The Great Beauty of Spring Breakers

La Grande Bellezza is one of the most beautifully intriguing films to be seen in a while, drawing the audience in without the usual obvious plot to hold your hand and guide you mindlessly through the images gliding across the screen. Amidst the captivating architecture of Rome, the characters draw you in with their body language, their charm and their nature. As the film explores the pretentions of the Roman upper class, the landscape of one of the world’s most majestic cities unfurls before you, distracting with it’s marble, fountains, sculpture and cobbles. So where better to experience a grand beauty of cinema than under the admittedly stormy skies in Somerset House’s equally recognisable and structurally impressive architecture? As the city of London flowed around us in the audience, we flew around the city of Rome, following the heartbreak, acceptance and search for beauty and meaning of Jep and his friends. The crowning feature of the piece is that each person reacts differently to it and truly sees it with fresh eyes. Whilst I was left with tear-stained cheeks wanting to live forever in the beauty of the film, my companions viewed it as a story of coming to terms with age, the loss of love, the search for happiness. It seems only right to follow that experience up with another night under the stars, this time viewing what is arguably my favourite film ever. It is not a film you could watch every day, but it is superb. Similarly, its key feature is the colours, landscapes and visual aspect of the film, with an ending that has no conclusion, morals that are immoral and detestable characters. A film that has received such negative critique, it makes you question yourself for enjoying it, feeling dirty and ashamed. This only serves to heighten the experience and add another dimension to the many neon layers. What else could it be than Harmony Korine’s infamous Spring Breakers? Do you judge me for defending a film where drugs and arms are glorified, the bad guy wins and anything immoral that could happen, does? Tough. I’ll defend it to the end. It’s fresh, it questions, it doesn’t answer and it’s stunning.

Think what you will, I’m off to see it a third time and will always get something new out of it, time after time. Because, just like La Grande Bellezza, each viewer reacts differently and that makes it all the more exciting. Spring break forever, bitch.

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The Return of the Blog

An apology is in order to anyone who enjoys reading this blog (and a massive thank you too!). Some readers may have noticed a distinct lack of posts in the past weeks, and for that I am sorry. The Russian posts stopped as I was mysteriously unable to access WordPress for the last 10 days of my visit. This is a real shame, and a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, as there were many more posts I was planning on writing. Maybe I shall still write and post them, though the moment does seem to have passed. After Russia followed a hectic two weeks in London, Edinburgh and Hereford, catching up with various family and friends whilst frantically searching the internet for a Parisian place to rest my head. I then arrived here in Paris and set about running around the city from flat to flat in an attempt to find my home here. It was a stressful but hilarious experience which gave me a glimpse into all, and I mean all, aspects of Parisian life. To be expanded upon…In the end, I was very lucky and quickly found a great flat in the chic 16th, which I share with two lovely Frenchmen and soon a French girl too.

Finally settled in Paris, with two weeks of my internship at Vogue Paris under my belt, I plan on resurrecting the blog and will be posting from here on in.

Life in Front of the Lens

Russian ladies have truly, utterly perfected the art of posing. They have it down to an absolute t and are not afraid to whip it out in public. The poses are intimidating and immaculate, taken to look natural yet ultimately painstakingly thought through. However it is second nature to the women, and a snap takes seconds. Sit, pose, done, over.

When at the ballet the other day, I got a first hand experience of just how serious Russian women are about the perfect picture. Take for example the 7-year-old girl who was having the tantrum to end all tantrums. She was not a happy girl, crying, screaming, stomping, shouting. However, as soon as her mother grabbed her and shoved her in front of a lovely view of the stage, for the 3 seconds it took to capture the image, the waterworks were capped and a shining smile was pulled out. Picture taken, all hell broke loose again and said madam stormed off. Remarkable. Even aged 7, the Russian girls can turn it all on for the camera.

In the foyer of the very same theatre stood a shiny grand piano. It was not played, but it received a lot of attention as a procession of dolled up girls each sat upon the stool, arched their backs with precision, tossed their heads over their shoulders and dazzled. Snapped, they tottered off to the next location to repeat the process. I had been wondering why the girls were all so dressed up for an 11am matinée, and it all became clear. They were dolled up for the obligatory ‘look at me at the Mariinsky’ photoshoot.

Whilst browsing the Museum of Russian Political History, by far one of the best museums I’ve been to here, I was distracted and bothered by two women scurrying around ensuring they had each taken a photo of the other in front of every artefact and snippet of information. In actual fact I don’t think they knew or cared where they were, just so long as they had documented that they had been there.

The ‘selfie’ craze has been going for a while now, but it’s a whole other ball game in Russia. Perusing VKontakte (pretty much Facebook but in Russian) you will come across image after image of perfectly made up girls popping a hip in various locations. There are also hundreds of photos of girls in bikinis on holiday, proudly showing the world what their mothers gave them. As one friend put it, these mothers are most likely the ones behind the camera, instructing their daughters on the optimum way to display their assets for the world of VK to see.

This all fits with the mentality seen here of why have something which costs money, if no one knows that it cost money. For example, if you’re going to buy a designer item, ensure it has a label on show so that everyone knows that you paid big. An expensive car is not enough unless it is gold or how about matte black? It seems that people buy things and visit places simply to show the world that they have these things and that they can afford to have them, rather than to enjoy the experience or gain something. I only hope that in between all this posing and showiness, they’re taking time to stop, watch the ballet, listen to the music and enjoy living life for themselves, not for the sake of a photo.

St Petersburg Street Art

The St Petersburgians make excellent use of space (see parking), as is shown by their use of the pavement as an advertising location. As you walk along the avenues and streets, across the bridges and between the beautiful buildings, your eye is drawn to the many, often colourful, adverts, slogans and signs spray painted onto the ground. Personally, I love it – it adds more colour and life to this already vibrant city and provides something to look at when you walk with your head down to avoid the bitter winds hitting your eyes. Oh yes, it’s been that cold already.

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A boutique shop which has moved locations (I believe)

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A hostel (one night – from 350 roubles, a month – 9000 roubles)

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A selection

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A bar (called I Simply Love – very literal translation, it’s probably a colloquialism)

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A fitness centre on Nevsky Prospekt

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A big chain of coffee shops, called ‘Coffee Haus’

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The parking – another example of efficient use of space…

From Russia with love.

Life in Black and Grey

Everyone here wears dark colours all the time. This is another factor adding to the many reasons why I stick out as the foreigner I am, to be named and shamed in the street. As an avid supporter of colour, this wardrobe adjustment may prove difficult. Time will tell, at least it’s preparing me for the Parisian sartorial way – black on black on black, c’est chic. The choice of dark colours reflects and changes with the seasons. In spring and summer, colour is cracked out, but come those dark wintry days and nights, the Russians (or at least St Petersburgians) choose to dress in a way which allows them to disappear into their surroundings. Fantastic as it would be to advocate change by wearing my usual cheery palette, I think for now I’ll try to blend in.

I have also decided that even the way I sneeze is foreign. However, I was asked for directions in the street today, so maybe I am looking more Ruski as the days go by. I was flattered by his mistake and then blew it by saying (in Russian) “Yes, no here, no there!” to which I got a bemused look and we went our separate ways. Result!

From Russia with love.

P.S. Supper today was actually inedible.

MET Ball 2012 – Best Dressed

1. Diane Kruger in Prada

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This dress is absolutely amazing! It is the perfect choice for the MET ball, a night of high fashion and dramatic looks. The whole look is simply perfection – stunning dress, relaxed hair and make up so as not to draw attention away from said dress, a complimentary colour of clutch, and a beautiful, simple but bold necklace to bring it all together. Well done Diane.

2. Solange Knowles in Rachel Roy

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Solange is working both the peplum trend and yellow trend in this gorgeous silk dress. The colour is so lovely against her skin tone. I love how the big hair contrasts with the slim silhouette of the dress.

3. Camilla Belle in Ralph Lauren

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An example of classic red carpet glamour but with a modern edge given by Camilla’s choice of lipstick. The dress hints at the 20s, a key trend at the minute, and flatters her figure. It isn’t the most fashion forward look, but you can never go wrong with a classic.

4. Emma Stone in Lanvin

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I love this dress! It is absolutely adorable and looks so good on Emma. The embellishment work is beautiful and the colour is very complimentary on her. I like the lack of jewellery, but had I been wearing/styling this look, I would have added a dress watch or bold ring, just for a bit more detail.

5. Karlie Kloss in Jason Wu

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This look is a winner mostly because of Karlie’s make up. In a sea of dark, gothic lips, her choice of fuschia lipstick stands out in a very good way. I love her lilac eye make up as well. Needless to say, the dress is stunning and she pulls it off very well.

Close but not quite: Cara Delevingne in Burberry

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The dress is absolutely beautiful – I always love a full skirt, and the cowl neck is very elegant – however, the gloves let her down. They look out of place to me. I imagine the idea was to juxtapose the tough studded gloves with her ladylike, sophisticated dress, in an effort to make it younger and more fresh but unfortunately she doesn’t quite pull it off. I love her make up and hair though!

Go to http://pinterest.com/cshawes/met-ball-2012/ for my other picks for best dressed