why I hate historic films

mark the taylor
Originally uploaded by hummeline
So I watched John Adams on HBO on Sunday with Mom, and I realized why I can't watch historical films anymore.  It isn't because John Adams is bad -- on the contrary, I think Paul Giamatti is breathtaking in the eponymous role, but it is hard for me to concentrate on plot, when my brain naturally focuses on costumes.  

I spent most of the time not enjoying the events, but recoiling in horror from whatever Laura Linney was put in, and I was miserable.  

Let me say: I hate this.  I hate not being able to enjoy the medium -- film -- that I love so dearly.

I love researching, and I love promoting an air of authenticity in what I wear to events & what I promote at the places I work, but at the same time, that authenticity comes at a cost: that I cannot enjoy the film.

That being said, the films that I have seen by reenactors that are purported as being 110% accurate have been the most boring films I have ever seen.  Plot was sacrificed for accuracy (actually I'm not sure it was there to begin with) and my falling asleep was the result.

The photo above is a few friends from Williamsburg, dressed pitch-perfect accurately.  [l to r: Amy, Holly, Brooke]

That being said, this high level of accuracy to me is more important for historic sites & museums than films.   Of course, it's rarely, if ever, come to fruition, as even in Williamsburg, the supposed bastion of authenticity, there are people walking around in adulterated versions of garments.  I tried, at Mount Vernon.  I failed to convince anyone but the librarians, who I adored.

I put so much research into this slave clothing that I nearly went mad.   I went through records of what slaves were issued on the outlying plantations (as opposed to the main house) and the scant images when people had deigned to represent field slaves in paintings.  I found articles.  It was long, laborious, and fruitless.  Except for this photo, which I must say, is worth it:

But is it worth it?   Do people even care -- or do they lump all "olde tyme" clothing together, creating a quixotic quest for those of us who do care?

It's the look, not the construction, that's important in films, and it's easy to achieve.  Or so I think.

Yet it's the look I wish I didn't know about.   I would rather I knew nothing, and be able to enjoy a film, than know everything and regret watching. 

At least Battlestar Galactica is set in the future...


Amy said...

I feel your pain Em. The only films I can watch with joy and not critique is Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. Was Laura Linney really that bad? I was hoping my eye was good in thinking that she was alright. (Corset smooshing and all!) Maybe I should just stick to CW then. Anyway...I swear Pagano was in the first episode as one of the British soldiers on trial. (I only saw that one) Hope all is well! ~Amy

Ahminu said...

Yeah, her dresses had little-to-no basis on historical fact. Sigh. No caps, either.

However, I shall focus on the delicious that was Rutledge... yum!

Pride & Prejudice always wins -- but recently, I found out from someone that studies specifically Regency that it's *impeccable* Like Wickam is fashionable, but his clothes aren't as up-to-the-minute as Darcy. WOW.

JKB said...

We haven't seen John Adams yet, but our Tivo is filling up fast. Although... we may now have to boycott it in honor of your costume efforts!

Ahminu said...

Heh... no, Paul Giamatti's too good to boycott. :)