October 13, 2007

Style Icon of the Sixties: Anna Karina

Everyone has their personal style icons, and some of mine were formed by watching foreign films from the early to mid sixties. One whose beauty really spoke to me was Anna Karina, in her Godardian incarnation. She has an ineffable quality in her sensitively beautiful face that emphasized self awareness and a sense of fun, while reserving the right to be sad too. There was a very personal, idiosyncratic, multi-dimensional quality to her charisma. She was not a "type." Her features and expressions, the spare graphic fashions of the day and also the black and white high contrast quality of the films highlighted both her face and physical gestures, imparting them with great unconscious and spontaneous grace. The camera was like a tender lover looking at her, which was indeed the case, since Godard as director was also her lover and later her husband. For me, their collaboration was a high point in modern French culture, and every time I watch those movies I am re-energized. I am so glad to still have those films, Bande a Part, Vivre sa Vie, Alphaville, and Pierrot le Fou, to give me a direct connection to that particular time and place and the people who made it what it was. It's like a time capsule of all that energy, style, personality and striving, of trying to understand and make a life of all the same things we still aim for, such as women and men trying to communicate with each other with honesty and intimacy, the striving to create a life both free and connected, the love of and tastes in music and fashion, art, photography and theater as a development of and badge of unique personality. And now I have become aware of fragrance as a powerful element to add to a repertoire of self expression.

I speculate as to what AK's preferences in fragrance might be. I have read she met Coco Chanel when first coming to Paris, so there may have been some No. 5 floral-aldehyde vapors emanating from her sweaters, but I also know that at that time there was a British style invasion beginning to take hold everywhere, with the Carnaby Street fashions influencing everyone. One of its origins seems to have been in print graphics, in the very high contrast, photographic style shown in the work of the British photographer David Bailey. I have become ever more appreciative of the minimalist beauty of that elegant aesthetic through films such as Blow-Up, the graphics of early Brit Pop era band album covers, and through the visual presentation of the style icons of the day, such as AK.

The very early sixties style still partook of some of the conventions of the late fifties, but it had the quality of swiftly moving forward into something new of its own. It took some time for the names and ideas to become commercially disseminated, but by the very early seventies Mary Quant and others were able to market their style ideas in fragrance.

Because this was an era fueled by the energy of the young and because, in general, the young do not have a lot of money, there was an emphasis on less expensive, sheer, all over body fragrances, such as Eau de Love (by Menley and James) whose fragrance commercial in the early 1970s featured Ali MacGraw and the song by Donovan - -Wear Your Love Like Heaven. I believe there was a very happy and uplifting citrus top note that burned away very quickly. (Eau de Love is discontinued, but I read online that a company has bought the name and re- marketing a bad version of it.)

Havoc by Mary Quant, was another sheer, inexpensive fragrance that sang out in a high key top notes, was used as a body spray. Yardley English Lavender anything was a favorite because it seemed a connection to the Brit Pop world, it was a rediscovery of all that British Regency style which reconnected to the sixties sensibility in a big way.

The early sixties beauty icons have been such an inspiration that their style and energy have been been recycled over and over by fashion ever since their heyday.

Above, AK in Alphaville, posted on Cinecultist;
Interviews with her -- click here and here.


Vetivresse said...

L., What a great post! I love her performance in Two or Three Things I Know About Her. Perhaps I will write a part 2, from the male perspective, on Delon or Belmondo for Vetivresse.

Lucy said...

Thanks V!

Good idea, especially Belmondo....(my favorite)...

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said about AK. If you don't have access to the DVDs mentioned, an abbreviated version that still captures the complexity described above is available on YouTube, in the video she made with Serge Gainsbourg for the song Ne dis rien.

Lucy said...

Thanks, anon., I will have to look into that video. I didn't realize she was involved with SG -- figures, I think he always had some connection with all the great beauties of the day...