Monday, May 29, 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017: Red Carpet Review

A friend of mine mentioned that she was watching the Cannes red carpet. I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't even aware that there WAS a red carpet at Cannes. So I dutifully googled, and guess what? There are apparently MULTIPLE red carpet opportunities at Cannes. Some of these women must travel with a giant wardrobe full of gowns (Uma Thurman, I'm looking at YOU). In fact, so many of them made multiple appearances on the red carpet in completely different looks that I've decided only to review those who wore more than one outfit - and to suggest which ones should be worn again and which ones should have stayed in the wardrobe.

Let's begin! (Although it might be more appropriate in this case to say, "En garde!")

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan certainly deserves credit for being able to wear a frothy, voluminous dress without being overwhelmed by it. She owns both this flamenco-inspired red lace corset dress with tiered skirt and this enormous ice-blue ballgown. I think her severe, center-parted, straight hairstyle and dark makeup, paired with her take-no-prisoners stance, is what sells the second look - anything more "girly" and she'd be a fluffy Cinderella instead of an imposing ice queen. Dramatic and daring, but not outrageous, which works well at Cannes. Two winning looks.  

Andie MacDowell sported two gowns with similar silhouettes but completely different looks. Her strapless black lace column featured a mostly see-through skirt and was paired with long wavy hair, and dramatic makeup emphasizing her angular cheekbones. Simple and classic yet dramatic. Her second look was another black column, this one topped with a ginormous poofy purple bow at one shoulder and featuring a thigh-high slit. She paired this more outre look with pinned-up hair and softer colors in her makeup. It wasn't awful, but it felt unbalanced to me. If you're going to go outrageous, go all the way outrageous, with slicked-back hair and dramatic makeup - the giant bow needed the balance of some severity. Go with the black lace, Andie.

I'm not sure who Aymeline Valade is, but she's got style, and she's got style all her own. Not many women could pull off either of these masculine looks with such panache. I love the first look, with the flared, low-cut black trousers and wide v-necked white blouse creating a very straight silhouette, but balanced and softened by the beetle-green clutch, the diamond necklace, the gold pumps, and the feminine hair and makeup. And then her second look is a man-cut suit, but in vivid teal satin, paired with a collarless black shirt and black patent oxfords. I wish the pants had been just a hair longer (or shorter, actually), but again, her air of confidence sells the look. I personally prefer the first, but these are both winners.

Bella Hadid sported four completely different looks, with two being a bit more traditional and two taking a bit of a  risk. The risk in the first gown, a strapless bright red quilted "fit and flare" with very little detailing other than scalloping along the neckline, was the quilted fabric itself, which looked very bulky. The simple cut of the dress, however, minimized bulk and took advantage of the body and stiffness of the fabric. Her diamond accessories were well-chosen for the simplicity of the gown. The other risky gown was the third, a barely-there one-shouldered silver number with an essentially see-through bodice and a see-through skirt that was slit literally up to the waistband. It was a bit overexposed for my taste, but still striking and dramatic in its way. Her second gown was also silver, but focused its sexiness on being skin-tight rather than see-through. It was lovely but a bit bland, although fading into the background so you see the incredible figure under it rather than noticing the dress may have been the point. But my favorite look for her was her classic powder-pink satin column with a plunging sweetheart neckline and a beautifully wrapped skirt that revealed yards of perfect leg before puddling into a train. Paired with a large sapphire and diamond necklace, this look was old Hollywood glamour at its finest.

I rather liked the lines of Elisabeth Moss's first gown, with its soft, cascading ruffles. Somehow it managed to not look too frilly or young. But the color didn't work for her, and her hairstyle looked a little dated. But her "dated" look that absolutely worked for me was her marvelous white tulle 1950s prom gown topped with a bad boy leather jacket and pinned-back hair. It was fun, it was different, it was classy, and she looked like she loved it.

Elle Fanning proved herself to be quite the fashion chameleon in these four very different looks. First, a cleavage-baring sage green chiffon gown with a sea of giant daisies along the hem, paired with appropriate flower-child middle-parted, stick-straight hair. Flattering, but funky, and a definite reminder that she's not a child actress any more. Next, a flower print, almost prairie-styled spaghetti-strap gown with a wide ruffle at the bottom - cute and country. her third look was a more traditional red carpet gown, with yards of lavender tulle forming a full (but not too voluminous) skirt and wrapping the dropped waist and edging the sweetheart bodice. This look called to mind her sweetness and youth without going overboard. But her final look was the dramatic, vaguely artsy style I expect from Cannes: wrapped white satin with some kind of funky print at the back of the long train, and a pose letting us know that she knows how to be a dramatic adult if she wants to. All great in their own ways, but that white satin is the clear winner here.

Emily Ratajkowski wore two very different looks. The first, a strapless catsuit of see-through black lace  topped with voluminous black satin ruffles on what appeared to be a detachable train. Dramatic, if a bit weird, but she made it work. But her champagne satin wisp-of-a-slip dress was completely stunning. With nothing to adorn it but the amazing figure inside it and an even more amazing emerald, ruby, and diamond collar necklace, this look was breathtaking.

I'm not familiar with Fan Bingbing, but if she's as much of a chameleon on the screen as she is on the red carpet, I suspect I will be soon. I had to double-check my photos to be sure these four looks were all really the same actress. Look 1: a structured A-line gown with built-in cape and high neck, made from a funky geometric print; she could be the Empress of Japan. Look 2: a one-shouldered gown with an interesting criss-cross print underlay, fitted to the hip and then flaring into a full chiffon skirt, fading from pale gray to deep blue-gray; she looks much younger, and soft and feminine. Look 3: another caped gown, but this time a soft blue fabric that clings and sweeps; she's practically a Madonna about to bless a small child. And look 4: a scarlet gown, cut severely straight just below the shoulders and dropping straight down to the floor, accessorized only by matching scarlet lips, diamond drop earrings, a regal chignon, and a metallic gold purse; again, an empress, but this time one who's aspiring to take the throne all by herself. Four great looks, but I'd be keeping my eye on the one keeping her eye on the throne.

Isabeli Fontana only wore two looks that I saw, but I thought the relative success of the looks was worth mentioning. her first look was a somewhat generic nude-and-silver, form-fitting gown with fringe on the skirt. not unflattering, but certainly made her vanish into the crowd. But this magenta halter gown with its cleverly wrapped skirt and long train made everyone in the crowd stand up and take notice. Better hair, better makeup, better accessories (drop earrings, diamond cuff, and great shoes). Magenta was magnefique.

Jessica Chastain's red carpet looks are often very hit-or-miss for me. She doesn't always wear good colors for her dramatic and unusual coloring (case in point, the lime green coat dress above), she sometimes suffers from poor fitting or tailoring (fortunately present here only in slightly too-long hems on her latter three dresses), and she occasionally ticks off her hairstylist (all black dress above) or makeup artist (lavender dress, above). The first dress is not figure-flattering and the fringe is, quite frankly, weird. The coat dress is cool but the heavy wool fabric and oddly-detached petticoat makes it look like she forgot to take off her coat. The plain black dress is actually quite striking and the gold tassel at the back is very fun, but it looks like she's going to trip over the hem and her hair is lumpy. I love the lines of the white gown, which looks fantastic on her figure, and the splash of red fireworks on the front is dramatic and fun, as is the narrow detached train. But the final black gown is my favorite, with its gorgeously colorful embroidered bodice which is fitted to the hip, and the deep line of velvet trimming the bottom of the bodice and the bottom of the skirt. The silhouette and fabric combination are both just unusual enough to be eye-catching without being over-the-top. And the beautiful loose wavy hair and red lips pull the whole look together beautifully. Three out of five isn't bad.

Jourdan Dunn was another attendee that I had to rate despite only two looks, simply because the "good vs. bad" was so clear cut. I loved the softness of her ivory chiffon gown with delicate pale blue and ivory flowers embroidered on the skirt - but the geometric criss-cross straps across the bodice added visual interest and created some structure to balance the softness of the skirt. It really worked for me. And then there was her silver striped jumpsuit with massive open v-neck revealing massive cleavage (and not in a good way - she looked under-supported yet squished, all at the same time). One big yes, one big NO.

I have to apologize for including a Jenner, in this case, Kendall. Her first look paired denim shorts (and not even cute Daisy Dukes; these were clearly made from mom jeans from the 1980s) and a black haltery-thing that formed a big poof over one shoulder and then kind of disintegrated into a tail that was supposed to be a train (I honestly wondered if it was made from an old bedsheet). And her second look was basically a couture version of the first: made from a nicer bedsheet, with the shorts and a self-belt built in, and better shoes. Didn't improve the look much.

Maria Borges looks like a Bond girl: she can rock the plunging column dress, the 60s minidress, and some wacky feathered skirt over a square-shouldered space suit, and she will cut you. Anyone who can wear that third dress and not look completely ridiculous has earned my respect (and a healthy measure of fear).

Oh, Nicole. I'll give her credit, Kidman takes a lot of risks on the red carpet, and most of them pay off. She can pull off looks that few could. But she doesn't quite pull off some of these. The black-and-white gown almost makes it, but the tulle tutu is just a little too full and the black bodice with the weird v-straps is just a little too low and droopy. The ethnic print is pretty and flattering, and I like that she pairs it with a non-blingy choker and a casual hairstyle. It's not typical red carpet, but it works for me. The silver column with waved lines of fringe is just stunning and I love the bright red lips as the one pop of color. The black vinyl-and-feather monstrosity with the square shoulders and the painfully tight topknot is channeling bad Madonna circa 1990. And the silver and ruffle sack with the long front keyhole slit is just silly. I'll call this 2.5 out of 5.

Paz Vega's first gown reminded me of a bathrobe, although don't we all wish we looked that stunning in a not-quite closed bathrobe? Her second gown, with its tiny multi-colored polka dot print, had a gorgeous silhouette and fitted her beautifully, with a graceful flare from the knee and a curved wide v-neck. A really lovely look. But her third look reminded me of a satin version of prison pajamas. Maybe she should have worn them under the bathrobe gown? Stick with gown #2, please.

Robin Wright Penn came close with both these looks, but not quite. The color and cut of her satin slip dress was lovely, but the hem was too long (yet not long enough to cover the clashing electric pink shoes), and her hair was 1970s droopy. Her sideswept, flippy hairstyle for the second look was terrific, and the general silhouette of the dress was great, but it looked too big and bulky on her. A lighter fabric, with narrower, less-squared shoulders and a more interesting neckline, and this would have been a great look.

I assume that Sara Sampaio is a model, and if she's not, she should be. She sold every one of these looks, from traditional to outrageous. I adore her black, white, and gray strappy column gown, with its art deco feel but modern cold shoulder styling. Her frilly white overlay with frothy neck details and large peplum could have looked ridiculous, but she somehow makes it feel balanced and graceful. Her voluminous red ballgown with deeply plunging neckline comes thisclose to overwhelming her but she still manages to pull it off. And she even makes the tulle frill standing up from the bodice of this pale lavender jumpsuit to cover half her face look as graceful and appropriate as Marie Antoinette's fan. I love the first look, but I'm impressed at how well she makes all the other work.

Uma Thurman takes the care for sheer number of looks at Cannes, and - in keeping with her usual red carpet track record - they varied from sheer perfection to tragic sartorial disaster. The first look here is the less successful version of Elisabeth Moss's black-and-white look: Black leather jacket over pale gown. But where Moss paired a cute vintage prom dress with a classic boyfriend jacket from the same era, Thurman opts for a fur-trimmed aviator jacket over a plain black t-shirt and a pink satin mermaid skirt. Nothing ties the styles together; they just looked randomly thrown on. Her white beaded column, however, is simply fabulous, even to the marabou feathers on the skirt. The feathers are just subtle enough to continue the texture of the beading yet soften it, and the overall silhouette of the gown is just stunning. And I love the soft waved hair and vivid red flower accent. The feathers on her pink gown are somewhat less successful; the style of the rest of the gown just don't work with that kind of trim. I do like her glittery gold slit skirt paired with a white dress shirt with popped collar and gold necktie. A really fun look. Look #5 was just bland; the concept of menswear is cute but overdone, and all the black-on-black was boring and muddled any interesting details that may have been there. Also, leggings are not pants, even on Uma Thurman. The all-gold gown is a pretty style, but the color vanishes into her skin tone and the feathers/fringe look shaggy instead of chic. but by far my favorite look of all was this tall pink column with gorgeous folded details along the shoulders and cascading from the hip of the skirt. Fabulous lines, and just stunning on her.