In 1990 Paul began his collaboration with costume designer Sandy Powell, whom he assisted on a run of increasingly high profile films: Derek Jarman's Edward II; Neil Jordan's The Crying Game; culminating with Orlando. Orlando received both Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for its costume design.
Since Orlando, Paul has been in demand by the makers of both period dramas (including Bedlam Brittannica and Elgar's Tenth Muse) and contemporary thrillers (McCallum), designing mainly for television.
The Tango Lesson marks Paul's return to feature films. The mainly naturalistic look he developed is in keeping with the film's partly autobiographical origins, and includes references to fashions of the 50's and 60's. This contrasts with the stylized haute couture element of the film, inspired by Balenciaga and using saturated color. "The main challenge was to reinvent real people's images for the camera," says Paul, "whilst enabling them to slip seamlessly in and out of the dance sequences. When dealing with dancers, the line of the body is paramount. To identify with that line in street clothes became one of my prime objectives."
(The following are notes by Sally Potter)
I knew (Paul) from his work on Orlando. We spent many hours in pre-production discussing and looking at how clothes move.
We were looking for dance clothes that expressed the inner lives of the characters, but which also allowed the maximum degree of movement, technically. Paul (and his able cutters) re-set the sleeves of a coat many times in search of this delicate balance.
The dresses in the color sequences demanded a clear, exaggerated classicism and a very strong and controlled use of color set against the black and white body of the film. Paul's attention to detail in the more everyday clothes (some of which had to be danced in and look good with a clear line in cold conditions) was particularly important.
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