Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the student

Iselin Steiro, model and student at Architecture and Design

I've had to look at this image a lot lately because of work. Every women's fashion magazine has their own specific way of educating their readers on how to achieve the head to toe denim look (How to wear denim at the office! How to wear denim dresses! How to mix light and dark denim!), apparently a big trend for Spring 2010. I could care less about what Norwegian model, Iselin Steiro, is wearing. Her messy mop of blonde hair and angular bone structure are a captivating combination. It was her bread and butter for Spring 2010. Here, here, here, here, and there. In the immortal words of Bobby Caldwell, "Got a thing for you and I can't let go..."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

turtle, turtle

Turtleneck, Uniqlo

I wore a sweater every day last week to work. Yes, the bitter winter had me firmly in its clutches. Luckily, I found my the best weapon to ward off the cold--the turtleneck. Out of most necklines, it's one of the more deceptively tricky ones. If you're neck is too short, it can make you look stumpy, if you're neck is too skinny, it can make you head look huge, and if you're French, you look like a cliche. I've always loved them and wear them proudly. It's like wearing a scarf all day without being labeled that obnoxious person who refuses to remove their scarf in doors because they matched it to their twin set. Paired with a blazer, I feel especially like a bad ass. And when this guy doesn't look bad in one either, it's time for everybody to embrace the turtleneck.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

last man on earth

One of my favorite Tom Ford collections was his Yves Saint Laurent Spring 2003 meditation on the fetishization of the body. Everything was either cut extremely close to the body in varying shades of flesh, taupe, and sheen or ballooned out to expose what was underneath a sheer black dress. The breast on a jacket curved just so and if you couldn't tell already, well there was a button on the nipple in cased you missed it. As a model would turn, a rib cage or a the shape of a buttock were printed on delicate silks. And yes, this was also the collection in which the models' nipples were painted a deep plum color and some were lucky enough to wear necklaces in the shape of a human heart covered in Swarovski crystals and pendants in the shape of a penis. Obviously, Ford has a obsessive, compulsive relationship with the body. You almost have to have it to be a successful fashion designer, but does that same eye for the aestheticizing the mundane make you a successful filmmaker? Ford's debut film, "A Single Man" certainly shows promise.

Film and fashion might seem closely related, but the beauty of fashion is that it's ephemeral and the beauty of film is that it lasts forever. Film has become part of our collective experience so much so that we attach certain memories to films that were relevant to the time. Do I remember when I bought my first cashmere sweater? Yes, but I also remember discovering Federico Fellini and thinking how myopic my life experience had been up until that point. Film provokes an emotion, a thought, a release where as fashion presents an excitement, a temporary rush, an impulse that soon fades. Ford is a smart enough designer and first time filmmaker to realize filming purple nipples for two hours would not be the wisest use of his talent (although I would like to see that film), therefore what he does explore is true to film--emotion and the body.

The key scene when Ford's talents as a filmmaker become impressive is when George (Colin Firth), a professor living in Los Angeles in the early 1906's, learns the news that his lover, Jim (Matthew Goode), has tragically died in a car accident. Colin Firth's face is in extreme close up for the uninterrupted scene. You see shock, anger, despair, and the loss of love drain from his face. It's a chilling scene that sparks the narrative. George decides he can no longer live without Jim and will proceed with his day with the full intention of ending with a bullet to the head. It's an interesting proposition. What would you do your last day you knew you were going to be alive? Ford's melancholic, but tender point of view is heightened by of course, the visual swirl of a world he creates for George's last day. Things either appear especially drab or blindly bright and attractive. George's impeccable bachelor pad is a den of OCD perfection. He lays out all of his parting trinkets and gifts for his housekeeper and best friend, Charley (Julianne Moore). George proceeds with his day in a daze of malice and contempt for a world in which he's not only free to love who he wants, but also a world in which his lover is no longer present. He acknowledges his neighbors, he buys the bullets, he goes to the bank to take out his savings. He makes arrangements to have dinner with his former lover and now friend, Charley wonderfully played by that blithe presence that is Julianne Moore. Her character indulges in pink cigarettes, spending hours getting dressed up, and Tanqueray gin because she likes the color of the bottle. With their plans for dinner, George must stop at school first for one last class.

George's activities leading up to the dinner are when Ford bears the signatures of his influences. At times you feel like you could be watching a Wong Kar Wai film with Ford's love of holding the camera on stolen glances and people pining for what they truly want to stay. George meets an eager student, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who expresses an interest in him. The ambiguity of their relationship is fascinating to watch in how skilled Ford creates a chemistry between these two actors, but doesn't give or show you what you might expect. In a similar chance meeting with a Spanish hustler outside of a liquor store, Ford begins the scene with pure pop delight with a shot of George pulling up in his Mercedes and parking in front of a blown up "Pyscho" poster. The choice of film poster not only pays homage to perhaps on his favorite filmmakers, but it's also a film that expresses a different form of madness, despair, sexual longing and ambiguity. George and the hustler have a sensual exchange that could have been out of a Bernardo Bertolucci film. Ford breaks up the scene with tight close ups of the curls of cigarette smoke pouring from the hustler's lips. This compulsive love of the body makes you wonder if Ford painted his nipples purple underneath his James Dean-esque t-shirt. Ford's intentional or unintentional appropriation of the genius of other filmmakers isn't a sign of hackneyed unoriginality, but rather a filmmaker discovering his own voice through the aesthetic and mood of filmmakers that he perhaps feels a kindred spirit.

When "A Single Man" is at its most singular is when you see Ford focuses on the loss of George. I'm not sure the technique he implores too often in the film of shifting the color saturation when George feels something because Firth is good enough to have you feel what he's feeling. However, in the scenes between Goode and Firth told in flashback, there's a sense of impending doom. They love each other very much, but Firth's protective eyes suggest that love is perhaps not eternal. When he's with Kenny (sensitively played by Hoult), George is liberated, but again that the liberation is only fleeting. "A Single Man" on the surface might imply that nothing lasts forever, but through Ford's appreciation for present moments (the hustler at the liquor store, Charley applying make up all day in preparation for dinner, skinny dipping in the ocean), the movie's statement is actually quite optimistic. The idea of nothing lasting forever is debatable, but what does last from "A Single Man" are the perfectly articulated and manicured traces of a burgeoning filmmaker.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the end: 2008

Ballast, directed by Lance Hammer
Wall*E, directed by Andrew Stanton
The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan
Reprise, directed by Joachim Trier
Happy-Go-Lucky, directed by Mike Leigh
A Christmas Tale, directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Tropic Thunder, directed by Ben Stiller
Flight of the Red Balloon, directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou
Synecdoche, New York, directed by Charlie Kaufman
The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky
Paranoid Park, directed by Gus Van Sant
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher
Silent Light, directed by Carlos Reygadas
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, directed by Woody Allen
Che, directed by Steven Soderbergh