Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Look of Love

Watched "9 1/2 Weeks" on cable at my parent's house in MA tonight...

I was psyched to watch it for three reasons:

Mickey Rourke is the shit
Sex Scenes
Adrien Lyne's style

The first two are obvious, so let's talk about the third.

Lyne was one of a few very influential British tv commercial directors who came over to the States in the early 1980's to make Hollywood films. Two other prominent directors from the Brit commercial invasion were brothers Ridley and Tony Scott. Together, they largely defined the glossy, highly stylized look of 1980's major studio films. The hazy, soft focus (often achieved through literally smoking up a room and then diffusing it with light) and fine attention to specific color palettes (white, grey, blue and brownish-orange are often the most important - there's actually a great article about the color palette of "9 1/2 Weeks" here) created an instantly recognizable aesthetic that was both artistic and accessible.

Looking at their collective body of work, a set of style-defining films emerges: "Flashdance", "Blade Runner", "The Hunger", "Top Gun", "Fatal Attraction" and the aformentioned "9 1/2 Weeks".

Some critics say that these films sacrifice character development for aesthetics. In his review of "9 1/2 Weeks", Vincent Canby wrote:

"In '9 1/2 Weeks,' [Lyne] has created a work that might well qualify as a truly nouveau film. Here is a movie in which actors impersonating characters are blended into the decor so completely that they take on the properties of animated products, no more or less important than exquisitely photographed strawberries."

While Canby does have a valid point, ultimately I don't care. These films are gorgeous and visually innovative, operating in a similar manner as Kinetic Eye Candy, although with a different intention. Kinetic Eye Candy is about adrenaline and sensory overload, whereas these films are concerned with creating an atmosphere of sensuality built from elements of contemporary design, fashion and/or music.

Here are some examples:

On a personal level, these films have definitely informed my songwriting, production preferences and guitar sound. Maybe I'm just seeking a musical identity through displaced nostalgia, yearning for an adulthood in a different era. Whatever the subconscious logic, it just feels right.


dave said...

you forgot Risky Business

Evan said...

Risky Business is also amazing and iconic (especially the Tangerine Dream train sequence), but since director Paul Brickman (who interestingly only made one other film) is American and came from screenwriting, I'd put him in a separate category. Nonetheless, the dude had some real skills with the camera.

I'd also say that in some ways, Risky Business was written almost too well to be included with these other films. The visual element always served the characters and narrative, versus the other way around.