Late night – well, early morning really – on Friday March 8th – lying in bed in London after Paris Fashion Week – watching TV because I couldn’t sleep – I came across the video for the new song “Stay Out” by the 18-yr-old Scottish singer Nina Nesbitt. The happy/sad/melancholy/world-weary mood of the track really fit my jet lagged mood at the moment…and I still love it days later…even after getting some sleep…so I thought I should share it with you guys. You can jump on this early – the track is not released commercially for nearly another month – it’s out on April 7th in the UK, April 9th in the US – AND – you’re in on the early stages of Nina’s whole career – she has no full-length albums out yet – and no CDs out period – just a few digital-download-only EPs. (Also – worth mentioning – I was watching my favorite channel, 4Music – though if you have a comprehensive satellite television package in London there are several other all-music-video channels. Blows away our domestic Music Television here in the US…which these days shows no music videos whatsoever.)
Speaking of watching music videos late night in London – what a wonderful experience that is! There’s an undeniably magical feeling – as happened with “Stay Out” – when a video/song comes on that maybe you’ve never heard before but that somehow speaks directly to YOU and YOUR MOOD at the moment. It’s the sort of magical/wistful feeling that is more likely to happen late at night…when the video or radio programmer or club DJ seems to be tapping into the collective unconscious and reading your sleep-deprived mind…AND…these magical-yet-strangely-sad late night moments also happen to be the lyrical subject matter of “Stay Out”…so it all gets a bit too too meta and you should just sit back and let the feeling happen and not examine it too much. x
On warm summer days in New York I only stay indoors long enough to sleep for a few hours each night. In the depths of winter however it’s a much different story – I can go days without leaving my apartment. As long as I have a high-speed internet connection, heat (I crank it), some decent food options on hand (Whole Foods – yes, Pizza Pockets – no), and a stack of DVDs/books/magazines that I can dig into, then I’m a happy camper. And I’m using the word “camper” literally – urban indoor camping (“nesting” if you will) is one of the only good things about the shitty weather months aka winter.
I always watch lots of movies no matter the season…but in winter…when my studio apartment starts to feel more like a snow-bound mountain cabin…I take things to the next level. I’ve watched 16 movies the last couple of weeks – and I watch them closely. No multi-tasking, texting, web surfing, chit-chat – I watch this shiz like there’s going to be a quiz afterwards. My taste tends to run toward the 70’s/80’s/grindhouse/Tarantino end of the spectrum, though I work in a fair amount of documentaries + new releases + fashion-related films too. (Last night for example, I watched “Fashion Victim: The Killing Of Gianni Versace“.) Speaking of fashion-related films and documentaries, I thought I would share with you guys some of the movies I’ve watched thus far in 2013! In particular, I’ve found myself drawn recently to movies about the modeling industry – perhaps this is because Fashion Month is now upon us and I’ll soon be shooting street style and attending runway shows in New York and Paris. (Back when I used to DJ fashion shows, I even got a little screen time in a documentary about modeling called “The White Runway“.) So…let’s take a look at these, shall we??
First up is the controversial new documentary, “Girl Model” – you can view the trailer above. As far as I know, this film never had a theatrical release…it was shown in 2012 at a couple of festivals and there have been some college and educational screenings. If you’ve heard about it and been wanting to see it, it’s set to be released on DVD in the U.S. next Tuesday, Feb. 12th. (I have an iTunes UK account and was able to rent it there recently and watch it on my computer.) As a technical achievement, this one is nothing to write home about. The credits mention support from a university in making the film and that’s exactly what it looks like – a student film. The subject matter though is genuinely disturbing and kept me riveted throughout the film’s short length. The film follows Nadya – a 13-year-old modeling hopeful from a poor family and Ashley Arbaugh, an NYC-based model scout (and former model) with a mortgage who discovers her at an open call in Siberia. Nadya is primarily being scouted for the Japanese market…a market and an overall situation that she and her rural family know next to nothing about. They are hopeful that if she can land even a couple of jobs, it will provide enough money to complete needed work on the family house. Not gonna lie – the film provides some voyeuristic and exploitative kicks with lengthy scenes shot at the scantily-clad castings in Siberia. This voyeuristic high though is followed by a crashing low when we learn that videos from the castings often end up in the hands of Russian prostitution rings – who apparently are happy to employ attractive girls that are passed over by the model scouts. I was blown away by the final 10 seconds or so of this film…a tight shot…of a girl’s face…at yet another open call…when we realize that if Nadya is not willing to “endure” (her exact words) her trials…then there are a thousand smiling hopefuls lined up to take her place.
Next up is “Picture Me” (trailer above)…also pitched as a tell-all behind-the-scenes exposé of the shady side of modeling…but in reality a sunnier and more comprehensive look at several years in the life of model Sara Ziff. Predating our current share-everything culture of blogs, digital cameras, iPhones, and social media by several years, Ziff and her then-boyfriend Ole Schell decided to carry a video camera along on Sara’s modeling adventures. Every tale of a pervy photographer the film conjures is balanced by Ziff flashing a $100,000 paycheck…her tales of exhausting working conditions followed by scenes of her buying her own West Village apartment in her early 20’s. In the end, Ziff seems to have emerged wiser yet relatively unscathed…and financially much better off. Her supposed exposé is as likely to encourage the next wave of modeling hopefuls as ward them off. The main difference between this film and “Girl Model” is that this film focuses on modeling in the developed world (Ziff works for top clients and jets between New York, Milan, and Paris), whereas “Girl Model” focuses on a niche part of the industry – a niche that has a distinct Third World/human trafficking element to it. Overall, I really enjoyed “Picture Me” – if you only have time to watch one behind-the-scenes documentary about modeling, this should be the one.
“Pusher” kicks ass – it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen recently – I mean the trailer alone is more exciting than many entire films! This one isn’t about modeling or fashion…but it does feature performances by a couple of my favorite cover girls (Aggy Deyn and the stunning Suki Waterhouse)…so I thought that I would include it here. (That’s Suki at the “Pusher” premiere above…all the way at the top of this post…photo by dave m. benett/gettyimages) You liked “Drive” right? And you love Ryan Gosling, yeah? Well Gosling is sadly MIA…but other than that, if you loved “Drive” you’ll love this. Executive-produced (though not directed) by Nicholas Winding Refn, it’s a 2012 English-language remake of his 1996 Danish film of the same name. Filled with dangerous characters, seedy locations, and pumping electronic-music-filled drives through late-night London…what’s not to like? As for Aggy’s performance as a stripper who shoots heroin in her spare time? Well…she’s not bad. Though her line readings are undeniably a bit wooden, there are several scenes that call for silent emotional reactions where she excels…an expressive face is a requirement for top models after all. This one too barely had a theatrical release in the US – in NYC it played for just 2 weeks and on one screen only. Unfortunately, if you live in the U.S., I’m not exactly sure how you’re going to see this one – it’s not scheduled for release on DVD at the moment – so it’s unavailable at Amazon + Netflix + etc. Also worth noting – this 2012 version blows the doors off the original 1996 “Pusher”…I watched them both recently to make sure…so don’t believe any online hype that says the original is superior…it’s not even close.
Finally from 1975 we have “Cover Girl Models“. I’ve owned the DVD for a minute but just got around to watching it a few days ago. I love these sort of “gratuitous-toplessness-but-not-porn” movies that used to play at drive-ins and on The Duece (aka 42nd Street) in the old Times Square. I was too young to see them at the time…so I’m making up now for missing out then. I love to watch them without irony – I take them at face value. Whether you are able to do so or not is up to you. You’ll have to admit though that the exaggerated posing seen in the clip above is shockingly similar to some of the preening and posturing you’ll find outside many runway shows!
Hey – I’m back from Stockholm and kicking New York Fashion Week festivities off just a wee bit early…as I often do! I’m super excited to be speaking tomorrow 9.5.12 at the Independent Fashion Bloggers Conference in my street style stomping grounds, Soho NYC. Hope to see lots of you there! My panel (“The New Entrepreneur”) is the first one of the day – we’ll be starting at 9:30AM. xx
Hey – if you’re in New York and haven’t yet seen Bill Cunningham New York, you really should try to do so this week. Film Forum just announced today that they’re extending the film’s short two-week run for another 9 days – originally scheduled to end this Tuesday, March 29th, it will now play through April 7th. (It’s also currently playing – for one week only – at one of my favorite theatres in L.A., the awesome single-screen Nuart on Santa Monica. Don’t sleep, West Coast fashion obsessives!)
As most of you likely know, the film is a documentary about Bill Cunningham, the 82-year-old street style and society photographer for The New York Times. It’s my favorite movie so far of 2011! You can watch the trailer below. If you want to know a bit more about the elusive Mr. Cunningham, there’s a great profile from The New Yorker – here.
And finally…if you are a student or fan or perhaps practitioner of street style…you may have heard the story about Mr. Cunningham’s very first “On The Street” column. The legend goes that he was shooting fabulous Christmas shoppers on the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue, and happened to get a shot of the notoriously reclusive Greta Garbo wearing a nutria coat. This was in December, 1978. He showed these photos to his editor at the Times – with the Garbo image being the deal-sealer – and modern street style photography was born. Having heard this story, I’ve always wanted to see this first column – but thought that I never would. It was un-Googleable and seemed destined to remain a myth. I was very happy – shocked really – to see that the filmmakers included a high-res version of this first “On The Street” on the website for the film. I’ve included it at the bottom of this post so that you guys can see!
P.S. – A further thought – Bill Cunningham to me is one of the things that helps make New York…NEW YORK. A small thing really – just one slim older guy on a bike. If you live here though, you know that it’s the thousands or tens of thousands of small things like this that make this city so special. The way I see it – though this most likely has never been his intention – he’s devoted his life to making sure that New York will never be just another big city. I mean most of us who live here walk around town feeling like we are starring in a movie or walking in a runway show anyway! And then there’s Bill with his camera – confirming this all for us. We are stars…and New York is our set. xx Mr. Newton