Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Fifth Element - Emily de Molly polish and movie review

It's time again to talk about two of my favourite things at once - beautiful polish and awesome movies!

The Fifth Element is a captivating creation from Australian indie creator Emily de Molly, who has been criminally underrepresented in this blog so far. She releases so many breathtaking polishes that I've decided to make a conscious effort to showcase more of them. The Fifth Element is a great example of how unique a lot of Emily de Molly polishes are - there are a lot of indie polishes around that look similar to each other, or mainstream brands because realistically there are only so many ways base and pigments can be put together. But I've never seen anything like this, and when I first saw it I honestly wasn't sure it would really work. Somehow she's managed to balance the turquoise and the red absolutely perfectly so it comes together beautifully.

Emily de Molly The Fifth Element

Emily de Molly The Fifth Element

I've previously worn this as three coats alone, and it's fine, but if you're nervous about trying to get the glitters to lie flat then I'd recommend two coats over a plain turquoise base. I really like the effect of the muted red hexes once they're under another layer, and the tiny holo flakes bring the whole thing alive.

Emily de Molly The Fifth Element

Emily de Molly The Fifth Element

Emily de Molly The Fifth Element

Talking about this polish also gives me a great excuse to share a bit of my knowledge about the film that inspired it - The Fifth Element, directed by Luc Besson and starring Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis.

I love science fiction, I love Milla Jovovich, and I love Bruce Willis, so loving this film comes pretty naturally to me. Sure, the plot is full of holes and in places gets a little incomprehensible. Sure, it's dumb as a box of hair, and the trope of the mysterious, unknowable "perfect" woman is tired and irritating. But it's just so fucking pretty that I can forgive all that and enjoy it for what it is - a big, beautiful, stupid adventure in space.

The overall look of this film was largely shaped by a year long design collaboration between the director and two giants of French comics, Jean Giraud (also known as Mœbius) and Jean-Claude Mézières. Besson had apparently been stewing on the ideas that would become The Fifth Element since he was 16, and I can only assume it's this intense passion that allowed him to get such prominent artists on board for a movie that initially had zero funding. It actually looked at one point like they would have to halt designing, because Besson simply couldn't find a funding partner. He took a break to go to the US and direct Leon: The Professional, which was fortunately such a hit he was able to come back loaded with funding to get his pet project off the drawing board and into production.

If you're familiar with Moebius's work, his visual finger prints are all over this movie.

I'm not really familiar with the work of Mézières, but from what I could find, his style is pretty similar to Giraud, and other French artists like Enki Bilal, who happened to feature a flying taxi in a totally unrelated graphic novel.
This is from "The Dormant Beast", part of Bilal's Nikopol Trilogy which was adapted into
a movie than no one liked but me. (Immortel: Ad Vitam)
 Good design is a great foundation for a visually stunning movie, but if the most recent Star Wars movies have taught us anything, it's that how designs are executed is almost as important as the design itself. For a movie released in 1996,the effects hold up remarkably well, and I think this is down to how much was done with physical rather than digital effects.

One of my favourite scenes in the movie is the high speed taxi chase through Future New York, and a big part of what I love about it is how convincing the scenery is. Compared to the flat, matte painting backgrounds in more recent efforts like The Clone Wars, the city in The Fifth Element feels vibrant, alive, and almost tangible. The effects team managed to sell this sequence so effectively by doing as much as possible with physical effects. Over the course of a year, a team of modellers filled an entire sound stage with Weta would later dub "bigatures"(big miniatures), painting and detailing the whole thing by hand. Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis were then stuffed into a life size taxi propped on a post in the middle of a studio, which was swivelled all around to match the motion of the chase. This footage was then composited over footage of the miniature city, with very minimal digital tweaking. Even the Thai delivery man's junk was built as a life size prop, and filmed "sailing upstream" before being composited over the city. All the aliens were largely done with physical effects too - the videos below show the amazing lengths the puppeters had to go to in order to pull off some of the designs.

The following video starts with a cute little bit about the creature who lived on Gary Oldman's desk (which is named Picasso, incidentally), but the second half shows the making of a race of aliens that unfortunately never made it to the final cut. Initially, the pile of garbage in the Space Port scene was supposed to be populated by striking workers, complete with placards, and while the garbage is mentioned in the script, sadly the striking workers are not.

The final part I want to talk about today that makes The Fifth Element so visually beautiful are the costumes. Besson had a lot of input on the sets and alien designs, but from what I've read he more or less put wardrobe in the capable hands of Jean-Paul Gaultier. I'm a huge fan of Gaultier, and I first became aware of his work through this movie. One of my favourite things about designs is his ongoing fascination with classic feminine and masculine shapes. A lot of his menswear is designed to show off or mimic the look of really broad shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist and a firm ass.

Luckily for Gaultier, most of the male actors in this film have broad shoulders to spare, and I get the sense he probably enjoyed getting Bruce Willis's biceps out at every opprtunity.

As if Bruce Willis needed broader shoulders, one of the few jackets he wears has
padding and pockets on the shoulders.
So Ruby Rhod as a character is pretty annoying, but you can't deny he is
working this leopard print bodysuit.
I hate neon, but I LOVE this outfit on Bruce Willis. Emphasis on all the right places!
Gaultier has a long standing fetish for sailor boy style outfits, which comes out quite obviously in his work on this movie. These security personell are a fascinating mishmash of Gaultier's taste for sailor boys, and Moebius's tendency to create uniforms where the characters have all sorts of useless things on their heads.

Seriously, what ARE those helmets for?
His womenswear tends to emphasise breasts, a tiny (often corseted) waist and prominent hips, and because of this his work is unusually scalable for a couture designer. His designs look great on the tiny frame of fashion models, but because they're designed around a classically feminine shape, they can also look really great on bigger women too - which obviously endears him to me. His style is generally quite evident in the female costumes for this film, although I do still find his outfit for Leeloo a bit out of character. It seems oddly...androgynous, I guess?

Man, Dita gets to play with ALL the awesome people.

If I ever become a multi millionaire, I'm going to work everyday in
stuff like this. FIERCE.

While not technically a costume as such, I think one of the most visually striking character designs is that of The Diva, and this polish really reminds me of her magnificent starring scene - a curly headed alien singing opera isn't something you would think would really work, but it does, just like putting turquoise and red together in a polish.

On the special edition of the DVD, there is a little making of clip where Maiwenn, the French actress who plays The Diva, talks at astonishing length about her character. It's an amazing illustration of how someone can get totally over invested in what ended up being a relatively minor character. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a copy of this online, but if you get your hands on the DVD I recommend watching this segment just for the amusement value of how incredibly indignant this actress gets that her dance was cut short. As it turns out, this actress's role in the director's life also ended up being cut rather short as well - she was in a relationship with director Luc Besson when they started filming, but by the time they finished Besson had left her (and the child she had with him when she was 16) for Milla Jovovich.

And with that scandalous tidbit of gossip, I'm going to have to stop there otherwise I could wiffle about this movie all day. If you haven't seen it and you dig big dumb space adventures, you're seriously missing out. Alternatively if you love turquoise and creamy glitters and don't have Emily de Molly's The Fifth Element, you're also seriously missing out. The polish can be bough from the Emily de Molly Etsy site, and the movie is available very cheaply here.

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