Saturday, 27 October 2012

If only I'd given in to that impulse to retrace my steps for another look at Scarlett's green curtains ... I'd have run into Darlene who arrived at the V&A's Hollywood Costume exhibition about 20 minutes before I left.

But we only discovered that after we both got home.

Missing each other would have been a tragedy except that we have a date to meet tomorrow morning.

We haven't had a chance to exchange impressions of the exhibition yet ... but I LOVED it.

The first thing I saw as I walked in was Scarlett's green velvet dress from Gone With the Wind. I felt a bit sad because it was terribly badly lit and, try as I might, there was no way I could make out the chicken claw garnish on Scarlett's hat. Remember the scene when Uncle Peter chases the rooster for Christmas dinner? It's the last chicken in Atlanta that wasn't stolen by Yankee troops - and after they ate it, Scarlett used its feathers and one of its black, scaly claws to trim her hat.

It was the minuscule detail that you miss on the screen that had me gasping and sighing and appreciating how every costume writes its character's backstory.  The patches and darns on Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp costume, his trousers cobbled together with white thread. (How my dad would have loved to have seen that.)
The tawdry green bunny rabbit brooch that Kim Novak wore in Vertigo ... I'd never noticed it before but it was so exactly right.
Vanessa Redgrave's Guinevere wedding dress from Camelot. Terrible film ... but who would have guessed that her gown was crocheted spiders' webs stitched with tiny pearls and hundreds of pumpkin seeds?
There was something very sad about the stained cowboy boots from Brokeback Mountain. They seemed to speak volumes.
And Eliza Doolittle's skimpy green coat and black mittens. (How I wish that they'd had her black and white Ascot gown. It sold for $3.7 million last year to a very private collector and the V&A couldn't track it down.)
I gasped at Meryl Streep's French Lieutenant's Woman's cloak which I hadn't been expecting and ooohed over some serious glamour and sequins from the golden era of Hollywood. Like Hedy Lamarr's
peacock feather cape from Samson and Delilah, collected from the peacocks at Cecil B DeMille's ranch.
And I giggled at the provocative costume for a risqué 1920 silent movie called Sex - because a distant cousin on my mother's side played a part in bringing in the Hays Code.
He'd be spinning in his grave if he could see Keira Knightley's slinky green dress from Atonement.
But I was astonished at the laser-cut detail on the décolletage... impossible to see it on screen, but the idea was to make her seem nearly naked.
I think it worked.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

If you can laugh through the movie that starts at 10am. If you have the stomach for lunch in McDonalds (after visiting the cow with a foot growing out of its back). If you don't mind going into every souvenir shop that you pass. And the biggest, brashest, noisiest sweet shop. If you stop for a sniff of the smelly durian fruit in Chinatown and watch the man making angel hair noodles with only his fingers. (He does noodle rabbits for appreciative audiences.) If you high-five every animal in the Rain Forest and explore three whole floors of Lego, Scalextric and remote-control helicopters without a whimper or a cup of tea.
If you know the shop where they sell the biggest ice creams on the way home ...

You can bask in hugs and sticky kisses and agree that it was the best day out EVER.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Edward Bawden, Farming (1950)

Elizabeth Blackadder, Eastern still life (1980)

Archie Brennan, At a Window VII, The Spotted Dress (1980) 
Last weekend's exhibition wasn't one that I'd recommend ... but today's was a delight, even though the weather was too dank and gloomy for making the most of the lovely grounds at Compton Verney. (This time last year, I was scrumping apples there but it just wasn't that kind of day.)

Tapestry:Weaving the Century at Dovecot Studios marks the centenary of the Edinburgh-based studio that was originally set up by the Marquess of Bute - back in the days of Downton Abbey -  to furnish his homes. And you thought Sanderson wallpaper was posh ...
The studio has recently been rehoused in a former public baths and I'll definitely be making a visit next time I'm in Edinburgh. (There are only two British tapestry studios. The other is West Dean.)

My ideas about tapestry were pretty much Louis XIV's Gobelins meets William Morris. I certainly wasn't thinking about the swing of the pleats in that black and white dress.

Stanley Spencer was thrilled by the one and only tapestry ever produced from his work. (Not in the Compton Verney exhibition, but maybe I can catch it here if I'm quick.)
David Hockney was less impressed when he visited Edinburgh to check on progress and realised that a line that took two minutes to draw took three weeks to weave. (Hockney's work is called A Tapestry made from a Painting, made from a Painting of a Tapestry, made from a Painting. Which had my brain in knots!

I'm not sure whether I was more impressed by the fact that weavers traditionally worked from the back of the loom; so they could only see the front of the tapestry by peering through the warps at its reflection in a mirror ...
Or simply bowled over by the way one weaver decided in the 1960s to work from the front, which demanded a whole new set of skills - but gave the finished work so much texture and expression.

For those who love wool shops and yarn, there is one room devoted to having a go yourself. Suffice to say, weaving is not a buried talent that I didn't know I had. You need more than nimble fingers.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Normally, I think that tickets for London's wonderful museum and art gallery exhibitions are terrifically good value, when you think of the cost of mounting a blockbuster show like Tate Britain's Pre-Raphaelites.  (And compare ticket prices with the cost of a West End cinema seat.)
But very, very occasionally I think, they've got a cheek!
And the Museum of London have some brass neck charging £9 for their new exhibition about London's grave-robbers and surgeons. We had free preview tickets, so shouldn't complain - and probably wouldn't have bothered going at all if we hadn't -  but there simply wasn't enough here to justify more than a small one-room display.
The brass neck is charging £9 to see it when you could hop down the road to where the same story is better told in a hauntingly beautiful display at the Hunterian Museum. Where you don't pay a penny.

Spirits were restored by a pot of Lapsang and a passionfruit cupcake in Bea's.
And by the best free ride in London ... up in the glass lift, face to face with St Paul's Cathedral, to see the spectacular view from here. Breathtaking even on a gloomy day.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

After reading The Expendable Man a few months ago, I decided that Dorothy B Hughes was Persephone's most neglected author, and now I've been gripped once again by her creepy, twisted noir  thriller In a Lonely Place  - which is much, much creepier and darker than the movie starring Humphrey Bogart. Interesting to discover that Hughes' cynical, damaged war veteran Dix Steele partly inspired Patricia Highsmith's Ripley. I was also very pleased to discover that Hughes seems to have been quite  a prolific writer and that there's lots of wonderfully lurid covers available on Amazon. Don't think I'd want to read them back to back, though.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

By chance tonight I came across this lovely documentary about Edna O'Brien who has such a beguiling voice, I could go back to the start and listen all over again.

Friday, 5 October 2012

After I wrote about Maggie Smith's new film the other day, I tracked down the documentary about the real Casa di Riposi per Musicisti in Milan, that inspired the original stageplay.
No subtitles, unfortunately. I've been dipping in and out and, maybe over the weekend, I'll see if I can watch it all the way through in Italian.
But even if you don't understand Italian, do take a look from 21.56 ... Che bella.