Films to Watch for Holiday Inspiration (and What to Wear Once You’re There)

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Wild at Heart (1990)(Film still)

From Spain’s Costa del Sol in the early noughties to the Lynchian landscapes of North Carolina

With the arrival of high summer and, of course, English showers, there’s no better time to leave for alternative climes. Here, five of the most stylish films to watch for both destination and on-the-ground outfit inspiration – whether you’re catching a plane imminently or simply escaping via daydream.

1. Wild at Heart (1990), Cape Fear, North Carolina (above)

Rife with references to The Wizard of Oz (one of director David Lynch’s favourite movies) and avant-garde, psychosis-fuelled make-up looks (think: an entire face covered in red lipstick), 1990 film Wild at Heart is a surreal journey through Cape Fear, North Carolina with troubled lovers Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicholas Cage). On Sailor’s release from prison, an illicit trip to California is thwarted by a myriad of obstacles: the gangsters hired by Lula’s mother to kill the couple, a freak car accident, a robbery gone awry and Sailor’s multiple renditions of Elvis Presley songs. Wild at Heart’s status as a bizarre – and very Lynchian – cult black comedy is cemented, and its costumes are necessarily brassy. Lula, for example, wears hot pink, polka dots, lace and gold hoops as she laments the various incarcerations of her criminal lover.

Sailor’s signature, meanwhile, is his snakeskin jacket. The reptilian blazer was Cage’s own idea, which Lynch worked into the screenplay once the actor asked if his character could wear one (naturally). Dern said at time of the film’s release that she and Cage “agreed that Sailor and Lula needed to be one person, one character, and we would each share it. I got the sexual, wild, Marilyn, gum-chewing fantasy, female side; Nick’s got the snakeskin, Elvis, raw, combustible, masculine side.” To this end, seek out elements of both Lula and Sailor’s wardrobes for any upcoming road trips around America’s Southern states – a suitably garish combination of pink, polka dots and snakeskin awaits.

2. I Am Love (2009), Milan

Italian director Luca Guadagnino has proved particularly astute when it comes to outfitting his films – recall, for example, the insouciant wardrobe of Call Me by Your Name, drawn from the early 1980s, or the lush, poolside style of A Bigger Splash, worked on in collaboration with Dior yet it is I Am Love, developed over an 11 year period and released in 2009, which remains most evocative in its clothing (a sentiment matched by an Oscar nomination for its costume designer Antonella Cannarozzi). This is largely down to the character of Emma Recchi – the wife of a wealthy textile manufacturer in Milan, played by Tilda Swinton, also a producer – who provides a lesson in the measured elegance of the Italian upper classes. (Think: Alice bands and Birkin bags, shift dresses and pearls.) “It shows the obsession with perfection and details that the Milanese bourgeoisie have,” Guadagnino said at the time. “Old money always comes with great charm. Their real success is making others believe that money doesn’t exist.”

The clothing was designed in collaboration with Raf Simons, then at Jil Sander, whose imprint can be most felt in the colour palette – searing reds, purples and unnatural shades of orange, verging on neon – a defining element of his tenure at the house (his final collection at Jil Sander, A/W12, was a symphony in candy pink). The colour choices come to reflect Recchi’s own internal landscape – moving from the restrained, neutral tones as she plays loyal housewife early in the film, to vibrant shades of scarlet and tangerine to embark on an affair with local chef and friend of her son, Antonio, played by Edoardo Gabbriellini. “Starting with chromatic research is usual for me, but in this movie the colours had to beat the rhythm of the drama,” Cannarozzi would explain to AnOther. Illicit passion aside, those travelling to Italy this summer would do well to find inspiration in those most fearless chromatic tones – providing, as they do, a welcome counterpoint to Italy’s traditional sandy-hued architecture.

3. Jamón Jamón (1992), Spain

Jamón Jamón is a kind of movie I have a great fondness for. It is frankly outrageous, it has the courage to offend, it is not afraid of sex, and it goes over the top in almost every scene. It takes a certain kind of moviegoer, I suppose, to enjoy a film like this; of course it’s in bad taste, of course it’s vulgar, of course it flies in the face of all that is seemly, and, of course, that is the idea,” wrote Roger Ebert in his review of the film. The critic was not wrong, for director Bigas Luna took Almodovarian, slapstick melodrama and placed it in an Dalí-esque landscape: the Monegros Desert in northern Spain.

Starring Penélope Cruz in her debut role as underwear factory worker Silvia – and Javier Bardem as Raúl, Silvia’s muscular, motorbike-riding lover – Jamón Jamón dishes up ample helpings of style inspiration for a couple’s sojourn to warmer climes. From Silvia’s long, linen spaghetti strap dresses, sweetheart necklines exposing a cleavage that according to Raul “tastes like ham”, to a red cotton mini dress (paired with a red plastic basket bag, espadrilles and chunky hoop earrings, of course), Cruz is a vision. Her hair is either worn tumbling around her shoulders, piled on top of her head in the heat, or twisted back into a long plait; make-up is kept at a minimum, for why bother applying lipstick when it’ll just get snogged off again within five minutes? One word of advice: if you find yourself caught in a summer rainstorm while on your travels, make sure that you are wearing a garment that becomes transparent when wet. Cruz works this to her advantage in one particular scene where she and Bardem make out against a slot machine in the middle of a café: a big holiday mood if ever there was one.

4. Contempt (1963), Capri

Jean-Luc Godard’s acclaimed Contempt is set mainly on the island of Capri, at the imposing Casa Malaparte. The house’s architecture is a focal point of the 1963 film: Camille Javal (Brigitte Bardot) sunbathes on its terracotta roof terrace; scenes of The Odyssey, the film-within-the-film, are shot on its pyramidal steps; and characters gather in its minimalist rooms, the jurassic coast of Capri visible through cinematic windows. Camille is accompanying her playwright husband Paul on the shoot for a fictional retelling of The Odyssey by real-life director Fritz Lang (Godard himself played Lang’s assistant director).

The events that unfurl in Contempt on Capri make for a tragic contrast between the tensions and suspicions of Camille, Paul and the film crew and the striking beauty of the island. Aesthetics are central to the film throughout – Bardot’s wardrobe very much included; her oft-referenced combination of thick navy headband, erratic blonde hair and dark lined eyes is a look that originated in Contempt. Stripes, too, are abundant in Camille’s costumes, though much of the film also sees her abandon clothes altogether, as one is wont to do on holiday: we see her sunbathing with nothing but a book covering her bare bottom; swimming in the sea, yellow robe cast ashore; arguing with Paul on a red sofa underneath a blanket of the same hue; and reading a Lang screenplay in the bath.

5. Morvern Callar (2002), Costa del Sol

When times get tough, the tough go on holiday. At least this was Morvern Callar’s way of dealing with the unexpected suicide of her boyfriend in the 2002 British drama directed by Lynne Ramsay. Oh, and cutting up his body, stealing his identity and passing off his unpublished book manuscript as her own – as you do. With the £100,000 advance on the novel, Callar (played by Samantha Morton in a critically acclaimed role), takes her best friend Lanna on a girl’s trip to the Costa del Sol, a place which represents the antithesis to the dismal port town in Scotland where they both reside. Naturally, Morvern and Lanna have some looks planned for their venture: cue straw hats, pastel pink tank tops, low slung denim (the top of a thong strategically poking out of the waistband) and tinted aviators, lending themselves to an early noughties aesthetic. Although the brilliantly curated soundtrack contains music by Aphex Twin, Can and The Velvet Underground, the fashion in Morvern Callar conjures up the sound of Ibiza anthems from circa 2002: think Castles in the Sky by Ian Van Dahl and Another Chance by Roger Sanchez. Those were the days.