Friday, March 12, 2010

Adventures in Alice in Wonderland...


Well, it certainly comes as no surprise that the new Alice in Wonderland movie should get such a reaction, with the likes of Tim Burton and his impressively unique cast collaborating to create a new take on one of the oldest and deeply entrenched fairy tales of all time. That re-creation in itself is a dynamic undertaking however, not the least of which is the re-imagining of a costume that has become perhaps the most iconic of any fairy tale character in history.

Typically, the blue pinafore worn by a young Alice changes with her when she transforms from caterpillar size to that of a house, keeping our heroine from needing any costume changes. In this version, award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood reinforces the feeling of Alice's (and sometimes others') discomfort presented by this inconvenient (albeit sometimes more convenient than other times) resizing, by having the clothing stay its own size. In many cases, Alice must reinvent the fabric remnants to keep herself covered and this is done with a surprising grace and style.

The quality of the fabrics and detail in the garment design is immediately apparent and also very fitting of both the period of the movie and Alice's status in society. What impressed me the most was how fine the line was between worlds. Atwood created detail in Alice's blue party dress that made for perhaps the most whimsical elements that would have been allowed in her position. She is as "Alice" as she can be in her sane world. "Contrarlywise", in the realm of Wonderland (or Underland) she sports a variety of Betsy Johnston-like frocks and, in the White Castle, an almost Chanel like attire that look very close to something you could pull off the runway. Very wearable in a fashion forward sense, and belying to the surreality she is surrounded by. In addition to this storytelling through costume, her strength of character is portrayed by the fact that she is without the confinements of her corset and stockings. This alludes to Alice's non-conformist and rebellious nature as well as immediately disregarding the first element that many costumers would have relied upon. All of these aspects are what has won such praise (including her recent Oscar nomination) for the immensely talented Atwood.

In all, my take on the movie was that it actually seemed to steer some reality into the storyline, which was refreshing. In a plotline that most use as a vessel for unleashing the imagination, the creators of this film did a supremely good job of bringing the fantasy closer to home and making it all the more believable. Definitely worth seeing, and while I wasn't able to watch it in 3D, I can only imagine how amazing the experience would be!

This movie, as most movies do that seem to take on popular culture as a whole, has spawned an entire onslaught of Alice "stuff" that span from the mass produced to the couture. Entire lifestyle streams seem to be geared toward the nearly 150 year old tale, each with their own take, from fashion houses to food. It isn't a new phenomenon, but it is perhaps one that is farther reaching than others, as it seems that Wonderland provides an excuse for that which these days everyone wants to attach themselves to- release from the staid and normal. I have enjoyed my ebay obsession all the more recently due to people pulling their nearly forgotten treasures out of the closet to see what they can get if they market them with the Alice tag.

Nifty cross stitch. Wouldn't this be a gorgeous pillow?

Vintage Mme. Alexandre doll sold for $130.

Alice inspired dress by Sue Wong

"Key to the Rabbithole" necklace

Vintage and antique books from $400

Ukranian version of the story with stunning illustrations.

What did you think... and would you spend $9,700 to own a signed 1896 copy of the book that started it all?


Three Owls said...

What an insightful review, particularly in regards to the costuming. Well written and I love the images you chose.
I don't know that I would spend that on a book, but I would love to be in a position to consider it :)

Samantha Levang said...

I haven't seen it yet, but this is the most positive review I've heard so far. I know many people that adore it simply because it's a Tim Burton film.

I know some would disagree with me on this--but I really hope it doesn't go the route of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That was a sad day...

Tim Burton's movies should be held to the same standard as everything else. Especially book adaptations/themes!

Aves Handmade said...

Your costume review is insightful and I agree with you completely. I personally believe Ms.Atwood is a genius costume designer.

Although, I enjoyed the film I did have problems with certain aspects of it, such as Johnny Depp's accent change several times, which had nothing to do with being the Mad Hatter (I could have sworn I heard Jack Sparrow's voice somewhere in there).

Secondly, it would have been great if the title had been changed since we really weren't viewing "Alice and Wonerland" but more lke Alice in Underland.

Finally, I watched Tim's movie in 3D and I don't believe you missed very much. There wasn't much 3D going on except for sore eyes. Possibly my fault since I had been kind of forced to watch AVATAR, which I have to admit was truly 3D (but with that kind of money I would hope it would deliver on some point) and I'm afraid I was comparing and contrasting the 3D special effects.

Visually the film was beautiful.

~rebeca :)

andrea of ffft said...

Samantha, I agree, the emphasis seems to be on the mere fact that Burton is involved, and personally, if I were a director, I would want to be recognized for my work, not my name. But then... I don't play in Hollywood, so.... and for me, costuming and sets really can carry a movie. The more budget there is, I generally assume the movie will be lacking in plot and writing and be great visually. That seems to be the way.

Also, I think that it is a positive thing that he played with the story, since it allowed him creative license to not have to do the "same old thing" and upset people who already have their own vision of how it is "supposed" to look. On that note, Rebecca, I totally agree with you, although it is interesting to note that the original title was actually Alice's Adventures Underground. That is one of the things I like about Burton's and Depp's collaborations, they seem to find things that some miss in their research. And funny, I thought that Depp's accent change was odd, but I thought he was doing it on purpose to give his character a sort of multiple personality disorder :)

Don't even get me started on Avatar's budget in relation to the story development. You will notice I didn't review that one. I like to keep things sorta positive around here LOL!

Sunny Haralson said...

I am dying to see this movie

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I've yet to see Alice in Wonderland, but I know I'll be paying more attention to the costumes now. I love that frothy dress that she wears when she's shrunken down; it's so iridescent and sheer that it reminds me of dragonfly wings.