While there are many aspects of a film that can stir up that special feeling of wonder—cinematography, score, set design, performance—there’s something so exciting about following innovative costume design. Who among us wasn’t taken aback by the multiverse maximalism in Joy’s wardrobe in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once? Who could overlook the fashionable foresight in Cher’s 64 Clueless ‘fits? Who wouldn’t marvel at Ruth E. Carter’s 3D printed masterpieces in Black Panther? Costume design is central to convincing characterisation and satisfying arcs, and good costume design can cement a film into the cultural memory.
There may be some promising new entries into the costume zeitgeist, as the Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival kicks off in Tāmaki Makaurau. These films, picked for their potential to excite on the costume design front, will be screening in some of Auckland’s cosiest theatres.
This coming-of-age drama film marks Charlotte Wells’ feature directorial-debut. It stars Paul Mescal, of Normal People fame, as a young father and newcomer Frankie Corio as his daughter. The film explores an emotional and awkward summer holiday trip the two take, and is an intensely personal reflection from Wells. In the film, Paul Mescal dons raggy jeans, a light striped t-shirt and an arm cast. The costume seems to match the overall hazy, faded colour throughout, and amplifies the bittersweet 90’s nostalgia that runs through the reflective piece.
Park Chan-Wook’s latest film won him Best Director at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. He’s famed for his hypnotising cinematography and sometimes bizarre subject matter, and enjoys mixing between genre clichés. Decision to Leave is a romance within a mystery, as a detective falls for a widow, who’s become the main suspect for her husband’s murder. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il star, dressed in a range of costumes that help to nail to genre-mixing—they don consuming trench coats, dishevelled shirts, and matching blue tones. The design draws you in deeper, as the characters are consumed by the mystery and each other.
The poster alone sells you on this film. Two figures, sealed within silver heat-resistant suits, walk away from a volcano spewing vivid red lava. These two figures are French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft, the subjects of the documentary. Fire of Love is brought together with archival footage by Sara Dosa, and reflects on their careers researching volcanoes, as well as their relationship to each other. It’s likely that, along with the stunning imagery of these explosions, those stark silver suits will be a lasting memory from this film.
Now, onto the contender for Goddamn Cutest in Show. This A24 mockumentary follows a tiny anthropomorphic shell with a googly eye, who’s looking for his family after an unexpected, unsetting separation. The film has both live action and stop-motion animation, and Jenny Slate gives voice to the adorable, heartbreakingly sincere Marcel. His costume, of course, consists of some very cool shoes—character design alone here is squeal-inducing. It’s unlikely you’ll make it through this film without a tear or a complete sob fest. You’ll leave with a new bestie in Marcel though, and you’ll be fiercely protective of this precious little shell, with shoes on.
This Afrofuturist science fiction musical builds a capturing, immersive world through inventive set design, exciting special effects, and, of course, inspired costume design. Many of the characters are draped in a mix of vivid colours and tech-ware. Wires are used to make necklaces and headwear, and, in one instance, keys from a laptop make up a jacket. These costumes build out Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s futuristic world, where hackers find liberation through technology in a police state.
Asa Butterfield, from Sex Education, has an amazingly weird haircut in Peter Strickland’s latest. It’s swooped down over his forehead in a huge mess, kind of like a reverse mullet. Not sure how or if it’s relevant to anything else in the film, but man, it’s definitely big.