Monday, 2 February 2015

500 Days of Summer: Day 2

Summer:  You don’t believe in that, do you?
Tom: What? It’s love. It’s not Santa Claus.

Why am I so in love with the film 500 Days of Summer? Oh, there are many reasons! It felt like an instant classic when I saw it. The phrase “rom com” makes me shudder usually, even though I know it encompasses gems like When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday and The Seven Year Itch (I especially love the unformulaic endings of the last two). I hear the words “rom com” and I imagine a film with a sad woman, desperately seeking a relationship, who acts chirpy and bubbly to hide how lonely she feels. There are some recent ones which I have watched and guiltily enjoyed for their frothiness and escapism, but there are heaps more which have made me feel more miserable and irritated than I felt before I watched them!

So it was refreshing to see a romantic comedy where the central character is a man who is hopeful and romantic, and a female love interest who doesn't believe in love. Oh, and it has the best soundtrack.

Tom is incredibly likeable. Much more so, in my opinion, than any number of arrogant, commitment-phobic, and fairly boring men in recent romantic comedies. He reminds me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, one of my favourite characters in literature, for his unlucky-in-life character and his closeness to his little sister. There's a split-screen scene with Tom's expectations playing out on one side, while his reality plays on the other - it's beautifully written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and brought to the screen by Marc Webb. I think it’s interesting that we see the people who care for Tom – his friends, his sister, even his boss who is sympathetic when Tom’s heartbroken and messing up his work. But we only really see Summer with her friends in a scene towards the end. Technically, two scenes (in the second, her friends might be there, but we can only see her and one other person).

I adore Tom because he’s a doer and a trier. He draws, he creates, he plans. Ok, he creates greetings cards that he’s disparaging about, but still – he’s creative. He picks up a pen soon after he meets Summer in the hope of sketching again (he trained to be an architect). Even though he listens to The Smiths, he’s an optimist and a romantic. Summer is more of a consumer (of course, Tom is a consumer too; I still envy him that giant chalkboard on his wall). She buys pretty things for her flat. She reads books and listens to records and watches films. Maybe I’m being unfair; she does create that cool bowler hat and apple still life in ode to Magritte.  I guess my problem is that by the end of the film, I really don’t understand her or feel that I know her as a person. She’s a mystery to me, and not in an enigmatic, Don Draper in Mad Men or Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation way, but in a frustrating, confused way. I don’t know what she wants from life.

Despite my reservations about Summer, I chose 500 Days of Summer as inspiration for a flower-filled photoshoot because I think the film is visually beautiful and so full of detail. There is so much colour, so many moments and places – the park with the view of L.A., the record shop (hello Before Sunrise!), the office where they work together, Summer’s flat and rooftop garden. There’s a dusky train scene where you see Tom and Summer’s sunlit faces as they talk. Visually, it reminded me again of Before Sunrise, but of course it’s different – Celine and Jesse had just met and the audience hears their long conversation, but Tom and Summer have known each other for a year and we don’t hear what they say to each other. I’m as intrigued by that unheard conversation as I am by Bill Murray’s inaudiable words to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation.

I'm not the only person who loves the film - it's inspired lots of people. There's even 500 Days of Summer nail art.

My favourite detail, which I picked up on for the photoshoot, is the colour blue. So blue hydrangeas, blue scabious and cornflowers, blue lavender field, blue ribbon, and Helen wore a blue butterfly necklace (a wonderful coincidence – I was telling her how I wished I could have found a blue butterfly brooch like the one Summer wears in the office, and Helen produced this necklace).

This blog post from the year the film was released (2009) is wonderful – it’s full of stills from the film and love for the story. Note the wallpaper in Summer’s apartment. The costume designer, Hope Hanafin, was given free rein over the costumes for the film, but with the proviso that Summer (and only Summer) wore blue in every scene, except for one scene when everyone apart from Tom would wear it. In that one scene, Tom is so deliriously in love that he sees everyone in the world as a reflection of her.

I hadn’t registered Summer’s wallpaper when I went to a local haberdashery to buy ribbons for bouquets, but I suppose it must have been at the back of my mind. Because as I was browsing through fabric remnants, I saw this and thought it might work with some blue ribbon for my Summer bouquet. It certainly did, and I think it also complemented the pretty lace of the dress.

Being a dancer, Helen managed to get hold of a bowler hat, and I brought along a green apple, so we could channel Magritte’s The Son of Man from Summer’s flat in Los Angeles to the lavender field in South London.

You may have noticed that the all-British flowers were not just blue, but also yellow. I love that combination – I think it looks so striking, but warm and friendly too.

I was planning to just use blue/purple flowers (pure blue sweet peas are hard to find!), but I decided to use yellow as well to show the sunshine of Summer’s name.

So there were gorgeous yellow sunflowers, baby blue hydrangeas and lush rosemary from Tregothnan, yellow dill and pale yellow scabious alongside the blue scabious and cornflowers and bunny tail grass from Blooming Green, French and English lavender from Mayfield Lavender, and sweet peas from the garden. And of course we had the blue-grey of the Mayfield Lavender field.

Early on in the day (which was cloudy but very bright), it drizzled on and off, and Helen's red umbrella and black boots turned out to be brilliant, unexpected props!

[You can find Day 1 here. Technically, this is Day 514, not Day 2. Which means it falls outside of 500 days! A lesson in not being a perfectionist, if ever there was one: this post was 50% finished in September 2013, but because this photoshoot was so important to me, it never seemed good enough to upload. Also, I couldn't decide which of the 300 or so photos to use. Updating my profile picture with the blue and yellow logo reminded me how I have to just post this now, even if it’s not quite right!]

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