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Haircuts shouldn’t be underestimated. Not the most profound thing I will ever write, but true. William Wyler, director of Roman Holiday (1953), knew this. Billy Wilder, director of Sabrina (1954), also knew this. And that is why, at pivotal points in both films, Audrey Hepburn’s hair gets fairly unceremoniously lopped off. In both films, the moment that we see her without her ponytail for the first time, is the moment she becomes the real protagonist of the film. Sabrina sitting in a tree gazing at David isn’t the real Sabrina. Humphrey Bogart didn’t fall in love with that Sabrina, he dragged her out of garage and made fun of her pitiful suicide attempt. The ponytail is a reassuring symbol for the audience, as we know that whatever happens to her before the chop will be resolved when she gets a haircut and some gumption.

In Roman Holiday, Hepburn’s haircut is her first real act of  rebellion. Of course, before that she hops over the palace wall  and into the real world, but she is loopy on sedatives, and promptly has to be rescued by the handsome and streetwise Gregory Peck. The next morning, however, she is thinking clearly again, and walks into a salon and tells the hairdresser to cut it all off. In fact, it takes two attempts to assert this independence, as the bob he gives her is a crashing anti-climax.

When he finally crops her hair and rolls the edges, she suddenly  becomes royalty. Not the little princess drowned in her ankle-  length nightdress and waist-length hair, dutifully drinking milk  before bed, but a regal and dignified woman.

Sabrina may cut her hair for the wrong reason, but it has the same effect. It takes a year at cooking school, a friendship with a wealthy octogenarian, and a haircut to transform Sabrina the chauffeur’s daughter, into Sabrina the woman.

When the Baron rightly identifies why Sabrina’s souffle is a flop, (“a woman happily in love, she burn the souffle…a woman unhappily in love forgets to turn on the oven”), he gives her the best piece of advice she could hope for. Her father may have sent her to cookery school in Paris, but the Baron told her she looked like a horse – the ponytail had to go. And just like that, on her return to Long Island, Sabrina and David are equals. Her appearance is the ultimate status symbol.

“Oh Sabrina, where have you been all my life?”

“Right over the garage.”


Okay, so I finally made it to the cinema. I had been looking forward to An Education for months. I had been waiting for Carey Mulligan to be given a film of her own, since her brilliant episode of Doctor Who (Sally Sparrow is my idol) and since she made her much more experienced Pride and Prejudice co-star, Jena Malone look like a sour-faced old scragbag, just by standing next to her.

It is the story of Jenny, a 1960s schoolgirl, stifled by her father’s dreams of Oxford, and saddled with a cumbersome cello and a pretentious personality. That is, until she meets a dashing older man. It should have been the ideal first starring film role for Mulligan. And yet, it just wasn’t.

She wasn’t the only disappointment. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay, the rest of the cast was made up of British wonders: Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike among others, and an American with a peculiar English accent and a handsome face – Peter Sarsgaard – played the male lead. It should have been so good. And yet, it really wasn’t.

How much the script was hindered by the original novel, Lynn Barber’s memoir of the same name, I am not sure, but it fell so flat that the cast couldn’t begin to scrape it off the floor. Not that they tried particularly. Alfred Molina blustered. Olivia Williams needs to remember that drab is not an emotion. And Emma Thompson just wasn’t bothered. She was dry and generally unpleasant, but beyond that, there wasn’t much to be said of her character. Using her name in trailers and then giving her a cameo is a cheap trick. Having said that Rosamund Pike was lovely as the ditsy, glamorous Helen, and the times when she was onscreen were easily the high points.

On the plus side, quite early on in the design process, someone gave the Costume Department a Dorling Kindersley book about 1960s fashion, so they all looked suitably quaint.

The evening gowns were beautiful, and over all what little characterization there was in the film was fleshed out by the costumes. Again Rosamund Pike’s character stood out here, as her carousel of outfits compounded her vapidity, seemingly saying that she is an object of beauty and charm, and blithely asking what’s the harm in that.

While they don’t appear onscreen together, Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike’s costumes, dressed as the dreary teacher and the gorgeous socialite respectively, added weight to their portrayal as the two opposing female role models in Jenny’s life.

As for Jenny, those who can’t help but hope for a montage, or at the very least some sort of revelatory moment, if a character is made over, will be disappointed. Glamourpuss Jenny’s unveiling was pretty inconsequential, Sarsgaard gasped and off they went. Mulligan did manage to fill her new clothes with teenage arrogance and then shrink within them as her bravado faded at various points throughout the film, but a lot of emphasis was placed on the fact that if you did her eyeliner just so, she looked a bit like Audrey Hepburn.

“How do I look?”

“Very good… I must say I’m amazed.”

“Magic moment” is an overused expression. I have my doubts about how “magic” a lot of these moments are. Having said that, I would argue that the second when Audrey Hepburn lifts her head to look at George Peppard from under the brim of her hat is magical. See future posts for more Audrey-related fawning.

Needless to say, without the hat it would be nothing. Such is the power of costume. Take James Bond. Anyone who says they believed Daniel Craig would be a good Bond before seeing him in the suit or the Speedos is being smug (and lying).

It might be overstating to say costumes maketh the film, but they definitely do something, and this is my attempt to find out what. Film reviewing by way of clothes, hair, makeup and the suchlike, and reverential gushing about iconic costumes will make up the majority of posts, with a few comments on the state of journalism thrown in to add mystery.

Occasionally there will be pictures if some obliging passerby seems to be channelling a particular character’s look – for that, read ‘obliging friend who lets me dress them up and take their picture’.

Please add if you think of particularly over/under/side to side -whelming costumes, or if you disagree wildly with any aspersions cast…