Sunday, July 31, 2016

CMBA Blog Profile: Silver Screen Modes

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're celebrating Christian from Silver Screen Modes.

Author and researcher Christian Esquevin has an infectious passion for classic film costume design.

His blog, Silver Screen Modes, presents a thoughtful, fascinating look at Hollywood costume designers and the design process. He's also the author of Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label.

But his interests include more than costume design. He has a true appreciation for film itself, including films that are lesser known or are not widely appreciated, such as Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966).
"The film is not everyone’s cup of tea, but part of the problem is that many people say they don’t understand it," says Christian. "[I want] to explicate the movie to others, or at least to point out that it does not follow a plot that has a neat resolution at the end. It also has a lead character that is not particularly nice to women, but he’s not nice to men, either, and that’s the story/character showing his alienation. On the other hand, it has tremendous vitality and shows swinging London in the 1960s. It’s a mystery where the answer dissolves the closer you look at it – much like life, really. I saw it in the theater in France when it first came out, and it left an indelible impression on my youth."

You can read Christian's review of Blowup HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Silver Screen Modes: My father was a big movie buff and took us to see the new releases (now classics) when I was a kid. My great-aunt had worked as the head cutter-fitter in wardrobe at the RKO studios in the 1930s, and previously at other studios. She fitted Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Miller, Maureen O’Hara, and others for their costumes. But it wasn’t until they had gone that I developed a passion for classic film and began researching the background of their making and especially the art of costume design and the designers that worked during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The RKO Wardrobe Department in the 1930s

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Silver Screen Modes: It takes the passing of some time certainly. And that’s because the opinions of viewers have to go through a maturing process and the stages of a film’s quality changes over time. It never fails to happen that polls of the top 25 or 100 “Best Films” are always skewed toward the newer films. Take the poll again in ten years and most of those newer films will be gone, and a fresh batch will have replaced them. The “classics” are the films that remain. Those classics will have been on umpteen lists including lists of the “classics”. Everyone has different favorite classics, and we in CMBA have a very broad and diverse list. Thankfully our viewing is not just restricted to that small spectrum of human endeavor the studios are now producing. 
CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Silver Screen Modes: That might depend on the age and sex of the person, but generally I would recommend The Magnificent Seven and The Killers (with Burt Lancaster) for young men. Double Indemnity and Vertigo would be other titles with some cross-over appeal, but these have no happy ending. And for women I would recommend Roman Holiday and Holiday (with Katharine Hepburn).

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Silver Screen Modes: Classic films were largely produced when character and story were more important than special effects or computer generated images. People talked, there was dialogue (or they had faces). Not that CGI can’t be an important part of the movie, but today it overwhelms human character to the point that only people with super powers seem to flourish, and then they go on to make sequels as often as super bowls. Classics include comedies and romances, and romantic comedies, not to mention westerns and musicals. These genres are virtually extinct today.

Tyrone Power & Loretta Young in Love is News

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging? 
Silver Screen Modes: Blogging is a way to share one’s love of the movies we write about, or for me the costumes and how they define character and how the designer had to go about the process of designing them and getting those costumes on the actors and on the screen. My fascination is always with what goes on behind the screen. We watch the movie and get wrapped up in the story (if it’s a successful movie). Even as bloggers we may concentrate on an actor or director. But it’s the whole process and the teamwork that makes such an interesting story, especially during the studio system. But the talent was equally with the craft people – the set designers and costume fabricators and make-up artists and many others. The screenwriter or lead actor or director may have failed to turn out a good movie, but the studio system craft people never failed to do their best. It’s writing about part of that process that interests me. And all the dynamics and interplay of the personalities and studio politics. 

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Silver Screen Modes: When I first started blogging in late 2009 I thought, how was I ever going to come up with enough ideas to keep going? Well the ideas kept coming. The challenge is finding time to keep the posts going. For my posts finding the images takes as much time as writing, and the research for the images and text is very time-consuming. I know this is the same for all of us. I work at it in chunks. Since I have a full-time job, this is often done at night, I often think I should have called my blog The Midnight Blogger.
CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Silver Screen Modes: Write about your passion. The typical advice in writing is write what you know – but you can learn as you go. If you have the drive based on passion you can keep going in the absence of much (or any) reward. But you owe it to your audience to know more than they do (most of them) on the topic of your blog post, or else why should they read it? Folks have limited time and they don’t spend a lot of it reading. Make it informative and fun.
Thank you for joining us, Christian! You can visit his blog by clicking HERE.


  1. A very well-thought out profile, thank you.
    I have to tell my "Blowup" story: The first time I watched it, I hated it. At a certain point in the movie, I found myself saying, "The only thing that could redeem this movie would be if they just went to black here and rolled the credits with no resolution to the story."
    Obviously, I love "Blowup."

  2. I learn so much from Christian's writing, and am always entertained. Who could ask for anything more?

  3. Thanks Michael and CaftanWoman.I know Blowup is one of those movies that people either didn't understand or didn't like if they did see it. Now its a bit of a classic but I've seen it many times and enjoy it every time, so it was not just a flash of youth for me. I'm glad Michael that your opinion changed. And Thanks Patty for your regular comments on my blog.

  4. Great profile, Ruth. Christian's is one of my favorite blogs. Even when I am not in a reading/writing mood, I still check to see if he has posted anything new. His taste is unsurpassed.

  5. Thanks FlickChick - I always appreciate your comments on my posts.

  6. Christian's in-depth knowledge of costume design--along with his original insights on famous films--make Silver Screen Modes must-reading for classic movie fans.

  7. Christian's blog is one of my favorite on the Internet. He knows his subject and writes of it brilliantly. I always learn something when I visit Silver Screen Modes. Love it.