Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Case Study: A River Runs Through It (1992)

This case study provides an example format for analyzing the role of costume in film. The emphasis is on costume and its relationship to fashion. Filmic aspects, such as directing and plot development are not addressed unless they connect to costume.

1. Screen the film.
Consider also viewing the original promotional poster in the country of origin.

2. Provide basic information about the costume designer.
Kathy O’Rear, Quiz Show (1994), Cannonball Run (1981), Police Academy 2 (1985)

Bernie Pollack worked with Redford on Ordinary People (1980) known for suits like Rain Man (1988) and Indecent Proposal (1999) with Redford

3. Identify the context - the historic moment for the film (when and where it was made) and the era and location the film tries to represent. Filmic context includes the original when and where the book or script was written, the when and where the film takes place and the when and where the film was shot. All 3 factors influence costume.

The film is set in a rural location but the main narrator attends an ivy league school and speaks to the carefree times just before the war in the awakening of modernity.

4. Provide a short summary of the film. Providing the trailer is helpful.
Autobiographical story narrated in first person, based on the book of Norman Maclaen. The film focuses on his Scotch Irish family and Presbyterian upbringing in Missoula Montana. The area emphasizes fly fishing. Norman leaves Montana for college in the east but his brother Paul stays behind to write for the paper and succumbs to alcohol and gambling with Native Americans.

5. Give an overview of the main characters (no more than 5).

Because this film is uniquely centered on a family, the Macleans play the most important roles. Above Norman, Paul and their father who is a reverend. Below is Jesse Burns the main love interest of Normal the narrator.

6. Describe the color palette.
There is likely a dominate or primary color set, supported by a secondary set of colors. It is not possible to calibrate most screens for viewing films and images so the color swatches are a best estimation. You should look at the costume but can consider how costume colors relate to the set as well.

Color is very clear in the film. The father consistently wears black and white even when not preaching. The two boys are distinguished with Paul in earth tones and Norman in steel blues, greys and deep reds.

Above an obvious separation of the brothers while below the fine red line on the suspenders is key to Norman's look.

7. Provide a characterization study.
Focus on the looks of one main character and how the clothing supports the narrative.Polyvoreis a helpful site for building example looks. When possible original illustrations help with explanation.

Jesse Burns' main accessory if the car. To be a female who can drive was seen as progressive.

Her key colors early in the film are cornflower blue and cream.

Later in the film she takes earth tones like Paul and some grey of Norman.

On a date, jesse wears a light blue seen nowhere else in the film. See the scene here.

8. Depending on your film, you should also identify any ways in which the film may have influenced fashion at large.

Redford began his Sundance clothing and accessory catalog in 1989, before the film but the catalog began to carry items inspired by the film.

Karl Lagerfeld was inspired by the film and decided to make a Chanel fly fishing set, 2009.

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