Picturehouse Central has teamed up with Danielle Morgan, Content Executive from Rokit Vintage, our local partner, for a fantastic new guest blog on fashion on film. Following our latest releases with a particular, strong sartorial angle, and starting with Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, Danielle will be offering an in-depth, insightful and fun analysis of all that you always wanted to know on fashion and film and never thought to ask.
‘I think the whole mass shoot out in a warehouse genre is kind of exhausted with this movie,’ Ben jibes from the stage following the film we have just watched this evening. The film; Free Fire, the premise; well… mass shoot out in a warehouse sums it up quite well.
An arms deal on the banks of Boston (aka Brighton, you’d never know) goes awry when a scuffle breaks out between two members of the opposing gangs, which hastily develops into an all guns blazing shoot out that lasts the entirety of the 90 minute feature. Selling it for you yet? Perhaps not, but despite the odds, it works. Not only works, it’s pretty hilarious. As luck would have it, if you bundle a load of class A actors into a room, kit them out in groovy ‘70s dress and give them a stellar script you’re pretty much onto a winner. And a critically acclaimed one at that.
Husband and wife duo Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump team up for another feature that puts our conscience and attention span to the test. How you make an hour and a half of constant and assaulting gun fire hilarious? I don’t really know, but they do, and all thanks to Jump, Whealtey concedes. Wheatley came up with the idea, scribbled out the first draft of the script and passed it onto the Mrs. Jump? She basically re-wrote the whole thing. And why did they set it in the ‘70s, one movie goer asks? Well, it all grew out of a love of flares, Ben replies.
Costume designer Emma Fryer is to thank for bringing this fashion defining era to life. With the exception of the rusted Chevrolet transit, the only visual giveaway that the feature is set in the ‘70s is what the characters are all wearing. With period pieces such as Wheatley’s earlier feature A Field in England and the recent 1940s drama SS-GB under her belt, Emma knows a thing or two about the period costume biz.
‘Taking myself to the Costume Houses and Vintage shops and fairs and chatting a lot with Ben and Amy,’ was really important, Emma mentioned when I caught up with her, in immersing herself in the appropriate ‘visual references’ she needed to realise the historical accuracy of the costumes. She cites epochal ‘70s brands Gabicci, Coach and Levi’s all as important labels that informed her choices stylistically during the early stages of researching clothing of the period.
Heritage American work wear and classic Italian tailoring are perhaps the two biggest styles sartorially within the film, ones that Emma manages to merge fairly subtly. Where Chris (Cillian Murphy) rocks up in a leather jacket and dagger collar button down, fashion conscious Vernon (Sharlto Copley) turns out in a tailored Italian suit, an area of contention as Vern escapes for the most part seemingly unscathed, whilst the same can’t be said of his beloved two-piece. Thankfully, it’s only the shoulder pads that the shots have it in for.
Emma also alludes to RRL by Ralph Lauren, or Double RL, as an influence on the costume design in Free Fire. The line may only have been founded in 1993, but it pulls inspiration from early American work wear. Selvedge denim, rugged cotton and aged leather dominate the line, all features of classic ‘70s work wear styles that she weaves into the movie; Gordon’s (Noah Taylor) worn plaid and duck jacket classic examples of the all American utility aesthetic.
Gabicci on the other hand did set up shop in the ‘70s; 1973 to be exact. The label took a clean, Italian tailored direction after founders Jack Sofier and Alex Pyser visited the Italian coastal town of Gabicce Mare and remarked on the quality and style of Italian manufacturing. On returning home, the duo decided to target a refined, discerning clientele but consumers had something else in mind; instead, East Enders took kindly to Gabicci’s clean, sharp designs. Gabicci knitwear earned the nickname ‘yardie cardies’ by the 1980s, since the working class had taken a shining to the label and the infamous gold G branded clobber started making its way into Reggae clubs and Northern Soul all nighters. Styles like Ord’s (Armie Hammer) slick layered roll neck and tweed suit and Harry’s (Jack Reynor) knitted shirt can be likened to Gabicci’s sharp ‘70s tailoring. Safe to say as the film draws to a close, they’re both looking a little less ‘refined Italian’ and a little more ‘dishevelled crook’.
So what should you expect from a film that the director cites as a hybrid of Tom and Jerry and the Evil Dead II; a film born out of over 2000 storyboards, the logistics of which were realised on Minecraft?
Well, everything is stripped back; we’re forced to admire the costumery, focus on the logistics of the action, pay attention to the dialogue. Making a whole film out of one really long scene was a gutsy move, but sometimes it pays to take risks. And this is one risk Wheatley and Jump won’t be regretting any time soon. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, an all star cast, with an original score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury and with costume pretty easy on the eye, whichever angle you come at this film from, it was built for success.
Our new partnership with Rokit Vintage gives Picturehouse Central Members an exclusive 10% discount in-store at the Covent Garden Rokit shop. Please present your Picturehouse Central membership card at the till to claim your offer. This discount is not valid in conjunction with any other offer.