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Entries in The Furniture (65)

Monday
Jun192017

The Furniture: Decorating for a Lost Generation in "Frantz"

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber on Frantz, newly available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Sometimes gimmicks work. François Ozon’s Frantz is built up from single stylistic convention, flipped on its head. It’s a black and white drama of Europe in the wake of World War One, but its flashbacks are in color. It’s quite striking, a remarkable collaboration between cinematographer Pascal Marti, production designer Michel Barthélemy and art director Susanne Abel. Even the soggy trenches are more vibrant than the sober landscape of the Armistice.

Frantz begins in 1919, in the small German town of Quedlinburg. Anna (Paula Beer) mourns her fiancé, Frantz, taken from her by the war. She lives with his parents, Hans (Ernst Stötzner) and Magda Hoffmeister (Marie Gruber). Their gloomy lives are shaken by the arrival of a Frenchman, the hesitant Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney).

Anna and Magda assume that he must be a friend of Frantz’s from before the war, and invite him into their home...

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Monday
Jun122017

The Furniture: Ghosts of Property in My Cousin Rachel

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

Location is everything. Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is so intimately associated with the Cornish landscape that you can go take a “My Cousin Rachel Walk” along the coast. Its cliffs and pastures feature prominently in the new adaptation of the book, starring Rachel Weisz, which was shot close to the novelist's home.

The 1952 version, meanwhile, was shot almost entirely inside an American film studio. The real Cornwall only makes a few brief appearances. But, despite the appeal of literary tourism, authenticity is not necessarily art. The location choice forces much of the plot indoors, taking full advantage of the complex and Oscar-nominated work of art directors Lyle R. Wheeler and John DeCuir and set decorator Walter M. Scott. It's more subtle, more effective.

After all, natural beauty is not really at the heart of the drama. This is a story about wealth, property and suspicion...

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Monday
Jun052017

The Furniture: The Cluttered, Musty Madness of King George

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

Play adaptations are frequently criticized for not being “cinematic” enough. It’s as perennial a complaint as it is a silly one. Many of the best play adaptations don’t abandon their more theatrical elements, they use cinema’s unique capabilities as an especially potent additive. 

The Madness of King George is a great example, a film that juxtaposes the visual freedom of on-location shooting with the precision of period sets. Adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play and directed by Nicholas Hytner, it chronicles the Regency Crisis of 1788. King George III (Nigel Hawthorne), perhaps as a result of porphyria, lost his grip on reality. The Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett) petitioned Parliament to have his father removed from power, and to have himself declared regent. It very nearly worked.

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Monday
May292017

The Furniture: Get Out's Beige House of Colonial Horrors

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

by Daniel Walber 

Get Out is both horror and comedy, an allegory that doesn’t reduce its own impact by getting too granular about its message. It is a success of both subtlety and its opposites. This balance not only characterizes Jordan Peele’s script, but the whole craft of the film. The design is both vague and specific, pointed parody without a precise key. 

It ostensibly takes place somewhere within driving distance of New York City, at the remote family manse to which Rose (Alison Williams) has lured Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). But there’s nothing quite that specific about this nightmare.

For starters, it’s not really clear where this actually is. 

The initial drive passes down an empty road through an endless forest, a journey into the enlightening mysteries of the Twilight Zone. The house and grounds look like Westchester possessed by Alabama, which is where the film was actually shot...

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Monday
May222017

The Furniture: All That Jazz and the Creative Erotics of Scaffolding

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber ...

All That Jazz (1979) is the only Palme d’Or winner to have won the Oscar for Best Production Design. I do not have an explanation for that. Luck of the draw, really. But, as we await the prizes at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this odd piece of trivia is an excellent excuse to take a closer look at Bob Fosse’s masterpiece.

There are actually a few odd things about the film’s Oscar record. It’s not only a rare Oscar-winning remake, but a remake of another production design nominee: Federico Fellini’s . The four designers who took home the prize for All That Jazz include not only production designer Philip Rosenberg and art directors Gary Brink and Edward Stewart but also Tony Walton, who was credited as “fantasy designer.”

The “fantasies” in question are a big part of what connects All That Jazz with its predecessor...

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Monday
May152017

The Furniture: Decorating Obsession in "The Skin I Live In"

It's a Pedro Party! Our Almodóvar week is extending a couple of days. You can click on the images from this production design feature to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

El Cigarral is a mysterious, hidden estate that lurks on the outskirts of Toledo, Spain. Its gates are perpetually locked and its secrets are not easily pried loose. Its owner, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), keeps the outside world at a distance.

That said, more people manage to break in than he might like. It’s inevitable, at least in movies like these. Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In is part of a long tradition that winds its way from The Island of Lost Souls through Eyes Without a Face. And this house, which seems to be accessible only under cover of night or in disguise, is among the most dramatically conceived in the entire genre...

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