Monday, March 09, 2009

Addicts 2008: Costume Design

Costume Design

Catherine Martin

Everything about Australia feels visually defined and gratuitous; epic in a way that stings of deliberation, exhibition so obvious it puts Atonement in the shade. But one thing that really can't be over-the-top is the costume design. Scarlett O'Hara may have modestly knocked up a dress from some handy curtains, but there's no mistaking the delicious fun of its design or its role as eye-popping, head-turning couture. Catherine Martin similarly appears to have gone all-out with her wartime romance, making riding crops and goggles seem like fashion accessories, conjuring up images of Ice Cold in Alex by de-frumping beige tunics. Martin's ability to align her attire to the cleanliness of the other elements of the production is a blisteringly special feat. Edith Head is smiling somewhere.

The Duchess
Michael O'Connor

Oscar-winning Michael O'Connor already had a leg-up with the nature of his film, a costume drama. Even Marie Antoinette's Milena Canonero (and I say "even" not because I dislike the film but because it went down like a lead balloon) managed to win this prize, and there's unquestionable evidence of historic favourability in the period stakes. But rather like Canonero, and the aforementioned Catherine Martin, he's able to see past authenticity and reach for what the public really want to see: juice. Keira Knightley is drowned in The Duchess, by the production but also by her dresses, which are eye-catching grandiose and almost have a stonewashed flavour to them that makes their finery attractive and tangible. Extra points for the to-die-for embroidery on hats.

The Edge of Love
April Ferry

If Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley are atop many designers' 'would like to dress' list (as I suspect) then April Ferry turned them green with envy, not letting the side down in John Maybury's messy film The Edge of Love. A lot of Ferry's designs wouldn't look out-of-place at Topshop, such is the cyclical nature of the fashion world, and I reckon a lot of girls would kill for some of the dresses on offer. Nothing outlandish, lots of floral prints, boots, shrugs, the elegance of the forties summarised in one clothes rack. And it's interesting how the costumes evolve from the slightly more tempered pallette of city living (allbeit a glamorous one), to the feminine freedom of the countryside.

The Fall
Eiko Ishioka

Picking up where The Cell left off Ishioka has still got the costuming beacon, expertly crafting the colourful creations in The Fall. They're quirky, striking, and have such depth in colour that in the film's stark conventional period you long for the forays into fantasy. The designs really capture the essence of the middle East and help to contribute to the level of intrigue that the film evokes, both as an enigmatic, mythical tale and as a construction, a blend of reality, experience, escapism. Plus I can guarantee no other film will have clothes or tools as original and off-the-wall as this, a testament to Ishioka's vision, second perhaps only to Tarsem's in this regard.

The Secret Life of Bees
Sandra Hernandez

There's no denying that Bees is a little too sweetness and light, with a couple of issues thrown in for good measure, but Sandra Hernandez's saccharin-infused collection of costumes suggests that she knows this all too well. The joyous colour of summer, the spirit of family, and the liberal lifestyle of this film's inhabitants are all taken into account, and as such we're treated to a very assured, comfortable but tailored set. I'm especially fond of how easy it all feels, which is apt considering how the narrative constantly seems to want to involve you in its friendly community of women, and generally succeeds.

Winner: Eiko Ishioka (The Fall)
Runner-Up: Catherine Martin (Australia)

Sad To Exclude

The cutting (like everything else in the film) designs by Savage Grace's Gabriela Salaverri, Albert Wolsky's figure-hugging and very flattering dresses for Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road, Poppy's efervescence is captured wonderfully in Jacqueline Durran's work on Happy-Go-Lucky, and Doomsday's raw, primitive, and admittedly scant costuming, designed by John Norster.

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