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The Europeans (1979)

March 17th, 2009 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 1970's, James Ivory, Oregon director, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition

In The Europeans, Baroness Eugenia Muenster (Lee Remick, above) matches wits with the Yankee family she hopes to marry into. Her intended prey:

From director James Ivory’s commentary:

The Europeans was the first of Merchant Ivory’s period adaptations that could be called “state-of-the-art” in its approach to the film’s look, and it was characteristic of all the rest to come. Most of the talented, highly disciplined, and extremely knowledgeable crew who were in the wardrobe and hairdressing and makeup departments were English, and like the late Judy Moorcroft, the film’s costume designer, had been trained at the BBC. The art department of The Europeans was, however, headed by an American, Jeremiah Rusconi, who had never worked on a film before. But whether English or American, all these artists had long previously steeped themselves in the Victorian past by way of old photographs, paintings, and extant evidence — had taken almost an archaelogical, or a scientifically detached approach to the film’s overall design, which made it stand out at a time when most period films — particularly ones made in America — looked pretty sloppy. For instance, in this film the actresses, as a matter of course, were required to be tightly laced up into corsets with stays (which made them stand, walk, and sit right), and were not allowed to fiddle with their own makeup, or to surreptitiously put on lipstick or eye shadow, etc. or dictate how their hair would be dressed (when it came to our twenties films, the rule was reversed: no brassieres and lots of makeup). I heard the costume designer and hairdressers collaboratively discussing “the line” — that all-important silhouette that ran from the top of an actor’s (or actress’s) correctly coiffed head, to the tips of his (or her) shoes, which defined the historical period exactly to within a year or two. Judy Moorcroft was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for her work on The Europeans, and Rusconi was nominated for a BAFTRA award, the British equivalent of the Oscar. It was these two artists who laid the foundation, as it were, of Merchant Ivory’s “production values” in the re-creation of the past.

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