Tilda Swinton in style

24 July 2011

No one else looks like her, unless you consider David Bowie a possibility. Once I showed one of her films to students and one of them pronounced her “creepy.” I’ve been entranced by her ever since seeing her shape-shifting turn as Orlando back in the 90s. Those eyes, sitting right on top of her face, not deep-set and retiring; the translucent eyebrows and lashes; the shock of copper-colored hair; the pale skin and angular frame. Now, I don’t really care about the high fashion that she looks so good in, but I do appreciate this weird and wonderful slideshow at W Magazine of photographs of her in beautiful clothes. The accompanying story is lite, but there’s a nice moment when she speaks of being entranced with her father’s military wardrobe:

“From childhood, I remember more about his black patent, gold livery, scarlet-striped legs, and medal ribbons than I do of my mother’s evening dresses,” she says. “I would rather be handsome, as he is, for an hour than pretty for a week.”

If you have a high pain threshold, you can watch PBS’s serial interrupter, Charlie Rose, grill Swinton on her style and lifestyle in a more substantial interview that was taped at the same time her wonderful film I Am Love (2010) was released. Rose dances around the issue of Swinton’s two lovers — her older husband and live-in younger lover — by challenging her: “But you care nothing about convention.” To which she responds: “I feel really conventional!”

Rose: “Do you?”
Swinton, somewhat awkwardly: “Yes! I’m offended that you should think I’m not conventional. It depends on what conventions you’re talking about.”
Rose: “Any … any.”
Swinton: “I had it presented to me early on that it was possible, someone like Derek Jarman…”
Rose: “Possible?”
Swinton: “To live your own life. That it is yours. I’m — surely, everybody knows this.” [She smiles enigmatically, but there’s a hint of triumph there.]
Rose, backing away and offering platitudes: “They don’t … but I think it’s one of the most important lessons you can possibly have.” Feminéma experiences gag reflex.

Let’s remember that Rose (and David Letterman of the gag-inducing US Women’s World Cup interview earlier this week) ask these questions because they are lazy, but more important believe their viewers want to see these women respond to those questions. On some level, then, they act as surrogates for an imagined middle American public. All hail to Swinton, who’s living her own life.

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4 Responses to “Tilda Swinton in style”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I think Charlie Rose plays more to the elite, though.

    • Didion Says:

      I don’t know about “elite,” but certainly older people and people who identify as being more educated. So I agree that their audiences are different — but then how do we explain this coy question about conventionality? Surely Rose is imagining a version of a middle America in the PBS audience?


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