Tag Archives: Annie Hall

My Fortnight in Beauty

It’s been a bit of a manic fortnight, what with a jazz party to attend (that takes a week out of the diary – four days there, plus three days to recover), and a feast of writing assignments after a bit of a famine.

Still, there have been opportunities to try out some new products – and discover a couple of new favourites. Undoubtedly my favourite find of recent times is the new collection of nail varnishes from Yves Saint Laurent.

YSL La Laque Couture (£18) is the name of this new polish and aside from the fact that it comes in 30 fabulous shades created to reflect the couture legacy as well as the contemporary creations of the house of Yves Saint Laurent, what I immediately loved about it was its brush which – during my long train journey from Glasgow to Norwich for my jazz party – enabled me to paint each nail very neatly and precisely with just one sweep.

I haven’t yet experimented with the YSL polishes on my toes – I haven’t needed to, as they’ve been sparkling with a Leighton Denny varnish that was applied by a pro, when I tried out the new Ila Luxurious Seaweed Foot Experience (£80) at The Blythswood Square hotel in Glasgow.

This new treatment turned out to be very relaxing – so much so that I drifted off a few times (possibly, at least once, mid-conversation!). It kicks off with a soothing footbath using nutrient salts and pure essential oils. Then the feet and lower legs are scrubbed with an exfoliator made using the oil from Scottish seaweed. The next stage is a massage using a deeply hydrating and nourishing oil, followed by a comprehensive pedicure which left my feet positively glowing – and undoubtedly ready for their close-up in summer sandals..

In addition to the YSL nail polishes, my other great find of the last fortnight is an exfoliator which makes me smile every time I use it. Can’t be a bad thing, can it? It’s not just that MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator (£18) is jet black, and makes me look like Al Jolson or a member of the chorus on The Black and White Minstrel Show. It’s because it reminds me of Annie Hall, one of my favourite Woody Allen films. Remember the black soap scene? (If not, scroll down to see a clip.)

As Annie explains to Alvy, the black stuff is good for her complexion – and my skin was certainly radiant after I’d used this unusual product (a cult favourite from MAC which had been limited edition but was reinstated due to popular demand) thanks to its combination of natural volcanic ashes and sugar crystals. Next time, though, I’ll warn the offspring before I put it on …

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Lipstick, Powder and Pants

I’ve spent much of the last week wearing a men’s fragrance and it got me thinking about some of the great female style icons who made cross-dressing both elegant and sexy. And nobody did it better than Marlene ..

Mind you, she wasn’t the only 1930s style queen to embrace cross-dressing – Katharine Hepburn was another fan of trouser suits and brogues, and – unlike Marlene – she continued to sport the style throughout the rest of her life. Here she is in a favourite shot from the 1940s.

Other style heroines of mine, including the great photographer Lee Miller, have dabbled with elements of the male wardrobe. Carole Lombard was often photographed wearing skirt suits with very mannish jackets, or off-duty in checked shirts, rolled-up jeans and brogues. I love this picture of her wearing a very masculine jacket and trousers with her high-heeled Mary Janes.

Sixties style icon Bianca Jagger set a trend for white trouser suits but few women could have carried off this Charlie Chaplin-inspired ensemble as beautifully as she did.

The only other person of her generation who could – and did – was Diane Keaton whose own naturally quirky style was showcased in the brilliant 1977 comedy Annie Hall.

And if a trilby is more your taste in headgear, then take a leaf out of Judy Garland’s book and team it with a slimming black tux and a great pair of legs …

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My Week in Beauty


Aaahh!!! Monday was what the French call La Rentree – back to school day – so I was up with the larks, or at least with two very excitable six-year-olds, despite having gone to bed at my usual ridiculously late hour.

So, how to deal with the resulting tired eyes? Well, luckily, I had just started using the new Jurlique Herbal Recovery Eye Cream (£33; www.jurlique.co.uk), a gorgeous botanical cream which is soothing and refreshing – and helps to counter those dark circles and morning puffiness..


Tuesday morning was a struggle – thanks to a late-night viewing of the glorious Woody Allen comedy Annie Hall, which I hadn’t watched in ages. While  Annie (Diane Keaton in her most stylish role) favours black soap for her complexion (“Say, are you joining a minstrel show?” asks a bewildered Alvy), I have found that both complexion-wise and wake-up-call-wise, the best face wash on the block just now is Origins Zero Oil Deep Pore Cleanser (£15; www.origins.co.uk). Thanks to the saw palmetto extracts and mint which are key ingredients, it is incredibly thorough and gives the skin a tingling, awakened feeling ..


The combination of this strange, changeable weather and the arrival of autumn/winter clothes in the shops made my Wednesday play date with the new season’s cosmetics very timely.  There are some stunningly beautiful new products being launched but few as exquisite as Lancome’s La Rose Deco compact (£32; from Harvey Nichols stores now, and other Lancome counters from September 1), which is one of the stars of the lovely French Coquettes collection. In fact, it’s so exquisite that I can’t actually bear to use it and spoil the pretty picture…  I’ll be writing more about the French Coquettes collection – it’s very inspiring, and was itself inspired by three icons of Parisian life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Wharton and Kiki de Montparnasse. Chapeaux off to Aaron De Mey for his most covetable collection to date.


After the success of its initial, core, range of make-up, Topshop is launching a seasonal collection named Heavy Duty in late September. Inspired by the grunge aesthetic of such LA “boho” girls as the Olsen twins, it features inky, murky shades on the eyes, crumbly black kohl eyeliner, and a “bitten lip”. One essential component, to which I’m already devoted, is the thick black mascara, Topshop Mascara in Carbon (price TBC but under a tenner; www.topshop.com, from late September) which does a brilliant job of creating that dramatic, heavy lash look that sixties beauties like Brigitte Bardot (right) perfected when they combined it with layers of kohl eyeliner. Watch out for it going on sale and buy yours while you can as this limited edition mascara is going to fly off the shelves.


When the latest foundation from Laura Mercier – Creme Smooth Foundation (£40; from September) arrived in the post, I dismissed it. It looked too old-fashioned, too heavy and, even in the Warm Ivory shade (one of 12), too dark. How wrong I was! When I gave it its first proper outing on Friday, I found that appearances can be deceptive. This is actually an incredibly light-feeling foundation which glides on to the skin (as opposed to having to be dragged across it – which is what I was expecting) and provides good coverage. It leaves the complexion looking naturally radiant, and much fresher than most medium coverage foundations, and its optical diffusers help to reduce the obviousness of fine lines and wrinkles.

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Style File: Diane Keaton

This is the moment in Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s classic 1977 romantic comedy, when the world (and Alvy Singer) fell in love with Diane Keaton’s distinctive and quirky style. When the 30-year-old actress had turned up on the set, the film’s costume lady complained to Allen that she looked “crazy” and couldn’t possibly wear her own gear onscreen (as often happened in Woody movies). But Allen replied: “Leave her. She’s a genius. Let’s just leave her alone and let her wear what she wants.”

The Annie Hall style of cross-dressing caught on in a big way, and was still influencing students when I started university in 1989. In fact, it was a shared love of oversized, Annie-style hats and gents’ coats that first drew my oldest uni pal and me to each other. And as for the straw bag which Annie carried her tennis racquet in – well, those were enjoying a revival in the late 1980s amongst Diane Keaton devotees.

Annie Hall wasn’t Keaton’s first film with writer-director-star Woody Allen; they first appeared together in Play It Again, Sam (1972), from which this clip – featuring Keaton in an unusually streamlined, 1920s-inspired ensemble – is taken.

The madcap comedy Sleeper (1973) starred Keaton as Luna, once more the object of Woody’s affection – not least because of her favourite household appliance, the Orgasmatron.. Here’s Luna looking seductive in her 1930s-style evening wear..

Keaton is often photographed in black or white or monochrome and even when she’s been in period films – Love and Death (1975) or Reds (1981, pictured below) – she seems to reflect something of her own style and that of her times.

I’m not particularly fond of Keaton’s penchant for wearing ties and belting men’s jackets – as she does in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1994) – or for wearing all-white trouser suits (First Wives Club, Hanging Up etc), but I admire her unique, immediately recognisable style which has evolved from romantic and eccentric to streamlined and, er, eccentric.. That said, she looks every inch the chic WASP in Something’s Gotta Give (2003), in which she wears a series of outfits that are sort of toned-down versions of what she would probably wear in real life. The colours are 100% Keaton.

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She’ll Have What She’s Having – Julie & Julia review

If ever there was a poster girl for butter, it’s Julia Child, the doyenne of TV cooks, whose story – or at least the part of it that began in France – is told in the new Nora Ephron movie Julie & Julia. This comedy-drama cuts and splices the lives of Child, who brought French cooking into every American home thanks to her TV shows in the 1960s, and Julie Powell, a young New York office worker who writes a blog about spending a year cooking her way through all the recipes in Child’s landmark French cookery book for Americans.

Child never tired of singing (or perhaps warbling would be a more appropriate verb) the praises of butter so it’s amazing that during her year-long cook-a-thon, Julie Powell (according to the film) didn’t seem to put on a single pound in weight. But then, she wouldn’t – because her part of the film, although based on real life, smacks of the aspects of Nora Ephron’s previous movies that were particularly unrealistic, irksome and formulaic.

There’s the wisecracking best friend (see Rosie O’Donnell in Sleepless in Seattle), the shabby chic apartment (You’ve Got Mail), the obligatory scenes of bonding in front of the telly (watching Casablanca in When Harry Met Sally, An Affair to Remember in Sleepless in Seattle etc). Somehow, Ephron even manages to sneak that old Annie Hall influence in there too: the lobster scene? Hello?

I have no aversion to movies that bear little relation to real life, but when you have a film in which the heroine – sorry, one of the heroines – works in a call centre dealing with the bereaved of 9/11, the glossy Hollywood sheen doesn’t seem appropriate.

Where it works just fine is in the scenes, woven through the film, in the Paris of Julia Child’s experience in the 1950s. Paris in any period has a romantic charm but Child’s Paris particularly so, because it’s where she discovered her calling, having already – as we know from documents released after her death – worked as a spy. In Paris, where her new husband works for the American embassy, she casts around for something to occupy her time and eventually comes up with the idea of taking classes at the Cordon Bleu cooking school.

As a Brit, I didn’t know anything much about Julia Child. And what little I did know about her – that she had a funny, high, comedy sort of a voice – was only through a hilarious (and now, I realise, totally accurate) impersonation by the brilliant jazz musician and off-the-wall raconteur Marty Grosz who used to offer an omelette signed by Julia Child as a prize if anyone could guess the tune he was singing, from its obscure verse.

Ever the chameleon, Meryl Streep does an amazing job of bringing Child to life (though it does come as a surprise to learn that she’s supposed to be just 37 at the start of the film). An ungainly, gallumphing, well-built (6 foot 2) and rather plain woman, Child comes across as having been quite at ease with her appearance – even amidst a sea of petites Parisiennes. While they may have been picking at their tiny portions like sparrows, Child devours food and relishes every opportunity for a new gastronomic experience. Streep gets the voice, the breathiness and the near-hysteria and certainly seems to embody the character, but it’s not a performance that really sheds much light on the character. She’s not onscreen enough.

Amy Adams, as Julie Powell, is onscreen plenty, however – and she is undoubtedly the less interesting and intriguing of the two heroines. She is also, as portrayed here, the 2009 version of Sally from Ephron’s best film, When Harry Met Sally. Once you notice the similarities between Meg Ryan in WHMS and Amy Adams in J&J, it’s difficult not to start playing spot the lack of difference. They have the same mannerisms (watch how the teary and tipsy Julie brandishes her wine glass), the same way of enunciating key lines (“I could write a blog. I have thoughts..”), and when Julie has her “meltdown” on the kitchen floor, you almost expect her to wail “and I’m going to be 40” a la Sally.

For me, the big surprises came towards the end when we realise that Julia Child was still alive while Julie Powell was conducting her blogging and cooking project. The next surprise is that Child lived to the ripe old age of 91, despite the copious amounts of butter she had consumed throughout her life. And the third is that for all this is a feelgood film, there is no attempt to avoid the fact that Child, when interviewed during Powell’s blogging/cooking project, expressed total disinterest in it.

Actually, here’s another surprise: that Ephron didn’t just call the film When Julie Didn’t Meet Julia.

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