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Brooklyn Gal

Serge to the Forefront

Several months ago the Brooklyn Gal wrote about Serge Gainsbourg, the late Gallic legend whose musical talent knew no bounds. We were wondering when, if ever, Joann Sfar’s film Gainsbourg Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus, would make its theater debut. We had been lucky enough to catch it at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010, and we suspected that it might have sunk into the cracks of oblivion.

Yesterday Serge resurfaced. First, a friend sent us this incredible photo of the French provocateur and his main squeeze, Jane Birkin (yes, the parents of Charlotte Gainsbourg). Then, while flipping through the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar on our Nook, we discovered that that long-shelved film is ready to roll; it will finally see the light of day, or, rather, the dim light of the movie theaters, on August 31.  The old title has been replaces with the new, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, perhaps to appeal to an American audience that knows little of his influence and prodigious talent, not to mention his incessant smoking, tomcat tendencies and charming bad boy ways.

Should anyone need a Serge fix till the film opens, we here at the Brooklyn Gal have a Band-aid solution: find yourself a copy of Sylvie Simmons’ biography, Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes and indulge in a late summer read…










All that Dance

It’s hard to say when it started and when it may end (if ever). Yes, for quite some time now, we here at the Brooklyn Gal have been obsessed with dance movies of all stripes. Samba, hip-hop, ballet, modern, jazz — it makes no difference to us who’s taking the stage and how they move. If the subject is dance, we’re all over it, especially when we can watch our beloved movies at home, on demand, when no one else is around to guffaw or pass judgment.

Guilty pleasure? Sometimes, as in the other night’s cheeseball selection called Dance With Me, starring a gorgeous Vanessa Williams, a hunk with heart named Chayanne and Kris Kristofferson, crusty and taciturn, as per usual. But other times, well, we feel just a tinge of guilt and all of the pleasure as we watch gorgeous cast members practice their sassy, sweaty dance routines all the while falling in love. Case in point: Step Up 3.

Perhaps we can attribute this rock-solid fascination to our years of modern dance lessons  — it’s fun to watch and dream knowing that we will never, ever be more than an absolute beginner.  And we know that the plots rarely vary:  mover and shaker arrives in new town or decides to follow his/her dream, beats the odds and finds a way to compete, invariably winning the prize (be it money or respect of friend/parent/rival or all of the above) and the love of that special guy or girl. And most important of all, our dance star learns a Life Lesson, too, with a capital ‘L.’

So, there, we said it. We’ve come clean. We get a kick out of dance flicks (and we’re not talking Dancing with the Stars). Pardon us while we practice our pliés.




Bow Me Over

Blouse in the House

The Brooklyn Gal’s latest obsession, the droopy bowed blouse, sort of took us by surprise. After all, we’ve always associated those knotted-at-the-neck numbers with cheesy fabrics, disco-era silhouettes and romantic poets. That is, until we saw The King’s Speech a month or two ago.

There we sat, bewitched by Helena Bonham Carter’s queenly hats and elegant ensembles (which we later discovered were made or custom-tweaked from vintage frockerie by costume designer Jenny Beavan), when something rather extraordinary flitted across the screen: the fetchingly feminine bow-necked blouse worn by character Myrtle Logue (Jennifer Ehle), wife of speech therapist Lionel (Geoffrey Rush). There she was, a retro dream sprung to life, and there she wasn’t, leaving us in need of another bow-blouse glamour fix, straightaway.

And so the BG went a-looking. We rediscovered a gorgeous silk-satin crepe tie-neck rendition from Chloé’s recent fall collection, featured, funnily enough, in The New York Times story about dressing à la Charlie, that fabulous devil-may-care girl in Revlon’s 1970s perfume ads. And we also fell for Wes Gordon’s soigné interpretation for next fall, which he showed, paired with high-waist wide-leg trousers, during Fashion Week in NYC.

Miles of Style

But chances are we will probably never button up these beauties for real. We will not stride across the street, head tall, tie loosely looped and billowing in the breeze, because, heck, without that model-esque height we would not be wearing the blouse – the blouse would wear us.

And so we’ll leave it at that, another fashion fantasy. It’s still the stuff dreams are made of.


Dreaming in French

The other night we decided to watch Public Speaking, Martin Scorcese’s HBO documentary about Fran Lebowitz, a brash, brainy New York writer renowned for her razor-sharp wit. One of the highlights of the movie for the Brooklyn Gal: the video clip of Serge Gainsbourg singing New York USA that Scorcese used to illustrate some pivotal point about Leibowitz’s life in the big city.

Like many of the late, great French showman’s tunes this melodic homage to Manhattan is schmaltzy, theatrical and classy, all at once – in other words, oui, it’s vintage Gainsbourg.

And it brought to mind director/artist Joann Sfar’s film Gainsbourg Je t’aime…moi non plus, which we were lucky enough to catch at last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan. Funny, we thought that this quirky love letter to Gainsbourg, based on Sfar’s graphic novel, would be a cult hit or that it would at least gain traction over time, but after making a splash at the festival it seemed to disappear into the filmic ether. Will it ever have a proper theatrical release in the states (or did we miss it?!)

Perhaps Americans are just not all that interested in Gainsbourg and his wild exploits.

But the Brooklyn Gal also had the chance to see the amazing Gainsbourg multimedia exhibit in 2008 at the Museé de Musique in Paris and we truly believe that this Gallic pop star was a genius, a man of many genres, who was way, way ahead of his time. And while he remains an icon in France 20 years after his death, he somehow never attained that kind of notoriety here. We’d even gamble to say that many people have absolutely no clue about Serge.

Maybe it’s time for a Gainsbourg musical on Broadway or a biography on the History channel. Or maybe his super-stylish musician-actor daughter Charlotte can do her take on her father’s songbooks.

In other words, we think the time is right for a Serge resurgence.


On the Dot

Chili Williams, aka The Polka Dot Girl

Given our weakness for all things retro, it’s no wonder that we’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for spring’s perky polka dot trend. We’re over the moon about Moschino’s sweet vintage-inspired blouses and kicky pants and Rebecca Taylor’s downright dotty see-through styles, including a red polka-dot dress and a filmy jacket and long, sweeping skirt. And while we never gave MaxMara more than a passing glance before, we’re almost giddy about the label’s one-piece shorts number. After all, it’s black -and-white and awesome all over.

Minnie Mouse rocks the dots

Polka dots have been turning heads for decades, of course. Minnie Mouse did the dots proud in the 1930s while pin-up girl Chili Williams put the polka-dot bandeau bikini on the map in 1943. Fashion designer Norman Norell cultivated a following with his daywear collection of blouses and shirtwaist dresses, in stripes, checks and yes, darling dots. And, hello, who could forget Marilyn Monroe in all of her dotty glory in the 1955 sensation The Seven Year Itch? (Yes, she really did wear other costumes besides that sexpot white halter dress).

Marilyn Monroe in va-va-voom dots

Let’s face it: trends come and go, but dots endure!


What Grace, What Style

Bathing beauty Grace Kelly

We’re not usually huge fans of ladies’ fashions from the 1950s – too much pouf in the skirt, far too many poodles – and let’s not even get started on those cone-shaped breasts. But that was before the Brooklyn Gal experienced the 1956 gem High Society starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra with a musical cameo from Louis Armstrong.

Truly a stellar cast, but in our book they played second fiddle to Miss Kelly’s wondrous wardrobe, dreamed up by MGM’s chief costume designer, Helen Rose. Obviously no style slouch, no matter the production, Grace Kelly was captivating in even the simplest ensembles like a khaki button-down shirt and pleated khaki trousers. Normally the Brooklyn Gal would have found such an outfit a big fat yawn – khaki-shmaki – who cares? But Kelly cinched the waist of her neutral slacks with a marvelous brown leather belt and finished the oh-so-casual sportswear look with burnt-orange espadrilles. Talk about style punch. Ka-pow! Pouting poolside, her gorgeous gams dangling in the water, Kelly sported a white bathing suit with gold buttons and a flirty little skirt – who knew that swimwear could be so very elegant?

And on her wedding day she truly dazzled, greeting Frank and Bing the morning after a pre-nuptials bender in a calf-grazing fairytale number that must have sent a million would-be brides straight to their dressmakers for a spot-on replica.

Actually, the Brooklyn Gal read in movie lore that one of the soigné gowns that Rose created for High Society turned out to be the launching pad for the design of Kelly’s real-life wedding gown. It seems that Kelly didn’t walk the aisle in Christian Dior or Cristóbal Balenciaga or any of the fashion heavyweights of the era. Instead, she married Prince Rainer of Monoco in a Helen Rose confection.

That’s what we call a Hollywood wedding.