five fashion films that broke the mold

The curators of the Fashion in Film Festival give us the down-low on their five favorite films being screened at this year’s event.

by James Anderson
07 March 2017, 4:00pm

Film buffs and fashion fanatics annually unite at the Fashion in Film Festival, a London-based event originally arising from a Central Saint Martins research project in 2006. The collision of style and celluloid is now cranked up to the max, as 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the event. With a theme of Wearing Time: Past, Present, Future, Dream, the program — curated by Tom Gunning and Marketa Uhlirova — will encompass all manner of moving-image gems, screened throughout central and East London venues during March.

From experimental shorts, documentaries, artist films, newsreels, features, and fashion films, expect to see works by Nick Knight, artists Jane and Louise Wilson (who respond to Stanley Kubrick's unmade film The Aryan Papers), Richard Massingham, John Maybury, and Alain Resnais, among many others. An array of related talks, panel discussions, and an exhibition further enhances the proceedings.

Here, Fashion in Film co-curator Marketa Uhlirova talks i-D through her five favorite films from this year's festival.

The Inferno Unseen
"In 2009 I was doing some research in the French film archives when the film producer Serge Bromberg told me very excitedly about 12 hours of unbelievable film rushes they had recently acquired from the widow of Henri-Georges Clouzot, made in the 60s for his film The Inferno that was never finished. I was then shown some of the experimental screen tests featuring Romy Schneider, and remember sitting there completely mesmerized, almost falling off my chair.

Ever since then, my dream has been to produce a new cut purely focusing on this material as well as the wardrobe and fabric tests, and I am so grateful to Serge at Lobster Films and Kiri Inglis at MUBI for embracing this idea. Get ready for a visual extravaganza of surfaces, colors, textures, shapes, and light play. And the temporality of these screen tests is completely striking too."

"In Which We Live: Being the Life Story of a Suit Told by Itself"
"This short film is a charming autobiography of a male suit, directed during the Second World War by Richard Massingham. The suit tells 'his' story through time, how he is carefully purchased and meticulously cared for, how he serves his master at his wedding and weathers the various spillages that come with small children… until eventually he is remade into kids clothing. There is a very clear agenda here to do with the spirit of 'Make Do and Mend,' and in that respect the film can be considered a propaganda. But I think it is strikingly relevant to our thinking about sustainability and resourcefulness today."

The Color of Pomegranates
"The Color of Pomegranates by the artist and filmmaker Sergei Parajanov is, to my mind, one of the boldest and most uncompromising visions of what cinema could be. It's hardly surprising that Parajanov was heavily persecuted and censored in Soviet Russia; his work hardly fit into the official socialist realist formula. The film portrays the inner life of the eighteenth-century poet Sayat Nova, and matches this with its own cinematic poetry. I'd say it is almost unparalleled in the sheer visual impact it creates with surfaces, colors, and textures and all those wonderful Kurdish and Armenian textiles. And yet, it is also a disciplined piece of filmmaking. There is a certain rawness about it, it feels 'unprocessed' — in fact, it was made with pretty meager means — the filmmakers didn't have access to expensive color stock, special effects, lighting, or sophisticated post-production techniques. We are showing a recent digital restoration of the film, which really must be seen on the big screen."

Opening Night
"I first saw this film some years ago, and thought it was completely fascinating, while, I should add, a friend of mine fell asleep! It is a film about an aging female actress whose next role about an aging woman is a little too close to the skin. As she grapples with her role, she gradually allows her private neuroses to get hold of her. Primarily, this is a masterful portrayal of acting, of that moment of assuming, and owning a role, and what that does to one's sense of the self. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's more recent Oscar-winning Birdman, which surely was an homage to this film, doesn't quite achieve its multi-layered complexity, nor does it manage to portray the protagonist's tensions and anxieties with the same bravura. That said, what I liked about Birdman was the gender switch — now the focus is on male pathos for a refreshing change!"

"Yakov Protazanov's 1924 film Aelita boasts some of the most daring avant-garde designs ever seen on the silent screen. Just like the sets, the costumes for the sequences set on Mars were approached in a sculptural manner, and were executed in 'modern' industrial materials such as metal sheets and foils, celluloid, and plexiglass. Somewhat ironically, their author, the constructivist artist Alexandra Exter, was criticized by fellow artists and critics for making them too flamboyant, too spectacular. Because of these 'futuristic' designs, the film is typically classified as science-fiction. But in some ways this is a little misleading. There is a lot more to this film, which to me really speaks of the anxieties and future expectations of post-revolutionary Soviet Russia."

The festival takes place from March 11 to 26, at the following venues: The Barbican, Curzon Soho, Curzon Bloomsbury, Genesis Cinema, Prince Charles Cinema, Rio Cinema, Picturehouse Central, The Horse Hospital, Central Saint Martins, and The Hoxton.


Text James Anderson

opening night
fashion in film festival
in which we live: being the life story of a suit told by itself
the color of pomegranates
the inferno unseen