Looking Sharp

This talk will consider what it takes to look sharp, building a special case for the turned-up collar. Beginning with the 1940s, Hollywood film has become distinctive for its iconic images of dangerous masculinity – characters such as Dick Tracy, Sunset Boulevard’s Joe Gillis, and The Godfather’s Il Neri have assumed a visual style that is characteristically suffused in menace and fear. Barry Curtis and Claire Pajaczkowska will show how the cinematic body can be both displayed and shielded through the usage of garment and the play with its shadow. They will argue that garments become gestures towards the actions that may, at the same time, mitigate and express menace: “the turned-up collar erects a fetishistic blade of shadow around the nape of the neck.”

Barry Curtis is Emeritus Professor of Visual Culture at Middlesex University, and a visiting tutor at the Royal College of Art. His book on the “haunted house” in film will be published in 2008.

Claire Pajaczkowska is Senior Research Tutor in the School of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal College of Art, London. She is currently co-editing a book entitled Shame and Sexuality: Psychoanalysis and Visual Culture.