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Period Movies to Survive a Quarantine. Part II

This week I'll briefly expand on more of the recommendations I've been posting on social media so you'll be able to make a more informed decision when choosing your choice entertainment for the afternoon. This time I'll cover the recommendation I made from March 31st to April 9th.

Recommendation for MARCH 31st

It is hardly a secret to those who know me that I do not care for Jane Austen’s EMMA. It’s not open dislike, just simple indifference. Well, Autumn de Wilde’s new take of the story might have changed that to adoration.

The film highlights the absurd, satiric, and comedic aspects of the story and the characters in a way that feels fresh. Not trying to make Emma likable might be its best bet and works wonders in making her seem three dimensional as a character, as well as having the ironic result of actually making me like her more.

Here, the costume design plays a vital role in creating a highly plastic and artificial world to match the story’s tone, as well as showcasing individual and contrasting personalities.

An absolute must-watch for anyone interested in Austen, Costume Design, or film in general. It’s a real shame that it couldn’t have premiered in cinemas because of this whole pandemic and end of the world situation. We owe it a deep dive review.

Recommendation for APRIL 1st

If there is a novel worth adapting to a Gothic Horror extravaganza is Bram Stoker’s DRACULA. And Coppola didn’t disappoint.

He counterbalances the simplicity (and over-familiarity) of the story with a stunning visual presentation and a fascination with recreating early century cinema effects and approach to filmmaking.

This adaptation also brings to the foreground the underlying fear of sexuality in which every vampire story is based on, yet so often ignored.

But the highlight of the movie, to me, are the amazing creations of the costume department. The iconic Eiko Ishioka doesn’t constrain herself with period-accurate late 19th-century fashion, instead pulling from a wide array of cultures to give the story and alien and out of the ordinary feel. And it works wonders.

This movie has been in our to-review list forever, and somehow we’ve still haven’t reviewed it. We certainly owe it a review.

Recommendation for APRIL 2nd

It is quite undeniable that I love it when non-western directors take on iconic western stories to adapt. Such is the case with the 1998 biopic ELIZABETH. Directed by Shekhar Kapur, the movie tells the story of the early years of the Virgin Queen, and he has no quarrels in turning history into high drama. And I absolutely live for it.

This is a highly stylized, highly dramatized take on a figure that is widely known that focuses more on the nature of myth-making that on strictly being a biopic, and that’s why it works.

The costume design follows the movie’s lead and turns 16th-century fashion and stylizes it to accentuate the larger than life nature of these characters.

As an all-time favorite for us, we definitely owe it a review.

Recommendation for APRIL 3rd

CAROL, a movie based on Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, and masterfully directed by Todd Haynes, is the perfect mix between classical filmmaking and breakthrough storytelling. Filled with an incredible sense of beauty and subtlety, the movie explores a unique forbidden love story. 

Haynes’ sensibilities really shine here and manage to hold the audience captive for two whole hours. The key to this is simplicity and elegance. This is also the key behind the costumes for the movie, which work seamlessly into the narrative and help bring these characters into life.

Here’s the review we did for our Oscar Retrospective (Oscar Retrospective: Carol).

Recommendation for APRIL 4th

Out of all of the adaptations of LITTLE WOMEN, the first one I ever saw was the 1994′s version. As a result, this is the one that feels most nostalgic to me.

Whilst I absolutely adore Greta Gerwig’s newer version, I feel like these two adaptations couldn’t be more different.

Armstrong’s film is about the whimsical feel of childhood and the excitement of growing into adulthood, whilst Gerwig’s is about the nostalgia of childhood when the reality of adulthood sets in. A subtly different approach for many, but for me, it makes the two movies feel and read incredibly different (though equally enjoyable).

In the 1994 movie, the costume design is not only gorgeous but incredibly period accurate. The warm tones of the costumes match the warm tones of the movie, making it feel like Christmas whenever you give it a watch.

We’ve been wanting to do a review for the movie for a long time, but we never got around actually doing it. Shame on us.

Recommendation for APRIL 5th

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of BARRY LYNDON is a prime example than modern cinema and period accuracy is not necessarily at odds with each other, as it is so often assumed.

Much praise has been heaped onto the movie’s cinematography (well deserved, mind you), but the incredible work done by wardrobe, hair and makeup team is often overlooked. 

Yes, it was a feat to light a scene only with candlelight, but the level of detail and accuracy poured at the costume design is just a big an accomplishment. Every single detail of the look is taken into consideration, every hat, feather, and wig primed to look exactly as it should have looked. It’s stunning.

We’ve never done a review for the film, but I was lucky enough to photograph the real costumes a few years back (here, here, here, here and here).

Recommendation for APRIL 6th

2015′s BROOKLYN is a comforting tale about immigration and finding your own way in life. Truth be told, it is also a rather nostalgic view of the 1950′s in America.

Still, when I’m sad and all I want is a gorgeous movie with stunning performances to look at, I turn to Brooklyn.

As for the costume design, well, it’s a true beauty. Simple, yet effective, the costumes manage to tell the story of these characters and be absolute eye candy. It’s perfect.

Recommendation for APRIL 7th

I know this is a slightly controversial one for the Austen Fan Community, but I’ve never really cared for the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and I genuinely believe the 2005 adaptation is superior in every regard. There, I said it.

Joe Wright’s directorial debut promised a shining career, that was for sure. This is such a tight product that I can hardly find a flaw. True, there are certain deviations from the book, but they are there to make the story work better as a film.

As for the costume design, well I am also aware that it is quite controversial for its “loose” interpretation of regency clothing. With that said, it is perfect for the movie. True, it plays loosely with accuracy, but it works wonders in building the world, the characters and the tone of the movie. So that is enough for me.

I’ve been in love with this movie since it came out and we owe it a review for certain.

Recommendation for APRIL 8th

Disaster movies are quite the popular watch right now (though I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to watch Contagion right now…), but to this day, TITANIC is the only disaster movie I actually like.

Of course, it is only half a disaster movie. 

The other 50% is an unadulterated romance novel, and I live for it.

It also doesn’t hurt the movie to have one of my favorite costume designs ever. The incredible amount of detail and texture put into the costumes help build a world that feels real, tactile and creates a seamless illusion.

Why haven’t we done a review of this one yet? Beats me, to be honest.

Recommendation for APRIL 9th

2008′s THE DUCHESS is the personification of what people think of when they think of “period drama”, for good and bad.

It’s a good story, well told, well-paced and an entertaining watch, but it certainly fails at the originality department. All the cliches of the genre are there, and it’s hard not to get the feeling you’ve seen it all before.

Why am I recommending it then? Well, the costume design is simply magnificent. Michael O'Connor put such an incredible amount of accuracy, detail, and texture to the costumes that I am absolutely unable to look at anything else on the screen.

If you enjoy a good costume design and period dramas, do give it a watch. We most definitely owe it a deep dive review.


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