It all started with beige. Beige in the grandiose dining room of the Recchi villa, beige in Emma’s knit sweater and khakis as she prepares for her father-in-law’s birthday dinner. When the guests arrive, Emma changes into a conservative rich purple dress of a 1940s silhouette, her hair down a la Grace Kelly. She is silent as the men are talking business and speaks only to play the part of supportive mother. The wardrobe that follows is a range of light gray-blues and whites, worn as Emma performs her daily errands.
I have adored Tilda Swinton ever since I saw Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) – mainly because of the film’s total dependence on costumes to denote its narrative progression. In Io Sono L’amore (Luca Guadagnino, 2009), costume plays a similar role and Swinton succeeds in wearing them to enhance, not distract, her character development.
Clad exclusively in Jil Sander, Swinton plays Emma Recchi, a porcelain-clean trophy wife of an Italian textile tycoon and a loving mother of two. She spends her days picking up laundry and visiting her husband at his office. Io Sono L’amore speaks of the repression of individuality within the shackles of rituals and order.
The dialogue is minimal and the acting style is bare, but these are compensated by a rich compilation of stylistic elements. John Adams’s operatic score voices the feelings of anger and betrayal that are never properly expressed. The cinematography fluctuates between blurry and bleached out (symbolizing ecstasy) and detailed and revealing (truth). The colours are sometimes muted, sometimes incredibly vibrant. These changes highlight the stages of Swinton’s character development.
The feeling of anticipation in a darkening movie theatre is generally universal. On this occasion I was more eager than usual. A few weeks prior I had seen a superbly edited trailer featuring a rapid succession of beautiful shots from the upcoming film, A Single Man. Being a self-proclaimed cinephile, my pulse quickened with the emotional reminders of great cinematic experiences past. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed, but not for the reasons you’d think….
A Single Man takes place in Los Angeles at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Adapted (from a Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name), directed, and produced by legendary fashion lord and first time filmmaker Tom Ford, it is a solemn tale of a man coming to grips with the painful loss of the love of his life. Colin Firth’s heart-breaking performance is touching and the stuff the best dramas are made of (and just as an aside, it was nice to see Firth challenged by a role that was not a type-cast of Jane Austen’s impenetrable Mr. Darcy). Continue reading →
Hair India presents what can arguably be called the uglier side of the beauty industry. Directed by Raffaele Brunetti and Marco Leopardi, the film shows the extreme differences between India’s richest and poorest, and the roles both play in the obtaining and selling of one of the most popular recent accessories: hair extensions.
The film follows a young girl named Gita and her family living in West Bengal. Having no other material possessions to donate to their temple, they plan on collectively shaving their heads and sacrificing their hair, a common ritual where they live. In a culture where a woman’s beauty is so highly regarded, the act of giving up one’s hair is not a simple decision. Meanwhile in Bombay we meet Sangeeta (pictured above), the editor of a gossip magazine who busies herself with such tasks like finding a professional palm reader to dish on the personal lives of major Indian celebrities. While looking for a new hairstyle before a huge party, Sangeeta turns to hair extensions. Continue reading →
His tailor shop is below street level, in an underground strip mall, which gives Mr. Arabpour’s cramped business the appearance of only being open “late-night.” Burly men file in with their entourage, and he, elfin in comparison, reaches up to greet them with three kisses.
This is the sum of the action in Final Fitting, a portrait of the 80-year-old Arabpour, tailor to the stars of Iranian politics and religion for 58 years. Director Reza Haeri bounces back and forth from Mr. Arabpour’s reception area to his back room, where he cuts fabric and muses on everything from garment construction to his famous clientele to why one should not wear trousers to prayer (plumber’s crack!).
Mr. Arabpour has outfitted everyone from the late Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, to popular former president Mohammad Khatami and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. You get the impression he treated them all as he does in the film: jumping up to wrap his arms around a man’s waist, faceplanting into his belly, reading the tape, and shaking his head, muttering, “God preserve me.” Continue reading →