Moment of Friday: Why Mimi Pond loves Mike Leigh's ugly '70s couch

Moment of Friday: Why Mimi Pond loves Mike Leigh's ugly '70s couch
In her new graphic novel, artist and screenwriter Mimi Pond tells the story of her years as a waitress in an Oakland diner in the late 1970s. Seen here: a detail of a panel from the book. (Mimi Pond / Drawn & Quarterly)

Screenwriter and graphic novelist Mimi Pond says that when she watches a film, one of the things she notices most is the set design. She loved the bright color palette of Jacques Demy's "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and couldn't get enough of the lush Victorian interiors of Mike Leigh's "Topsy-Turvy."

"I remember going to see that movie," she says of Leigh's film. "It was at 9:30 at night and we had a kid and I was like, 'What am I doing out at 9:30? It's so late!' But then the opening credits came on and I was like, 'I want this to last forever.'"


So, for Moment of Friday, Pond went with a YouTube video that conveys equally fantastic set design: a clip from "Abigail's Party," a British television flick, also by Leigh, which features all kinds of late-1970s design awesomeness.

"The first thing that caught my eye is that couch," Pond says. "It's that horrible ocher and it clashes in the most garish way with the orange dress that [actress] Alison Steadman is wearing. There's wallpaper going on too, and those trays of classic 1970s party snacks."

The story the set tells is as revealing as any dialogue uttered by the characters.

"It's very staunchly middle class," Pond says. "It captures this very interesting moment in British life. It's post-World War II and working-class people have moved up to being middle class, in a way that was different from the United States. England was such a stratified society of working class and upper class, with a small merchant class. So there was this very big division. But, suddenly, after the war, more people have money and they become more comfortable. But they still have that working class edge to them."

The film — about a group of neighbors who have gathered for a very uncomfortable cocktail party — is in many ways about the ambitions of the British middle class, says Pond. "It's very aspirational." (Pond sent me another terrific scene from the film, in which bossy Beverly tries to instruct mousy Angela on how to apply lipstick. It provides a close-up view of Steadman's generously applied eye shadow.)

Pond's interest in interiors is something that translates to her own work, which extends to the 1980s when she illustrated fashion stories for the Village Voice and wrote "The Valley Girls' Guide to Life," not to mention the first full-length episode of "The Simpsons." In more recent years, Pond has done comics for the Los Angeles Times on a range of topics, including "How to Dress for L.A.'s Cold Weather" and her takes on Hollywood Forever and the odd jobs of Los Angeles.

In her graphic novel, "Over Easy," published this year, she chronicles her post-art school years in Northern California, when she worked as a waitress at quirky neighborhood diner in Oakland. In the book, there are a whole lot of interiors.

"I have an obsession with restaurant supplies," she says. "The napkin dispensers, the stocked shelves, those quilted backsplashes, the green enamel milkshake machines, the pie towers and the straw dispensers."

All of these interiors are lovingly depicted in her book in varying shades of Veridian green, from the coffee makers to the plates of fried eggs to the steamy dishwasher in the kitchen. "As a kid, we didn't eat out much, so seeing these things was a treat," she says. "That was the thing that led me to go work in a restaurant. It was an environment where I felt happy."

That same environment inspired her first graphic novel.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah. You can follow Mimi Pond @pimimond.