Ralph Fiennes Makes a Fashion Splash

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Ralph Fiennes in "A Bigger Splash." Credit Jack English/Twentieth Century Fox

Every now and then, a movie succeeds as much because of its style — the clothes, the cars, the hair — as its story. When a guy's coolness leaps out from the screen, there is usually a sexy actor whose sense of style matches how dangerous his character is: Steve McQueen in his black turtleneck, holsters on display, in "Bullitt"; Ryan Gosling in a retro bomber jacket with a scorpion on the back in "Drive."

Add to the list Ralph Fiennes for his role in the Italian thriller "A Bigger Splash."

Mr. Fiennes plays Harry Hawkes, a shady music producer who goes on vacation with his rock star former girlfriend (Tilda Swinton) and her new boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts), packing his ba g full of high-priced designer clothes and bringing along with him heaps of trouble.

To help set the mood of the film — which owes a possible debt to "La Piscine," the 1969 Jacques Deray study of murder and mayhem starring Alain Delon and Jane Birkin — there were 1940s-inspired linen shirts made for Mr. Fiennes at Charvet, the famed Paris clothing shop; billowing trousers from M. Bardelli, the classic Milanese tailor; and one distinctive white, green and gray short-sleeve shirt from Christophe Lemaire that the actor wears while dancing around the house to the Rolling Stones hit "Emotional Rescue."

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Luca Guadagnino, the director of "A Bigger Splash," on the movie's set. Credit Jack English

Naturally, Mr. Fiennes leaves the shirt open — the better to show off his well-maintained 53-year-old torso and to convey a mischievous sexuality.

According to Luca Guadagnino, the director of "A Bigger Splash," the overarching concept was for the clothes to be a "second skin" for Mr. Fiennes, helping him become someone playful and loose, but also "sophisticated and urban."

And Mr. Guadagnino was clearly pleased that Mr. Lemaire sent the sample of the shirt to his costume designer, Giulia Piersanti, having become a fan of the designer sometime around 2010.

Back then, Mr. Lemaire was designing for Hermès and Mr. Guadagnino had just finished "I Am Love," his couture-clad collaboration with Ms. Swinton that has become a favorite among the fashion set. (Many of Ms. Swinton's costumes in "I Am Love" and "A Bigger Splash" were designed by Raf Simons, the former creative director of Jil Sander and Dior.)

"In all my work, the costumes are extremely carefully considered," said Mr. Guadagnino, a Palermo-born 44-year-old who, besides writing and directing films about people finding ways to destroy one another, has directed TV commercials for DKNY and Fendi.

He appears frequently at fashion events in zip-up Maison Margiela sweaters and floral Gucci jackets of the kind that suggest a certain Continental effortlessness, though the prices indicate otherwise.

In fact, his real-life aesthetic is not so far off that of the villain in his latest film, although Mr. Guadagnino is less inclined toward public displays of nudity than Mr. Fiennes's character is.

Was it difficult to persuade Mr. Fiennes to make that particular fashion choice?

"Ralph is one of the greatest actors of the second half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st," Mr. Guadagnino said, sounding as if this was the stupidest thing he had ever been asked. "So, no."

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