Thoroughly Modern Gentleman Jack!

IT’s 1832 in West Yorkshire, England — the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Landowner Anne Lister is determined to save her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, near Halifax. To do this she must flaunt society’s expectations, coming out as benevolent employer,  international play girl and astute businesswoman!

In America, Levi Strauss was patenting the rivets on his blue denim jeans as Karl Marx ‘s primary school in Trier was closed down for employing liberal humanists as teachers! So it’s not so surprising that Sally Wainwright’s spectacular television drama, ‘Gentleman Jack’, has such a Modern feel to it!

In addition to reopening her Calderdale coal mines,  part of Lister’s plan is to ‘marry’ well.  However the single-minded, charismatic, Lister,  dressed head-to-toe in black and played with consummate panache by Suranne Jones, charms her way into high society and has no intention of marrying a man!

‘Gentleman Jack’ examines Lister’s relationships with her family, servants, tenants and industrial rivals, and would-be wife. The real-life Anne Lister’s story was recorded in her diaries, and the most intimate details of her life are revealed for the series.Header_2490173_1.1-1023x1024

Lover and fellow landowner, Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) tormented with the battle to reconcile her sexuality, in a hostile world, suffers depression and anxiety.  The brilliant ‘Insight’ team in Halifax must be shocked at how we treated each other in those days!

Anne Lister and her sweetheart are victims of homophobia. There are intense emotional scenes in all episodes.  The tough lives lived by Ann Lister’s tenants and the fight to stay true to herself are recreated with empathy and inspired dramatic writing by virtuoso Sally Wainwright, who also directs on this homespun mistresspiece!

To add to the glamour, authenticity, and magic of the BBC series Wainwright worked with international theatre, TV, film, opera, dance costume designer Tom Pye. He was thrilled to have exquisitely detailed descriptions of clothing on hand from Anne Lister’s own diaries. Credit for this perfect source material goes to translator and series consultant Anne Choma.  She is the historian and decrypter, I first met at a a literary festival in Huddersfield when she was beginning the mammoth project, 20 or more years ago!

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Don’t go Breaking my Heart

TARON Egerton in ‘Rocketman,’ the Elton John biopic, does a tremendous job in the main role, capturing John’s vocal style if not his precise sound, while Richard Madden smoulders throughout as Reid.

Dexter Fletcher’s decision to dispense with reality does have its upside. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the scene in which Elton duets with his boyhood self at the bottom of a swimming pool, bubbles escaping his nostrils as he does, or another in which the audience at an early US show literally levitate.

Irocket_man_01It’s The Dirt as envisioned by Baz Luhrmann.

MARY QUANT: Genius in action at London’s swinging V&A!

THERE’S  magic at a Mary Quant exhibition this Spring.  Quant is revealed as a genius of the Modern age in an exemplary experience at London’s V&A. Curator Jenny Lister, captures the enchantment and excitement inspired by the British designer just over half a century ago.  

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At the V&A Jenny Lister shows Quant in action, illustrating  her skills and success, with  spectacular displays of clothes from fans’ collections and donations; stylish people who’ve loved Quant since before influential 60s journalist Ernestine Carter wrote:

It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant.

Travelling with Quant and her husband Alexander Plunket Green from Chester to Manchester airport in 1981, I was meeting a Fashion phenomenon.  After 25 years of continuing international success APG spontaneously praised her exceptional talent,

Mary and her team are like French couturiers. We don’t take great whacks out of the business. Our first motive is a passionate interest in the goods”.

My play for Radio 4, Thoroughly Modern Mary dramatises these early years, questioning the power balance between the Plunket Greens.  At the V&A there is new evidence to back my plotting. In dynamic film footage the couple are seen in their offices and studios running their international Fashion house in the 1960s.  APG is filmed directing staff, guiding them to assist in the operation, while Mary researches, designs, philosophises about Fashion and its impact on society. He is obviously in her thrall as he witnesses genius in action!

It was the British Post Office which confirmed Quant’s greatness when they put a little black dress on a series of stamps in 2009. No one was more surprised than Mary Quant when she found herself being celebrated with 20th century Modernists but this is exactly where she should be positioned.

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She was at the heart of the Modernist momentum and it took British Post Office to identify her worldwide influence. She was much too close to see she was interpreting an international movement. At the time of the second Bazaar opening she wrote:

“Fashion is the product of a thousand and one different things. It is a whole host of elusive ideas, influences, cross-currents and economic factors, captured into a shape and dominated by two things….impact on others, fun for oneself. It is unpredictable, indefinable. It is successful only when a woman gets a kick out of what she is wearing; when she feels marvelous and looks marvelous.”

Identifying herself with the characteristics of Modernity, Quant sees it encouraging change, embracing technologies which would make life more enjoyable for men and women:

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“It is the Mods…the direct opposite of the Rockers (who seem to be anti-everything)…who gave the dress trade the impetus to break through the fast-moving, breathtaking, up-rooting revolution in which we have played a part since the opening of Bazaar.”

For some of the forty years since his Bazaar liaison David Wynne Morgan, was chairman of Hill and Knowlton, Madmen archetype in New York. He was still working in Fashion when I met him. His first words on Quant, in December 2006, were, ‘She’s a genius’.

Staff at the V&A, delighted with the current show’s enchanting glamour agree, with  Wynne Morgan and me, that we are indeed witnessing a life and works of pure brilliance.

 

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WAY TO WEAR THE HAT! Diary of Midge Maisel, aged 26 and a half!

NOMINATED for three Golden Globes in the “musical or comedy” categories: Rachel Brosnahan for Best Performance by an Actress, Alex Borstein for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Television Series,  how come ‘Vanity Fair’ thinks the second series of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “has little story to tell this time around?

Sonia Saraiya, VF’s television critic must surely know it’s all about the hats!

Saraiya is worried that the importance of Susie Myerson’s gender identity is not addressed! Also bothered by the plotting! If it’s set in Upper East Side, Manhattan, at first, she asks, how has it the chutzpah to take us to Paris and the Catskills, in the second series?

As an aspiring woman comic in the 1950s Midge Maisel (Brosnahan, raised in Leeds) needs a booking agent like Myerson  (Borstein). Susie is the gruff booker of the Gaslight Club in Greenwich Village where Midge’s career begins.  Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin in Family Guy, is a joy from the second she appears on screen.

As long as they keep it coming, the team behind both series can do anything they like in my book!

With all the features of a Mark Kermode validated Rom-Com, The Amazing Mrs Maisel is made by a team of geniuses embracing the explosive freedom given by cinema technology and other inspired colleagues.

Letting us in on their secrets is Emmy nominated costume designer Donna Zakowska. She explains how she creates her magic: “In terms of the extras and other people, {I’m} trying to make it look as real as possible and then heightening Midge a bit.”

Explaining how she researched the looks: “Some of the colors from the ‘50s, a lot of the palette things—I looked at French Vogue from the period — are really very interesting color combinations. I worked a lot with combining, taking more heightened Vogue from the period and then bringing it down to a little bit more accessible level for the character.” Maisie hat

Midge, wearing a perfectly angled hat, persuades the parish priest to allow her friend’s wedding to take place away from a windowless punishment room! Who could resist that look?

Even without Amy Sherman-Palladino’s direction of the the peppy young housewife-turned-comedian Miriam “Midge” Maisel, I would still be madly in love with the show’s theatrical photography and rocket speed dialogue.

If this isn’t enough there’s mouth-watering, mid-century  neapolitan ice-cream, intricately detailed interiors; total turn on for film buffs, scopophiliacs, perfectionists and voyeurs everywhere!

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The Revlon counter at B.Altman’s department store in mid-20th century midtown Manhattan. 

Set designer Bill Groom is delighted to make magic for viewers, using every trick in the book through today’s technology.

“Amazon is new in the development of media, and they’re very open to ideas and solutions and new ways of doing things which makes what I do fun. This streaming world has exploded and has turned this into the second golden age of television, which I think is giving the creative people behind the scenes a lot of freedom, which in many ways makes the work more interesting.”

 

 

Scent Noir

No.5 Coco Chanel is the controversial figure of Fashion.  It’s part of the label’s allure!

Students working on cosmetic floors of department stores all want to be selling the fascinating brand yet the genius behind it is a calculating, nonchalant, femme fatale!

In Thursday night’s feature  on BBC 4  a story, I thought was just a re-telling of a rumour, proves to be about her actual devious plotting and career building subterfuge!

Coco Chanel’s revolutionary perfume concept was as audacious as her outlandish designer clothing. At its launch, in 1921, it was an instant hit but in the 1920s and 1940s the Number 5 brand was at the centre of a war between the celebrated designer and her entrepreneurial business partners, the Wertheimer brothers.

In the thrilling and dark development of the world’s most famous perfume friends and colleagues become enemies and adversaries!

During WWII, with the help of her high-ranking Nazi lover, Coco Chanel attempted to oust her Jewish partners – who had fled German-occupied France and were operating the business from New Jersey – to take control of the highly lucrative business.

On Thursday these shocking revelations were confirmed, with archive footage of Gabrielle herself and her secret staircase at the Ritz.  Directed by Stephane Benhamou, the Wertheimer brothers Paul and Pierre did not make personal archive appearances but were represented by animated cut outs!

“The No. 5 War,” documentary  premiered at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival in January 2017. Here director Stephane Benhamou told audiences that his long days burrowing in French archives, not only let him tell the story of one of the most popular fragrances in the world, but proved beyond doubt that Chanel was ready to exploit the Nazi race laws to increase her wealth and power.

Vestire il robot! Salva il Pianeta!

DON’T you just love the Italians with their sense of style and scientific curiosity?

Here’s a researcher investigating the most exciting developments in textiles and technology at the international fashion fair, Milana Unica, this month.

Designed to show what we –  or our robots – will wear S/S 2019, it keeps Milan at the forefront of the Fashion world!

Volatile fabrics such as layered tulle, muslins and iridescent organics, combined with multicolor satins and vinyl or metallized fabrics, inspired by Robotics and Second-Skin stretch tubulars are seen here.

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Milano Unica’s slogan for today is SAVE THE PLANET!