Black Swan picture image

Black Swan

If Red Shoes and Perfect Blue had a baby it would the 2010 movie, Black Swan. It’s a movie that looks at the break down of a young ballerina in her quest to be perfect which is set against a metaphoric and literal retelling of Swan Lake. Let’s just say I hate respect this movie.

Natalie Portman as Nina Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina

The plot follows Nina Sayers, who is a young woman trapped in childhood by a fairly controlling mother. Nina wants to play the lead in the her ballet company’s new production of Swan Lake where the innocent white swan and the seductive black swan are played by the same dancer. Nina doesn’t have the inner sexiness to play the black swan but lands the role after kissing/biting the head of the ballet. She then thrown into a paranoia spiral of trying to become a more sexual person at the cost of killing her innocence self all while thinking that another lady in the company, Lily, is replacing her. But in the end she does away with the perfect little girl for the imperfect sexual woman and find she was perfect.

Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina

So what don’t I like about this movie? Well in my humble opinion, the movie tries WAY too hard to be edgy and artistic that is just comes off as pretentious. It just has some downright unpleasant imaginary which really just a style thing so if you like this style, that is cool, I just think it tries way too hard that it became almost cute in a way.

Along the same lines there is the editing. The editing plays with reality and Nina’s crazy fantasies to the point were you really can’t trust anything that the movie presents or the characters. There is the 1994 French movie called L’Enfer which has this sort of editing but I prefer this style of editing in that movie  because the rest of the technicals are kept simple. Another movie that  plays with weird editing as part of the narrative is the 1999 Japanese movie Audition, which I don’t recommend. In that movie a scene is shown twice with different dialogue to show one character is not listening to what the other character was telling him. Again that is just me and my preferences. Though when I first saw Black Swan I had recently seen L’Enfer so I liked it in Black Swan more but on a second viewing is came off as really gimmicky.

Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina

Also I don’t care for the characters. Black Swan is a character study of a dancer going crazy with a fairy tale woven throughout. Besides Nina’s perfection tendencies and being girly we don’t know that much about her. We know that she got into ballet because of her mother but that isn’t that much. We pretty much meet her and she starts going cuckoo. She couldn’t go a twenty minutes without the crazies starting. Now she did have the scratching habit and an eating disorder (I think) before but is that enough for very quick mental decline based on playing a dual role and taking a method style acting before she even starting rehearsing? I don’t think so, she just starts off crazy.

The other character are also one note, either sexy or prudes. The only character that has a little more than nothing going on is Beth a.k.a the dying Swan. A ballerina who is getting too old to dance and tries to commit suicide because Nina in a sense replaced her.

Natalie Portman as Nina (white swan) Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina (white swan)

Now I get that the reason for the simple characters is that they are all dual role with character from the ballet and ballets aren’t know for their true to life characters and this duality is some thing I like. I like how the movie merged Swan Lake with a story about crazy dancer trying to be perfect while not being perfect. The duality of the white swan being childhood and innocence and killing that aspect and embracing a budding powerful sexuality to be a whole person is interesting. And the prince/Ballet head guy choosing the woman (black swan) over the child (white swan) is clever.

Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina (black swan)

Despite the pretentious of this movie, it is really well down, though all the following Nina shots got old fast but it’s still a well crafted movie that does keep one guessing.

Though I gotta say I really loved the costumes, especially the ballet costumes. But the costumes fit into the simple nature of the characters. Mostly they all wear black and Nina where mostly whites and pinks and then shift to dark grays. I really liked Nina’s white gown but I love the Black Swan crown. I love how dark yet organic is it which is a combo you don’t see very often.

Natalie Portman as Nina becoming the black swan Black Swan picture image

Natalie Portman as Nina becoming the black swan

Black Swan is a polorzing movie, some people love it and others loath it. I can seem both sides which is why I hate respect Black Swan.

The Red Shoes picture image

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes is a take on the story by Hans Christian Anderson of the same name and gives it like a modern take, and by modern I mean 1948. I had no knowledge of this movie beforehand, I just randomly found it on a live-action fairy tale list and I really wanted to like it and most people seem to enjoy it. I mean it has a 96% on rotten tomatoes and it won and was nominated for a few academy awards including Best Picture. However I really didn’t enjoy this movie and let me tell you why.

Moira Shearer as Vicky practicing The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky practicing

Basically it follows this aspiring ballerina named Victoria Page, or Vicky. She lands a spot in this fancy ballet. Also there is this aspiring composer named Julian Craster who also gets into the company. The Ballet is ruled erm run by this seemingly ruthless dude named Lermontov.

So one day the principle ballerina decides that love is good and leaves the ballet to get married because honey you can’t do both as love ruins dancing according to meanie-face Lermontov. So Vicky gets the lead in a new Ballet based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes. Craster is conducting and wrote the score. He and Vicky butt-heads about tempo but the ballet goes well and their careers pick up. Then they fall in love and they leave the ballet. Craster writes an opera and Lermontov lures Vicky to perform The Red Shoes again. Craster leaves his opera opening night to make Vicky chose between him and dancing the part. Vicky can’t choice as dancing is like breathing to her so she kills herself Anna Karenina style. Her dying wish is for the red shoes she is wearing to be removed and The Red Shoes is performed without Vicky but the spotlight follows her as if she was dancing. And my friends, that is a 2 hour and ten minute movie.

Moira Shearer as Vicky The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky

Now before I tell you why I disliked this movie, I will tell you what I did liked, besides when it ended. The best part of the movie and what held my interest was the ballet proportion. The movie presents The Red Shoes ballet is its entirety and it was really magical. I really like that Moira Shearer, the actress who played Vicky was a ballet dancer first. It seems to me that ballet was the reason for the movie. Like the story and characters were built around that.

Moira Shearer as Vicky having to choice between love and dancing The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky having to choice between love and dancing

That being said this movie broke the first rule of screenwriting, SHOW, DON’T TELL! They did that with the ballet and it was magic but the rest of the movie was all tell. The big plot of the movie is Vicky’s struggles with love and dancing and that plot thread was like thirty minutes tops.

In fact Vickey and Craster’s love story was blatantly told to us. We didn’t see them fall in love they just said that they were so in love. They literally have three conversations and one they were arguing about tempo and them BAM they’re in love. WHAT THE FUCK Movie?

You know what this means? Anakin and Padme have a more believable love story in Attack of the Clones than Vicky and Craster, at least Anakin and Padme spoke more to each other. I should never, ever point to the Star Wars prequels as positive unless it’s a costume. I feel so dirty, thanks movie.

Moira Shearer as Vicky The Red Shoes image picture

Moira Shearer as Vicky

Also, I never saw Vicky’s need for dance and that is kind of what linked her to the story of The Red Shoes, the addiction and it leading to downfall, pain and death. Didn’t get that from her character. I mean she said she needed to dance but the feeling of her yearning for dance was not expressed just said.

Moira Shearer as Vicky with Anton Walbrook as Lermontov The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky with Anton Walbrook as Lermontov

The Red Shoes was shot in Glorious Technicolor but I didn’t see the glory, I just saw dull brown tones. It just made everything seem more boring than it had to be. For a movie called The Red Shoes, the shoes should have popped more and yes they probably could have done something to that effect is late 1940’s. And again only the Ballet had interesting color tonalities.

Also the shots seemed more for a stage than a movie and the scene that was literally on a stage seemed more cinematic. Was that a style choice or did they just really liked the ballet scene over the rest? I’m going with the second one.

Moira Shearer as Vicky The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky

The acting was also dull. The ONLY time I felt emotion which is needed to fairy-tale movie was in the Ballet scene, figures, and I guess the ending but with the ending it was too little too late. There was like no build up to Vickey pain and it was dumb of Craster to make her make that choice. I mean the movie tried to paint Lermontov as this demon who hated love but Vicky and Craster expressed as much love as limp dish towels. It was WAY too forced to be effective.

Also was it just me or was the actor playing Lermontov doing a Lawrence Olivier impression? It was both hilarious and jarring.

Moira Shearer as Vicky The Red Shoes picture image

Moira Shearer as Vicky

One truth there is to fairy tales is they are emotional pieces, not logical, not deep but they evokes feelings. I don’t need all my movies to have compelling characters with deep stories but all The Red Shoes evoked from me were yawns, except for the ballet part, if that had been the movie it would have been great.

The Nutcracker Prince picture image

The Nutcracker Prince

The Nutcracker Prince is from 1990 and is based on the ballet “The Nutcracker,” I know crazy right?

Looking at the cover, I was hesitant about this one, but it was enjoyable. Was it amazing? Not super really but it didn’t make me want to bang my head against my desk repeatedly and that saying something considering the movies I have had to endure.

Clara holding the Nutcracker with Drosselmeier The Nutcracker Prince picture image

Clara holding the Nutcracker with Drosselmeier

The movie takes place in 1850, Germany. Clara is a young-ish girl maybe 10 or 12 year old. She is at cusp of adulthood but still favors childhood as she mocks her sister’s romantic notions for young men. Clara is given a Nutcracker by a toy making friend, Drosselmeier.

Drosselmeiertells her the story of how he and his nephew, Hans, worked at a castle. After eating the King’s cake, The Mouse queen curses the Princess into being ugly. Drosselmeier learns that only way to cure the Princess’ ugliness is with the Krakatooth nut and some steps backwards. The King declares that one who can cure her will win her hand in marriage. Many try but Hans cracks the nut with his teeth but as he is completing the spell the Mouse Queen changes him in to the Nutcracker doll. As Hans falls, he cause a statue to fall which kills the Mouse Queen as well a ruining Mouse Prince’s tail. The new Mouse King vows revenge for his tail.

That night as everyone else sleeps, Clara goes to Nutcracker and her toys come alive. Now, that the Nutcracker is alive the Mouse King attacks. This part takes up much of the movie and there is question as to did it really happen or is all Clara’s musing. In the end Clara, along with the dolls, Marie, Trudy and Platoon help The Nutcracker, who is considered to be the Princes of Dolls, to defeat the Mouse King.

Then they all go to Land of Dolls, which a very pretty place. The Nutcracker Prince asks Clara to stay with him as his Princess but she declines as she still wants to grow up. At her rejection, the dolls lose their life-like spark and revert to mere dolls. Clara awakes in her bed and rushes over to Drosselmeier and asks if the whole this was real or not. Drosselmeier introduces her to his nephew, Hans, who greets her familiarly and she greets him as “Nutcracker.”

Clara with the Nutcracker Prince The Nutcracker Prince picture image

Clara with the Nutcracker Prince

One thing I really enjoyed about this movie, aside from the background music, is the lesson. A lot movies try to say that childhood is awesome and others say that you should grown up but this movie takes a elegant middle ground.

Clara at the starts the movie by rejecting grown-up convention, like romance but by the end of the movie by embracing childhood, in this case playing with dolls, she can accepts adulthood.

This is evident but her using her sister’s wording in complimenting the Nutcracker and also with her more grow-up gown. It was just a nice little sentiment in a film that you rarely see and it’s done well.

Clara meeting Hans The Nutcracker Prince picture image

Clara meeting Hans

 

I also like how the film blurs the lines if this was all in Clara’s head or if it was real but since this is a children movie and not a psychological drama, I’m going to say it was real. Especially because of the ending scene with Hans addressing her so familiarly.

The Mouse King The Nutcracker Prince picture image

The Mouse King

 

As for the characters, they only one with anything to them is Clara. The other characters are nice but aside from Drosselmeier, who has a great mysterious vibe, they are all just there and nice. Then again, this movie is more of a mood piece, so I forgive it a bit.

 

Clara The Nutcracker Prince picture image

Clara

Clara is an active girl who has dreams and ambitions, she wants to join a ballet but she she doesn’t want to grow-up too quick. She enjoys childhood but at the same time she seems a bit bored with fairy stories. She just seem like a real person which is a good thing. She does a good job leading us through the craziness of the dolls versus the mice all while being likable.

Clara with her kitten, Pavola The Nutcracker Prince picture image

Clara with her kitten, Pavola

The Nutcracker Prince is a nice little Christmas movie that casts a nice happy light on the gray period between childhood and adulthood. The animation isn’t super great but music is wonderful through I didn’t care for the credit song, that 1990’s electronic piano sound is just jarring after hearing the Nutcracker suite for 70 minutes.

Also I would have liked to see or hear the Arabian dance but I’m nitpicking at this point. It wasn’t a bad movie at all. The kitten was also super cute!

As Esmeralda been adapted for different versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she has wore red a lot.

Esmeralda & Phoebus Illustartion picture image

Esmeralda & Phoebus Illustartion

The first couple adaptations La Esmeralda (the opera and the Ballet)  her costumes has red details.

Costume design for La Esmeralda Opera 1831 picture image

Costume design for La Esmeralda Opera 1831

 

In 1839, Belgium Painter, Antoine Wiertz depicted her in all red.

Painting of Esmeralda and Djali by Wiertz

Painting of Esmeralda and Djali by Wiertz

In 1870 ballerina, Adelina Patti, is depicted in a costume with a red skirt. The Ballets runs the gambit of colors from blue to green to pink though red seems to be the popular color choice.

Adelina Patti as Esmeralda 1870 picture image

Adelina Patti as Esmeralda 1870

 

Paloma Herrera as La Esmeralda Ballet picture image

Paloma Herrera as La Esmeralda Ballet

La Esmeralda Ballet picture image

La Esmeralda Ballet

La Esmeralda Ballet with Phoebus picture image

La Esmeralda Ballet with Phoebus

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not till we get to the movies that we see red surfacing as the dominate color for her. The 1923 movie has at least two instances of a colorized posters one is yellow and purple and the other has red details.

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Lon Chaney

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Poster picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1939 despite Walter Plunkett’s design being mostly blue with red details and a red vest the coloration of her dress on a poster is all red.

Walter Plunkett design Costume for Esmeralda 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Plunkett’s costume design for Esmeralda 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Movie poster for 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Movie poster for 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though to be fair there are a few posters  where she wears green and blue, but there is more red.

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939 Poster picture image

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939 Poster

Movie poster for 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Movie poster for 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1956 version Esmeralda wears all red for most of the movie.

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956 picture image

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956

But I find it curious that she wears yellow at her ill-fated meeting with Phoebus over red.

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956 picture

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956 picture image

Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda Hunchback of Notre Dame 1956

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1996 Disney version Esmeralda wears red during her dance performance but for most part she wears purple.  I do have to wonder if Anne-Marie Bardwell had something to do with Esmeralda wearing purple throughout the movie as she was  credited in Character Design/ Visual Development and one of the animators on Esmeralda.

Esmeralda Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image red dress

Esmeralda Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame Dancing

Though she wears red/dark pink in Der Glockner von Notre Dame the German musical.

 

Esmeralda dancing Der Glöckner von Notre Dame Picture Image

Esmeralda Dancing Der Glöckner von Notre Dame

 

 

In Notre Dame de Paris Esmeralda wears green but there is one red dress that was wore  for advertising for the London cast and the 2001 French cast. This dress is only wore once on stage in the Russian version during her meeting with Phoebus. And even in the 2010/2011 concerts Helene Segara wore red to sing the musical.

Tina Arena As Esmeralda in the Promotional Red Dress Notre Dame de Paris 2000 London Castpicture image

Tina Arena As Esmeralda in the Promotional Red Dress Notre Dame de Paris 2000 London Cast

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne at Bercy Concert picture image

Helene Segara performing Bohemienne at Bercy Concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently in the new illustration novel by Benjamin Lacombe and the  Graphic Novel by Robin Recht and Jean Bastide, Esmeralda wears red.

Esmeralda by Benjamin Lacombe Notre Dame de Paris picture image

Esmeralda by Benjamin Lacombe Notre Dame de Paris

Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris Graphic Novel by Robin Recht and Jean Bastide picture image

Esmeralda Notre Dame de Paris Graphic Novel by Robin Recht and Jean Bastide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you look at all these instances, why is red her default color? Is it because green is too obvious for her given that her name means Emerald and red is opposite color to green making it the non-obvious choice? Seems a rather simplistic design notion for a costume, especially when one thinks that the color red is in total opposition to her as character.

Esmeralda Statuette by Armani picture image

Esmeralda Statuette by Armani

 

The color red typically is associated in Western cultural with  passion, desire, love and sexuality. Esmeralda’s personality is lighthearted, innocent, naive and modest. She doesn’t seem the type character to outwardly express her sexuality because even though she inspires desire in others, she herself is unaware of it.

Red is also in opposition of Esmeralda’s allegorical role as the Virgin Mary who traditionally wears either wears blue or turquoise.

Red also seems to age Esmeralda, her main point of interest in the novel is her youth, blue and green are more youthful colors but red comes off as mature.

Finally in the Romani culture, red is a color of ill omen as it’s associated with Blood (The Lure of the Gypsy Culture ) Though maybe the costume is meant her to  be ironic like she is subconsciously giving her in to tragic fate, though she lives more often than she dies and I don’t think the costume designers are that clever or that cerebral.

Shirel as Esmeralda in the Red with Laurent Ban as Phoesbus Notre Dame de Paris 2001 French Cast picture image

Shirel as Esmeralda in the Red with Laurent Ban as Phoesbus Notre Dame de Paris 2001 French Cast

 

However, maybe this whole matter is quite simple, does Esmeralda wear red in the book?
In the book there are  only a few instances where her clothing is described. When Gringoire first sees her, she is wearing a golden bodice (Book 2 chapter 3 Kisses for Blows) Frollo mentions that she wears blue when he first saw her dance (Book 8 chapter 4 Lasciate Ogni Speranza) and of course she wears white in the later part of the story when she condemn to die and brought into Notre Dame.

I think there maybe an instance of her wearing a multicolored skirt but I can’t find the instance in the book and her necklace that contains her baby shoe is stung with red seed beads,  other that she does not wear red. So why is she in red since red is in total opposition to her as character and there is no precedence for it in the novel.

Auguste Couder's Painting of Frollo stabbing Phoebus picture image

Auguste Couder’s Painting of Frollo stabbing Phoebus

If Esmeralda doesn’t wear in the book and it’s a color that is against every aspect of her character why does red seem to be the color of choice for her.

One reason I think is red is an easy color choice to make for when a character is suppose to stand out and be thought as desirable. There might be another level, Esmeralda is a Gypsy, this gives her an sense of exoticism and one popular style of art in the 19th century was Orientalism. Orientalism in art meant depicted exotic sense from place that were exotic to Europeans. The paintings use a lot of rich colors and a lot of red especially for women.

Une Beaute Prientale by Paul de la Boulaye picture image

Une Beaute Prientale by Paul de la Boulaye

 

So her being in red could mean that the costume designers are saying Esmeralda is an exotic beauty who is sexual desirable even though Victor Hugo meant for Esmeralda to work against the stereotype, why else would he have Gringoire said this to Frollo about her;

I certainly  consider it a great rarity to find such nun-like prudery fiercely maintained in the midst of those gipsy girls, who are so easily tamed” (Book 7, chapter 2). Esmeralda’s purity is part of her allure and to have her wearing red more less bastardizes the point of  her character

Painting of Esmeralda and Djali by Wilhelm Marstrand

Painting of Esmeralda and Djali by Wilhelm Marstrand

Red is just the wrong color for Esmeralda as a character and is it far too over done to be her dominant color anymore, details are fine but it’s too much red  but in over 170 years worth of adaptations it has become a boring cliche. I think this  is a cliche that need to at very least ebb. Costume designers of newer Hunchback adaptions if you read this please consider using different colors and if you must use red make it details or at the very least  try a different tone it doesn’t always have to fire engine red.

Esmeralda and Frollo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Esmeralda mocks Frollo Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hello and Welcome to the Hunchblog of Notre Dame.

This Blog is dedicated to reviewing and analyzing the different  adaptations of Victor’s Hugo novel Notre Dame de Paris aka The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  There are dozens of retelling of the novel ranging from movies, cartoons, musicals, ballets, and operas. Some are considered masterpieces and some are just pain awful. Some are vastly popular and beloved and even more are unknown.

So why review the various adaptations of this particular novel?  It’s a story that is known throughout the world but at the same time it’s misunderstood. This is mainly because the focus has shifted from “Our Lady of Paris”(Esmeralda) to Quasimodo as the main (titular) character. Of course not all the versions put Quasimodo as the main character but more than enough have. Is it a bad thing not to follow the novel faithfully?  Should failure to follow the novel at least somewhat means that the version be diminish in the quality of the version? I would say no, even if I’m somewhat of purist on following the source material. But so for the sake of this blog, I’m going to review the adaptation on their own merits and then look at the version against the novel.

So stay tuned ^__^

First version up the 1939 version