Monday, March 7, 2011

out of africa

The scene that did more for hair care  than any shampoo commercial. Ever.

A few weeks ago after the death of composer John Barry, a friend of mine posted a clip from Out of Africa show-casing Barry's haunting score for the film.  It had been a few years since I'd seen the 1985 film and I was due to revisit it.

Out of Africa is loosely based on the autobiographical writings of Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke who wrote under the pen name of Isak Dinesen.   In 1913, she arrived in Africa to marry the Baron and, she believes, open a dairy.  On her arrival she discovers that Baron Bror has purchased a coffee plantation that he has little interest in maintaining.  Dinesen's own memoirs focus significantly on the operations of her farm and cultural observations but the film focuses squarely on the relationship of Karen and big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton.
She's refined. He's rugged.  Sparks fly.  Pass the tissues.
This is Robert Redford at his most romantic since The Way We Were (another bittersweet Pollack period piece about complicated couples). Who wouldn't love a man who saves you from a lion, takes a gramophone and Mozart records on safari and sends you soaring over Africa?  And Meryl is, of course, both luminous and steely as Karen learns to adapt to her new life and love in Africa.

In addition to being great story-telling and unbelievably romantic, it's also an incredibly stylish film.  The interiors are an eclectic mix of lady-like European touches, utilitarian safari and stunning handmade Kenyan crafts.  And costume-wise it's a master-class in the potential of a neutral palette.  You will never think of beige as boring again. 
Arriving in 1913, Karen is the picture of European fashion.

Who says you have to sacrifice style for practicality?

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