The Clothes of Cronenberg


There are two kinds of David Cronenberg movies: the ones that disturb and horrify you, and the ones you haven’t seen yet. In November 2013, I wrote a review of Cronenberg: Evolution, the exhibition showcasing David Cronenberg’s prolific film career at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the process I realized I had seen a total of three Cronenberg films; pitiful, considering that he’s made almost forty. In the name of research, I watched 15 Cronenberg films in the span of five days (with one particularly trying Saturday Cronenberg marathon—six films in a row, not recommended for the faint of heart).

Cronenberg: Evolution showcases the artifacts of Cronenberg’s prominent and prolific film career within three loosely defined themes or stages. The first stage asks, “Who Is My Creator?” and features films like Stereo, The Brood, and Videodrome, films in which the heroes and heroines have to live with the results of a scientific experiment gone wrong. The second stage, “Who Am I?” deals with protagonists who are often the scientists—The Fly and Dead Ringers, for example—and their own test subjects. Finally, there’s “Who Are We?”, the current stage in Cronenberg’s career where his films look outward at society and communities, with films like A History of Violence, A Dangerous Method, and Cosmopolis.

At every stage, Cronenberg: Evolution makes a point to include notable costumes and other important sartorial artifacts, like the makeup and wardrobe sketches for Videodrome. David Cronenberg works primarily with his sister, Denise Cronenberg, who has created some of the most iconic wardrobes seen in his films. Denise has worked on thirteen of David’s films, as well as Dawn of the Dead, The Incredible Hulk, and Resident Evil, among others.

Denise did not formally study costume design. “I’m completely self taught,” she tells me over email, adding that she comes from a family who worked in clothing—her grandmother was a dressmaker and her grandfathers were tailors. The family connection is clearly not just between David and Denise—she adds that “being a mother of three has given me the best tool in working with actors. Psychology!”

Before film, Denise was a dancer who specialized in ballet. “If I disliked [my costumes], I found it affected my performance. I always remember that when I’m creating costumes for actors. They must feel good in their costume; it must help them become the character they are playing.”

In the video above, you can see a few costumes and accessories from our visit to opening day. The clothes of a Cronenberg film are, like the protagonists who wear them, ill-fated. They’re fabric casualties in the making. From the moment I saw Jeff Goldblum proudly display his one-outfit closet to Geena Davis in The Fly (“Learned from Einstein,” he boasts), I knew he would soon lose any human appendages with which to wear those five identical pants, shirts, and blazers. If The Brood‘s Nola goes to her psychoanalysis in flowing white robes that we only see from the neck up, you can bet those robes are hiding something truly grotesque from the neck down. By the end of most Cronenberg movies they’re either covered in bodily fluids or disintegrating to dust.

On the other hand, the fashion of David Cronenberg’s films isn’t exclusively blood-soaked or ripped to shreds. Often they’re incredibly beautiful and intricate period pieces, like the opera costumes for M. Butterfly and the true-to-life wardrobes for Cronenberg’s fictional versions of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method. My personal favourites are the leg braces from Crash, which evoke an iconic Helmut Newton photograph, and Debbie Harry’s red dress in Videodrome.

Cronenberg: Evolution is open until January 19, 2014. I’d highly recommend a visit for Toronto Wornettes. For Wornettes everywhere else, I have a suggestion for a really dark Saturday afternoon.

Video // Daniel Reis
Music // Love Like This by Human Egg (h/t Alex Molotkow)

For WORN’s Eyes Only

Daniel Wornette has a license to film

The footage above was taken during a top secret mission to infiltrate a new exhibition of James Bond costumes, props, and sketches at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Alright, I was invited. And I shot it on my iPhone, not microfiche. Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style celebrates half a century of the cinema’s most famous spy. Everything you could possibly want is here: Ursula Andress’s white bikini, Oddjob’s deadly bowler hat, Goldfinger’s gold tuxedo.

I had the privilege of interviewing Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (Topsy-Turvy, The Dark Knight trilogy) about her experiences working on five Bond films, from GoldenEye to Casino Royale. Her insight into creating Bond’s wardrobe gave me a greater appreciation for the craft of costume design. An immaculately tailored tuxedo can announce 007′s presence more powerfully than his own signature introduction: “Bond, James Bond.”

Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style is running at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Januray 20th, 2013.

text and video // Daniel Reis

Of Makeup and X-Men: The Mystique of Gordon Smith

Sixty year old Gordon Smith looks like an ordinary aging man; he is tall and thin, his hair and beard long since faded to white. Yet anyone who knows superheroes, or makeup for that matter, knows Smith is so much more than he appears to be. A Canadian legend, Gordon Smith is the makeup master that brought the fictional characters of X-men to life.

The X-men Master: Gordon Smith exhibition at the TIFF Bell Lightbox takes up the near-impossible task of doing Smith’s special effects makeup justice. The exhibit showcases designs from seven X-men characters, “making of”-style videos and legendary items from Smith’s personal collection.

Entering the exhibition centre, a small room filled with glass cases and sketch-lined walls, the most visible piece is, of course, Smith’s famed makeup chair. A minty green leather, with stains, rips, and creases. This is the legendary chair in which Rebecca Romijn became Mystique after 10 hours of labour and makeup. It is the chair that held Hugh Jackman and Tyler Mane as they became bigger, hairier, and scarier; when they finally stood up, they were transformed from men into Wolverine and Sabretooth. Celebrities sat down in it one by one, and almost magically, they became more than just actors; they became living, breathing comic book characters.
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Grace Under Fire

Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess—or at least that’s what people thought once upon a time. Nowadays, young women are more likely to look up to female pop stars, politicians, and professional athletes. But the Cinderella narrative, the hope of being plucked from obscurity by a handsome Prince Charming and showered with all the couture and tiaras one could ever want, still holds power in our collective imagination.

How else to explain the exhibit Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess at the TIFF Bell Lightbox? The indisputably beautiful Kelly shot to fame in the 1950s as Alfred Hitchcock’s “icy blonde” in classics like Rear Window and To Catch A Thief, only to abandon acting to marry His Serene Highness Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Unlike the princesses-turned-celebrities Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton, Princess Grace went in the other direction. Her 1956 wedding was an international news sensation; MGM produced the official documentary, thus delivering the final film on her contract. Princess Grace turned tiny Monaco into a glamorous weekend getaway for her Hollywood friends. Gradually retreating from the camera’s gaze, she wrote poetry and pressed flowers, only to die in a car crash at age 52.

“Grace Kelly brings together the Golden Age of Hollywood, European royalty and the very best of 20th century fashion,” says Noah Cowan, Artistic Director of the TIFF Bell Lightbox. “Considered the epitome of elegance and glamour, she was also among the most significant taste-makers for women around the world.”


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