Czech New Wave Beauty: Thick Eyeliner, Blue Shadow, Flower Crowns And More

This is such an interesting film movement to look into for beauty inspiration because beauty is used so frequently as a narrative technique.
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Publish date:
September 23, 2013
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eyeliners, eyeshadows, retro, rollers, inspirations, Czech New Wave, films

The international familiarity with Czech cinema is largely a familiarity with Czech New Wave. A lot of progress in cinema happened in the 1960s, and the Czech New Wave was (like the more famous French New Wave) a movement of dissent.

Films from the 1960s are often great for beauty looks, because filmmakers from around the world were increasingly inspired by the feminist movement, and were making an increasing number of films about women and women's issues.

The first Czech New Wave film I ever saw was Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. This was one of the later films of the movement, released in 1970, and it centers on an adolescent girl named Valerie and involves all of the allusions and allegories for menstruation and sexuality that you could ever ask for.

Even at the very beginning of that decade, there is a ton of black eyeliner combined with blue eyeshadow. This look is repeated on multiple characters through the film--a look that in the film decidedly represents womanhood.

Valerie wears the blue eyeshadow as she explores her avant-garde coming-of-age, and Hedvika wears the same look while getting married.

This sort of frosty blue eyeshadow most frequently popped up on very pale blondes in 1970s advertisements, and as a person with brown eyes and hair, it's interesting to see the look on characters with a coloring similar to mine. (I've done some research into why blue eyeshadow in particular became so popular in the 1970s, and haven't turned up anything conclusive.)

I think the film of the Czech New Wave that people are most familiar with these days is perhaps Daisies. I'm making this generalization based primarily on the number of gifs of it that were popping up on tumblr for a while.

The film is a very magnificent example of usage of the "flower crown" that everyone wears at festivals. It's a rather psychedelic sort of film about two hedonistic teenage girls who do whatever they want. (I think this film still resonates very much with teenage girls, so I'm surprised that there aren't more recent films about the hedonism of teenage girls. The most recent one that comes to mind is Turn Me On, Dammit! which is a very amusing Norwegian film from 2011.)

They are both named Marie, and both wear similar makeup through out the film (including a very dark winged eyeliner); their hair is used largely to characterize each of them and separate them slightly for each other.

The blonde Marie wears her flower crown for most of the film, with only a few looks deviating from that norm. She has shorter hair than the brunette Marie, and another one of my favorite looks from this film is when she wears her bob in tiny braids tied with ribbons.

Brunette Marie wears her hair much larger. Her iconic look of the film is two pigtails with a teased bump of hair in the middle, but occasionally she wears her hair piled on top of her head in a large updo.

The girls, at one point, wear their hair in rollers. In the 1960s, women often set their hair in curlers even to maintain the proper volume in very short hairs styles like bobs and pixies. There is an amusing spin on this in the film: blonde Marie wears her flower crown even while her hair is set in curlers, and brunette Marie has two tiny pigtails that peak out amongst her set.

Daisies was directed by female director Věra Chytilová, and not much of her work is seen besides Daisies. In her films, she often explored "the constructed" versus "the real" and used a style that was referencing or was akin to cinema verite; she often used non-actors in her work. I think her film Ceiling is also very relevant to beauty, both as commentary and inspiration.

The 45-minute film follows a fashion model as she exists in very mundane situations. The visual style is not as frenetic as Daisies, but the attention to detail in the character's look feels very indicative that it is definitively the same director.

Věra Chytilová worked as a fashion model and a photo retoucher, which probably influenced the way she directed and imagined films. I think her films are particularly exciting to people who have a very visual interest in beauty and the way it is constructed. It's also very wonderful to see non-actors in films, as they often has more diverse facial structures and facial features that are not as represented on the screen.

In both Ceiling and Daisies, the director seems critical of superficiality, but not entirely dismissive of it. In Daisies it seems that beauty can exist outside of superficiality, and this is a viewpoint that seems still very relevant to the way that we look at beauty.

The final Czech New Wave film on my list is Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde, about a girl named Andula who lives in a town where there are 16 women to every one man.

Her hair color seems to play very much into the film. There is a scene where middle-aged soldiers intend to send a bottle of wine to the table of blonde women--Andula and her two friends--and it instead ends up at a table of brunettes.

I've only ever had brown, black, or purple hair, so I don't know what it is like to be blonde, but I love many of the hairstyles Andula wears in the film.

She has a very young '60s messiness to her hair, and for many years I kept my hair at the length that she wears it in the film. I love the height of her hair, even when it is in braids or pigtails.

The film itself is a very interesting look into beauty. Characters are singled out visually as "attractive" or "unattractive" without it ever being explicitly stated. Andula's eventual lover in the film describes her body as angular--that some women's bodies curve like a guitar, but hers curves like a Picasso painting of a guitar.

The reason that I find Czech New Wave to be such an interesting movement to look into for beauty inspiration is because I find that beauty is used so frequently in these films as a narrative technique; the look of the character is designed to help tell the story, and is used to communicate to the viewer. We all do this everyday; we engage with beauty because the way that we style ourselves visually is a way that we communicate with each other, without ever needing to say anything. When I wear a thick cat eye, like Andula, it's easy to pin me down as a chick who digs the 1960s.

I find these films really visually inspiring, and you should definitely check out all of these films if you've never seen them.