I know I haven’t written in like, years, but I have been going through a particularly uninspiring lull and it’s been quite difficult to find delight in writing lately. The films that I had picked to write about just didn’t do it for me for whatever reason, so I’ve neglected the blog for a while. So, yeah, I took some time to just enjoy movies and television without thinking about writing about them specifically. I recently re-watched one of my favorite feel good movies of all time, Funny Face and while absolutely loving every second of it, I finally got a bit of inspiration and an impetus to write.
Funny Face is one of those films that are just pure fun and happiness, there is very little conflict, the stakes are very low and it looks great. I think that above all this movie is marvelous eye candy; the visual style, derived from the look of photographer Richard Avedon’s fashion shots, is bright and cheerful and beautiful to look at. The costume design in at a forefront because the film is set in the fashion world of the 1950’s an the story follows the characters as they work on a string of fashion shoots, so there is a lot of emphasis on what the characters wear, particularly our protagonist, Jo, played by Audrey Hepburn. Because of the nature of the story, the film is in a way, informed by the clothing and fashion, since much of the plot and narrative revolves around Jo’s transition from frumpy bookworm to glamorous model. Richard Avedon’s involvement and influence gives the many of the shots look like images lifted out of the pages of popular fashion magazines of the times, emphasizing the beauty and glamour of the clothing.
The clothing in the film is meant to be admired, so the film calls attention to it, it treats it like spectacle. Unlike some films, in which the costumes are not supposed to be noticed and are utilized in a much more subdued and naturalistic way, the costumes in this film are extravagant and opulent and used as a significant part of the entertainment in the film. The costumes for the film were designed by Edith Head, with the exception of Hepburn’s wardrobe which was designed by the couturier Givenchy.
Having the costumes of the lead character be designed by a fashion designer gives a certain distinction to her looks and adds an emphasis on its aesthetic value.
In this film, the fact that Hepburn’s costumes are spectacular and call attention to themselves is adequate because they are mostly featured as clothing custom designed for a fashion magazine that focuses on the aesthetic quality of clothing.designed by a fashion designer adds to the element of grandness to Hepburn’s costumes since, when fashion designers take on the task to create costumes for films they are often more concerned with aesthetics than practicality or realism. Jo makes her debut as a glamorous model, for the first time she is shown wearing something in a pastel, soft color.
This is the most feminine we have seen her look, her hair pushed back to show her made-up face, wearing pink and cream, no longer does she look like the humorless intellectual she started out as.
We see Jo go on her various shoots all around Paris, in them she dons multiple personas per Dick Avery’s direction. She is a spontaneous Parisian frolicking near the Arc de Triomphe.
Jo readily adopts the various personas to accompany the myriad of outfits she dons. She is Anna Karenina as she weeps in front of a steaming plane; she is Isolde as she marches down the steps of a grand theatre. As time passes and we see more and more of these scenarios, Jo becomes more confident and secure in her new job. She creates the personas herself, and begins to enjoy the process of transformation.
The costumes in this sequence of scenes are just beautiful, again they serve as complete eye candy, especiallypaired with the stylized visual style.
Watching the sequence is like flipping through a fashion magazine, each image more rich and luscious than the one before.
I’ve talked about the simple beauty of the costumes and the straightforward way they are used in the film, but the film hints at a more meaningful power to the clothes.
The movie calls attention to the transformative power of clothing and how that ties to one’s identity. In a comedic string of scenes the characters of Dick Avery and Maggie Prescott dress up like Parisian bohemians in order to assume another couple’s identities. They wear what they assume the people that go to such gatherings would wear and actually get away with it. Of course they are behaving like caricatures and when the real couple shows up they couldn’t have looked more different, but they manage to convince their hosts that they are who they say they are.
The film opens with Dick Avery in a photo shoot trying to capture even the slightest bit of sophistication of a model who’s anything but.
While she looks the part of chic intellectual she is not embodying the persona required. This scene points out that it is not possible to become someone else by merely changing one’s clothes. Jo was able to epitomize the “Quality” woman because she already attained the intelligence and sophistication required, she didn’t have to fake it. Jostarted out as a serious bookstore clerk who had no interest in fashion and beauty, but through the act of “dressing up” was able to assume different personas and become a successful model. While she was glamorized when working, she remained her own self and wore simple clothes in her “real” life so she did not lose her intellect or become a full on glamour puss.
Maggie is another character that doesn’t compromise who she is, aside from the time she assumes her bohemian disguise, Maggie never compromises her appearance to appear to be something else.
While she has made a career on telling theAmerican woman what to wear and how to look, she has her distinct style and look that never wavers. She introduces and popularizes the trend of the color pink, but would never be “caught dead” wearing it herself. This may seem as incongruous as she is encouraging others to wear what she wouldn’t, but it communicates her personality as someone who knows who she is and what she likes.
She ha already established herself as an authority figure and doesn’t need to alter her appearance in order to convince others she knows what she is talking about. She keeps to her greys and neutrals and similar silhouettes. She wears a striking red outfit for the final unveiling of the “Quality” woman and is one of the few times she wears such a bright outfit, which is appropriate because it is an important event so it makes sense she steps out wearing something celebratory.
Ultimately, the clothing in the film enriches the entertainment value while also adding a bit of subtext. Edith Head and Givenchy created beautiful and fanciful frocks for the actors to wear, never detracting from the narrative, but adding to the overall enjoyment of the film.