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Period Movies to Survive a Quarantine. Part IV

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 20th to April 29th.

Recommendation for APRIL 20th

2016′s Spy-thriller ALLIED is a rather mediocre movie. It’s entertaining but hardly original. Still, there are two saving graces in this movie: the first one is the always splendid performance of Marion Cotillard, who continues to prove that she is one of the best actresses of her generation, and the second one is the stunning costume design.

And by stunning, I mean STUNNING. 

The main idea behind the design was to recreate the look and feel of the Golden Age of Hollywood. To bring back to life the world of glamour that Dietrich and Bergman inhabited in the 30s and 40s. And it needed to feel natural to the story and the characters whilst also managing to visually represent each character’s personality and each character’s arc. Certainly not an easy act to balance, but Johnston certainly made the most out of it.

If you are interested, here’s an article we did about the designs: Oscars Retrospective 2017: Allied.

Recommendation for APRIL 21st

Florence Pugh, back then practically unknown to moviegoers, hand in hand with director William Oldroyd delivered a powerful adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: a bold and uncompromising movie that brought forth a riveting, magnetic and incredibly tense tale about power, oppression and the creation of monsters.

Whilst the subtle directing choices, the nuanced acting, and the sublime photography are real standouts for this movie, the beauty, and subtlety of the costumes created by Holly Waddington haunt us to this day. 

Here, the Costume Design manages to find the delicate balance between respecting period-appropriate costuming and character-based design.

Recommendation for APRIL 22nd

Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR was a game-changer in so many ways. It brought back the historical epic in a big way and it, unfortunately, caused a string of cheap knock offs that would plague the first decade of the new century.

Still, it was worth it. A memorable movie if ever was one, I still watch it every chance I get. The scale, the score, the script, and the themes… it just works so well.

As for the costume design, the level of detail poured into the design brings this world to life. Usually, “roman” tends to translate in overly simple white tunics, but Yates did a lot of research and completely avoided this common fault. And it pays off big time.

Recommendation for APRIL 23rd

It's April 23rd, World Book Day, and Shakespeare’s Day, and in honor of that, I recommend Kenneth Branagh spectacular epic adaptation of the Bard’s HAMLET. 

This is the only adaptation of the full text of the play and it spared no extravagance. A star-studded cast is able to infuse gravitas and passion in every line of this four hour mammoth of an adaptation.

The film also moves the story forward in time, to be set in the 19th century, and the change makes for spectacular visuals.

As for the costume design, it makes the most out of the romantic aesthetic. It is grand, over the top and highly dramatic.

Recommendation for APRIL 24th

Before any of you rants about it: I’m well aware of exactly how historically inaccurate this film is. I know, and I hate it, but I also love ti. I just can’t help it.

The only aspect of the film that hasn’t aged quite as well for me is the tints of homophobia it has through the portrayal of Edward the Second. Yes, it is historically known that he was homosexual, or had, at least, relationships with men. It is also historically known that he was a terrible king. Still, the movie didn’t need to turn him into a buffoon. Please, fast forward his scenes.

As for costume design, I’m also aware that the kilt as portrayed in the film emerged in the 18th century. I’m aware that the Scotts would have been dressed for battle in a fairly similar way as the English. But I am also aware that this film is one of the few with the balls to have a female character who is supposed to be a love interest wear a full wimple. And I really like it.

Recommendation for APRIL 25th

I’ve always been in love with this film. The sheer love and fascination it transpires are just so fascinating.

The movie is a simple story, magnificently told. It has the epic sweep and clarity of a classic Western, but it abandons the contrivances of ordinary plotting to look at the way strangers get to know one another. 

Simple, yes, but not an easy feat to pull off, as later AVATAR and THE LAST SAMURAI would prove.

As for the costume design, it’s, just as the rest of the film, gorgeously simple.

Recommendation for APRIL 26th

I’m literally the worst. This is, once again, not a movie. Marvel’s “Agent Carter” is probably the only Marvel TV show I actually like (please, don’t shot me, where would I be if I was not giving you reasons to hate me).

It’s quirky, cheesy and just the perfect dose of fun for a Sunday afternoon.

Also, Hayley Atwell is simply the Best.

And the costume design is simply superb. The design for the show, right off the bat, poses a couple of major problems: it needs to resemble the look of the American 40s while adapting to the needs of the story (the inclusion of aliens, superheroes and all the sci-fi elements) and it needs to find a way to dress a woman in believable 40’s clothing and still seem believable that she would be able to kick, run and perform all sorts of stunts. But it succeeded in managing to overcome those problems and create a very iconic and memorable wardrobe for the show: it’s era-appropriate, it’s clever and it speaks to the character and the world she inhabits.

We like it so much that we actually needed three full articles to cover it all: Agent Carter: 1940’s superhero espionage. Part I, Part II, Part III.

Recommendation for APRIL 27th

I know most people shy away from this movie. It has a bad reputation. But I think it’s quite an undeserved one. True, Orlando Bloom is not the best actor around (even if it pains my teen self to accept) and the movie would have definitely benefited from casting a better actor. It would also have benefited from leaving less plot behind on the cutting room floor. Comparing the theatrical cut with the director’s cut it’s easy to see that the producers cut the story to its bare bones so it wouldn’t reach the 2 hours 30-minute mark but also kept all the action sequences. This comes at the cost of plot logic and character nuance, and it hurts the final product.

So, my personal recommendation: watch the Director’s Cut. The plot makes sense and Eva Green gets a full subplot for herself. It’s amazing and really entertaining.

As for the costume design, it’s pretty much on point both historical and character-based.

Recommendation for APRIL 28th

2003′s GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING is a quiet movie, its ripples of emotional turbulence far beneath the surface. It is about things not said and opportunities not taken.

There are many ways the film could have gone wrong. The novel it’s based on has all the elements to turn this adaptation into a romantic melodrama. The movie, instead, tells the story simply and subtly. Vermeer paintings are contemplative, reflective, subdued, and so is the film.

The costume design follows a similar approach. It takes a lot of inspiration (in color and texture) from Flemish painting, and it is constructed to help the set design and the photography in recreating Vermeer’s aesthetic.

Recommendation for APRIL 29th

Martin Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK is a violent, blood-soaked story that aims to tear down America’s foundational myths. Scorsese postulates that America wasn’t built on dreams: it was built on blood, violence, prejudice, and an unjust system.

Maybe that’s why it got such a tepid response back then. Unfortunately, because it’s a great film by a great director with great performances. So go watch it!

As for the costume design, let’s remind ourselves that Sandy Powell is a legend for a reason.


Let me know your thoughts!


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