Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just watched...

..."You, The Living" by Swedish director Roy Andersson.

Although this film was made in the lovely, picturesque country of Sweden between 2004 and 2007, it feels colorless and oppressive, as though it was filmed somewhere in eastern Europe in 1980. The film has the bleak, unadorned look of Poland or Czechoslovakia in the 60s/70s. Helping that illusion along is the general look of the film: characters live in tiny shabby flats, people walk grey streets bisected with slowly lurching trolleys, and the whiff of brutalist architecture is in the air. The filmmaker, Roy Andersson, chose to use very little contrast and to light the hell out of each scene, eradicating any hint of shadow. The result is flat and unrelenting; everyone is exposed, both literally and figuratively.

Despite their sad, exposed surroundings, or perhaps because of them, the characters in this film display a range of humanity that is funny, touching, and profoundly relevant to the human condition. Fifty short vignettes at first seem random until we catch on that the crying wife whose husband upset her that morning is married to the man we are seeing in another scene. The people we see randomly practicing their band instruments are actually part of a group who play at a funeral later in the film. This kind of jigsaw puzzle way of noticing that we are all interconnected is a charming device. Some characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera--and to us, the audience. Some characters tell us their nightly dreams. In this way, the film reminded me of Buñuel's brilliant "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" in which a succession of dreams are told at various dinner tables.

Andersson cast his film, save for one role, with non-professional actors, many of whom were recruited by Andersson or an assistant right off the street. This also helps the verisimilitude of the film.

The film's title comes from a line from ROMAN ELEGIES by Goethe: "Be pleased then, you, the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot." In Greek mythology, Lethe is one of the five rivers that flow through Hades, and is the river of forgetfulness and oblivion, where dead souls drank to forget their mortal lives. Perhaps this line is a reference to the seemingly dour lives these people lead. It could be advice: enjoy what you have now. Or it could be a reference to the puzzling ending in which what they have now might very well be taken away.

Recommend? Absolutely.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Happy Pride Anniversary.

Forty-three years ago today, a bunch of fed-up drag queens, hustlers, and assorted gay misfits at the Stonewall Inn in New York turned the tables on a harassing police raid. That resistance gave rise to a series of riots and ultimately to the birth of the modern gay activist movement. It seems like a long time ago, and things have changed, but we still have a long way to go, and a lot more irrational fear, hatred, bigotry, misconceptions to fight.

There is a very nice, informative Wiki entry about the riots and the history leading up them:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Rob Me Blind" by Jay Brannan

I found this touching and quite beautiful.

Currently listening to...

..."Heart Attack" by Danish pop band The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. There is something about lead singer Mette Lindberg's infantilized voice that gets me...

She's like Madonna, Kim Carnes, and Kristin Chenoweth rolled into one.

I don't have a "summer song" yet. Maybe this should be it. Waddaya think?

BEAUTY: Clothing--Dolce and Gabbana

It's time again for Milano Moda Uomo and the shows this year were interesting but not wild, traditional but not tired re-runs. All the participating houses had strong showings so let's dive right in. Quickly, because before we know it Paris Fashion Week will be upon us!

First up is a fantastic show from Dolce and Gabbana. Once again, the pair look to their native Sicily for inspiration, but unlike the stunningly beautiful Fall Winter collection of '12-'13 which relied upon a grand operatic sensibility and lots and lots of gold embroidery (see it here), this Spring Summer '13 collection looks to the simple, small town lives of Sicilians. The majority of the models were indeed actual boys, teens, and young men from Sicilian villages! Although humble, the collection felt sumptuous in a way. The absolutely charming pieces looked like costumes from "Amarcord," Fellini's film of his childhood memories in Rimini, or from the neo-relist film "The Bicycle Thief," or from some of the Italian flashback scenes in "The Godfather" films. Awning striped shirts mixed with sea-faring pescatore stripes, and little Italian schoolboy shorts mixed with cinched trousers and young men wearing their father's only good shirt to go into town on a Saturday night, all while an authentic band of musicians played music from southern Italy. What ambiance!

BEAUTY: Clothing--Alexander McQueen

I will confess that I was a tad underwhelmed when I first saw this '13 Spring Summer collection from Sarah Burton at McQueen (my impression is that there was no runway show for this collection at Milano Moda Uomo, just the lookbook). But the more I looked at it, and after seeing it on "Zoom" at the website, I can now appreciate its exquisite quality, detailing, and luxury.

The inspiration, from the McQueen site:
"Male vanity. The peacock male and the English gentleman. A timeless study of character and style.
Death In Venice and the romance of the distinguished early Twentieth Century traveller. Fin de siècle elegance, the Aesthetic Movement and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Savile Row tailoring tradition that is at the heart of the house of Alexander McQueen."
Tim Blanks of reports that "The mood boards in the McQueen studio are such tattletales. The ones for Spring 2013's menswear, for instance, had pictures of Marc Bolan, Lucian Freud, Picasso, and William Powell, and a huge amount of space devoted to the German conductor Herbert von Karajan."

Of particular note: the beautiful Art Nouveau dragonfly that appears on jackets, shirts, pants, and even gorgeous velvet evening slippers; the photo-graphic dragonfly wings on jackets and a trench; and a shiny patchwork suit that looks like a glorious gold-leafed background in a painting by Gustav Klimt.

Do yourself a favor and visit the McQueen site to see closer views of these gorgeous jackets... although, curiously, I do not see the black evening suit embroidered with golden dragonflies.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Costume National

At Milano Moda Uomo, Costume National's Ennio Capasa listened to David Bowie's "African Night Flight" to inspire his Spring Summer '13 collection, which he dubbed "New Wave Safari." (This is the first of two Bowie-referenced collections at Milano Moda Uomo this year!) Considering that Bowie's song (from 1979's brilliant and overlooked "Lodger") is about a trip from London to Mombasa, the show indeed looked like a Saharan adventure by way of London or even Manhattan in 1982. Side-buckled pants in sandy Lawrence-of-Arabia tones gave way to sheer black.

BEAUTY: Clothnig--Burberry Prorsum

Burberry Prorsum's Christopher Bailey went a little mad (finally!) for the Spring Summer '13 collection. It was heavy on bright metallic foils (shirts, trousers, and, interestingly, sandals worn with black socks) which gave the show a playful, nearly 80s feeling. (This interest in metallic foil was expressed by Daniele Cavalli for Roberto Cavalli later in the week.) But also featured were some wonderful small-scale, busy prints which draw the eye, in some great 1950s cuts.

BEAUTY: Clothing--John Varvatos

Is it me or has John Varvatos become a more interesting designer over the last few years? His Spring Summer '13 collection at Milano Moda Uomo this year is a lovely thing that evokes many different time periods from Edwardian dandies to 30s gangsters to 40s Hollywood "movie stars." The result speaks to a kind of lost glamor. And interestingly, one of the inspiration figures for the collection was Bowie in his Thin White Duke incarnation (the second Bowie inspired collection at Milano Moda Uomo this year--we are seeing, once again, the Hundredth Monkey phenomenon playing out). In fact, Matthew Schneier of said, "So rock hasn't been banished from the house, just tidied up. What he's offering, Varvatos said, is 'an elegance that most young people don't know, because they've never dressed up that much. They've worn a suit, but they've never really been elegant.'"

The collection is pretty much just all about jackets and I love the variety: the frock coat, the asymmetrical button, the double breasted and double-button-row with a vaguely military feel, and a jacket with a very high stance.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Ferragamo

Ferragamo. Milano Moda Uomo. Spring Summer '13.


Spring clouds flowers rain fruit sorbet wind citrus summer sky.

Love the sheer sweaters.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Vivienne Westwood

For her Spring Summer '13 collection at Milano Moda Uomo, Dame Westwood--and her husband Andreas Kronthaler who works closely with her on the menswear collection--looked to familiar territory. "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" was the inspiration, both the original 1863 Manet painting and the infamous Malcolm McLaren-helmed Bow Wow Wow recreation (in which the group wore--or didn't wear in Annabella's case--pieces from Westwood's "Pirate" collection).

This rather tame Westwood collection (tame by comparison to past collections), instead of feeling "Pirate-y" or period-themed, simply felt idyllic with breezy tops and sweaters, and trousers with a little slit in the front at the hem! Perhaps it is the floral crowns but I am getting a sort of Greek-toga vibe. And thankfully, the cut of a Westwood suit remains a marvel.

And Kronthaler sweetly walked Westwood down the aisle for a bow...

On her YouTube channel, Dame Westwood says:
"Francis who designs with me and Andreas on MAN and who has to get the thing moving came to us and admitted that he was using the idea 'picnic' as a working title, an anchor to fix decisions.

I thought: why not? We can re-cycle the grass stain and wine stain prints and the insects from previous summer collections.

We remembered Manet's 'Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe' with its bohemian and artistic atmosphere and Manet's naked model, Victorine. As to why she has her clothes off is a mystery but we coloured the collection according to the blue of her discarded dress.

But England owns picnics; fun on the grass and the rain stays away and for example there is Glyndebourne where the opera- lovers take their hampers on the train to sit in their evening clothes on the lawn before the opera and at the interval."

BEAUTY: Clothing--Etro

The ever-exotic Etro showed an exotic Spring Summer '13 collection, which naturally featured the Etro paisley, and I really love the turbans (or pagri in India) and the sort of "swami" feeling they create. The gorgeous scarves, loose fitting pants, and silky, flowing tops feel like they belong in South Asia. I love how Kean Etro (the Etro son who heads the Menswear division) shifts the colors from cool to warm to black and white. What a delicious, exotic collection...