Showing posts with label The New Look. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The New Look. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

What I'm Watching Now

 [I review the TV series "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans," "The New Look" and "Regime"]

Feud: Capote vs. The Swans (2024)

Based on the book "Capote's Women" by Lawrence Leamer, a docuseries about writer Truman Capote's falling out with his society "girlfriends."

This is the second season of an anthology series about famous feuds created by Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen, and Michael Zam for FX (the first was the famous feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford). Directed by Gus Van Zant, and written by Jon Robin Baitz, it tells the story of how Truman Capote (played by Tom Hollander), ruined his friendships with a group of New York socialites dubbed "The Swans" by writing a thinly veiled novel called "Answered Prayers" about their lives, scandals and all.  

Though Truman Capote wrote "Breakfast at Tiffany's," people are probably more familiar with the movie version of that than his novella.  But Capote's real fame came from his nonfiction true crime book "In Cold Blood." With his fame, he embraced a jet set lifestyle in the 60's and 70's, partying at Studio 54 and hanging out with New York City's famous socialites: Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), C.Z. Guest (Chloe Sevigny), Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart) and others, all of whom were his close friends. His Black and White Ball in 1966 was the talk of the town and cemented his place in high society. 

Capote was openly gay, nastily funny and endlessly amusing to these ladies who loved having a man to accompany them to events when needed without having to worry about any sexual situations.  They also shared their deepest, darkest secrets with him over lunch at their favorite restaurant, La Cote Basque. So when Truman turned around and shared those secrets in a chapter from the book he was working on that starred thinly disguised versions of these ladies - "La Cote Basque 1965" - and it was published in Esquire, the ladies recognized themselves, and all hell broke loose.  They not only cut Truman off but declared they would get revenge.  And sadly on some level they did because Truman was ostracized, let his drinking get the better of him, and died an ignominious early death never completing "Answered Prayers."

The series follows Truman and his Swans from the happy beginning to the sad end

The Swans:

Babe Paley - wife of William S. Paley, head of CBS, back when there were only three television networks. Babe was always #1 on the Best Dressed lists but sadly had to fight cancer. She also sadly had a philandering husband.

Slim Keith - famously married to director Howard Hawks, then producer Leland Hayward and finally to a British Baron, Kenneth Keith, Baron of Castleacre.  Born in Salinas, California, she was another fashion icon who had no problem sleeping with Babe's husband.

C.Z. Guest - an ex-debutante, she married William Frederick Churchill Guest, a rich guy whose mother was first cousin to Winston Churchill.  Ernest Hemingway was best man at their wedding.  She, too, another fashionista.

Lee Radziwill - Jackie Kennedy's sister.  Lee's second husband was a sort of a prince so she started calling herself Princess and was often called Princess Radziwill in the press.  Her third husband was director Herbert Ross.

There are also additional famous characters played by other famous actresses: Ann Woodward (Demi Moore), who famously shot her rich husband, supposedly thinking he was an intruder and, when prosecuted, got off; Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald), Johnny Carson's ex-wife, who let Truman stay in her guest house in LA when no one else would have anything to do with him; and Jessica Lange as Truman's mother.

I very much remember Capote, his New York City antics and his "Swans."  He was a popular guest on late night talk shows and was always outrageous.  He also had a feud with Gore Vidal that was notorious and funny.  

Because of Capote's literary fame, most people remember him.  However, despite the fact that these women were very famous in their day, especially if you followed the fashion mags (which I did), I couldn't help but think while watching this series, how many people remember these women today?  And there is all kinds of name-dropping and references to incidents in the 60's and 70's that might go over the heads of most younger people, but if you are of a certain age and followed the fashion mags and gossip columns back in the day (I mean, what else was there to do then?  No Internet yet), you will enjoy this.  It's Ryan Murphy at his snarky best, not to mention director Gus Van Zant's expert directorial hand in all of this.  The production values capturing the era are first rate and the arty opening credits alone are worth your time.

This all-star cast of women is just wonderful and the acting stellar, especially Naomi Watts, but it's a tour de force for Hollander, whose performance embodies Capote. He deserves accolades for it. Sadly, this was Treat Williams' final performance (as Bill Paley) before a motorcycle accident took his life.

Whether you knew who these people were or not, it doesn't really matter. You will benefit from watching this wonderful series that reminds us that no matter our station in life, rich or poor or somewhere in between, we all suffer from the human condition: love, friendship, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, sickness and death. It's all there.  It's our lives.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if Tom Hollander doesn't win an Emmy for his portrayal of Capote, I will eat my copy of "In Cold Blood!" (Hulu)

The New Look  (2024)

A biopic about designer Christian Dior and what he had to go through to create his "New Look"  which breathed life into the fashion world after the austerity of WW II.

Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Paris during WW II and based on real-life events, this series tells the story of designer Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) and how he rose to fame with his "New Look."

So what was "The New Look?"

During the austerity of WW II, women's clothes had a masculine, utilitarian, oppressed feel that reflected the hardships of the War. 

Coming out of the war, The New Look celebrated femininity, elegance, freedom and a return to abundance.  It was a silhouette characterized by broad shoulders, a narrow waist and a full skirt.

But this series is not just about fashion.

The Nazis occupied Paris for four years during WW II.  People did what they could to survive.  Some formed a resistance, some collaborated.  Christian Dior was a young designer trying to make a name for himself working for designer Lucien LeLong (John Malkovich) and was forced to make dresses for Nazi wives and girlfriends.  However, his sister, Catherine (Maisie Williams), was involved with The Resistance, and this series is as much about her and what she went through as it is about Christian and his fashion career.

In contrast, the series, created by Todd A. Kessler, also focuses on Coco Chanel.  She took a different path during the occupation.  History has indicated she was an antisemite and a willing Nazi collaborator. Was she?  Or did she make certain decisions to survive? The series is a bit wish-washy on that.

But Juliette Binoche is anything but wish-washy as Coco Chanel.  She chews up the scenery in a very, very good way. When she is on screen the series sings. Mendelsohn as Dior is a bit of a sad sack throughout but that was probably a creative choice on his part or of the creators as Dior was a closeted gay man trying to keep going during the Nazi occupation with his sister in a prison camp. And the story of Dior's sister is one that is not well known.  She was tortured in a prison camp for her work with the Resistance and after her release struggled with what she had endured there. There is a particularly poignant moment in the series when Dior names his perfume after her - "Miss Dior."  Now we know who she was.

All in all, the War took a toll on those who lived through it, but "The New Look" as a fashion statement was also a metaphor for better times to come after a war of sacrifice and scarcity. And, though it could have been a bit shorter, this series is a powerful reminder of what people went through during that war.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite the controversial take on Chanel, it's a stylish new look at fashion history with great performances. (Apple+) 

The Regime (2024)

The head of a small European nation has many personal issues, such as being a despot, a bully and not very smart, and did I say crazy? Those and other issues cause her country to unravel.  Easy to draw some comparisons, yes?

Kate Winslet seems to have a lock on HBO.  She killed in "Mildred Pierce" and "Mare of Easttown" and here she plays Elena Vernham, the despot of a small European country, in another amazing performance.  

Despite running a country, Elena isn't all there.  Because her father died of lung disease, she is obsessed with the mold levels in her palace and has it endlessly tested, hiring Herbert (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier with a brutal history, to follow her around measuring for mold at every step.  He is a handsome lunk of a guy and you can see where this is headed - sex and our soldier working his way up. Then Elena discovers potato steam. Don't ask. That's just the beginning of her eccentricities. And speaking of Elena's father.  His well-preserved corpse is kept in a glass coffin so Elena can have tete-a-tetes with him.  I could go on and on. Elena is a mess and everything is about to go to hell.  And she is poised to be taken over by Herbert, a modern day Rasputin with populist views. A civil war breaks out and things don't look good for Elena or Herbert.

Created by Will Tracy and directed by Stephen Frears and Jessica Hobbs, this is a comedy satire but Winslet plays it straight. It's also very, very strange.  Whether or not this series hits a home run with statements about politics and the state of the world is beside the point.  It's all about Winslet's performance which is a lot of fun. And I just love her lisp. Hugh Grant shows up in episode four in a cameo as the imprisoned ex-chancellor and it's always good to see him.

Rosy the Reviewer says..."People Magazine" loved this; "TV Guide" gave it a thumbs down.  However, I enjoyed it. It's over-the-top but strangely amusing. (HBO and HBO Max)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!