2008 | If Looks Could Kill

The 2nd Fashion in Film Festival in London

10 - 31 May 2008

London | Bristol

Supported by Oasis

From stolen pearls to a glove left at the scene of the crime, from an excess of red lipstick to the postmodern gangster silhouette, the 2nd Fashion in Film Festival: “If Looks Could Kill” explores the compelling links between cinema, fashion, crime and violence. Tackling themes such as disguise , the expression of desire, juvenile delinquency and the corruption of beauty, the festival features a string of underworld characters and their prosecutors whose highly effective costume, styling and sartorial gestures helped define cinematic genres from detective to thriller, gangster, film noir and horror .

Kick-starting the festival are newly commissioned artist films screened at Tate Modern, followed by other highlights such as the rare screenings of Dario Argento’s landmark Italian horror The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970); Elio Petri’s über-stylish futuristic thriller The Tenth Victim (1965); Mario Bava’s extravagant horror Blood and Black Lace (1963), set in a fashion salon; Vicente Aranda’s Fata Morgana (1965) based on, and starring Spain’s favourite ‘60s top model Teresa Gimpera; and Cindy Sherman’s darkly humorous flick Office Killer (1997). The festival is proud to present several London and UK premieres including Arne Mattsson’s Mannequin in Red (1958), filmed in stunning Eastmancolor, Kim Yong-gyun’s chilling thriller The Red Shoes (2005), and Karl Anton’s 1923 silent comedy The Kidnapping of Fux Banker, accompanied by a newly commissioned musical performance by DJ Charles Kriel. The vibrant programme also features a day of talks at the ICA: “TAKING STOCK: Cinema’s Reservoir of Criminal Looks and Gestures,” and more talks and film introductions by designers, critics and historians including Anna Battista, Bella Freud, Tom Gunning, Dylan Jones, Gilda Williams and Alice Rawsthorn.

Bringing together films from over ten countries, “If Looks Could Kill” presents an exciting opportunity to see highly acclaimed speakers, as well as a chance to revisit iconic classics and to discover rare archival gems. Spanning the last 3 weeks in May, “ If Looks Could Kill” runs at BFI Southbank, Ciné lumière, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Tate Modern and The Horse Hospital.

Fashion in Film is a collaborative research project based at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and supported by numerous cultural and educational organisations internationally. Its wide-reaching biennial festivals showcase films in which fashion and costume play vital roles.

Programme Curator: Marketa Uhlirova
Associate Curator: Christel Tsilibaris






Themes and Events

Co-Conspirators (New Artists Commissions)

Exploring a range of subjects such as cursed clothing, obsessive gestures and desires, and the history of the cinematic slap, eight artists have collaborated with the Festival to create new films that explore the themes of “If Looks Could Kill”.
Co-conspirators is guest-curated by editor and curator Louise Clarke and writer and curator Laura McLean-Ferris.

More information »

Taking Stock

The devil is in the detail and, err… no, it doesn’t always wear Prada. Travel with us through time and space to explore cinema’s stock of looks, sartorial attitudes and gestures that, however subtle or unexpected, are essential to the crime genre.

More information »

The Masks of Villains

Tom Gunning’s lecture ‘The Colour of Nothingness: costumes of invisibility and transformation in early detective films and literature’, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, Elio Petri’s The Tenth Victim and Richard Fleischer’s Follow me Quietly.

More information »

Criminal Gestures and Transformations

Brice Dellsperger’s Body Double (X), Abel Ferrara’s Ms .45, Marleen Gorris’s A Question of Silence and Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer.

More information »

Criminal Desire

Christel Tsilibaris’s film talk ‘Silent Film’s Thieves, Jewel Robberies and Cases of the Lost Glove’, Karel Lamac’s The Kidnapping of Mr Fux the Banker (with a cameo by the couturier Paul Poiret), Joe May’s Asphalt, Graham Cutts’s The Rat (featuring Ivor Novello) and Frank Borzage’s Desire (with Marlene Dietrich).

More information »

Peeling the Groomed Surface

If cinema is to go by, behind the glamorous surface of fashion there is often a sinister world of violence, oppression and danger. Get a clue from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Chronicle of a Love, Arne Mattsson’s Mannequin in Red, John M. Stahl’s Leave her to Heaven, René Clément’s Purple Noon, Vicente Aranda’s Fata Morgana and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger.

More information »

Dress, Attitude, Delinquency

William Morgan’s The Violent Years, Sidney J. Furie’s The Boys, Joseph Tovares’s Zoot Suit Riots and Mike Hodges’s Get Carter.

More information »