October 12, 2010

Film & Fashion: The Scarlet Lady

I watch movies for witty dialogue, high drama, cinematography, kung fu, explosions and zombies. I also sometimes watch them for the costumes. Actually a lot of the time. Sometimes the costumes come with the dialogue and the drama and the cinematography... not so much the Kung Fu unless you feel up to writing a thesis on the visual similarities of Hero and The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover (actually i may do that, now that i think of it). The Scarlet Lady has great outfits, but it also has a great mod/existential vibe led by the alternately whimsical and despairing performance of the fabulous Monica Vitti.

La Vitti plays Eva, a glamorous young executive who heads her own perfume company. In the first scene, her sleazy boyfriend rolls over one morning and announces that he has tricked her out of the business. Literally: Somehow she hired him for the marketing department and he's managed to get hold of her bonds, foreclose the mortgage and sell the joint off in one fell swoop. After announcing this, he rolls over, lights a cigarette and says mildly that he'll be leaving soon. Which, i mean, it's not like you'd want him after that, but he should have had the decency to at least let the lady yell "Get the fuck out!" and perhaps throw something. She goes to her office, meets with her accountant, and utters the words women--and some men--have uttered since time immemorial.


Then Eva does what any unemployed, financially ruined, single woman would do: sells off the contents of her Baroque villa and her penthouse flat, pawns her jewelry and jets off to Paris. In thigh-high black boots and a stunning leopard coat. If that is not a response to disaster, i do not know what is. Except that Eva plans on killing herself as soon as she gets to Paris. Okay, well, if that is not also a response to disaster, i do not know what is.


She winds up at a modest hotel in Montparnasse, where she promptly heads for the bathroom, pours a glass of water, pulls out her trusty bottle of Super-Duper-Euro-Sleeping-Pills and... there's only one left. Damn! You never see this happen to people suicide-ing in movies, but i bet it does happen more than you'd think.

So, she heads out to pick up another bottle of Super-Duper-Euro-Sleeping-Pills--because in that civilized continent all you have to do is ask some old lady in a white coat and she hands 'em over. Fuck, i bet she'd give you Dilaudid! Especially if you were Monica Vitti. Rocking a lorgnette and the world's most awesome leopard coat.


Well, second most awesome, after the one i have that Moss keeps trying to get from me. Anyway, as you can see, after loading up at Frau Feelgood's, she picks up some caviar and champagne for her final exit. Once back at her modest--albeit beautifully tiled--hotel room, she also changes into the first of several sets of delicious white silk satin lounging pajamas. Because everyone should have several sets, each in a different style. I call this one the Russian. Note the high collar, asymmetrical closure and fringe around the hem.


Exactly what i would wear to add a little panache to a desperate, lonely attempt at ending my own life. Anyway, just as she's about to do the deed, Eva has an important epiphany: Why should I die alone when I can take that miserable fucker who ruined my life with me!?!?! A realization more people should have. (I've had mine: Hope you get yours soon.)

Miserable Fucker will not arrive in Paris until Friday. Thus, our heroine had almost a week to Live, Live, Live as Auntie Mame would say. Her first step? Okay, well, her first step is buying a gun. She, with much put-on femininity, convinces the clerk to step into the back in search of something "oh... mmmm. plus petite." You know, "Fits unnoticed in my red patent-leather purse until just the right moment for me to shoot someone. Also leaving enough room for compact, keys and credit card, of course."


...and then runs out of the shop and around the corner with patent-leather-purse-sized gat in hand. Next step? Buying a luxury automobile. And not any puny Cadillac, Rolls or Bentley. No, our girl has waaaay more style than that: She buys an Austin Princess. The same car the queen drives. She buys it by pulling the guy over and handing him a wad of cash. While wearing a lovely beige princess-line coat and matching go-go boots ensemble. They match the new ride because you should always buy your car to go with your ensemble and not the other way around. Although somehow it is the exact same look she was wearing earlier when she was stealing guns, except it was green then. I'm not sure if that's intentional or not. My good friend Laura has also pointed out to me that La Vitti's hair length changes throughout the film. We don't mean the wigs.


Outfits? Did i say outfits? Cut to the obligatory shopping montage!


This delightful coat (from Christian Dior) is apparently the reason for the title, although the film is also known as The Bitch Wants Blood, which is also an awesome title, although for another film, probably one starring Barbara Steele and Bette Davis, a guest appearance by the mighty, mighty Charles Gray if we're lucky... where was i? Oh! Yes! Monica Vitti checks into the Paris Hilton. (You may insert your own witticism about how many people have checked into the Paris Hilton, how much baggage can fit into the Paris Hilton lobby, the lack of carpeting at the Paris Hilton...) Yes, i was hoping for the Georges Cinq as well, but i guess they didn't have a Pierre Cardin suite or whatever this is:


And, then, of course, we put on an glitter-encrusted flapper dress and a wig (although hopefully our wig would be more Clara Bow than Vicki Lawrence) and stuff our purse with popsicles and go to the opera. Actually, that sounds exactly like what i'd do, but our heroine is bored.


Probably because she's seems to be at a performance of Tristan und Isolde. Yup, nothing like Wagner for the old mirth in the face of disaster. That'll lighten your spiritual load. Now, if she had gone to see Der Rosenkavalier she'd had enjoyed that far more. The last week of one's like lived to the hilt is Richard Strauss. Perhaps a little Puccini or some Nozze di Figaro.

So, anyway, the next day she's wandering around her hotel dressed up as a cross between Lee Van Cleef and Margaret Hamilton--love the hat--and wanders into a press conference for some ersatz mock-Beatles British rock group and somehow immediately charms a legion of men by pretending to be Swiss, sneezing a lot and persuading them all to get married. I know! That's how cool Monica Vitti is: She does this shit and it's utterly charming! But there's absolutely nothing coy or little-girlish about her.


The next morning, Eva awakens in the Pierre Cardin suite wearing yet another set of white silk satin pajamas. I call this one the Asian since it has a sort of kimono-sleeve, Judo outfit look. You can't quite see the detail, but you can see the awesome Pop-Art phone and the vintage turntable (Yes!) next to the bed. Also the dozens of roses sent by her new legion of admirers. See how sexy realizing life is meaningless makes you?!


Anyway, then the legion of admirers take her out. She changes for each one. for the lawyer, this pale-pink, one-sleeved evening gown with big ol' head of Liz Taylor-circa-1970 hair.


For the rock band manager, naturally, she dresses up as Anita Pallenberg.


For her date with the band itself--all four members--she repeats on the dress, wig and (a bigger) boa from the opera scene. Well, hey, dressing for the opera does kind of send that "Don't jam a shark up my ladyparts" message.


While all this merriment is happening, some guy that Eva had lunch with on the Eiffel Tower is looking for her. See, somewhere between buying the luxury car and the fur coat, she wanted lunch, didn't want to eat alone, picked up some not-terribly-interesting guy and shared a large meal with him. During which she intensely discussed how to strain strawberries for desert, casually mentioned killing herself, picked up the check and snuck out without giving her name. So every now and then we cut from the dizzying highs, bitter lows, and stunning gowns of La Vitti to poor schlub running around Paris trying to find her. Seriously, if you really got this kind of action from existential pangs and a death wish, i'd have been married more times than all three Gabor sisters combined.

Eva continues kicking ass and taking names as death's even-increasing proximity makes her more and more flirtatious. Although this is not always as much fun as it seems, as when she sits in a bar, smoking what seem to be Nat Sherman Cigaretellos (or perhaps Telly Savalas Mores) and waiting for one of the men surrounding her to say something interesting. (i know how she feels) Observe her gorgeous deep teal-green satin, poet-sleeved minidress.


Finally, the band and its manager and lawyer show up, pursued by screaming fans. But fuck those groupies--well, actually, no, we're NOT gonna fuck those groupies. We're gonna play a private gig for Monica Vitti and a bunch of guys who are trying to bang her! They eat a fancy dinner why we play bad Yardbirds knockoffs and then they get up and dance!


Groovy, baby! Has anyone ever told you that look look like Angie Dickinson!?


After which the manager somehow lands the prize and lures Eva La Vitti back to his hotel room. Where she finds his stash. And he gets her high.


Not knowing that all the weed in the world will not make that anything but one ugly-ass rug you've got on your head, my friend. And then you went and put on a caftan. Jesus, why didn't you just chop your dick off and throw it out a ten-story window?

Finally, we have our rendezvous with Miserable Fucker.


They go back to her hotel room. She shows off a lovely red Lurex-knit dress with lace-up front and sleeves. The perfect dress to distract any heterosexual male from your plans to murder him.


But for how long?


Wait! That's not the gun she stole! Scroll back up there! See--that gun. In the gun shop. It's much bigger. But, well, her hair changes from short and straight to long and curly, her coat changes from green to beige: I guess she can change a revolver into an automatic. She is, after all, Monica Fucking Vitti.

So, does she kill Miserable Fucker? Does Poor Schlub ever find her? Eh, what does it matter? You know what does matter? This:


Cartier. Petrossian. Vivier. Vitti.

Posted by lissa at October 12, 2010 11:42 PM