Film Review – “Allied” (2016)

The new classic?

How do I summarize “Allied” in one sentence? “Allied” is a movie whose first half wants to be a Casablanca-meets-Inglorious Basterds action movie (heavy on the “Casablanca” part) while the second is a melodramatic spy thriller (heavy on the “melodramatic”) that doesn’t quite succeed in captivating the audience.

Allied

The film is a story of Canadian intelligence officer Max Vitan (Brad Pitt, who I expected to start talking in Souther accent of Lt. Aldo Raines) and French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour. In the first half of the film they meet while working together in order to assassinate the German ambassador in Casablanca. They pose as a married couple, meticulously building an illusion of happy relationship for the benefit of nosy neighbours. Somewhere in the middle, the pretended emotions become real and after accomplishing their mission, the pair flees to London and gets married for real. Marianne gives birth to Max’s daughter in the middle of the Blitz. A year later Max, now working from behind the desk although the War still rages on, gets a call from his superiors. They suspect that Marianne may be a German spy. They organize a test of her loyalty, in which Max must cooperate, and in the event that it’s proven she is working for the enemy, he must also execute her himself. Is the whole thing a test? Is Marianne who she actually says she is? Or has his marriage been all a pretend?

OK, but seriously?

For all the neat little things – and there are plenty! – I left the cinema a bit disappointed. Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt. He looks like himself but doesn’t get much too play – only in the last scene does his face seem to actually show some emotion. Marion Cotillard, on the other hand, really gets to shine as a woman both beautiful and dangerous. This quality seems to have become her Hollywood signature (her roles in Macbeth, InceptionThe Dark Knight Rises and Midnight in Paris come to mind). But for all their efforts, the movie is unbalanced and a bit predictable. The little tricks used in some of the scenes are fantastic – a quick and quiet murder staged to look like suffocation, a fancy card trick, some delightful background characters (Max’s openly lesbian sister who would not be present if the movie were made under Hays code). Camera closeups on reflections in the mirror, or seams of stockings are a hit-or-miss. The fashion is beautiful, but how many films can I watch just for the fashion?

The verdict

“Allied” is definitely not going to be the next “Casablanca”. But hey, Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt are sure nice to look at.

Brad Pitt in a scene from “Allied.”

Allied, Photo: Paramount Pictures/Daniel Smith

Allied, Photo: Paramount Pictures/Daniel Smith

"Allied"

"Allied"

Film Review: “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins

What’s with that Florence?

Florence Foster Jenkins is a legendary persona in the circle of classical music lovers, whom many called the worst opera singer in the world. Her colorful life gave plot to several plays (the most famous one is “Glorious!”), and recently, also a movie. And with Meryl Streep in the lead role!

“Florence Foster Jenkins” feels like a movie adaptation of a play. A large part of the action takes place strictly in Florence’s apartment, which looks like a completely different era than the one in which the film actually takes place. Judging by Florence’s style and the decor of her apartment, she stopped somewhere at the beginning of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, the film takes place during World War II and the world moved on… but can Florence deal with it?

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins is the story of triumph of passion over talent. Being a big fan of classical music, and quite a rich person, Florence was active in the world of New York music lovers. Very often she went onstage as well, to the delight of her friends. Florence could not sing. But she sang with passion, tackling even the most difficult arias. Originally she performed at private concerts, but the news of her unique voice only spread. In 1944, Florence, aged 76, sang a sold-out concert at the legendary Carnegie Hall.

The relationship between passion and talent is a subject in numerous films about artists (Milos Forman’s Amadeus comes to my mind). The case of Florence is interesting because we know that in her youth she was a talented pianist, so she couldn’t not have musical hearing. The quality of her vocal performance was probably due her long-term illness (syphilis, which causes degeneration of the central nervous system) and the drugs used at the time to cure it, arsenic and mercury (which, in turn, could result in partial loss of hearing).

Secondly, “Florence Foster Jenkins” is a love story. The relationship between Florence and her longtime companion, a British actor and illegitimate son of an aristocrat, St. Claire Bayfield is the type that is rarely shown on screen. Their relationship was really quite unique.

Florence was a few years older than Bayfield, but it was definitely him who took care of her and all the prosaic things related to their comfortable lives. Bayfield even made sure that Florence’s concerts were only attended by people who could behave, that no sharp objects were ever in her presence and that at parties there was no shortage of her favourite potato salad. The love and tenderness between the two is clear and true. However, they did not have sexual relations (at least in part due to Florence’s illness). In fact, Bayfield had a separate apartment (paid for by Florence), where he lived with his longtime girlfriend Kathleen Weatherley, whom he married after Florence’s death. There is a scene in the film where Bayfield admits to Florence’s accompanist, McMoon, that Florence knows that she is not the only woman in his life, but does not know the details. I think it’s a really interesting relationship and it’s a bit of a shame that it was not explored more.

What about the film itself?

Ultimately, “Florence Foster Jenkins” is a very good and very concise movie. Nevertheless, it is tempting to think what movie it could be if its creators explored how it came to be that Florence closed herself (or maybe was closed by her caring, well-wishing friends) in this magical, but artificial world. If this bubble was punctured in some way a little earlier than in the penultimate scene.

The great cast is of course great. This is obvious when the main role is played by Meryl Streep (I’ve saying it for years, she could play a chair and get an Oscar nomination for it). The film also stars Hugh Grant and the delightful Simon Helberg, whose facial expressions during the scenes of Florence’s vocal performances KILL ME. Incidentally, the singing and accompaniment were reportedly recorded live on the set. All the more credit to Meryl Streep and Simon Helber, because both of them are truly phenomenal!

The costumes are also great. I particularly liked the stage creations worn by Florence, who loved elaborate costumes with big ornaments and headpieces. A woman after my own heart!

The verdict

Reminiscing about this film and Florence herself, I think that she was a remarkable woman. She loved music with all her heart and really did a lot to support this art. Many of her fans recognized her sincere passion and supported Florence in her performances. And the fact that her performances weren’t objectively the best – does it ultimately matter?

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins

And that’s how Florence sounded in real life:

My 5 Favourite Retro Bloggers Right Now

Because I am interested in basically everything retro, it’s natural that I read as much as I can on the subject – and I look for inspiration from other retro bloggers!

Check out this list of my 5 favourite retro bloggers I’m following now and tell me if you knew them before or if you’ve just discovered them! Do you have your favourite retro blogs? Let me know in the comments!

B is For Brittany

I found Brittany on Instagram and immediately fell in love with her style. Her blog isn’t as active as her Instagram account but I still highly recommend it to everyone interested in early 20th century retro fashion!


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Gracefully Vintage

Kayla is an Australian vintage fashion blogger with some very enviable wardrobe! I like her consistency, elegant outfits and pretty pretty pictures.


2imat69

Flashback Summer

Oh man. This girl’s style is everything I love. Emileigh is serious goals for me. Hair goals (#straighthairproblems), outfit goals, and most importantly, sewing goals. That’s right! This girl sews almost everything she wears!


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Vintage Gal

This blog is a MAJOR inspiration for me. Cate is another blogger who prefers the style of 1930s and 1940s with enviable wardrobe and sewing skills. She also writes about vintage lifestyle, movies & books, art, designs, and provides fashion roundups. Wow! Her blog is basically what I want my blog to grow into.


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Curve Creation’s Closet

Missi’s presence on this list may surprise some since she is very much into 1940s and 1950s looks which are not really my cup of tea. While stylistically I tend to lean more towards 1920s and 1930s, I sincerely admire Missi’s dedication to her blog, her openness about her lifestyle and quite simply, the girl’s character. Her social media posts inspire me to do better, and to do it while looking FABULOUS

And that’s my favourite 5 retro bloggers right now! Would you like to see more of my favourites? Drop me a comment and let me know 🙂

Film Review: “Cafe Society” (2016)

cafe societyI have a complicated relationship with Woody Allen’s movies. On one hand, I love their general mood and beautiful visuals. On the other – I am increasingly disappointed by the scripts. They seem to be telling the same story over and over again, and the quality of this story is, sadly, not improving. My opinion of “Cafe Society” is very much in line with this.

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The movie is a story of a young man coming to Hollywood looking for something more exciting than work with his father. He is hired by his uncle, a Hollywood producer, and discovers the ups and downs of living in Tinseltown. He also falls in love with his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie. As per usual in Woody Allen’s movies, no love story is ever that simple.

The good

I love, love, LOVE the visuals. It’s no surprise, really – the movie takes place in 1930s Hollywood and New York City. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that for me. All the costumes, scenography and music are simply enchanting. Chanel played a big part in the creation of costumes for the movie and it shows! The glamour is breathtaking! The cast is very good – Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell, Corey Stall and Blake Lively, as well as Anna Camp who is a very funny one scene wonder.

The movie’s soundtrack is full of wonderful, light variations on well-known melodies such as “The Lady Is A Tramp, “Jeepers Creepers” and “Have You Met Miss Jones?”. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this review and it’s delightful, jazzy, easy listening.

The not-so-good

I’m not very happy with the story of the movie. I’m not even entirely sure that the title is relevant. I would expect some analysis of Hollywood or New York’s cafe society, but apart from a few voice-over anecdotes, the plot really focuses on the rather unexciting love triangle.

Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone! I have a certain taste in movies, which is dictated by my personal preferences and education I’ve received throughout the years. Watching this movie I felt like yes, scenes happened in some order. But there was no real plot to the movie, no culmination, no resolution. Just events happening, one after the other, without structure. I’m sure that this will not be everyone’s opinion.

The verdict

If you like Woody Allen’s movies, are excited about retro fashion, are looking for light entertainment and a few laughs – by all means go and see it!

cafe society cafe society ksbr12-0 ksbr13-0

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ksbr16 00-holding-cafe-society Cafe-Society-2773187 Cafe-Society-27731872 Cafe-Society-kristen-stewart-woody-allen-2166 Cafe-Society-kristen-stewart-woody-allen-kinopoisk.ru-Caf_26_23233_3B-Society-2773182 chanel-cafe-society-02 chanel-cafe-society-03 chanel-cafe-society-04 chanel-cafe-society-05 chanelwa15_d21_00172-h_2016_0 CjfE2MZWgAAeeWo cafe society

All pictures from The Woody Allen Pages.

“You Can Do Anything, You’re a Princess!” – or, how I went to burlesque summer camp

burlesque summer camp

The idea of burlesque-themed vacation may seem a little risky. Burlesque’s natural habitat is rather the city, the club, the night. Meanwhile, a group of burlesque fans (both female and male!) under the leadership of our burlesque mother, Betty Q, went to New Kawkowo for a burlesque summer camp.

burlesque summer camp

Relaxing in a hammock.

Program

I have written many times that burlesque is not a dance style. And, as I expected, there were no dance classes during this trip. There was a series of workshops on a variety of topics, very widely associated with burlesque – from a mind map, through history and discussion on scientific text (there are such in existence!), though classes on body awareness and coordination, and of course a YouTube party with watching the most interesting burlesque performances from all over the world. In addition, a short instruction class on tassel twirling was a must. Everyday we could (but were not obliged to) participate in a morning warm-up and typical sports class conducted by Vila Vanilla. Another interesting addition was a presentation and discussion about the art of drag and how it connects to burlesque, led by two drag performers (Yalla Yalla and Chirusska). In short, there was no way we could complain about being bored!

burlesque summer camp

Modern Cindy Crawford, our Vila Vanilla

burlesque summer camp

Vacation meaning dolce far niente? Not here 😀

burlesque summer camp

We learned about the benefits of cooperation by dressing ourselves in a boa, gloves and petticoat and by eating chocolate… really! 

Participants

I really, really liked how diverse a group we were. Our group had people of all ages, with varying degrees of stage experience and knowledge of burlesque, but also with a whole range of own interests and skills that could be useful in burlesque and in everyday life. As a result, we were also extremely self-sufficient – we cooked out own (delicious!) food, organized all our activities and trips to the nearby lake. The sense of community between us all was very, very nice.

burlesque summer camp

Eating meals in the open air, at one table (well, we added a second one) – BEST <3

burlesque summer camp

This is more or less how we all looked together 🙂

Place

The house were we were staying was great. At the end of the post I put a link to its website so that you can find more information, but let me just write that a place where in each room you can find a record player with a collection of vinyl records, a swing (sic!) or a huge bookcase, has my seal of approval.

Most classes took place either in the living room or in the barn. The barn was very spacious and equipped to have physical classes there, so we used it almost every day, no matter the weather. We also had two improvised showcases there – one was the culmination of a burlesque challenge, during which we had to create acts-tributes to the burlesque legends. The other was a presentation of acts on which we wanted to get feedback from the audience.

Let me tell you, performing in a barn is a real school of life for any performer. Zero backstage, no stage, one spotlight – in such circumstance the strength of the performance is everything. I don’t think it’s possible to have this intimacy with the audience on a club stage – but maybe it’s also the matter of the fact that we performed for each other. We were, however, joined by the house owner and his friends, as well as a team of yogins who were also staying in the house.

burlesque summer camp

View from the doorstep. Just lay down on a blanket and enjoy!

burlesque summer camp

Vila Vanilla taking a sun bath.

Was it worth it?

The program of the trup was planned in such a way that both the people who are completely new to burlesque and those who already have some experience, had something to do. It somehow happened that in the group I was the one with the longest “seniority” after Betty (it’s been… 4 years already?) but I too learned something new, both about burlesque and about myself as a performer.

It is important for me that one of the aims of the activities was to make the people who often make up our audience realize that there is something more to burlesque than just attractive visuals. I don’t think I will forget the discussion about whether burlesque and striptease are different, how, and whether they are feminist. The same goes for biographies of some of the burlesque starts who I knew by their names but did not know anything about their personal stories.

The whole experience was a great pleasure for me and I will be most happy to repeat it. Anyway, even before leaving this magical place we agreed with the owner for a date for the next year! Who knows, maybe next time I will play the role of the teacher?

The house in New Kawkowo

Akademia Burleski Betty Q

burlesque summer camp

burlesque summer camp

Beautiful little lake whose name I don’t know but I went skinny dipping in it 😀

burlesque summer camp

Last but not least, me on vacation – without makeup but stylish nonetheless 🙂

Retro Glamour – my favourite playlist on 8tracks

What is retro glamour? For me it’s the inspiration taken from the past, a bit nostalgic, very polished, idealized even. Glamorous. But always fun.

Music has always been a big, big part of my life. I went to music school, I always dreamed of performing in musicals on stage, I love jazz. So in daily life I also look for this jazzy, retro touch in, well, everything. Especially music. Hence, this playlist. I’m not much of a Top 40 person, but I gathered a collection of tunes with that retro feel that I like listening to, and decided to share it with you. Please tell me what you think and give it some love on 8tracks!

Retro Glamour

Retro Glamour from lolanoir on 8tracks Radio.

If you enjoy this mix, please like it or leave a comment here 🙂 Want me to create another playlist? Let me know!

30 by 30

30 by 30

So here’s the thing. When I was young, I thought I’d have my life figured out by 25. I’d be married, have kids, a job, a flat/house and whatnot. Or generally, I’d have my life together. The early 20s were hard for me (for many reasons). I increasingly felt bad about not having anything together. It was only around age 27 when I started to actually figure out what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be and who I wanted to spend time with. And that’s OK!

I’m not scared of turning 30. I think it’s going to be the continuation of my wonderful adventure. But since it is a bit of a turning point, I decided to make a “30 things to do by 30” kind of list. I always start writing bucket lists and then forget them, so this is a project to actually go and do things.

  1. Get a driving license
  2. Travel to a different continent
  3. Bungee jump
  4. Have a retro-themed birthday party
  5. Unplug for a whole day
  6. Declutter my closet
  7. Nude photo shoot
  8. Get a tattoo
  9. Pay off debts
  10. Host a cocktail party
  11. Sleep in a hammock
  12. Do 10 proper pushups
  13. Plant a tree
  14. See a sunrise with someone
  15. Go vegetarian
  16. Fix the smile
  17. Go to an escape room
  18. Spend a weekend at spa with a friend
  19. Do a 100 days challenge
  20. Reach a 1000 likes on FB / 1000 twitter or instagram followers
  21. Play in a movie
  22. Finish a dance / fitness instructor course
  23. Go to my high-school reunion and have fun
  24. Write a handwritten letter to someone (and actually send it)
  25. Learn to dance in a pair
  26. Swim in an ocean
  27. Write a letter to my future self
  28. Attend a wedding (not necessarily my own, but who knows?)
  29. Be individually invited to perform in a show
  30. Be a headliner in a show

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

You guys! If you like old (and I mean really old) cinema, I’ve got a treat for you! I found the full 1920 horror silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on YouTube so I immediately thought I have to share if with you! The film is available there completely legally, as it is not part of the public domain. Must-see for old cinema enthusiasts!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The film is based upon Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. It was directed by John S. Robertson, produced by Adolph Zukor, written by Thomas Russell Sullivan, Clara Beranger and Robert Louis Stevenson (novel), and the film was starring John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane and Nita Naldi.

Summary

The scientist Dr. Jekyll discovers that there is a second, evil personality residing in every human being. With a potion invented by himself, he releases his own personality, turning into a monster. With each passing day, this second persona takes control of his life, leading him toward the inevitable fall.

 

The movie!

Production Trivia (from Wikipedia)

  • The early part of Jekyll’s initial transformation into Hyde was achieved with no makeup, instead relying solely on Barrymore’s ability to contort his face.
  • In one scene, as Hyde reverts to Jekyll, one of Hyde’s prosthetic fingers can be seen to fly across the screen, having been shaken loose by Barrymore’s convulsions.
  • In the short Renaissance flashback memory sequence, where Hyde is explaining to Gina about the poisonous mysteries of his secret ring, set pieces and costumes were brought from “The Jest”. That was a hit play in which John Barrymore had starred with brother Lionel Barrymore on Broadway in 1919 before shooting this picture.
  • John Barrymore hauled many of his prized potted plants from his apartment to the set to appear in scenery in the movie.

Kate Gabrielle’s Flapper Doodles

Completely by chance I discovered Kate Gabrielle’s art and the Scathingly Brilliant blog roughly at the same time. From the first look I was enamored by her Flapper Doodles, a series of illustrations featuring two flappers, Eloise and Ramona. You can see them dancing, dressing up, having fun and generally being very stylish ladies.

Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle Flapper Doodles

Kate Gabrielle also has a wide (and I mean really wide) range of products featuring her Flapper Doodles, which includes, but is not limited to: art prints, wallpapers, calendars, pendants, acrylic brooches, t-shirts, iPhone cases, rugs, pillows, mugs and the lot. You can shop for them here, here, here and here. You can buy me any of these, anytime, too. Do take a look at Kate’s other art, which is really cool as well!

All art posted with permission from Kate Gabrielle.

Burlesque Bible Colouring Book

Burlesque Bible Colouring Book

Burlesque Bible, as some of my readers may know, is Europe’s most prominent burlesque-themed magazine. I had the pleasure of having one of my favourite posts printed in the Fall 2013 issue. When I read their newsletter announcing the publication of Burlesque Bible Colouring Book, I immediately pre-ordered it, because, well, burlesque and colouring books!

What’s The Deal With Adult Colouring Books?

Adult colouring books are becoming more and more popular. This is due to the proven fact that art therapy reduces stress. While adult colouring books are not the same as art therapy (which should still be done with an educated therapist), colouring can help with symptoms of depression. Why? Because it is manual work, which helps alleviating anxiety by focusing on the work at hand. And it’s good for you especially when you’re not comfortable with other forms of creative expression (because you’re filling in an image created by someone else, which is safer). In addition to this, you’re working with colours and you can see the result of your work instantly. Plus, these colouring books for adults are just so damn pretty.

burlesque-bible-colouring-book-1

What’s Inside?

Burlesque Bible Colouring Book is the fourth colouring book I bought. I also have two art deco colouring books and a Harry Potter one (Slytherin pride!).

This colouring book contains 16 pages with hand-drawn artwork featuring Dita Von Teese, Hilda, Gil Elvgren’s art, corsets, retro lingerie… there’s even an e-mail link if you want free digital copies of individual drawings!

What Do I Think?

Honestly, I thought there would be a bit more illustrations. For £5.50, 16 pages is not very much. Also, I’m not a big fan of the sketchy style of the illustrations. But I love the quality of the publication and the idea behind the book is sooooo me so I’m looking forward to channeling my inner Olivia De Berardinis.

burlesque bible colouring book

You can have a go at it by yourselves and buy the colouring book here! They may be sold out at the moment but if there’s enough interest, Helene of BB promised reprints!