I’ve never set goals for myself when it came to reading. I read what I read, when I want to, but it is safe to say that at any given moment I am in the middle of at least one book, often two or three. I do most of my reading during my commute, and admittedly have slowed down a bit in recent years. For 2015 I felt like making some kind of commitment, and was inspired to dedicate the year to women authors after seeing some twitter friends do the same in previous years. I primarily read women anyway, but saw this is as an opportunity to get into authors I’d always meant to read but never had, as well as expand on some whom I’d enjoyed once or twice but hadn’t explored more. Here are my loosely-organized thoughts on what I read.
Wes Anderson’s films offer the most consistent examples of cinematic social uniforms, aside from those of Hal Hartley (who is a clearly a major influence on Anderson). His characters typically sport one specific outfit, or variations on one, or, at times, literal uniforms related to a job or association. They come to define the characters in some way, and allow the actors to blend into Anderson’s meticulously-crafted visual worlds. My favorite Anderson film has remained The Royal Tenenbaums, and it is rife with social uniform goodness.
Continuing my new series on social uniforms in film, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite feel-good movies, Danny Deckchair. Inspired by the real-life figure of Lawnchair Larry, the film centers on Danny (Rhys Ifans), a construction worker in Sydney who is known for thinking up weird (stupid) ideas like a “human slingshot.” He dreams of flying to faraway places and camping out in the wild, but he doesn’t have any serious goals for himself. Trudy (Justine Clarke), his partner of several years, has recently worked her way up from being a secretary to a real estate agent, and her ambitions expand after she meets Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon), a local sports newscaster.
I have always been interested in clothing, in how an individual’s fashion choices mark them as a certain type of personality and lead to assumptions about their character. Or the opposite: how our coded preconceptions about clothing make us view a person a certain way, because they want us to, but in fact their outfit hides a truth about them, such as tattoos, or scars, or inner desires and thoughts. A conceit within film that I find myself increasingly more attracted to is the idea of characters using clothes as a personal uniform, finding that one outfit that encompasses how they would like to present themselves to the world.
It isn’t referenced much in any well-informed critical “film” discussions. It isn’t typically put forth as a shining example of 80s cinema, or women-directed cinema, or Madonna-starring cinema. It probably isn’t used in many film classes. It isn’t especially well-remembered today, except as a kind of style footnote within the singer’s long and storied career. And yet, I would easily count Desperately Seeking Susan among my favorite films. And I consider it Important.