Monday, January 31, 2011

but love is never easy, it’s never silky smooth, there’s always something tempting in the wilderness of youth

I don't know how informative a post this will be because the film I am writing about is one that I haven't actually seen. I haven't built up the nerve to watch it, mainly because of the explicit sexual content (I get squirmish and immediately revert back to my fifth grade self whenever things get too hardcore). This film is Emmanuelle, a 1974 French erotica film that spawned over a dozen sequels and spurred on a movement in film that briefly made softcore chic.
The plot is simple enough to follow: Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel), the beautiful much-younger wife of French diplomat Jean, flies to Bangkok to be by her husband’s side. In typical, post-sexual revolution fashion, the couple is very tolerant of each other’s sexual whims and extramarital affairs are encouraged. In Bangkok, Emmanuelle embarks on a series of trysts with both men and women, adopting the same laissez faire attitude towards love that her fellow expats have. She allows herself to be guided in life by desire instead of logic and reason.
On strictly the level of the cinematic norms it shattered, Emmanuelle is a significant piece of film history. Now, I'm not advising you to run out and watch softcore film, but there are some merits to this film as a watershed moment in the redefinition of what cinema is capable of producing. The sexual content of Emmanuelle is less like a sleazy Van Wilder film than it is a test to see how far a film can push its boundaries. Instead of reworking the film to avoid an X-rating, the film embraced its tawdry reputation, creating a certain allure around the otherwise dreaded ‘X’.
The film was much more than a softcore movie – it was a worldwide smash that explored the psyche of the new sexual dynamic and promoted the modern female who had achieved liberation (sexual and otherwise). An estimated 300 million people went to the cinema to see Emmanuelle, with most of the audience was female.
The settings are lushly filmed in a soft focus lens, making everything resemble a sort of dreamlike state. The stills that I’ve seen of Emmanuelle are gorgeous – her bedroom is decorated with richly draped fabrics, heavy ornate furniture, and taxidermied leopards, while her dressing room is shown covered with vases of flowers and antique sculpted busts.
While the film can easily be written off as simply of the softcore porno variety, it has arguably done a lot to advance the way that sex, sexuality, and the feminine embracement and assertion of that sexuality is portrayed on screen. While I am probably part of the group that unfairly judges the film without ever having seen it (because I am forming an opinion that I shouldn’t see it before I’m actually well-informed enough to make that opinion), I do recognize its merits. How could Carrie Bradshaw and her City girls be embraced by audiences not just on HBO, but also on the silver screen (twice!) and now basic cable, becoming icons of the modern 21st century woman, without Emmanuelle first paving the way? 

Title: from "Sweethearts Together" (The Rolling Stones)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

life is brief but when it's gone, love goes on and on

It's a wee bit of a collage overload, but ya can't get sick of Jimi!

Sometimes I think it was unfair for God to have ever made Jimi Hendrix. Someone as fantastically beautiful and talented as he was could never have lasted long, and after just giving us a taste of Jimi’s brilliance, God took him away. But moments like these are usually fleeting and are overpowered by my love of this man. Yeah, yeah, I know he was a guitar virtuoso who advanced music a lot, yadda yadda yadda. But I will temporarily ignore this, instead focusing on the intense beauty of Mr. Hendrix. Day-uhmm, he was fine (only Jimi Hendrix warrants this statement ever being uttered by me). I mean, he was simply gorgeous. And his style – I have never seen a man dressed so well. He wore wide-brim hats with plume feathers, tasseled military jackets, gold medallions, velvet coats, paisley headscarves, heavy threads - basically every one of my most lusted-after sixties items (i.e. if I could go back in time and rob 'Granny Takes a Trip' and 'I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet', this is what I would steal...)  
I again curse my way-too-late birth because I feel like we would have made really beautiful babies. And I mean that seriously.   

Title: from "Love" (I believe it's from Robin Hood... yeah, go ahead, judge away)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear, i've seen that road before

Though I consider myself a bit of a movie nut, there is a wealth of cinemagraphic goodness that I haven’t experienced. One of the genres I really don’t even know where to start with is Italian neorealism. I was lucky in that one of my film professors in years past was also an Italian scholar, so we did get to experience the ‘greatest hits’ collection of neorealism. Besides being just a generally fabulous individual (she was six feet tall, stick thin, and intelligent beyond human comprehension), my professor worked to give of a taste of each director in the movement. I’ve seen the philosophical ‘trilogy’ by Roberto Rossellini – Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City); Paisà; and Germania, anno zero (Germany, year zero). I’ve seen works by Visconti, De Sica, and De Santis, but the director who I am most woefully unexperienced in is Federico Fellini (I don’t count Paisà, for which he was a writer for, as one of his films). 
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing La Strada – which is largely hailed as Fellini’s greatest film – in 35 mm. Apart from an unintended intermission halfway through the film (the film itself had snapped in two), finally experiencing Fellini’s world was nothing short of a delight.
For all those film buffs out there, let me state that I do realize that La Strada isn’t technically a neorealist film. Actually, upon its release, it caused a firestorm of criticism because it violated the neorealist ‘code’ – Fellini featured absurd hyper-characters, pulling his narrative out of the typical dire straits of the postwar working class that was a staple of neorealism. Instead of rooting his characters in the context of a certain time or place, Fellini’s story thrives on the utter rootlessness of his characters.
The title of the film translates into English as “The Road” – an apt title on many different levels. The film doesn’t only depict the tough life on ‘the road’ for this band of vagabonds – members of travelling circuses whose livelihoods are dependent upon how many different towns they can visit – but also the ‘road’ that the characters travel in a more metaphysical sense.
La Strada starts with the sale of the young, naïve Gelsomina (portrayed by Giulietta Masina, wife and muse to the director) to the slovenly brute Zampano (Anthony Quinn), a “travelling strongman” in need of a new female assistant after the death of his last girl – who, ironically, was also Gelsomina’s sister.
Masina plays Gelsomina to utter Chaplinesque tramp perfection. It is hinted that she is supposed to be mentally challenged, but Gelsomina comes off as more of an extremely unaware young woman who possesses the tendencies of a five-year-old. Zampano is a slobberish brute, a man who could make Stanley Kowalski seem fit to dine with the Queen. He operates on an entirely animalistic basis, acting only upon his desires (for food, drink, sex, or violence). Through it all, Gelsomina stays devoted to her master and a strange quasi-romance occurs. The story is further complicated by the introduction of Il Matto (The Fool, played by Richard Basehart), a man despised by Zampano for his superior performance skills and his teasing behavior.
La Strada as a film serves as not just a journey of narrative, but also of Fellini's direction away from the defined form of neorealism into what renowned critic Andre Bazin referred to as “neorealism of the person” (instead of say neorealism of a situation or event). 
As I mentioned above, Fellini’s greater message is served by the lack of ties to any community that his characters have. The story exists outside of time and space, which Millicent Marcus talks about at length in her piece, “Fellini’s La Strada”: "this is not a standard neorealist journey, [...] proved by the total absence of concrete spacial and temporal markers to root the story in history" (Marcus, 148). Fellini's characters don't need time and space because their very nature/ existence/ livelihood stems from their lack of ties anywhere. In this "rootlessness" that Marcus describes, the film becomes a study of the human condition rather than a portrait of lives affected by their surroundings; the film is a perfect example of this new neorealism that Bazin announces.
The success of La Strada is in this very fact - though the situations of circus performers may seem unrealistic and unrelatable, the problems of these people are all too familiar (as Fellini asserts, "There are more Zampanos in the world than bicycle thieves," which refers to the popular neorealist film The Bicycle Thief).
The plight of the human condition is transcendent, whereas historical reality, which is so stressed in typical neorealist vehicles, is not. By refocusing neorealism to be "neorealism of the person," the opportunity for the audience to connect is widened. Unlike Rossellini's 'trilogy' - where the audience would have to had experienced the atrocities of war to truly relate - the struggles that Gelsomina, Zampano, and Il Matto go through are significant and resonate within each of us to a certain extent. Regardless of what is happening in time and space, it's what they are feeling that makes La Strada such a powerful film for the viewer. 

Title: from "The Long and Winding Road" (The Beatles)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the exploding plastic inevitable

I can be a little dense at times, a little out of the loop. In this particular case, I was very out of the loop. The wonderful Smashingbird gave me the Plastic Joy Award. Only, she gave it to me in April. The Plastic Joy Award is a fun little thing where a blogger selects five or more characters from film or television who they would most like to bump uglies with. Well, I say better late than never, especially when it comes to things as fun to do as this! Without further ado, here are the five characters I would most love to love: 

Cary Grant as T.R. Devlin in Notorious
Cary Grant was always so smooth, so suave, so unnervingly elegant that it was almost too much to bear at times. There is no choice but to swoon over him. This is why I love him as the hardened, jaded government agent Devlin - he is the hero of the story, but he isn't an obviously likable guy. He falls in love with Ingrid Bergman's character, Alicia Huberman, the alcoholic daughter of a Nazi scientist, but is too hardened to admit his feelings to a woman of such ill-repute. Their kiss - which last for minutes but is broken up into shorter kisses in order to pass through the Hays Code - is absolutely delirious. There is a scene mid-way through the film where the two meet up at the horse races under the watchful eye of Alicia's new husband - when she begins to cry, he stares straight ahead and says emotionlessly "Dry your eyes, baby - it's out of character." I don't know why, but it kills me every time. 

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire
I read somewhere that you should watch On the Waterfront if you want to fall in love with Brando, and A Streetcar Named Desire if you want to fall in lust. It's easy to see why - he wears skin-tight tee shirts half the time (and the other half of the time, he's shirtless!) While I'm not too fond of the brutish behavior, I love his rare moments of remorse and tenderness. When he screams "Stellaaaaa!" from the bottom of his neighbor's staircase, he begins to cry, thinking he has lost the love of his life, and then drops to the floor in self-disgust when she slowly walks down to him. I remember watching this scene in a high school English class about five times in a row (I guess I wasn't the only one who was done in by Stanley).  

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
I think this reveals something rather unsettling about my personality. I don't know what it is (his fishnet-clad gams, perhaps?) but I just find Dr. Frank-N-Furter to be really attractive. If in some other dimension, we do end up hooking up - at least I can pick his brain afterward about lingerie and makeup tips. 

Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl
Why? Because he's Chuck Bass. 
Though my father finds him to be absolutely smarmy, I adore Chuck Bass. He has shattered all different stereotypes (before GG, I think we all could confidently say we didn't know a man could wear so much purple and baby pink and be such a committed womanizer), all the while being the most loveable ass on the planet. He's the only character who can get away with simply uttering his name as an excuse for his behavior (and have it not be followed by "... and I'm an alcoholic / drug addict / bag of douche.") His voice - coupled with the fact that it was patterned after that of Carlton Banks - truly does me in. 

Sean Connery as Mark Rutland in Marnie
Yes, he found the woman who robbed his company to be alluring rather than troubled. Yes, he blackmailed that same woman (Tippi Hedren, as the title character) into marriage with threatening to expose her kleptomaniacal ways. Yes, he also rapes her on their honeymoon. But other than that, I think he's a dream. I don't know, I guess I just have a thing for emotionally-vacant, strange men ... at least when it comes to the fictional ones. 

Ted Neeley as Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar
I can't figure out if wanting to bone Jesus in this movie means that I'm going to hell .... or if it means I'm a really awesome Christian. It's a very fine line. Also, I'll refrain from making the same joke that one of my friends (who was atheist) made about him being 'well-hung on the cross'. Because yeah, that's crossing a line.

Here are the blogstars I award the same plastic joy to (but I encourage everyone to do it - it's quite fun!):

Sunday, January 23, 2011

i’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know

By now, you all probably know that I am obsessed with Brigitte Bardot. (And if you didn't, then - Hello,  I am the Dolly Rocker Girl and I am a Bardot-a-holic). Brigitte Bardot has served as the inspiration for female style (and male fantasies) for over a half-century. The Beatle boys' pride and joy was to have a girl that looked like the actress - John even encouraged Cynthia (a natural brunette) to have a Bardot makeover, and apparently George wasn't quiet about how much he loved that his bird Pattie looked like Brigitte (as recounted by Cyn herself in her first book, "A Twist of Lennon"). Models Claudia Schiffer and Georgia May Jagger, as well as actress-turned-designer Ashley Olsen all name Brigitte Bardot as their main fashion influence. Even La Moss, the 'most stylish woman of the decade' (per Vogue U.S.) looks to BB for inspiration. 
I think the reason that Brigitte has been countlessly cited as a fashion icon is her ability to combine sultry sexpot with sophisticated French femininity. Brigitte was a bombshell in the truest sense - she owned her sexuality, yet never flaunted it. Whereas other women were running around in dresses cut up to there and scooped down to here, Brigitte could look absolutely drop-dead in a pair of checkered cigarette pants, ballet flats, and a simple cardigan. 
I look to BB for inspiration when it comes to makeup, clothes, a lot of stuff (maybe not political opinions, especially in light of her recent court cases in France) - and I know I'm not the only one. 
This is 'Then and Now: the Bardot Edition'

First off is the Bardot pose - legs clad in black tights crossed over each other, smoky eyes, a teased mane, and little else! This pose has been replicated by the likes of Lindsay Lohan (on the cover of Entertainment Weekly), Elle Macpherson (in a 1994 issue of Playboy magazine), and more recently by Rihanna and Gisele Bundchen

Editorials have often drawn inspiration from Brigitte's undeniably feminine, sultry style

For their 'Le Rouge' campaign, Chanel looked to Brigitte's film Le Mépris (Contempt) for inspiration. Model Julie Ordon takes on Bardot's role in the advertisements, reenacting the opening scene of the film - she asks the camera, in the same style as Bardot does her onscreen lover, "Tell me ... do you love my lips?" 

Other models try their hand at recreating another of Brigitte's famous looks from the Jean-Luc Godard film. Her black-and-white ensemble, matched with a thick bandana and even thicker eyeliner, is one of the most famous from Le Mépris 

Welsh songstress Duffy often channels bombshell starlets of decades past - here she does her best Brigitte Bardot, complete with a modest (yet still utterly va-va-voom) black dress, long slightly wavy blonde hair, and Bardot's signature black cat eye-and-nude lip combination 

For the cover of Redbook, Faith Hill stepped into the shoes of three of the most imitated and admired women of the 20th century: Grace Kelly, Twiggy, and Brigitte Bardot

Vanessa Paradis looks like she could double for Brigitte Bardot in her wigged-out scenes in Le Mépris. With their feline features and insouciant French personalities, the two women resemble each other considerably - even without those short black wigs 

Many sexpot singers of recent years have mimicked Brigitte's carefree comfortable style. Kylie Minogue does it best I think - she keeps it fresh and modern, but the nod to her style icon isn't unnoticeable. Madonna ... not so much

Title: from "I'll Be Your Mirror" (The Velvet Undergound & Nico)

just own the night like the fourth of july

This is very, very random to post, but my weekend has been rather boring ... so I figured why not post pictures of fireworks that I've saved over the months. Plus, Katy Perry is stuck in my head. But, in an attempt to add just a smidgeon of profundity to this, I'll ask you this: on a cold dreary night like tonight, couldn't we all use a few fireworks to light up our skies? 

Title: from "Firework" (Katy Perry)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

welcome to my life, tattoo, we've a long time together, me and you, i expect i'll regret you, but the skin graft man won't get you

I got a tattoo last night. Well, to be honest, I got a temporary tattoo last night (I know, I'm such a badass). It's from this really fab kit of temporary tattoos by Betsey Johnson. Done in the same vein as the Chanel Les Trompe L'Oeil 'skin art', the BJ tats can be combined to look like jewelry on the skin.
I decided on a green and pink serpent on my forearm. And apart from the occasional Death Eater allusion, no one was too surprised by my recent addition. I choose to believe it's because people assume I'm daring enough to get a tattoo, not that it was so clearly evident a temp.
My foray into the temporary got me thinking about real body art. I used to have an obsession with tattoos and would plan which one I would get the moment I turned eighteen. I never wanted a monstrously big one - always just a tiny thing that I could appreciate but not advertise to the world. In seventh grade, I wanted a star of my wrist (très Gisele). At fifteen, I wanted a small word or French phrase. By seventeen, I was settled on the idea of getting a small swallow on either my wrist or side of my forearm.
When I actually turned eighteen, I reneighed on my promise. Suddenly, getting a tattoo was something I desperately wanted to avoid. When friends would ask what I thought of tattoos, I would always dismiss them - saying that I would never be able to become First Lady if I had a tat.
But the truth of the matter is a little different. While even the baddest bad gals of retro Hollywood never got tattoos (you'd never see Lana Turner with a tramp stamp), the stigma behind tattoos has definitely changed in the last few decades. Now it's hip - even commonplace - for people to have tattoos. What made me reconsider getting inked was the very nature of tattoos themselves - they are forever. I hated the permanency of it; I'm probably the worst type of person to even consider getting a tattoo - I hate change of any sort, but I'm also extremely noncommittal. Getting inked, even with something smaller than a dime, seemed too revolutionary for me.
I recently read an interview with Olivia Kim, one of the head gals of Opening Ceremony, on Into the Gloss. In addition to her enviable job and lustworthy wardrobe, she had a slew of really cool tattoos. Little birds, hearts, bows, boats, sea ships, and cupcakes adorn her hands. I really loved her quote about tattoos: "I love the idea that it really marks where you are in your life at that time. I think people are scared of that permanence but I feel like, it's ok, you can always move on, you can cover it, you can take it off if you don't like it. I remember everything about each one." I credit Kim with my recent (i.e. last night when I couldn't fall asleep and this afternoon when my friend and I were bored and start googling 'tiny tattoos') change in feelings towards tattoos. The permanency may very well be an attractive aspect, and I just misunderstood. Tattoos are like souvenirs of yourself from a particular moment in time.
Maybe I will reconsider my personal stance on the tattoo. Though, with my parents possibly reading this, maybe I won't.

Gisele Bundchen

Angelina Jolie and her many tattoos

Amy Winehouse

Evan Rachel Wood

Kate Moss has several tattoos: an anchor on her right arm, a 'P' on her hip, a star on her ankle, and a small heart on her hand

Lindsay Lohan has many tattoos: a star on her wrist, "Shhh..." on her index finger, 'La bella vita' on her lower back, "Breathe" done in white ink

Marianne Faithfull has a swallow tattooed on her hand

Megan Fox

I love the wings that Nicole Richie has on her back

Sienna Miller has stars on her shoulder and a swallow on her inner wrist

Leighton Meester

Title: from "Tattoo" (The Who)

Friday, January 14, 2011

she looked so bright in pixie hair, she made me know how much i cared

When photos of Emma Watson's new pixie cut were first released to the unexpecting public a few months ago, I had one thought: ugh. My inner monologue went a-buzz when I saw her close crop - it's not that I didn't love her haircut, I was just jealous. For years, I've wanted to cut my hair into a chic short crop. I think it was a late night viewing of Bonjour Tristesse that did me in. Seeing Jean Seberg running around the French Riviera without any hair hanging down her neck ignited something in me that I haven't been able to shake. She looked so carefree, so sexy, so gaminely gorgeous - I wanted to be her (well, minus the part about destroying the lives of everyone around her ... in the film, I mean). 
Since then, I feel like everyone around me has these incredibly cool crops: so many actresses and singers - talented and untalented alike - have made the plunge with a pixie; my hairdresser is in the process of growing out her super spunky, edgy cropped 'do; the mother of one of my friends has the perfect pixie I really want to get. And then there are those amazingly cool girls I see around campus (but are too intimidatingly hip to ever approach them) who have immaculately cared-for crops. 
I know that I shouldn't ever cut my hair this drastically short. I've discussed this with my brothers, my mother, my friends, and hairdressers, and the general consensus is that I would look dreadful with this haircut. It's been explained that I don't have the 'elfish' features required for the look, which I accept and agree with. I don't have those devastatingly petite features that appear delicate and pretty. I've accepted the fact that if I were to crop my hair, I would look like an uglier version of my younger brother. Plus there's that danger of screwing up and coming out with a very mumsy look. It's easy to go wrong with this look if you opt for thick sideswept bangs in the front (a la Ashlee Simpson, Hayden Pannetierre, Kate Gosselin ... sorry guys). So while Kate (of the Eight) and I can't do the pixie, here is my ode to the women who have done it right:

Several of Audrey's most popular characters underwent major transformations in the form of cutting her hair short, like in Roman Holiday and Sabrina

French film actress Audrey Tautou has garnered comparisons to the Audrey mentioned above due to her coquettish gamine personality and her chic hairstyle

To portray Edie Sedgwick, Sienna Miller chopped off her long hippie locks in favor of a look more resembling the former Warhol superstar

Carey Mulligan reached the top of every best dressed list with her daring fashion choices and the ever-changing hue of her pixie

Pairing minimalist clothes with maximalist accessories, Edie Sedgwick sealed her fate as the style maven of the underground scene when she cropped and dyed her once-brunette long locks

Emma Watson has matched her new look with edgier fashion choices and more dramatic makeup

Ginnifer Goodwin shows off several different ways to style a pixie: sleek bangs swept across the forehead, styled back to give the appearance of shorter fringe, or mussed up for more texture

Laugh-In starlet Goldie Hawn looks like she's having a blast in her flower-power dress and short hairstyle

Halle Berry has the amazing ability to appear to never age - she constantly looks fresh and sexy, especially with her close crop

Jane Birkin, owner of the most lusted-for fringe of the sixties, went with a shorter look in the seventies

The style icon who started it all (for me, at least) Jean Seberg, the princess of French New Wave in Otto Preminger's Bonjour Tristesse and Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle

Jean Shrimpton tries the style on as she channels Mia Farrow for a Vogue editorial 

Kate Moss transformed from poster gal of heroin chic to pixie princess in 2001 with a cut by her BFF James Brown (not that James Brown)

To play bounty hunter Domino Harvey, Keira Knightley got an edgy crop that was longer in the front than the back; though technically playing a bounty hunter, Keira looked like a rock star

Kirsten Dunst reportedly cropped her hair to prove to studio execs that she would be the right fit for an in-development Jean Seberg biopic (I'm still hoping that this project comes to being one of these days)

Marianne Faithfull revealed her short style in 1968, in projects such as Rock and Roll Circus, and again in the early 1970s

In the film Rosemary's Baby, Mia Farrow has this exchange with her displeased husband, played by John Cassavetes: 
JC: What the hell is that?
MF: I've been to Vidal Sassoon!
JC: You mean you actually paid for that?!
Besides the whole allowing his wife to be raped by Satan in exchange for a successful acting career, this was a primo example of Rosemary's husband's douchebaggery

A Mia of a different name - Wasikowska, that is - also rocks the pixie

Michelle Williams garnered comparisons to Mia Farrow when she cut her hair in 2007; three years later she has a pixie again but has longer fringe and a brighter shade of blonde

Model Mona Johannesson, photographed by Camilla Åkrans, channels Rosemary Woodhouse

In the process of growing out her post-V for Vendetta shorn look, Natalie Portman looked absolutely stunning with her groomed short style

Supermodel Agyness Deyn is known as much for her peroxide pixie as her androgynous style

Though she started a style craze when she debuted her chin-length bob in 2008, I prefer the heavily highlighted crop she sported at the Met Gala the next year

Selma Blair opted for shaggy, unevenly chopped bangs to add a little more edge to her cropped 'do

Victoria Beckham takes off that "extra half an inch" when she went from her Rihanna-reminiscent bob to this short pixie crop in early 2009

Winona Ryder's short hairstyle looked its grooviest in the 1960s-set film Girl, Interrupted matched with black-and-white boatneck tees and fitted turtleneck sweaters

Title: from "Keep On Believing" (Iggy Pop)