PAST PRESENT

A Bruce Beres­ford film set in the 1950s cel­e­brates themes still rel­e­vant to­day: fe­male em­pow­er­ment, refugees and, of course, the love of a good dress.

VOGUE Australia - - CONTENTS -

In the sum­mer of 1959 in Syd­ney, con­struc­tion had just be­gun on the Opera House, women’s lib­er­a­tion was about to rise up, Euro­pean im­mi­grants were chang­ing the fab­ric of our so­ci­ety, and Vogue had just be­come a stand­alone mag­a­zine in Aus­tralia. Women’s fash­ion was boom­ing, thanks largely to the wool in­dus­try and the pop­u­lar­ity of cou­ture – two years ear­lier Chris­tian Dior had pa­raded an en­tire 83-piece col­lec­tion in David Jones for lo­cal fash­ion­istas.

It is in this world where the film Ladies in Black is set. It is a comedic comin­gof-age of sorts, cen­tred around the fic­tional depart­ment store of Goode’s and the women who work there deal­ing with is­sues still rel­e­vant to­day – stand­ing up for what you be­lieve in, fem­i­nism, love and re­la­tion­ships and tol­er­ance in a newly mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety – to the back­drop of fab­u­lous 50s fash­ion. ( Vogue Aus­tralia even makes a guest ap­pear­ance – the film’s pro­duc­ers sourced orig­i­nal copies of our mag­a­zine to use as props).

Ladies in Black is the cin­e­matic adap­ta­tion of the 1993 book The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, which was turned into an award-win­ning mu­si­cal by Tim Finn in 2015 be­fore di­rec­tor Bruce Beres­ford adapted it for the big screen. The ac­claimed two-time Os­car-nom­i­nated di­rec­tor went to uni­ver­sity with St John and had wanted to make the movie for over two decades, but was de­layed by fund­ing and the writ­ing process. Ul­ti­mately, though, says Al­lanah Zit­ser­man – who co­pro­duced with vet­eran Sue Mil­liken – the de­lays worked in favour of the movie, which will now be re­leased at a time when the themes are even more rel­e­vant. “What’s ex­cit­ing is that the mes­sag­ing is so cur­rent,” she says. “Women are still try­ing to achieve full equal­ity, and some peo­ple are still un­com­fort­able with new peo­ple en­ter­ing their coun­try, so the film has very pow­er­ful mes­sages, but it’s told in a sub­tle and care­ful way. Au­di­ences will en­joy an ex­traor­di­nar­ily en­ter­tain­ing film, but also walk away with ideas that they can re­flect upon and be in­spired by.” Ladies in Black is in cin­e­mas now.

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