Showing posts with label film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 October 2014

La Cabina (The Phone Box), 1972, Spain {English Subtitles}

   I certainly don't think anyone who views this will feel the same way about phone booths ever again. Whilst I couldn't help but become attuned to an apparent evocation of our great modern malaise (trapped and helpless on the Planet of the Pudding Brains, where compassion comes in last place to hedonism and self-interest), other commentators readily held up La Cabina's narrative as emblematic of the days of General Franco and all the eliding of human rights that went with it

   I suppose that one just had to be there

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Daniel Barnett Wedding Portrait Shoot

   Even though I've had cause to abandon The Mode Parade over the last few months, it hasn't escaped my notice that new followers have joined, links have been shared throughout the digital community and my mother keeps showing it to her friends

   I can't promise that the column is getting back on track, though if you are a semi-regular reader trying to parse these sentences into coherence, then you're old enough to know that I'm lying - this train has redefined the meaning of derailing several times over the course of three years. For Buddha's sake, I stopped taking my own photographs sometime in mid-2010

   To emphasise that last point, as well as make another reference to times past, my friend Daniel Barnett, whose portrait of me leads 2009's 'The Party Post', snapped me once again over the weekend when we attended the nuptials of two very dear mutual friends in Central London. I am at that age where I am becoming surrounded by the marriages of others, but that is not to complain - I treasure (and keep) every invitation, I congratulate, I indulge, I laugh, I feel. Now and again, I even do the splits

   Now, this is not the first time I have written on wedding ensembles, nor shared my own, albeit in informal/Ghanaian-modern modes, but this is the first time I am presenting my morning dress version, which, because of the nature of Britain's weather, tends to be adaptable all year round. With events set for a late afternoon start, I gave the briefest consideration to slipping into black tie mode after dinner, but I'm relaxed by nature and more importantly, even "the rules" don't give a damn - eveningwear doesn't officially kick in until after 6pm, which gives all the leeway for one to keep morning dress on into the night if the wedding starts prior to then. And regrettable as it might be to some, formal events aren't so strict any longer

   I found my morning and waistcoats, along with my hidden braces, at the Hackett sample sale three years ago, whilst the trousers are vintage sourced from Old Hat London, a shop that has much to offer in this particular menswear category. Who knows when, but at some future stage, I will complete this with decent gloves, houndstooth trousers, a solid gold pocket watch and maybe even an antique top hat, if they were ever made to suit the likes of my oversized head, I suppose

   Ardent traditionalists may beat one over the head with strictures that favour only dove grey waistcoats, white linen pocket squares and silvery ties, but I'd say it's obvious that they gave up trying to save my soul a millenium ago and now devote themselves to only the truly worthy causes, like ex-members of N-Dubz and the attendees of Pitti Uomo. Besides, pale colours are also acceptable. Morning dress has long allowed more expressiveness than it receives credit for; even this 1930s-era piece by the formidable Laurence Fellows promotes a subtly opalescent take; whilst  the face of the man on the left is at risk of being washed out by the similarly coloured shirt, save for its contrasting collar, this works well in injecting a stylish variety of tone into this most soberly joyous version of formalwear:

   Winston and I talked that day of trouser tailoring, particularly as they related to morning dress in the early 20th century (ahead of W's Men's Flair article on the topic, published today). This is an interesting arena for the details fiends, for if there's one thing internet forums and catwalk shows have demonstrated, it's that well cut trousers are often as difficult to spot as an interesting person at a creative industry receptionist recruitment drive. The Fellows illustration definitely contains an element of veracity in this regard; a lot of this can be put down the utilitarian manner in which braces hold one's trousers in place and smooth out their fall, along with the valuable assistance of a higher rise. That said, everyone should still take to a good belt when they can

   Here's a number of people wearing this traditional outfit better than I:

Stanley Mortimer and Babe Paley, 1940

A.J. Drexel Biddle, Jr. was well known for his clothing nous. His habits are catalogued in George Frazier's 1960 Esquire article, 'The Art of Wearing Clothes', as hosted by

An unknown American couple on the fateful day of 22nd November 1963, Jack Kennedy's last day on Earth

A trade magazine fashion plate, 1969

Prince Charles can be legitimately described as wearing a morning suit, since his coat and trousers are in matching grey (the waistcoat is up to individual taste). This is a less formal number that is usually deployed at warmer weddings

Fabulous Dead Person Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Redé, pictured in his morning suit and corresponding grey topper in 1968, accompanied by fellow stylish ghosts Elizabeth Taylor, Maria Callas and Richard Burton

   By the way, everyone else at the wedding, the bride especially, were on effervescent form. But then, my friends usually bring out the best in me

Required Reading: Sator on Formal Wedding Attire and Black Tie Guide

Barima's portraits are the property of Daniel Barnett Photography

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Girl in Terry O'Neill's Soup

Marion: Are you trying to get me tight?
Robert: You're frightening enough sober.
   Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the private viewing for starshooter Terry O'Neill's 'Guys and Dolls' retrospective at Chelsea's Little Black Gallery, whereupon I inadvertently managed to position myself in the hinterland between knowledgeable and know-it-all; a stance that comes as no great revelation to the semi-regular readers of this column, I'm certain

   Take this excellent shot of enduring - give or take an early death - actors Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers in 1970. Observe the unstudied, spontaneous nature of it that loudly proclaims "Paparazzi Surprise!" as the two stars prepare to adjust to all seeing eyes of the media hounds who sniffed out a liaison in the sun and pounced upon their return. One might wonder, though, as to whether these two were ever involved, particularly as this was roughly around the time that Sellers became involved with Miranda Quarry, whom he married that year. Is this where the construct starts to fall apart?

   In actual fact, it falls apart if one has seen the film. The snappers might not be acting, but the luminaries certainly are, for this is more or less a still from the third act of Roy Boulting's There's A Girl In My Soup. And yes, that revelation did spoil it for at least one person that night. That's verisimilitude for you

   And that person might derive even less cheer from seeing the film, itself adapted by Terence Frisby from his own play; to some, it's a cute, stylish little document of the rigid, punctilious yet surreptitiously naughty mores of the gilded class rubbing up against those of the brazen, hedonistic, everything-is-permissible ones of the hippies; to others, it is overly focused on a self-involved, amoral sybarite whose only concerns are hardwired to his genitals and the out-of-town girl who eventually has him eating out of her hand simply because she deconstructs his seduction routine to the hackneyed wealthy lothario tricks it comprises. Naturally, I rather like it


   Dressed peculiarly and exclusively by Mr. Fish of Clifford Street, Sellers's Robert Danvers is the archetypal selfish shagger who discarded with bedposts long ago due to the damage done from adding the notches. I suspect that his "Hairy Chested Love God" (as Grant Morrison memorably describes the 1970s incarnation of Bruce Wayne/Batman) has no small measure of influence on fellow fictional Peacock Austin Powers; indeed, he comes equipped with a devil may care-attitude, an almost irrepressible belief in his own virility and a catchphrase that the swingers of the '60s cannot help falling for - "My God! but you're lovely," as is uttered practically every time he meets a woman, before, during and after game time. Hell, when we first meet this almost irritatingly charismatic "rotter," he attends the wedding of an old lover to seduce the bride one last time and takes a fetching upperclasswoman home as a palate cleanser, playing the cookery show that has secured his in-story fame and excesses on his television as a background boost to his ego

   What does a writer do with the tale of a fashionably attired, Bolly-swigging pure pleasure seeker who lives only for the delights of women, Rolls Royces and gastronomic consumables? Why, one introduces a little anarchy into his decadent little heart. Enter Goldie Hawn's Marion, the perfect Ossie Clarke-clad hellcat for a catalysing touch of the old chaos and disorder

   What is interesting is that rather than have Danvers spend much of the narrative vaingloriously striving to make Marion his, the relationship that forms between them begins rather quickly, but in essence is mostly on her own terms. Belying their wide age difference, she deflects his aforementioned tricks rather easily, only to move herself into his luxurious London flat, direct him to drive her back to the squalid basement where he first spotted her, argue awkwardly with her self-involved, unreconstructed boyfriend and have Danvers flail around with her heavy suitcase as he tries to avoid despoiling his expensive finery. She spends most of her time during the wine tasting trip to France she accompanies him on embarrassingly inebriated and yet able to bed or make a fool of him on a speedy whim. No wonder he does the obvious and begins to fall for her - it's practically a text for "How to Keep a Man Forever 101"

   But inevitably, the tale is a flawed one. The entertainment value of our protagonists is undermined by how unlikeably they behave, although Marion may come off worse, for whilst Danvers learns little about himself, Marion learns nothing at all, content to run with the values of free love and free living for however long she can, utilising her insight and intelligence for little more than manoeuvring the men in her life as she pleases. Which is a conclusion I'd rather not have drawn, for there are some fun moments watching the two trying to fit into each others worlds - that war of the mores again - and though clichéd a storytelling device, even in the late 20th century, what potential there was for such an odd couple to blend their worlds together is lost in the denouement, though I suppose there is a point to be made there as well. Had Frisby been more prescient, Marion's fate would likely have been rather unhappy, for it is more or less clear that Danvers will be fine, no matter what indignities come to him

   The saving graces? Sellers's aforementioned charisma, Hawn's nascent, now time-honoured knockabout persona, the odd Mike D'Abo-written song - nothing that's a patch on 'Handbags and Gladrags,' sadly - and, oh, a veritable goldmine of Peacock Revolution style. All that, at least, gives segments of this production a decidedly delicious flavour

Some of these screen caps were filched from Precious Bodily Fluids. Andrew, I could not have done it without you

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Stand-In (2011)

A short film by an old friend of some old friends, Ricky Lloyd George, presently a California-based director:

Monday, 1 August 2011

"You thought that was Jerry Lewis?"

   What a treat it was to watch the Steve Buscemi written, directed and lead Trees Lounge (1996) once more on BBC Two last night; a throwback to the teenage times when that channel and Channel 4 were my leading outlets for independent and global cinema. It's no mean feat making an inveterate screw-up into a compelling screen character, but by God does Mr. Buscemi bring a particular wit and élan to this superficially sleepy small-town universe and its cornucopia of characters who move through it by ignoring or reacting against as many of their burdens as possible. And whilst this is an illicit admission in the context of the story, Chloë Sevigny has rarely been more fetching

   Indeed, what is more topical in these recession days of 2011 than the daily grind of a drink sodden, unemployed life? Idle hands, people, idle hands

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Black Caesar at the Crib

Needless to say, this genre pleasure from 1973 boasts some of the funkiest stuff James Brown (in collaboration with Fred Wesley and Barry Devorzon) ever deployed. It is also buoyed by the forceful yet magnetic work of leading man Fred Williamson, the visceral visuals helmed by director and writer Larry Cohen, and the odd moment of stylistic verve - like the cheeky mise-en-scene involving the cinema/theatre board above the cast's heads in the first photograph

Let's dance:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Putney Swope (1969)

Truth in advertising? Satire for longhairs? Ever so "slightly" gonzo?

Near plotless though it may be, yet one of my favourites from the late 1960s for its slipshod skewering of all that political correctness holds dear, Putney Swope tells the story of what happens when the token black man leads a Madison Avenue agency from the front, with nary a demographic not offended by the conclusion. And the moral is that when it comes to the bottom line, people don't change, even for their "ironclad" principles. The fun, of course, is in seeing such a narrative through

Directed by Robert Downey Sr.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Moment of Charm from Peter O'Toole

   Portraying alcohol-and-self-loathing suffused rake and actor Alan Swann in Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year is one of the comic highlights of Peter O'Toole's storied career. One can feel the dissolute manner in which he makes charm and manipulation his emotional armour against the world with every offhand riposte and flash of naughtiness; this arresting appearance, in which he seemed to make his co-stars genuinely hang on to his every utterance, locked him in for one of his many Oscar runner-up moments

   Whilst the comedy sequences do much to highlight O'Toole's gifts of physicality, timing and an exceedingly delicious gift for dry delivery, this destructive, difficult dandy would be ultimately forgettable were it not for an emotional core that is clichéd enough for me to avoid discussing in detail (a wounded heart, a desire to escape genuine responsibility, irritation with drinks served at room temperature, etc.), but is necessary to make certain the audience cares for his ending as well as his slipshod journeying throughout the conversations, appearances, negotiations and set pieces (two standouts: the impromptu abseil off the side of a tall apartment block using a retractable fire hose, and the glorious bit of impromptu swash and buckle at the end when Swann stops searching for the hero inside and puts his madness to good use) that make up his character arc. There is also wonderful support from the requisite foil, Mark Linn-Baker, and the surprisingly endearing romance between his Benjy and Jessica Harper's K.C. Downing - even this cynic has to smile when he finally wins her affections, over a projector reel and a box of popcorn

   No small entry into this luminary's canon, My Favourite Year, although more indebted to Errol Flynn for inspiration than O'Toole's personal indelicacies, nevertheless draws upon his idiosyncratic behaviours and vulnerabilities for its pathos, channelling them into the myopic mischief of its lead character the rest of the time. If Russell Brand were actually singularly gifted, he might be counted on for a remake, even if that is the worst kind of filmic idea: the remake as vehicle for a bubbling under performer of debatable talent. Besides, not everyone is blessed with that which, for all his faults, helped make a star out of a flawed yet brilliant man like Peter O'Toole:


Sunday, 15 May 2011

L'Amour Fou (2011)

“I’ve gone through much anguish, many hells. I’ve known fear and a tremendous solitude. The deceitful friends that tranquilizers and narcotics turn out to be. The prison that depression can be and that of mental-health clinics. One day I came out of it all, dazzled but sober. Marcel Proust taught me that ‘the magnificent and pitiable family of neurotic people is the salt of the earth.’”

   I think few things explicate the psyche of a sophisticate like examining his desire for the splendid, so I am greatly looking forward to this ostensibly intimate film by Pierre Thoretton. For what the world certainly needs is a documentary about the lives and tastes of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé

   It's pretty gratifying to see that the muses - Betty Catroux, Loulou De La Falaise and Catherine Deneuve - are present and correct, as well as knowing that L'Amour Fou (“The Crazy/Mad Love”) does not shy away from acknowledging the distraught and depersonalised depths the industrious, sensitive, aesthetically-obsessed Saint Laurent could slide into, almost unbidden, whilst Bergé navigated much of his life for him

   Interspersed between the reminiscences from a 50 year love affair are moments from a confessional on the catwalk, the copious collections of objets d'art that filled the rooms of houses the world over and the delivery of said objets into the funereal hands of auctioneers (because nothing marks the passing of a life lived in connoisseurship quite like the wholesale of one's acquisitions) and then to those of that sagacious breed whose avarice and passion match those of Saint Laurent himself: collectors

   For all the attention lavished on works by Mondrian, Degas and Picasso, it's more interesting to me that there was a democratic element to the couple's assorted pretty things; Saint Laurent was apparently apt to see value in the bric a brac of a Marrakech market as he was in Chinoiserie pieces, Constantin Brancusi forms and Egyptian sculpture. And personally, an openness to the potential beauty in the affordable and the aureate is what makes such accumulative types all the more endearing

   Frankly, a production like this would always feel akin to the closing of a chapter


Thursday, 14 April 2011


   Why don't they make stars like Esther Williams any more? And no, I do not refer to the sensuous and slightly sonorous voice behind the funk nugget 'Last Night Changed It All', although she, too, is worthy of appreciation

   Known as the "Million Dollar Mermaid" at MGM after the 1952 film she starred in, Williams made a great many films under the studio's aegis, amongst which was Ziegfeld Follies. I recall watching it as a small and entranced child who was as far from being the world's keenest swimfan as Josef Fritzl is from being a humanist; the enrapturing aspects of those beatific, synchronised sequences nevertheless left quite the  impression. This was a special time; a time I refer to as "My First Impression of Wet Women"

   YouTube naturally has a myriad video range of her work (I recommend this embedding-unfriendly profile from That's Entertainment) and whilst much of it seems genteel and quaint, there is always a particular dignity, physical grace and acute professionalism in her movements - par for the course in Cinema's Golden Age, of course. But then, I've often been accused of preferring to look too closely at nice forms:

Sunday, 10 April 2011


June 25, 1924 – April 9, 2011

   I think that mustering up an effective eulogy to Sidney Lumet is a touch beyond me today. I have hardly watched each of his films, but I am certainly a little versed in those the world considered the greats; the most recent dip into his back catalogue being The Verdict (one can tell my addiction to Turner Classic Movies/TCM has been nearing a plateau, of late). Because of this, I can also spare us all the ramble involving the various ways in which The Wiz scarred me for life (consider the Wicked Witch's melting scene - my God, for something so cartoony, it seems so... visceral, like Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, perhaps. And no three year old Michael Jackson fan wishes to see his idol torn apart - what would Freud say?). Besides, I think he actually came aboard that project because he wanted to sleep with Diana Ross

   One of the best things about Lumet's work is that in an increasingly cynical existence referred to as "life," his rich seam of humanist work has embedded itself so deeply in the culture that there is practically a quotable for every film he shot. Consider:

"Attica! Attica!"
"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
"Drop your cocks and grab your socks!"

   (I may be reaching with that last one)

   The past decade has seen a number of our leading lights of the creative arts pass on; this year has seen more than I would care to name, in fact. And as far as I can discern, it seems to be quite the struggle to replenish the sorts of technical qualities and insights into human behaviour that talents like Lumet offered. But then, that's what iconic status means to me - a capacity to achieve or to symbolise achievement so that others may observe, learn, admire and wish it was them about to galvanise the careers of several gossip columnists by indulging in behaviour most indelicate at the celebrity festooned after party of a major awards event

   Farewell, Mr. Lumet. And for the record, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Network were my other favourites. I like your actors when they shout

Sunday, 6 March 2011


   Here is where I've been spending some of my online time of late:
  • The Cutting Class. Having come across this via Twitter this week, I've had an edifying time reading its breakdowns of garment patterns and fabric usages in runway collections; a stimulating form of dissection, to be certain. Intelligently and confidently written, it may become a reference when I begin moonlighting as a dressmaker under a particularly flamboyant sobriquet one day (my heart is currently set on "Lazlo T. Funkenschmeiter," by the way)
  • In light of the imminent Royal Wedding, I have been perusing the details of its predecessors at Vintage Connection, purely out of interest in the passing of fashions and aureate displays of affection and happiness like the real gold charms that filled the cake at the Queen Mother's nuptials
  • Daniel Copley, writer and cynic, is one of the few I follow on Twitter. Recently, he has decided to consider online dating. Since I feel he is sure to follow through on it, it may be worth keeping an eye on his blog over the ensuing months. It could possibly turn out to be Humiliation Theatre
  • The Big Bark Blog. Because my friend Sasha's burgeoning film reviews column saves me quite the chunks of change that would otherwise be spent sitting in a darkened theatre myself. I'm duty-bound to divulge, however, that I often skip her writing to stare longingly at her Sophia Loren wallpaper instead
  • Slashdot. Sample headline: "Meth Dealer Faces Loss of His Comic Book Collection"; how much more entertaining can "news for nerds" get?
  • Gregory Parkinson. Because he creates vivaciously refreshing womenswear, all filled with psychedelia, drape and a certain sense of hippyish abandon. And because his nephew suggested it

Thursday, 18 November 2010


   Semi-regular viewers of this column are aware that I occasionally champion the dressing of men who don't resemble tryouts for the next Willy Wonka remake. Today, I'd like to host a pictorial of the mostly modest (but resolutely talented) Terence Stamp:

 Top two: in Modesty Blaise, as dressed by Douglas Hayward and Mr. Fish. This caper also stars Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde, boasts a memorable Gorillaz-sampled themesong and was high on my To-Do List, as are Stamp's memoirs
In Divina Creatura (aka The Divine Nymph, 1975), which I've also yet to see
With former lover and 1960s Face, Jean Shrimpton

   I am not up to date on Mr. Stamp's oeuvre - his smaller roles in recent comedy vehicle fare notwithstanding - but every facet of his fairly protean persona regularly makes an impact. Watching him toying exasperatedly, pathetically and yet thoroughly evilly with Samantha Eggar in The Collector is always a touch uncomfortable - his character's actions are the height of confused, tortured desire yet never less than unpleasant, not unlike the emotionally beset protagonist of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom. Elsewhere, his cold, forceful turns in Oliver Stone's Wall Street and Steven Soderbergh's The Limey juxtapose with the likes of his camp antics in drag classic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the curious, iconic mixture of both modes that is Superman and Superman II's General Zod (only a Swinging Sixties survivor and sex symbol could order others to kneel before him as if it was his birthright)

   But on and offscreen, when it is necessary, the man can surely dress. He has a natural sort of ease in his clothing whilst suggesting little concern at all with staying fashionable. Certainly, he adapts to the prevailing winds of his eras with aplomb, but usually in the most unfussy and almost stripped down manner. Relatively speaking, that is

   Even in the modern age, he remains a hat person:

   Sometimes beguilingly elegant and often louchely casual, I will take one Terence Stamp over a myriad of today's on and offline men's style idols. Attitude counts

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Voluptuary

   One of my favourite cinematic misadventurers is Augusta Bertram, the titular relative to the reliably stuffy and highly strung Henry Pulling in 1972's Graham Greene adaptation, Travels With My Aunt, as portrayed in mercurial, bombastic and somewhat affected style by Dame Maggie Smith. This, of course, has much to do with her characterisation as a previously unworldly convent schoolgirl whose dalliance with an older sophisticate eventually transforms her into a trouble-prone, mendacious but fundamentally good hearted manipulator, and more importantly, a sensuous, consummate aesthete with more than a passing, and doubtlessly deliberate, resemblance to cheetah walker and epicurean profligate, Luisa, the Marchesa Casati, that infamous and bottomless well of extravagant vanity:

Portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1908, from the private collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber

   In fact, Aunt Augusta's Casati-like "commissioning of her own immortality" forms a significant plot point as the story unfurls. She makes for quite a striking flame haired nude, if I do say so myself

  And what Augusta lacks in exotic pets, she makes up for in Louis Gossett Jr's bizarre but canny, quasi mystical but oddly grounded, and whimsical but efficient Wordsworth - a fictional personification of the word "protean" if ever there was one. However, given that she is rather dependent on him, he is assuredly of greater utility than wearing gilded snakes as jewelry

  The underepresentation of the film on the WWW might suggest it to be the sort of lost gem whose soundtrack will eventually be exhumed by a reissues label. It's not quite of that vintage, but it is more than diverting,  is leavened with soulful pathos in parts, and contains some minor comic gems, such as the amusing joke of Augusta's lavish and bohemian London dwelling being situated one floor above a working class pub. Aside from the grandeur that makes up the wardrobes and leisurely homes of Augusta, her friends, her lovers and her enemies, the film is a treat of foreign locales, the less suspect side of the nightlife and  the more conservative early 1970s menswear; usually 3 dependable visual enticements to watch the filmed works of the decade. There is also a cute hippie (Cindy Williams), who may serve to remind all trustafarians that they have precursors

  The other attraction to the film is its tendency to roam, both around the earth as Augusta, Henry and Wordsworth jaunt on their extended caper, and through Augusta's memories as she reflects on the woman she came to be. This facet makes for quite the balancing act against the madcap style of the rest of the plot and Smith's effusive performance; ultimately, Travels With My Aunt is a fine entry into the canon of curate's eggs that are nevertheless rather charming, due in no small part to a fortunate confluence of skill and vigour

   And if all else failed to entertain, there are always Anthony Powell's costume designs - they did win him his first Oscar, after all

Friday, 17 September 2010

Sleuth (1972)

To borrow a cliché, there can only be one. And with Messrs. Olivier and Caine in the headline, one should certainly hope so

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Meet The Swenkas

In South Africa, when the country was still in the grip of apartheid, men from the nation's rural areas often journeyed to the cities in search of work. Hoping to impress the families they left behind, the men would often buy stylish new suits for their visits back home, and practice looking slick for their friends and neighbors. Over time, this behavior evolved into a practice called "swenking," in which working-class South Africans would meet on a regular basis for competitions in which they would see who could put together the best-looking outfit, and who knew how to move best in it. Swenking is a hobby that still exists today in South Africa, and The Swenkas is a documentary which looks at both the past and present of this curious blend of fashion and sport, as filmmaker Jeppe Ronde explores the history of swenking as well as profiling the son of the leader of a group of swenkas who is contemplating joining in the place of his late father.

~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

At the shows, they’re judged for their outfits, their attention to detail, and the little moves they do to call notice to both. It’s real flourishy. The winner takes a cut of the door fee, which is generally a fraction of the cost of one suit. At Christmas in Durban, all the local swenking organizations get together for the finals and name the swenkiest guy in all South Africa.

Because most swenkas earn about $400 a month and a top-end tailored suit costs about $1,200, they buy clothes on layaway, spending like a year visiting a suit in the shop and making little homeopathic payments on it, dreaming about it at night. Basically, all that My Beautiful Laundrette, Horatio Alger stuff is in full effect, minus the gayness and the wealthy relatives on the one hand and America and rising up on the other.

It is about dreams, friends.

   On special occasions such as Christmas, the best swenking is rewarded with a live goat or a cow on a leash

   There's even a Sapeurs vs. Swenkas group on Facebook for those who cannot reconcile the idea of two separate groups of distinctly attired, sartorially-minded men of African descent

   The Swenkas strike me as a more charismatic movement: their silhouettes and colours are more considered; their love of hats more harmonious; their fondness for the 1980s more personally resonant; their personae more enticingly ludic

   And they dance. That's rather an important characteristic for those who dress with refined abandon

Friday, 28 May 2010

Stay Gold

Consider this evergreen image of Richard Roundtree when the Fall rolls around again

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


   Viewing Mark Levin's peppy HBO docufilm, Schmatta: From Rags to Riches to Rags, last night, I saw the Made in America garment trade fall from 95% mainland production in 1965 to 5% in 2009 in an hour and 12 minutes. For many involved through this decades-long history of the New York Garment District, their reversal of fortunes may have seemed a mere eyeblink to them, also

   In between garrulous soundbites from former sportswear emperor and reformed quasi-dictatorial hothead Irving Rousso and an industry pride oratory masked as a bombastic anthem sung by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in a televised spot, the film encompasses deregulation, outsourcing, the rise of designer personalities as embodied by Halston and Calvin Klein, the Kathie Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, Reagan Red and concludes as a visual threnody for a once advanced embodiment of American enterprise, undercut and eventually dispossessed by the Reagan and Clinton administrations in particular

   But it is no spoiler to point out that whether American, Indian or Chinese, over the decades and the shifts of landscape, it is always the little guy who is shafted hardest

Sunday, 11 April 2010

It's Peter O'Toole Sunday

“Oh, it’s painful seeing [film] all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed. I love the theatre, because it's the art of the moment. I’m in love with ephemera and I hate permanence. Acting is making words into flesh. And I love classical acting, because you need the vocal range of an opera singer, the movement of a ballet dancer and the ability to act - as you turn your whole body into the musical instrument on which you play. It's more than behaviourism, which is what you get in the movies. Chrissake, what are movies anyway? Just fucking moving photographs - that’s all. But the theatre! Ah, there you have the impermanence that I love. It’s a reflection of life somehow. It’s… it’s like… building a statue of snow”

   Very possibly history's most feted Academy Award bridesmaid - honorary conferment notwithstanding - Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is in many ways a great man. Even his middle names fortify this assertion

   An aesthete with a mental repository for each of the Shakespearean sonnets and the proclivities for liver degradation and mental abuse, O'Toole habitually welded self-destruction to self-expressive talent. As a role model starring in the cautionary tale of his own life, he is near peerless, particularly as he has made it as far as his late 70s, subverting the traditional early existence failure of the likes of Basquiat, Dean and Beardsley

   Mercurial, ingenious, naughty, natty and soaked in esprit and other spirits. Sober conservative style sported by one with little other attuning to sobriety for a great deal of his life. I'd have demanded him for a godfather if the possibility was forthcoming. Apparently, he once spirited valuable earrings out of Egypt through a drug mule-esque concealment within his foreskin

   Such a dissembler may not be instantly apparent as an inspiration but for the right mind, fault and positives can be discerned - one only has to ponder our enduring appreciation for Capitalism, ultra violence and McDonald's

   I'm on the side of the man with the self awareness to visualise a career and a future beyond his own damage, the raconteur who named his biographies Loitering With Intent, the star whose aspect of disreputability saturates his garments of such propriety but remains so far above a mere lounge lizard by dint of ability. Who needs a perfect gentleman?

"I'm the most gregarious of men and love good company, but never less alone when alone"