J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Reel South: The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium

It is sort of like the Louisiana Music Factory for fabric and crafts, but only genuine locals shop there. Jefferson Variety is your one-stop destination store for beads, feathers, and brocade. Whatever you need for your Mardi Gras and parading costumes you can find there. Lindsey Phillips introduces viewers to the employees and customers of Jefferson Variety in the short documentary The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium (trailer here), which airs as part of the current season of Reel South on PBS’s World Channel (hosted by Darius Rucker).

Dressing up and looking good is a way of life in New Orleans. It is not just for Mardi Gras, but that is the Super Bowl of New Orleans parading. It is a lovely tradition that helps make New Orleans such a distinctive place and forges so many friendships amongst the benevolent parade societies—and with the staff of Jefferson Variety.

Phillips gives us a bit of historical background on the store itself and the various traditions it supports, like the Mardi Gras Indian tribes. However, it is mostly about appreciating the colorful costumes that are crafted out of the store’s sequins and boas. Even if you are not a fashionista, the costumes look pretty cool, really because they are so New Orleans. The film also sounds terrific thanks to the on-location recorded performances of Krewe of Eris and the McDonogh No. 35 Marching Band.

You could argue Emporium is an extended commercial for Jefferson Variety, but whatever, you’ll still be sold on it regardless. It is a nice tribute to NOLA culture, brimming with good vibes. Recommended for everyone who digs New Orleans (and the surrounding parishes), The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium airs this Sunday (2/5) on PBS’s World Channel.

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