After 15th edition
Festival Spotlight
24 July 2015
24.07 - Best Dressed

Ian Haydn Smith


Whether it's the past, present or future, the clothes characters wear in films often hint at more than the period they define. Take Monica Vitti's green coat in "Il Deserto Rosso" (1964) for instance. It contrasts so starkly with the industrial landscape surrounding her, we recognise the sense of alienation she feels before we see any expression on her face. Costume design can inform us about character, narrative and even emotion. It is an integral yet often criminally neglected component of film language.

In Peter Strickland's "The Duke of Burgundy" (2014) the nature of the sado-masochistic relationship is neatly conveyed through the main characters' choice of clothing, initially defining who is dominant or submissive, before the archetypes are unravelled and the clothing loosened. Sally Potter's "Orlando" (1992) employs the eponymous hero's elaborate wardrobe not only to define the period he/she lives in, but also to play with notions of gender and sexuality. While in Mika Ninagawa's "Sakuran" (2007), colour is skilfully deployed to explore the world of the courtesan and the social strata she passes through.

If "The Fifth Element" (1997) and "54: The Director's Cut" (1998/2015) view the future and recent past as an explosion of kitsch, Luchino Visconti's majestic "The Leopard" (1963) employs opulence to capture at the final moments of a dying era. (Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon might just be the best dressed, most beautiful couple cinema has given us, although Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love" also vie for that title.) And in Ursula Antoniak's wordless "Nude Area" (2014), the clothes two girls' wear play a part in a complex sexual game. Like the other films in this programme, they show that everything we wear makes a statement.

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