Monday, February 09, 2015

Hollywood Costume (exhibition at the Academy Museum)

Hollywood Costume. The Hollywood edition of the exhibition inaugurated in Victoria & Albert Museum in 2012, curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis. At Academy Museum, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, 2 Oct 2014 until 2 March, 2015. Viewed on 9 Feb 2015.

The exhibition catalogue: Deborah Nadoolman Landis: Hollywood Costume. First published by V&A Publishing, London, 2012. Published in America by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills. 320 large pages, high quality illustrations.

The official intro: "The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences present the final showing of the groundbreaking multimedia exhibition Hollywood Costume in the historic Wilshire May Company Building, the future location of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, this ticketed exhibition explores the central role of costume design–from the glamorous to the very subtle–as an essential tool of cinematic storytelling. On view October 2, 2014 through March 2, 2015 the exhibition brings together the world's most iconic costumes from the Golden Age of cinema to the present."

"The Academy is enhancing the V&A's exhibition and includes more than 150 costumes. The Academy's presentation added more than 40 costumes to this landmark show, including Jared Leto's costume from Dallas Buyers Club (Kurt and Bart, 2013) – a recent acquisition from the Academy's Collection – as well as costumes from such recent releases including The Hunger Games (Judianna Makovsky, 2012), Django Unchained  (Sharen Davis, 2012), Lee Daniels' The Butler  (Ruth E. Carter, 2013), The Wolf of Wall Street  (Sandy Powell, 2013), American Hustle  (Michael Wilkinson, 2013), and The Great Gatsby  (Catherine Martin, 2013)."

"In addition, Hollywood Costume showcases the Academy's pair of the most famous shoes in the world – the original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (Adrian, 1939) shown with Dorothy's blue and white gingham pinafore dress."

"Hollywood Costume is curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Academy Award®–nominated costume designer and founding director of UCLA’s David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design, whose credits include National Lampoon’s Animal House  (1978), Raiders of the Lost Ark  (1981), Coming to America   (1988) and the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”  (1983); with Sir Christopher Frayling (Professor Emeritus of Cultural History, Royal College of Art), and set and costume designer and V&A Assistant Curator Keith Lodwick."

"Swarovski is the presenting sponsor of Hollywood Costume.
Additional support is provided by Pirelli and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
In-kind support provided by Barco, ARRI, JBL and Samsung.

AA: Many of the obvious choices are here, as they should be, and it is hard to imagine the amount of work needed in putting all these precious and legendary pieces together.

I admire Deborah Nadoolman Landis's artistic concept and the execution of the huge show. The word that comes to mind is eloquent. This is a history of the American cinema seen through costume design. Costume drama can be heavy, but the vision here is guided by wit. Martin Scorsese sums it up: "Costume is character". It is all about costume, and it is all about character.

There is a dramaturgy in this exhibition, most excitingly in a series of dialogues orchestrated between the director and the costume designer, seen on vertical screens facing each other: - Edith Head and Alfred Hitchcock - Sandy Powell and Martin Scorsese - Ann Roth and Mike Nichols - and Colleen Atwood and Tim Burton.

Of the obvious exhibits, Charles Chaplin's tramp costume is for me especially poignant in this context, among all this splendour. Last year in Le Giornate del Cinema Muto the mayor of Pordenone commented that it is a sad fact that the Tramp is a more topical figure today than a generation ago.

Two costumes from Alfred Hitchcock's movies linger in my mind. The vibrant, rich, full green of the costume of Judy Barton (Kim Novak) in Vertigo, and the eau de Nil green of Melanie Daniels's (Tippi Hedren) costume in The Birds. Green is my favourite colour, but it almost always fails in clothes although it never fails in nature. My interpretation of the secret of the green is that in nature it is not a single colour at all but a combination of dozens of shades that are permanently changing. Yet green can in exceptional cases succeed in costumes, and those two Edith Head-Alfred Hitchcock creations are among them.

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