Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bygone times in 2012 Oscar movies



Midnight in Paris

The Artist

I watched five of 2012 's Oscar nominated movies back to back in a movie marathon yesterday and was hit by a wave of history and nostalgia, where fashion, architecture, legendary artists and writers collide in a most inspirational way.

Martin Scorsese ' Hugo is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Set in Paris after World War 1, it tells the story of how an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. This movie is set in a time of great emancipation when pre-war values gave way to joy and revelry, particularly in the upper and middle classes in France. People knew how to have fun. It was the age of jazz where music hall shows thrived and cabaret acts like Josephine Baker became the toast of the town. The opera, the theatre and the cinema became increasing popular as well as the rise of a new art movement called art deco. At the same time, a real revolution began in woman's fashion.  Women began abandoning corsets and big hats that symbolised the pre-war reserve and in came a new age of elegance made possible by the greatest fashion designers of the time, like Jean Patou, Jeanne Lanvin, Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel.

While Paris in the 1920's was painted with such vivid child like imagery and colour in Hugo, the same city in the same time period was painted with different strokes in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. This movie tells the story of  a disenchanted Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson who gets to live his fantasy of living in Paris in the Jazz age of 1920s where legends in the artistic and literary world converged. He meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, gets advice from the laconic Ernest Hemingway and manages to persuade Gertrude Stein to read the manuscript of his novel. In the midst of such mind boggling literary stimulation, he even falls in love with Picasso 's mistress.
Also set in the 1920's but in Hollywood is The Artist which focuses on the relationship of an older silent film star and a rising young actress as silent cinema makes way for the talkies. This movie took me by surprise and shows how charismatic actors and a fabulous story shine through even without sound. The 1920s are beginning to roar again  !

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