Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

Maggie McNarmara, Dorothy McGuire, and Jean Peters star in this Academy Award nominated film about three American secretaries working abroad in Rome, Italy.

Charade (1963)

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant star in this delightful romantic comedy involving spies and missing money. Set in Paris. Walter Matthau also makes an appearance as a CIA agent.

The Best of Everything (1959)

Original tagline: "These are the girls who want the best of everything...but often settle for a lot less!" Mid-century drama following the lives of three young career women living in New York City.

High Society (1956)

Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra star in this delightful musical comedy remake of the beloved classic The Philadelphia Story (1940).

Far From Heaven (2002)

Set against a spectacular autumn palette, Juilanne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert star in this compelling drama which grapples with issues of race and homosexuality in conservative 1950s Connecticut.

Death In Venice (1971)

An aging German music composer sojourns to Venice in hopes of improving his health and finds himself enraptured by the beauty of a young adolescent boy. A visually mesmerizing film.

Cracks (2009)

Based on the novel of the same name, Eva Green stars as a young, charismatic teacher at an all-girls English boarding school.

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Based on the true story of the Windmill Theatre in London, Judi Dench stars as a wealthy, eccentric widow who purchases a theatre and turns it into a somewhat Moulin Rouge-esque venue that featured nude performers.

Desk Set (1957)

The introduction of computer technology renders the reference jobs of three women potentially useless. Stars Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Sylvia (2003)

A biopic of writer Sylvia Plath set in the 1950s starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.

Howard's End (1992)

Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter star in this E.M. Forster classic set in turn-of-the-century England.

June 28, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

I'm sorry for my absence. My mother and brother both had birthdays this week and things were a bit hectic around the house (not just with the festivities but also with an ankle injury - talk about ouch). And somehow we still managed to squeeze in the Newport Flower Show this weekend on top of all the chaos.

So I just want to quickly talk about a couple of items that caught my eye while watching Stranger Than Fiction a few days ago, which btw I have to admit, I actually found quite enjoyable. I had just watched Last Chance Harvey and loved it so much that I decided to give this one a shot since I wanted to see more of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. (Actually the two filmed Stranger Than Fiction first, realized they liked working with each other, and decided to bring their chemistry back on screen for Last Chance Harvey). But Stranger Than Fiction doesn't actually focus on Thompson or Hoffman at all and instead really stars a surprisingly tolerable Will Ferrell, who I generally can't stand...

Basically Harold (Ferrell) is this borderline obsessive compulsive guy whose dull, routine life gets interrupted by the sudden appearance of female voice in his head that seems to narrate his every move as if he was a character in a book. Turns out he is. And his character is about to meet his end unless he can track down the writer (Thompson) and convince her to change the ending. Yes, it's weird and a little bit Charlie Kaufman-esque but it manages to stay tenuously within the boundaries of acceptable eccentricity without veering too far into the land of cliché-ridden cheesiness.

Plus, I really love this Moroccan-inspired chandelier:

a closer look:

And this lamp on the right:

And this one made out of a large chunk of a tree branch is also nice. Very earthy and organic.

And a random shot of men going to work with their briefcases. Because I like briefcases. I just bought myself one. And I always tend to buy the men's styles over the women's so I always end up paying more attention to the former instead.

Update: I found the briefcase that Will Ferrell's character is carrying (far left) or well, at least one that looks very similar. It's made by Pratesi and you can get it at Forzieri.

June 23, 2009

Bright Young Things (2003)

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. This is what happens when you're stuck in a small town and the recent storms have knocked out your local internet service. But I think things are somewhat back to normal now so I can return to bombarding you with beautiful images of beautiful people from beautiful films. Hurrah!
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Bright Young Things is Stephen Fry's screen adaptation (and I stress "adaptation" since the endings are very different) from Evelyn Waugh's 1930 novel Vile Bodies. It takes place during 1930s London and revolves around the decadent, cocaine-fueled lives of the young social elite. It's party party party fun fun fun all the time.



The film is visually breathtaking and these elaborate costume balls really do look like they'd be loads of fun to attend!




Stephen Fry stayed true to the disjointed style of the Evelyn Waugh's novel by making the film just as structurally fragmented, which, if you haven't read the book, might prove to be a formidable task to follow. But there is a story in there somewhere and it centers mainly around a young aspiring writer Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore, whom I've been smitten with since The History Boys) and his attempts to secure enough money to marry his longtime girlfriend Nina (Emily Mortimer). It's kind of a romantic comedy but then again, it's really not. In the meantime, there's a lot of partying, cocaine snorting, and fun outings to the racetracks with their absolutely hilarious and totally scene stealing group of friends, namely Miles (Michael Sheen) and Agatha (Fenella Woolgar).

below: Stephen Campbell Moore as Adam. Loving - the yellow check scarf and the green tie combo.

below: Emily Mortimer as Adam's girlfriend Nina. Loving - her jade-like green drop earrings.

below: the happy couple at the racetracks. Loving - his loud yellow sweater vest and her classic brown checked blazer with the pin on the lapel.


below: Loving - the fur coat and the burgundy wrist-length gloves.

below: my two favorite supporting characters, Miles and Agatha. Loving - her tendency to wear masculine clothes, her yellow tie and tweed pant suit and his matching yellow vest and luxurious camel colored wool coat. Seriously, that coat looked amazing on screen. These images don't do it justice.

Yes, Agatha wears suits a lot. Here she is in a tux.

Loving - the beret, dark sunglasses, and black & white checked blazer over the heavy cream cable knit sweater.

Loving - Agatha's cool, chic ensemble. The leather jacket, shirt, and tie may appear masculine at first but the pink scarf and the black+white striped gloves give it that feminine touch.

below: Miles' lover/race car driver. Loving - the pairing of dark gray tweeds with the hunter green cap.

Here are a few other notable characters who pop in and out of the fragmented storyline. A delicious James McAvoy makes a short-lived appearance as the young Lord Balcairn, gossip columnist for a local newspaper.

David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) has plays a part as well. Loving - his ivory pipe!

below: I forgot who she is but she throws a big party in the movie. Loving - her necklace with the large red beads.

below: one-armed driver. I posted this image because I liked how his empty sleeve is pinned against his chest, which is a much better alternative than letting it hang loose.

Oh yeah, Stockard Channing also has a small role as the director for a traveling girls' choir. Doesn't she look fabulous in the salmon colored dress suit with that opulent white fur trim?!



Now we move onto some of the interior sets:

Nina's eccentric father - Colonel Blount - is played by the legendary Peter O'Toole. His on-screen time is not very long but what a memorable character he created! Below is the exterior to his mammoth country manor.

Loving his little red hat and the gray robe stuffed with the front pocket stuffed with tissues. How delightful and eccentric. And lest you thought he wasn't properly dressed, notice his shirt and tie underneath! Also - loving the collection of curiosities cluttering the interior of his house. Notice the giant horn.

The Colonel tells young Adam to hang his coat on that dragon statue to the left.

below: Notice the Tiger's head almost completely buried under that clutter of books.

Another shot of the mess cluttered on the long table in his study.

Novacheck blanket casually thrown on the back of a broken chair.

Another interesting interior set is Nina's glamourous apartment. It's done up in mostly soft creams and lavenders.

Notice the large shimmery wall piece by the front entry. It looks like small mosaic tiles strung/glued together. Love.

Loving - the silver telephone and her silk embroidered robe.

Here's another shot of the robe, with a slightly better view of the embroidery details.

And this is kind of random but below is a shot of the a grand hall in preparations for a big party. I wanted to show the massive floral hanging fixtures because I think they're amazing.

Overall Bright Young Things was an enjoyable film but it wasn't without flaws. I think some of the actors were miscast. I understand that it's tremendously difficult to convey the depth of Waugh's writing into something visibly tangible but I just feel like the witty, detached, reckless nonchalance of the characters were all too apparently forced. (This doesn't apply to Woolgar and Sheen, who were both perfect). It's not particularly a long movie (ringing in about 1.5hrs) but for some reason it felt a bit long, especially toward the end when the characters' lives begin to fall apart. And speaking of falling apart, a lot of events weren't made clear unless you've read the book or you're knowledgeable about the laws of the period. And then, of course, there's fragmented structure of the whole thing, which can get a bit disorienting. But visually - what a feast!! And that's the main reason why I decided to post about it to begin with.

June 17, 2009

Summertime (1955)

While I love my parents' humble little abode in our sleepy seaside town where an entire day can be spent just playing with the dog and reading a book, this time last year and three summers before that, I was in Venice. So in honor of my previous sojourns to that glorious city on water, I'm going to write about one of my favorite movies (and not just movies set in Venice) - Summertime starring the legendary Katherine Hepburn.


I have an addiction to films about people (okay, mostly women) who undergo personal transformations due to a particular experience. In this movie, Katherine Hepburn plays an ordinary middle-class middle-aged woman from middle-America who cashes in her savings for a dream trip to Venice. As a lonely, repressed spinster, she has constructed in her head an unrealistic, fantasized vision of Venice and hopes that her vacation will result in some sort exciting adventure (and possible romantic tryst), the kind she has only ever encountered in books.

Props/wardrobe play a significant role in this particular film because they are used extensively, although sometimes subtly, to highlight Hepburn's character's gradual self-awakening. We start off with her character wearing generally drab and colorless ensembles. Notice that the heavily layered outfit in which she arrives is entirely inappropriate for the intense heat of summer. Notice how she likes to wear gloves and how her collars are buttoned up high, both to show how uptight and distant to contact she has been all her life.

Regardless of its symbolism, I still love this brown outfit. Just wear it when it's cold instead and it'll look perfect.

Loving the way the scarf is folded and held by the scarf ring.

Notice how the belt is wavy!

Ill-fitting and colorless dress, which is in line with her loneliness after being in Venice for a few days and still not having made any real friends.

Here she is in the large cafe area in San Marco square, where she notices and is noticed by a handsome Italian man played by the scrumptious Rossano Brazzi. This unnerves her greatly (being the naive, repressed spinster from middle America that she is) and she pretends to film the activity of the square instead of paying attention to him. Notice how one of her gloves is now off, to signify that this is the turning point where she starts to shed her old self. And I love her pearl bracelet!

Why, hello there, pretty lady...

She continues to explore Venice on her own, sometimes accompanied by a little street urchin.



She notices a gorgeous red goblet in an antique shop. Do you recognize yourself in those eyes? I know I have the same expression whenever I stumble across a fabulous find.

She enters the antique shop. It turns out that Brazzi's character is the owner. They talk about the goblet and he asks her out. She gets totally flustered like a young schoolgirl.

After she meets and befriends Brazzi, she begins to take more care in her appearance. And their relationship turns romantic.

Here she is out on a date with him. I never much cared for dotted print but I love this dress. I like the sheen to the fabric.

Now, notice the use of red in this film and what it represents - the red goblet, the red shoes she buys, the red/salmon colored dress she wears below, the small stripe of red in her white scarf with the black evening gown in the next image, and the red in the lapels of her coat, etc. Notice how this introduction of color contrasts with the the dull, colorless ensembles she wears before she meets her hot Italian lover. They all represent her awakening to sensual pleasures that she has never known before.




The red shoe, carefully placed in front of the door to the bedroom, signifies that the couple are now in the back, consummating their love. I love the use of shoes to show that sex is taking place...I just think shoes are so erotic and I, for one, don't particular enjoy having everything shown to me in graphic detail.

Overall, this is a wonderful film and Katherine Hepburn's acting was flawless. Even though I'm not middled aged yet, I can still relate deeply to her character and all the emotions that she goes through. See this if you can. It's totally worth it.

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Oh, I almost forgot! I wanted to show you a couple of images of the other two minor female characters in the movie because I loved their outfits. Below, to the right is a woman whose is also staying at the pensione that Hepburn's character is staying at. She is fun and uninhibited and her personality shines through her choice of clothing.

Loving: her low-cut faux-wrap around white blouse, the billowing striped skirt, and the dangling rhinestone earrings.

And below is an image of the owner of the pensione. Here she is saying, "In Italy, age is an asset" and sitting the way she does and looking the way she does, I am completely convinced she's right!

Loving: the confidence, the chic black dress, the red lipstick, and the simple but stand-out gold pendant necklace.

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