instantly copied and "provoking a craze for gingham that helped revive the flagging vichy industry in the Auvegne" (Vincendeau). This dress highlighted Bardot's youthful image that she continued to promote.

Brigitte managed to combine youthfulness and sexuality into her image, a combination encapsulated within the concept of Lolita. After researching the concept of Lolita within film and fashion I have found that there are two reading of the 'Lolita effect'. The first is closely tied to the novel itself with the sexualisation of young girls. The opposite of this is the dressing of older sexually mature women in childish clothing. Bardot fits securely into the second category due to her cultivation of a youthful and sexual image.

I have been exploring this Christopher Kane collection in regards to my essay due to his explicit mention of 'Lolita' as an inspiration. However my new knowledge about Bardot and her gingham dress makes me think that she must also have been an inspiration to this collection!

Lecture Five - Rebels with a cause

The 1950s saw the emergence of the teenager as a distinct entity. This new group wanted to rebel against their parents and authorities ruling their lives, and within an atmosphere of budding consumerism they had the disposable income and free time to do it. Thus the 1950s witnessed the origins of subcultures. Having studied subcultures last year I have become a lot more aware of their continued influence upon fashion.

The group that I spent the most time studying and that continues to interest me is the skinheads.

Skinheads have been quite well represented within film with This Is England, American History X and Romper Stomper exploring the skinhead subcultures within the UK, USA and Australia respectively. While the later two spend more time focusing on the ideological and racist aspects that emerged towards the end of the skinhead subculture, This Is England (particularly at the start) presents the subculture in its infancy when style was as equally if not more important than any racist ideology.

This is one of my favourite scenes where Shaun gets made over. It really shows the importance of clothing in creating the subculture's identity and sense of belonging. The big boots, blue jeans, checked shirt, braces and iconic closely shaved head all play a key role in making Shaun into one of the gang.

Pamela commented that the skinhead style was the one subculture that had not been reproduced within mainstream fashion due to its racist associations. Although I appreciate that skinhead style has not been drawn upon as clearly as punk or mod styles, I think it has had a significant influence upon fashion. For example, the popularity of the Doc Martin boot, the iconic footwear of skinheads, acid wash cropped jeans and checked shirts.

I have noticed several skinhead inspired photo shoots lately that clearly represent the sartorial style whilst trying to subvert the racist connotations with the use of female and black models. Given the presence of these images within fashion media, I would suggest that the skinhead subculture has had an impact on contemporary youth fashion.

Agyness Deyn for LOVE Magazine 2010

Clayton James Cubit's Lagos Calling portraits

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lecture Four - Could uni be any better than admiring good looking males all day?

Today we explored the male body. Although a good looking actor is often a strong incentive for my movie watching, I have never put a lot of thought into the representation of males on screen.

Just as female Hollywood stars have formed personas cultivated on and off screen, male stars have formed their own iconic star profiles.The historical development of these stars is interesting to consider. The movement from Cary Grant to James Dean, on to Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brad Pitt. However what I am particularly fascinated by is the male suited body. The suit intrigues me as I am helpless against a boy in a suit.

Edwards suggests that the suit is a “symbol of masculine sexuality” and a “uniform of respectability” (Bruzzi, 2005, p42.). This is a similar reading to that of Anne Hollander who suggests that the suit forms a cast of the body, hinting at what is beneath it.

In our reading for today Pamela Church Gibson extended this concept to suggest that the suit is a phallic cast. I'm not so convinced by this argument. I can see why that conclusion could be drawn but I think it is possibly taking the whole phallic imagery too far. Hollander’s comments on the uniformity and style of the suit seem a more appropriate reading of male dress.

James Bond is an interesting figure for looking at the suit. When he’s topless I find him not so appealing. However in a suit and it’s a different story.



This is one of my favourite scenes in Casino Royale for several reasons:

- The female character Vesper Lynd is opinionated and feisty, not just a sex symbol

- The outrage of Bond at the idea of a tailored suit. He manages to capture the exact attitude that many males know have in regards to the suit

Although the suit may be deemed the uniform of the modern male, the subtle variations between the way it is worn is very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed Oceans Eleven, partly because of the storyline but also because of the characters of Pitt and Clooney. Pamela Church-Gibson gives a very insightful evaluation of the suit within the film and the way it is used to form characters. Brad Pitt is the young, rough and reckless one and George Clooney the smooth talking ladies man.

I think these costumes have been particularly successful in forming characters without distracting from the story as a whole. They merely compliment and build up the dialogue and acting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Lolita Effect

The media sexualisation of young girls and what we can do about it.
M. Gigi Durham

"Increasingly, very young girls are becoming involved in a sphere of fashion, images and activities that encourage them to flirt with a decidedly grown-up eroticism and sexuality" p. 21

"Perhaps one reason for our fascination with the sexy little girl is her tricky double role in contemporary society - she is simultaneously a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of a chauvinistic 'beauty myth'. She invokes the specter of pedophilia while kindling the prospect of potent female sexuality" p. 24

"The Lolitas that populate our mediascapes are fabrications. They serve market needs and profit motives, and they are powerfully alluring, especially to the young girls whose vulnerability they exploit. They are framed in a clever rhetoric of empowerment and choice." p. 27

This is one example of the sexualisation of children within fashion shoots. This shoot was shot by Sharif Hamzar, styled by Carine Roitfeld and published in the December 2010 edition of French Vogue.

I find the first photo particularly interesting after looking at the hollywood stars of the 1920s and 30s.
Jean Harlow

A Kate Moss Appropriation

Ellen von Unwerth
Vogue Italia, June 1992

Lecture 3 - Costume vs Couture

We began our day today with an interesting question, were the costumes of Black Swan designed by Rodarte or Amy Westcott??

This is an interview with Amy Westcott that clearly shows how delicate a situation these collaborations can be:

It also provides an interesting breakdown of her understanding of the role of a costume designer "You are responsible for everything, whether an item is designed by me, purchased, farmed out to a specialised item designer or a combination of all of these... ...You’re responsible for the look, making sure things are functional, making sure you are on budget, as well as managing your department. "

It is intriguing to consider the different approaches and levels of involvement of different designers. Does the designer's clothing get used in the film with no direct involvement from the designer? Does the designer design put a few pieces from an existing collection in the film? Does the designer design costumes to be used within the film which will showcase their work but have little regard for the film itself? Or does the designer design pieces that highlight and enhance the narrative and characters for the film?

There are numerous examples of variations along this spectrum. Some work excellently, and others (like the Black Swan debacle) work not so well.

Another topic we covered to day was the class transformation film. One thing I've noticed: makeover films are everywhere!
One of my favourite brainless films (although I should probably not admit to this) is St Trinnians. There is one great scene where they give her a makeover and experiment with a range of different stereotypes (chavs, goths, posh totties etc). It is interesting to see the use of styling, make up and hair to change appearance when the same set of clothes is used throughout.

One of my favourite film transformations (which we actually watched this afternoon) is Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. It is amazing what two years in Paris and some Givenchy gowns can do to a girl!

Prada does it better

Continuing my watching of fashion films as a form of procrastination, I came back to an old favourite, Prada's "Thunder Perfect Mind" perfume advert.

I find this video interesting as it is in many ways very similar to lots of other fashion films and ads, with a beautiful young model racing around. But I think Prada has done more than create a pretty girl to follow around and envy.

The first reason I love this video is its use of spoken word to make it more than just aimless wanderings. Prada have based the advert around an ancient Coptic manuscript of the same name, found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The manuscript is a poem of sorts that presents a number of contradictions and paradoxes to describe the divine feminine.

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.

The text of the poem is read out by Daria Werbowy as she makes her way around Berlin living out a modern interpretation of the poem. Using Berlin as the setting for Thunder Perfect Mind balances the serious tone of the poem, lessening the frivolity of Daria's day. I love Berlin. It is so drenched in life and history, and generally it is just so much fun. Having a city that has such a conflicted and varied past as well as a rich cultural background lends credibility to the film.

The girl presented by Prada seems a lot more real than in other adverts. She reads. She catches trains. She doesn't have time to go home and change. She falls over. She feels awkward dancing. She's flawed. She embodies contradiction.

What's there not to love?