The LA Diaries 2019 #4: TCMFF Day 1

I had a great first day of TCMFF, mainly because it was different from how I have spent my time in previous years. The films always start in the early evening, and because I don’t do the red carpet or sit in the bleachers, I have no need to really be any place until the first show. Seeing the red carpet rolled out and set up in the morning and afternoon is always fun (especially if you’re eating lunch with a view), trying to cross the street or bypass the Boulevard in the afternoon is not so much, and becomes impossible the closer the clock approaches four. But I have all the detours memorized — you just need to add another five minutes to a two-minute coffee run.

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Instead of hanging around and soaking up the festival atmosphere, Kendahl and I followed up our plans from the previous night and jumped in a Lyft headed downtown for the final day of the Art of the Motion Picture Design Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).

 

Now in its 27th year, the exhibition brings together some of the most phenomenal movie costumes from a host of Academy Award-winning films. Amongst those on display included Ruth E. Carter’s award-winning work on Black Panther (I gasped), pieces from Avengers: Infinity War (I was hyperventilating by now — and this was in the first room), Ocean’s 8, Solo: A Star Wars Story, A Simple Favour, Crazy Rich Asians, and so many more! Here’s a snippet of what was on display.

 

With a couple of hours to spare after we finished, we nabbed another Lyft back to the station and caught a train back to Hollywood to avoid the rush hour traffic and arrived back in plenty of time for the first movie. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at The Egyptian — what a way to kick off the festival!

The final film of the night was The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, a screwball romantic comedy (and first-time watch for me) starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. Temple is the smart high school student who develops a crush on cad artist (Grant), the man who her Judge older sister (Loy) had met in her courtroom the previous day. Obviously, they end up attracted to one another, much to the dismay of Rudy Vallee. It’s funny, a fresh take on a reliable formula, and just delightful. A great first day of the fest.

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Arabella (Mauro Bolognini, 1967)

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It starts as it means to go on: a party of beautiful people ecstatically dancing the Charleston to a frivolous Ennio Morricone score. This is Arabella (1967), a fun, farcical film with whose flimsy plotline is compensated by glamorous costumes, beautiful scenery and humorously exaggerated cultural stereotypes.

Part of its appeal is due to Virna Lisi. As the eponymous socialite, she is on a mission to pay back the obscene amount of back-taxes that her Grandmother (Margaret Rutherford) owes. Despite a business engagement to the wealthy Filiberto (Antonio Casagrande) – a casual arrangement preceding an open marriage – she attempts to raise the money by seducing and conning various men (Terry-Thomas in multiple roles) out of the money.

What the film lacks in plot it makes up for in details. Lisi parades around in a collection of costumes where each is more beautiful than the last. Her gowns (orange, purple, black, sheer, feathered) and her accessories (a collection of wigs, long cigarette holders, turbans, diamond brooches and smoky cats eyes) are part of the film’s charm. She seduces with her clothes as much as her sex appeal.

However, the film’s scene stealing moment comes in the form Giancarlo Giannini as Saverio, the camp son of Thomas’ English duke. Here the cultural stereotypes come to the fore, with the flouncing, effeminate Roman waving a rose around – his arms filled with gold bracelets – and recoiling in horror at the sight of the maid’s exposed cleavage. Riffing on the Valentino-Latin lover stereotype is by no means the most original idea, yet it is extremely entertaining.

Arabella it is not a meaty film by any means but the intricate details make it irresistible.