Updated: Jan 2, 2021
A new Audrey Hepburn documentary, Faye Dunaway as a former model, and Lauren Bacall’s troubled but stylish socialite debut this month.
If you’re seeking gifts for someone who’s a true fan of fashion films, check out this trio of upcoming debuts: one that’s sure to please anyone who swoons over Roman Holiday or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and two others that fall a bit outside the box – which also means they likely would be new additions to a collection.
Audrey: More Than an Icon (2020)
Directed by Helena Coan
For Audrey Hepburn fans, this new documentary is a must-have for your collection, no question. Directed by Helena Coan and produced by the same team behind the 2018 fashion documentary McQueen (which chronicled the life and career of fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen), Audrey: More Than an Icon indeed strives to offer a comprehensive look at a woman who is beloved for her beauty and style, but ultimately it was her humanity that made Hepburn a singular woman.
Perhaps most thrilling is hearing Hepburn’s own voice throughout the 90-minute film, the lucky result of the producers’ ability to access a lengthy interview she did with journalist Glenn Plaskin before her death in 1993. No topic is off the table, from the struggles of experiencing malnutrition while growing up in Holland during World War II to her marriages, the profound sadness of a miscarriage, and her unceasing commitment to UNICEF in the latter part of her life.
We also hear from the people who knew her and worked with her, including Hepburn’s son with Mel Ferrer, film producer Sean Hepburn Ferrer, and Richard Dreyfuss, her co-star in 1989’s Steven Spielberg-directed Always, Hepburn’s final film. Clare Waight Keller, at the time to artistic director of Givenchy, also weighs in on Hepburn’s style and her role as both Hubert de Givenchy’s muse and dear friend, while Tiffany & Co.’s John Loring, the famed jeweler’s design director emeritus, talks about Hepburn’s most famous film.
Coan also pays tribute to Hepburn’s love of ballet and early training, enlisting a trio of notable dancers – Keira Moore, Francesca Hayward and Alessandra Ferri – to interpret aspects of the actress’s life via ballet sequences. They add a poetic element to a life that already seemed rife with romantic elements, but Audrey: More Than an Icon succeeds in its quest to present a multifaceted woman that history – and her fans – have idealized beyond measure.
If you need further convincing on whether this documentary should be added to your library, here’s a look at the trailer:
Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970)
KL Studio Classics
Starring Faye Dunaway, Roy Scheider and Barry Primus
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg
Costumes by Terry Leong and Roland Meledandri
This isn’t a film that ranks high on anyone’s radar in the U.S., but for fans of classic film and fashion, Puzzle of a Downfall Child definitely deserves a look. The story of a model who retires from the heights of fame during the 1950s to seclude herself in a beachside cottage to think about her life, Puzzle indeed spends considerable time showing Dunaway trying to piece that life together, with the assistance of friends and colleagues like Viveca Lindfors, Roy Scheider and Barry Primus as a fashion photographer.
Available for the first time on DVD in the U.S., the film was directed by Jerry Schatzberg, who was a photographer with work appearing in Vogue before he transitioned to films like The Panic in Needle Park, The Seduction of Joe Tynan and Honeysuckle Rose. Puzzle of a Downfall Child was Schatzberg’s first film, and there’s an undeniable autobiographical element about it, with Primus as the photographer who’s taping Dunaway’s Lou Andreas Sand with the intent of making a film of her life (the script grew out of interviews Schatzberg did with real-life model Anne Saint Marie).
You’ll enjoy this film if you take it with the grain of camp it deserves, and Dunaway indeed is stunning throughout, especially in the photo-shoot sequences that blend both a 1970s tone with the glossier vibe of fashion photos of the 1950s. Like those latter images, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is beautiful to look at, even if you find yourself later wondering if that beauty feels a bit forced.
Young Man with a Horn (1950)
Warner Archive Collection
Starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Doris Day
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Costumes by Milo Anderson
Speaking of complicated beauty, Young Man with a Horn is a stylish film that carries a troubled reputation, largely because its original story was watered down by industry censors, resulting in at least one puzzling character.
Lauren Bacall’s Amy was a lesbian in the 1938 source novel written by Dorothy Baker, itself the fictional story of real-life jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, but homosexuality of course was a verboten discussion in a 1950 film. The result: While her character marries Kirk Douglas’s trumpet-playing Rick Martin, the marriage suffers from the start, until he walks out after calling her “a very sick girl.” The audience is left scratching its collective head over what went wrong, while even Bacall later said that she was so young and naïve at the time – she was 25 when she made Young Man with a Horn – that she had no idea until someone told her about her character’s motivations, long after the film had wrapped.
If you can look past the frustrating elements of the script, Young Man with a Horn is a beautiful film in look and sound, from Milo Anderson’s costumes for Bacall and co-star Doris Day to the latter’s breezy, beautiful performances of “The Very Thought of You” and “Too Marvelous for Words.” Just her fourth film appearance, Day’s voice seems only thoroughly lovely and effortless, and director Michael Curtiz also gives her the plum role of loving Douglas’s character from afar as he chooses the more glamorous Amy. Behind the scenes, it’s Harry James performing the trumpet sounds played by Douglas, while Hoagy Carmichael worked with the star to ensure he looked like he was really playing his instrument.
Ultimately, if you find yourself parsing out the confusion of the central relationship, sit back and simply enjoy the technical elements and performances that are the true strengths of Young Man with a Horn.