Museum of the Moving Image will present Birds of Paradise, a special edition of the London-based Fashion in Film Festival that will focus on costume as a form of cinematic spectacle. The two-weekend film series, from April 15 through 24, 2011, ranges widely through early cinema, Hollywood exotica, and the American underground, and features screenings, guest speakers, and silent films with live music.
From the exquisitely opulent films of the silent era to the lavishly stylized underground films of the 1940s through 1970s, costume has played a significant role in cinema as a vital medium for showcasing movement, change, light, and color. "The Fashion in Film Festival has established itself as a lively and wonderfully programmed event that spans a wide range of genres and periods, finding a common link on the medium's emphasis on visual spectacle and dazzling excess," said the Museum's Chief Curator, David Schwartz.
Fashion in Film: Birds of Paradise features nearly two dozen films including rare screenings of Nino Oxilia's Rapsodia Satanica (1915/1917), Jack Smith's Normal Love (1964), Jose Rodriguez-Soltero's Lupe (1966), and Alexandre Volkoff's Secrets of the Orient (1928). There will also be a program devoted to artist, photographer, and filmmaker Steven Arnold-a muse and model of Salvador Dalí's-whose Los Angeles circle resembled Warhol's Factory. Additionally, avant-garde works by Ron Rice, Kenneth Anger, and James Bidgood's Pink Narcissus (1971) will be shown.
Other screenings include classic films such as Cecil B. DeMille's Male and Female (1919), Erich von Stroheim's The Merry Widow (1925), Robert Siodmak's Cobra Woman (1944), and Josef von Sternberg's The Devil Is a Woman (1935). All silent film will be accompanied by live music, by Stephen Horne, Donald Sosin, or Makia Matsumara.
"These programs explore episodes in film history that foreground costume, adornment, and styling as vehicles of sensuous pleasures and enchantment," said Marketa Uhlirova, Festival Curator. "The program forges a link between the visual intensity of underground cinema and the dreamlike world of silent cinema. In their magical, sometimes, phantasmagorical tableaux, costume and artifice are not merely on display. Instead, they dazzle, seduce, surprise, or dramatically metamorphose, becoming a type of special effect."
Founded in 2005, Fashion in Film (fashioninfilm.com) is an exhibition, research, and education project based at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. Birds of Paradise, Fashion in Film's second collaboration with Museum of the Moving Image, was organized in partnership with Yale University, the Center for the Humanities, and the Graduate Center at the City of New York.
This season of Fashion in Film runs in conjunction with a program of seminars at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (April 19 and May 2), and will be followed by a symposium on Orientalism in cinema at Yale University in November of this year. For more information, visit www.fashioninfilm.com
The program was curated by Marketa Uhlirova, with assistance from Ronald Gregg, Stuart Comer, Eugenia Paulicelli, and Inga Fraser, and organized for Moving Image by Chief Curator David Schwartz.
Festival advisors: Serge Bromberg, Alistair O'Neill, Eric de Kuyper, Ronny Temme, Christel Tsilibaris, Marc Siegel. Supported by the British Council; the Italian Cultural Institute of New York; Film London, Arts Council England, and London College of Fashion. The season is part of the PMI2 Project funded by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for the benefit of the United States and UK Higher Education Sectors.
SCHEDULE FOR ‘FASHION IN FILM FESTIVAL: BIRDS OF PARADISE (APRIL 15-24, 2011)
Films are included with Museum admission unless otherwise noted and take place at the Museum.
Jack Smith'S NORMAL LOVE AND UNDERGROUND OPULENCE
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 7:00 P.M.
Introduced by Marketa Uhlirova and David Schwartz
Live music by Makia Matsumara
Bursting with color, this program reconnects the avant-garde queer sensibility of the underground with some genres in early film that-with their ornamental costumes and décor-anticipate some of the richness of the underground's camp aestheticism. Total running time: 140 mins.
Tit for Tat (La Peine du talion)
Dir. Gaston Velle. 1906. France. Digital projection. Gloriously winged insects seek revenge for the practice of lepidoptery. Velle's richly colored film is one of the finest examples of its kind.
Dir. Segundo de Chomón. 1907. France. Digital projection. The special effects pioneer Segundo de Chomón reinterprets a famous stage illusion in which a statue turns into a butterfly fairy and performs a number of ravishing costume transformations.
Dir. Kenneth Anger, with Yvonne Marquis. 1949. 16mm. Puce Moment pays tribute to the mythological Hollywood of the Jazz Age and the perversely luxurious tastes and lifestyles of such female sirens as Mae Murray, Marion Davies, and Gloria Swanson.
The Pearl Fisher (Le pêcheur de perles)
Dir. Ferdinand Zecca. Pathé Frères. 1907. France. Digital projection. A deep-sea diver encounters marvelous creatures in an underwater kingdom.
Dir. Jack Smith. 1963. With Diana Baccus, Mario Montez. 16mm print courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York. After completing Flaming Creatures, Smith shot the more ambitious Normal Love in dazzling color, with elaborate sets (including a Busby Berkeleyesque multitiered cake made by Claes Oldenburg) and costumes inspired by horror films and Maria Montez epics.
SECRETS OF THE ORIENT (GEHEIMNISSE DES ORIENTS/SHÉHÉRAZADE)
SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2:00 P.M.
Live music by Stephen Horne
Dir. Alexandre Volkoff. 1928. 126 mins. Imported 35mm print from the National Film Center, Tokyo. With Marcella Albani, D. Dmitriev, Brigitte Helm. Germany/France. This exquisite fantasy of an escape into the "Orient" features over-the-top ornamental sets by Ivan Lochakoff and sensuous costumes by Boris Bilinsky, a magnificent blend of Eastern and Western motifs. With its paradisical atmosphere and a sumptuously stencil-colored sequence, the film is a fairytale world of fancy filled with adventure, magic, mystery, and harem dancers.
MALE AND FEMALE
SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 5:00 P.M.
Introduced by Inga Fraser
Live music by Stephen Horne
Dir. Cecil B. DeMille. 1919. 97 mins. 35mm print from George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. With Gloria Swanson, Thomas Meighan. In this film's notorious dream sequence, Gloria Swanson dramatically enters a lions' den decked out in a lavish all-white robe and a headdress made of pearls, beads, and peacock feathers. The showstopping outfit, designed by Mitchell Leisen, was so heavy that Swanson required two crew members to help her move. Inga Fraser is associate curator of Fashion in Film at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London.
A DOUBLE BILL ON COSTUME AND EXCESS (DEDICATED TO KENNETH ANGER)
SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 7:00 P.M.
"America is the Pleasure Dome of the world . . . There'll always be a penalty to pay for these artificial paradises." -Kenneth Anger
The Devil Is a Woman
Dir. Josef von Sternberg. 1935. 76 mins. 35mm. With Marlene Dietrich, Cesar Romero. Fashion in Film Festival invited Kenneth Anger to pair Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome with another film, and he suggested "something by [costume designer] Travis Banton for von Sternberg or DeMille." The Devil Is a Woman, like Anger's film, makes masquerade its leitmotif. Dietrich's uber-sensuous Concha Perez enjoys a game of seduction while flaunting Banton's veils, outlandish headpieces, fans, and fringes.
Preceded by: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome Dir. Kenneth Anger. 1954/1966. 38 mins. 16mm. With Samson De Brier, Marjorie Cameron, Joan Whitney, Anaïs Nin. A hedonistic costume extravaganza through and through. The idea for the film was in fact born from a masquerade party Anger attended in 1953. Anger transformed this experience into a hallucinatory cinematic vision, a ritual that is both enigmatic and idiosyncratic.
DREAMS OF DARKNESS AND COLOR
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2:00 P.M.
Introduced by Eugenia Paulicelli
Live music by Stephen Horne
This program explores the role of costume in several silent cinema journeys into darkness, all of which are executed in color. Presented with support from the Italian Cultural Institute of New York. Total running time: 80 mins.
The Red Spectre (Le Spectre rouge)
Dir. Segundo de Chomón. 1907. France. Digital projection. In a dark cavern, a devil-like magician performs a series of tricks, putting to great use his magnificent cloak.
The Pillar of Fire (La Danse du feu)
Dir. Georges Méliès. 1899. France. Digital projection. With Jeanne d'Alcy. A demon conjures a woman wearing a voluminous white dress who performs a dance à la Loïe Fuller.
The Butterflies (Le Farfalle)
Dir. Unknown. 1904. Italy. Digital projection. Geishas dance and play with a butterfly woman whom they have imprisoned within a cage. Her lover comes to rescue her, only to be killed by the group. A butterfly revenge ensues.
Dir. Nino Oxilia. 1917. Italy. 35mm. With Lyda Borelli. A prime example of the diva genre, Rapsodia Satanica is a masterpiece of silent Italian cinema. It features Lyda Borelli as Alba d'Oltrevita in a Faustian tale of a woman's search for eternal youth and worldly pleasures.
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 4:30 P.M.
Dir. James Bidgood. 1971. 71 mins. 35mm. With Bobby Kendall, Don Brooks. With a background in still photography and stage costume design but no training in film, Bidgood shot his cult classic Pink Narcissus on the cheap, using 8mm and 16mm stock. A series of homoerotic fantasies, the film has a singular aesthetic that is at once highly camp and deliberately trashy. Its charming naiveté evokes such early film pioneers as Méliès and de Chomón.