Film+TV

Magnificent Obsessions at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image champions craftsmanship in film, an obsessive attention to detail across significant sound design, wardrobe and props. In partnership with Persol, the sunglasses synonymous with screen personalities such as Steve McQueen and Francis Ford Coppola, the exhibition runs until November. Over the next few days, we’re focusing on highlights from the show…

COSTUME WITHOUT LIMITS

Eiko Ishioka, the costume director for Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula had never seen a vampire film before she got the job. That turned out to be a good thing.

Ishioka was hesitant to take on the position of costume designer, having previously worked as a production designer and art director – costume appeared to be a more limited role. (Fact: She designed the poster for Apocalypse Now). In Coppola’s Dracula costumes would take centre stage for their grand scale and lavish construction – as well as their originality. Thus Ishioka was on board, drawing on everything from Byzantine art to armadillos.

“She would look at art, and merge little bits of inspiration, especially from animals and plants and so forth. There was one scene with nuns, and I was expecting them to be in black-and-white nun’s habits. Instead they had these sort of taupe-coloured nun’s habits. I said, ‘Eiko, how did you come up with this colour?’ And she said, ‘Well, the nuns, they’re just like mushrooms, they live in the dark.’ Whatever she did, she always broke with tradition, and she went for it.”

A straightjacket worn by disturbed character Renfield (Tom Waits) was inspired by the shape of an earthworm. A white wedding dress worn by Lucy (Sadie Frost) has a collar reminiscent of an Elizabethan ruff, the Australian collared lizard its trigger.

And it was on the films lead protagonist she would unleash the most sophisticated patchwork. “During one of our initial discussions, Coppola told me, ‘Dracula is a profoundly mysterious presence, and I want his different sides – human, animal, male, female, old, young, Western, Eastern – to run the gamut,” Ishioka explains.

Researching the multiple regions and time periods the Count would have experienced, including Byzantine, Asia Minor and British cultures, was integral to creating a Dracula that had a “million faces”, exhibiting “endless transformation.” Special attention was paid to Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.

“When [I saw the] painting, I could feel the very Oriental flavour with Western painting. I wanted to express hybrid culture, East meeting West.”

New aesthetic approaches ran through hair and make-up too, referencing Hopi Indian hairstyles and crafting with techniques used in Kabuki theatre, taking Dracula beyond the cliché of a cape.

Images courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Eiko Design

Click here for our interview with Magnificent Obsessions curator Michael Connor and exhibition highlights: Creative ForgeryPoetry and Motion and Capturing the Supersonic