Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!


In keeping with the theme of my previous post about the holiday season, here's my all-time favorite New Year's Eve scene from a movie... the final scene from 'When Harry Met Sally'.  

Happy New Year to all, from Retro Active Critiques!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Romance & The Meg Ryan Trilogy

Everyone has their special holiday films. They're the ones you take pleasure in watching annually, ones that capture the spirit of the season for you in a particular way. When I think of a favorite holiday film –– or films that make me feel warm and fuzzy –– my mind often rests on what I think of as 'The Meg Ryan Trilogy': 'When Harry Met Sally', 'Sleepless In Seattle', 'You've Got Mail'. Incidentally, all three films were written by Nora Ephron who truly knows how to write a romantic comedy.
When I thought about The Trilogy this holiday season, and once again craved a viewing, I wondered why this season is such a romantic time for me. I think of the holidays as a time to be close to someone you love. Going for walks, seeing the beautiful Christmas lights in the streets, shopping together, staying home and being cozy together. It can also be about the melancholic feeling of being alone for the holidays and thinking about being in love. This could all be due to the years I spent in New York, where this feeling is prevalent. And the Meg Ryan Trilogy certainly picks up on those feelings.
But then I realized something about this preference. One holiday season in New York, I was single for the first time in my adult life. I reluctantly went to a small Christmas Eve party and that's where I met my now husband. It was genuinely love-at-first-sight. We were drawn to each other like magnets and we've been together ever since. December 24th is the anniversary of the day we met and it will always be a romantic day for us.
What is your favorite holiday movie? And why do you think it holds a special significance for you? Wishing the happiest and most romantic holiday to you all from Retro Active Critiques!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beyond the Silver: Eternal Bond of the Le Bons

In time for the holidays, here's a real treat.

If you're thinking bonbons, you're close, since I'm thinking about sweetness of the Le Bon nature.

I frequently post about dynamic, lifelong couples on this blog (my post with the most amount of traffic happens to be one) and Yasmin and Simon Le Bon are one of the most endearing and noteworthy. After all, here we have the quintessential rock star/supermodel pairing people typically wouldn't expect to work in a way that's eternal. But these two are so far from typical. Many other famously glamorous couples have tried. Few have out-shined or outlasted these two. (Of course there are other exceptions, like Keith Richards and Patti Hansen, who deserve their own post.) And 2011 marked Simon and Yasmin Le Bon's SILVER anniversary, believe it or not...!  

For 25 (gorgeous) years, this British couple has been going strong. Their 26th anniversary is coming up on December 27th. So here's to another happy holiday anniversary. 
Off topic, for a moment: I'm surprised no one has suggested before that beautiful Yasmin Le Bon was surely an inspiration for a young Keira Knightley growing up in the UK, (where Mrs. Le Bon and her Mr. Le Bon are as close to royalty as you can get.) What I love most about Yasmin Le Bon is her speaking style. It is so particular and arresting. Yet, somehow, her style of speech will sound remarkably familiar to you – and that's simply because (this is my belief) Keira Knightley fashioned her speaking and mannerisms after this gorgeous woman, who must have been her idol growing up. See and hear the uncanny resemblance below.
Yasmin Le Bon was also emblematic in showing the world that a great model can continue to work (and be in high-demand) well after what could have been considered her prime. 

It should be noted, definitely, that Simon Le Bon, too, deserves praise for his incredible knack at commitment. Even if he happens to be married to someone as fabulous as his wife. When asked what keeps their marriage so strong, Simon Le Bon said:  "I wake up in the morning and for ten minutes or so I just get to look at her sleeping peacefully. That's kind of all you need to know about me... I guess I'm very lucky that I picked somebody really bloody good in the first place! She's great fun, fantastic, beautiful and we laugh all the time. It's not always easy at all. But I really want to stay married for life."  

Their love is very real and that's what resonates.
Aside from his long-term ties to his marriage and family, Simon Le Bon has also proven similarly commited to his career as front-man of Duran Duran... a relationship that was depicted so well in their recent video for the song "Girl Panic". The song and video, both, are epic and classic Duran Duran. (I find it especially adorable when YLB, as "The Guitarist", says in her most haughty tone, "I'm not a member of Duran Duran.") And with that, let's celebrate the holidays with a toast to the eternal bond of the Le Bons.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Alma & Alfred Hitchcock: The Dynamic Duo

During a summer trip a couple of years ago, I began to read "Hitch: The Life & Times of Alfred Hitchcock" by John Russell Taylor. I'd found the book some time ago and was glad to finally begin reading all about old Hitch.

Inside my (used) copy, first published in 1978, I found a page torn out of a British magazine, 'Country Homes', with listings and markings from the previous owner of the paperback. So this particular copy had made the rounds in Hitchcock's native England before finding its way to me in San Francisco. That was the first bit of intrigue in reading it. I felt as if it was left there for me to try to unveil a mystery of: who had this book before me? And what did that torn page with home listings mean? But that's getting into Agatha Christie territory.
The second bit of intrigue about this book was that the man who wrote it, John Russell Taylor, a critic, actually wrote the biography with direct cooperation of Alfred Hitchcock himself... as well as Hitchcock's inner circle. Since the book was written in the 1970's, it seems odd and interesting to observe how the writer refers to his friend, Hitch, in the present tense. And that also made for some fascinating insight into a rather mysterious person. 

The third bit of intrigue that came to pass was – and is – by far my favorite. That one is about Alma Hitchcock. I knew very little about her when I started reading, apart from knowing she had a good deal of involvement in the making of her husband's films. So everything about her was already of a heightened level of interest for me. 
I discovered that Alfred Hitchcock fell in love with Alma Reville, whom he'd met at a British film studio called Balcon-Saville-Freedman, where she was a film editor. She was editing films at the age of sixteen and needless to say, that was it for me. I was in complete adoration of Alma from at that point on. As was Alfred Hitchcock, for his entire life.

I even noticed now a striking resemblance between Alma and Joan Fontaine's character, Lina, in Suspicion (one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock heroines & plot.) 
Joan Fontaine as Lina in 'Suspicion'
People have so often noted Hitchcock's fascination with those memorable cool blonds who occupied his films, but his lifelong love was reserved for his own 'Monkey Face', Alma. On that note, how remarkable is it, even, that Alma Hitchcock was such a noteworthy filmmaker in her own right, decades before women were carving the slightest presence for themselves in the work force?

Alma Hitchcock was a very special lady, indeed. She is a great example of 'the-woman-behind-the-man'. In her case, much of what we equate to Hitchcock's genius was in part because of her talents and contributions.
Alma Hitchcock, the woman behind the man
Having been rather smitten with their story, my own husband recently shared the news that a movie is now in production called 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (not a very elegant title) in which Alma will be depicted alongside Alfred. And rightfully so.

Soon the general public will finally get to know more about the Hitchcocks' fascinating work relationship and marriage.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

80's Obscure - 'Let's Go' by Wang Chung

This song-and-video combo makes me smile. Together, they're just so distinctively 80's. This also pops into my head frequently, since it's easy to think "let's go" in various capacities throughout the day. Or even "Wang Chung" for that matter. Just yesterday our cat, Jane, yelled what sounded like "Wang!" which led me to think about Wang Chung and invariably : "Let's Go". (Check out the hair and suits!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)

I recently had a chance to watch Otto Preminger's film from 1965, 'Bunny Lake Is Missing'. I'd been curious to watch it for several reasons. For one thing, I wondered why it had developed a sort of cult following at some point, despite not having been received as well upon its release. And I was intrigued by the title. Who is Bunny Lake? Why has she gone missing? Of course, that mystery is the entire premise of the story from start to finish.
Having seen it now, I can recommend 'Bunny Lake Is Missing' with only minor hesitation. First, the movement and style is compelling and captivating. You'll willingly go along for this ride despite any reason to want to resist. And resist you might, depending on your tastes, since this film is in black and white. And I only offer that as an issue because Preminger's choice to film 'Bunny Lake' in black and white in 1965 –– with color so readily available -- was a decision that may have actually hindered the popularity of his film.
While watching 'Bunny Lake Is Missing', I could not help but notice a great alignment between Carol Lynley's performance as Ann Lake -- the desperate mother of the missing little girl Bunny Lake -- and the great Hitchcock blondes. And again, I wondered how she might have been better received and remembered had she been featured in technicolor. Ann Lake, the young, single American mother in London, wearing her trench jacket over her prim sweater and skirt, hair tied back in a pretty ponytail, seemed to me like she could have easily become a great style reference or even Halloween costume, in the vein of a Rosemary Woodhouse (or, as I mentioned, any of Hitchcock's heroines.) But alas, it appears she wasn't as remarkable to recall in black and white.
Aside from Carol Lynley's potentially iconic turn as Ann Lake and Otto Preminger's deft direction, the film also includes performances by Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward, portraying a weary detective and a surly neighbor, respectively. My favorite scene in the film also has to be when Olivier as the detective and Lynley as the troubled mother sit at a pub to discuss the distressing situation over drinks while The Zombies (one of my favorite 60's bands) are playing on the TV above the bar. The Zombies are showcased well throughout these scenes here. It's so charming to think that when the film was released, they were a very new, up-and-coming hip band... and this feels significant, in an enchanting way, when viewed today. Watch a clip from this scene (albeit dubbed, in Italian) below.
The story itself is as compelling and eery as you'd expect when a missing child and a mother's sanity are in question. As I'd posted before, stories about a parent fearing a child to be in any trouble are automatically the most frantic, frightening and chilling sort. My least favorite scene in 'Bunny Lake Is Missing' comes towards the end, since it is drawn out to be too long and manic. Yet the film, as a whole, is one that had great potential to be a classic thriller, and it only missed that eventuality by a few doll hairs. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How Channeling the Likes Of MTM Hit The Runway

Here's a funny little recollection. Along with the likes of MTM inadvertently, I inspired one very unassuming Helmut Lang runway look for Fall 2003. I worked for Helmut Lang from 2002-2004, right before he left the fashion world (and his label) to work full-time as an artist. My job was easy and low-maintenance, so combined with the minimal aesthetic of the brand, the experience was monastic. This fulfilled my (strange?) childhood dream of becoming a monk...! 

I was working at Helmut Lang's pet project, a perfumerie shop (with incredibly clean fragrances that are still a favorite of mine) in Soho. The shop resembled an apothecary-type lab and it also housed an art installation. It was extremely white and pristine and people seemed generally intimated by the place. Those who dropped in the most seemed to be celebrities who loved his clothes. My job was to stay there all day and represent the brand. So there I would wait, listening to French radio (Radio Nova) or the selection of music that fit the mood of the label. Several times, I helped the PR and marketing departments that lived across the street, but in general, that was it. Overall, I really enjoyed my solitary time there.

I interacted with Helmut Lang several times - which required very few words, as he is indeed a quiet man. I remember the first time he came in when I worked there. This was towards the end of 2002, and he seemed to be intrigued by how I had worn his clothes. He took a very long look at what I was wearing. My work wardrobe at that time consisted of some fitted, dark gray sweaters - one with a v-neck and buttons and one with a round neck - beautifully cut black pants, some white button down shirts and a few other items, including great shoes. 

These items were worn in rotation, but somehow I seemed to be the only female who paired the white button down under the round neck sweater, sometimes with the shirt poking out from the bottom. It was a preppier, even girlier version of how the other people at the company wore the clothes. As it happened, I was just channeling what always personally inspired me, an assortment of looks from Francoise Hardy, "Two For The Road", "Love Story", Jane Birkin and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". These were my daily style inspirations and I wore whatever items of clothing I had in that way. 

Here are the ladies in my frame of reference at the time (and still):



But again, this was 2002. At that time, this rather conservative preppy late-60's/early-70's aesthetic was not the norm. Although with plenty of incarnations since, it does look very normal today. In 2002, the style norm was extremely different... or dare I say it, rather dodgy looking. Women were wearing low-cut jeans and belly-baring tops, and tended to be inspired by the mainstream hip-hop-dancing pop stars of the day (if you don't remember, it's an easy search.) Those were styles I never registered or considered wearing... they even failed to cross my line of sight, since I lived in a fairly tight retro bubble

In that context, it isn't surprising that one quiet, minimalistic and forward-thinking designer (and as I noticed, on several occasions, famous high fashion models staring at my version of "street wear" with some level of fascination) should pause and notice how I was wearing his own clothing differently than he'd anticipated. Soon after that first visit, one of his head designers also stopped by at the store, which never happened before or since. We smiled a lot and made chit-chat, but he didn't seem to have much reason to have dropped by. Then, some time later... ta-da! When the photos from the Helmut Lang Fall 2003 runway show were released, my coworker and I were staring at the images and both gasped at what Natalia Vodianova was given to wear on the runway. The look was me, incarnate. 

Given how I was in the designer's line of sight and it was so incredibly easy for them to just pair those pieces together, it made perfect sense. But it managed to look interesting at the time and really stood out from the rest of the show. What's most fitting is that any influence I had was so unintentional. And where else would that sort of simple (but definitive) point of view have been recognized, if not through the eyes of such a quiet and observant designer? 

That is a nice memory I was able to take away with me, along with some fabulous pieces I still wear. For fun, I recently checked Style.com for a review of that particular show. Especially amusing (and so great) is how such a very simple look was singled out in the review... which goes to show how surprising it happened to be in 2002. Little did Helmut Lang himself realize he was inadvertently inspired by the likes of Mary Tyler Moore... ;-) 

Here's the excerpt from the review posted on Style.com for Helmut Lang's Fall 2003 show: "He certainly hasn’t abandoned his minimalism-with-a-gorgeous-kick: when he sent out Natalia Vodianova wearing a men’s shirt, skinny sweater and plain short skirt... his fans all but fainted." (Fainted?!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Lovers (1982)

Chances are you haven't seen the film 'Summer Lovers'––but it's more than likely you'd enjoy aspects of it, if you did. This is a surprisingly good movie with fine elements. The best part of watching the film is you'll feel like you've taken a mini-vacation to Greece. The cinematography is unexpectedly lush, the setting is gorgeous––and the actors are as easy on the eyes as the location.
The sight of Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher, looking young and in love, looks eerily reminiscent of Hannah's real-life romance with John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the 80's. I found myself particularly partial to Daryl Hannah's sporty, preppy casual vacation wardrobe.

The story involves a ménage à trois between the couple and a lovely French woman (Valerie Quennessen) who is an archeologist staying nearby the vacationing couple. Well, it isn't exactly a ménage à trois––it's more like Peter Gallagher with two ladies. I suppose it's a male fantasy. The women are not as involved with each other as they are with him. The threesome becomes a type of family unit as they spend more and more time together.
'Summer Lovers' is a harmless movie, and in many ways it's very enjoyable. I live in San Francisco, so I enjoy watching films that provide a warm, vacation-like atmosphere. The typically cold and foggy climate here can leave much to be desired in the summer.
One dubious element that pops up is when Daryl Hannah's character's mother turns up, out of nowhere (with her best friend in tow) to 'surprise' her daughter and boyfriend during their vacation. The only purpose for that to happen within the story is to have someone outside of the three principal characters' experience show their react to it. A mild reaction, nonetheless –– so it's altogether a fairly useless plot point.
One amusing element is the ending. I did not expect to see a 'sad' montage to Chicago's 'Hard To Say I'm Sorry' suddenly rear its head; there is no prior indication that it could happen based on the music that precedes it. The couple has lost their girlfriend, who has decided to stay away because it's too difficult to say goodbye to them. But then it becomes a happy ending, as the threesome stays on –– together in Greece. Hurray! It all makes for light and pleasant entertainment from the summer of 1982. A perfect getaway.
Enjoy the trailer!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Video Surprise––You'll Never Guess Who This Girl Is, 'Captain of Her Heart' Video; 1986 (Denise Richards, Or Still A Mystery?)

These photos are screen shots of a young woman who appears in the video for the song 'Captain of Her Heart'  (by the Swiss group, Double) from 1986. A while ago, I used some footage from that video for one I made to go with Spandau Ballet's 'Gold'. And this tremendously chic punk girl appears at the very beginning.
So here's the surprise. I have a knack for recognizing faces and I still would never have guessed this one, it is so tricky and utterly shocking. Lo and behold, who was this bleached blond beauty? Supposedly, and there is not a shred of photographic evidence otherwise, this is Denise Richards. Of course, this is according to Wikipedia (on both Denise Richards' page and Double's page.) But it has never been confirmed.
(Supposedly) Denise Richards
If this is not Denise Richards, how did this rumor even begin? If this is her, she would have been 15 years old here.
(Could be) Denise Richards
(Might be) Denise Richards in Double's 'Captain Of Her Heart' video
Here is the elegant but cheesy video featuring a bevy of beauties. The lovely young woman who is supposedly Denise Richards appears at 0:30. Note the stunningly gorgeous gray-haired lady at 1:10.