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It was just a mood I was in

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Germans and northern Europeans love the American west! I remember being on honeymoon at the grand canyon with a bunch of Danes. As we hiked down into the canyon, we met nothing but other Danes, and some Germans. Why is it so popular? I think it’s just different from anything they have there. I don’t know as much about Germany, and I know they have the alps, but Denmark is really flat. It’s also really moist wth rich soil. Most of the time it’s raining or cloudy. So the US southwest with dry weather and dry everything, and wide open spaces, is the opposite.

Wim Wenders made this great film in 1986. It’s called Paris, Texas. And what it is is this European dream of a trip to Texas. Since Wenders made it, the photography is really amazing. He captures the desert with all the wonder of a traveler who is truly in awe (and doesn’t just see it as a depressing landscape of broken down houses, scrappy yards and druggie drifters). His camera shots continually show us what is special about the American West, whether it is the desert itself, or the small towns with their bleached-out tapestry of buildings and alleys, saturated with sunshine, or the dry hills of Southern California suburbs like Orange County, way back in the 80s before they were developed. To me the rough, weathered, sunworn settings of these western places and the visual language of this film, is its true star. Of course this film features many real stars such as Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell looking like an older James Dean, and Aurore Clement looking beautiful.

Like David Lynch, Wim is a master at arranging music to go with a film. Sometimes, Wim’s soundtracks are better than the films themselves, (well ok, only with “Until the End of the World” because the soundtrack was great and the film dragged on too long). Anyway Ry Cooder’s music is as intergral to Paris, Texas as Angelo Badalementi’s is to Twin Peaks. Every scene opens to the slow twang of Cooder’s guitar, giving you a slow sleepy feeling mixed with a sense of curiosity and intrigue.

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Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders.

What is Paris, Texas about? It’s a Criterion Film! Who cares! Seriously, it’s so hard to talk about “aboutness” with a film this stylish. Let’s see, it’s about Stanton driving, Stockwell driving, Aurore Clement’s shoes, people smoking on airplanes, a cute and very thoughtful kid, everyone in cool color filters, exciting camera angles, gas station ice bins, random roads in Texas, go-go bars, alleys, graffiti, and other cool things. It doesn’t matter what Paris, Texas is about. OK, I’m kidding, because it’s actually got a plot – a really good one! But I won’t spoil it. But anyone who is a Wim Wenders fan, as I am, knows that.

This movie really gets me, mainly for the visuals. I could go on for days about the beauty of Wenders photography. He has the eye of an artist. But also it’s my perfect visualization of the small town dream of the big city. there are streets, with power lines and buildings just like in NJ, the beginnings of civilization, but beyond the streetlights it’s just all open road and long views, something you never see in NJ, or probably not in Arizona or Texas for too much longer.

Paris Texas is the German idealized fantasy of the American West. The cowboy dream. Empty roads with no traffic. Harry Dean Stanton wending his way through a landscape of Dry, mountainous terrain with no atmosphere holding you back from seeing forever. Kind of the opposite of Germany with it’s perpetual clouds. (OK, that’ stereotyping, but it’s my blog so I can stereotype all over the place if I want). And just as Germans love the ideal of rugged Americanism, we all loved Germans in the 80s. Like the billboard proudly proclaiming “I’m at my peak with Evian”, we consumed Northern European products and culture because we associated them with luxury – Lindt Chocolate, James bond, Fruzen Gladje, Haagen Das, Evian “water from the French Alps” and umlauts with everything, ja!

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I’m at my Peak, with Evian water from the French Alps. Her hair’s been doctored up a bit.

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Written by nattie

April 6, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Posted in FILMS, Uncategorized

A Discussion of Belinda Carlisle and Exene Cervenka as Fashion Icons, Wherein I Also Talk Trash about Madonna

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A lot has been said about the coolness of 1950’s thrift-store clothes, and how essential they were to the punk scene. For me, a middle class punk in the 1980’s, whose family refused to buy expensive clothes like Izod shirts and such, thrift store shopping allowed me to have an identity, beyond that of “nerdy girl who couldn’t afford the expensive stuff”. I’m not the first one to have said this, either.

But shopping in thrift stores gave me so much more than coolness at school. It started me off on a road of nostalgia and my love for old, forgotten pop culture. It also helped me to appreciate the real history behind material objects, the story that each one of them has to tell. While many girls just wore the rockabilly knockoff looks (socks with pumps, colorful plastic jewelry, novelty prints like black/pink triangles), I knew a bit about the decades that actually inspired them. Anyway it also inspired me to go to graduate school, learn programming, have children, buy a house, and select a good 401K program (Well, OK that last part is bullshit but still thrifting was pretty cool)

My love of thrift stores also gave me a bond, however imaginary, to some of my favorite fashion icons of the 80’s….

Put down the Go-Go’s as much as you like, but we all loved them, and you probably did too! When they hit it big, clawing their road to success over the backs of some, they were fun. They were beautiful and inspiring. They gave me a love of my own town through their videos, shot in L.A., which always seemed to involve local street scenes, colorful music and their great combinations of thrift store clothes and kitschy scarves and jewelry.

I mean, everyone seems to think that Madonna was the queen of 80’s fashion,  but, umm…Madonna only wore black. Like, BORING!! The Go-Gos were much more colorful, much more inspired in their 50’s retro looks.

Belinda was my fashion inspiration back in the early 80’s. As pictured here, she captured exactly how I was trying to look, artsy, colorful and very new wave. This picture reminds me so much of an outfit I had in 1983 or so: bright blue tights, a long sweatshirt that said “Privilege” (which I think I actually purchased at the Glendale Galleria or at least the Lakewood Mall), and red ballet flats, or maybe pink moccasins. I can’t quite remember. But I love Belinda’s combination of 50’s pumps, baggy mini-dress and red sunglasses. OK, I don’t know why she chose the Vera Bradley knockoff bag, but it was 1981 so I will still give her credit. The overall look was shocking. Bright. Very L.A. pin-up fun, like the sun reflecting off of the pavement on a street full of 1920’s bungalows and palm trees with bright flowers and billboards.

My other fashion icon was Exene Cervenka. Exene was darker and more punk than Belinda. Exene had great instincts – 1940’s dresses, lots of bangles and chains mixed with the bangles. Red lipstick, and old lady shoes with white socks. Scraggly hair. Exene didn’t just look “shocking” or “punk”. Her intelligence always shined though. By wearing clothes from another era, she evoked history and therefore something timeless. Like an old weathered film poster from the 1940’s, glamour gleaming through the dust, the way she wore raggedly vintage clothes was poetic and  played to our sense of nostalgia.

I love this blog post about Exene. The writer, Caviglia, actually goes into the folk aesthetic that was so important to understanding L.A.’s particular twist on punk culture in the 80’s. It wasn’t about being streamlined, European, slick, technological, like so many imagine the 80’s to be. It wasn’t Depeche Mode or Duran Duran in L.A. Well it was, a little. In L.A. we were into high-tech MTV video stuff. But we were also into the old: “I Love Lucy” reruns, Gumby, old western films, Mexican folk culture and old sit-coms or teenage b-movies. X captured that aesthetic so well, as did the Go-Gos with their 60’s beach movie kitsch. And it was always about thrifting and looking funky as hell.

I loved this video and still do. Jane Wiedlin’s little solo just the best. I think she is wearing a 50’s swimsuit! I’m going to tie a scarf around my ponytail next week and go for a splash in a fountain…

Written by nattie

April 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm