Must See Vintage Films: The Long Goodbye

1970s, british boutique movement, films, Films, laura ashley, Nina van Pallandt, zandra rhodes

Quite apart from Elliott Gould being a very worthy successor to Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, and the faded-but-magnificent Art Deco buildings which feature throughout, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) is also well worth watching for Nina van Pallandt’s wardrobe.

First appearing in what looks like Laura Ashley:

Then a less identifiable dress of a similar ‘peasant’ style but rather less traditionally English in the use of pattern and colour (possibly by Mexicana, Georgia Charuhas or a similar brand):

You can see more clearly in this publicity shot that the bands of lace are transparent:

Then Laura Ashley again:

Slightly clearer albeit black and white in this publicity shot:

By this point, I started wondering if this wardrobe was perhaps that of the actress rather than of the character. Nina van Pallandt was a successful Danish singer (with husband Frederik van Pallandt, they were known as ‘Nina and Frederik’) and would have spent a great deal of time in London. It otherwise seemed a bit odd that she was wearing clearly British-made clothes, albeit in a style which wouldn’t seem too dramatically out of place in early 1970s California. It certainly sets her apart from the few other women in the film, including Marlowe’s doped up neighbours (who are rarely clothed at all), and gives her a dreamy, other-worldly quality.

Then, as if by magic, she then appears in the most spectacular Zandra Rhodes gown. A gown which will, I’m afraid to say, eventually end up soaked through with sea water and very likely ruined.

Again, a proper publicity shot provides a clearer view of the classic Zandra squiggle print:

Afterwards, still pondering this, I hunted around for film stills and eventually came across this photo of Nina wearing the exact same dress in an earlier television performance. Bingo! I don’t know if it was just a small budget or a fussy leading lady, but I can only presume the entire wardrobe of her character was her own. One of those little things which seems to satisfy a curiosity in me, and I feel the need to share with the world.

Photograph by David Redfern.

I think this might be a piece from Zandra’s earliest collection as the hood and sleeve style is very reminiscent of this piece worn by Natalie Wood in 1970. I hope it was able to be rescued from its salty fate and is still out there somewhere.

Must See Vintage Films: Games That Lovers Play

1920s, 1930s, 1970s, Films, haute naffness, joanna lumley

Games That Lovers Play (1970) is one of my favourite types of period films, where the hybrid of period detail in its setting is completely meshed and mangled with the incidental period detail of the year in which it was made. These films must be at least forty years old for me to not rant and rave about the inaccuracies, of course, otherwise I will let rip for eternity. But, much like The Boyfriend, Games That Lovers Play is an homage to the Twenties – with some very Seventies sensibilities. Except it’s even looser than The Boyfriend. And I mean loose in both senses of the word.

It is also a classic example of a film currently held in very low regard, which I maintain would be feted if it was French or Italian. It is kitsch, camp and aesthetically fascinating, even if it is rather a failure as a coherently plotted or acted film. The plot revolves around two rival Madams, who each wager that their ‘best’ girl is the best by challenging them to seduce unseduceable men.

The costumes are, naturally, my main interest. They play extremely fast and loose with the Twenties look, creating a slight difference between the more Edwardian domain of Lady Chatterley (yes, I know) and the more modern Deco feel of Fanny Hill’s residence. (Yes, Fanny Hill…) The costumes are credited as being from Bermans and the ‘Wardrobe’ to one Ray Beck. They are a glorious, glorious mishmash of Edwardian, Twenties, Thirties and definitely plenty of 1970. My particular favourite is Lady Chatterley’s Edwardian wrap dress (possibly house coat), exquisitely embroidered and trimmed with ostrich feathers. She strips it off, puts it back on and generally flounces around the grounds like something out of my wildest sartorial dream. In fact I adore this dress so much that I turned it into a gif.

But it also needs to be seen from all angles, so here are some more:

It even has a butterfly on the bum for goodness sake! I really hope this piece still exists somewhere out there. In fact, I might have to make it my life’s work to recreate it.

Fanny Hill’s wardrobe is rather more Twenties/Thirties in style and with rich colours:

Oh, did I not mention that Fanny Hill is played by Joanna Lumley? To be honest, from what I’ve read I think she’d rather it never saw the light of day but I reckon it’s one of the most interesting things she ever did. She also co-stars with her future husband, Jeremy Lloyd. Incidentally, Lady Chatterley is played by Penny Brahms, and I can’t help but wonder if she was the inspiration behind ‘Miss Brahms’ in Jeremy Lloyd’s Are You Being Served.

Lloyd plays her first seduction target: a gay drag artist, which leads Fanny Hill to pose as a man dressed as a woman – in full Georgian regalia. This party scene is also populated with genuine drag artists of the time and has an incredibly authentic feel. The credits read The “Queens” : Played by Themselves!, and I would dearly love to know who these people were because it must be incredibly ahead of its time in depicting this scene.

Lady Chatterley’s target is a Bishop, and she starts to look a little more Thirties-does-Seventies at this point.

From here on I won’t ruin the plot for you, such as it is, so will just post some more of my favourite outfits and hope that I have whetted your appetite. I appreciate that I have a very high tolerance for weird films, but I did really enjoy it.

“If I didn’t know you were a man I’d run a mile!”
It’s hard to capture but this outfit is a crop top and trouser ensemble.

Vintage Films: Central Bazaar

1970s, bfi, Central Bazaar, films

central bazaar

It’s not an original pun, but Central Bazaar by Stephen Dwoskin is really, truly bizarre. We watched it in two parts about a month ago, and even after much discussion and thinking on it, I am still unsure as to quite what I think of it. Many of the online reviews likened it to a Seventies version of Big Brother, where a group of people – locked in the director’s house – are filmed over the course of a couple of weeks. But that is to do it an injustice, and suggests that it may be some kind of cultural snapshot of the period. These people are a disconcerting mix, chosen without a structure in mind (there are no ‘types’ that I can clearly identify) and appear to spend most of the time in a druggy haze, having been instructed to act out private fantasies with their fellow housemates.

The actual soundtrack to the action is stripped away and replaced with a discordant, electronic hum. Which is both uncomfortable and completely soporific (hence the need to watch in two parts, we both drifted off to sleep about halfway through). The shots are lingering, wobbling, moving in and out of focus rather than fast-paced editing.

It really has rather more in common with an improvisation, the performers daubing themselves with make-up and pulling on random garments from [what I assume was] a provided dressing-up box, before enacting ‘scenes’ – usually sexual and psychological. There are threads of potential stories, punctuated with a few moments of relief from the electronic hum where people sing songs or read stories, but since there is no speech and no context, it is difficult to follow. But in itself, this is fascinating. It means the film is as good as your imagination and patience.

In many ways, it is a perfect example of style over substance. It looks incredible. Or at least, it looks incredible if grubby Seventies sex, interiors and dressing-up are your kind of thing. These characters all look the part of interesting, sensual, bohemian people. But whether or not they actually are is completely obscured by the techniques of the director. If you have a yen for something truly unique, but which many have deemed “unwatchable” (a word which usually makes me prick up my ears and click the ‘rent’ button on Lovefilm) then it is certainly worth a watch. Otherwise, these screengrabs capture what is best about the film – the visuals.

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Inspirational Images: Jane Birkin in Wonderwall

1960s, Dennis Stone, Inspirational Images, jane birkin, Queen magazine, Wonderwall

Photograph by Dennis Stone

Jane Birkin and Iain Quarrier in Wonderwall, the first production of Alan Clore Films, which will be released later this ear. Wonderwall is the story of Oscar, a mother-dominated scientist, who lives a lonely and solitary life until one day he throws an alarm clock at the wall in protest at the noise which is coming from the flat next door. The wall cracks and light coming though the hole turns Oscar’s room into a wonderful camera obscura. Peering through the hole, Oscar is able to watch Penny, the model girl next door, as she embraces her lover.

Images and text from Queen, January 1968

Photographs by Dennis Stone

Voici les pépées du nouveau James Bond

1960s, angela scoular, Catherine Schell, Ciné Revue, diana rigg, Films, George Lazenby, Ingrit Back, James Bond, Jenny Hanley, joanna lumley, Julie Ege, Mona Chong

Ciné Revue, 23 Janvier 1969.

I am going to roughly translate that as Phwoar!! Check out the new James Bond’s bevvy of dollybirds*, to use contemporary British terminology.

I realise that Mr Lazenby really isn’t much cop as an actor, but a) he isn’t Sean Connery (who brings me out in hives) and b) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has the glorious Ms Rigg in it, so no criticism is allowed chez Vintage-a-Peel. A great spread from Ciné Revue featuring all the key Bond girls in OHMSS (special mention for Angela Scoular), but weirdly omitting Joanna Lumley. Ah well, enjoy!

* I do realise this isn’t entirely accurate, but a literal translation seemed so boring…

Inspirational Images: Béatrice Dalle

1980s, beatrice dalle, betty blue, Inspirational Images

A happy three hours were spent snuggled up watching the director’s cut of Betty Blue the other night. Like a lot of iconic French actresses, Béatrice Dalle is dark, petite, pouty and seemingly a little bit loopy. All good.

If I thought for even a moment that I wouldn’t hate it within a week, I would get my hair cut exactly like this.

Must See Vintage Films: Ma Nuit Chez Maud

bfi, eric rohmer, films, Françoise Fabian, My night with Maud, sixties

If you’re in or around London, and you like a bit of subtitling and high-brow theology (Honestly! Who doesn’t?), then I would highly recommend heading over to the South Bank and seeing My Night With Maud by Eric Rohmer at the BFI (or around the country in selected cinemas). I do so enjoy the South Bank on a Sunday; why on earth so few people seem to have worked out that you can have a lovely time south of the river I really cannot understand. Terrific food, drink, culture and it’s so [relatively] peaceful there. Which is mainly due to the lack of discovery by north of the river snobs, so I should probably hope that they don’t.

Back to the film, and pretty fascinating it was too. Even if I did end up with a subtitle-headache. Mainly due to the heavy philosophical aspect of the film, but also because it was hard to keep up when you’re so very distracted by the beauty of the eponymous heroine (Françoise Fabian). I have never wished so much for stronger French skills. And for smoking to not be an utterly revolting habit: the French make it look so damned elegant.

It’s almost impossible to write anything approaching a coherent review after one viewing, and to people who haven’t seen it. I certainly wouldn’t wish to spoil anything since it’s certainly the kind of film you benefit from knowing little about before viewing. So I won’t [attempt to write a review]. Just recommend it, very highly.