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Portrait of The Artist as a Movie

The Artist is a silent black and white movie that is sweeping this year’s award season!  The French movie features Jean Dujardin as a famous silent film star named George Valentin in the late 1920s, and Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, who becomes an overnight “it” girl.  Both actors have been nominated for Oscars this year, along with Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and, of course, Costume Design!  The designer of this film, Mark Bridges, is celebrating his first Oscar nomination for The Artist, but has had an interesting and varied career that seems to have gone unnoticed by the Academy.  Some of Bridges’ prior work includes Boogie Nights, The Fighter, Blow, The Italian Job, and There Will Be Blood.  Not exactly sweeping romances that demand big ball gowns, but they are definitely films that demand particular looks and eras, which Bridges perfectly captured from oil fields to 1970s porn.  The Artist begins in the late 1920s and proceeds through the early 1930s.  Dujardin is so handsome, he looks like he could be Gene Kelly’s French brother, and Bejo is so creative and easy to watch, she makes dancing with a hanger look like there’s a person under that suit jacket (pictured, above left)!  While the roaring 20s and old Hollywood glamor are always favored time periods to celebrate, Bridges had the extra hurdle of making the costumes look apropos without having colored film to show the stunning outfits of the movie.  Bridges discussed this difficulty with CNN, “Without the color to communicate the language of telling the story, I was trying to tell the story through textures, whether it be lamé, sequins and beads for Hollywood, or very flat rough textured wools to communicate down-on-your-heels, or the elegance of satin lapels for evening wear, or the shimmer of a beautiful nightgown.  It became a story of textures telling the story.”  Bejo certainly looks adorable in delicate white gloves and loose-fitting garments of the 1920s, as an ordinary citizen, but she looks right at home as a Hollywood starlet in minks, diamonds, satins, silks, pearls and evening gowns, after finding success in Los Angeles.  Peppy Miller’s headgear definitely matches her first name, adding whimsy to Bejo’s head of curls and firmly cements the film’s era.  Dujardin’s wardrobe is just as dashing as he is, as he sports three-piece tuxedos and suits, white bow-ties, black studs and one hell of a moustache.  This editor kept wishing to see the film’s wardrobe in color, but was actually disappointed once I saw the real-life versions on mannequins, which are now currently on display at FIDM Museum & Galleries in Los Angeles (pictured, bottom).  Guess the black and white film really created charm and magic for me!  Congrats Mark!

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