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I just saw this documentary film at the Newport International Film Festival last night (June 7, 2005) and have to say that I liked it a lot.
This is a film about how the fashion industry (which included Vogue magazine), in order to encourage new and upcoming fashion talent, create a fund to provide incentive capital to a designer who has, not just well thought out clothes, but also has the business sense to survive. It is a tale about how the fashion industry realizes that there doesn't seem to be anyone replacing the likes of well known but aging designers and how they realize that something needs to be done to encourage growth. It is also a look about how terribly difficult it is to take a business idea, especially in the fashion industry, and make it grow.
A panel of judges is formed to screen approximately 175 potential candidates. The movie starts at the point where there are 10 semi-finalists. The movie follows three of these semi-finalists from visits to their workshop(s), putting on a public fashion show, putting on another "show" in front of the judges with the designers choice of 5 of his/hers best outfits (one finalist, who was not one of the three filmed, only made shoes, another made jewelry), plus grill sessions concerning business sense, etc. At the end of the movie there is a banquet where the top prize is awarded. With only one winner, you, as an audience, have been so well manipulated by the film that you feel almost instant grief for those others who didn't win. It is a well told story! To give you an idea as to how well, considering I don't follow the glitterati of the world (especially in fashion), I came away from the movie thinking how I would like to get a tuxedo from this one designer.
So why did I rate this a 7? In short: cinematography and editing. After the screening last night I came close to asking the director if the budget had been so tight that he couldn't afford a tripod. This was because the entire movie (at least it SEEMED like the entire movie) was one jerky scene after another (especially in the public fashion show). In a few other scenes the camera was not focused on the subjects but, rather, on the wall beyond the subjects. This, to me, was quite irritating because I was not allowed enough opportunity to appreciate and evaluate the clothes that were so vital to the survival of the contestants. I realize that the hand-held camera technique is supposed to lend an air of authenticity to the film. In my opinion, however, it should only be used when a) it is absolutely mandatory (filming in a white-water raft or in very close quarters with a moving subject, for example), b) when you can't afford SteadiCam equipment and/or operators, or c) when you can't afford a tripod. A good example of a good balance between hand-held technique and traditional tripod/dolly/etc. methods is "Day For Night" (La Nuit Americaine) by Francois Truffaut.
And as for editing, is it really too much to ask to have a minimum cut of 3 seconds instead of 3 frames? While this complaint did not happen much (fortunately), when it did occur during the public fashion show I felt cheated because I was not allowed the opportunity to make my own evaluations of what had been created by these people the movie was trying to get us to embrace. The only time I have seen quick cuts used effectively is for flashback sequences, otherwise I find it irritating, as it was when I saw "Moulin Rouge".
Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie well enough to want to see it again. Only next time I'm going to wear glasses with self-leveling electronics in them.
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