Seattle Metropolitan and Northwest Film Forum launched the first Screen Style series last year and this weekend brings the second installment with four film programs and a discussion panel uniting the worlds of film and fashion. Style Editor for Seattle Met Laura Cassidy has assembled another smart panel of local creatives with a balance of men and women, edgy and chic. Each panel member selects a film that speaks to style and fashion in a significant way, and the selections both years have been as diverse as the panels themselves.
The panel includes designer Aykut Ozen and business partner Julianna Vezzetti; their Ozen Company made a splash this year, winning first prize at the Independent Designer Runway Show. Mark Mitchell’s magisterial show at the Frye, BURIAL, was a critical smash, and a short documentary on Mitchell and his work by Marcy Stone Francois recently won the International Documentary Challenge’s Audience Award. Chiyo Ishikawa is the Deputy Director for Art at the SAM and as Laura Cassidy puts it: “When I think of SAM and style, I go immediately to Chiyo.” SAM itself brought fashion to the forefront with the Future Beauty show imported from the Kyoto Costume Institute. Jill and Wayne Donnelly co-own the downtown Seattle boutique Baby & Company and selected the series’ final film, and will also create a pop-up shop on the day of the viewing. Jill Donnelly is praised by Cassidy as being a great collaborator with passion, enthusiasm and loads of experience and knowledge in fashion and style.
Cassidy developed the Screen Style series as a means of highlighting good cinema in a unique way, better acquainting the public with cultural figures in the city, and fostering more conversation about style in an intelligent and earnest way. Fashion and film have strongly influenced each other, and when asked Cassidy is able to name many examples of the two worlds meeting
“My first thought was of the Fall 2011 Rodarte show that referenced Days of Heaven. I love that movie, and I adored those clothes. Godard, Louis Malle, Hitchcock—those guys are name-dropped every season. I understand Dolce and Gabanna are obsessed with Fellini.” And within the fashion world, there are many short documentary films being produced around the clothing that reference these auteurs.
Regarding fashion on film, Cassidy is most enthusiastic about the work being done by the design houses themselves. “Have you seen that ridiculous—in a mostly good way—Oliver Zahm Godard-esque fashion week diary short? Or Lagerfeld’s little Chanel doc? You know, that’s where the interesting stuff is at right now; not in the movie theaters but the short films and viral videos that designers and their houses produce.”
In creating the panels for the Screen Styles series, Cassidy strives to select those whom she sees as the most “integrative and adaptable.” She sees many curators and organizers doing this sort of work throughout the city and in talking to Cassidy one is left feeling hopeful that through collaboration and cross-pollination of fields, the various groups can elevate each other.
“People like Sierra Stinson, Robert Yoder, Mariane Lenhardt at MIA Gallery, Jenifer Ward at the Project Room, Robin Held, Jeffrey Hirsch at the Frye, and others that I’ll kick myself for not thinking of at the end of a long day and a crazy week–they’ve been great agents of cross-pollination. Within retail there are shopowners who go beyond exchanging goods and currency. Jenny Klimenkoff at Far 4, the gang at Glasswing, Jesse Poole at E Smith Mercantile, Charlie Schuck at Object, Katherine Anderson at Marigold and Mint—these are people who are doing non-retail things in their retail spaces, and opening up the possibilities.”
I asked a few questions of each of the panelists regarding their selections for the series and their connection to these films.
The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935)
7PM, Friday, December 13.
Your film is perhaps not very well known, but its star certainly is. Dietrich is still a style icon today. What would you say of Dietrich and her style and persona, beyond just this film? And what is behind the film?
Mitchell: “I love that she’s at her best when she’s her most false. Marlene’s performances as a late-in-life cabaret performer were like a wizened puppeteer working inside a very convincing Dietrich suit. She was also a cabaret performer before she made films, and it shows in the Von Sternberg films. She’s really at her most comfortable growling and swaying her way through a song, perfectly lit and made up, often questionably costumed, and not giving a damn about her German accent while playing Spanish, Russian, or what-have-you.”
“As far as film work goes, she’s unappealing to me in The Blue Angel—just a German potato-woman without the make up, eyebrows, Travis Banton costumes, and—most importantly of all—the Von Sternberg lighting. This is the last of the Dietrich/Von Sternberg collaborations and a not very well-hidden representation of the director’s feelings about ‘his’ discovery at the end of their collaborative period, and he really takes it out on her. There’s always a bird, a hat, a man or exploding balloon heading for her flawless makeup. Notice throughout the film that whenever part of her face actually touches Lionel Atwill or Gaylord McSwish—what’shisname…Cesar Romero—you don’t see that part of her face again until [Von Sternberg] cuts away. I have some good make-up stories to share at the screening.”
“Atwill is a lookalike Von Sternberg, and it’s hard not to read it as a rather autobiographical work, although it’s every whore story ever told. It’s like a Telenovela Nana. Also, I love the messy Spanish-ish carnival atmosphere, in contrast with her flawless face and hair, as well as the gentleman actors who surround her, well-groomed and handsome as can be. It works well here, although a similar approach in the The Scarlet Empress didn’t.”
Is there a garment or accessory from the film that is or has been particularly inspiring to you?
Mitchell: My God, man! The trailing pom-pom mantilla is beyond all belief at the top of the film, but then they best it with the white silk square bordered in fringe that she drapes over her enormous peineta about 3/4 of the way through the film. I’ve studied it to death. I live for it when she rolls up in her carnation-covered carriage and suggests that she and Cesar Romero go “have coffee” in this insane get-up that you can’t figure out until they get inside. For coffee. Then you see the entire costume is white fringed shawls draped to allure. Pure Hollywood. I die every time. I have great stories about the all the carnations in the film as well, but you have to come to the screening to hear about that.
Aykut Ozen and Julianna Vezzetti
Kenneth Anger Shorts: Lucifer Rising, Rabbits Moon, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Puce Moment (1950s – 70s)
9PM, Friday, December 13
Kenneth Anger has influenced many well-known directors, but he isn’t a household name. How would you describe his work to someone who has never seen it, especially in the context of why you chose these shorts for the series.
Ozen: “Kenneth Anger’s films are definitely not for everyone, but I believe there’s a great level of inspiration and connection to many different art forms and artists. His work covers many themes: human emotions, good and bad, sex, violence, rebellion. It’s all served in beautifully conceived light and color and cinematography. His choice of costumes, textures and music is mainly what I find inspiring.”
Vezzetti: “Anger turns surreal dreams into film reality. I adore Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton photography. I would not compare them, but I would place them in a category of artists who create strong, transcending statements with all their work. I would simply tell one to keep an open mind in viewing his work. Don’t limit yourself; dive right in.”
Anger’s works are quite varied. How and why did you choose these four shorts among others?
Vezzetti: “I felt these four exuded the most creative inspiration in music, costume design, concept. He was truly ahead of his time in his ability to create such vivid color and imagery. All four films flow well with each other and show Anger’s talent as a multifaceted creator.”
Ozen: “I also love the dark feel of these films without being blatantly goth. There’s a spectrum of beautiful colors and light, yet they can evoke some dark feelings.”
Were there any runner-ups to Anger when you were deciding whom to select?
Ozen: “From the moment we were asked to be a part of this event, Kenneth Anger was the artist that popped in my head. I went back an forth with some other films from different regions, but none of them had the same effect that I was looking to share with other people.”
Vezzetti: “When we were given this opportunity at Screen Style, I knew we had to choose the rarest film and most unlikely film you would see on the big screen. Anger’s work has always been on the top of my list since first seeing Lucifer Rising when I was 17 years old. I love the film and style of Christiane F. by Uli Edel, but it’s quite dark and I felt people should walk out inspired and buzzing from the chosen film.”
Is there a particular piece of clothing or garment from these shorts that you wish you had in your wardrobe?
Ozen: “The gold headdress in Lucifer Rising.”
Vezzetti: “I want all the amazing dresses in Puce Moment.”
Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975)
8PM, Saturday, December 14
Shampoo deals directly with beauty and style in the plot, but there is more than meets the eye. Can you explain the setting and themes to those who aren’t familiar with it?
Ishikawa: “The movie is essentially a farce about the desires, jealousies and machinations of attractive narcissists in the privileged bubble of Beverly Hills. It’s set on Election Day 1968, which is a backdrop to the plot, but virtually ignored by the participants. No one pays any attention to the wider world because they are all consumed by their personal dramas. It would be easy for the film to be cruel to these limited characters, but it actually treats them quite gently and recognizes the undercurrent of sadness underlying their actions.”
How is styling used to tell the story?
Ishikawa: “As usual, costume helps define character. Jill wears tiny soft baby doll dresses which emphasize her vulnerability and don’t prepare us for the strength she later reveals; Jackie is expensively packaged as the mistress of a wealthy man; George stands out in this environment with his jeans, jewelry, unbuttoned shirts, motorcycle—feeding the rebel fantasies of the many women in the salon attracted to him.”
“We are now so used to meticulously researched and sourced period movies and TV shows where every detail is perfect—Mad Men, for example—that it is a little surprising to watch this movie about 1968 and not see any clichés of the period—peace symbols, love beads, headbands. They actually do show up briefly in the great party scene at the end of the movie and it is a wonderful culture clash. I was a kid in 1968 and I remember it as a more complex time for style, music, everything—just like today. And this movie plays with that in a more light-handed way than we would probably see today.”
What were your runner-ups when you were selecting a film and why were the contenders?
Ishikawa: “My runners up were Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst, 1929) and The Awful Truth (Leo Carey, 1937). I probably don’t need to explain Pandora’s Box because Louise Brooks is such a style icon; but the clothes also participate so fascinatingly in the downward trajectory and ultimate emotional resonance of the main character. I picked The Awful Truth [as a runner up], but it could be any number of 30s black-and-white comedies…Top Hat, Holiday, etc. These Depression-era movies generally feature wealthy socialites behaving in a silly way, and the frothy, hyper-designed clothes contribute to the fantasy and wit as much as the script or the actors. I am also fascinated that whatever the original colors of the garments, they create a very graphic presence because of the black-and-white filming.”
An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2005)
3PM, Sunday, December 15
An Education has received critical acclaim for its subtle storytelling and believable characters. What most resonates with you in the film?
Donnelly: “What most resonated with me was the moment that Jenny discovers the world, that, until her first date with David only existed in novels, movies and music lyrics. We all remember the feeling of bondage as teenagers—bound by the rules and ideals of our parents and advisors as to how and what our life should be. Jenny, like most of us at sixteen, was captivated by the romantic notions of living in Paris, going to nightclubs, sitting in cafes smoking cigarettes and wearing black dresses and reading whatever she wanted. Freedom, liberation—we all craved it, longed for it, and with a chance meeting of a interesting and older suitor—voila! This new world opens up for Jenny to see and experience.”
“She comes home from her first date with David and when her mother asks ‘How was it?’ Jenny proclaims, ‘It was the best night of my life.’ I so clearly remember when it happened for me. At once, Jenny is looking at life through a different lens and the movie lets us witness her transformation and struggle with the choices that will potentially define the rest of her life!”
What resonates in terms of style in the film?
Donnelly: “The movie shows a transformation. It starts with the grey flannel school uniforms and graduates to a Sabrina style with the guidance of her new chic and gorgeous friend Helen. Helen is stunning and we see Jenny grow from school girl to Parisian chic. The hair—I love up-dos—the jewelry, shoes dresses and a new attitude ready Jenny for the streets of Paris.”
Any other favorite moments?
Donnelly: “One of my favorite quotes from the movie comes from Jenny: ‘Action is character. If we never did anything, we wouldn’t be anyone.’ I really had an aunt tell me this exact thing, as I was sent to Europe for a summer before college. She was right!”
The Screen Style series is this weekend at NWFF. For times and information about the screenings, panels, and other events, see the NWFF’s schedule on their Web site.