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Jacqui Oakley 2014
A beautiful surreal movie that follows a quiet loner, actor Isaach De Bankole, on his mysterious mission through Spain. In his travels he receives his instructions from a series of distinctive individuals who always state the phrase, “He who thinks he is bigger than the rest must go to the cemetery. There he will see what life really is: a handful of dirt.”
The colours are always in the palette of warm blues & browns but change to a sandy tone once the protagonist moves further south into the more empty desert regions.Very thoughtfully done with beautiful visuals from one of my favourite cinematographers, Christopher Doyle. You may know him from his stunning work in Wong Kar Wai’s, In the Mood for Love. I’ll do a post on this film soon. Great soundtrack by Boris too, which you can play below the post.
Here’s some screen shots I took & a palette which I hope to use in an upcoming painting. I’m especially drawn to the warm browns against the pale blues. Trying to make a trip to Spain happen ever since seeing this film. Hopefully we will find ourselves there towards the end of the Summer!
Below is one of the songs from the film by the Japanese band Boris. It’s drone and ambient quality perfectly suit the elusive tone of the film’s “mysterious loner”.
So, between all Christmas madness I did luckily manage to get to watch a few Italian Movies this past December. Some of Fellini’s, some of Antonioni’s and some Visconti. A film that really stood out for it’s strikingly beautiful cinematography was Luchino Visconti’s, The Leopard staring Burt Lancaster as the lead. Every scene looked like a classic oil painting, so complimentary to the old-world themes of the film.
The movie focuses on the Prince of Salina and his family as they try to find the role of a dying aristocracy within the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860′s Sicily. Burt Lancaster’s Prince gracefully tries to maintain the family’s dignity & traditions throughout the film, refusing to take active steps to halt the decline of his personal fortunes. He knows their time is at an end and there is no use fighting it. Scenes with the family exhausted from travel depict them almost as sculptures…., dusty, aged & insignificant. As the Prince himself says, “We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us – leopards, lions, jackals and sheep – will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth.” The world will change but never-the-less be the same.
The climax is set within multiple scenes at a lush ostentatious society ball. It’s a brilliant sequence where the Prince fully acknowledges that there is no place for him in this new society & finally mourns the loss. He is a old man who doesn’t belong within the new Italy and maybe even his Sicilian people can’t adapt to this changing world, “They (the Sicilians) never want to improve. They think themselves perfect. Their vanity is greater than their misery.”
The Leopard is full of lushness and extravagance as seen in the colours and patterns within the costumes and surroundings of the Prince’s family. Scenes within their palaces and the placement of each figure feels so– almost too–precisely composed, telling in a world were now they’re just biding their time, playing their usual roles.
Here are some of the scenes I took from the film. The compositions and framing of the characters are brilliant. I have to remember to look at these images for inspiration when composing an illustration involving several characters. Just beautiful…
To try and fit in many of the films I’d like to watch but don’t often get around to, I decided to make December Italian film month. It started it off with one of my favourite directors Frederico Fellini and his film, Nights Of Cabiria (1957). It features his wife Giulietta Masina who is also the star of the fantastic film, La Strada. Her face is so expressive and so perfect in the role of Cabiria were she titters on the line between naiveté and jadedness as an aging prostitute in Rome’s red light district. Her body language and facial expressions remind one of a female Charlie Chaplin with all the sweet vulnerability that underlies the larger-than-life humour.
One beautiful scene shows Cabiria taking part in a hypnotist variety show. She’s taken back to her innocent youthful days and made to believe she’s part of a budding love affair with an idealized young man. Her usual comical face and brash comments turn soft and sweet as she we get a view of her wish to be an innocent and in love. Once she’s awakened by the hypnotist the crowd jeers at her and the ridiculousness of the prostitute’s secret wishes. From there her life goes through more turmoil but she continues to maintain her sense of humour and her fragile sense of hope.
Here are some of the screen shots I took. I love the hand-drawn opening titles! They’re so beautifully imperfect. Hopefully this inspires you as well!
In the spirit of Halloween I thought I’d show some screen shots of one of my favourite horror films, Suspiria. Dario Argento’s 1977 dark Italian fairytale.
Suspiria is set in a ballet school in the Germany’s Black Forest region and descents into a disorienting nightmare involving witchcraft and madness which is further exaggerated by the dark soundtrack from Goblin. A few years ago I went on a trip in this region and it truly does feel like the origin of every childhood fairy-tale. There’s some indeterminate characteristic in the medieval architecture, winding old roads and the filtered light though the old trees that makes you feel like there’s an old witch around ever corner trying to lure you into their cauldron.
The film emphasizes vivid primary colours–especially reds–which create a nightmarish surreal quality to the film. Supposedly it was the final feature film ever to be produced in Technicolor before the processing plant was closed. This process will be forever connected to beautiful nostalgic films such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of OZ so it’s fascinating seeing the technique used with such a contradictory fevered effect. The over-saturated colours exaggerate the allure of stain glass windows, the architecture and even the beautiful harshness of the blood and gore.