She is one of cinema's leading costume designers having clocked up 44 films in 29 years, among them Carol, Cinderella, The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Shutter Island, The Departed, Sylvia, Gangs of New York and many, many more.
The Young Victoria 2009
The Aviator 2004
Gangs of New York 2002
Far from Heaven 2002
She has also won 3 of these...
the coveted Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, and The Young Victoria along with BAFTA nominations an OBE, and she is also a Royal Designer for Industry. STOP PRESS Sandy has just been nominated by BAFTA for both Carol and Cinderella.
I recently recorded a fascinating interview with Sandy about her life and work during a break between promoting 'Carol' and working on her current film project, How to Talk to Girls at Parties.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel contemplating life and death.
The basic ingredients for this film: take a retired conductor (Michael Caine) and an aging film director (Harvey Keitel), plant them in a luxury Swiss mountain spa, populate it with the oddest-looking people who can barely act, instruct your cinematographer to select as many eccentric compositions as possible and shoot it on the sharpest, clinical, high-definition digital so that every streak of pan stick makeup is emphasised, then top it off with a terrible script, delivered in the most emotionless, wooden way, especially by Caine, add to that an onslaught of relentless disco music fused with a syrupy sentimental score and you have Youth – an unbelievably pretentious elegy on the aging process juxtaposed with the longing gazes of Caine and Keitel at the nubile, youthful female flesh in the shape of Madalina Ghenea.
There is a lot of lingering on this piece of anatomy...
Madalina Ghenea who may be as fit as a fiddle, but her acting abilities leave a lot to be desired.
This pseudo-Antonioni-inspired film fails miserably and is an utter waste of the £12 million plus budget and the huge production crew involved. Three brilliant indie films could have been made with the money.
It is a classic example of the emperor’s new clothes that thinks its audience will be satisfied with the visual bravado evident in Paolo Sorrentino’s last film The Great Beauty. Sadly, a load of overly art-directed images strung together does not make a film. Script, script, script.
My cover designed in 2000 for the RSA Journal on inventiveness
For the past ten years, I have been running around with a microphone interviewing other designers, and by that I mean designers from many disciplines, not just my own area of graphics.
Ever since embracing the creative world back in the 1960s, I have been fascinated by what makes the designer tick, and the myriad of answers I have received has always fascinated and often surprised me. It gave me the idea of trying to capture some of these moments on tape, so, ten years on, I have clocked up 40 full-length interviews and continue with my quest.
You can hear a 50-minute compilation featuring moments in the lives of Nick Park, Robin Levien, Margaret Howell, Alex McDowell, Roger Law, Terence Woodgate, Betty Jackson, Michael Wolff, Chris Wise, Dinah Casson, Michael Foreman, Thomas Heatherwick, Gerald Scarfe, Georgina von Etzdorf, Kenneth Grange, Kyle Cooper, Peter Brookes, Timothy O’Brien, Nick Butler, Paul Smith and Sara Fanelli. Click bar below to listen.
More and more these days, I find that some films really do get to me. Burnt is one such film. Starring Bradley Cooper, it is apparently based on ‘celebrity’ chefs Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White, both famous for throwing their toys out of the pram along with the occasional roasting pig and accompanying oven.
Bradley Cooper as the macho chef
Cooper plays a two-star Michelin chef recovering from alcohol, drug and sex addiction plus trashing all the fooderies he had worked at in Paris, leaving behind drug debts and many enemies. Now clean, arriving in London and wanting to make amends for his shortcomings, but really because he wants to achieve the elusive third Michelin star, he manages to manoeuvre his way into a top London restaurant.
The remainder of the film is a catalogue of cliché, sentimental music and plot points so obvious that it is like reading extra-large motorway signs. Cooper’s treatment of his staff comes straight out of the Ramsey school of diplomacy – abuse, humiliation and fear, with the result of reducing everyone to gibbering wrecks, thus gaining control, coupled with yet more saucepan-throwing episodes and childish tantrums. Intercut this with endless extra-HD orgasmic shots of immaculate dishes being prepared, resembling a minimal Miró on a plate, all of which you could polish off in five minutes, setting you back £70 a course.
Ramsey in charm offensive mode
It is not surprising that Gordon Ramsey was involved with the film (he was credited as an executive producer and his company featured in the end credits), as it glorifies his approach to running a fear-driven kitchen and will no doubt increase his already massive ego and blond-highlighted, sticky-up hair. And to remind you just how unpleasant Ramsey can be, take a look at this clip from an undercover Channel 4 documentary from 2007, with much of his expletives edited out when shown on BBC America. As much as people were horrified by his behaviour, he went on to create an industry out of humiliation television, which sadly seems to have infected almost every area of TV programming today. While Ramsey shouts his way across America balling out restaurateurs, his old mentor, Marco Pierre White, the original enfant terrible of British cooking, is increasing his credibility by advertising Knorr stock cubes, expecting us to believe he actually uses them in his restaurant kitchen.
As for Burnt, it’s a definite “No, chef” from me.
And even more of Ramsey humiliating his staff here
I got a sneak preview of the new Todd Haynes-directed film Carol last night. It is based on Patricia Highsmith’s book The Price of Salt and stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who give wonderful performances.
It is stunningly photographed by Edward Lachman (Far from Heaven), evocative of Saul Leiter’s celebrated heightened colour images of New York semi-obscured through rain-beaded windows, with the flare of neon and traffic lights. Lachman opts to shoot on 16mm film with an ever-present dancing grain. He uses long lenses throughout to achieve a very graphic look, with an exaggerated stacked perspective and a shallow focus making the experience a very sensual visual feast.
Cate Blanchett is mesmerising and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as the wealthy suburban wife trapped in the conventions of a conservative 1950s marriage of parties and small talk.
Rooney Mara (Therese Belivet) is pitch perfect as the naïve and curious shop assistant swept off her feet by the sophisticated Blanchett (Carol Aird), who looks every inch the classic movie star, especially kitted out in the superb costumes created by designer Sandy Powell.
Todd Haynes’ sure-footed, unhurried and sensitive direction allows the relationship between Carol and Therese to unfold with great subtlety. It reminded me of the female counterpart of Tom Ford’s A Single Man. Really worth seeing this on the big screen.
I have long been an admirer of the films of Terence Davies; The Long Day Closes is one of my favourite films. His work is slow paced, lyrical and hypnotic. You have to surrender to the magic that Davies creates for the screen. If you crave fast-paced films with quick cutting, then Davies is definitely not for you. He is in the mould of Tarkovsky, Malick and Erice.
The Long Day Closes1992
His ability to make films has only been hampered by his refusal to compromise and his films’ lack of big box office appeal, so getting production money has always been a major difficulty. Because of this, there have been many gaps between his times in the director’s chair.
Following The House of Mirth in 2000, there was nothing for Davies and he had resigned himself to never being able to make another film until he was approached by the council of Liverpool (where Davies was born) to direct a documentary about the city’s history. That project became Of Time and the City (2008): a wonderful, evocative and moving film that when shown at its premiere in Liverpool, apparently had half the audience in tears. The film showed he still had the ability to touch his audience and picked up a mantelpiece of awards. The documentary restarted his career, and The Deep Blue Sea followed in 2011, only marred by an excessive use of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, which heavily and unnecessarily underscored every single emotional moment.
Four years on, he completed Sunset Song, based on Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s wonderful novel of the same name published in 1932. Sneak previews of the film have been mixed, but I really hope that he has pulled it off and can match the quality of his Distant Voices, Still Lives, which in my view is a cinematic masterpiece.
Distant Voices, Still Lives 1988
If you have never read Grassic Gibbon, it is well worth doing so. Sunset Song (1932), the first book of the trilogy A Scots Quair, is mostly told using a northeast Scottish coast dialect, which definitely takes you to another place when reading. There was also a rather nice adaptation of the trilogy produced by the BBC in 1971. Via the magic of YouTube, you can watch a rather scratchy 16mm print here.
BBC Radio 4 is also running a serialised version of the book read with great rhythm and subtly by Hannah Donaldson. This is perfect for bedtime listening of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s beautifully crafted proses. Listen here.
For the past 25 years, I have been a regular at the Renoir Cinema at the Bloomsbury Centre; it’s really my local and has been there since the ’70s.
But a year ago, just after I had renewed my membership, it closed for a £6 million renovation and expansion. It was supposed to be finished in December 2014 but dragged on until March 2015.
Now, I would be the first to say that the old Renoir was clearly losing money hand over fist – you’d be lucky to find six other people in either of the two screens on any night and the loos were disgusting – but even so, it was like a comfortable old slipper and I was used to it.
Now all is squeaky clean, with pink polished plaster walls inset into brutalist concrete to accentuate its ’70s architectural heritage. It now boasts six screens, which can be found by negotiating a labyrinth of corridors.
One of several creepy corridors below stairs
There is a whole new subterranean floor to contain these extra screens. And you’ll find a bar on each of the three levels but, oddly, there is no longer a box office (not a good move).
On two recent visits and running late, I wanted to swiftly buy my tickets, which you now have to purchase at any of the three bars. So I’m on the ground floor and the person in front says: “… and can I have two diet Cokes, a brownie and a slice of carrot cake, that’s it – er no, sorry, and a cappuccino.” The clock is ticking away and all I want is my ticket. The guy serving behind the bar turns to me and says: “It might be quicker if you go to the bar on the lower ground floor.” I rush down the stairs (the film had already started). Now at the downstairs bar. Yet another person in front: “… and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and two of those flapjacks.” I zip further down to the bar below and at last am able to buy my ticket.
Doing away with a box office at a cinema is very unwise. Anyway, I have been there three times since, and there has been no change on being able to buy tickets speedily.
I’ve also had time to experience the new boutique-hotel-style interior. It was designed by Takero Shimazaki, new to me but the Curzon has made great play on the fact that he designed Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray. The ground floor has a vast bar spanning the full width and seating areas peppered with Eileen Gray sofas, which are positioned to look out of the Panavision sliding windows that open out onto the main exterior spaces.
You descend the pink polished plaster walled stairs to find two other bars set against a backdrop reminiscent of sets from a David Lynch film – chairs parked in murky underlit corners, where you could imagine a vertically challenged man appearing through a radiator accompanied by a sinister throbbing ambient hum. Apparently, Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ inspired Shimazaki, but I think he must have muddled his DVDs?
One of the new lower ground seating areas
A scene from David Lynch'e Eraserhead
And Lynch's Mulholland Drive
I think David Lynch would like these new spaces
On the recent occasions that I have been there, no one seems to sit in these lower ground rather oddly disturbing spaces. I am always amazed at how few interior designers really understand how people like to ‘feel’ in interior space, like so many restaurants with flat walls and ceilings creating unbearable noise levels so that you and everyone around you need to shout at the top of your voices, plus the harsh downlighters (especially in the loos), where you are reduced to the look of a mass murderer on the run.
It was sad to see the removal of the old Renoir sign to be replaced by the ‘on brand’ Curzon. It is now called Curzon Bloomsbury. But it could have easily been called Curzon Renoir. Oh well, I guess I’ll get used to it and will allow more time to buy my ticket. And I’ll watch to see how the people who use the spaces force change: it’s how buildings learn. But I have to say the loos are great.
Back in 1967, I was working for an American design consultancy that had set up shop in London.
This book was produced while I was there. Roger Harris, who had just joined us, designed it.
It was about the contemporary interior design of the period, and Roger produced the whole book on a classic Swiss grid system of verticals and horizontals, except, that is, for the cover, where he introduced a curve to reflect the very curvy furniture that populated the book and a more general change in the air for graphics.
A very curvaceousSophia Loren in The Millionairess 1960, directed by Anthony Asquith
In fact, the ’60s and early ’70s were all about the reintroduction of the curve in graphics, furniture, architecture, textiles, shop fronts, typography, wallpaper, restaurants, lighting, magazines and film stars (yes, even they were more curvy back then), and there was even a revolving restaurant at the very top of the Post Office Tower below (now called the BT Tower), at which I was taken to lunch.
Many of the concrete brutalist buildings constructed during the 1960s were often softened by the occasional curve. This one, a multi-storey car park in Gateshead, was made famous in the crime film Get Carter but, like so many of these inhuman structures, has now been demolished, along with the many hastily built high-rise flats that alienated so many of the people that had to live in them.
The car park in Gateshead made famous in the crime film Get Carter.
Below the Barbican Centre opened in 1982 designed by Chamberlin Powell and Bon.
Shopfront for the Chelsea Drug Store on Kings Road 1970.
The Kineta Holiday home designed by Alexandros Tombazis 1968
The Queen Elizabeth Hall's curved doors at the Southbank Centre arts complex opened in 1967
Oliver Mourgue's chairs used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
Joe Colombo's Universal chair 1965.
The TWA Terminal JFK designed by Eero Saarinen 1962
Arco lamp designed by Achilli and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos 1962.
Eero Saarinen seated in his Tulip arm chair 1956 and to the right his classic Womb chair 1947/8
The Dress Circle restaurant at Harrods 1968.
Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir’s now much-celebrated British road signs, conceived in the late ’50s and introduced nationwide in 1965, have lovely curved corners.
Biba packaging logo designed by Antony Little (1966)
Graphic for the Time & Place night club design by Bentley Farrell Burnett 1969
The influence of art deco and art nouveau filtering from the US was beginning to corrupt the hold that the hard-edged clinical modernist principles had on British graphics, perhaps with the added influence that the increasing use of LSD was having in changing visual perception at the time into a kaleidoscopic wonder world of possibilities. Whatever it was, the curve was finding its way into fabrics, wallpapers, shop fronts and restaurants. Let’s take a look.
Design magazine cover by Bentley Farrell Burnett 1970
Rubber Soul abum by The Beatles 1965 with hand lettering by Charles Front
Mary Quant in Honey magazine in 1965
Chaise Longue designed by Geoffrey Harcourt 1970.
Fabrics designed by Barbara Brown 1965 (top) and 1967.
The first Pirelli Calendar designed by Derek Birdsall 1968.
Massimo Vignelli’s perpetual calendar designed in 1980
Derek Birdsall designed this first Pirelli calendar in 1968, which seemed to sync with Massimo Vignelli’s later perpetual calendar designed in 1980 and still in use in many studios and homes today, including mine. But wind back to 1959 and Willy Fleckhaus, art director of the legendary magazine Twen,often used curved borders to contain photographs and illustrations. A little later, Harri Peccinotti echoed Twen’s look on the very first Nova cover.
Twen magazine art directed by Willy Fleckhaus 1965
Illustration by Heinz Edelmann for Twen 1965
The first edition on Nova magazine 1965 art directed by Harri Peccinotti
Kartell storage units 1965
In 1965, the Italian company Kartell introduced a myriad of plastic products in primary colours employing the curve.
The Olivetti Valentine portable typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass with Perry King in 1969
The Brionvega TS502 in 1962 and the radio designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Chromed Tubular Metal and leather Sling Chair for OMK designed by Rodney Kinsman 1967.
The 620 Chair Programme designed by Dieter Rams in 1962 and recently reintroduced by Vitsoe in the UK.
Moonstrips Empire News created by Eduardo Paolozzi 1967.
Table lighter designed by Dieter Rams in 1968 for Braun
Interior details at the Barbican Centre 1982
Joe Colombo Table Lamp 1964
And I’ve noticed in recent years the curve has returned to grace many furniture and product designs…
Flos table lamp Barber Osgerby 2011
Jasper Morrison Glo-Ball 1999
Portsmouth furniture range by Barber Osgerby 2000
Lunar range by Barber Osgerby
Loop table by Barber Osgerby
Parcs office range for Bene designed by Pearson Lloyd
I could have gone on and on but I won't, you get the idea.