The best outfits at the 2012 Toronto International Film Fest happened on screen
Great Expectations Mike Newell
The world probably doesn’t need another adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, but it never hurts to see one of classic literature’s greatest (and most visually interesting) characters, Miss Havisham, re-imagined yet again. In Mike Newell’s version of the story, Helena Bonham Carter plays the jilted ghostly bride (naturally) who is grandly clad in a dusty, decaying dress. The dress was designed by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor who also crafted costumes for Vanity Fair and Aeon Flux. Pasztor drowns Miss Havisham in layers and layers of lace and taffeta silk, creating more of an artistic masterpiece than a simple costume.
Even more exquisite is Miss Havisham’s lovely disciple Estella (her young and adult versions are played by Helena Barlow and Holliday Grainger, respectively). Estella wears pleated travelling dresses adorned with cascading ribbons and feathered collars in hues of blues and purples. Paired with bejeweled neck chokers, Estella’s wardrobe is aesthetically refreshing against the movie’s muddy backdrops.
And then there’s Pip, the blacksmith turned gentleman whose wardrobe is overwhelmingly vital to his transition into the upper echelons of London society. Played by Jeremy Irvine, Pip ditches his thick boots, puts on tailored suits, and gets the girl, all while turning into an uppity snob in the process.
Does this new version of Great Expectations break any new ground? Doubtful. But do the costumes live up to its period piece glory? I think the taffeta speaks for itself.
// Mai Nguyen
Deflowering of Eva van End Michiel ten Horn
This blithely haunting Dutch film unfolds around Eva, your garden variety “dork.” A chubby, bespectacled late-bloomer lacking in social skills, she remains silent for almost the entire duration of the film. Eva is a sullen, awkward girl who seems more interested in spending time with her pet rabbit and listening to her favourite pan flautist than having sex, an activity doggedly pursued by her libidinous classmates. Eva’s shyness results in her isolation from the outside world, where her family and peers treat her like a piece of furniture. Her outsider status is highlighted by her wardrobe: Eva wears mostly t-shirts emblazoned with Louis Wain cats, Converse sneakers, and ill-fitting jeans; in stark contrast to her brand-conscious classmates who love Ed Hardy, leopard print jeans, and skintight dresses.
Eva’s life changes when she is assigned an attractive but irritatingly friendly German exchange student named Viet. Viet plays the part of a clean-cut hippie; a vegetarian who financially supports an African child and meditates as his preferred form of relaxation. Viet’s wardrobe is all-white, consisting of linen tunics and Birkenstock sandals, which are meant to symbolize the purity of his beliefs yet create an ironic tension when his presence begins to wreak havoc in the van End household. It’s clever and funny with a dark, disturbing undercurrent that rears its head near the end of the film.
// Isabel Slone
The Secret Disco Revolution Jamie Kastner
Was disco just a coke-fuelled, all night sex and dance party, as it’s often remembered? Or, perhaps, was it something more deeply political and important to the women, queer folk, and people of colour who were so heavily influential in the creation of the musical genre and its accompanying culture? Sadly, the insiders interviewed in this documentary, from songstresses Thelma Houston and Gloria Gaynor to Studio 54 DJ Nicky Siano and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, all seem rather clueless about the “hidden revolution” that Kastner’s documentary suggests disco was. The end result was a pile of soundbites from academics doing research in this area that read as pompous and self indulgent—not cool man. Not cool. What was even more disruptive was the dramatized scenes featuring the “secret agents” of the disco revolution that frame the film’s narrative.
I was exited to sit down for an afternoon dedicated to polyester, big hair, glittering platform shoes, and lots of suggestive dance moves infused with queer and feminist politics. Instead, I left the theatre yearning for more—for me, disco is a not a secret revolution that I really love to think about. I found the research for this film sparse, and the archival footage acted as a mere backdrop rather than a source of information. I would have loved to see more clothing from the period (the best part, duh) rather than the “secret agents” in cheap knockoffs that were tackier than anything to ever come out of the ’70s (I usually use this as a compliment, but in this case, I cannot).
If you really want to know more about disco, clothing and politics I suggest you do some further reading and watching:
BBC’s The Joy of Disco is a similar documentary topic, minus the secret agent storyline of Kastner’s work and with some really great interviews.
BBC strikes again, 2007′s Once Upon a Time In New York: The Birth of Hip Hop, Disco and Punk contextualizes disco among other music and cultural styles, as well as the politics of NYC in the ’70s.
If you like disco, the ’70s and ’80s, and fashion, you might want to check out the book Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco by Roger and Mauricio Padilha (it also features an epilogue by Anna Sui!). Lopez, better known as simply Antonio was a prominent fashion illustrator who observed and inspired disco style in the ’70s in New York.
// Jenna Danchuk
Baby Blues Katarzyna Roslaniec
The 17 year old protagonist of this Polish film is a girl named Natalia; she is young and stylish and her outfits are colourful and vibrant. But unlike most teenage girls, she also has a small son. Though well-intentioned, Natalia’s youthful desires often get in the way of raising her kid.
The clothes in this movie are perhaps reason enough to watch it; Kuba (the baby’s father) and his friends, skater fiends who scurry through the side streets of Warsaw, more often than not passing joints and making fun of each other, are seen constantly in the same uniform—one that would have not looked out of place at a West 49 outlet in 2009. Think beanies, snapbacks, and t-shirts with slogans. And like real-life teenagers, their outfits get recycled throughout the movie. A “grunge is dead” t-shirt is seen twice; once on its own and once accompanied by a black blazer.
Natalia, on the other hand, is forced to face adult responsibilities much too quickly. She is unabashedly girly; she is seen in polka dot heels, a pink fur coat, and heart-printed tights (and heart-printed everything). Her earrings are childlike, much like her—ice cream cones, hearts, and teddy bears dominate the scene of her closet (which is strewn across her mother’s apartment and madly disorganized).
In a Q & A session after the film, the director herself was dressed like Natalia in shorts, a pastel floral-patterened bedazzled sweater and fluroescent yellow sneakers. She and her sister had actually styled the entire movie, and a lot of the clothes were their own.
Baby Blues is about the lives of youth; it provides a mini-diary of young Natalia’s life with her baby son in her life. But it is also about fashion, and how Natalia is never comfortable playing housewife; she does her best to stay trendy and stylish, and admits she wants to go into fashion. It is a thought-provoking film with even more thought-provoking style.
// Sofie Mikhaylova
Beijing Flickers Zhang Yuan
If you were to describe to me a movie in which a man copes with being dumped by eating glass and not talking for a year, I would say, “Oh god, that sounds bleak. Are there any tickets for Hotel Transylvania left?” However, it is a scientific fact that the odder a movie sounds, the more awesome the clothing will probably be, and I had a responsibility to my fashion magazine to seek out sartorial goodness.
So, good news! 1. The movie was enjoyable (and not just in a “I’m going to like this foreign film on Facebook so all my friends can know how cultured I am” kinda way) and 2. my prediction was correct: it was ever so easy on the eyes. The movie starts with Sun Bao (Duan Bowen) having a bummer of a day—on top of the aforementioned dumping, he loses his apartment and his dog. He gives up talking, and also, apparently, changing his clothes—his cable knit sweater accompanies him throughout the year, clearly a METAPHOR that he is in a static stage in his life (though his best friend Wang Ming, played by Lu Yulai, also wears the same sweater vest during the whole film, a metaphor I’ve yet to uncover. Speculation in the comments is more than welcome).
Anyway, during Sun Bao’s Year of The Cable Knit Sweater, he befriends some of the city’s fringe citizens, each of whom teaches him something valuable about life, while—and this is the important part—having killer wardrobes. You Zi (played by film’s cowriter Li Xinyun) plays the front woman to an indie band, and is so immaculately made up in the way that is both punk rock and impeccable, that watching it I couldn’t help but think “this girl needs to be Tumblr famous.” Shi Shi (Xiao Shi) is a transvestite that shares a hotel room with Sun Bao while recovering from plastic surgery; an aspiring poet by day, he treats his own body as a poem to be crafted. The characters seek refuge in each other while getting through the perils of daily life; in effect, it is like many coming of age stories that centre on growing up and friendship—a less annoying Friends with an art house twist.
// Anna Fitzpatrick