Jul. 19th, 2011

I was recently watching the 1996 adaption of Evita, mostly for Antonion Bandaras who is too pretty for his own good, but also because I just love the film even if the pacing is weird at the beginning and it sometimes feels a bit disjointed.

I was never a big fan of the play, though I love Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, I thought that they fell too far to one side or the other politically and I never have enjoyed being preached at which is why I didn’t see the film when it first came out.

But over the last few years I’ve grown to be a big fan of it, I think that – though Madonna doesn’t have the pipes Patti does – her rendition of Eva Peron was far more sympathetic and that comes through in her singing. She allows you to feel for Evita, which is what I think the major problem with the original play was. LuPone is far too strong, and she played Eva that way (as well as treating Juan Peron like a puppet to his wife’s ambition, which makes for somewhat cliche storytelling in a play whether or not it’s true).

While she put in a killer performance I had, and still have, a really hard time watching it and sympathizing with the portrayal or that of Juan (played so brilliantly and sympathetically in the film by the amazing Jonathan Pryce of Pirates of the Caribbean fame). In fact the multidimensional acting in the film, I feel, corrects somethiing about the play that nobody realized needed to be corrected. Side by side examples from the play and film are below – both from the same song, my favorite, A New Argentina from Evita:

But I’m not writing about Evita, but about Madonna. I’m often struck by her amazing style and her ability to reinvent herself before she becomes self parody (most of the time, anyway).

She’s never been on the cutting edge of fashion – most would disagree with me, I suspect, especially her fans. But I say this because so much of her style (especially in the 80s) was only tinged with modern fashion. Much like the uber talented, uber gorgeous Cyndi Lauper, Madonna wasn’t following current trends of the time.

Her style was distinctly New York City. Her hair wasn’t the feathered Jem hair or masculine Joan Jett hair you were used to seeing on MTV, she wore layer upon layer of different lengths to create depth in her style and somehow always managed to be wearing next to nothing. She wore lace, rubber, crosses and belly shirts and visible bras when the rest of the music world were still wearing out the welcome of scarves, sweaters and wings.

It was almost as if fashion wasn’t allowed to change until Madonna showed up and gave it permission to. She rode out her underwear-as-outerwear, fishnet clothing and booties until it had been embraced by the population of, practically, the world. Then it was time for a change.

Towards the middle of the 80s we saw her style take a decisive left turn – to the golden era. Now, granted, almost all 80s retrowear was tinged with a 1980s fashion sense, but Madonna seemed to barely let it permeate her new style – that is, when she was wearing it.

Early on we’d seen her don a gorgeous pink gown in her video for Material Girl ( now the name of her cute, 80s-inspired clothing line with daughter Lola ) – but that could have been a fluke. Just a homage to the late Marilyn Monroe, obviously, but not possibly a hint at future style choices?

Over the last half of the decade and the first half of the new she also started taking roles in films that were primarily set in the 30s and 40s – roles ranging from the iconic Dick Tracy to maybe the worst film ever made, Shanghai Surprise which she made with her then husband Sean Penn.

Madonna has displayed a serious 40s streak. You can see it everywhere from her choices of film to dress. Not just that of Eva Perone (a style icon in her own right, no matter what you think of her politics), or as All The Way Mae in A League of Their Own, but in several of her music videos and clothes she’s worn on red carpets.

Some great examples are her music videos for Live to Tell, Material Girl and This Used To Be My Playground which, of course, is the ending theme song to A League of Their Own and probably has the most directly 40s inspired looks in it. You can even see some vintage/retro influences in what she’s wearing/singing during her Blond Ambition Tour and in videos like Vogue (if you know what to look for). And, ooh, look! I’ve got pictures!

Dick Tracy (1990)

A League of Their Own (1992)

Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Evita (1995)

Evita Premiere (1996)

Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)

Live to Tell (1986 – Screencaptures)

This Used To Be My Playground (1992 – Screencaptures)

Surprise Oprah! A Farewell (2011)

Costume Institute Gala (2011)

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