strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
Watching this film was the one thing I did manage to do while lying wiped out on the sofa yesterday evening. It's my latest Lovefilm rental, which I'm pretty sure someone here recommended to me because of the 1920s setting. I can't remember who now - but thanks, whoever it was.

The basic plot is one of culture clashes. The action takes place almost entirely in and around an English country house during the autumn and winter of 1928. We have a tired, run-down mother trying to keep the family together, a feckless husband, two rather future-less daughters and a bon-vivant son in the Bright Young Things / Bertie Wooster tradition. At the beginning of the film, he turns up with a modern and devastatingly-beautiful American widow named Larita, whom he has married on a whim during a trip around Europe. Cue multiple tensions between the English family - impoverished and beholden to a traditional bond with the rural estate their ancestors have tended for generations - and the American wife - urbane, dynamic and independent.

It's based on a Noël Coward play, though with some tweaks, and a little extra fleshing-out of certain characters. Some of his trademark witty dialogue is present, but it doesn't feel like a riotous comedy. The tensions between the English family and the American wife become really quite nasty sometimes, and although she comes out of it all right at the end, it's clear that other characters won't. Handled very carefully, this could have worked, creating a poignant balance between comedy and tragedy, but I didn't feel it really came off in this particular case. The feelings and motivations of the characters seemed neither realistic and convincing enough for powerful drama, nor light-heartedly exaggerated enough for high comedy.

Despite the country house setting, the film deliberately challenges the conventions of British period drama. The dialogue includes some quite modern turns of phrase; there is an anachronistically chummy relationship between Larita and the butler; she herself is really more of a 21st-century woman than even the most modern woman in 1928 could have been; the characters occasionally burst into song as though they know that they are in a period pastiche; and indeed some of the soundtrack consists of modern songs like Tom Jones' 'Sex Bomb' or Billy Ocean's 'When The Going Gets Tough...', re-rendered in a jazz-age style. I thought this was a nice idea, but as with the balance of comedy and tragedy it didn't entirely work. It needed to be rather more comprehensive to really constitute something challenging, and as it was felt like a bit of a half-hearted effort.

The cinematography was pretty good, though, with lots of interesting shots - like a direct view down into the open sports-car as Larita and her husband drove up to the house for the first time, for instance, or a shot of a perfectly still record with the entire room spinning around it which gradually shifts so that the record is spinning and we are dancing around a now-stationary room with the characters. There were lots of looming stuffed animals, which I presume were there to represent the slightly creepy, fusty traditionalism of the family. There were lots of direct references to paintings and shots of characters framed through things which I read as representing the way so many of the characters were trying to live as idealised portraits rather than three-dimensional people. And there were also many shots of people reflected in shiny surfaces, which I saw as related to the way that the two opposing factions were holding not-entirely-flattering mirrors up to each other's beliefs and ideals.

The costume department had also done a very nice job of representing the cultural gulf between Larita and the family by having them all in quite tired-looking 1920s clothes, but Larita in the fashions of the next decade - bright, clean colours, short jackets with wide-legged trousers or close-fitting long evening gowns, depending on the occasion. I liked the trousers especially because I recently bought some very much like them myself, and have been enjoying wearing them as the occasion has allowed.

Overall, then, a good effort which I'm glad I saw, but maybe falling too much between different competing stools to be a real stand-out. Still, probably worth it for Larita's clothes alone.

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
A couple of weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and I spent a day in Saltaire, with the particular aim of checking out an antiques dealer with a bit of a line in Art Deco furniture on the top floor of Salt's Mill. I was looking in particular for a largish sideboard / cabinet to go in an alcove next to my fireplace, and I'd hardly got inside the shop when I saw an absolutely wonderful example, in a golden maple-wood finish with a bowed front and lots of lovely storage capacity. The price was high enough that I had to spend quite a bit of time thinking it over and psyching myself up before I took the plunge - but eventually I did, and it was delivered today.

This is what was previously in the alcove which it now occupies )

Perfectly all right, but not really making the best use of the space. What I needed was something that would look good and allow me to stash lots of crap inside it!

So this is what I have now )

Meanwhile, the old low-level beechwood sideboard which used to stand in its place is now surplus to my requirements, and therefore for sale to anyone who might be interested. It's good solid wood furniture, with a lovely spicy smell when you open the drawers, and there are a couple of pictures here if you want a closer look )

In other news, I spent this last weekend in Birmingham visiting the parents. Mum is still doing pretty well - enough to go to a jazz concert on Friday, have my sister and fiancé (!) round on Saturday, and then go and visit some local gardens which were having an open afternoon on Sunday. While there, I also stocked up on floaty purple skirts at The Oasis, because (despite the rain today) there is clearly no way I am going to make it through the summer without a good selection of light-weight medieval princess skirts that ripple around my ankles when I walk. I also spent Saturday afternoon reading in dappled shade on a deck-chair in my parents' gloriously beautiful garden while my sister and fiancé (!) planned wedding stuff, my Dad made random observations about the state of the world and my Mum sat in the summer-house. It was a perfect slice of English summer, and I hope there will be more in the same vein over the next couple of months.

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Lesbian bingo

Sunday, 20 July 2008 21:12
strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
I went on a lovely excursion today with [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau to Hebden Bridge: allegedly, the lesbian hub of Britain.

Glitz knitting on the train )

I'd been there the previous Friday for Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, but had only got to see it relatively briefly and in partial day-light, so when [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau expressed a desire for a Sunday excursion, it seemed like a great opportunity to go back for a proper look. It's ever so picturesque )

The weather, alas, was rather English, which curtailed our photo opportunities, and also put paid to some half-conceived plans to go for a walk along the river. However, so were the people )

In fact, the need to take shelter from regular showers of rain, coupled with the ready availability of charity shops, antique shops and festival stalls, meant that the day ended up developing largely into a very rewarding shopping trip. [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau got two very pretty tops and some nice bread (which I'm sure she will post about shortly), while I got a nice lilac blouse, a very classic-looking battered denim jacket and the purple flared trousers of my dreams! Seriously, they are the trousers my sixteen-year-old self would have died for - except that back then, they would have fallen off my hips. Now, however, they fit perfectly. Yes, there may be some advantages to growing into a slightly more womanly figure, after all...

Oh, and I got one other thing too. *embarrassed shuffle* A thing I knew about, but had actually consciously planned not to buy, lest it shatter my fannish illusions. As Glitzy will testify, though, it was Not My Fault - it just fell on me in an antiques shop. For £4. So now I have a copy of Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?. Oops!?

Living as a hermit

Saturday, 8 April 2006 13:22
strange_complex: (Penelope)
I've just been on a round trip to the post office and Sainsbury's. This is worthy of note, because it is the first time I have left the house at all, for anything, since last Saturday evening. That makes six whole, complete days as a hermit: quite possibly the longest time I've been without leaving the house ever before.

It must be confessed that I fall a little short of true hermit status, because Fleur WINOLJ came round for a whole two hours on Wednesday night, and I have also been talking to people occasionally on the phone, as well as reading and commenting on people's LJs. Still, I've definitely been spending an unusual amount of time with no company but my own.

Damn fine company, too )

A bright spring morning in Oxenmaford )

My new trousers )

WOW! )

I'm always nervous about the fit of clothes when buying online, but these don't just fit me well. They fit me perfectly - like they'd been growed for the job (as my Dad says). They are also incredibly flattering to my figure, and will go very nicely with some chunky black and purple ankle-boots and a funky industrial black and purple jumper which I already own. I cannot, of course, attend Intrusion on Tuesday, due to the continuing hermitage. But you can bet your boots I'll be there for the May 9th one, and that these trousers will be with me. Oh, and I should warn any fellow attendees that, according to the label, these trousers are called 'Lust Pants'. Beware!

Well, I guess it's back to the grindstone, then. I'm currently writing about baths in the urban periphery - why they were built there, what they were like and what people did with them. Cheery comments to help me on my way much appreciated!

Purple joy

Sunday, 12 June 2005 01:00
strange_complex: (Megara flowers)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] damien_mocata and his digital camera, I can now show off the big puffy skirt I got at the Rusty Zip a few weeks ago. These pictures were taken after we went to see Dracula on May 28th.

Big puffy purple joy under here )
strange_complex: (Default)
When I first moved to Belfast, I was told that the weather was extremely changeable here, and that people often spoke of experiencing 'four seasons in one day'.

Today, I walked into town in the early afternoon in order to do a bit of shopping. As I left my house, I sighed with pleasure at the feel of the sun's warmth on my skin, and looked up into a blue sky punctuated by fluffy white clouds. I walked town-wards for a couple of minutes, and then felt a heavy drop of rain on my eyebrow... quickly followed by a succession of several more. Hoiking my umbrella out of my bag, I looked up to see that the sky had turned a uniform iron gray, and I was surprised to hear a rumble of thunder. Being British, I carried out walking through the downpour, gamely pointing my umbrella into the biting wind which had by now arisen. A mere minute more, and a new development occurred: suddenly, the plummeting rain turned to hail. Hail, in fact, which fell more heavily and more thickly than I believe I've ever seen hail do before. Fearing for the health of my umbrella, I renounced my Britishness after all and took shelter in a bus-stop, joining a young couple in T-shirts, who were shivering and gaping in awe at the natural spectacle we were witnessing. After two minutes of mutual wowing, the hail ceased as quickly as it had begun, and I set off on my way once more, crunching and sliding a little over the layer of fallen hailstones as I did so. By the time I was approaching the town centre, five minutes later, it was warm again, and dark sections of pavement were literally steaming as the sun hit them and the melted remains of the hailstones condensed off into the atmosphere.

Next time, I think I will get the bus.

My shopping in town was fairly boring, but on the way back home I dropped into 'Rusty Zip', a retro clothing store on Botanic Avenue. There, I bought a beautiful halterneck party dress in a shiny fabric which is black in some lights and a rich, dark purple in others. I also bought a large puffy skirt, much like the bottom half of a ball-gown, in a bright purple satiny fabric. It is floor-length, and apparently designed with one simple aim in mind - to be as HYUGE as possible. I do believe that if I filled it with hot air, I could hang a basket from it and fly across the Atlantic. And I love it!

However, it has a flaw, which is that some kind of liquid has obviously been spilt over it in the past, in quite significant quantities. It's left water-marks in several places, so I need to find a suitable way of cleaning it to get these out. However, it has no washing instructions on it - in fact, I think it may be hand-made. So I'm uncertain as to whether I can hand-wash it, or whether it might need taking to the dry-cleaners. I'm also doubtful about whether they would be able to do anything about water-marks anyway, so I'm hoping I can hand-wash it.

Under the cut which follows is a scan of a section of the skirt, complete with one of the worst stains. The stripey effect in the picture is just a peculiarity of my scanner: in real life, the fabric is a smooth, shiny texture, with consistent colouring. It has a slightly crinkly feel when you rub it between your fingers, and I would guess has quite a lot of nylon in it. Underneath is a layer of white netting and a lining of thin white material which I am almost certain is nylon.

My instinct is that I probably can hand-wash this... but if anyone who knows a thing or two about fabrics would care to take a look at the scan and comment, I would be very grateful for any advice.

Stained patch under here )

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