The Past: Returns, Recalls, Renewals

2017 | Wearing Time: Past, Present, Future, Dream

And then if [costumes of the past] were worn and given life by intelligent actors and actresses, we shall be astonished at ever having been able to mock them so stupidly. Without losing anything of its ghostly attraction, the past will recover the light and movement of life and will become present.  

– Charles Baudelaire


This strand delves into fashion’s contradictory impulse to return to, and suppress, the past. It probes into film’s fascination with fashion histories and mythologies, and the power of dress to bring the past back to life.

Clothing and style do not merely designate the past, they also mark the periods and stages of individual lives. Narratives of ageing and rejuvenation depend on convincing changes in fashions, hair, and make-up. The opening of an old closet arouses nostalgia and feelings of loss for the body that inhabited the now-empty clothes. There is something uncanny about rediscovering an old familiar dress and indeed, it can awaken revenants that return to haunt the living.


Resurrecting and re-Editing the Cinema Diva

18:30, 11 March, The Horse Hospital
Introduced by the festival’s co-curator Tom Gunning
Tickets here

Underground filmmaker Jack Smith once described film stars as ‘flaming creatures’. Being enveloped by light, female stars especially owe much of their aura to the costuming and artifice that go into constructing their image. This programme brings together female stars from cinema’s past – re-imagined, and even re-assembled – from a later perspective that abstracts them from a narrative context, and allows us to see them precisely as incandescent images of desire clothed in costumes of fantasy and role play. More »

Opening Night

20:30, 11 March, Curzon Soho
Introduced by Kim Coleman
Tickets here

Cassavetes’ Opening Night is one of cinema’s finest portrayals of ageing, while also being a superb exploration of acting. It has recently enjoyed renewed interest following the 2014 release of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman, with which it has notable parallels. More »

Lola Montes

18:00, 12 March, Genesis Cinema
Introduced by Cathy Haynes with Tony Paley
Tickets here

The final film by director Max Ophüls presents the real-life story of the scandalous nineteenth-century courtesan Lola Montes as it might have been presented by circus showman P.T. Barnum. In breath-taking cinemascope and eye-popping colour, spectacle competes with moments of tenderness and loss as Montes’s life is replayed as an acrobatic fashion show version of Remembrance of Things Past. More »

Tony Takitani

18:30, 13 March, The Hoxton, Holborn
Introduced by Alessandra Vaccari
Tickets here

Set against the background of postwar and modern-day Japan, the plot follows the life of Tony Takitani and Eiko, the young woman he marries. Eiko’s obsession with designer clothes and accessories is so powerful that it ends up consuming her and even threatens to undo her. More »

Don’t Look Now

18:30, 16 March, Picturehouse Central
Tickets here

A red hooded coat – that fairy tale trope of Little Red Riding Hood – gains an ominous significance in Nicolas Roeg’s masterful thriller. Based on a novella by Daphne du Maurier, the film tells of a married couple coming to terms with their daughter’s accidental death by drowning. More »

Last Year in Marienbad

21:00, 16 March, Picturehouse Central
With a post-screening discussion between Caroline Evans and Alexander Fury, plus a surprise guest
Tickets here

This masterpiece of 1960s art cinema sets its mediation on time, memory and longing within the most fashionable of locations – the Marienbad spa and its endless corridors and manicured gardens (the film was in fact shot in and around the Bavarian palaces of Nymphenburg, Schleissheim and Amalienburg). Perhaps no film has so profoundly challenged the viewer with a truly ambiguous approach to time, where truth mingles with lie, and chronology blurs with fantasy. More »

In the Mood for Love

18:00, 17 March, Curzon Soho
Introduced by Ian Haydn Smith
Tickets here

Wong Kar-Wai’s meditation on the way layers of separation create a mood for love in the close confines of 1960s Hong Kong derives an erotic atmosphere from the restrictions on romance. Two characters, married to other people who they discover are having an affair, actually avoid initiating their own affair in spite of mutual attraction. More »


15:00, 18 March, Curzon Soho
Introduced by Phoebe English
Tickets here

Vertigo ranked highest in the latest Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll of film scholars and critics. Although a critical and box office flop when released, through the years, Hitchcock’s complex erotic thriller about the death of love and its possible return has gained an enthralled audience. More »

Dressing History

18:30, 18 March, The Horse Hospital
A film talk by Silvia Vacirca.
Tickets here

Although period dramas these days are typically criticised if ‘historically inaccurate’, costuming the past in cinema amounts to much more than merely capturing historical dress and styles in exacting detail. In showing the look of the past, films inevitably display our own relationship with it. This talk will closely examine some of cinema’s most extravagant examples of costume drama. More »

Beyond the Rocks

13:00, 19 March, Rio Cinema
Introduced by Adrian Garvey, with live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Tickets here

Sam Wood’s recently rediscovered film captures two of the biggest stars of the silent screen, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, in what remains the only film where the pair appear together. Cast as would-be lovers in a gloriously doomed romantic affair, she plays a habitual clotheshorse, showcasing numerous glamorous gowns, while he cuts a picture of elegance in a wardrobe designed by his then lover Natacha Rambova. More »

Om Shanti Om

20:30, 20 March, Genesis Cinema
Tickets here

Farah Khan, one of the few mainstream female directors in contemporary Bollywood, is not the only Khan associated with Om Shanti Om. Megastar Shah Rukh Khan plays (ironically) an unknown film extra Om, in love with Shanti, a larger-than-life 1970s film star. The film’s title is a tongue-in-cheek pun that reprises a religious incantation and film song “Om Shanti Om” from Subhash Ghai's 1980 thriller Karz. It tells a story of revenge and reincarnation, in which Om and Shanti must find each other by decoding clues left behind by their​ onscreen doubles. More »