(image taken from So Hollywood Chic)
(image taken from Dee Crow Seer)
(image taken from Pop Matters)
(image taken from Movie Actors)
(image taken from Tripod)
Since the start of autumn, I have been flung into the tumultuous throes of dramatic Downton Abbey, returning to television with its third season rife with accolades and ripe with intense anticipation. So far, I have not been disappointed; each episode airs on Sunday evening over in Britain, and I illegally indulge each Monday evening. On my recent epic and uncomfortable flight to Johannesburg, I decided to further nourish my current obsession with the bygone aesthetics of early twentieth-century English nobility and watched Gosford Park. I had first seen the film with my mother when it was released about a decade ago, in an old Baltimore paragon, the Senator Theater. During the passing of time, I had forgotten the vast majority of the plot details, the intricacies of the characters' relationships, which was perfect, since it is a witty, meta-mystery involving murder and betrayal. Despite my cramped legs and my indigestion from revolting preservative-rich food-product, I enjoyed returning to the story, and especially to the beautiful style of Lady Sylvia McCordle, played by the exquisite Kristin Scott Thomas.
Set on a grand and antiquated estate in a remote part of the English countryside, just before the precipice of the second World War, in those desperate and decadent times when the lifestyle of landed aristocracy decays and dissipates, the film explores the quiet destruction of a rich patriarch who, for years, has built a fantastical emotional fortress with his money. Like animals, in a time of turmoil, the population evolving, the various characters of the house exude a sort of carnal sensibility as they glide through their displays of pretense and tradition: dressing for dinner, sipping cocktails, preparing their guns for the shoot. A typical upstairs-downstairs drama with an array of sirs, madames, honored guests, cooks, maids, and valets, and with the accompanied bizarre intermingling and sexual tensions, the familiar and the strange of the group are brought together for a weekend of shooting and socializing, for glamor and, ultimately, intrigue. The narrative structure takes a turn on itself, when as one of the weekend guests, a Hollywood director researching his next film, a mystery where a murder ruins a weekend, shares some of his secret project, it manifests in this film: the patriarch William McCordle is murdered. Detectives arrive promptly on the scene, and the viewer, as necessary voyeur, discovers the secrets revealed, upstairs and down, to solve the crime, as well as to understand the history and dynamics of the house.
Sylvia epitomizes the expert amalgamation of feminine sophistication and masculine mannerisms and detailing; both pompous and vulnerable, she imbues mischief and propriety. Her costumes throughout the production are divine; she transitions from riding slacks and thick layers of tweeds to soft, ephemeral evening gowns naturally, at ease astride a sweating horse and languidly floating across her parlor like some gossamer bird. Bold, dark red lips, worn with her gorgeous dresses and with her smartly tailored, men's wear, give her a simultaneously seductive and callous allure. For this autumn, I would love nothing more than to style each of my outfits following her cues, either sparkling in radiance, or wearing a thin schoolboy tie.