Sunday, 25 November 2012

Scene 34: Edith Head, and Other Roles in Film

I have been writing this blog on and off for nearly nine months now, and it occurs to me that, when looking at film, I have mainly mentioned directors. 

Which is fine, after all directors are normally the main creative force behind a film. However, I thought it would be interesting, and only fair, to look at all the other fields too -such as SFX, lighting, camera crew, set design, costume etc. 

So as an experiment, I have done a quick search for 'famous film costume designers' and immediately I have come across Edith Head, who won eight Oscars for costume design. 

The films she won Oscars for includes The Sting (1973) and two Audrey Hepburn films, Sabrina (1954) and Roman Holiday (1953). She was also nominated for Best Costume Design along with Hubert de Givenchy for another Audrey Hepburn film, Funny Face (1957), but it seems they lost - to who, I'll have to find out! 

To see Edith Head in her element, check out the short piece below, where she talks about  process of designing costumes for Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday:

Edith Head is very famous for her designs, but I somehow have seemed to miss her, even though I loved the costumes in Audrey Hepburn's films. I was also rather amused to discover on IMDb trivia that Edith Head was the inspiration for Edna Mode in Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles (2004) - that's why looked familiar! 

Yet I never thought to look up who made those dresses, and have missed out on learning more about the wider film industry. So, in future, expect to find me writing about more than just the director, writer and actor roles in film and television. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Scene 33: Grand Hotel, the Spanish Downton

First of all, let me say, that I have never seen Downton Abbey. I have heard the criticisms and I have heard the praise, but I honestly never bothered to actually sit and watch it proper. So even though Grand Hotel has been dubbed 'the Spanish Downton Abbey' I can't really compare it.

I was just really intrigued, when I saw Grand Hotel's main characters Alicia and Julio, in the Radio Times next to their Downton counterparts Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. They looked so much more interesting than our stiff-upper lip English characters. So,  this evening I watched the first episode on Sky Arts 2. 

So what is it all about? Well, the plot mainly revolves around Julio  (the 'j' is pronounced as a 'h' in Spanish ) and his search for his missing sister, Cristina, who was a maid at the hotel and obviously knew some secret about the hotel owner, Dona Theresa. 

Arriving at the hotel, he is told she was fired as a thief, and not believing it, pretends to be a new waiter - as you do - so he can question the staff and sneak into Cristina's room. This leads him to having to pose as a guest at hotel, so he can talk to another guest, and meeting Alicia. 

Alicia, is one of Dona Theresa's three children, along with her drunk useless brother, and her well-married pregnant sister, who accidentally gets thrown down a flight of stairs.

Alicia has problems too. It looks like she's going to have to marry the manager of the hotel, Diego, on her mother's insistence, because apparently Diego knows of her father's past sins and could ruin them - just a quick note, her father died suddenly and unexpectedly, which makes me think it'll turn out he was murdered, you heard it here first! 

Long story short, the episode ends with Alicia allowing Julio to stay and investigate for the next month, even though he tricked her into thinking he was a guest. Oh yes, and just before the credits a dead prostitute is found in the grounds of hotel. The same one who had who had been hanging around with the Alicia's drunk brother.  Somehow I doubt that turned plot twist has turned up in Downton yet...

Meanwhile, the production values of the show are excellent. The hotel is as grand as its name, especially the exterior, and of course the cast are in lovely period costume. The only thing that rather surprised me was the dull skies in the exterior scenes. I had assumed that the whole thing would be set in blazing Spanish sunshine, but the tone is more of a slightly gloomy British day. Perhaps it's because its on the coast?

Nonetheless, I shall keeping Grand Hotel series linked on my television, and for those of you also interested in knowing more, here is a link to the trailer: Grand Hotel, Sky Arts 2 and 
you can also get the lowdown on the characters at the Radio Times online.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Scene 32: Horror Films, After Halloween

Was it just me or was the TV schedule last Halloween pretty pathetic  All we really had to chose from was the Halloween version of Come Dine With Me and a documentary on Frankenstein - neither of which I watched. The best thing about the Halloween in fact for me, was Mark Gatiss returning with another brilliant documentary about horror films. 

Mark Gatiss did a three-part documentary called A History of Horror a year or two ago, which covered horror films in Hollywood and Britain, that I had really enjoyed. I found the programme was a fascinating watch, especially from a filmmakers perspective, and a very good introduction to the genre.  So, I was very happy when I discovered he had done another documentary, Horror Europa, about European horror films. 

The BBC has then proceeded to broadcast a couple of the films mentioned in the documentary - The Devil's Backbone (2001) by director Guillermo del Toro and The Bird with The Crystal Plumage (1970) by Dario Argento. Though not on Halloween of course. Which is ashamed since Horror Europa was broadcast on the 29th October, and it would have been a nice touch to have the horror films of the documentary shown on the most appropriate night of the year! 

Anyway, so last week I saw The Devil's Backbone, which tells the tale of boy sent to an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, who discovers their is a ghost in the building . It is an excellent film, which uses poetry and poetic language beautifully - but in my opinion not very scary.

I think this is because, partly,  I saw the ghost as only one layer of a slightly bigger, more complex human drama happening in the film. But also because during Horror Europa, Mark Gatiss commented on how the ghost was a 'tragic presence' - which made me feel the ghost was something to feel sad for, rather than be scared of. 

As for The Bird with The Crystal Plumage, I intend to watch that today! In the meantime, I have stumbled across this useful video of Mark Gatiss demonstrating how to make edible, horror movie style fake blood. An important skill surely all horror filmmakers should have?