Monday, October 4, 2010

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

Dita Von Teese's recent appearance on Jean Paul Gaultier's runway reminded me of one of my favourite fashionable films; it's right up there with Givenchy doing Charade and Richard Gere wearing the crap out of Armani's American Gigilo suits.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) is lauded across the interweb for youthful Helen Mirren's nude scenes. Those who get past the soft-core consider it an allegorical indictment of the inequalities that result from Thatcherism (Wiki That Shit). I think it should be known for the spectacular costuming of Mr. Jean Paul Gaultier, which he clearly referenced with Spring 2011's caged bustier that closed the show.

The tone of the film is moody and dark, with many scenes shot like sweeping genre paintings, including dozens of characters and the complete set. Cinematic and lush, moments appear like framed masterpieces flowing into each other. The color-coded scenery is mimicked by the costumes; Helen Mirren's dress and single fringed glove transform into ivory when the character is in the white bathroom, then to green in the emerald-shaded kitchen, and back to red in the predominantly scarlet dining room.
This clever lighting and set design, working in tandem with very purposeful costuming, is all too rare (see also: Kristen Bell camouflaged in pinks and greens for the first 2 seasons of Veronica Mars). It's aesthetically magnificent and pushes the plot onwards from scene to scene. Treading between the bizarre and beautiful, this gruesome fable is impossible to look away from, right up until the momentously satisfying climax.

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