The Hollywood effect : a comparative study of costume in Australia and the Proposition

Ferrero-Regis, Tiziana & Taylor, Madeline (2014) The Hollywood effect : a comparative study of costume in Australia and the Proposition. In James, Robert & Vallis, Roy (Eds.) Hollywood and the World. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 23-31.

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This paper compares costuming practices in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008) and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005) and argues that high production values, such as in the blockbuster Australia, are not neutral mechanisms of production, but powerful prescriptive elements which do not result in a successful representation of cultural specificity.

Australia is a typical blockbuster, it employs a large number of extras, it features compelling landscape shots, has been shot across four different locations and sets, and, importantly, is an international production with the 20th Century Fox. The film’s costumes were designed by Catherine Martin, who received an Oscar nomination in 2009. While global exposure of fashion in film and through celebrities’ endorsements has consolidated a historical synergy between the fashion industry and Hollywood, the Australian film and fashion industries have had a very limited exchange. Baz Luhrmann’s film is Australia’s first instance of promo-costuming and use of tie-in labels (Ferragamo, R.M.Williams, Prada, Paspaley). Catherine Martin thoroughly researched 1930s women’s wear, indigenous and stockmen’s clothing, and set up to make all costumes with a large team of costumiers and seamstresses, striving for authenticity.

The Proposition won its costume designer Margot Wilson an AFI in 2005 for best costume, but compared to Australia the story, location and costumes are far harsher. Filmed around Winton in far west Queensland, the director John Hillcoat and Director of Photography Benoit Delhomme were insistent about realism, and emphasising the harshness of the Australian landscape. The realism of the costumes was derived from the fabrics and manufacturing, as well as the way they were shot, with the actors often wearing two or three layers of heavy wool during days of shooting in 50 degree heat, and the details of making and breaking down.

The implication is that both films are culturally specific as they both deal with an Australian story. However, Australia is clearly produced according to a Hollywood blockbuster model, and closely matches Hollywood’s narrative and aesthetic characteristics, while The Proposition is a more modest film that eschews these conventions of beauty and glossed history. Despite its western genre-orientation, The Proposition is more successful than Australia when it comes to costuming, because its costumes are not only functional to the narrative, but, in Roland Barthes’ words, they also fulfil a prestation. This prestation highlights the social and cultural conflicts on which colonial Australia was founded, instead of gilding, and gliding, over them.

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ID Code: 73328
Item Type: Book Chapter
Keywords: Costume, Australia, Epic, Landscape, Nation, The Proposition, History, Blockbuster, Film
ISBN: 9781848882652
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 IDP Inter-disciplinary Press
Copyright Statement: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of Inter-Disciplinary Press.
Deposited On: 03 Jul 2014 22:47
Last Modified: 09 May 2016 03:27

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