USA 1923. Dir Charles Bryant.

The cult status that Salomé enjoys today owes much to the outlandish, highly stylised sets and costumes à la Aubrey Beardsley. The designer Natacha Rambova was a protégé of the lead actress and producer Nazimova who reportedly sank much of her own money in the film. Despite being a box office failure the film remains a landmark in the history of cinema, bridging the mainstream and the avant-garde. Its radical modernist aesthetic, camp stylisations and deliberately exaggerated acting is a departure from the turn-of-the-century portrayals of Salomé as an overtly eroticized seductress. Nazimova’s film is arguably less exhibitionist than it is a comment on exhibitionism (one reviewer even complained it had little worthy of censorship) as it thematises looking, voyeurism and transgressive sexual desire – an apt homage to Oscar Wilde indeed.

Museum of Moving Image Sunday 24 Apr 2011, 4:30 pm