The Colour of Nothingness

Costumes of invisibility and transformation in early detective films and literature

An illustrated lecture by Guest Curator Tom Gunning, Professor in the Art Department and the Cinema and Media Committee at the University of Chicago.

With live musical accompaniment.

The modern detective genre deals with the problem of identification in a society where identity is no longer emblazoned in outward appearances. The arrest of a criminal depends not only upon capture, but also, and even more fundamentally, on identification. The ability to disguise oneself becomes an essential strategy for criminal behaviour, at least in the imagination of crime fiction. The influential film scholar Tom Gunning will trace early film criminals’ visual identity, focusing on their acts of disappearance and transformation that owe much to the realms of magic and early trick film. Under special scrutiny will be the black costume, the body suit and masks worn by such nemeses of the law as Fantômas and Irma Vep of the Vampire gang in popular French crime serials of the 1910s.


BFI Southbank NFT2 Saturday 24 May 2008, 15:50