Grit, glamor, and historicity

Chinatown (1974) does an amazing thing: combines the glamor of 1930s costume with more modern camera techniques. In this way, the film becomes both an homage to the noir films that inspired it, but also comes into its own. It brings more grit with handheld cameras and long naturally choreographed takes that bring the film closer to reality. I appreciated this approach because it created a film that felt like the time period it was trying to portray, but in a way that could only happen with advancement in technology, not to mention the lifting of censorship.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Too many times have I seen films that seem to be overtly trying for a time period. An obvious example would be The Wedding Singer (1998), which screams everything obvious and horrible about the 80s (granted, this was kind of the point and what added humor to the movie).

Perhaps a better comparison to Chinatown is 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which also takes place in the 30s. Temple of Doom tries so hard to look 30s glamor at the beginning, that it in fact just looks 80s. I guess in this case the movie showcases the view of historicity that texts (films, etc.) are more representative of their own time period than the period they are trying to tell about. An interesting concept, but I find it annoyingly distracting when a time period is aimed for SO MUCH.

Honestly, there is no excuse for that harpy Willie and her ruby red dress.

It's just so 30s, you know? (I hate Spielberg and Lucas so much for letting this character happen).

Here, I'll give you subtle costuming from Chinatown to wash your brain of that travesty:

Anyway, what do you think? Do you have any movies that bother you because they are TOO costume-y?

Also, I find 70s and 90s "period films" to be the most timeless looking (based on a quick top-of-my-brain assessment that included Little Women and The Godfather). Is that totally off-base?

1 comment:

  1. Ooooooh, the costuming in Chinatown. Such an incredible, sumptuous wardrobe for such a sad, disturbing film.

    When it comes to costuming, I've never seen better than A Single Man. I wish I were a man so that I could wear those suits. Absolutely incredible. I saw it with welldressed, and we both agreed that it was total fashion porn. The clothes were so amazing that they were actually kind of a distraction.