Matchy matchy: vintage BFI London Film Festival looks

As I might have mentioned at the end of each of my BFI London Film Festival posts this past week: I’m an enormous nerd.

That means I have really nerdy ideas. Like, say, thematically matching what I was wearing to each of the three galas I was lucky enough to snag tickets to. But since I know I’m talking to a similarly nerdy audience – at the point at which my photos of frocks overtook my admittedly grainy photo of the actual Tom Hiddleston on Instagram I knew it wasn’t just me that thinks this shiz is important – I thought I’d share the looks together here, too.


Green, white and (almost) purple for Suffragette

Green, white and (almost) purple for Suffragette. I don’t know why I look worried and I hate that my hair was wet.

Well, I don’t have any turn of the last century dresses, and if I did I’d probably be too terrified to wear them (and frankly too tall and broad around the waist). But I know my women’s movement colours, and I really like green. This Collectif checked dress – a couple of seasons old, but a version is still available – offered a bit of a bluestocking twist. Together with a white scarf and a hint of purple eyeshadow, the only thing I regret was missing the opportunity to throw in some pin curls.



All “model’s” own, including the comedy pose.

This was a bit of a struggle. Until the last minute I had my Tomorrowland black 1940s sheer dress lined up, but it didn’t feel quite right. For one, the film is late enough into the 1940s that a 1950s look felt more appropriate; for another I just wanted an excuse to wear a different dress. The day before this gorgeous shirtwaister arrived from Cheshire Vintage, and I knew its moment had come. What’s not clear from the photo are the gorgeous gold threads running through the red (not actually intended as a reference to Communism at the time, but hey…).


Look of mild panic on the streets of London.

Look of mild panic on the streets of London.

I don’t really do 70s. But I will do glam. This 1960s lurex dress felt exactly right, particularly as the fabric actually has starbursts and swirls in it on close examination. Topped off with a blocky statement necklace but tamed with thick tights and a cardi, it turned out to be pretty well-judged as a summary of the film: a brash, violent message tempered by nuanced, sometimes muted performances.

I feel rather delighted to have gone three for three and seen films that were vastly different but all thoroughly enjoyable. I only have one festival experience left, right at the other end – a selection of short films for young viewers with which I’ll introduce our daughter to the festival. This year was actually my first ever attendance because I always thought of it as something I’d never get a chance to do – but with patience, a glacially slow website and a BFI membership as a Christmas present, diving in was one of the best decisions I ever made. I intend to take Ramona every year and make her every bit the nerd I am; I only look forward to the day when she might be persuaded to dress up with me.

Film Review: Trumbo – Accenture Gala & European Premiere, BFI London Film Festival

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, John Goodman, Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston introduce the film

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, John Goodman, Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston introduce the film

Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood. That’s the only explanation for the baffling accolades heaped on Birdman (a two hour overtelling of what could have been a tremendous short film). But in Trumbo, Hollywood might have also found a film that is worthy of the self-adulation, coming as it does with a hefty dose of occasionally blistering home truths.

Between 1947 and 1970, Dalton Trumbo was at the heart of a famously dark period in America’s politics. A rich and successful screenwriter, he might have been initially untouched by the Communist phobia and witch-hunting that began to sweep the nation, but eventually it came to Hollywood – and did its damndest to bring Trumbo and hosts of other individuals, prominent and not, in the industry to their knees.

It helps that he was a considerable character – in introducing the film, star Bryan Cranston said that to play such a flamboyant figure he told director Jay Roach he would “go out on a limb, and if you hear it start to crack, please pull me back”. But actually what’s remarkable about Cranston’s performance is how restrained it is; he leaves ample room for humour and complexity, for dark moods and wry asides, for self-importance and self-consciousness. If you’re going to write about a Hollywood screenwriting legend, you need a script that sparkles and thankfully John McNamara delivers in spades, managing to tell a very serious story with a generous dollop of wry humour – even a little slapstick for good measure.

While the luminous Diane Lane is sadly underused, Helen Mirren’s sequence of brief appearances as Hedda Hopper – each more dripping with devious malice than the last – are stand-outs. She made reference to her glorious array of hats, and indeed in a film with an overall stunning design there could be costume honours dished out just for her, but she commands the screen with a beautifully balanced performance, a glint of the unhinged in her eye and a seductive drawl in the delivery maintained even throughout some of her most shockingly vicious lines. Bolstering the female cast, Elle Fanning provides a sharp, sweet note of personal conscience and youthful idealism that balances the many scenes of bickering men wreathed in cigarette smoke. Meanwhile the ever-reliable John Goodman blasts through in bursts of heightened comic relief and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje jeeringly reveals Trumbo’s previously unexamined prejudices in a brief but memorable performance.

Trumbo naturally mythologises the man at its centre, as all watchable biopics do, but it is careful to provide balance and reality, to show flaws and misfired rage. The tropes are all there – self-aggrandisement, quirky working habits, troubled relationships – but the tone is continually, self-consciously light. The seriousness of the message is never lost precisely because it’s generally not laid on too thick; the moments of pure emotional punch deliver because they’re well-padded with sparkle. This is Hollywood at its finest – entertainment on a knife edge.

Dalton Trumbo only lived to see one of his two Oscars finally listed in his name. I suspect Bryan Cranston might be polishing one of his own before too long.

Another opening, another show...

Another opening, another show… Trumbo is on general release in the UK in January 2016.

No disclosure: I attended in my own capacity as a BFI Member. And because I’m an enormous nerd, I wore a true vintage 1950s shirtwaister. See thoughts on Suffragette here; High-Rise here.

See the program and get tickets for further #LFF events here.