i'm going to start off by saying that the title of this is a little misleading, because my real inspiration is european cult cinema in general, of which films termed 'giallo' are only a part. for me, they've always flowed together, since i learned about them more or less at the same time, from more or less the same people.
my introduction to the cult of european horror/ exploitation films came the first summer that i was living in montreal. i was perusing the program of the fantasia film festival with a friend and we came across a writeup for a film that included the description: "an essential part of the italian jungle cannibal subgenre".
what. the actual. hell.
once you've seen a phrase like that, you can't unsee it. you're aware that there are people out there who are aficionados in the world of italian jungle cannibal films and, if you're like me, that means that you need to know more.
as it turns out, it wasn't that difficult to find out more, because, unbeknownst to me, a lot of my friends were very familiar with this, and were kind of surprised that i didn't know about italian jungle cannibal films. i'm sorry, i missed that on siskel and ebert. i thought i was pushing the edge because i'd seen the romero zombie trilogy, a bunch of hammer films and liquid sky, but i was very, very wrong.
unbeknownst to me, europe and italy in particular had been seething with a cauldron of violence, eroticism, fear and a healthy dose of the supernatural for a long time. cult, or what i think of as "pulp" cinema [because of its similarities with cheap, lurid fiction] emerged as a sordid flipside to the artistic triumphs of postwar europe, the dark twin of fellini or antonioni. beginning in the sixties, it continues on to this day, however its real heyday was the seventies, a time when perversion was apparently the new black.
there were cannibals, sure, but there were also psychopaths, sadists, mutants and battalions of serial killers. this had all been happening under my very nose and yet i had never detected its stench. once i noticed it, however, i had an eager group of friends willing to show me everything i had missed. and i watched all of it, much of it during my infrequent down time while working on my masters degree.
in a way, i kind of miss innocent, uninitiated me, because that person was still capable of being shocked by something seen on film. the me who exists now, exposed to hundreds of hours of stuff that seems like the collective wet dream of the disreputable nut house's serial killer ward leaves me sort of numb to things like, say, the infamous opening scene of saving private ryan. most people were traumatized by that. my reaction? i turned to the person with whom i was watching it and chortled "it's kind of like watching a regular war film on fast forward". i might have even punctuated that flippant remark by eating a handful of popcorn.
at the same time, there has always been something fascinating to me about a cinema built around a fantasy of human depravity and how it produced its own stars, mostly among its directors, but also a number of lusty ladies who flitted around in various states of undress, often meeting a grisly demise, but also serving as the innocent but surprisingly resilient heroines of these dark tales. i was reminded of some of them when a facebook friend posted this listing of the best 24 cult film sirens.
as i was flipping through the list, which i more or less agree with [i would have placed brigitte lahaie considerably higher], i noticed that there emerged a distinctive cult film actress look. some appear quite natural [double entendre completely intended], but those who are wearing makeup are wearing makeup. seriously, the reason these women survive some of these films is because no weapon on earth is going to penetrate that faceguard.
in particular, the look that's popular is an eye that's very heavily lined and often layered with shades of grey and silver. and while you might think of a screen siren as having red lips, these ladies, in keeping with the trends of the time, sport flesh-toned neutrals. it takes the looks popular with models of the time and makes it extreme, tawdry... fashion becomes trash-ion.
so because i had nothing better to do that day [yes you did, you just wanted to find a reason not to do it. -ed.], i decided to try out a similar look for myself. now, this is with the caveat that i had to actually leave the house and didn't want to do makeup, remove makeup and do new makeup, so i couldn't go quite as extreme as i might have dared.
what's truly ironic is that i ended up using predominantly guerlain products, one of the priciest and most prestigious brands on the market, to create a look that is associated chiefly with the world of sleaze. still... it kinda works.
i started with my current daily base:
hourglass mineral veil primer
ysl teint touche éclat foundation "beige 10"
nars radiant creamy concealer "vanilla"
nars smudge-proof eye primer
from there, i went for the serious smoke. guerlain's eye shadow palette "les noirs" is probably the smokiest thing i own. i started out by running black liner along my upper lash lines. and my upper and lower water lines. i wasn't too particular about it looking nice and even, because that wasn't the point. in fact, immediately after i finished applying it, i smudged the portion along my upper lashes with the matte black shade from "les noirs". i applied the frosted black shade from "les noirs" on the inner and outer part of my lids, pushing it up into the crease and blended the grey shade along the middle of the crease and the lower middle of my lids and patted the shimmery pink-white to the very centre of the lid and along the brow bone. on my lower lids, i "reinforced" the black liner with the matte black shadow, but also smoked that out a bit with the frosted black shade. to give you an idea of the time involved, it probably didn't take you much longer to read this than it took me to do it. well, that's a bit of an exaggeration [unless you're a very slow reader], but it is a very quick way to do a pretty dramatic look.
my only regret is that the lightest shade looks more like a bald patch in photos, because the camera didn't capture any of the shimmer. i swear to you, it's there.
the eyes ::
urban decay 24/7 liner "perversion" [blackest ever black]
guerlain e/s "les noirs" [matte black, frosted black, industrial grey, shimmery pink-white]
ysl effet faux cils mascara "noir radical"
although this was the seventies, the age of the golden girl with the glowing tan, i noticed that a lot of the cult cinema queens guarded their ivory complexions. i did contour my cheekbones a little bit, because chiseled features seemed very, very important for these ladies. i went with a very natural pink blush to bring out those innocent, youthful colours in my skin, because being innocent and youthful seems to help with your survival rate. and i added a little highlighter just to emphasize that.
the cheeks ::
chanel joues d'ombre blush "notorious" [lavender-taupe]
guerlain rose aux joues blush "chic pink" [soft powder pink/ tea rose pink]
guerlain pressed meteorites "cruel gardenia" [pearly white-pink highlight]
finally, it came down to the lips. as i said, the trend seemed to be for women to where peachy nudes and neutrals, but i find that a lot of those colours make me look like i'm dead already, so i went for what i thought would be the next best thing: a very soft, natural pink. "fuchsia délice" is a shade i turn to frequently when i'm looking for a delicate pink, because it's just a bit cooler than my natural lip, but doesn't show up as bright at all. [despite its name, i don't see this as fuchsia at all.] this is a discontinued colour [boo], but i think that you could get the same effect from applying guerlain "shalimar" very lightly. mac "sweetie" is softer still and more natural. rouge bunny rouge "tongue tickles" is warmer and more shimmery. any of those would be a reasonable substitute.
the lips ::
guerlain rouge g l/s "fuchsia délice" [soft cool pink with faint shimmer]
so what do you say? am i ready for my big moment on screen?