Dressing up

Joanna Hogg, Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne on the costumes in The Souvenir

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Joanna Hogg, Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton at the sneak preview screening of The Souvenir, hosted by Film at Lincoln Center
Joanna Hogg, Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton at the sneak preview screening of The Souvenir, hosted by Film at Lincoln Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The Souvenir has camera angles, shot by David Raedeker, that hide as much as they reveal. The film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Lizzie Francke, stars Honor Swinton Byrne in an impressive performance, opposite her real-life mother Tilda Swinton, with Tom Burke (Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives) as Honor's mysterious love interest.

Joanna Hogg on The Souvenir costumes: "There's some World's End. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren had the shop on King's Road, called World's End."
Joanna Hogg on The Souvenir costumes: "There's some World's End. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren had the shop on King's Road, called World's End." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Working with longtime collaborators, editor Helle le Fevre and production designer Stéphane Collonge (Exhibition, Archipelago, Unrelated), Joanna Hogg has created a film that speaks volumes about female and male desire and the search for identity that garments can encompass.

Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) dresses for her surroundings to the extreme. Her fashion sense is remarkably disconnected, as if she were performing roles in different plays. Rosalind (Tilda Swinton) is a mother whose silence is steeped in history. Her comforting and healing abilities ("Well done for today" she says and it breaks your heart) make you almost forget what she doesn't do and what she doesn't say to help her daughter.

When Anthony (Tom Burke) suggests a grey suit be made for Julie for a trip to Venice, he and she and movie lovers in the audience are aware of the Vertigo reference and all that comes with it - control and fantasy, magic and constraint, a past that never was and its resurrection.

Admittedly autobiographical, The Souvenir, tells the story of Julie, a film student in London in the 1980s, who lives a love story that will mark her life forever.

At the newly named Film at Lincoln Center (formerly the Film Society of Lincoln Center) sneak preview of The Souvenir, my comments on the costumes provoked a response from all on the stage.

Honor Swinton Byrne with Tilda Swinton at The Souvenir New York preview
Honor Swinton Byrne with Tilda Swinton at The Souvenir New York preview Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: I found it fascinating what you did with the costumes. Because Julie is dressed like at least three totally different people, depending on whom she is with. There's the Vertigo Venice dress, then there's her with the family and her as a film student. Could you talk a bit about the costumes?

Joanna Hogg: I mean, it was different phases of Julie's life, so she dresses in a particular way at the beginning with her friends before she meets Anthony [Tom Burke]. And she's wearing … [to Honor] I mean you were wearing some of the clothes that I wore at the time.

There's some World's End. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren had the shop on King's Road, called World's End. And I think we both [to Tilda] went there. They had a clock that ran backwards. The scarf that's used - I really like the scarf - because it's re-purposed in the film. First of all Julie's wearing it.

Then one of her friends wears it, plays with it, Frankie [Frankie Wilson]. And then Anthony dances with it. And you can see the tassels sort of falling off it. That's because it's more than thirty years old, it was much newer at the time.

Tilda Swinton: "Lots of the clothes for both Honor [as Julie] and for Rosalind are the real McCoy. Joanna and I were just talking before the screening about raiding our long undiscovered attic."
Tilda Swinton: "Lots of the clothes for both Honor [as Julie] and for Rosalind are the real McCoy. Joanna and I were just talking before the screening about raiding our long undiscovered attic." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

But Anthony has a big influence over Julie and how she dresses and how she appears. And he almost makes her into this sort of Hitchcockian heroine in a way. That was something we thought about. She becomes a protagonist in his film - or their joint film.

So the Vertigo grey suit was also based on a suit that I had made for a trip to Venice. So that and then there's the ball dress that she wears. That wasn't based on anything I had. So that was our own fantasy. But yes, she changes how she looks through the film.

Honor Swinton Byrne: Under the grey suit and the amazing dress is a corset, that I had to get [she makes a sound] sucked into. And that, I felt that was very good for this sense of real constraint, real kind of very old-fashioned feminine. Just being sucked in, feeling not quite loose in myself. So that helped me to feel so uncomfortable at these moments. So I feel that really did its purpose.

AKT: It looks great, though. And so do you, Tilda. I thought they were wonderful those dresses, as well.

Tilda Swinton: Lots of the clothes for both Honor [as Julie] and for Rosalind are the real McCoy. Joanna and I were just talking before the screening about raiding our long undiscovered attic, where there's some more stuff from the early Nineties.

Honor Swinton Byrne on an outfit she wears in The Souvenir: "Under the grey suit and the amazing dress is a corset, that I had to get [she makes a sound] sucked into."
Honor Swinton Byrne on an outfit she wears in The Souvenir: "Under the grey suit and the amazing dress is a corset, that I had to get [she makes a sound] sucked into." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

JH: You wear my shoes at one point.

TS: And then your dress.

JH: And my dress.

TS: At the party.

HSB: And your trousers.

JH: Yes. It's hard to know at this point who owns what.

Joanna Hogg is currently in pre-production for The Souvenir: Part II

Tilda Swinton is on her way to join Jim Jarmusch and members of the cast of The Dead Don't Die for the Cannes Film Festival Opening Night World Première on May 14.

Tilda Swinton will have an Orlando in New York conversation with B Ruby Rich at the Celeste Bartos Forum in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library on May 29 at 6:30pm.

The Souvenir opens in the US on May 17 and in the UK on August 30.

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