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Robert Tashman

Robert Tashman lives in London and is on the staff of the New York Review of Books.

Fashville

Robert Tashman, 9 March 1995

Hollywood has not covered fashion, as a theme or subject, as well as one might hope, given the importance of American movies in mandating and legitimising styles of dress. The notable exception is Stanley Donen’s Funny Face (1957), a Pygmalion story of Audrey Hepburn’s bookshop clerk transformed, under the guidance of Fred Astaire’s Avedon-like photographer, into a supermodel. It is a musical with lovely Gershwin tunes, and it is not realistic; but the characters are somehow convincing as types. Astaire’s character is efficient and professional, but he is also – he is Astaire – amiable and unselfish; Hepburn is incorruptible; the fashion editors and designers are tough but endearing. Fashion is shown as it was then: a big business, but not, as it is now, a corporate power that crosses national and class borders. Robert Altman’s new film, Prêt-à-Porter, is like La Dolce Vita grafted onto Funny Face. The unaffected and trusting Hepburn and Astaire would be marginalised or crushed in the fashion world portrayed here.’

Toto the Villain

Robert Tashman, 9 July 1992

A good piece of writing on film, produced by a major literary figure, is as rare as a successful film adaptation of a major literary work. The fear and condescension felt towards the medium by most writers do not encourage clear thinking or relaxed appreciation. There is, of course, extensive commerce between the cultures of film and the word: many successful Hollywood writers, whose lifestyles are the envy of literary people, were formerly novelists in fact or intention; many serious novelists eagerly adapt their work for the screen.

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