Lost In Translation is a film I love intensely and have watched over and over, anytime I want to revisit that feeling you get when you’ve been traveling, your surroundings are new and strange, familiar people and places are far away and everything is stimulating but at the same time viewed through a filter of loneliness.
In spite of my love of Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning film, I had fairly low expectations when I went to see Marie Antoinette last year. “Nothing happens,” was the standard complaint. Yes, I agree, not a great deal happens in this film but because I’m one of those people who watches a film mostly for the visual experience, I was pleasantly surprised and entertained. It’s a visual feast of candy coloured costumes, sets and food. I walked out of the cinema feeling like I’d just bathed in pastel coloured icing sugar, which was exactly what Coppola was aiming for.
“The idea was to capture in the design the way in which I imagined the essence of Marie Antoinette’s spirit. So the film’s candy colours, its atmosphere and the teenaged music all reflect and are meant to evoke how I saw that world from Marie Antoinette’s perspective. She was in a total silk and cake world. It was complete bubble right up until the very end.”
When it cames to costumes, Coppola worked with the best and Milena Canonero (who was also worked with Coppola's father) won her third Oscar for her work on this film.
Of Canonero’s work Coppola said, “It was amazing to see what she did and how she saw the big picture, because we would look at the individual costumes separately in her studio. But when all the actors came together on set, you could see how all the different colours and incredible details each worked together to create something very rich and beautiful. It was very exciting to watch that happen, to see what we had imagined come to life.”
“I definitely didn’t want your standard, generic period look with the standard rented costumes. I really wanted to do this my own way with hair, makeup and costumes that feel completely unique to this movie… It was very much a girlish fantasy – every frame was filled with beautiful flowers, enormous cakes, silk and tassels.”
“So many of our costumes were in the framework of the song ‘I Want Candy. We chose colours and textures that remind you of thinks you would want to eat. We go from very pale and soft to more shocking. You can say we were very influenced by the period but we don’t present a classical vision. It’s more of a fashion statement. At times it was very rock and roll.” Milena Canonero
“Sofia is a bit like me in that she is most interested in the feeling that a costume gives to the audience, so some of our work in Marie Antoinette is symbolic, of it is stylish and some of it is psychological. There is always a reason for a particular texture or colour.” Milena Canonero
"Sofia wanted a richness and a freshness for Marie Antoinette and the clothes need to show her evolution from a very young girl to a sophisticated woman. You see through her dresses how she gains more confidence and even her décolletage becomes more emphasized." Milena Canonero
“Sofia didn’t want the film to have the expected look of that period. This is not a classic vision of Marie Antoinette but Sofia’s personal vision of her. The film is a very modern look at her inner experience and therefore the clothes had to respect that kind of language. We took the essence of how some things were and stylised them. We wanted more warmth and humanity to come through, so the clothes had to have at the same time a kind of richness and simplicity – a contemporary vision.” Milena Canonero
Of his costumes, Jason Schwartzman says, “The costumes were a big help to me because there’s something about putting on these kinds of outfits that just changes you physically. Layer by layer, you start to travel back in time. You stand a different way. Your back goes up, your shoulders are tighter, and you walk and sit differently too. It’s very transporting.”
Coppola reunited with her production designer for Lost In Translation, KK Barrett, who conquered the awesome task of recreating a candy-coloured vision of Versailles.
“She put together a reference book that was filled with macaroon colours, with mint greens and magentas and canary yellows instead of the royal blues and burgundies you’d expect. We made a decision to stay away from all browns and beiges, to avoid the cliché of sepia that says ‘You’re in another time.’ We wanted it to feel like we were photographing in Marie Antoinette’s world, that we happened to be able to document it before it all faded with time. The idea is that you’re really there – with an immediacy and a youthful vitality.” KK Barrett
“When I heard we would have unprecedented access to Versailles, I was very excited. Considering the scale of it and the wealth that was represented it would have been nearly impossible to replicate. But the reality is that Versailles is a museum, a sort of frozen representation of how things were and we had to find a way to somehow depict it as completely alive. Little by little, we were allowed to come in and embellish the rooms and bring in food and props and draperies to make it feel as if thousands of people were living there.” KK Barrett
“One of the ways that working in France brought so much to the movie is that we were able to find people who actually specialise in 18th century food preparation. There’s all this tradition to the way food was made at that time. It was all so elaborate, so over the top. It was really fun as a director to have an entire ‘Cake Department’ devoted to creating macaroons and all these ridiculously cute pink pastries that we used as set dressings. The whole palette of the movie was a ‘cake and cookie’ kind of thing.” Sofia Coppola
Cinematographer, Lance Acord, who is currently working on the screen adaption of Where The Wild Things Are (exciting!), was also charged with the task of creating a world of pastel luxury. “We embraced a bright, high key approach to the lighting. So often in period films the locations, furnishings and costumes are distressed and the mood is dark, cold and dreary. Marie Antoinette lived in a world of luxury good. Everything from her furniture, her wardrobe and bedding was to be fresh and new. The colour palette was inspired by the Laduree macaroons. We were excited by the idea that we could open this world up, make it brighter, more ‘pop.”