Stealing Beauties

Fashion Week hasn’t even started yet and the claws are already out.

In yet the latest example of the fierce competition for Brazilian beauties, Men/Women N.Y. Model Management (“Women Management”) is suing Next Model Management, among others, for over $2 million in New York State Supreme Court.

In a case filed on Sept. 2, 2004, the agency claims that Next and Elite–São Paulo stole models Ana Beatriz Barros and Amanda Salvato away from it, causing the young women to “repudiate and breach their respective contracts.”

Ms. Barros, a 22-year-old, green-eyed native of Itabira, Brazil, has modeled for Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger and H&M. According to the suit, the defendants offered her $200,000 and better commissions to breach her contract.

Ms. Salvato, a 5-foot-9 brunette native of São Paulo, was featured in the pages of Stuff and told the magazine, “The Brazilian woman has an energy that you get caught up in and is contagious, no?” According to the suit, she was offered direct cash payments and better commissions to breach her contract.

“It’s fairly straightforward-Women have had several models interfered with by Next and have brought suit to remedy this misconduct,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Dan Schulman.

Both models are in New York for Fashion Week but will not be doing any shows. “We can’t comment on any ongoing litigation,” said a spokeswoman for Next.

Barros was once asked why Brazil’s women are so admired for their beauty.

Her response: “We are very free with our bodies.”

Maybe a little too free, it turns out.

-Marcus Baram

Reel Rivals

Once upon a time, John Kerry did have a pulse. When his opponents attacked him, he attacked back, and when he saw an injustice, he spoke out against it. Forcefully.

These are some of the themes in George Butler’s 90-minute film, Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, a documentary that manages to articulate far better than Mr. Kerry has what he really did all those years ago in Vietnam and why he decided to protest against it-to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, to speak out about atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers and, yes, to throw his medals over a fence.

On Tuesday, Sept. 7, Mr. Butler held two screenings of a rough-cut version of the film for members of the press at a private Broadway screening room. The film still has a ways to go before it hits theaters on Oct. 1-sharp edges need to be buffed, transitions need to be smoothed-but it could prove to be one of the more revelatory pieces of campaign “literature” this season.

Obviously made by a sympathetic hand at this point in the campaign, (Mr. Butler has been friends with the candidate for 40 years), the film details Mr. Kerry’s various Vietnam heroics-from the time he saved Jim Rassmann from certain death in the Mekong River to the day he chased down and killed a Viet Cong sniper who was shooting at his Swift boat.

Of course, it all may be too little, too late. And Kerry staffers are probably kicking themselves that this film wasn’t available a month ago, to help fight back-as the candidate failed to do-against the assertions of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. By now, the SBVT’s claims seem to have sunk into the electorate’s psyche-claims that Mr. Kerry didn’t see much action in the Mekong Delta and that he didn’t deserve his Purple Hearts or Bronze and Silver stars because he inflated both his wounds and his heroics.

In the end, the film’s focus on Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam years could backfire on the filmmakers-as, indeed, the whole film could. The documentary plays footsie with some delicate issues-boldly airing footage of soldiers protesting against the government, showing scenes of Mr. Kerry at the controversial “Winter Soldier” hearings-which could just provide more anti-Kerry fodder for the Swift-boat veterans’ guns.

Meanwhile, another potential weapon in Mr. Kerry’s audiovisual assault is starting to hit theaters. Outfoxed director Robert Greenwald has been screening his documentary, Uncovered: The War on Iraq, which critiques the Bush administration’s case for war through interviews with dozens of U.S. intelligence and defense officials.

“A year ago, in late June, I was reading an article about the search for weapons of mass destruction, and I realized that I need to make a movie about the whole march to war and the reasons behind it,” said Mr. Greenwald, who feels that the current state of the country is providing plenty of raw material for the surge in documentaries.

“If you’re a workaholic, there’s enough possibilities to take on right now. We offered free screenings to delegates during the Republican convention.”

Not all the new documentaries are coming from the left side of the aisle. This weekend, Sept. 10 to 12, a number of conservative filmmakers will debut their newest creations at a festival in Dallas. In one movie, Confronting Iraq, former C.I.A. director James Woolsey flips the premise of Uncovered, presenting an argument that it was right for the U.S. to invade Iraq.

“I think there’d be an interest in conservative documentaries as well, if there were more out there,” said organizer Jim Hubbard. “There’s just not that much to chose from on the conservative side, which is one of the reasons that we decided to start this film festival.

“In my personal opinion,” Mr. Hubbard continued, “conservatives don’t pay that much attention to the popular culture-that’s why there is a shortage of documentaries for conservative audiences. For some reason, conservatives ignore the popular culture in general. And so one of the reasons that we did move it up [from 2005] was because of the election. Conservatives will be paying attention. Especially in the wake of Fahrenheit 9/11, they’re doubly paying attention.”

Although Mr. Hubbard hasn’t seen Fahrenheit 9/11, he has plenty to say about Michael Moore and his ilk.

“I think he has a very skewed view of America-and Americans, for that matter. He has repeatedly called America a nation of idiots. I really disagree with that. I don’t think that America is a nation of idiots …. I think that it’s just this left wing-not only in America, but in Europe-that [believes] ‘people in the heartland are dumb and stupid and naïve, but we are sophisticated.’ And that is the kind of elitist mentality that I think he espouses.”

Mr. Hubbard says that, unlike the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, he doesn’t have links to the Bush campaign. “We haven’t received a nickel or any direction from anyone affiliated with the Bush campaign. I mean, if you have any contacts, I’d be glad to follow up.”

How are ticket sales? “Michael Moore Hates America seems to be the big topic. That one sold out in a day.”

-Lizzy Ratner and Jake Brooks

Fry Stirred

A few years ago, Stephen Fry found himself having lunch with an old friend who had just bought the rights to Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies. Despite the fact that Waugh’s sharp little account of the sandwich generation’s (sandwiched, as they were, between two world wars) decadent, debauched and disenfranchised exploits over the course of four winter weeks seemed appropriate to revive, Mr. Fry insists: “I’m proud to say that I did not plan any of this! I did not sit down and announce, ‘Right, this is exactly what the Zeitgeist demands! This is the film that must be made now!’ My friend asked me whether I’d like to write something, and I just happened to have a bit of time off, really.” So Mr. Fry launched himself into the project-or rather, eased into it-and before he knew it, he was being asked to direct the thing as well.

And in an age when heirs and heiresses and their banal yet profligate routines-not to mention Presidential progeny partying in Bond Street lofts-have been elevated to cultural icons and we follow suit willingly, drudging from store launch to movie premiere to insipid benefit, Waugh’s work does seem all too appropriate-all of it “too, too dull,” as his Bright Young Things proclaim, yet somehow necessary.

This is the first film Mr. Fry has ever directed, though certainly not the first time he has had contact with Waugh-in 1988, he acted in A Handful of Dust to great acclaim. Bright Young Things (the epithet that Waugh bestows on the novel’s young protagonists-capitalized, naturally) has received some criticism from the perennially grumpy English press. It doesn’t stick to the plot! they whined. The ending’s all different! It’s just too nice! None of that bothers Mr. Fry, who has an intuitive feel for how to transform Waugh’s acerbic prose to cinema.

“I was in fact speaking to Mike Nichols about what cinema can and can’t do just the other night,” he explains, spinning one of his many tales. “You see, the moment you put a camera on a person expressing an emotion, no matter how absurd and ridiculous it may seem, it becomes beautiful and tender and lovely and neurotic. In Waugh, there is a sense of the malice of time and chance; it is as though fate just bats people along, but the camera sees the blood-and it becomes real. If you’re as patient and surreal, light, stylized and entirely unpsychological as Waugh invariably is, no one is going to sit through all that disengagement. I suppose you could do it as an event, a happening with megaphones, and you could go to it with all your artsy friends and find it very entertaining.”

But Mr. Fry concedes: “On the other hand, if you do sentimentalize your characters too much, and they’re too nice and cute and they all have pain and they’re all of that, then you’ve lost the whole point of doing this in the first place.”

Even if he had no spectacular urgency to make a cultural statement with Bright Young Things, Mr. Fry is quick to point out just how historically apt the subject matter is. “I mean, here we have this tribe of characters,” he says, referring not only to his Bright Young Things, but our contemporary and considerably more lackluster candidates. “I imagine you’d agree when I say this is not exactly something that’s alien to us. After all, we think we’re really the age of celebrity more than any other! It’s convenient to forget that this was, in fact, the pioneer generation! In the 1890’s, you certainly didn’t have your own language, your own dress, your own music-you just morphed into your parents, whalebone corset, mustaches and all. Suddenly, in the 1920’s, parents found it completely confounding: ‘What are they doing? Listening to this jungle music, driving cars around, getting drunk on cocktails, taking narcotics! They have no respect.’ On top of which, girls and boys were subverting their own sexuality-girls by flattening their chests, cutting off their hair, and in the boys’ case, wearing makeup. Everything’s gone mad!”

The sandwich generation did not grow up in what Mr. Fry calls “hushed houses,” with portraits of their older brothers swathed in black. “To them, World War I was the utter betrayal! For 100 years, mustachioed men had dictated the politics in Europe as kings and kaisers and emperors. When it was over, young kids were just not going to take it anymore. They could see in the eyes of their parents the loss of faith-that this continuity of the Victorian era into the golden Edwardian summer had been completely fucked up. And their parents knew it and they knew it, and it wasn’t going to happen again.”

Waugh knew where the Bright Young Things were headed. Despite the fact that the novel was published in 1930, Adam Fenwick-Symes, his protagonist, is seen in the novel’s epilogue on a battlefield reading a love letter from the girl he was never rich enough to marry. As the novel’s moral backbone, Father Rothschild (the Jewish Jesuit), points out: “Wars don’t start nowadays because people want them. We long for peace, and fill our newspapers with conferences about disarmament and arbitration, but there is a radical instability in our whole world order, and soon we shall all be walking into the jaws of destruction again.”

-Jessica Joffe

The Transom Also Hears ….

It’s not reason enough to cut back on the croutons at the Condé Nast cafeteria’s salad bar or to trim some of those expense accounts, but the publisher is a little poorer this week. The magazine empire’s parent company, Advance Magazine Publishers, was never paid the $85,866 they were owed for a two-page Bill Blass ad that ran in domestic and international editions of the November 2003 Vogue. And it looks like they never will. Apparel Group International, a licensee for Bill Blass New York, has been in liquidation since May and had their assets seized by HSBC. So, although Advance filed suit on Aug. 27 in New York State Supreme Court, the suit will probably be dismissed. “The lawsuit is over,” said Advance’s attorney, Sam Grafton. “They could recover from the bank, if there is a surplus-and there is never a surplus. When assets are surrendered to a bank, it means there is no equity.”

-M.B. Stealing Beauties