While Sachs doesn’t rehearse his actors before shooting, he does dedicate plenty of time and attention to the costumes. “One of my favorite lines about acting is something Robert Mitchum said when asked what his school of acting is: ‘It’s, Which way do I turn my suit?’”
At one point in preproduction, Sachs recalled Rogowski saying, “I’ve never spent this much time trying on clothes for a movie in my career.” (Rogowski eventually came around to the clothes—in a recent Vanity Fair interview, he said he took some of the pieces home and integrated them into his personal wardrobe.)
As part of that process, Sachs worked closely with costume designer Khadija Zeggaï. “The director gave me artistic direction for each character,” Zeggaï told GQ in an email. “From the first meetings, we built a list of inspirations from the world of cinema, as well as paintings and individual people.” Those inspirations included the French actor Sandrine Bonnaire, Jean-Luc Godard’s Cinemascope epic Contempt, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s brutal metafiction Beware of a Holy Whore.
“It’s a very striking wardrobe for each character that once you’ve seen, you can’t forget,” Sachs told me of the Fassbinder film.
Similarly, clothes make the men—and woman—in Passages. And as the two other vertices of the movie’s central triangle, Whishaw and Exarchopoulos are similarly rendered in strikingly sexy strokes.
The first time we see Exarchopoulos as Agathe, she’s coolly spurning a guy in a club, looking like a Maryam Nassir Zadeh girl waiting for the right proposition. In another scene, Whishaw as Martin goes to dinner in a tie-neck blouse under a brocade blazer, like a college professor styled by Harry Lambert.
But it’s Rogowski who makes the biggest impression. As Tomas, he’s an homme fatale for the ages, a tenured smooth operator who brandishes his sexuality with the reckless abandon of a hormonally charged teenager. In one crucial scene, he shows off his taut musculature in a sheer crop top right out of an Eckhaus Latta look book, paired with loose, leopard-print trousers slung low on his waist. Never mind that that’s the outfit he meets Agathe’s parents in, his rent boy aesthetic visibly unnerving the older couple.