Style in Film Series

Orson Welles said it best: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has curated a Style in Film series at the Vancity Theatre which shines a spotlight on those people who demand it: the artists, the designers, the photographers and their muses…The folks who know their true value and aren’t afraid to flaunt it.

Through documentaries which give an insight into the compelling lives of prominent figures in the fashion industry, as well as a stylish comedy, VIFF has showcased a worthy lineup of movies.

Dries (2017)

First up, a film on the life of Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Filmmaker Reiner Holzemer documents the life of Dries over an entire year, outlining into the steps that go into creating a collection, as well as the emblematic fashion shows that bring his collections to the world and have become cult ’must sees’ at Paris Fashion Week.

We delve into the daily difficulties of running an independent fashion label. Dries, a true artist, can be found backstage at his runway shows meticulously adjusting models, proving that every little detail counts. He exclaims he doesn’t appreciate the word ‘fashion’ as he thinks of his work as more as an artform, and this word could never do it justice.

Through the documentary we see a serious but passionate man, who is humble about his work and his life. Dries speaks candidly about his biggest downfall, which is that he is a perfectionist. He seems sensitive to what he sees as flaws; he can’t bring himself to watch his own runway videos, even on receiving the most positive feedback for his designs.

A highlight from the film is listening to Dries talk about The Antwerp Six collective with whom he belongs, a group of fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980–81, which really put Belgium on the map in the design world. Members include Walter Van Beirendonck and Ann Demeulemeester. Dries explains how at school they really pushed each other to work harder which led to their international success. Dries’ aesthetic was the more reserved of the group, with a focus on classic tailoring and couture. He prefers a focus on more wearable garments, to really enhance the wearer’s personality.

C’est la vie! (2017)

Next on the line-up is C’est La Vie, a French fiction film by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. This is a stylistic comedy surrounding a serious wedding planner/caterer, Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri), who attempts to create a fairytale wedding for a couple with superior tastes. The most disorganised group of waiters, cooks, photographers and wedding singers in the history of holy matrimonies make the ingredients for a fantastically funny film.

This is a movie about characters, and we get wrapped up in their worlds as they interact with each other during this dramatic event. It’s a fast tempo piece, and you can feel the adrenaline of working this wedding which goes on through the night through a series of mishaps and misdemeanours. As the sun comes up you can sense the exhaustion and sense of pride from these coworkers as they manage to turn their bad luck around.

Love, Cecil (2017)

Lastly, we have Love, Cecil. A lovingly made documentary about the life and work of stylist and fashion photographer, Cecil Beaton. Produced and directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who is possibly most well known for her documentary of her relation Diana Vreeland in, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”. This film is created with the same warmth and admiration towards Cecil that one might imagine she felt towards Diana. The film is accompanied by excerpts of Cecil’s own diaries (that he self published throughout his life). Which he always signed off, Love, Cecil. 

The documentary begins with Cecil’s childhood and upbringing. We see an artist in the early stages of his career, gravitating towards the camera determined to create art. Self-taught, he knew how to “get the effect” he was looking for despite his lack of technical knowledge. This passion carries with him through the theatre at University and his close relation with the Bright Young Things (extravagant and dramatic London aristocrats and socialites in the 1920s). It was clear that he is socially ambitious in addition to being artistically ambitious from an early age, with a deep love for beauty and drama. 

A pivotal part of the film was when they focused on one of Cecil’s deepest failures; his creation of a distasteful antisemitic “easter egg” that was mistakenly published to Vogue. This was shortly before the beginning of World War Two. Because of this offensive illustration, Cecil was forced resign from his established career at Vogue and British Vogue immediately. This act isolated him from much of the life and work he’d become accustomed to. Once the war started he spent the next six years as a dedicated photojournalist. He worked without ceasing and fell ill many times during the war. Cecil’s photographs, some say, swayed the public mind of the American people to join the war effort. He saw this time as a way to make-up for a mistake that he truly felt horrible for. After his efforts in the war, he was welcomed back into the society he’d fought so hard to get into. 

The film gives us a comprehensive view of his life, work, and distinctive personality. There are two things to take away from this film. One, he wasn’t the kind of man anyone felt lukewarm about. There were those who adored him and those who absolutely loathed him. And two, he had a deep longing to be loved and accepted. They end the film with the recollection of his death, alone and never to be loved back by the men he adored. He left the world a body of thoughtful, loving, and groundbreaking work. And quite wonderfully, “Love, Cecil” pays homage to that.

Check out VIFF’s website for their year round movie listings…

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