Friday, September 27, 2013

The Spirit of Madge Gill

"Zig Zag Hat"
 My husband is a passionate learner. He has a million questions and curiosities about nearly everything and spends a great deal of time trying to quench his thirst for information and knowledge. These queries lead him everywhere from politics to philosophy, food to history and, most often, to art and artists. One of his most recent adventures led him to Madge Gill.

Madge Gill was an outsider artist who died in 1961. Like so many artists, she only had a couple of exhibitions and was regarded as nutty and absolutely weird during her lifetime. My husband just about keeled over when he discovered her work because he thinks I might be her reincarnation. I think I might be, too.

I’d like to tell you something I’ve hardly told anyone else before:

I love to draw.

Love, love, love to draw.

My drawings are primal, unsophisticated and full of strange monsters and peculiarly-shaped women. I like using inky black pens, permanent markers and maybe a few colored markers to make them. Drawing has been a great source of comfort and expression for me since I was a child, but it’s something I’ve often been ashamed of, too. Ever since the boy I liked mocked my Halloween drawing in front of the whole 3rd grade art class, eventually mangling my beloved Halloween bats to make it look like they were peeing on the jack-o-lanterns. What an asshole, right? At the time, I was also embarrassed that my dogs, cats and cannibal monster creations lacked the soft and feminine style of the other girls in class. I was incapable of drawing a daisy without giving it fangs or at least a sinister air.

Now I embrace my drawing, no matter who likes it or not.

"After the War"
 I never expected to find another person with a drawing style similar to mine. My sketches are primitive, weird and come from a place in my psyche that is unknown even to me. Drawing is the purest form of creative expression I’ve ever experienced. While I labor and sweat over my words while writing or making things out of paper, drawing takes absolutely no deliberation or planning at all. I simply start and continue until I’m finished with no hindrance of neurosis or anxiety in my execution. It’s a wonderful feeling – almost like I’m holding my head to the side so that drips and drops of my spirit pour out of my ears and onto the paper.

Madge Gill and I seem to be cut from the same bizarre piece of cloth. We draw the same types of things in extremely similar ways with similar implements. There are some differences, of course, but I think it’s safe to say our souls come from the same place in the cosmos. When I saw her drawings for the first time, I felt almost like an orphan who had finally found her birth mother. I instantly knew that we were connected on an other-worldly level and it brought me a level of comfort and reassurance I didn’t even know I needed.

"Abstract III"
 During her lifetime, Gill was a devoutly spiritual woman with a sincere interest in the supernatural. She held séances at her home, wrote horoscopes and became possessed by a being called “Myrninerest” (my inner rest) at the age of thirty-eight. She created hundreds of sketches, frequently going into drawing frenzies and trance-states to make them, and signed nearly all of her work with the Myrninerest signature. She had three sons, two of which predeceased her, and also had a still-born daughter who was born disfigured on one half of her body. I’ve read that many critics think Madge’s Myrninerest spirit was obsessed with her daughter, drawing what the spirit thought she might have looked like had she lived over and over again.

I really like the idea of trying to communicate with the dead through art. I think it might be the best way to connect with ethereal beings.

I now consider Madge Gill to be my phantom mother. I might try and say hello through a sketch soon.

To be honest, my summer wasn’t as creative as I wanted it to be. My brain felt mostly lethargic and longed for some good old fashioned inspiration. As much as I enjoy the temperatures of spring and summer, autumn has always been my favorite season. There’s something truly beautiful about autumn’s decay. It’s the beginning of life after death. I’ve always been haunted by the energies and vibes of the environment around me. I don’t believe in heaven or hell and am not religious by any means, but I believe in spirits and ghosts. I walk around and feel the different types of life bits and memories of the people who used to live in houses and become overwhelmed sometimes. These feelings have only intensified after moving to Brno because so many of the houses and buildings are incredibly old and full of history. I feel like every place we live always keeps a part of us in its heart, almost like a personal tapestry or a family tree. I can look around my flat and almost see the people who lived here before, feel the happiness they left behind before they moved onto the next adventure.

It’s true that spring brings new life full of babies, flowers and sunshine-y days, but I’ve never been inspired by that time of the year because of just that reason. Everything is new. I love autumn because we can see death occurring all around us, actually giving birth to the next stage of our existence. Lately I’ve been entertaining the idea that when we die (people, animals, what have you) our spirits find their way to the roots of trees and become housed inside the wood. Perhaps sharing the round rings, the age of the tree, with the souls. Eventually the souls work their way up to the branches of the tree, finally extending and becoming brand new leaves, living a whole life again in the span of a few seasons and dying once the weather turns cold and withering to a final crispy red, yellow and brown beauty. When the leafy spirits fall, they are given a chance to explore the world again, drifting with the wind as far as it will take them until they start to become part of the ground once more. Maybe this is the stage where the bits and pieces of leafy spirits find their way to the decaying or decayed bodies of those who have passed and reincarnation happens again, just in a different, more mobile form.

That’s what I’ve been thinking of lately, anyway.      

"Haunted Face"
 Madge Gill and this autumn season are going to help me make these next few months incredibly creative. I can just feel it in my bones.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a thought by Nathaniel Hawthorne from the intro of his book, The House of the Seven Gables:

“I sha’nt have the story ready by November,” he explained to his publisher on the 1stof October, “for I am never good at anything in the literary way till after the first autumnal frost, which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination that it does on the foliage here about me-multiplying it and brightening its hues.” 

Darn tootin’, Mr. Hawthorne.

*I don't have a scanner, but I'll try to upload some of my drawings soon. All images and Madge Gill biographical info are from her official website - MadgeGill.com




Monday, August 12, 2013

Blonde Dreams

WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932, George Cukor)
 
HIM AND HIS SISTER (1931, Martin Fric/Carl Lamac)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flag-Waving


 
I’ve lived in the Czech Republic for nearly a year and my life has honestly never been better. I love my job, my city and the people I interact with every day, both online and in life. I love the sensations of my daily routine. When I walk to school in the morning, the air smells like an intoxicating blend of firewood being burned in an old woodstove, probably being poked at and cared for by an old Czech lady in her little black loafers and pantyhose, and summer flowers, the kind that smell sweet and fresh at the same time. The air is warm right now and the breeze is drifting in through the windows. I can hear teenagers laughing in the park at the foot of the castle. I often hear them late at night. During the day, I hear the Brno philharmonic orchestra and the singers at the opera house rehearsing. They’re right across the street from one another. Down the street I hear sneakers squeaking on a gym floor because a group of dudes play basketball inside an old church nearly every day. They tape the games for Czech television. I hear the ding ding of the trolley as it scoots by my flat a few times an hour. There are many sounds I’ve come to enjoy on my walk to and from work.
My favorite thing, though, are the Czech acquaintances I’ve made since I’ve been here. I know it’s very American of me, but I greet the waitresses, baristas and shop assistants I see almost daily like they’re old friends. It begins with a wave to the baristas at Café Mezzanine early in the morning when I walk Libby and often ends with hugs and big smiles at one of the restaurants I frequent. All of the waitresses know what I like to eat and usually place the order without me even having to ask for it. My favorite person is a gay Middle Eastern waiter who likes to sing with me and hold Libby while he’s working.
For many of these people, I’m the first American they’ve ever really talked to for more than ten minutes. I’ve come to realize both through teaching Czech students and interacting with Czech people in social settings how curious and entranced they are by American culture and living. I’m frequently asked “What’s America really like?” “Do people smile all the time there or is that a myth?” Things like that. They think I’m crazy for moving to the Czech Republic. And as odd as it may be considering my reasons for leaving, I feel an unusual obligation to speak well of America and to positively represent my homeland through my actions. I wouldn’t want my students or acquaintances to think all Americans are assholes just because I happen to accidentally be rude to someone when ordering a coffee or teaching the present continuous tense. I might not have been very happy there and might disagree with many of the country’s decisions about certain things, but I’m still very lucky to have been born in the same country that jazz music, baseball and the Freed unit came from.
“Are you waving the flag at me?” I guess I am.
 
"No chopped chicken livers! No garlic pickles!"
 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Evolution of a Star: Joan Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters (1928)


Our Dancing Daughters is the movie that made Joan Crawford a movie star. She plays a flapper named Diana Medford, a gal who likes to dance, have fun and marry for love. Though it has a reputation for being full of jazz-age shenanigans, the film is actually a fairly serious examination of femininity and that old narrative chestnut of what it means to be a "good" woman. There are three main female characters: Crawford's Diana, who remains virginal and pure despite being society's brightest young thing, Dorothy Sebastien's Beatrice who is generally a good girl except for that one time she went a little too far with a fella in the Hampton's and Anita Page's wicked, manipulative Ann who pretends to be innocent in order to snatch and marry Crawford's millionaire beau, Ben Blaine. It's also an early take on the "three girls" formula that the '50s capitalized on with movies like The Best of Everything (with Crawford) and Three Coins in the Fountain.

Buuuuttt, I'm more interested in the movie because of what it means to Joan Crawford's career and character history. I honestly can't imagine a better movie for her to cut her teeth on and it's amazing to see what signature ticks and gestures she had already developed by this time. Here are a few I noticed:

Joyous Joan. When she forgot about her troubles and loosened the reigns on her control issues, she could dazzle and dance as luminously as a bubbly starlet. It's not an expression she wore often, but it was lovely when she did. Think of her running on the beach with Zachary Scott in Mildred Pierce, feeling sexy and free.

Betrayed Joan. You don't mess with Joan when she looks like this. It means that in less than two shakes of a lamb's tail you'll see...

Furious Joan. I've written about Crawford's anger a few times in the past, but, honestly, no other actress was capable of conveying that amount of sheer, profound fury. It's worse than the look my mom gave me when I jumped in the aquarium fish tank in my new shoes. Yeesh.    

Sad Joan. After the fury died and the love probably faded, Crawford used those puppy dog eyes and that thin mouth to cry tragic tears and quiver with sorrow.  


The kicker? This is the end of Our Dancing Daughters and I couldn't have chosen a better way for Crawford's characters/narratives to transition into the women's pictures we all know and love today. If nothing else, a Crawford dame always worked hard for her precious furs, jewels and the right to be furious.




Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hell on Earth

Why???

Wait in a queue when you can make an appointment over the phone!!!

- Your Friendly Bureau :-)
Attention: We warn you that according to valid legislation, it is forbidden to provide, offer or promise officials gratuities or other benefits including any GIFTS (confectionery, flowers, etc.)

Any such actions will always be considered as behavior constituting the crime of bribery under the provision of section 332 of Act No. 40/2009.
In order to deal with the overwhelming stress of the situation and monotony of waiting for three hours in a tiny room, I wrote a diary entry about my experience at the foreign police this past Tuesday morning. The words quoted above are from signs hanging all over the place.  

I am currently sitting in the waiting room of the foreign police. There are ten people ahead of me in line. I am in the "good" section of the foreign police because I am American. I pity the Russian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese citizens who have to wait upstairs. This room is small and smells very musty. It rained earlier today and it's fairly humid, which doesn't add anything pleasant to a room where twelve people are sharing the same air. The woman next to me smells like old, stale cigarettes. She's young, but smells like an old woman. I think she's Canadian because the friend she is with has a Canadian passport. She's reading an easy reader of Wuthering Heights. There's a young man sitting across from me with a terrible haircut. He keeps sneezing and coughing in my direction. He has a smaller chin than William Powell.

I think I'll bathe in a tub of hand sanitizer tonight.

All of the chairs in the waiting room are blue. They're hard plastic and keep sticking to my arms in the same way the vinyl seats in my mom's old station wagon used to on a hot day. It's interesting to see where everyone keeps their oh-so-important visa documents. Mine are in a black faux leather case with a picture of Katharine Hepburn glued to the back flap. It used to be what I kept my film writing/project stuff in. Now it's busting with quite possibly a hundred government papers - business license papers, residency papers, social security papers, insurance papers, the list goes on and on. The black case is in my black and white polk-a-dot Betsey Johnson bag that's falling apart. I would love to buy a new bag. At least I'm not using a a plastic bag like half the people here are.

The fella with the terrible haircut and no chin is storing his documents in a nice computer bag. Looking at him reminds me of what Hannibal Lecter says to Clarice Starling during their first meeting in Silence of the Lambs:

"You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste."

This guy doesn't make much sense. I wonder what his story is. The gal next to me is writing something in Spanish in her notebook. A Canadian-Spaniard? What the hell. Yo la tengo al melo...
Chinoy... That's all I can see.

Oh! The line moved. I have to teach at 2:00 and need to be back to the school by 1:30 to make copies. There are are only three people working in the foreign police office today. All dudes. Only two are working right now because one is on his lunch break. When I was here last time, a nice blonde lady helped me. She was perhaps the nicest person to help me so far in all of my dealings with Czech government offices. She was dressed all in purple, even her eyeshadow was purple. I trust blondes dressed in purple. I hope these fellas are just as nice.

They're sitting in cubicles that remind me of my dad's first prison in Sheridan, Oregon. For the first year of his incarceration, he was in a medium security facility and I could only talk to him through a glass wall on the phone when I visited him. I hated being there. I remember when they wouldn't let me see him because my Grandma took me instead of my mother. How I cried.

An old woman with a brown tortoise shell cane just came in. She's wearing a purple shirt with flowers on it. I'll bet she's nice. I think she's Czech. I wonder why she's here. It's cute how older Czech ladies still wear pantyhose underneath their slacks. She has little black loafers on. I'm wearing boots. Everyone else is in sneakers. God, I hate sneakers.

Someone opened the front door of the building and I got a whiff of fresh air from the outside world. It feels so nice. Down to eight people, no wait, seven! Holy Toledo.

 -----------------

I had to move and it wasn't convenient to write anymore. I waited approximately one more hour and talked to a dude for ten-fifteen minutes, gave him some papers and hit the road.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Itch to Scratch


I feel young.

That's something I never thought I'd say or think.

A few weeks ago, I woke up and just felt like dancing. Dancing for no reason at all. I am a terrible dancer and can't move my hips without moving my entire upper body, but my entire being ached to move until I was out of breath. So I danced. It was one of the most wonderful sensations I've ever experienced. My body has practically begged me to keep on dancing, to move and groove in ways I never have before that morning.

It feels like my body is coming out of a coma.

My mind was the first part of me to wake up after moving overseas and it's slowly yawning and stretching to an upright position. But I've always been able to remember what an active mind feels like. That was part of the terror of my depression - knowing and yearning for the fog to clear so I could think clearly again.

My body, however, has never felt this way, not even when I was really young. I guess that's because I've never felt all that connected to my physical self. I have very long limbs, especially my legs, and am naturally just a stiff person. To describe my physicality as doll-like wouldn't be much of a stretch. There's a reason I played Barbie in the talent show at school. I am honestly never completely comfortable and fidget almost constantly because I am always trying to find some level of ease in my body. I've always envied dancers for their fluid bodies and graceful statures.

But now my body feels alive. I suddenly don't care if I can actually dance - it just feels good to boogie. I feel as fluid as I can be. I want to go on adventures. I want to be spontaneous. I don't want to hurry home after work and hide from the world - I want to explore and jiggy at a jukebox until dawn. I want to run to Spain and fall asleep on a beach somewhere, waking up with even lighter blonde hair and sand in my shirt. I want to go on picnics, spin in short dresses with flouncy skirts, feel the sun penetrate every goddamn pore on my body, maybe even jump in a fountain. I want to feel light and be the light.

We'll see what happens. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where Night's Black Bird Her Sad Infamy Sings

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world's despite.

- John Dowland, Flow My Tears


 Some Came Running/The Shootist/Futurama: Jurassic Bark/Romancing in Thin Air

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tea with James Whale


I just finished watching Bride of Frankenstein for the millionth time. I love that movie and I love James Whale. The last time I watched it was at the Music Box Horror Movie Massacre in 2006 on 35mm. It's hard to beat the 35mm experience, but watching it in Europe while living in my '30s apartment at the foot of a castle was an equally fantastic encounter. One I hope to replicate soon with the first Frankenstein movie.

James Whale has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been working on a project that involves him in a small but significant way and I can't stop thinking about his movies. It occurred to me the other day how James Whale-ish my apartment really is - it has a perfect view of a really spooky castle (that was actually a former prison), there are tombstones in the yard next door, oodles of cats prowling around constantly and a certain elegance and je ne se qua that screams classic Universal horror movie. I wish I could invite James Whale for tea so we could sit in my office sun room and shoot the shit about literature and movies while eating delicious vegan shortbread cookies. I would wear my black lace dress with red tights and my wide-brimmed black hat and sunglasses. I'd imagine he would wear a white linen suit with matching brown shoes, gloves and a cane. Wouldn't it be loverly?

P.S. Wasn't Elsa Lanchester gloriously beautiful? She might be the most gorgeous actress of all time in my book.

My office back in December. It's cleaner now.

Špilberk Castle covered in snow.

Špilberk Castle not covered in snow.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Want To Be Deborah Kerr When I Grow Up


Out of all the actresses in all the world, I aspire to be like Deborah Kerr. Sure, I'd love to sashay like Marilyn Monroe, hang loose like Ava Gardner or let 'em have it like Barbara Stanwyck, but Deborah Kerr inspires me to be a better woman, wife and person. I want to be Deborah Kerr when I grow up.

Kerr possesses an understanding of human frailty and weakness that no other actress, save Lillian Gish, could ever muster. From Hannah Jelkes coaxing the mental demons out of Richard Burton's tarnished Priest in Night of the Iguana to Terry McKay's noble disappearance from Cary Grant's life in An Affair to Remember, Kerr's characters always know how to handle life's uncertainties, imbalances, distraught relationships and lovers.


In my heart I know that I possess a similar understanding of human frailty and weakness, but I am a verbal clam. I am a feeler and not much of a thinker. If a friend pours their heart out to me, I will sit there silently, listening to every word, feeling so deeply for their problems, wishing I could help, but I never have anything helpful to say. I can't articulate my feelings verbally or apply them to their problems in any meaningful way. It is the greatest struggle of my life, one that makes me shake with rage and disappointment in myself, especially considering how often I am in the midst of such situations.

Deborah Kerr never has that problem. She is always in the middle of the deepest emotions, the most sincere melodrama, and she always has an answer for everything. Kerr makes it look easy. Even if someone flies off the handle and acts like a cruel bastard, such as Burton's character in Night of the Iguana or her husband, Bill, in Tea and Sympathy, she never takes it personally and always finds a way to reason and relate to the troubled souls. If her husband violently punched walls or consistently waxed poetic on his inevitable suicide, she would know exactly what to say and how to help. Deborah Kerr is not only noble and eloquent, she is also flat out incapable of apathy and viciousness. It's another reason I admire her so much.


However, we all have our limits. Instead of emotionally exploding, going into hysterics or even having a tizzy, Kerr's characters simply walk away when the time is right or she's had enough. After David Niven says possibly the cruelest thing a man can ever say to a woman at the end of Bonjour Tristesse, she doesn't confront him. Kerr gets in her car and has an “accident” that doesn't even occur onscreen. No muss, no fuss. No tears, no tissues. It takes a lot of strength to walk away, even more to have an “accident,” which makes the fact that she is almost always leaving or has already left the narrative at the end of her films all the more commendable.    

I doubt that I'll ever reach Deborah Kerr's level of dignity and verbal distinction, but she makes me want to keep trying. I'll always be grateful for that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wardrobes I Covet: Taking of Power by Louis XIV

“...The repression and ritual of costume. Louis seizes on this – his second order as King is to tell everyone what to wear: “I order the court to observe mourning in black.” Immediately he is opposed. But Louis replies with insolence. Timid underneath and weak, but, lo, everyone's in black. So he tells Colbert: “I want you to summon the master tailor.” Here's the result. Hilarious. Absurd. But historically true. This is the film's point – the clothes. Louis domesticates the nobility by turning them into mummies under the weight and cost of court costume. He creates a totalitarian state out of whole cloth.” - Tag Gallagher, TAKING POWER 
“Louis uses the vanity of the people, nothing more. Vanity is something that exists and is very solid. Louis had an absolutely empirical understanding of people.” - Rossellini quoted in TAKING POWER
“...Louis was able to tame a rebellious aristocracy partly by imposing on them fashions in food, clothing and architecture that were expensive enough to keep them in permanent debt.” - Dave Kehr, Review of Roberto Rossellini's History Films for the NY Times
I've been making friends with some old enemies lately, namely Rossellini's absolutely exquisite history films. Tonight I revisited Taking of Power by Louis XIV and was struck by its use of costume for the reasons quoted above. It just might be the greatest fashion film of all-time and it inspired me to pickup my old Wardrobes I Covet series.

Clothes not only make the (wo)man, but also the movie. Fashion can express more about a character than dialogue ever could. Fashion, if used correctly, can be one of cinema's most powerful tools.


In Taking of Power by Louis XIV, Louis takes control of his kingdom and the future of France by trendsetting. If you are in the court of the King, it is your duty to copy the King's fashions, no matter how much they may cost. His elegant, almost garish costumes changed France's economy and forced the nobility to depend on the crown more than ever before:
"Louis would stage elaborate ball after exquisite party after expensive festival and require luxurious attire at each one. The nobility wanted to remain within the higher circles, which were quickly congealing at the court of Versailles, because it was “believed that mere physical proximity to the monarch…would elevate them to a higher social level” and the king spent almost all of his time at court.[4] It was thus necessary to attend all the fashionable balls and festivities and spend outrageous amounts of money on new clothing. Eventually it was almost certain the courtier would fall into debt and should they want to remain within the court they would be required to ask for a loan from the king. The king would only grant them said loan or even hear their request for the loan if they had been spending the proper amount of time at court.[5] This endless cycle kept the nobles trapped in Versailles and focused on the wearing the proper and most fashionable clothing, which led them to be both too poor and too preoccupied to revolt against the monarch.[6]"
Rossellini infuses the movie with the sensual potency of such refined accoutrement. From the Cardinal's simple red silk frock lying delicately in the arms of a beautiful woman to Louis' crimson and later black and white high dollar getup's, every single piece of clothing in the movie moves with emotion and beams with personality. Think of Louis' mother and the way her lovely blue dress swishes behind her as she turns away from Louis in the middle of the film. She is always turning away from him and that swish acts like the final closing of a door. Think of the lack of movement in the Cardinal's clothes. You can practically smell the powdery perfumes and stinky, infected piss on his night gown as he applies rouge to his deathly white cheeks for his last visit with the King. Think of Louis' starchy, bulky royal garments. Jean-Marie Patte wasn't a great actor, but he had the advantage of working with Rossellin who used his body as if he were simply a model. He accentuated Patte's good points and masked his bad ones: His stiff physique and monotone speech patterns became reserved emotion, as if reigning over France weighed down so heavily on his shoulders that he could barely move.   


In the beginning of the movie, Louis is struggling to rise to power. His mentor and only friend, the Cardinal, has just died and he doesn't know who to trust or how to lead. His pudgy faced, short and stout body is generally covered with inane finery comprised of simple lines and cuts with few frills and usually creamy beige or muted green in color, which only adds to his wallflower mystique. Slowly, his sense of fashion and confidence as a King develops. It starts small with ordering everyone to wear black after the Cardinal's death. Soon it's majestic gold slippers and bigger feathers and ornate sashes.


Finally it's his grand entrance in the crimson caparison. Not since Bette Davis' equally jaw-dropping appearance in both the harlot red and feminine white dresses in Jezebel or Jim Carrey's/Jeff Daniels' tuxedos in Dumb and Dumber has an outfit made such an impact on me. Like Davis' gowns, the sheer power and garish vastness of Louis' costume overwhelms the frame and almost stuns you into forgetting to breathe – it's just too much to take in. By putting on this ensemble, Louis has finally become the person he was born to be, at least on the outside, and must continue playing the part until the end of his life.


Much has been said of watching Scarlett O'Hara get fitted and squeezed into her corset in Gone with the Wind to try and achieve the near-impossible eighteen and a half inch waist. Nothing sums up her character better – she can reign terror over Atlanta as long as she looks like a Southern Belle. Louis will always look like a King. However, few fashion scenes elicit such emotion and understanding as seeing a graying Louis strip his royal fashion trappings during the final moments of Taking of Power by Louis XIV. It's a moment of peace and personal reflection – he lifts the burden he created for himself, throws it on his office chair and sits on the edge of his desk to read a book in a robe, not even bothering to remove the scattered clothes to sit more comfortably. But he is alone, so very alone.   


The two films I've compared Taking of Power by Louis XIV are women's pictures. It's true that fashion films usually tend to be female-oriented and rightfully so. Fashion is one of the only tried and true pieces of arsenal in the women's picture artillery. Try thinking of Audrey Hepburn without picturing her in the black Givenchy dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's or Faye Dunaway without her beret and chic gangster clothes in Bonnie and Clyde – it's damn near impossible. Fashion is used in a similar way in Taking of Power by Louis XIV, but the clothes do more than accentuate and articulate the emotions of the King and his peers, they, in both actual form and discussion, establish the profundity of Rossellini's version of history and examine the roles these characters have played in it. Clothes not only make the man and the movie, they also make history.