It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts on this film, because I had to continue with real life, while reflecting on what I had seen.
To be honest, I learned one thing and was reminded of another. I learned that filmmaker Ryan Coogler is not to be messed with. His newest film, Black Panther proves that he’s a talented director able to work on several conceptual levels, who is able to take what should be a ‘simple superhero film’ and turn it into something else altogether. Is there a category called ‘Superhero-Politthriller’?
Yes, it works as a superhero film that kids will have a blast watching. It even works as a faithful comic book adaptation. As a gorgeous love letter from the African Diaspora to the Motherland, it hits the ball out of the park (Well done Ruth E. Carter and the production team! Amazing job!)
It also works as a double-whammy political thriller. On one level, this afrofuturistic piece deep-dives onto the political intrigue following a change in government (head of state). On the other hand, it is a thought-provoking piece, which very subtly compares the US (and parts of the Western world in the throes of wrestling with issues of identity and ultra-conservative xenophobia) to the proud nation of Wakanda. High tech force-shields do the same thing that Mexican Walls are supposed to do.
I will admit that I was lulled into the haze of I-have-to-accompany-my-child-to-the-cinema mixed with admiring the costumes and production design, until one phrase jerked me wide awake: “The Sun will never set on the Kingdom of Wakanda.” I won’t lie, even as a naturalized German, the chills ran down my spine (because 1933-1945). These folks are such an advanced nation, and they are xenophobic. For me, it is therefore disconcerting to see folks running around post-cinema experience beaming “Wakanda Forever!” (And the Daily Beast’s Ira Madison III thinks so too).
That the society within the film manages to tackle such a thorny problem that propels them to the brink of civil war is makes it no less compelling for theater-goers to ask themselves what type of society do we want to be. And to keep talking about it.
That was the reminder, that comic books are often not just about fighting or solving problems with violence, there is a message, if you care to look.
And now, the handcrafts:
The fabulous blankets, seen above, are made in Southern Africa, and are called Basotho Heritage Blankets. Notably, worn by the royal family and their guest (for the sake of accuracy, the border guards/tribe do wear a similar blanket which appears to be part of a uniform). Regular people like Nakia (played by Lupita N’yongo) seem or choose to make do with knits and crochets.
This shawl-wrap was the only knit I spotted. It seems to be long, rectangular piece, done in stocking stitch with an occasional row of eyelets interspersed. While this knit is done in fairly sombre tones (at a fairly sombre point in the story) of her signature greens and blues of the River tribe, by the end of the film, she is in a lovely sparkly green crocheted pullover with a single cut out shoulder.
I watched this film with my in-laws and kids recently. I was struck by how differently we viewed the content matter of the film. My kids loved that the children didn’t have to go to school, and hated that the mom had died. My in-laws loved how free-thinking and independent the kids became. I was struck by the colourful knits and the idea of self-sufficiency woven through the film.
It wasn’t until I was explaining to my father-in-law that Viggo Mortenson’s T-shirt was from African American politician Jesse Jackson’s (and not the cowboy outlaw Jesse James’) failed presidential run, that it hit me: Almost all the clothes the family wore was thrifted.
Whereas some of it might have been adjusted or embellished, the clothes were reduced to their original function: to cover and provide warmth. Seen that way, it’s absolutely irrelevant that the T-shirt was from 1988.
These days clothes mean so much to many, shaping and projecting their identities. Or the identities they would prefer to project. Never have we been freer to wear what we want, how we want it. So free, in fact, that a refusal to follow any types of norms of society is also a clear message. Although it may be a message that the intended audience doesn’t, cannot or will not read correctly. This theme is played out constantly through the film: two value systems constantly clashing. Thesis and antithesis.
So what is this anti-fashion message? My guess is that clothes should be about us, and how they make us feel, rather than about labels. The mom wanted everyone to come to her funeral dressed in their brightest party clothes, to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death. How can anyone be sad in a bright red disco suit? Or Missoni lookalike hotpants? Or a killer whale onesie?
Do your clothes make you happy?
Link: The New York Times review and interview with the costume designer.
I cannot believe I forgot to write about this. I meant to. What happened was, I went to the cinema with my fashionista girlfriend. We watched it. Then walked out speechless, went for drinks to catch our breaths.
And I never got to writing, because I honestly couldn’t put it into words. Reiner Holzemer’s 2017 film is, as advertised, very intimate. For an hour and a half, we learn about a fascinating designer, who might pass by unrecognized in the streets. He looks like an accountant.
Yet, by the time Holzemer is through, we’ve learned not just about how and where this designer lives (his garden is amazing! In fact, to see him working in his garden reminds me very much of Alex Pang’s Rest) but also about what it takes to produce a collection. Van Noten has a great sense of humour and a lovely dog.
Which isn’t quite how I wanted to end the review, so I found this picture. From the same Ready to Wear collection, but with a knit. I think Dries shows that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside, it’s the inner life of the artist that counts. How closely he works with his team, from the suppliers, producers, his design assistants, how he experiments with motifs (he’s a master of prints), placements, combinations, and how even so, he’s willing to let go something that isn’t working.
Aren’t those gloves just stunning?
More Dries: The New York Times’ Into the Studio video interview with Dries van Noten. He talks about the importance of place and his designing space.
And Ann Shayne from Mason Dixon Knittingexplains why Dries is a designer’s designer.
Around this neck of the woods, the Wonder Woman film seems to be the guilty pleasure of a whole bunch of my girlfriends, who would honestly never set foot in the cinema to watch a superhero flick.
As a knitter, I often wonder what one could knit to mark an occasion and I was catching up on my Fringe Association reading, and saw Karen just found someone who worked on the Wonder Woman theme: Carissa Browning.
The Wonder Woman Wrap is (currently) a free pattern on Ravelry, and uses short rows to create the W’s. Yes, I have downloaded the pattern (Thanks Carissa! You’re a knitting amazon!) but woke up this morning pondering in which colours to knit this. Red and gold are definitely amazon-glam, but would sadly be most appropriate for Carnival time in February. And then I saw this:
Aparently Muzli is an app, than can isolate the main colours from a photograph into a colour palette. How cool is that? This colour palate is much more flexible than the red and gold… Port wine and blush?
There are, at time of writing, 308 projects on Ravelry in various colour combinations – from red+gold to light and dark grey, blue+grey and so on. Of course, there’s a Knitalong forming, because that’s what knitters do…
What more can I say, other than, ‘Well done Carissa!’
I’m looking forward to a summer full of action movies: because I am a mum of boys. Still, every once in a while, I like to see a grown-up film with my girlfriends. And this looks like it might be a good one.
Going to confess, I would have overlooked this film if I’d just gone with the title, ThisBeautifulFantastic. It just sounds like a bunch of adjectives strung together, marketing the film to folks who have time to watch the film to find out what the title means. So for the first time ever, I actually GET why the marketers changed the title to Derwunderbare Garten der Bella Brown, which means “the wonderful garden of Bella Brown.” The title for french audiences means “the marvellous secret garden of Bella Brown.” Sometimes things can get clearer in translation.
Right away, I GET what the movie is about. With a name like Bella Brown and something about gardens, I know she’s probably English. A summer movie about gardens? Sounds like a winner! Plus, the language of the title and the way the poster is styled automatically calls another quirky heroine to mind:
Amélie Poulain from the film, which in German is titled “Die fabelhafte Welt der Amélie” or “the fabulous/ fairytale world of Amélie.” We viewers connect so much more easily with someone when we see their face, their eyes and can connect it with a name. Worked for Amélie (in fact, it worked so well, that there’s a whole cohort of 13-15 year-old girls in Germany, who are called Amélie or some variation thereof!).
And of course knitwear: at some point she moves from a terribly buttoned-up assistant librarian to wearing this lovely piece:
Which reminds me of Lene Holme Samsøe’s Nikita sweater. I’m not sure if it is a counterpane. But cables and lacy mesh with raglan shaping. Sounds like a winner. Now if I could just figure out why she’s wearing such a gorgeous sweater to do garden work…
Sources: posters from imdb.com, last one a screenshot from the trailer.