April 26, 2013

Film Friday: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

It’s a story that didn’t (quite) make CNN: Canadian model Jessica Stam and New York MDJIG (model-disc-jockey-it-girl) Leigh Lezark and their hair-off. Story goes that (fake) Hitchcock blonde Stam stole Lezark’s trademark look: a (fake) jet-black goth bob. Then this February, Lezark shocked with a defiant break from her usual black, as payback, stealing Stam’s signature old blonde. Not to be out-Stammed, Stam then retaliated with a re “do,” going blonde again and – stay with us – now both have ravished, chemically cut, icy tresses that have reinvented each of them… And to our eyes, both have the ‘Delphine Seyrig.’

Delphine Seyrig. Beguiling actress who transformed herself from classic raven-haired muse in Resnais 1961 classic Last Year At Marienbad to an almost satirical blonde version of her former self, a decade later in Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. (Seyrig later transformed herself from actress to director, with noteworthy documentary Be Pretty and Shut Up, a commentary on the very notion of reductive muse-dom.)

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 5.42.18 PMIt’s not a coincidence that Seyrig played both iconic roles. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie is arguably one of Bunuel’s most successful films (it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) due, in part, to his brilliant casting. Known for his deliciously acerbic deconstruction of haughty French values, Bunuel brings a mythic association to his characters through the use of poetic intertexuality, quoting the actors’ previous incarnations. How biting that the actress made famous for her composed, yet nameless, starring role in Marienbad would turn up a failed bourgeoisie, unable to suppress her inner flower-child, at the most absurd dinner party, a decade later. It’s what Bunuel does best. Mess-up our association with signs and symbols we’ve, only by habit, grown accustomed to.

We love the new the mixed-up, not-quite-right blonde tresses of style icons Stam and Lezark. It’s intertextual as well. They’re quoting each other and ended up with something fresh and odd. It is so absurdly of-the-moment. After all, don’t all symbols of class, clique and carriage eventually get smashed together into a hot mess we, charmingly, call pastiche?

The brilliance of Bunuel is he knew that, over forty years ago.

Channel your own Delphine with another intertextual master: Marc by Marc Jacobs. His F/W 2013 collection had a decidedly Discreet Charm association that we couldn’t help but notice.


*Feature photo 


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