The True Sea

Slow Living, Inner Peace and Self Love

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The timeless fashion of Grace of Monaco

Disclosure: I was gifted two cinema tickets to Grace of Monaco by Glitzy Secrets but all words, apart from one quote, are my own.Grace of Monaco (2014) is an American French film which speculates on the story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly during a dispute between her husband Prince Rainer III and France’s then President Charles De Gaulle over tax laws in the early 60s. In the film, the dispute prompts the princess to turn down an offer by Alfred Hitchcock to return to acting. The film is directed by Olivier Dahan who is best known for the award-winning Édith Piaf biopic, La Vie en Rose (2007).The focus of this review will be on the film’s fantastic costume design by Gigi Lepage rather than the story. Frankly, it’s much more interesting. I’m sad to say that I found the film uninspiring. It doesn’t seem sure of what it wants to be. It’s a bit camp but not enough to be labelled camp. To me, it felt mostly like a farce. My guess is that most of the film’s storyline is fictional. After all, Grace Kelly’s children say that the film is historically inaccurate. This is but one of the reasons why the film is mired in controversy.I found it odd that Hitchcock is portrayed as such an endearing man. As you all know, I absolutely adore Hitchcock but I reckon this portrayal of him is pretty far from the truth. Also, he never went after Grace Kelly for Marnie (1964). She came to him and the real reason she didn’t do the film in the end is quite different from the reason the film gives you. Another thing that struck me as odd was the casting of Tim Roth, one of my favourite actors, as the prince. He did a great job making the film come across as farcical. And although Nicole Kidman didn’t convince me that she was Grace Kelly, her performance was flawless as always.When I think of Grace Kelly, I think of Hitchcock’s fantastic Rear Window (1954). I think about how graceful she was and how her hair was always immaculate. But above all, I think of her impeccable sense of style. But back to the film. It’s beautifully shot – every single frame is gorgeous. It really is a glamorous melodramatic fairy tale in every sense.

Gigi Lepage was inspired by the fashion spirit of the 60s so Nicole Kidman’s outfits are not historically correct, though Lepage did use photos of Grace Kelly as inspiration for specific scenes. Everything Nicole Kidman wore in the film was stunning but the one thing that made most of an impression on me and my housemate was the eyewear. She wore some rather gorgeous cat eye glasses.I love the fact that Kidman’s custom made wardrobe is mainly from the Parisian fashion houses that dressed the princess herself. The list is quite impressive:

“The house of Christian Dior reproduced two magnificent women’s suits designed by Marc Bohan, then artistic director of Dior. Chanel collaborated with us in recreating a suit ensemble. Hermes helped us for her scarves as well as Kelly handbag archives. For shoes, we contacted Salvatore Ferragamo & Jimmy Choo. All her gloves were made exclusively by Maison Fabre. Alexandre Barthet, son of Jean Barthet who was the princess’s milliner designed the hats & lastly, Philippine Pinton, granddaughter of François Pinton, Grace of Monaco’s eyewear designer, designed the eyewear for us. Lastly, Swarovski came on board for the realisation of the crystal ball gown.” – Gigi Lepage

If you’re into vintage fashion, I highly recommend you watch it just for the costume design.


Five brilliant one location films

I have a thing for one location films. There’s something infinitely spellbinding about them and I’m always on the lookout for ones that I haven’t seen. It’s so fascinating to see what can be done with a story that is confined to four walls. Technically not all of these films are set in one location but they’re close enough.Rope
American thriller (1948)

Based on a play which in turn is based on a real murder. Two young men strangle their former classmate in their flat and hide his body in a large wooden chest. They want to prove to themselves that they have committed the perfect murder and therefore are superior, so they invite the victim’s friends and family to a dinner party. They use the wooden chest as a buffet table and this is where the fun begins. This first of Hitchcock’s Technicolor films takes place in real time and it appears as a single continuous shot through the use of clever editing and long takes. This is one of my all-time favourite Hitchock films. The film is mostly dialogue but it’s never boring. The performances by John Dall (as the fascistic villain) and James Stewart (as the voice of reason) are superb. I also highly recommend Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and his almost one location film Dial M For Murder (1954).The Party
American comedy (1968)

Peter Sellers plays an Indian actor who is supposed to be fired from a costume epic after making a huge mistake on set. A clerical mistake results in him being invited to an exclusive Hollywood party instead. Of course when he appears at the party everyone assumes that he must belong. He is completely incapable of being impolite but his natural curiosity repeatedly gets him into awkward situations. It’s obvious that a lot of the inspiration for this film comes from the works of the brilliant Jacques Tati. I can watch this hilarious film over and over. Peter Sellers is cringey but endearing and the set, wardrobe and music are all pure perfection.Wait Until Dark
American suspense thriller (1967)

A recently blinded housewife (played by Audrey Hepburn) is terrorised by a group of criminals who believe that she has hidden a doll that they used to smuggle heroin into the country with. As they search for the doll in her flat, they impersonate police officers and even her friends. Audrey Hepburn is wonderful as the vulnerable but independent woman and Alan Arkin is really quite creepy as the manipulative leader of the criminals. This is a clever film and everything in it fits together perfectly. Everything is connected. It’s a highly entertaining watch and it will make you jump.Compliance
American docudrama (2012)

As unbelievable as it is, this cringey film is based on true events. A prank caller who pretends to be a police officer convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee about a crime that she has allegedly committed. When the manager has to return to her job, she gets her fiancé in to follow instructions from the prank caller. This film is an interesting study of the human psyche and how people can readily be manipulated into doing things that they don’t want to do. It’s horrifying and infuriating yet you have to keep watching. Knowing that this actually happened makes it even more disturbing. The original footage of the incident is on YouTube if you fancy watching it.Lady in a Cage
American psychological thriller (1964)

Mrs. Hilyard is a wealthy poetess who lives in a big city mansion. One July 4th weekend while she is recovering from a hip operation, her lift stops due to an electrical fault with her trapped inside it. She rings her outside alarm but the only one who notices is a homeless man who breaks into the house. He doesn’t help her but instead starts stealing alcohol and other various items. He leaves but returns a while later with a prostitute and three teenage criminals who proceed to terrorise Mrs. Hilyard as they wreck her home. This is such a great film and it makes it even creepier that it’s set in daylight. Olivia de Havilland (who is fantastic alongside Bette Davis in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte from 1964) is perfect as Mrs. Hilyard. She portrays a gradual descent into madness fantastically. It’s gripping and you don’t know how it’s going to end.BONUS: Carnage
French-German-Spanish-Polish black comedy (2011)

Based on a play and produced by the fantastic Roman Polanski who also co-wrote it. Two couples of parents meet for what starts as a civilised discussion about a fight between their eleven-year-old sons. As their time together progresses they start acting increasingly childish and chaos ensues. This is another film that is all dialogue and the focus is on the evolution of the characters. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are perfect as a bohemian, liberal couple. Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz are equally perfect as a casual power couple. This is a claustrophobic chamber piece which in some ways reminds me of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965). Excellent performances by everyone involved.

How about you? Do you have any favourite one location films?


Let’s talk about American Psycho

Chiaki Creates - Let's Talk About American PsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is without any doubt my favourite contemporary novel. I recently saw American Psycho: The Musical at the Almeida Theatre and it completely blew me away. It was pure perfection as a musical. Matt Smith (my dashing Doctor) was absolutely amazing as Patrick Bateman. The musical got me thinking about how unfortunate it is that it’s such a widely misunderstood novel.

Bret recently said in an interview that “Patrick Bateman seems to embody something about masculinity that was blooming at a certain point in the late 80s to early 90s. This kind of damnification of the male. This obsession with male narcissism and beauty. Men being looked at in a way that women had been looked at for decades. American Psycho was probably the first novel about a metrosexual.”

You can’t deny the very obvious references to another favourite book of mine, Psycho by Robert Bloch. Firstly, the surnames Bates and Bateman. Then there’s the titles of the novels, and both Norman Bates and Patrick Bateman are serial killers, well Patrick is a supposed serial killer.

Yes, American Psycho has a lot of gore in it but that’s not all there is to it. I’ve noticed that the gore tends to be what people who haven’t actually read it talk about. It’s the same people who can’t understand how it can work as a musical. Well it does because it’s not a horror novel or a gorefest. It’s a very clever social satire, the perfect black comedy. Its blithe nihilism, the extreme obsession with perfection and the relentless boredom of the characters are just a few reasons why American Psycho is utterly hilarious.

Without the casual violence Bret wouldn’t be pushing the limits of the book’s depraved hedonistic culture. It’s definitely one of the reasons the book has had such a huge impact. It’s comforting to know that Bret didn’t really want to write the violent scenes. He wrote the book and left the murder scenes unwritten. In the end he filled them out with details from actual serial killings from FBI criminology textbooks at the New York Public Library.

Having studied psychology I find it very interesting from that angle as well. Depending on how you interpret the novel, Patrick could for example be suffering from antisocial personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder. It intrigues me tremendously. I also have a weakness for stream-of-consciousness narratives.

I highly recommend reading it. Although you might want to skip the violent chapters if you don’t have a strong stomach. If you have read it already, then read it again.


Five art house films you need to watch

the exterminating angelEl Ángel Exterminador (The Exterminating Angel)
Spanish surrealist satire (1962)

The father of surrealistic cinema Luis Buñuel co-wrote and directed this witty, dark satire. A group of people are having a formal dinner party. The guests retire to the drawing room after dinner and discover that the servants have left. Now, this is where it gets weird. There is no explanation why but the guests are convinced that they can’t leave even though there’s nothing stopping them from doing so. Left to their own devices, they slowly turn into complete savages. This is such a bizarre and fun film. Buñuel’s quixotic wit is great.blow-upBlow-Up
British thriller (1966)

David Hemmings (a hero of mine) plays a nihilistic fashion photographer in swinging London who finds something very suspicious in the shots he has taken of a couple embracing in a desolate park. Has he captured a murder on film? Michelangelo Antonioni directed this existential masterpiece which is widely considered one of the most influential films of the 1960s. It’s definitely one of my all-time favourite films.alphavilleAlphaville: Une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution)
French dystopian science fiction film noir (1965)

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring the fantastic Anna Karina. An American secret agent arrives in Alphaville, a futuristic city on another planet where the evil scientist who rules the city has outlawed self-expression and love. The agent must find a missing person and free the city from its tyrannical ruler. This is a brilliant, visually stunning film. Anna Karina is always such a joy to watch. She’s one of my favourite actresses.a woman under the influenceA Woman Under the Influence
American drama (1974)

This sharp commentary on American blue-collar life was written and directed by John Cassavetes (who is excellent as Guy in Rosemary’s Baby). Gena Rowlands’ portrayal of an eccentric housewife who descends into madness is extraordinary. When her behaviour starts affecting their children, her husband has her committed to a psychiatric hospital for six months. You can probably guess that her homecoming does not go well. It’s a harrowing film with one of the most memorable performances ever committed to celluloid.discreet charm of the bourgeoisieLe Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)
French Italian Spanish surrealist satire (1972)

Alright, so I like Luis Buñuel. He co-wrote and directed this strange satire in which a group of upper-middle class people are trying to have dinner together but never quite manage to. There are five different gatherings of the group of friends throughout the film and four different characters’ dreams that link the scenes together. It’s virtually plotless but it’s so much fun. If you like surrealism you should definitely watch this film.


Film musings: Hallowe’en edition

Happy Hallowe’en, my dears! You may have noticed that I’m very fond of old horror films. With age I have come to accept that I’m completely obsessed with psychological thrillers from the sixties. I just want the suspense to last forever! So in the spirit of Hallowe’en, here are a few of my favourite creepy films.Repulsion
British psychological horror (1965)

Catherine Deneuve plays a young introverted girl who lives with her sister and works in a beauty parlour. She is left to her own devices in their flat when her sister and her sister’s lover go on holiday together. Her paranoia and fear of men escalate quickly as she isolates herself more and more. Along with Rosemary’s Baby, this is my favourite Roman Polanski film.The Birds
American suspense/horror (1963)

A classic Alfred Hitchcock film that’s very loosely based on the short story with the same name by Daphne du Maurier. Tippi Hedren is marvellous as a spoiled socialite who meets a lawyer in a bird shop. She follows him to his Bodega Bay home to deliver a lovebird as a gift to his young sister. She gets attacked by a gull and soon all the birds are, for no apparent reason, viscously attacking people.The Nanny
British suspense (1965)

Bette Davis stars as the nanny of a ten-year-old boy who has just returned from a home for mentally ill children, which he was sent to after supposedly drowning his younger sister in the bath. The boy is convinced that Nanny was responsible for his sister’s death and he does everything he can to avoid her. This is a wonderful film completely devoid of Hammer Horror’s usual Gothic style.House on Haunted Hill
American horror (1959)

Vincent Price stars as an eccentric millionaire who along with his wife, invites five people to spend the night in their haunted house. They tell them that there has been seven murders in the house. Whoever makes it through the whole night will get $10,000 each. This fabulous fright-fest was directed by William Castle.Village of the Damned
British science fiction (1960)

One day everyone in the small English village of Midwich falls into a coma that lasts for a day or so. When they wake up again, every fertile woman is found to be mysteriously pregnant. All the children that are born, grow at an abnormal speed, are all blonde and have glowing penetrating eyes. They also seem to be able to control people with their minds. Who are these children?Strait-Jacket
American thriller (1964)

Directed by William Castle and written by Robert Bloch. The always wonderful Joan Crawford plays a woman who murders her husband and gets admitted to an asylum. Ten years later she’s released and tries to patch things up with her now adult daughter. When someone starts killing people, the mother is the natural suspect but is it really her doing?Les Yeux sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face)
French-Italian horror (1960)

A famous surgeon causes a car accident in which his daughter’s face gets so horribly disfigured that she has to wear a mask. With the help from his assistant the surgeon kidnaps young women and unsuccessfully transplants their faces onto his daughter’s face. I love how the isolated heroine’s mask dehumanises her. There’s so much you can read into this dark cold film. It explores disfigurement, fatherly devotion and female disempowerment amongst other subjects. The pace is slow but it will have you at the edge of your seat.psychoPsycho
American suspense/horror (1960)

Another classic Alfred Hitchcock film that’s based on the book with the same name by Robert Bloch. A secretary goes on the run after impulsively stealing $40,000 from her employer’s client. She checks into a remote motel that happens to be run by a young man with a mother complex. Anthony Perkins does such an amazing job as Norman Bates, and Janet Leigh is simply mesmerising. I definitely have a weakness for unreliable narratives. The book is one of my favourite reads as well.

How about you? What are your favourite creepy films?


Five upcoming films I’m excited about

I’m utterly fond of old films and most of the time that’s what I watch. Sometimes though, a marvellous new film is released. And then there are the people in the film industry who I assiduously follow. For example, I watch everything with Dylan Moran and Cillian Murphy. 2013 has been a good film year and so far I’ve enjoyed Los amantes pasajeros (I’m So Excited), Hitchcock, Broken, A Liar’s Autobiography and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa amongst others. It doesn’t seem to end there either and so here are a few upcoming films I’m excited about at the moment.the doubleThe Double
British comedy (2013)

This is an adaption of the novella The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about a man who is driven insane by the sight of his doppelgänger. I have been waiting for Richard Ayoade’s next film ever since his fantastic Submarine. I really hope that it lives up to my expectations.grand pianoGrand Piano
Spanish American thriller (2013)

Moments before his comeback performance, a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright discovers a note written on his music sheet. A real-time thriller with nods to Alfred Hitchcock and Dario Argento. How can one resist?filthFilth
Scottish crime comedy drama (2013)

A bipolar, bigoted junkie cop manipulates and hallucinates his way through the festive season in a bid to secure promotion and win back his wife and daughter. It’s based on the novel by Irvine Welsh.philomenaPhilomena
British drama (2013)

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. Starring Steve Coogan, another favourite of mine, who also co-wrote it.
the ravine of goodbyeSayonara Keikoku (The Ravine of Goodbye)
Japanese drama (2013)

A journalist discovers dark secrets in the life of an apparently happy couple. I adore Japanese cinema and this tale of female empowerment and male guilt sounds amazing.


Five films I’d love to live in

Rosemary’s Baby
American psychological horror (1968)

A young couple moves into a flat in an old New York building with a bad reputation. Their elderly neighbours are nice enough but there seems to be something a bit odd about them. Rosemary mysteriously gets pregnant and strange things start to happen. I don’t want to say anything more if you haven’t seen it and you don’t know what it’s about. I’ve always really identified with Rosemary Woodhouse and I feel like I am her when I watch the film or read the book. Mia Farrow does such a fantastic job portraying her. Kudos to John Cassavetes as well who is pretty creepy as the husband. Aesthetically this film is perfection, especially Mia’s wardrobe and infamous pixie haircut. This is one of my all-time favourite films and the book was one of my favourites as a child as well. It still is actually. For me there’s something very comforting about it.
Ssaibogeujiman Gwaenchanha (I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK)
South Korean romantic comedy (2006)

A young woman who thinks she’s a cyborg is institutionalised in a mental hospital after trying to kill herself during a psychosis. In the hospital she meets a young man, played by pop star Rain, who believes he is capable of stealing memories, characteristics and personality traits from people. Of course they fall in love with each other. Chan-wook Park makes brilliant films and this is no exception. He made this film after making his marvellous vengeance trilogy apparently as a break after all that violence. This is a whimsical love story sprinkled with pretty colours and surrealism.The Rocky Horror Picture Show
British musical comedy horror (1975)

Oh yes. Richard O’Brien’s cult musical. A young newly engaged couple gets caught in a thunderstorm when their car breaks down and they end up knocking on the door of one Dr. Frank-N-Further, a sweet transvestite from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. They get offered to stay the night at his strange castle with his quirky party guests. There are so many amazing performances, fantastic songs and of course there’s the man with the voice, Tim Curry. The reason I was never scared of Pennywise in Stephen King’s It is that he’s played by Tim. This is my ultimate feel-good film. It’s pure joy and perfection. I know all the lines and all the lyrics off by heart. It’s definitely the film I’ve seen the most times.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
American psychological thriller (1962)

Baby Jane was a vaudeville child star who was later overshadowed by her sister’s fame. Blanche was crippled by an accident and is confined to her room upstairs in the mansion that the two sisters share. Baby Jane is becoming madder by the second and she does everything she can to torment Blanche. Because, of course, she’s horrifically jealous of her sister’s success. This film is perhaps a strange choice for this list but I love Bette Davis and Joan Crawford so much in this sinister film. I love how they interact with each other. They might have despised each other in real life or they might not have but either way their performances are outstanding. For some reason this is yet another film that I find great comfort in.Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
French romantic comedy (2001)

Amélie is a young introverted waitress who one day finds a box of memorabilia in her flat. She manages to return it to its rightful owner and she decides to start doing little things for people to make them happy. She’s haunted by a lonely childhood and has forgotten about her own happiness. This film is full of quirky lovable characters. I know, I know. A complete cliché to include this film but there’s no escaping the fact that it very much is a cinematic dream that many of us would like to live in. However, I watch a lot of French cinema and this is not the best one I’ve seen but Audrey Tautou is just so perfect as Amélie that she makes the whole film. Also, this is whimsical storytelling and colourful cinematography at its best.

How about you? What films would you love to live in?