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Period Movies to Survive a Quarantine. Part III

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 recommendations I made from April 10th to April 19th.

Recommendation for APRIL 10th

Tiny disclaimer: I die for the Baroque aesthetic, so I’m not very impartial of the assessment of this film. With that out of the way: let’s move forward with today’s recommendation.

VATEL is a story that talks about the individual and free will in a world where everyone is keenly aware of their place and the need to stay in it. It’s talking about a world divided into two groups: those who have (the King and Court), and those who don’t (the working classes).

And these two ideas are the central guidelines that dictate the visual design for this movie. That division is created mainly through the costume design, by establishing very clear looks for both groups, the movie manages to create a constant visual clash between the two. 

On top of that, VATEL is a superbly luxurious and lush representation of the France of Louis XIV and a really good introduction to the Baroque sense of fashion (and extravaganza) to the uninitiated. 

Here’s our review of the film: Vatel: Versailles and the Individual.

Recommendation for APRIL 11th

Out of the tragic heroines of Henry James’ novels, Isabel from THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY is one of the most iconic. And here, she’s masterfully played by Nicole Kidman in a film that doesn’t try to soften the darkness of the original story.

Jane Campion, fresh off THE PIANO, delivers a cruel story about a cruel world in her usual delicate sensibility, and it works wonders.

Here, the costume design is masterful in its use of color (or lack thereof) to create a false “black and white” sensation to mirror Isabel’s situation. This, paired with Patterson’s usual attention to historical detail and accuracy create a gorgeous result on the screen.

Recommendation for APRIL 12th

To say that DOWNTON ABBEY’s writer and creator, Julian Fellows, is a royalist shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. The downside of this is that most of his shows and films are way too forgiving on the royals and aristocracy. The upside then? Well, nobody writes about the British Royals as he does.

This, paired with Vallée’s directorial talent turns THE YOUNG VICTORIA into a highly entertaining and emotional watch for a sappy Sunday.

The highlights for me? Stunning visual storytelling, great acting, and marvelous costumes.

The costume design for the movie is absolutely exquisite, both in the recreation of real costumes (such as the wedding dress) and the creation of period-accurate pieces that also tell the character’s stories.

Recommendation for APRIL 13th

I could make a lot of arguments about why you should be watching this movie, but I don’t need to. Just consider this: Glenn Close is a fucking treasure. That should be enough to convince anyone.

I was never really sold on John Malkovich’s performance for the movie. I just don’t look at him and think of sex, I think of serial killer. But Close is just sublime. Her take on the character is masterful and fully fleshed out, giving her cruelty a tragic tint that is hard to come by in this kind of character.

On top of that, the costume design for the film is simply unmatchable. Highly period-accurate and highly aesthetic, they are also highly narrative.

Recommendation for APRIL 14th

This 2015 adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, MACBETH, is a movie that demands to be watched in a movie theater. It’s grand and visually glorious, nicely complemented by a sublime performance by Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth.

Here, the work of the costume design faces a rather unusual challenge. The movie never specifies when the story happens, but the setting points at a very early medieval period; the 10th century or early 11th century. So how do you dress “historical” characters in a non-specified time and place?

The designs for Macbeth take inspiration from Scandinavian cultures (you have to take into account that Viking raids and invasions were regular around that period), from Celtic cultures, from English culture (the geographical contact is a key factor to take into account) and the Roman influence on it. All these influences were literally blended together and created something new and very fresh that was reminiscent of early medieval but with an artistic twist.

I watched it back when it premiered at the Sitges Film Festival and found it so interesting I immediately wrote an article about it: Macbeth and the Scottish problem.

Recommendation for APRIL 15th

I know that I am bending the core definition of these recommendations. Yes, DOWNTON ABBEY is a tv series, but I was running out of ideas of movies to recommend. Could I have recommended Downton Abbey the Movie? Yes, I could, but I’d rather watch the show than the movie.

This sprawling family saga is everything you imagine a classic British period drama to be, paired with impeccable costume designs, it’s the perfect entertainment for a lazy afternoon or two.

The show cover from 1912 to 1925, allowing the costume design to showcase the ever-changing fashion of the changing times whilst also creating unique pieces of clothing that define each character in this enormous cast.

Recommendation for APRIL 16th

And we’re back to actually recommending a film. This time, we bring to you the latest adaptation of JANE EYRE.

Again, I know it’s not a very popular adaptation amongst Brontë fans, but I thoroughly enjoy it and I’m very much in love with Fassbender. So…

Jokes aside, it boasts of a wonderful costume design that I’ve still haven’t tired of looking at.

And that’s the best recommendation I can do today. I’m sorry if these are getting sort of sloppy, but it’s already been 27 days since we started, and I’m running out of interesting things to say.

Recommendation for APRIL 17th

Out of all the LITTLE WOMEN adaptation, this is the most theme-driven one, and that’s why it works for me.

The structural rework functions to drive the thematic thread of the story, turning the childhood shenanigans of the March girls into sun-drenched memories amidst the dull realities of adult life.

Also, Gerwig’s take on the story is the first to give the same legitimacy to the life choice of all the sisters. Usually, hailing Jo as a feminist icon means signaling Amy and Meg as either conformist or stupid, but Gerwig draws these four characters as valid and equally feminist in their choices. This allows Amy to actually be a character, rather than Jo’s antagonist, and it also allows Jo to be a fully human character (with flaws and doubts and fears) rather than a propaganda banner.

As for the costume design, I have rather mixed feelings. It’s not my favorite, but it works really well with the movie, and there are some narrative choices in it that I really like.

Recommendation for APRIL 18th

I have no words to describe how much I love this movie. That’s all I have to say about it. It’s really good, at every level, so go watch it. Or go rewatch it.

Jane Campion is such an underappreciated filmmaker, and most people don’t even know her, yet she won the Palme d’Or in 1993 for this movie. I’m just baffled.

Great script, great director, great performances…. a beautifully simple story about a woman without a voice of her own making the best out of her circumstances.

Also, the costume design is just stunning in its simplicity.

Recommendation for APRIL 19th

Adapting an Ian McEwan novel is no easy task. He tends to write emotion-driven stories that do not lend themselves kindly to film adaptation. And ATONEMENT is no exception. Still, Joe Wright brought forward his A-Game and delivered a tightly crafted film without barely changing the source material. To this day, I’m in awe.

This story of love, envy, and the pain it causes is simple, subtle and extremely effective.

This, paired with an amazing costume design make for my kind of Sunday evening.


Let me know your thoughts!


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