Girls On Film
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!
Happy viewing!! xx Mr. Newton