We watched Cruella the other night. A bizarre movie experience, it was rife with anachronism. But in such a way that felt quintessentially cinematic and postmodern.
For starters, the film is set in London. Nothing unusual about that in itself, but with the majority of the outdoor scenes shot in Piccadilly, I couldn’t help but take note of where things were in real life, having spent a couple of years working a day job in the area. It’s not a obstacle to enjoying anything. I quite enjoy the location spotting, peeking behind the illusionary veil of cinematic space, as you notice just how compressed space becomes between scenes. Locations that are miles apart are made to look adjacent. It’s a common occurrence. But I’ve never noticed a film do this quite so nonchalantly with time as well before.
The original book on which the film is based came out in 1956. At times, you’d think the film was set in that moment. But then we have cultural references and nods to fashion trends that suggest the Summer of Love is on the way. Hippie is shown to be hot on the the heels of 50s fashion, before overshooting its mark and colliding straight into glam and punk simultaneously. Cultural movements are flattened, as if whole decades of innovation took place within a single season of high fashion rivalry.
The anachronism only becomes more pronounced in car chase scenes where no effort had been made to remove modern digital signage from certain roads. Space and time are simultaneously churned up and soon enough the entire twentieth century seems to pass in a blink of Walt Disney’s eye. I found it dizzying. In true Disney style, about 40 years and 4 square miles of London are squashed into a single context.
Can any fashion historians out there watch it for me and properly break it down? I feel like this weird unwarranted anti-heroine origin story might just be 2021 postmodernism’s Rosetta Stone…