The first strand, ‘The Past: Returns, Recalls, Renewals’, delves into fashion and film’s capacity to return to – or suppress – the past. There is something uncanny about rediscovering an old familiar dress and indeed, it can awaken ghosts and revenants that return to haunt the living. No film has so well defined a modern sensibility of time as Last Year in Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961), which sets its meditation on the past and memory within the most fashionable locations, the ‘Marienbad Spa’ (the film was in fact filmed in Bavaria). Clothing has the power to transport the wearer, and the viewer, to the past, but it can also be a marker of time. Narratives of aging and rejuvenation depend on convincing changes in fashions, hair, and make-up. Clothes can signal different times of day and accompanying rituals. As a major source of visual spectacle, Hollywood films in the studio era often announced the number of costume changes a leading lady would go through. Even a single garment can measure cinematic time: Hollywood classic Tales of Manhattan (Julien Duvivier, 1964) follows the story of a single tailcoat through the lives of five different owners. In the British wartime propaganda short In Which We Live: Being the Story of a Suit Told by Itself (Richard Massingham, 1943), a suit is not only the star but also the talking protagonist.
The second strand, ‘The Present: the Fabric of Time’, explores fashion and cinema’s power to become manifestations of the present. How can dress or fabric embody cinematic time? How can the processes of making dress, wearing or fashioning oneself make time a tangible, felt entity? This strand tackles this most complex set of riddles largely through special events and talks, with an emphasis on performance, duration and process. In a world premiere at the Barbican, we are proud to team up with Lobster Films and MUBI to present a new cut of never-before seen rushes by French director Henri-Georges Clouzot, made in preparation for his film The Inferno (which remained unfinished in 1964). The awe-inspiring kinetic experiments will be accompanied by a newly commissioned musical score by Rollo Smallcombe. At Central Saint Martins, curators Alistair O’Neill and Inga Fraser will discuss British artist films of the late-20th century, which make explicit links between the materiality of dress and cinema. Works by Alia Syed, Alexis Hunter and David Lamelas will be considered in relation to the legacy of Annabel Nicolson’s iconic performance Reel Time (1973), which conjoined a film projector and a sewing machine through a loop of celluloid. Agnès Varda’s iconic film Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) represents time in its most pressing, existentialist form as it follows protagonist Cléo while she waits for the results of her cancer screening.
The third strand, ‘The Future: What Does It Wear?’, will highlight the cinema as an important platform for expressing utopian as well as dystopian visions of the future. To give a concrete form to one’s idea of the future involves not only taking an imaginative leap into the unfamiliar, but also great resourcefulness and creativity in re-using what already exists. For the future to speak to us, we must be able to recognise ourselves in it; it has to show itself as an unfamiliar version of the present. With science-fiction masterpieces such as Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936), Ikarie XB-1 (Jindrich Polak, 1963) and Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972), the audience will step into imagined worlds where costume and set design play the key role of giving the future a coherent and plausible look.
The final strand, ‘Dream Fashion: the Unconscious’ explores the relation between fashion and dreaming. If cinema itself has frequently been likened to dream, here we pursue more specifically its investment in the dream, reverie and fantasy as a realm in which fashion can truly flourish. Enchanting musicals Lady in the Dark (Mitchell Leisen, 1944) and the Japanese Princess Raccoon (Seijun Suzuki, 2005) will have viewers succumb to unpredictable temporalities in which unconscious recesses of the mind are expressed. And in the silent spectacular Aelita (Yakov Protazanov, 1924), Soviet Russia’s harsh social reality and its hopes of a better future are negotiated against the dream/nightmare of a ‘progressive’ Martian society kitted out in daring futurist-constructivist designs.
Among other films shown at the festival are: Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968), Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958), Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004), Lola Montes (Max Ophuls, 1955), Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1936), Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, 2007), Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972), Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922), My Fancy High Heels (Chao-ti Ho, 2010), and numerous short films from film archives and by artists, including Michelle Handelman, Jane and Louise Wilson and Jessica Mitrani.
In addition to festival curators, the speakers in this year’s festival include: Sir Christopher Frayling (author), Alice Rawsthorn (writer on design and art), Caroline Evans (fashion historian), Alex Fury (fashion journalist), Orsola de Castro (Fashion Revolution), Alice Wilby (Novel Beings), Timothy Long (fashion curator), Inga Fraser (modern art curator), Alistair O’Neill (fashion curator), Djurdja Bartlett (fashion historian), Cathy Haynes (artist and curator), Roger K. Burton (costume designer), Ian Christie (film historian), Alessandra Vaccari (fashion historian), Bel Jacobs (fashion journalist), Rosie Wallin (designer), and Silvia Vacirca (fashion and media scholar).
All silent films will be accompanied by a live musical performance by Stephen Horne.