Thursday, September 2, 2010

I bought this remnant recently purely and simply because it reminded me of Bright Star, the Jane Campion film about the doomed romance between poet John Keats and his stylish young neighbour, Fanny Brawne.  I won tickets to see the film when it was released last December and I went knowing nothing more than that it was about Keats, whose poetry I had studied at school. When the opening scene began with a close up of a needle pulling thread through linen and a soundtrack of ethereal singing, I was puzzled.  The connection soon became clear.  Fanny, the "well stitched Miss Brawne"; the first person in "Hampstead and Woolwich to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar"; Fanny, who boasts that she only wears what she has sewn and designed herself, is "Bright Star" to Keats and to us.
Her wit, innovative fashion sense, her healthy disrespect for social conventions suggest she is a young woman ahead of her time. It is Fanny's luminous life force that keeps the ailing Keats alive.
I have never seen a film that so promotes the beauty and creativity of fabric, sewing and style. Jane Campion embroiders and sews herself and tends to make films that champion the female gaze so it is not surprising that she intended the film to be "a poem of praise for the creative process".  There are so many scenes that are visually breathtaking - and many of them involve fabric.  Fabric conveys mood in the film from a light airy fine lawn curtain blowing in the breeze, to the romance of purple taffeta and blue velvet;  the joyousness of picnicking in pink cambric to the heavy black linen of winter mourning.  I'm sure it is no coincidence that sewing, embroidery and dressmaking are juxtaposed with the high art of poetry, both are crafted and we see that both are forms of creativity that require skill and imagination. And that both can result in something of beauty.  That which is crafted by hand and eye, as well as heart and mind matters, especially when it takes days to stitch or write.

Since I love sewing it is hardly surprising that i would be cheered by such a film as this.  I also came away with a deeper appreciation for fabric - particularly those that i think of as French fabrics - those cottons and linens that define the finished product.  I also came away with a desire to learn to crochet.  Those Sophie Digard creations that Fanny and her little sister wear are to die for.  No doubt crochet like that take years of practice to perfect.  Still, no harm in aiming high :)

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