Spotlight – Eiko Ishioka

EikoIshioka fan

Oh. My. God. Be still my heart…From The Fall.

When I watch movies I like them to look nice. Meaning, if the film were on mute, I could still be happy watching it. Occasionally I can watch dark and visually wretched movies with amazing story-lines but disgusting appearances such as…shit, I can’t think of any. But sometimes that happens. Its usually only a one time watch though. For a movie to be a favorite it must be eye candy.

One costume designer that comes to mind as making me very happy in this department is Eiko Ishioka. She is a perfect example of how this works its way into my movie watching requirements. I don’t like the movies she dresses. Not on their own anyway. On their own; The Cell was creepy, The Fall was (slowly) all over the place, Mirror Mirror was ridiculously stupid, and Immortals was pathetic. Buuuuuuuut….BUT (!) they are some of the most attractive movies I’ve ever seen.

Perfect examples of movies best seen with the mute button. The headpieces in The Fall make me swoon with the intricate detailing. Every costume in Mirror Mirror deserves a praise of some kind. The Cell would have been nothing without the designs pulling you along. The only thing that will live forever from Immortals is Ishioka’s vision (and thank god).

A fine representation of how having an epic costumer can make or break a film. Every aspect of the movies is enhanced by her work.

Somehow, movies that on their own would fail to float become beautiful and exciting. Everything seems to stem from her work. So that a movie that has bad written all over it somehow becomes great.

I read a piece written about Ishioka’s designs for Mirror Mirror….

“Eiko wanted to evoke a true fairy tale,” Singh told me over the phone. “She was not well during the movie; she was undergoing chemotherapy. But Eiko had only two gears: full-out or no gear at all. Her work kept her alive—it was her reason for being.” Like all of ­Eiko’s movie projects, the costumes for Mirror Mirror are elaborate, richly detailed manifestations of character. A lace collar around the evil queen’s neck is designed to evoke the backs of reptiles; Snow White’s gossamer gowns include touches like overlapping leaves and climbing velvet vines that subtly underscore her exile in the forest. And, of course, there is the judicious use of what’s become known as Eiko’s Red. “Eiko would say that red is the most difficult color,” Singh explained. “But in many ways, red was Eiko: strong, intense, brilliant.”

Can you believe how much thought and detail was put into those costumes?! She was a master at the details that viewers most likely didn’t consciously notice. EVERYTHING had a reason. Something to add. Something to explain or encourage.

I was amazed when I realized that, being such a fan of her work in film, I didn’t technically like the movies she did. At first, it frustrated me a bit. I want her work to be associated with the most fantastic films of all time. But then I watched The Fall again and….

I realized how lovely it is that, to me, the sole beauty of the films she worked on was her work. She was the main attraction. Her art fully on display to be my only focus.

So I watch these films over and over again because they are nothing but beautiful to me. The music feels more intense, the stotyline feels more emotional, and the characters all keep me intrigued. And I continue watching…almost entirely because they are so fucking well dressed.

Ishioka passed away this last year. Her final film was Mirror Mirror. And what a fabulous last look at her art. She was amazing and I’m pretty sad I won’t get to see any more of her imagination brought to life.

What do you think?

Find out more…

The Image Maker at W Magazine

Directed the video for Bjorks Cocoon

Available on Netflix Instant- The Fall, Immortals, and Mirror Mirror

Some random costume shots.


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