Last month, Ava DuVernay signed up to direct two projects in quick succession: Disney‘s “A Wrinkle In Time” and the sci-fi flick, “Intelligent Life,” which is due to be the filmmakers’s next movie, with production kicking off this summer. But she’s not yet done adding projects to her plate.
The latest is “The Battle Of Versailles,” which is not the period picture that you’d think it might be. Instead, it’s a fashion world drama centered around the November 28, 1973 fashion show that took place at the Palace of Versailles that was a “Captain America: Civil War” style battle between five French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior) and an American team (Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, Stephen Burrows and Anne Klein), with both sides showing off their goods in front of the world’s elite. The movie will be based on Robin Givhan‘s book, “The Battle Of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into The Spotlight And Made History” — here’s the synopsis:
On November 28, 1973, the world’s social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international fashion show. By the time the curtain came down on the evening’s spectacle, history had been made and the industry had been forever transformed. This is that story.
Conceived as a fund-raiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV’s palace, in the late fall of 1973, five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. An audience filled with celebrities and international jet-setters, including Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Paloma Picasso, and Andy Warhol, were treated to an opulent performance featuring Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker, and Rudolph Nureyev. What they saw would forever alter the history of fashion.
The Americans at the Battle of Versailles — Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows — showed their work against the five French designers considered the best in the world — Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Plagued by in-fighting, outsized egos, shoestring budgets, and innumerable technical difficulties, the American contingent had little chance of meeting the European’s exquisite and refined standards. But against all odds, the American energy and the domination by the fearless models (ten of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had officially taken their place on the world’s stage, prompting a major shift in the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come. As the curtain came down on The Battle of Versailles, American fashion was born; no longer would the world look to Europe to determine the stylistic trends of the day, from here forward, American sensibility and taste would command the world’s attention.
DuVernay will co-write the movie with Michael Starrbury (“The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete“), and it’s probably a bit of a way off. That said, it sounds like it could be a lot of ’70s set-fun. To get a taste, check out the trailer for the documentary “Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution” below.