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Archive for the ‘Costume and Self Adornment’ Category

Yesterday at ballet class I complimented a lady on her hair, and she earnestly recommended her hair stylist, an artiste who specializes in Curly Hair.
Comrades, I HAVE curly hair.
So once home, I called the salon and got an appointment for 3 pm.
However, by 2 the bright sky had dimmed to gray and the dreaded snowfall was beginning as predicted. Did I quail? Well, yes, a tiny bit, but diligent reading of the predicted weather seemed to say that this was no big thing. That it would be warming soon, that it would all melt, that we would all soon find ourselves basking in an eternal summer of golden happiness.
I may have over-interpreted that last bit.
So off I sped to Virginia. Hmm. Bad traffic already, particularly in the other direction, the coming home direction.
Dearie me.
But onwards! My phone expertly guided me to the place (=”you have REACHED your destination”) and I entered a huge and luxurious salon. After an extended and serious discussion, the stylist led me to the chair and we began our pilgrimage. Apparently during the years that I have been going to a common and cheap hair clipper, significant changes have taken place in the svelte world of hairdressing! To begin with, there were none of those old-fashioned hair dryers to be seen! No indeed–instead of anything so shamingly 1950’s, we are now set into a stunning REM Heatstream Processor Mobile, a splendid machine with large disks that radiate a soothing warmth on the user.
Which does in fact dry the hair but in a MUCH MORE MODERN way. Before my 20 minutes within the pleasant embrace of this modern machine, the stylist had carefully scissored the hair, coated each clump with a Magic Ointment, and then given it a good shake. This “sets the curls.” (Or possibly, “sets LOOSE the curls?” I was not listening as carefully as I should have been, regarding the snow pelting down outside with bemused fascination).
Once the heatstreaming was accomplished, she pulled all the strands about, administered a pat of pomade, and off I went into the storm. The snow was billowing and traffic was fierce, but as it happened, once I successfully navigated the turn onto 495 I cared not! I had a lovely new hairdo, with each curl carefully assembled by an expert! A lady can handle just about anything under those circumstances.

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To those who claim I am impatient and intolerant let me just point out: I WATCHED THE ENTIRE MOVIE OF CLOUD ATLAS.

You will ask why on earth I should undertake such a thankless task.

Well, the alert movie watcher quickly understands that the actors have been persuaded to take many different parts in this large trundling drama, each one with its own particular makeup–some of which are so shockingly horrid as make one gasp with outrage! For instance, here is the actor who played Elrond in LotR, garishly tweaked into an oddly ghastly Asian.

So, so…wrong. ALL the actors have been similarly maltreated, but the process which turns westerners into pseudo-easterners is the most vicious. The parade of unbelievably bad transformations was mesmerizing, and it was the game of guessing who they were that kept me watching. For instance, Hugh Grant appears as Greedy Oil Tycoon—and then, as Gruesome Hawaiian Cannibal Chief!

The hours these actors spent being painted and glued—well, well, they get well paid for it, I suppose.

The worst trick is the one played on poor old Tom Hanks—oh my! He looks worse in every get up (SIX of them), and in the persona of a Simple Native sometime in the ghastly future, he not only looks terrible, but he speaks in an ineffably embarrassing sort of Peasant Slang, which a kindly watcher might wish to simply mute the sound on: “Oh, lonesome night. And babbits bawling, the wind biting the bone . . . The fangy devil, Old Georgie hisself. Mm. Now your ear up close, and I’ll yarn you about the first time we met, eye to eye.

Sigh. Still, I patiently watched the whole thing.

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There are some charming pictures of the 17th century Japanese reaction to their foreign invaders-those horrifying Hairy Barbarians!

Too too disgusting.

HOWEVER, it turns out that modern Asian ladies are not viewing this facial hair with anything like the disapprobation of their ancestors.
There was a story in yesterday’s Journal about a youthful Indonesian entrepreneur who aspired to the bearded hipster look as an aid in his romantic endeavours–but his face, like that of so many Asian men, refused to sprout anything but sparse pathetic wisps. So he started rubbing his cheeks with minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine. AHA! Luscious facial abundance! The ladies giving him the eye! And he has now embarked into a profitable career in helping other Asian youths acquire that oh-so-lovable chin fuzz.
There is no end to what young men will do for the sake of young ladies.
An interesting side note in the article mentioned a study of English facial hair fashions (1842-1971), which found that beards and moustaches burgeoned whenever there were more men competing for fewer women–as is the case in Indonesia today.

Image result for victorian beards

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WHY, you will no doubt be plaintively asking, would Hope watch Dr. Strange, yet another imbecilic entry in the comic book dramatization Hall of Shame?
Answer: Benedict Cumberbatch.

VERY fetching in his dashing cape, and as for that perfect coiffure and goatee, TOO TOO adorable.
The perfect coiffure and goatee come late in the film, once Ben has achieved enlightenment. Previously he was either clean shaven (as eminent but arrogant surgeon) or lavishly hairy à la unabomber (after ghastly car accident in which his skilled surgeon’s hands were maimed).
So, after the accident (which was totally his fault) Dr. Strange heads off to Kathmandu in search of mystic healing.
And WHAT DO YOU KNOW? He finds it! In the person of Tilda Swinton, head shaved and sporting long mystic robes. Actually, I could watch Tilda in just about any outfit, she is so lovely and has the voice of an angel. So, she teaches him to do lots of Important Mystic Stuff because he may just be the one who will save the world! Not only does he learn Mystic Stuff (including magic rings!) but he also learns some pretty fancy fighting techniques, the kind that requires acrobatics, très Cirque de Soleil. Also, he starts wearing mystic robes like all the other students of the Mystic Arts, AND gets the coiffure and goatee as mentioned above. VERY becoming!

However there is trouble ahead, of course. Extremely Evil Sorcerer Kaecilius (I kept hearing ‘silly’ instead of ‘Cilius’–somewhat blunting the ominous effect) has Evil Plan to DESTROY THE WORLD! He is played by Mads Mikkelson, that compelling Danish actor who was so fine in After the Wedding and The Royal Affair–movies in which he played grown ups. In this movie he wears stunning eye make up (and mystic robes, of course) and soon crashes the party together with his group of fanatical followers (all wearing matching eye makeup).

Vast battles ensue! All is LOST! Except it isn’t! Except it is!
Well, well, we wind up at a final battle in Hong Kong and just when all seems to be lost yet again, Dr. Strange flies off into the sky (because, magic cape) to confront the Satanic Lord of Something or Other Which I Can’t Remember, who is vastly large–a sort of planet. And MEAN! They have a Mutual Mock Fest, and then the Satanic Lord KILLS DR. STRANGE! Only he doesn’t of course, because Dr. Strange has a magic bracelet: Backward turn Backward oh Time in Thy Flight! It is a pleasing shade of green (green=magical) and whenever he twists it, time is set back. One twist= one minute? Or perhaps one hour?–it is not made clear. So anyway, Dr. Strange and the Satanic Lord play a kind of Groundhog Day Game–he’s DEAD! No he’s not!–until boredom sets in, and then the Satanic Lord promises to leave the earth alone, and take the bad fanatical people to play with instead. So, all’s well that ends well!
Though I wonder how Dr. S managed to twist the magic bracelet when he was, you know, DEAD. However.

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Having just returned from Brooklyn, it seemed fitting to watch the movie of that name, a rather charming evocation of the city as it was 80 years ago, teeming with hard working immigrants from Europe. The lovely Eilis has arrived from Ireland, lonely and homesick, but with the aid of a kindly priest (played by dear Jim Broadbent, always fun to watch), her sharp tongued but amiable landlady, and others–all lovingly portrayed, and the ladies especially pleasant to look upon in their splendid 1950’s array–she survives and prospers. And naturally enough, finds a likely lad–who, shockingly, is NOT Irish! However, being Italian he is of course Catholic, so THAT’S OK. He is almost as lovely as Eilis!

MY, what a lovely couple.
They first meet at a dance and I was so afraid he was going to prove to be a Bad Guy–but, not so! No dark scenes with the lovely girl pregnant and abandoned on the cruel streets–or worse, sobbing in a back room abortion clinic, heartbroken and overwhelmed with guilt–NONE of that! There are hard times and anguish to be sure–and an absolutely venomous lady back in Ireland whose bitter words had a great deal to do with Eilis’s determination to emigrate–but it all ends well. A detailed look at my parent’s generation. Really, simply charming.
PLUS there is a scene at Coney Island WITH PINK COTTON CANDY! How can you not love it?

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“Far out in the wide sea, where the water is blue as the loveliest corn-flower, and clear as the purest crystal, where it is so deep that very, very many church towers must be heaped one upon another in order to reach from the lowest depths to the surface above, dwell the Mer-people. “

I have just returned from watching the Hamburg Ballet’s luminous and beautiful Little Mermaid, directed and choreographed by John Neumeier to music by Lera Auerbach. This is Hans Christian Anderson’s story, which, unlike the Disney version, is dark and sad and ends in death.
You’re probably saying, thanks but dark and sad is not a big draw for me–certainly my usual POV.
However, this ballet is so very beautiful–such astonishingly liquid movement in the water scenes, and such raucous, joyous dancing from the people on land and on ship. The ship which we see first as the Poet (Hans Anderson, or some aspect of him) stands at the rail gazing out to sea–and then, magically from underneath the sea: a tiny perfect ocean liner passing far overhead, windows all lit up, smoke billowing from the smokestacks–charming, completely charming! Under the sea, there are wavery lines of light that rise and fall—perhaps pipes on wires, I thought–very effective, very evocative. The light is shimmering blue and green, and the mermaids are not on wires, but are sinuously floated and whirled by other dancers who are all in black, like puppeteers. The delightful concept of the costume designer was to give the mermaids very long silken pants that wave and flutter like tails–an elegant and spare effect, far from the vulgar amusement park scaly tails that usually blight this story.

LittleMermaid

The little mermaid saves the Handsome Prince from drowning, and falls in love with him–and sacrifices everything to trade her tail and her happy life under the sea to be with him. The dreadful Sea Witch who enables this is danced by a spectacularly acrobatic man, in startling face paint, in a glittering long skirt. VERY effective.
With every step she takes on her new feet, it is as if she is walking on knives (an image which has OFTEN come to mind on those occasions when I foolishly thought I could spend the evening in my new too-tight 5 inch heels). The dancer makes her anguish very clear–it is painful to watch her, her lithe grace gone, she is awkward and stilted in her movements now. And of course the Handsome Prince–and my oh my, the young man who danced this part was a veritable Apollo–treats her as an adorable child and goes off and marries somebody else. The wedding party had some simply WONDERFUL dancing–the grand thing about modern ballet is that the men are not just lifting the women about and then doing their 5-minute look-at-me-jumping-around-the-stage. The men and the women are equally part of the dance, and…they are fabulous. Peerless athletes who are also stunning, moving dancers.

Well, the Little Mermaid dies of grief, and she and the Poet leave the earth and mount to the stars–a fine ending, very moving, the stage alive with sparkling stars as they perform their sad formal arm movements, one after the other.
In the book, she becomes one of the Daughters of the Air, who acquire human souls after 300 years of doing good deeds, so the ballet mermaid seems to have come out the winner, actually.
Here is a clip.

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Last night I aimlessly trundled about Netflix and Amazon, looking for something to watch–just half an hour’s worth needed to bridge the gap between cleaning the cat boxes and cleaning my teeth (and initiating shut down procedures). Well, nothing drew me; the various shows plodding along their predictable tracks: the Queen valiantly making do, Louis the 14th nation building, even the comely Saxon youth and the wild Vikings had lost their fine first brilliant rapture.

So, in a moment of devil-may-care fecklessness, I chose to watch La Bayadère, as produced by the Bolshoi ballet in the 1980’s.

Now, this is EXACTLY the kind of ballet I loathe the most, replete with antique mime and stultifying tradition. Plus, the costumes…well.

However, there would be, I knew, some excellent dancing, and it would do for a brief calming pre-bed interlude.

So, the curtain goes up in the magnificent Bolshoi Theater in Moscow!

We are in the courtyard of a—well, let us call it an Oriental Temple–HUGE JUNGLE trees loom overhead. The Sacred Fire (a sheet of orange plastic within a modest brick enclosure) provides a pleasant orange glow. But what the—?–a HORDE of wild men (well, 10 of them) writhe and twist about in frantic primitive motions! They all have ragged black hair and ragged brown loincloths (worn however over decorous gray underpants): they are Fakirs!

OOh! SO Oriental! TRES exotique!

The High Brahmin comes out of the temple, followed by priests and other temple officials, all wearing colorful priestly garments accessorized with tall cylindrical hats. The more humble priests wear short puffy cylinder hats (unfortunately reminiscent of marshmallows). The Temple Dancers (NB: bayadère means temple dancer) follow, all wearing harem pants and spangled bra tops.

Comes then the Fire Ceremony!

It turns out that the High Brahmin—despite his Vows of Chastity– is in love with Nikiya, the HEAD temple dancer. She spurns his advances, because she is in love with the mighty warrior Solor! She will be meeting him after the Fire Celebration.

Solor’s retinue prance in, with dainty weapons held high—they have been hunting! For kittens and butterflies, to judge by their gear.

A moment of silence–then, the STAR appears!

Sensation! Applause!

Solor is a very handsome young man wearing white pants, a headband with a feather in it, hair in some kind of French twist at his neck. There is a breathless pause (=NOW I will DANCE for you, my humble worshipers) and then he performs his famous and fabulous dance.

And actually—it is really, really fabulous. Astonishing to watch.

I found a clip of the young Baryshnikov doing Solor’s dance—such joy, such strength–the technique, the astonishing leaps—it simply brings tears to my eyes.

This Solor may not be Baryshnikov, but is none the less spectacular.

Well, there it is. Fabulous dancing, but embarrassingly kitchy production—including, you will be grieved to hear, a troupe of young dancers IN BLACKFACE. Doing ghastly pickaninny routines—too too shaming. Really, I couldn’t watch.

And then there is the iconic scene, the one that everybody remembers from this show, the Kingdom of the Shades. Nikiya has been poisoned by a snake that was hidden in a basket of flowers given to her by the Sultan’s daughter, who is also in love with Solor but who—oh, never mind. Nikiya’s DEAD, see, and Solor is devastated. So, he has a vision of the ghostly spirits of the temple dancers: they appear one by one on the dark stage, progressing down an inclined ramp, each posing in arabesque, then bending back with arms held high, then gliding forward to repeat—a long line of pale dancers in mysterious blue light, in an elegant criss-crossing path.

Oh, just watch it! (feel free to stop once they’re all off the ramp). It is truly lovely.

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