New New York Film Festival - diary two

McQueen, Fassbender, Cronenberg, Durkin, Olsen, Payne talk about clothes and authenticity

by Anne-Katrin Titze

 "No, you are wrong," protested Steve McQueen

"No, you are wrong," protested Steve McQueen

Shame

At the New York Film Festival Shame press conference with Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, I asked about the gender divide in the quality of the costumes (in a film with so much skin…). Fassbender's character Brandon wears well-fitting clothes in obviously expensive materials. Compared to him, what the various women wear looks cheap and often unkempt, mirroring the sister's (Carey Mulligan) messiness.

While asking the question, I stopped in my track - I could see his face. Was I completely off? "No you are wrong," he protested. Well, let's say, it wasn't intentional to make the women look cheap or uninterestingly dressed. Reading my question as an attack, even Michael Fassbender chimed in: "What about the woman in the gray suit? She isn't messy." No, she is not, nor is the suit anything more than a signifier, carelessly selected for one meaning only, just like the close-ups of the sister's dark roots in her dyed blond hair. Compare the scarves the people wear in this movie, you will see what I mean.

A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg warns to never underestimate the details of the body: "Choosing clothes is sometimes where it happens". In A Dangerous Method, Freud, Jung, and Spielrein are exploring the new world of psychoanalysis in a society full of physical restrictions: "You can see it in the clothes, everything is controlled", Cronenberg remarked on the high lace collars and tight corsets for the women, and tweed suits of armor for the men.

For the scene at the conference in Munich between Freud and Jung, Cronenberg very carefully cast and clothed the extras to resemble the actual participants of the conference, so that his Ferenczi (Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey) looks like the real Sandor Ferenczi. Notice also the painting in the background of this scene. It depicts the statue Bavaria, overlooking the Theresienwiese in Munich, where the wedding of crown prince Ludwig I was celebrated and where the Octoberfest has taken place ever since.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Sean Durkin:
Sean Durkin: "Patterns of consumption are an important device in cults..." (with Lizzie Olsen)

Food and drink, what is consumed and when, is of utmost importance in Martha Marcy May Marlene. As much as Sean Durkin was torn about the use of violence in his film, he knew he wanted to mirror the manipulation through food he encountered in his research. "Patterns of consumption are an important device in cults, like food deprivation, or men and women eating separately." All clothes are shared and even their own skin does not seem to belong to the women any more.

Sometimes, what the audience sees is not what was intended. When a viewer complimented Lizzie Olsen about a scene in which he liked her as the "seductress", Olsen's response was: " Oh, I thought of it as being motherly".

The Descendants

Everything is accurate here, even if it may be confusing to outsiders
Everything is accurate here, even if it may be confusing to outsiders

If you expect a sleek and debonair George Clooney as a lawyer of royal Hawaiian ancestry driving through a lush landscape in The Descendants, think again. Alexander Payne insists that the Hawaii he shows is the real thing.

Everything is accurate here, even if it might be confusing to outsiders: no resident would say they lived or worked in Honolulu - it goes by island. The last question from the audience at the press conference was about the theme of forgiveness and Payne opened up the topic wide. He particularly dislikes those who pray for forgiveness each day and then bang the war drum…. I am looking forward to my upcoming interview with Wendy Chuck, Payne's costume designer. "The latest in a string of consistently brilliant work, in my opinion," Alexander Payne praised his collaborator in an e-mail to me based on their work together on Sideways (2004), About Schmidt (2002), and Election (1999). She was also a costume assistant on two of my favorite Jane Campion films, The Portrait Of A Lady (1996) and The Piano (1993).

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