As British fashion designer Jonathan Saunders celebrates his 10 year anniversary, director Justin Anderson collaborated with Saunders and The Mill to create a commemorative film that carefully uses items of Saunders’ clothing as well as a distinct lack of clothing to weave an intriguing narrative based around an every day bourgeois European family.
We caught up with him and Mill colourist Matt Osborne to find out more about the piece and how they collaborated to achieve the final look.
What is the inspiration behind this piece?
Justin: Colour is a very important part of Jonathan's work and he uses film and art as the inspiration behind his collections, so I started looking at some of the references, reversing the process and going back to film.
I looked at David Hockney’s pool paintings and 'The Bigger Splash' a 16mm film shot around that period, how he used colour accents against the clear blue turquoise and also made use of muted organic colours.
The main influence on the story was a film by Pasolini called 'Teorema'. It’s about a bourgeois Milanese family who has a visitor to stay. One by one the visitor sleeps with all of them and then leaves. This all happens in the first 20 minutes of the film and what follows is a complete breakdown of the family.
I loved the idea of using the family; it is such a universal subject we all understand. To me, there is no such thing as a normal family, they all have their own particular brand of weirdness. The naked man in the window symbolizes ‘the elephant in the room’ and the thing we don’t talk about.
Who / what are your influences?
Justin: My biggest influence was an art teacher at school. He used to show us Buñuel’s 'Belle du Jour' in our art lessons when I was about 14. He was very smart and understood exactly how to capture the attention of a 14-year-old boy. I went on and studied painting at the Slade, it took me a while to get into film, but the Buñuel influence of the absurd is deep within me.
Is there a recurring theme that runs through your work?
Justin: I would like to say that humour is a recurring theme. Not laugh out loud comedy but always an element of the absurd. I love to juxtapose one thing with another that wouldn't normally go; A girl dancing with an articulated truck, a naked guy with a family having supper, or even putting a guy in a hole to interview him as we did with Richard Nicoll.
Of course there has been some nudity in my past work, which is partly why I was keen to make a film featuring a nude man. We are so over-saturated by naked or nearly naked women, even in the edgier fashion publications like Purple Magazine you are hard pressed to see much man flesh. This new trend is masquerading as female empowerment but it is really quite conservative, Robin Thicke seems to be a less ironic version of Robert Palmer.
How did you go about choosing which items of clothing would feature in the film?
Justin: The film was styled by Jonathan using pieces from his 10 year archive according to each character. We wrote a detailed character brief for each role and dressed them accordingly. The father, a bourgeois man in his early 50‘s would not wear Jonathan Saunders clothes, so instead he wore an oxford blue shirt.
How do you think people will react to the full frontal nudity in the film?
Justin: I hope they like it as much as my wife did.
What role did The Mill play in the final result?
Justin: From the first time we talked to Daniel and Bethany at The Mill they completely understood the idea and got right behind the project with real enthusiasm. This made a huge difference, as by this point on a project you have seen the same ungraded cut thousands of times and need to keep the energy up and stay focused for the home stretch. Their positive energy and enthusiasm was a real gift.
Much of what they have done you will never know; that is nature of the dark arts of good Flame, of which Gaz Brannan is certainly a practitioner. Colour was such a key part of the process and I was very happy to work with Matthew Osborne on the grade. We spent a lot of time making sure we got it right and we even had Jonathan and a couple of his jumpers in the suite with us.
Matt - how did you enhance the final film in the grade?
Matt: This was a fantastic opportunity to craft a delicate and detailed grade into a fascinating and highly original piece of filmmaking. We treated the grade like a piece of embroidery. Detailed and precise.
Were there any things you particularly wanted to pick out or focus on using colour?
Matt: We spent a lot of time looking at the colours of the clothes. Even though this was a hugely stylistic film, we needed the clothes to look as accurate as possible. But we literally broke down every part of the image, almost like a jigsaw. This was a very complex grade but really rewarding.
How was it working with Justin & Jonathan on this piece?
Matt: It was great to work with Justin again. I have a huge amount of respect for his originality and engaging concepts. He's a lovely guy too - I have a lot of time for him. It was also fantastic having Jonathan in for the final session. It was really gratifying to see the designer happy with the piece.
Watch the final film here.