Watched this Czech Costume Drama and Now I Have No Eyebrows.
Cat eyes and vaginas… we must be here for something delicious? Morgiana, the salty-sweet 1972 Czech film laps open in genuine Juraj Herz fashion. A colourful sequence of paintings; seemingly abstract oils, pull us in and out of throbbing yonic motifs and bright blue cat eyes. Admittedly, I was sold on whatever sexy seventies romp I was about to embark on. But truthfully, I wasn’t ready. I drooled, I dribbled, I gasped– not at the story, not at the acting, there was hardly any stimulation there– well, I guess there was poison, lots of poison. However, it was the excess, the costumes, the hairdos, and the makeup, that I sunk my teeth into with vicarious felinity. And when I say hairdos, I in fact do mean hairdos. Wigs– big wigs! Undoubtedly the biggest wigs I’ve ever seen in my life, save Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Imagine, sitting in a room with six live beehives. Any shot with more than two women was physically threatening to the eye, as each wig and seventies-boho-neo-edwardian costume individually assailed you for its undivided attention. The actresses were beautiful Barbarella bobble heads wrapped up in tulle, ribbons, and silk, decorated with flowers, pearls and bows, balancing swollen hats of feathers and lace, and batting even bigger Twiggy like eyelashes. I stirred trying to survey then swat every look I could before these lush garden scenes cut away. I dreaded even wondering what their call times must’ve been each morning.
But, please don’t get me started on the eyebrows. Oh wait, that’s why you’re reading this. Thankfully, I still have mine. However, like starring into one of the many mirrors within Morgiana’s home– Morgiana being the Siamese cat who we often get to experience this fashionable melodrama through, I also thought I saw the reflection of my grinning evil sister and truly believed only for a second that I too could carry a brow thinner than my bank account. You see, Klára; the evil sister, took the blow on the inheritance after the death of her and her sister’s father. But both Klára and her sister Viktoria struggle equally with their forehead-twinkling Edith Piaf liquorice strings, in uniquely different ways. And this is highly impressive since the sisters are played by the SAME actress, Iva Janzurová. So, what exactly blows this film out of the water for me? It’s not that Janzurová clearly excels in developing two incredibly unquestionable performances. No, it’s the fact that hair & makeup could maintain the continuity of four different eyebrows!
These brows daintily frame and furrow both Klára and Vickie’s jet-black cat eyes. They shape-shift with the emotionality of EACH scene. The line work alone on each eye is so hypnotically meticulous, it ripped opened my jaw during every close up. Since Klára paints a silvery blue on her lids, matching the same colour of Morgiana’s topaz kitten eyes, we begin to better understand and connect all these cat motifs to Herz’ artful introduction. Yet, we’re still left pondering those yonic images. Are they to be a parallel for Klára’s female rage? There is no clear connection other than perhaps the films somewhat dull exploration of female desire and of course the old ‘crazy sister’ trope. Imaginably, this theme may be better illustrated in the 1929 novel Jessie and Morgiana on which the film is based. So, if anything, watch it once, and pause whenever you can to admire the incredibly detailed artistry of costume designer Irena Greifová.
Where to watch, (you might have to get creative with this one…)