Julie Christie was the harbinger of 1960s London, the first tremor of the youthquake to come, this Mod who possessed the opposite of the British stiff upper lip. Christie's overripe underlip signalled a creature of variable moods, by turns determined, libidinous, petulant. Director John Schlesinger cast her in the career-making Darling (1965) -- centerpiece of Turner Classic Movies' Julie Christie day on Monday, August 2 -- emphasizing the unusual juxtaposition of the masculine jawline and feminine pout that gave Christie both edge and voluptuousness. In that trendsetting film she strides spiritedly into the frame clad in a "terribly Chelsea" mannish pinstriped pantsuit. The form is contained, bankerish; the shoulder-length hair flyaway, flirty. The effect: galvanizing.
As model Diana Scott, Christie is meant to personify shallow hedonism and opportunism. Yet at key moments she subverts Frederic Raphael's glib screenplay, suggesting instead a malcontent with a deep suspicion of the status quo. For Diana life is a dressing room where she tries on modes and men with abandon, often slipping into clothes that "go" with her guy. (To complement her intellectual beau (Dirk Bogarde), Diana sports a schoolgirl's white-ribbed turtleneck and plaid skirt with kneesocks and loafers. She trades up for a caddish adman (Laurence Harvey) for whom she wears a shape-hugging white gown with a beaded bodice. When she lands an Italian prince (Jose Luis de Villalonga), she dons the jetset uniform of aerodynamic A-line dress and matching jacket.
Darling established Christie both as an actress (she won an Oscar for her performance) and an avatar of style (she shocked the Academy by wearing gold pajamas to match her gold statuette). Flickgrrl doesn't know why the glossy mags always celebrate the lovely but conservative Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn as style icons and rarely celebrate Christie, who was really radical -- and could outact those two darlings without even trying.
TCM is offering a tasty smorgasbord of Christie -- Darling (9:45 pm EST), Petulia (midnight), Shampoo (2 am) and the underknown Demon Seed (4 am), a cybertronic classic in which her character is raped by a computer who loves her. The only essential Christie titles missing from the schedule (which includes The Go-Between, Dr. Zhivago and Far From the Madding Crowd) are McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Heaven Can Wait, Heat and Dust, Afterglow and the sublime Away from Her.
Your favorite Christie performance? Why? (I'm going with Darling, The Go-Between and Away from Her -- all performances as a lust object who seduces her subjects, But I'm also indecently fond of Demon Seed, adapted from Dean Koontz's futuristic novel.)