The new issue of Vs. magazine treats us to the wonderful and humorous fashion story, ‘We Are All Crazy For Eva”, shot by the legendary Ellen von Unwerth and featuring actress – and face of Revlon- Eva Mendes. Styled by Alicia Lombardini, the shoot sees Ellen von Unwerth applying her particular brand of subtle post-Betty Page fetishism in a camp medical direction as Eva Mendes is cast as a woman confined to the tribulations of a mental asylum, one of which includes a fearsome Nurse Ratched-like minder.
Hamming it up with a knowing nod to clichés and popular narratives about glamourous women gone insane – or of sane women unjustly committed – the story sees Eva Mendes reprising familiar narratives that we find in everything from soap operas like ‘Dynasty’ through to films like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. More satirically, it taps into all the juicy gossipy legends about celebrities who part company with mental stability that have been around almost as long as Hollywood itself. There can be few, for example, who heard Betty Hutton sing her original version of ‘It’s All So Quiet’ back in the day who could not have seen that there was most definitely a big storm brewing internally. Just as there were few who worshipped Vivien Leigh in her heyday that were not rather shocked – despite the juicy gossip- to learn that she really had gone with the wind in the end.
Mental health, as the public awareness campaigns are prone to tell us, is no laughing matter. On the other hand the camp and somewhat indulgent iconography of Hollywood stars grappling to keep a hold on reality, is a different thing altogether. With a typical dry humour, Ellen von Unwerth’s penchant for irreverent and titillating transgression works perfectly in tandem with the acting skills of Eva Mendes who entirely understands the locus of the humour.
Ellen von Unwerth was once herself a model, something that she shares in common with a small number of other lauded women photographers. Working steadily throughout the 1980’s, her moment as an internationally sought-after photographer arrived at the beginning of the 1990’s. Whilst her commercial campaigns, work for pop groups, work as a film and video director and sprawling body of work as a fashion photographer has continued throughout, she is, of course, also known internationally for her more personal rather cinematic books. Her preoccupation and bemusement with a powerful and somewhat kinky female sexuality has earned her both critical respect – her work has been shown in some of the world’s most prestigious museums- and a broad public following.
Eva Mendes started out acting in schlocky low-budget films in the 1990’s, eventually making it into the Hollywood mainstream in the late 1990’s. Like Racquel Welch, to whom she has been compared in the past, she is one of those actresses whose film track record has not been the only yardstick by which the public measures her celebrity. The public, it seems, want Ms Mendes to be famous. These days equally well-known as a celebrity model and campaigner for good causes, Eva Mendes stunning looks and playful character make her one of the USA’s most liked celebrities. And, she must also have a sense of humour. Given her publicized 2008 admission to rehab for substance and personal problems, her appearing in this particular fashion story would tend to suggest that she is not of a precious self-indulgent persuasion.
Furthermore, fortunately for those into fashion, Ms Mendes also goes to prove that having a bad head day is no excuse for having a bad hair day. Styled in a range of hot looks from the new collections of brands like Christian Dior, Paula Ka, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Paul Smith, Burberry Prorsum and Christian Laboutin, to name but some, ‘We Are All Crazy For Eva’ sets an excellent example of how to not let standards slip even if one is only at the edge of sanity.