October 08, 2011


Another bright and shiny Big Apple morning. Three fashion-oriented films were on the menu, so shopping and photo-ops had to be appetizer-sized only. The main courses would start at 2:00 p.m


French cuisine for Lunch:


The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, by Jacques Demy, is a musically backdropped romantic drama set in 1950s France.  It boasts a score by Michel Legrand, as well as starring a very young and unbelievably beautiful Catherine Deneuve.

Madame Emery (Anne Vernon) and her daughter, Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) run a struggling umbrella shop in the seaside port of Cherbourg. Genevieve is in love with a local mechanic, Guy, (Nino Castelnuovo), who is inevitably called to serve the mandatory two year conscription in Algeria by the French Army, leaving her brokenhearted and pregnant.

Catherine Deneuve and Anne Vernon--plus some amazing art direction 


The film is beautifully photographed, with dull, rainy exteriors of the Normandy coastal town in sharp contrast to colourful and visually stunning interiors. The remastered version of this film is so striking that background wallpapers seem to belong in the credits. Scenes with the two ladies at home feature resplendent wall designs in vibrant, almost neon hues. Even the furnishings are ornate and decorated with curlicues and cupids.

Misses Deneuve and Vernon, not to be outdone by set design--look bright, sharp and well-dressed by 1964 standards. Mad mod fashions had not yet erupted, so the Jacqueline Moreau costumes are crisply tailored, knee length and demurely high necked.

Genevieve, Mom, and colour, colour everywhere

Michel Legrand's score is wonderful, but, every line in this movie is sung--at full volume and in French (with English subtitles, of course). The theme song "I Will Wait For You" which would become a hit single, provides some relief from the occasionally overwhelming effect of the chanted "lines".

Madame Emery, while dealing with the financial woes of her shop, comforts the long suffering and in-waiting Genevieve as much as she can.

Great "Think Pink" robe, but, the winner is:  the wallpaper!

At the bank trying to trade her heirloom jewellery, Madame Emery meets a man who has admired her daughter from afar for years. Genevieve's pregnancy does not affect his love for the pretty young girl and, matters take their course.

In pretty pastel coat, Catherine Deneuve waves goodbye.

From a fashion point of view, the film illustrates late 1950s to early 1960s  subdued elegance. Anne Vernon wears mostly tailored suits while Catherine Deneuve, in a younger look, smart dresses with matching cardigan sweaters. The rainy Cherbourg demands a classic trench coat or two. Ms. Deneuve sports youthful hairdos, pulled back with bowed hairbands.

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", while not my favourite Michel Legrand musical, is a sweet love story which still has relevance today.

British High Tea:

X Y & ZEE (1972)

Sexy and stylish 1970s London, with Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine and Susannah York doing the prerequisite "swinging". Does it get any better?

The original film Poster

At a chic party hosted by socialite Gladys, (Margaret Leighton), married architect Robert Blakeley (Michael Caine) meets a soft-spoken fashion boutique owner named Stella, (Susannah York).  Robert's flamboyant and feisty wife Zee, (Elizabeth Taylor) notices the attraction and sets in motion her plan to deal with the situation unfolding before her (stunning violet) eyes.

Michael Caine eyes Susannah York's pendant; Margaret Leighton looks on

In the early 1970s a hemline battle raged between mini, midi and even maxi.  One unfortunate outcome of this was "hot pants". They were essentially short shorts for day wear. The (shorter on top and long in the back) "shag" haircut, seen on both Elizabeth Taylor and Susannah York, below, was THE do of the moment. Clothing styles had polarized and, no better example exists than in the Beatrice Dawson designed wardrobe for this film. Susannah York wears long, softly-draped (designer) Jean Muir type dresses while Liz Taylor sports flashy hot pants, caftans and ponchos.

Elizabeth Tayor in poncho and hot pants; Susannah York in soft blue dress

The plot involves Zee's desperate attempts to lure her wandering husband back to the nest, simultaneously befriending his now-mistress, Stella.  Zee discovers a lesbian affair in the widowed designer's past. While ostensibly comforting a weepy Stella, she initiates a  sexual liaison. There are hints that a menage-a-trois will ensue, since Robert can't seem to decide between the two  very different women.

Liz in a gorgeous gold medievally-inspired dress

While this movie didn't make any of the critics' top ten lists, it remains a fascinating little time capsule. A dizzying kaleidoscope of stylish, if excessive, social and sexual mores that blossomed in the early 1970s.

Midnight Supper in Manhattan

Eyes of Laura Mars, 1978:

Fashion photographer, Laura Mars, has the reputation of pushing the envelope with sexually explicit, violent images in her work.  At a retrospective and book launch in SoHo she meets NYPD detective John  Neville, played by Tommy Lee Jones who, after viewing her exhibited work, brusquely informs Laura that her pictures mirror real crime scene photographs:  of unsolved NYPD murders.

The people closest to Laura begin to be murdered in a horrifying way, involving their eyes. To add to her terror, she "sees" these crimes as they are taking place, (through the eyes of the murderer) as though they were psychic visions.

For the sophisticated Manhattan characters, especially the perfectionistic Faye Dunaway, Academy Award winning costumer Theoni V. Aldredge designed a feminine, softly-tailored wardrobe. Laura Mars wears long and leggy skirts, slit way up each thigh.  Ms. Dunaway's hair was an auburn shade which set off and blended beautifully with the palette of autumn foliage hues contrasting with bold jewel tones of teal, claret and burgundy.

Laura Mars, with the help of John Neville and the NYPD, tries to cope with the mounting number of murders, all of which she sees as they are happening. She herself is a suspect, as are models, assistants and even her chauffeur. The case is deadlocked.

Determined to keep working, Laura sets up a large "shoot" at her Staten Island studio, a sprawling warehouse.  While models and stylists prep the scene, she has a vision of the area right behind herself and realizes that she is the next intended victim.

Frozen with fear, Laura contacts Detective John Neville, with whom she has fallen in love.  He assures her that they will very soon go away together to escape the serial killer--still at large.

Eyes of Laura Mars is a feast for the senses. Stunning real-life fashion models strut around in floaty, barely-there fashions of the late disco era. Laura Mars dresses, works and lives in artistic affluence. 

If one cares to see it, there is a deeper message:  the Laura Mars photos are strikingly similar to Helmut Newton, and other top fashion photographers of the day, who specialized in skirting the perimeters of convention.  Laura Mars' works inspire a terrible killing spree.   Should art be morally accountable for the emotions it encourages---even creates?

NEXT TIME...the last day: "Diva" and "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"


  1. As fashion shows, these films really have "wow" factor. I remember seeing "X, Y and Zee" when it came out and the sight of Liz in the hot pants is one I'll never forget! And thanks for the shot of that wallpaper - I am awake now! Lovely post, Inge.

  2. Thanks! I've been biting my tongue re Liz in hot pants for some time. It was akin to seeing your mom drunk. As for the "Cherbourg" walls, what can I say? At least they were colorful. Thanks again!