Saturday, May 29, 2010

Inspiration: Badlands (1973)

I'm still 'tidying' my room. I'm picky when it comes to organising. And surprise surprise the wireless didn't work yesterday, so I have to wait for a new modem next week, so its standing up in the hallway until then.

“In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people.”

Badlands is another of my quintessential summer favourites. I don’t think its one of those ‘classic’ films of the seventies that is commonly reminisced over in the popular imagination, nor is it subject to late night annual re-runs. That’s not how I came across it, I might have discovered it sooner if this was the case. In fact, I consider it one of those films you happen on quite by accident, after some long hot summers day, still crankily awake, unable to summon sleep, spread out on the couch you absently channel surf and the child-like southern voiceover and the drawn-out Texan landscapes capture your imagination. Particularly the eerie playing of Carl Orff's Gassenhauer.

Two of the principal reasons I am nostalgic for the seventies are coupled into this beautiful film: Terrence Malick directing and Sissy Spacek in front of the lens.

Malick’s films are pure visual poetry. The naivety of youth matures into desperate realisation, the trappings and limitations of human love are all too quickly realised. Badlands was Malick’s directorial debut.

The film Badlands is a “dramatization of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950's, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.” (from

Badlands is set in the fifties, allowing for a delicious melding of two iconic decades in fashion. From the outset, when Sissy’s character Holly Sargis encounters the handsome Kit, “He was handsomer than anybody I'd ever met. He looked just like James Dean.”, she is attracted to his outsider status. He wears all the material trappings of the young rebel – white t-shirt and jeans, coolly combing his hair, abrasive and disdainful towards a society where he falls so low on the social scale, reduced to working as a rubbish collector. He is in his mid-twenties, trying to imitate a life he has only seen so far on the silver screen. He doesn’t conform, in his attitude or in his clothing, yet he’s trapped in conformity. Until by chance he sees Holly on his regular trash collecting route, in a wealthy suburban neighbourhood. He is enraptured by this almost nymph-like young creature, as she immerses herself in her baton twirling, she seems as lonely as he. She is an only child, with no mother and an overly protective father, who far from approves of the disrespectful young upstart, who has no prospects or proper education.

Her gym kit is timeless, any of these items could be bought in American Apparel, a brand that specialises in a preppy, retro look. It works.
In her skimpy gym uniform she was the unassuming object of – sexual attentions yet she was in her lone game, to her father, still very much a child.

In the beginning Sissy’s clothing is almost doll-like, suggesting the way in which her father protects her, his delicate possession. To him, she is incapable of experiencing human emotion, or rather, he wants to shield her from the dangers of adulthood. Her hair is neatly groomed and she is curious yet shy about -, like a lonely young child excited but apprehensive at the prospect of a new adventure. Love can be dangerous, as this film explores, love is an adventure, though this film does not romantically presume that the outcome is going to be a positive one. Love can be destructive, it can be transient, but nonetheless it makes an imprint on our lives, on each individual human experience, perhaps at a cost to others.

As Sissy matures and becomes more defiant her style becomes more androgynous, she borrows from Kit's wardrobe. In the wild she explores her blossoming sexuality, experimenting with make-up. Despite being alone in the elements with Kit, she plays house, making a cosy domestic hideaway out of their secret tree house. She is the wife as she performs whatever domestic duties she can in their forest ‘home’ whilst still trying to retain her essential femininity, for example; tying her hair in a paisley rag to keep her curls in place. Kit has an opportunity to return to the primitive stereotypically masculine role of the hunter-gather.

Strains inevitably begin to show in the relationship. As Holly matures and becomes more aware, whilst Kit is perfectly happy to behave as a vagabond, she tires of it and once again longs to escape, much to his and her frustration.

Working the double denim trend, before it was a trend. (This may be the only instance I see double-denim working.)

Summer seems to be the season for coming of age stories eh? This film is no mere American aesthetic dream, though there is no denying that as pleasing as Malick’s cinematography is to the eye, it benefits greatly from the on-screen chemistry between Spacek and Douglas.

“We had our bad moments, like any couple. Kit accused me of only being along for the ride, while at times I wish he'd fall in the river and drown, so I could watch. Mostly though, we got along fine and stayed in love. I grew to love the forest. The cooing of the doves and the hum of dragonflies in the air made it always seem lonesome and like everybody's dead and gone. When the leaves rustled overhead, it was like the spirits were whispering about all the little things that bothered 'em.”
You can’t neglect to watch this film this summer. I’ll be taking direction from Spacek’s wardrobe though, particularly in finding the perfect pair of shorts.

The most mundane moments are transformed into emotive dialogue: “At this moment, I didn't feel shame or fear, but just kind of blah, like when you're sitting there and all the water's run out of the bathtub.” (Holly)

The real beauty of this film is how Malick skilly juxtaposes the horror of Kit's almost routine killing spree with the pensive, restrained untamed nobility of the surrounding landscape.

This romantic ruffled blouse benefits from being dressed down with jeans and a minimum of make-up. Or if you’re lucky enough to possess the natural elfin beauty of Sissy.

One of my favourite outfits was the simple red and white floral print dress, in a simple 50s style cut. Seen in this joyful scene:

I always welcome new film recommendations! I have a whole summer to fill whilst I job hunt.

Screencaptures source

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer sunshine

Summer has finally arrived for me, I’ve arrived home to Sligo and I have a room full of boxes of clothes, trinkets and books waiting to be unpacked so my room feels like my own again.

The week gone by has been a busy one, I had two twenty firsts at the weekend and during the week I had a friend’s dinner party, a Dum Dum Girls gig, library books to return and my student flat to move out to. Of course, it being the week after finishing my finals I celebrated by indulging in two days of much needed retail therapy.

All in all it has been a draining week, foremost on my mind was considering the finality of it all, although I tried to avoid dwelling on melancholic thoughts, every so often the thought would creep into my mind “This is the last time I’ll do this/be here/feel like this”. I’m a pessimist by nature, but also extremely nostalgic. I always think ahead and look back over my shoulder, even when a particular situation is taking place. Does anyone else feel this way?

Enough of this talk, I’m trying my hardest not to feel sad at the moment.

My friend Sarah’s twenty first was an elegant but intimate garden party, the best way to spend a summer’s evening, drinking Moet on the garden terrace, the garden scattered with tea lights and the floral bunting swaying in the breeze, the eerie strains of The Waterboys floating across the cool night air.

Her dress is by Dahlia, from The fit and print is divine, I was really impressed with the quality of the fabric and design and would be tempted to buy it myself if she hadn’t seen it first. She looked like she stepped off the set of An Education with her sweet little pixie crop and elegant pumps (from Primark)

Tara's shoes are borrowed from her sister and are from New Look (the gold lace-ups) and my wedges are from the Sonia Rykiel range for H&M

Lucia’s twenty first was another country affair, outside Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, an artistic country town in the South East of Ireland. She looked stunning in a simple black maxi dress from Primark and an enviable gold embellished cropped jacket from New Look. We drank sangria in marquees, seated on deck chairs and cushions outside her fathers bohemian cottage down a sheltered country road.

On Tuesday, May 18th, my friend Sarah (another Sarah, another gorgeous redhead!) and I went to see the Dum Dum Girls. We went for tapas beforehand in the Market Bar, hidden down a side street somewhere off Camden St. I think? I was really impressed with the place, it was spacious and comfortable, not too busy, the staff were accommodating and the menu was up to date, with gluten free and vegetarian options clearly marked. The early bird option was €14 for two small dishes and a glass of wine, I had a fried potato dish and nachos with a glass of red wine. I would recommend sharing though as I couldn’t finish my nachos and I have a fierce appetite! Unfortunately it was raining as we made our way up to Whelans. Having never been to a gig in Whelans before and having had mostly had bad experiences in the nightclub there (overpriced and crowded, wouldn’t recommend it) I was apprehensive about the gig. However Sarah is a seasoned gig attendee and she assured me that it was an intimate setting, one of her favourites in Dublin. And so it was. Despite the doors being advertised as closing at 8pm, they didn’t open until 8.30pm. There were a couple of people there on their own, which impressed me, I don’t think I’d be independent enough to do that. The Dum Dum Girls set was preceded by a northern Irish support act called Girls Names, the acoustics weren’t the best so I couldn’t quite make out what they were singing. The Dum Dum Girls actual set was only 45 minutes long, they said that they had a ferry to catch at 2am. I enjoyed the set, retrospectively though they didn’t interact that much with the crowd, but I expect they were used to a larger audience and there was probably no more than fifty people there. Still I’m glad I went. I bought their cd and got it signed by Dee Dee. Sarah took some great pictures too.

Now all I can do is tidy my belongings away, catch up on my reading, sort though my junk (I’m a hoarder!), await some reply to my CV’s, perhaps get involved in some volunteering, hope to hear back from my masters application and try to plan a small trip – I’m thinking London and Brighton. What about you guys? What are your summer plans? Probably more ambitious than mine! I just feel like I need to wind down and not be in contact with the outside world for a while.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stealing Beauty

I felt bad neglecting the blog after only starting it up, now that I am halfway through my finals I wanted to update, so I was wracking my brains to think of what I would blog about next. I hit upon it today, as the summer is fast approaching and I'm in the midst of getting my summer wardrobe sorted I thought I'd share some of the films I consistently turn to for inspiration in the summer.

First up is Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty.

Liv Tyler stars in this sensual 1996 classic as the nineteen year old heroine Lucy Harmon. Lucy travels to Tuscany, after the suicide of her mother, to have her portrait painted by a family friend of her mother. This is not the sole reason for her decision to spend the summer there. She hopes to renew her acquaintance with an Italian boy she met on her last visit five years previously. She also has a mystery to solve - who is her real father?

This is your quintessential coming of age story, but the seductive Tuscan setting, colourful characters (Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack are some of the supporting cast) and soundtrack, a compulsive blend of nineties and classics from the likes of Billie Holiday, all combine to create a tale of sexual awakening you'll find hard to shake off, long after the summer sun has set.

Lucy's wardrobe is somewhat typical of the decade - blue rinse jeans, fitted tank tops, plaid shirts, but her grungy floral sundresses, loose white shirts, romantic summer dresses and natural beauty are timeless essentials for your dream summer of love. As the film's tagline says "The most beautiful place to be is in love", although few of us can claim to falling in love with an Italian boy in Tuscany, whether it be in the urban jungle or some country backwater, to be in love in the summertime will open your eyes to the beauty of your surroundings. Having a perfect wardrobe in case such a situation would arise is handy!

The soundtrack is one of the best film soundtrack compilations I've ever heard and most of the songs are a steady feature on any of my summer ipod playlists.

Portishead - Glory Box

Hole - Olympia/Rock Star

Liz Phair - Rocket Boy

I apologize for the excess of youtube videos, but I hope this will encourage you to watch it and fall in love as I did. I picked this dvd off the back of a shelf when I worked in Xtravision (Blockbuster) in 2007, a few short weeks after I had returned from a holiday in Italy and this love song to the Tuscan countryside had me yearning to return. It still has that power.

There you are now. Embrace an open spirit, gather some flowers, throw a couple of summer dresses in your suitcase and be on your way! Do let me know how you get on!

Before I forget -

This candid just perfectly captures Liv's infectious mischievous spirit in her role. And that summer dress. Lovely!