Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Clothing in Film

Howdy folks,
After an interesting discussion with Mystery Man I decided my next blog should talk about what I think can be the most effective imagery.

The wardrobe of the character.

For example, one of the biggest images in the Die Hard movies is how McClain starts out all neat and clean and ends up looking like a homeless punching bag. It makes him more human, more likable, than if he stayed clean.

Or with James Bond, he would be a totally different character dressed like James Coburn's "Flint," but with the tuxedo, he becomes more aloof and unreachable.

Or even Men In Black where RayBans made them look both professional and a little frightening.

Of course when describing wardrobe simple is better. Rather than saying "a beautiful white gown with ruffles and a matching choker," "a vision in white, reminiscent of Cinderella." That way the costumer can experiment drawing on the character's personality and the actor's "look."

As an extension, we can then illustrate our characters' personalities with accessories.

Like if you're describing a nerd and say "slips on his usual collection of jewelry," you would obviously get a total different look if you say the same thing about a drug dealer or a pimp.

The same would be true of a businesswoman vs. a female basketball player. I guess it all comes back to the saying that a screenplay isn't a movie, it's a blueprint for a movie. They don't contain colors or sizes as a house blueprint - from a post by UNK - doesn't contain walls or doors.

Another good example is Big with Tom Hanks where we would say "contrasting with the black tuxes surrounding him, making him appear naive." Big gives another example at the end of his circular arc where he stands in clothes that are much too big for him which reflects the departure of his love interest.

Aliens offers another look at the power of wardrobe with the Burke character, with his loosened tie and upturned collar, making him seem egotistical and even untrustworthy (as he is proven to be).

Wardrobe's effects can even be felt in real life as it's much easier to use a private bathroom wearing a suit than wearing jeans and sneakers.

At any rate, there are tons of examples of how wardrobe imagery can describe a character better than the silkiest "expositional" prose.

Another excellent example is "The Devil Wears Prada," where the frumpy journalist who probably gets ignored a lot becomes the beautiful butterfly who turns head wherever she goes, or Ms. Congeniality, the plain FBI clothes contrasted with the slinky dress worn on the Regis show which examines how her personality changes with the necessity of fashion.

Or imagine Arnold, in T2, grabbing a guy with a tux rather than the ubiquitous bikers' clothes and bartenders' shades. It wouldn't matter but "Bad to the Bone" would have no place in the sequence.

The Addams Family also shows this with Fester becoming more and more "shut down" wearing designer clothes and hair implants.

The comedy Second Sight also uses wardrobe to change a mood as when Bronson Pinchot tears off his suit and runs through the church in his underwear. That's a satirical use of it but it was funny.

Wardrobe can even define an institution as with the Star Wars story, where the robes of the Jedi evoke a feeling of piety and strength or even a society where Amidala wears the makeup of the queen, making her look regal and aloof. Also, the squared-shoulders of the vests Jedi where make them seem honest and morally strong.

Of course, the job of the screenwriter is to evoke the feeling with short exposition, like from one of my scripts, "her pony tail glistening like ribbons of silk" or "adjusts her midriff jeans jacket and heads towards the kitchen."

Those short phrases are designed to give a general idea of age and personality. Another great use of wardrobe. Well, that's about it for today. Next I think we'll talk about

PROPS. Not those you give but those you place.

As always

Keep Writing as Writing is the Revealing of the Soul


MaryAn Batchellor said...

Great post except I would say that Josh's white tuxedo at the party reveals his innocence.

Christian M. Howell said...

That was my point. I used naive in place to contrast the fact that he did manage to get a job.

Yes he was innocent, but who would pick that particular tux.

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