Tag Archives: Fashion in Film festival

Look sharp: support the Fashion in Film Festival 2017

Not all of Silent London’s best-loved festivals are devoted solely to pre-sound film. A longstanding favourite here at Silent London HQ is the wonderfully glamorous Fashion in Film Festival. This event’s focus on cinematic design and unforgettable visuals, plus its enthusiasm for digging into the archives, means that silents often feature, of course, but it is always a wide-roaming affair. And this festival is a beautiful thing, a jewel in the London repertory film calendar.

Le Costume à travers les âges – Reconstitué par le couturier Pascault, 1911

This year, the Fashion in Film Festival will take place in London venues from 19-26 March. The full programme has not been unleashed yet, but I do have reason to believe a silent or to may be on the cards. I’m posting today because the Fashion in Film Festival is asking for a little help this year. The organisers have launched a Kickstarter to raise £5,000 before the event begins. If you support them, rewards range from designer knick-knacks such as an Eley Kishimoto tote bag, a copy of the fantastic Birds of Paradise book and tickets and passes for the festival itself. Hurry, the festival passes are running out!

Here’s what the festival team have to say:

The festival celebrates our last ten years and EVERYONE who has been involved in making it a success, contributing or holding our hand. We have lined up an ambitious programme, co-curated with the wonderful Tom Gunning, including an exhibition and some 28 events, with fantastic speakers and some true archival gems we think everyone must see. But some of this is in danger due to a dire funding landscape in the UK. It has been a really tough year!


A Retrospective Look at Corsets, 1920s

And here’s a taste of this year’s programme:

Our programme features cinema’s well-loved as well as neglected masterpieces (Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates, Ophuls’ Lola Montes, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Leisen’s Lady in the Dark, Protazanov’s Aelita), artist films (by Joseph Cornell, Jane and Louise Wilson, Cindy Sherman, Michelle Handelman, Jessica Mitrani), fashion films (by Nick Knight and Lernert & Sander), industry films and many archival gems. There will be talks, film introductions and panel discussions. As special highlights we are staging two film-based performances – with Rachel Owen (at Genesis Cinema) and with MUBI and Lobster Films (at the Barbican).

If you can spare a little money for the festival, I am sure it will be hugely appreciated. Just think of it as paying for your ticket in advance. I did!

Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle – review

Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle
Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle

If a book absolutely, positively, had to be judged by its cover, then Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle would be just fine. This anthology of academic writing comes encased in black, and the cover features a shimmering Serpentine Dancer, her skirts twirling over her head and with her arms outstretched. We know this is a frame enlargement because the rainbow inks daubed on to the frame transform her rippling dress into the wings of a butterfly, or an exotic bird. She is framed by the darkness of the blank stage around her: a woman in a white dress, made into a spectacle by the twin arts of fashion and film. The cover is utterly appropriate and ravishingly gorgeous.

Before you even reach the title page, there are more dancers, swishing their skirts and pointing their toes, reproduced in silvered, coloured inks on matt-black paper. This is an academic book masquerading as a coffee-table tome. You could flick through it for hours (and I did) marvelling at these silver and full-colour illustrations, weighing the heavy paper in your fingers.

But at some point, one must stop flirting and dance with the one that brung you. That is to say, read the darned book. The good news is that that divine creation has been brought to us by the people behind the Fashion in Film Festival and as such it is comprises an intelligent and slightly idiosyncratic approach to its subject. This is not a simple skate through film-costume history. The several contributors are mostly academics and curators, in the fields of performance, design, fashion, literature and film, and their essays are arranged in three groups, relating to different eras.

Continue reading Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle – review

Fashion in Film Festival – Marcel L’Herbier


The Fashion in Film Festival is a movable feast, but one we can always rely on for some wonderful silent film screenings. This year’s event has just begun, and the focus of the festival is the French director Marcel L’Herbier, who worked in both the silent and sound eras, creating captivating, elegant and strange films of staggering beauty. This is what the festival has to say about his silent films:

During the silent period, L’Herbier’s ambition for the cinema was to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, a cinéma totalwhich would synthesise all the arts and draw together architects, artists, set designers, couturiers and costume designers. Among the many major cultural figures he collaborated with were the artists Fernand Léger, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, the composers Darius Milhaud and Arthur Honegger, the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, designers Alberto Cavalcanti and Claude Autant-Lara, and couturiers Paul Poiret, Lucien Lelong (L’Herbier’s cousin) and Louiseboulanger. Paired with his multi-disciplinary collaborative approach, it was L’Herbier’s desire to legitimise and ennoble cinema as the ‘seventh art’ that helped establish him as a seminal figure within Paris’s vibrant cultural milieu of the inter-war years.

Using art, fashion and design as the prisms through which to examine L’Herbier’s diverse body of work, Fashion in Film’s season highlights his lifelong interest in cinematic style and aesthetics. As the costume designer Jacques Manuel once observed, costume for L’Herbier was so often a way of  ‘feeding’ the ‘mechanical eye’ with evocative surfaces and textures, a way of testing the formal elements of cinema itself such as movement, rhythm, light and shadow.

To feed your own eyes, and for a direct lesson in the importance of costume design to L’Herbier’s total vision of cinematic photogénie, watch the festival’s slinky trailer here.

A true multi-disciplinarian, L’Herbier arrived at film-making after considering literature and music as possible careers, and more prosaically, having worked in a uniform factory during the first world war. When Feuillade’s leading lady Musidora took L’Herbier to see Cecil B DeMille’s melodrama The Cheat, he realised the potential of cinema, and starting out in the army’s cinematographic unit, began to learn the art of film-making. However unlikely a start this may seem, even his very first film, a propaganda piece called Rose-France, was ambitiously experimental.


At first, L’Herbier worked for Gaumont, but his artistic dreams soon clashed with the realities of their budgets, and in 1923 he formed his own company, Cinégraphic. You may be familiar with L’Herbier’s silents already, particularly Zola adaptation L’Argent, which is available on DVD from Masters of Cinema. The Fashion in Film Festival is showing L’Argent, as well as sci-fi opera L’Inhumaine (The Inhuman Woman) and doppelganger drama Le Vertige (The Living Image). You can read the full programme of events here. Not showing at the festival, but recently released on Blu-Ray by Flicker Alley in the US, is the Pirandello adaptation Feu Mathias Pascal.

Le Vertige
Le Vertige

To read more about L’Herbier, and the films showing in the Fashion in Film Festival 2013, read Samuel Wigley’s piece on the BFI website, which includes a sumptuous picture gallery. Also, in this month’s issue of Sight & Sound magazine, David Cairns offers an excellent study of the films showing at the festival and a director he describes as “commingling High Seriousness and High Camp in an ecstatic personal vision”. Now, don’t you want to see what that looks like?

Read more and book tickets, here on the Fashion in Film Festival website. The festival runs from 10-19 May.