Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hollywood Costume's at ACMI



Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI
Hollywood Costume
Australian Centre for the Moving Image: April 24 - August 18, 2013

I have long been enamored by the glamour of old Hollywood - Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Vivien Leigh - so naturally I was eager to see Hollywood Costume at ACMI. Organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and celebrating 100 years of cinema, the exhibition acknowledges the impact and significance of the costume designer in a characters development. Hollywood Costume is divided into three 'Scenes' with the costumes in each scene categorised.

Scene I: What is costume design? Looks at the importance of costumes in defining the character. Subsections; Designing the Character, Serving the Story, Character and Composition, Deconstructing Character and Royal Romance demonstrate how costumes are not simply about the clothes and have heavy implications on the narrative and visuals of the film. Costumes in Scene I included the stunning green gown Vivien Leigh wore in Gone With the Wind, 1939 when she visited Rhett Butler in jail, the gorgeous green skirt and top which Kim Novak wore in Hitchcock's Vertigo, 1958 when Scottie see's her on the street for the first time after Madeline's accident and the wedding dress from the 1967 film Camelot that has pumpkin seeds sewn into the train.

Scene II: Creative Contexts looks at the relationships that exist between costume designers, directors and actors. Subsections encompass Collaborating with Directors, Changing Contexts and Collaborating with Actors. Hitchcock knew the importance of colour when selecting the Tippi Hedren's wardrobe in The Birds, 1963 and her green suit is the perfect demonstration of this. In this section there is a focus on the work of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro with costumes spanning their careers. Screens are incorporated where the actors discuss their films and the importance of the costume to their performance.      

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI
Scene III: The Finale presents some of the most celebrated and iconic costumes of all time. Subsections include Gunslingers & Blades and Virgins & Vixens. To stand in front of Marilyn Monroe's white dress from The Seven Year Itch, 1955 and Audrey Hepburn's black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961 was an indescribable feeling. There was a sense that this was the closest I would ever get to the actors themselves. 

I admit that the floating heads above the costumes was slightly disconcerting and I would have liked to have seen a full length image of the actor wearing the costume. While the incorporation of video was a fantastic addition it was difficult to see and subsequently made moving around the space difficult as people attempted to catch a glimpse. I would have loved if these films were screened in a separate room where you could sit for as long as you pleased without feeling as if you were in other peoples way. While I'm sure the lighting was adjusted as a result of conservation, in parts it was so dim it was difficult to see the detail on some of the more intricate costumes which was a shame.
Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI
Admittedly I wasn't too interested in the more contemporary costumes such as Matt Damon's jeans and jacket from the Bourne Ultimatum, 2007. I was there to see the costumes that had shaped my idea of cinema as a child, to see Dorothy's ruby slippers and remember the first time I saw the Wizard of Oz, 1939 and dared to dream outside of the reality I was living. To see Marilyn Monroe's stunning dress from Some Like it Hot, 1959 and be reminded of old Hollywood glamour and of a time when women knew how to dress and style was timeless. In the end I guess that's what I was searching for when I went to Hollywood Costumes - that timeless beauty and iconic glamour that is so infrequent in society and to an extent cinema today. It's a cliche but they really don't make films like they used to and while the plot fades it is the costumes that live on long after the credits roll.   
Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI
Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI
Photography Mark Ashkanasy, Image Courtesy ACMI

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