Confession of a Child of the Century (2015)

7

Confession of a Child of the Century (2015) is an adaptation of an 1836 autobiographical novel by French writer Alfred de Musset … and if that isn’t proof enough that I’m not its target market, I don’t know what is. Mid-nineteenth-century French literature is generally misogynistic and bleak, but I was trying to find Children of the Century (which is actually based on the same novel) and came across this … and since we have a review of that, and not this, I took one for the team. And oh, did I.

Musician Pete Doherty (of the bands The Libertines, Babyshambles) plays Octave, who is the son of an aristocrat and SO BORED with the hedonistic lifestyle he lives in Paris… including lots of stellar thoughts about women. See, Octave has had his heart broken by a courtesan, and without ever thinking of the fact that these women are in shitty situations, risking their health (STDs) and unwed pregnancy to be taken care of by men with money only to be cast aside, HE’S the one who is butt-hurt by all these allegedly craven women. What makes this worse is that Octave endlessly narrates this butt-hurt throughout the film, particularly the first third, and OH MY GOD my ass fell off. I’M SO SORRY THE PATRIARCHY ISN’T FUN FOR YOU OCTAVE. Fucking manchildren!

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

If your tastes run to oily men who can’t grow facial hair, congratulations.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Debauchery just isn’t fun when you forget your chemise.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Hmmm, could this woman maybe not have a lot of good choices?

Octave realizes his debauched life isn’t fulfilling, but instead of, ya know, turning his life into something productive to be proud of, he heads off to his father’s estate and “falls in love” with a local widow, basically continuing the same pattern of his previous life, even if there’s less booze involved. I put air quotes around “love,” because this guy doesn’t know what love is. Although he picks Brigitte, a slightly-older country widow of strong character (Charlotte Gainsbourg — Les Misérables, Jane Eyre) as the object of his affection, Octave doesn’t seem to notice that his falling in love with her ends up basically putting her in the role of a courtesan — oh, and then after he wins her, he goes back to being jaded and blasé and basically blames her for all those hard-hearted courtesans who “used” his sensitive little heart. That turn of events is inspired by him finding out that she told him a piano piece she’d composed was written by another composer. From there, he starts suspecting her of cheating on him and endlessly pushes her away. Meanwhile, Brigitte loses what made her interesting — her spine — and ends up begging Octave to keep loving her.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU.

It took Wikipedia after the fact to tell me that this is supposed to be the story of Musset’s affair with writer George Sand, and that’s because there’s no references to Brigitte being a writer or anything other than an intelligent, feeling woman. Apparently this was the lowest-grossing theatrical release of 2015, and I sincerely hope that was because of its whiny, misogynistic world view.

All that bullshit aside, the costumes — designed by Esther Walz (Charité, Pope Joan) — were overall successful, although the most visually interesting were on the courtesans:

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Lily Cole (Upstart Crow, Elizabeth I, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) is the courtesan who breaks Octave’s heart.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

She looks GORGEOUS, and I approve of her tasteful and period-accurate head necklace ferronière.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

The embroidery here is stunning, except I think someone basted an 18th-century-style stomacher onto an 1830s dress?

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Shoe porn!

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

I like the sparkles on this dress.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Although the too-high waist point confuses me — is that a sash? Gaposis?

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Sheer sleeves.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Lovely turban!

Sir George Hayter, Portrait of the Duchess of Kent, c. 1835

This was a turban era! Sir George Hayter, Portrait of the Duchess of Kent, c. 1835.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Dancers.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

That’s a lot of armpit cleavage.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Nice embroidery on the left, and I like the contrasting solids on the right.

The men look like mid-19th century men to me, clothing-wise:

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Sorry! A suit is a suit to me (mostly).

Octave’s hair, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired:

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Sometimes it’s tousled and romantic.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

And sometimes it’s just-shot-heroin-in-the-bathroom.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

All the boys have romantic hair.

Brigitte is, by necessity, dressed relatively plainly, although her wardrobe goes through an arc:

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

When we first meet Brigitte, she’s in black with a bonnet. She missed the memo about bangs not being a thing for most of this century.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Playing the piano with auntie chaperoning.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

This low neckline on a day dress IS accurate … but for the 1840s.

Portrait of two young women by Carl Ferdinand Stelzner, 1849

Portrait of two young women by Carl Ferdinand Stelzner, 1849

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Those sleeves are very late 1830s-early 1840s, which are later than the styles worn by the courtesans (more early to mid-1830s).

Women's fashions, early to late 1830s

Early and mid-1830s sleeves are big and puffy (center and middle), and then they get smaller and more controlled — and the puff moves down the arm — post-1836 (right).

Women's fashions, early to late 1830s

You see the same silhouette change in evening dress.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Brigitte’s outerwear is more 1820s in terms of silhouette — narrower sleeves, higher waistline.

Costume Parisien, 1821 | Modes de Paris, c. 1827 | La Mode, c. 1831 or 1832

Compare: Costume Parisien, 1821 | Modes de Paris, c. 1827 | La Mode, c. 1831 or 1832

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

As Brigitte loosens up, her hair starts coming down — GROAN.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Which is the WORST under a bonnet.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Her dresses start lightening up in terms of color, too.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

I relatively liked this — pretty silk! Nice cartridge pleats! Although what’s going on with the weird pulling/wrinkles over the bust?

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

When she’s trying to push Octave away, she wears her “the poor didn’t want this one” dress.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Suspiciously beachy waves.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

More 1820s-ish, more hair.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Hair’s up, at least! This dress is very late 1830s-early 1840s, again with that gathering at the top of the sleeve.

1838 fashion plate | Metropolitan Museum of Art

A similar effect | 1838 fashion plate, Metropolitan Museum of Art

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Sheer cotton.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

At a country ball, she breaks out the pretty lace…

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

But not the hairpins!

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

I like the cut of this wrapper.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Color! This is a rewear…

Wives & Daughters (1999)

… of this day dress from Wives and Daughters.

2015 confession-of-a-child-of-the-century

Brigitte ends in a low-rent version of the courtesans’ dresses.

 

 

Did you catch Confession of a Child of the Century? Did you regret your life choices?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

7 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    You took one for the team. And I now know to avoid it. What’s with the lack of Bobby pins in country? Do countrywomen in France eschew them? Or sloppiness? My vote is on sloppiness. Octave or whatever sounds like a earlier version of the ‘Cheri’ but not as pretty. And no Michelle Pfeiffer or Kathy Bates to snark at each other. This sounds incredibly boring. Molly wore the dress better in Wives and Daughters.

    Reply
  2. Roxana

    Any man who expects True Wuv from a courtesan is a fool. Just like the men and woman who romanticize these high end sex workers as free spirits living independent of males. Nobody is more dependent on male favor than a courtesan and successful ones were cold bloodedly out for the main chance. And who can blame them? Only self absorbed narcissistic young men!

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Marie Duplessts, the basis for La Dame aux Camellias, was known for bragging that “Lying makes my teeth white.” No romantic ideals there.

      Reply
  3. hsc

    Ack.

    And if the film itself wasn’t enough, there’s this from real (allegedly) life, as noted on the film’s Wikipedia entry:

    Pete Doherty, who worked primarily as a musician, was obsessed with Charlotte Gainsbourg because of the legacy surrounding her famous father, French musician Serge Gainsbourg. During press for the film, he alleged that he and Gainsbourg had had a fling after filming and she had briefly abandoned her partner Yvan Attal and moved from Paris to London in order to be with him.

    And the source for this nugget o’ gossip is a NME article titled, “Pete Doherty: ‘Charlotte Gainsbourg won’t speak to me “.

    Did I mention “Ack”?

    Reply
  4. M.E. Lawrence

    Revenge porn is eternal. And, gosh, he’s unattractive (although Lily C. has the perfect delicate-early-Victorian look in those shots). Some pretty dresses, at least. Thank you, Kendra, for enduring such muck for us Frock Flickers.

    Reply
  5. Nzie

    oy this sounds awful on numerous levels. It’s bizarre to me that this would happen in 2015. But then it’s not always when you’d expect that something shows some circumspection. I had to watch both the silent and 1990s versions of Last of the Mohicans. It wasn’t the silent film that made the “last Mohican” a white dude–in the silent film, the white dude was pretty tangential, in fact, and it ran much closer to the book. (Not saying it was faultless, but I sometimes think about that fact when I encounter things like this from eras that ostensibly know better.)

    Reply

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